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Thread: Complete beginner, looking for advice with building PC

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    Complete beginner, looking for advice with building PC

    Hi there. I'm about to embark upon my first computer build. I've pretty much zero experience with computer hardware, or technical knowledge so you'll have to bear with me. Actually, my main motivation for this is to educate myself on the ins and outs of computer hardware.

    I'm a student so my finances are limited (not that limited finances aren't the norm right about now). Hoping to put together a cheap rig, about £500 inc. monitor, keyboard etc... with the idea of general office tasks, running intensive simulations/calculations, and maybe some light gaming. I'm not foolish enough to believe I can pick up a top end gaming machine on such a budget.

    One key element I'm interested in is the oppertunity for future upgrade. Ideally, I'd like this to be the only time I have to invest in a brand new PC for the next 4/5 years. Upgradability is my other main motivation for building my own.

    So my assumption is I need to pick up a pretty new, mid/high end motherboard which should serve for my desired duration. Tag onto it a standard dual core and a HD4650 for graphics, about 4GB RAM and a 250HDD. I can easily upgrade all those components above (aside from motherboard) easily, right?

    If anyone has any advice on the above it's welcome, but where I'm getting rather confused (this is where my lack of tech knowledge is letting me down) is on aspects such as processor/motherboard/graphics card compatibility. Also cooling and PSU. and any cheap source of monitors would be appreciated. Is it a risk to buy an older monitor second hand?

    Finally, I was curious about hybrid crossfire. Again I must admit to knowing little except the basic concept, is it something worth looking out for or is it's overall performance boost negligable?

    Cheers for any info, apologies if this is in the wrong forum.

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    Re: Complete beginner, looking for advice with building PC

    Welcome to the forum and good look with your first build.

    There was a good thread here that should help with the building.

    Someone else will probably give you a idea of a good spec PC for your budget in the next couple of hours.

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    Re: Complete beginner, looking for advice with building PC

    hybrid crossfire is a nice concept but really is pointless.

    Basicly it takes onboard grapics from a mobo eg a 780g & combines it with a low end grapics card to eg 3450 to boost preformance by 30% or so however it only works on vista and provides bad bang for your buck.



    Slighty over but the monitor is a damn good one, you should be able to pick up a cheaper one quite easy I just feel that offers the best vaule at the moment
    Last edited by PwnDirect; 31-01-2009 at 03:30 AM.

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    Re: Complete beginner, looking for advice with building PC

    I assume the simulations/calculations you want to run are mult-threaded. I am also assuming that as you are relatively inexperienced with computer building you do not want to rush into overclocking.

    From the description of how you intend to use the computer I would say that the starting point should be your choice of CPU. I would recommend a quad core. A good starting point would be the Phenom II (either a 920 or a 940) or a Q9400.

    I have attached some reviews of the Phenom II which also have the Q9400 for you to do a comparison.

    Hexus
    Tech Report
    X-bit Labs

    One thing to note is that the Q9400 is socket 775 which is due to be replaced by Core i5 toward the end of the year. Core i5 CPUs will not work in Socket 775 motherboards. The Phenom II CPUs are socket AM2+ which will be replaced by socket AM3 in the next couple of months. Socket AM3 CPUs will work in Socket AM2+ motherboards. I have chosen to recommend CPUs that I believe will last you for a 3 to 5 years.

    Let me know your preference and we can build up your system from there.

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    Re: Complete beginner, looking for advice with building PC

    £500 for a complete build (inc everything includeing OperateingSystem) is going to be very tough
    You'd probably be better off buying a cheap dell or simular, however that in turn can majorly limit upgradeability.

    May be worth scouring 2nd hand market, ebay and simular, however that inturn runs the risk of getting ripped off or hardware dieing with no warrantys.

    I say this not to put you off but to warn you, you've set yourself a hard task.

    A copy of vista home basic is going to cost you £65ish by it's self.
    I'd say you best bet currently is to look at an AMD system:
    A 780G chipset motherboard, this has very good onboard graphics (well good for onboard)
    A athlon x2 to start with as the cost is low and later can be replaced with something far better.
    a cheap 19" monitor will cost you £90 or less
    No need for a seperate graphics card yet, that will come down to what games you play, the onboard graphics will handle quite a bit should be fine with many older games and current games on low quality. If you're unhappy with it's performance in games you can then look at getting a card.
    Personally speaking I'd not go below an ati 4830 or nvidia 9800gt for gaming (or an old 8800gt 2nd hand) ether of these will paly almost every thing at max setting on a 19" monitor resolution without any issue (depending on game you may have to lower settings but will still play well)

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    Re: Complete beginner, looking for advice with building PC

    If it were me, I'd streach the £500 budget to £588 and get this:


    It'll mean not going out on the piss for a whole week, and you wont get mindboggingly high framerates, but it will get the job done until you can save up £100 or so to get a decent descrete GPU. You could skip out on the CPU and get an X2, but if you're going to be running simulations, the extra cores help.
    Quote Originally Posted by Agent View Post
    ...every time Creative bring out a new card range their advertising makes it sound like they have discovered a way to insert a thousand Chuck Norris super dwarfs in your ears...

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    Re: Complete beginner, looking for advice with building PC

    Thanks very much for the info guys. £500 isn't a strict budget limit for me, I can be flexible but I'm just quite money conscious

    Tonpal - no, I have no intention to go into overclocking quite yet. I'd rather understand the hardware first before I get into business like that. I assume that from the way you were speaking you'd advise against the Q9400 because of the impending release of the Core i5 because of future compatibility issues?

    Aidanjt - do standard cases really cost that much?! I always assumed you could pick one up for £10/£20

    Thanks for the model builds. I'll be sure to consider them when the time comes to order the hardware.

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    Re: Complete beginner, looking for advice with building PC

    Quote Originally Posted by Hologide View Post
    Aidanjt - do standard cases really cost that much?! I always assumed you could pick one up for £10/£20
    You can pick up cheap, poorly designed, and poorly ventilated cases for under £20. But honestly, a well designed and built case saves a number of hassles during the build, and operation of the system. And you can just buy a cheap case when it comes to selling it on, and keep it when you put together a new one. It's a worthwhile investment. And when it comes to Lian-Li cases, the PC7-B Plus II case is excellent value for money.
    Quote Originally Posted by Agent View Post
    ...every time Creative bring out a new card range their advertising makes it sound like they have discovered a way to insert a thousand Chuck Norris super dwarfs in your ears...

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    Re: Complete beginner, looking for advice with building PC

    Quote Originally Posted by Hologide View Post
    Tonpal - no, I have no intention to go into overclocking quite yet. I'd rather understand the hardware first before I get into business like that. I assume that from the way you were speaking you'd advise against the Q9400 because of the impending release of the Core i5 because of future compatibility issues?
    I would go for the Phenom II 920 as it gives good performance and value for money. Also to keep the budget down it is probable that you will need to stick with integrated graphics and the AMD integrated graphics is far superior to Intel. I will put a suggested build up a bit later when I have a bit more time.

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    Re: Complete beginner, looking for advice with building PC

    Remember, as a student you probably qualify for low cost software such as the os, ask at the school/uni and they'll be able to tell you more.

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    Re: Complete beginner, looking for advice with building PC

    Quote Originally Posted by Hologide View Post

    Aidanjt - do standard cases really cost that much?! I always assumed you could pick one up for £10/£20
    Not if you want to have your fingers/hands/arms intact after you've built your PC...
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    Re: Complete beginner, looking for advice with building PC

    Quote Originally Posted by aidanjt View Post
    You can pick up cheap, poorly designed, and poorly ventilated cases for under £20. But honestly, a well designed and built case saves a number of hassles during the build, and operation of the system. And you can just buy a cheap case when it comes to selling it on, and keep it when you put together a new one. It's a worthwhile investment. And when it comes to Lian-Li cases, the PC7-B Plus II case is excellent value for money.
    Okay, I never really assumed that the case made that much difference. But I can see why spending a little more can make a difference.

    Quote Originally Posted by tonpal
    I would go for the Phenom II 920 as it gives good performance and value for money. Also to keep the budget down it is probable that you will need to stick with integrated graphics and the AMD integrated graphics is far superior to Intel. I will put a suggested build up a bit later when I have a bit more time.
    Okay sure. I've had bad experiences with integrated graphics before but I'm assuming things have moved on since the awful integrated intel chips of the late 90s/early 00s.

    And that's a good point Vinny. I've already got a licence for Office 07 which will serve me, just got to find an OS. I'm not sure as my uni can help me out though, considering how much they charged me for some programming software....

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    Re: Complete beginner, looking for advice with building PC

    may I suggest some things from my own experiences too?

    First... welcome to hell and heaven. It's crap when it wont work, and it's superb when it does work

    Video cards are mainly VERY powerful now, so dont fret too much about that. And they're upgradeable later.

    You MUST buy ram from a good company and NOT un banded. For a new builder, ram can cause you lots of heart ache. I suggest Corsair Value Select for all round goodness.

    I think a really nice case is good, and lots of room inside is better. You can do small one day in the future... get a nie case from Antec, or Lian Li or possible Akasa (some Akasa cases are cheapish but not bad at all)

    YOU MUST spend good dough on a good Power Supply. NorthQ and Corsair and Tagan are all good.

    If I may suggest an Intel motherboard... they're really really hard to kill!

    Stick with Western Digital or Samsung hard drives for maximum compatibility and least break downs, and dont think you need a huge one... get what gives you most Gig for your quid.

    Most heatsinks for the cpu come with thermal paste already applied, BUT you might need to take it off (possible) so you might want some more thermal paste too.

    Hyundai make nice cheap tft's. Period. I'e had more of those than any other with zero trouble.

    Pioneer, Samsung and Lite On make nice CD/DVD drives for reading and burning. Stick with SATA on those as well as on the hard drive.

    We'll all help, so keep a working PC with you at all times!

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    Re: Complete beginner, looking for advice with building PC

    "And that's a good point Vinny. I've already got a licence for Office 07 which will serve me, just got to find an OS. I'm not sure as my uni can help me out though, considering how much they charged me for some programming software...."

    I don't think it actually comes from the uni, someone else may be able to tell you, as I remember, so long as you have a valid acacdemic email address, you're in. Take a look here at a google page results for student software, http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en...UK%7CcountryGB.

    Hope it helps.

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    Re: Complete beginner, looking for advice with building PC

    Quote Originally Posted by vinnyT View Post
    "And that's a good point Vinny. I've already got a licence for Office 07 which will serve me, just got to find an OS. I'm not sure as my uni can help me out though, considering how much they charged me for some programming software...."

    I don't think it actually comes from the uni, someone else may be able to tell you, as I remember, so long as you have a valid acacdemic email address, you're in. Take a look here at a google page results for student software, http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en...UK%7CcountryGB.

    Hope it helps.
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    Re: Complete beginner, looking for advice with building PC

    Ebuyer can be cheaper than Scan BTW.

    Here are the bits from Ebuyer with the free Supersaver postage option:

    ASUS M3A78-VM 780G Socket AM2+ onboard graphics 8 channel audio mATX Motherboard 152580 14 in stock £61.00

    OCZ Stealth Xtream 500W PSU - 1x PCI-E 6/8pin, 2x SATA 12cm Fan 135159 6 in stock £42.29

    Force3D HD 4830 512MB GDDR3 Dual DVI HDTV Out PCI-E Graphics Card 151452 2 in stock £89.99

    OCZ 4GB (2x2GB) DDR2 800Mhz/PC2-6400 GOLD XTC Memory Kit CL5(5-5-5-18) 146049 170 in stock £37.03

    Total: £230.31

    You can get free postage from Scan if you have 20+ posts on Hexus.

    Here are the bits from Scan:

    Coolermaster RC-330 V2 Elite Black Midi Tower Case w/o PSU (New Improved Version) Scan Exclusive £27.93

    * LN22738 19" Hannspree XM Boston Custom Paint Design Widescreen LCD, 1440x900, 5 ms, 300 cd/m², 700:1, Spkrs + * LN25957 Labtec (Logitech) Personal Webcam USB(free with monitor) £87.39

    * LN22642 500 GB Samsung HD502IJ Spinpoint F1, SATA 300, 7200 rpm, 16MB Cache, 8.9 ms, NCQ £41.39

    * LN25380 LG GH22NS40 22x DVD±R, 16xDVD±DL, DVD+RW x8/-RWx6 ,12xRAM SATA, Black, OEM £12.64

    * LN25761 AMD Phenom II X4 920, Deneb Core, S AM2+, 2.8GHz, 8MB Total Cache, FSB/HT 2000MHz, 125W, Retail £155.24

    LN17168 Item in stock. Microsoft Windows Vista Home Basic SP1* 64Bit 1Pk OEM (DVD) £68.90

    Total:£393.49

    The items marked with the asterisk are on special offer on the Scan website this weekend under Today Only.

    I would budget around 20 quid for a keyboard and mouse also.

    This system does cost around £650 but it should be able handle any current game at 1280x800 or 1440x900 at good settings IMHO.

    If this is still too much money you can opt for the following instead:

    1.) A less powerful graphics card like the HD4670 for 63 quid or the HD4650 GDDR3 for 55 quid.

    2.) A smaller hard disk. You can get a 250gb for £10 less.

    3.) A dual core 2.7ghz AMD Athlon X2 7750+ for £68 instead of the quad core 2.8ghz AMD Phenom.

    4.) A heatsink for the 7750+ for £10 as it does not come with one!!

    5.) A cheaper motherboard for £50

    If you go with the HD4670 and the other cost saving measures you can bring the total cost down to around £520

    I would personally try to get the first system as it will be far more powerful.
    Last edited by CAT-THE-FIFTH; 31-01-2009 at 05:27 PM.

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