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CyberCorp 2000 - Improving the internet one page at a time™
The Help Clinic - Computer Repair
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To Build or Buy a Computer

The question of whether to build or buy a computer is really a personal choice. For most users, a manufactured computer from reputable companies like Dell, HP, or Acer will do just about anything you might want to do, there are however a few exceptions to consider.

For the seasoned video game enthusiast:
If you're like me when it comes to video gaming, then you will want to consider one of two things when putting together your ideal gaming system. While most brand name computers are fine for the average user, they fall short of the demands of the video gamer straight out of the box.
If you opt for purchasing a brand name computer you will want to buy one of their beefier models. In fact, you should also consider the following upgrades...

  • Use a video CARD solution, many onboard chipset's include video but they will almost certainly leave you feeling disappointed when it comes to gaming, especially with today's hi-end 3D virtual gaming worlds.
  • Memory - The more the merrier! Don't skimp when it comes to physical memory. If you can afford it load that puppy to the gills. At minimum on a gaming machine I would suggest 2GBs of DDR2 or DDR3 RAM. My personal machine has 4Gb DDR3 RAM in it. Many people overlook the importance of physical RAM in there PCs when it comes to speed. The fastest processor out there is not worth the purchase price if you do not add enough physical RAM to go with it.
  • Processor / CPU: These days both Intel and AMD make fairly equal quality processors. AMD will usually clock out a bit higher than an Intel CPU and is usually a bit lower in cost. Personally I prefer the Intel Processor over AMD but as I stated they are both good choices and it probably boils down to a matter of taste. If you are demanding gamer don't skimp too much on speed, however if you must cut corners you are better off cutting the corner here than on Video Card or Physical RAM.
    Again, my personal machine is an Intel Pentium Core 2 Quad (260Mhz), but my Graphics Card is nVidia with 1Gb DDR2 and 4GB DDR3 Physical Memory.
  • Hard Drives: I have found that when the other hardware is fast enough IDE or SATA do not really make a noticeable difference in game play. However, since HDDs are not all that expensive these days and I would suggest at least 500 Gb storage capacity. Software, video games in particular, can use up huge amounts of storage space fast! Take for instance "Unreal", its an older game which I still enjoy. On install it doesn't use all that much space (by today's standards anyway) but if you play online against real people, and you will, then it will quickly consume hundreds of megabytes of hard drive storage space as it downloads more and more of the custom maps that are typical of modern video game environments. There's nothing more frustrating than to be playing online with your friends and not be able continue to that next level with them just because you ran out of space to download the maps and extras, so the more storage space you have and can afford the better.

For those of you who intend to build: The above suggestions are obviously true for those who intend to play cutting edge video games or work in high end graphic programs. Fact is, graphics in applications such as Adobe Photoshop and state of the art games like Call of Duty 4 or Gears of War have driven the hardware industry, it has been there relentless march toward more power and realism that have been driving technology and pushing the limits of hardware almost since the very first personal computers marched onto the scene. First it was the commodore 64 and Commodore Amiga and later the apple and PC platforms rushing to keep up. Now it is Mac and PC being pushed along to meet the demands of the imagination of future developments in technology.
So if you are one of the elite who demand to ride the crest of the technology wave, then building is the only way to go. Use the guidelines above to start off and bear in mind these other tips also...

  • Case and Power Supply: There are plenty of flashy fancy cases out there to choose from and whether you want your machine to look kewl with a plexiglas cover and tons of neon is a personal choice, but don't forget to feed your components well and always keep them cool! I can not stress enough the need for an adequate power supply, these days I would say that is a 500watt bare minimum (a lot larger if you intend to build one of those futuristic laser shows). Also keep in mind temperature, we all want our air conditioning in the summer or when we are hot, and we all know how being hot and uncomfortable effects our personal performance. Well, the same is true of your new PC. If it is hot and uncomfortable it is going to drag along and be sluggish, not pay attention and make errors, in fact it might even die a premature death from heat stroke if you leave it in that sweat box too long. So here are my guidelines on case and cooling.
    Choose a case which offers good ventilation
    and has enough room inside so that your components are not to crowded and there is room for air to flow around and through them.
  • Fans: I would suggest at least 3 fans minimum..
    1) Be sure your power supply has an internal fan which exhausts outward, and not into the case. It may sound dumb, but I have seen power supplies which either have no fan at all or blow there hot air back into the case. This is a BIG NO!
    2) At least one case fan. Again, I prefer this to be at the back of the case (same as power supply fan and also to exhaust outward (same as power supply), this keeps the air flowing nicely and doesn't cause air currents which fight each other. I also recommend a case with good front ventilation to allow the air to enter in from the opposite end of the case.
    3) The CPU: Be sure to use good cooling on your CPU also. This is a matter of taste and experimentation. Many companies have taken cooling to the extreme and to be honest a lot of it is just unnecessary waste and adds to the overall cost of your project. I would recommend a mid sized copper fan over an extreme radiator model and be sure the fins are plentiful and large enough to allow for easy heat dissipation. Be sure and attach your cooling fan with a good heat sink paste, my personal recommendation is Arctic Silver 5. Personally I would not rely on just the heat sink patch that may be already applied to the fan when you bought it, but that's just my personal preference. Keeping your CPU running comfortably cool is one of the most critical tune ups you can do.
  • Over clocking: My advice here is DON'T! If more speed is that important then just get a bigger CPU, but as I stated above you will realize your biggest performance boosts with LOTS of RAM and a more powerful video card. I can't count how many times I have been able to improve the speed of a computer on one of my service calls just by doubling the RAM or adding a faster, more powerful video card.

For those of you who are just looking to surf the Internet and play a few average graphics games, do some word processing and book keeping you will be plenty happy with a brand name off the shelf model. Sorry this statement is so short, but it is very true. Almost any off the shelf machine today is good for standard home business and internet use.

What You Should avoid in any case:

  • Celeron and Duron Processors (spend the extra few dollars and get a real processor) A lower speed pentium is almost always a better buy than a faster celeron, the same holds true for Athelon vs Duron.
  • E Machines (at least in my personal opinion, are meant to approach the low end consumer and are not very upgradable.) Nor will they make any type of power user happy at all. So unless you are an extreme cheap skate my advice is to avoid these.

Well, there you have it. This topic actually deserves much more discussion and I am sure it will resurface when I get around to getting the forums up and running.

Copyright © 2008 Ron Haines, all rights reserved
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