Custom PCs Online?
At the end of this year I'll finally have the budget to get a new machine, and now that I live in the sticks, I've been looking into sites that let you build what you want from a list of components before they assemble it and ship it off. I'm a near-total amteur when it comes to the fiddly stuff under the hood. Does anyone have any experience with this sort of computer purchase? Any recommended vendors? Any tips in general? Right now I'm looking at Cyberpower.
I had a relatively good experience with AVA Direct. The configurator is pretty cool and allows you to really pick and choose components. I was impressed that they had a Geforce 8800 available as an option the day it was released. (Maybe I'm easy to please.)
I ordered the box with 4gigs of RAM. When I first got it, it simply was not stable under WinXP home with 4gigs. The tech support guy had me remove two sticks and run with 2gigs. I have not yet had a chance to work with them to try to find a way to get the system stable with all 4 gigs. At the moment I'm just using 2.
Even so, I'm still pretty happy with the system but I'm a little miffed that they didn't catch the instability with all their testing.
Like Spoofy, the box I got from AvaDirect (for my wife; I built mine just to prove I still could, as the last one I built was like 7 or 8 years ago) is a solid machine at a good price, but had some oddities that had to be corrected. In our case it was a bad mobo (no real hassle to replace, they paid for shipping and everything, but it took three weeks). That, and they didn't remind me that I had specified a case that only supported AC97 audio when the mother board supported Azalia HD audio, with the result that the front panel audio connectors didn't work. They hooked them up more or less correctly but it never did work until I added a $12 Silverstone front audio panel with Azalia support (and a second fan, as the machine was running hotter than I liked).
In short, if you do ALL the detective work and make sure you specify EXACTLY what you want, the build quality is impecable and the service is solid, overall. But if you're iffy about the details and can't really fix stuff on your own, I might recommend going with a real integrator with a full line of configured stuff. Pricier that way though.
Dell has a lot of excellent sales going on right now, I could help you through the process if you'd like, just send me a private message if you're interested.
Now if you're looking at something for assembling a system possibly with a friend, I like mwave.com a lot.
Thanks for the feedback, guys. Here's what I'm thinking about right now:
CPU: (Sckt775)Intel® Core™ 2 Duo E6750 CPU @ 2.66GHz 1333FSB 4MB L2 Cache 64-bit
MOTHERBOARD: MSI G31M-F Intel G31 Chipset LGA775 FSB1333 DDR2 Mainboard
MEMORY: 2GB (2x1GB) PC6400 DDR2/800 Dual Channel Memory
VIDEO CARD: NVIDIA GeForce 8400 GS 512MB 16X PCI Express
HARD DRIVE: Single Hard Drive (320GB SATA-II 3.0Gb/s 16MB Cache 7200RPM HDD)
Optical Drive: (Special Price) 20X DVD±R/±RW + CD-R/RW DRIVE DUAL LAYER
SOUND: Creative Labs SB Audigy SE
I don't know much about hardware -- every time I try to do research my head just spins. Are there any obvious problems with this configuration? It comes in at $862.
the sound and video card choices are awful, both are onboard equivalents.
Last edited by rei; 12-20-2007 at 09:08 PM.
off the top of my head, here are what component prices are ($CAD) currently, at least locally in deadmonton:
500gb hd = $100 (wd is my brand for quiet--320gb just doesn't have bang/buck)
dvd burner = $40-50
E6750 cpu = $200
nvidia 8800gt video card = $250 or free onboard video if you don't game
free onboard sound (good enough for most people)
or x-fi xtremegamer =$95 ($65 after rebate, xtremeaudio x-fi s a rebadged audigy)
case + cpu = $100-$150
mobo = $100-200
ram = $60-$100 for 2gb
$85 = Windows XP Home OEM
add $40-50 assembly fee.
got any good trustworthy local places?
Nope. I'm in the boonies. So sticking with the onboard stuff would be better than that, huh?
I would say stick with the onboard audio, if the motherboard supports Azalia HD audio (I have that on my Gigabyte mobos and I love it, really). Just make sure the case's front audio connectors are HD compatible.
The video card has to go hough. Sell a kidney and get a 8800 GT. You'll be golden then pretty much.
So why is the video card so bad? Is anything other than top of the line just unacceptable for some reason? I'm not going to be running anything at higher than 1024 x 768 until I can afford a bigger monitor, which is still a ways off. I'd like to be able to run, say, Oblivion and NWN2 smoothly at that resolution.
Yeah, the 8400 GS is weak sauce. The 8800GT is the sweet spot right now, especially for a rig like that; but if $250 is too rich for your blood, then consider (in descending order of price & performance): Radeon 3870 ($210), Radeon 3850 ($170), Radeon X1950 Pro ($125), 8600GT ($100). Of those, I'd say the 3850 is the next-best deal after the 8800GT. Don't bother with anything less than the 8600GT.
As for sound cards, I would either stick with onboard or splurge on an Audigy 4. There's no need to buy a sound card right away, either: you can start with onboard then add a sound card later if you decide you want one.
It's not a matter of epeen, really, it's a matter of bang for buck and sheer practicality. If you are going to play games, you need to prioritize the video card, for rather pragmatic reasons, as others have pointed out. Seriously, penny wise, pound foolish really hits hard with video cards.
Originally Posted by Jason Lutes
If you buy anything less than an 8800GT or 8800GTS, you will be disappointed. Don't skimp on the video card.
These are Dave Long's rules for building PCs that are practically priced, comfortable and have legs...
- Always get more RAM than ships standard on most vendor PCs. Today, that's 2GB or more. You want to do the backstroke in RAM.
- Always get a videocard that costs around $250 to $300. This is usually the right price/performance ratio to get you through the next two to three years without an upgrade.
- If you're buying a monitor, spend a lot of time eyeballing them at stores. Find the one that you love because you will be looking at it every single day until you get a new one.
- Same with mice. Find one you love. You'll be using it every day.
- Buy a processor somewhere in the upper level of the midrange offerings. Never buy at the top end. You won't upgrade it for two or three years.
- Get the most current standard slots/connections for videocards, processors and hard drives. Don't spend a lot on hard drives either. SATA@7200RPM is fine.
- Onboard audio is pretty much great nowadays. Don't buy a standalone card unless you're going for surround sound and high end audio.
There are probably more things I do when I start looking for parts. I certainly research a bit on processors, RAM, etc. But those are good guidelines for not blowing a mammoth wad on a PC while still building one that will serve you very well for the next two to three years for gaming, sometimes even longer than that.
One other comment: the G31-F is a microATX MB, so unless you're getting a microATX case, you might as well spend a little extra to get, say, the MSI Neo-F P35. Never know when you'll want more PCIe slots! Or if you want an SLI MB, go with the MSI P6N SLI-FI or Asus P5N-E.
The Abit IP35-Pro is the motherboard recommended by TechReport's builder's guide for about 5 months in a row now.
The low end of the new generation is likely to be SLOWER than your existing card. On the low end a 8800 GT 256MB or a Radeon HD 3850 will be great. 8800 GT 512MB or a Radeon HD 3870 would be better. The Radeon parts are usually $20-40 cheaper, but proportionately slower.
Originally Posted by Jason Lutes
I like my Velocity Micro machine a lot, and their support has been great.
Check all the online vendors, work up some systems, post to see if anyone has any problems with any of the companies or systems/components you're considering.
Thanks for the great tips, this is all very helpful. I have a hard time believing I'd be disappointed with almost any currently available video card, given that I've been playing Company of Heroes on an FX 5200, but point taken. I just have a hard time rationalizing paying that much when I'm about as far from a graphics whore as a gamer can get.
True, everyone has their own "sweet spot" for graphics, but really, there comes a point where basic 3D performance needs demand a certain level of power, regardless of one's "bling" quotient.
Originally Posted by Jason Lutes
For Company of Heroes especially, you'll really appreciate the 8800GT. Knowing your taste from posting here for so long, I don't think you want to sell yourself short on that video card. You're going to appreciate it in certain titles, and you'll be especially happy that your machine is very much future proof because of it.
Originally Posted by Jason Lutes
Personally, I think that's one reason that people complain about the PC upgrade cycle. They buy components that just aren't going to last more than a year without wanting an upgrade. Buy right the first time and then you won't have to buy again for a long time after.
To add an example, I bought an Athlon XP 3500+, PCIe-based SLI motherboard w/2GB RAM, 180GB SATA hard drive, GeForce 6800GT, DVD-ROM, 17" LG LCD and a new case and power supply (430W) in July of 2005. The only things I've done to that PC since was the addition of the 8800GT in November and I added a 250GB hard drive for $60 on Black Friday. The 6800GT was still viable in just about every game, believe it or not. I simply wanted the upgrade and had the money from some trade-ins/poker winnngs to buy the 8800GT. Otherwise, I probably could've made it well into next year with that card in everything but Crysis.
Every current game runs extremely well on that hardware right now. I'm at the native resolution of my LCD in every game now (1280x1024) with anti-aliasing and all the bells and whistles turned on and I won't need to upgrade again until at least next fall and maybe not even until the following year. I could buy Vista at some point, but even that's not really necessary yet.
Basically, get the right components now and you'll be happy for a good long time.
You're probably only happy so long because of the low resolution of that LCD. That's as low as they go now, and you do miss out on a lot of graphical flair because of it. I agree that the 6800 is great for its time, just like the 9800 Pro was great for an even longer time, but the 6800's chugginess in Oblivion back when that came out made me go for a 7800.
Everything's easy when you flip your old card to someone international on Ebay. You break even or might even profit.
Although it is changing, 1280 is still the most common resolution, even for gamers. At least, that's what the Steam hardware survey indicates (and it's the only source out there AFAIK). According to their latest numbers, something like 75%+ of users are at 1280 or less.
Originally Posted by Moggraider
Relative to the question of upgrading a computer, it all depends on whether you intend to upgrade the monitor at some point. If not, then investing in the hardware needed to run higher resolutions is not logical.
Ooh, the Valve survey... I haven't checked that in ages.
Hmm, the 8800 is now more popular than any other line, with 9.25% of the market. I'm surprised 40% of users use 1280x960, and another 30% use 1024x768. Only 2% use 1920x1200 and I've been there for 16 months! *feels weird* That's still on the low side in terms of what you can set, though. I never got one of those 1280x1024 monitors just because they were 5:4.
Only 3% of people use X-Fi? I hope Valve is reading that right; none of its games even support X-Fi.
I have always avoided submitting to the Hardware Survey myself, but now I will be determined to represent.
Apologies for piggy-backing on this thread, but I've got a newbie PC builder question for the experts. I've recently taken ownership of a PC that's good to go except for memory and a video card. I want a 8800GT, but the PC is mini tower and the mobo is in a weird spot...I hate the case and the internal setup, it's a mess. My question is there anything preventing me from my harvesting the processor from this PC (it's an HP) and using it in a system I build from scratch? Do OEM's do any funky stuff to processors and mobos that would keep me from transplanting them elsewhere?
if the sockets match.
some matx hp machines use mobile intel chips, which are slower but consume less power and sell for 50% more than the same non-mobile chip. "hp" doesn't tell you which chip it is though.
no, oems do not do anything funky to the chips.
Cyberpower is a good company, I've purchased a few pcs from them and never had a problem. Just have enough technical knowledge to look at the insides and be sure everything is there/working properly.
+8800GT for $834. Done. Don't worry about the CPU. E6550 is fine.
You're going to have to explain this to me, becuase there is nothing I know of that does not appear on my screen at 1280x1024 that you're seeing at any other resolution.
Originally Posted by Moggraider
I'm sorry, but your statement is just plain ridiculous.
Your statement is ridiculous! Games look pretty crappy at such a low res, especially Unreal 3 engine games, which switch to very poor textures. When you get a high-res monitor, try to go back to playing games at 1280x800 and such.