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Old 03-22-2012, 10:21 PM   #1
Rob Williams
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Default Building the Right Box

A lot of effort goes into choosing the right parts for your newest computer, but Senior Editor Brett Thomas thinks the focus can sometimes be a bit off. In this article, he outlines where the best bang for the buck can be spent on your high-performance rig... and believe it or not, it might not be where you think!

Read through Brett's considerations for building a PC that will stand the test of time, and as always, we'd love to hear your thoughts on things afterwards!
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Old 03-23-2012, 02:47 PM   #2
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Very nice read mate!
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Old 03-26-2012, 01:27 PM   #3
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Great article, Brett!

It's all so true... more money spent up-front might save you big in the long run. The biggest factor to me is the power supply. If you are cutting corners on one of those then you are going to have to expect hassles down the road. The reason I ever went to Corsair PSUs back in the day was because another brand's PSUs died on me twice in a row. To date I've had no problem with Corsair at all, and I've had about six.

A good monitor is something else I hate to skimp out on. I mean, this is something we look at nearly every day, so why not just pay a bit more up-front and enjoy pristine image quality and color for years to come?
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Old 03-28-2012, 10:35 AM   #4
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I confess I never gave the power supply a second thought. All I care is if it can handle my system power demands. I don't go cheap on it merely because of principle (I don't go cheap on anything because cheap invariably becomes more expensive). But as far as paying attention to the power supply specs go, I just don't.

Now, chassis are another matter. It's both a desire for aesthetics and a matter of affirmation that moves me towards spending money on pretty chassis. Note I said pretty. Because, as with power supplies, I care little for features other than workflow and noise. But noise is perhaps the least controllable of all computer features. A good chassis today may be a rattle in one year and because no one reviews their chassis one year after they purchased them...

As for SSD, I'll repeat here what I said before... here. It's a waste of my money and I see no reason to spend premium price on $ per Gb when I'm perfectly satisfied with the current 10,000 rpm offering. I anticipate a time when software complexity and higher data transfer demands will make SDDs more attractive to me. But for now, both in my profession as software developer and my free time as gamer and power user, they are nothing more than a Desire for Speed, not a Need for Speed.

Sounding a little too carefree, am I not? Wait until you hear what I consider the most important things on a computer for me:

Number 1: Keyboard. Yes, that's right. Give me a godly keyboard and I'll be your sex slave for life. You won't even have to feed me. I'll happily die of starvation. The keyboard is my principal tool. I'm as excited about keyboards as I am about wristwatches and I'm a lost cause sucker for wristwatches. A good keyboard that doesn't become crap after one year of intense daily usage is my mecca. Changing keyboards every 6 or 9 months is what I consider today one of the most repugnant aspects of modern computing. It's abhorrent the idea that with so many things moving forward in our computers, that immensely useful interface we all are dependent on for the rest of our lives is of such poor build quality and have evolved so little throughout the past 3 decades. And yet a good (and I mean good!) keyboard makes all the difference. It even affects the quality of the time we spend in front of our computers and has an impact on our general health. Spend lots and spend well. Above all spend on something that you won't have to buy a replacement for in the next 12 months. Ideally in the next 3 or 5 years. Example, buy a Topre. Ugly? Aren't we all?
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Old 03-28-2012, 01:13 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by marfig View Post
I confess I never gave the power supply a second thought. All I care is if it can handle my system power demands. I don't go cheap on it merely because of principle (I don't go cheap on anything because cheap invariably becomes more expensive). But as far as paying attention to the power supply specs go, I just don't.

Now, chassis are another matter. It's both a desire for aesthetics and a matter of affirmation that moves me towards spending money on pretty chassis. Note I said pretty. Because, as with power supplies, I care little for features other than workflow and noise. But noise is perhaps the least controllable of all computer features. A good chassis today may be a rattle in one year and because no one reviews their chassis one year after they purchased them...

As for SSD, I'll repeat here what I said before... here. It's a waste of my money and I see no reason to spend premium price on $ per Gb when I'm perfectly satisfied with the current 10,000 rpm offering. I anticipate a time when software complexity and higher data transfer demands will make SDDs more attractive to me. But for now, both in my profession as software developer and my free time as gamer and power user, they are nothing more than a Desire for Speed, not a Need for Speed.

Sounding a little too carefree, am I not? Wait until you hear what I consider the most important things on a computer for me:

Number 1: Keyboard. Yes, that's right. Give me a godly keyboard and I'll be your sex slave for life. You won't even have to feed me. I'll happily die of starvation. The keyboard is my principal tool. I'm as excited about keyboards as I am about wristwatches and I'm a lost cause sucker for wristwatches. A good keyboard that doesn't become crap after one year of intense daily usage is my mecca. Changing keyboards every 6 or 9 months is what I consider today one of the most repugnant aspects of modern computing. It's abhorrent the idea that with so many things moving forward in our computers, that immensely useful interface we all are dependent on for the rest of our lives is of such poor build quality and have evolved so little throughout the past 3 decades. And yet a good (and I mean good!) keyboard makes all the difference. It even affects the quality of the time we spend in front of our computers and has an impact on our general health. Spend lots and spend well. Above all spend on something that you won't have to buy a replacement for in the next 12 months. Ideally in the next 3 or 5 years. Example, buy a Topre. Ugly? Aren't we all?
We might share the same DNA Marfig. After reading your comments, I believe it to be possible.

The power supply. I haven't once given it much thought. When I build a system, I know the specs I need. I primarily look for a unit that doesn't use 80mm fans for cooling. One with a large fan on the bottom has always sufficed for me. That said, I don't get bargain PSUs either. I find something in my price range from a reputable vendor and throw it in the (virtual) cart. I do that with all components really.

Chassis selection is different. I have been fortunate in the past to use review samples for my builds. Often this involves a lot of part switching as when I used to review cases at some rate that resembled regularity, I had to do comparisons. My current case is a Lian Li mid tower and after using it, I don't see myself ever using another brand. For so long I jonsed for a Corsair Obsidian but have always shied away from them due to price. I picked up my current case for under $200 and it's been love since first site. I look for appearance most of all as anytime someone sees my machine, its the only component that's visible. I do prefer cases with front doors to hide the optical bays but I am leaning more and more towards stopping the use of CD/DVD/BD drives all together.

SSD.... I can't disagree with what you have said, primarily because it's your personal opinion. For me however, I don't think I could imagine a world where I didn't have one in my machine and remained happy. I install my games to a WD Black drive but my programs and OS all boots off of a Crucial M4 128GB drive and it's never been over 60% capacity. I love that drive so much I got one for my notebook. I don't think they are necessary but man does it feel good having one in my machine for daily computing. You hit the nail on the head though when you say that they are not a need for speed but a desire. You are 100% correct. I use two machines daily at work and they both have conventional platter based storage and not having an SSD has not, in any way, incumbered me in my daily duties.

I too consider a keyboard as crucial to a good computing experience. I have sung the praises of the Saitek Eclipse II for years and will continue to until I find something I like better. I admittedly use a DiNovo Edge at home, mainly because that's what I have at work. Moving from work to home is easy when the feel of the keyboard is identical. I also value a good mouse. The Performance MX by Logitech has been my go to device for years. I was very skeptical that I would be able to find something likeable that wasn't of the old Logitech kidney bean design. Boy was I mistaken. This mouse is tops for me and like the keyboard, I got one for home as well. My migration from work to home is zero impact for my computing because the feel of my devices is identical.
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Old 03-28-2012, 01:40 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by marfig
I don't go cheap on anything because cheap invariably becomes more expensive
Especially where power supplies are concerned, that's a great way to look at it. A $40 PSU could very well cost you $400 worth of PC components when it decides to go up in smoke. I've had a couple of PSU brands not live up to my expectations, and while I've never had one kill any of my other hardware, I know it can happen.

Quote:
Originally Posted by marfig
As for SSD, I'll repeat here what I said before... here. It's a waste of my money and I see no reason to spend premium price on $ per Gb when I'm perfectly satisfied with the current 10,000 rpm offering.
I totally understand where you are coming from, but I still see things quite a bit different. Since moving to an SSD, I couldn't imagine moving back to a hard drive. In fact, I just couldn't. 10K RPM drives are faster than 7,200 RPM, but you still don't get even close to the ultra-quick access times of an SSD, and that's where the real difference lays.

The real issues with SSDs for me at the moment is that while I love and recommend them, it's hard to ever feel super-confident in a purchase. There have been so many recalls or SSDs that have required firmware updates... it's just ridiculous. I see things getting better of course, but sometimes things aren't that straight-forward.

Quote:
Originally Posted by marfig
Number 1: Keyboard. Yes, that's right. Give me a godly keyboard and I'll be your sex slave for life.
I bet most programmers would agree with this

For some reason, an amazing keyboard just isn't that important to me, and I'm not sure why, because I feel the opposite way about gaming mice. I am using an el cheapo $20 Logitech keyboard at the moment and feel fine with it. I do have a mechanical keyboard from Cooler Master en route to test, however, so I'm interested to see if I'll "see the light".

Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg King
I look for appearance most of all as anytime someone sees my machine, its the only component that's visible.
I agree with this. It's a good thing though that today, it's had to buy a truly "ugly" chassis unless you go really low end. There are so many good-looking chassis from NZXT and even Corsair that won't break the bank that look great.
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Old 03-28-2012, 03:00 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rob Williams View Post
I bet most programmers would agree with this
And news editors. Oh wait!

@Greg: Great mouse indeed the Performance MX. Still in love with it after a little over 12 months of usage.
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Old 03-28-2012, 04:56 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by marfig View Post
And news editors. Oh wait!

@Greg: Great mouse indeed the Performance MX. Still in love with it after a little over 12 months of usage.
Really?! I've been looking at one myself...

Your keyboard comment is right on the mark - one I should have considered for the article

As to your SSD comments, the one thing you have to keep in mind is that 10k RPM HDDs have a much lower MTBF in comparison to 7200 drives OR SSDs. So if I can have better asset life and way faster transfer rates all while dropping my noise and heat consumption, that's a win/win. I've ridden Raptor drives to failure and it ain't pretty...

Now, if you were to say "I do fine on 7200RPM and a decent cache", I'd say "yeah, no need for the SSD then." But 10kRPM drives are a premium price already and much more prone to failure...so I'd rather pony up the extra few bucks for an SSD.
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