GOOD NEWS, YOU WILL NOT BE SPENDING NEAR 1500 AT ALL!!
last August, 2010 I bought this computer
3.4ghz quad core AMD
4gb of ram
1TB hard drive
5850 graphics card
600w power supply
my cost? 1200
disregarding the monitor? 1000
you can get this same build now (roughly the same, a few parts have been deactivated so I had to switch them around)
for 705 excluding the monitor which was only 229.
Heres what I suggest you do first, just to help.
1. obtain old computer
2. take apart the old computer
3. look at all the parts, and see what each one is
4. put it back together
is what building a computer is like, you really cant screw this up because your ram will not fit in the cpu socket, nor will your video card fit in the ram slot. you do not cut anything, screw anything in (aside from perhaps a new heatsink and the case) and you do not hammer anything in. each piece has a unique shape that is impossible to fit in anothers slot.
4. Hard drive
5. Power Supply Unit
6. Graphics Card (video card, gpu, etc)
9. Solid State Drive
10. Disc drive
11. CPU heatsink
great site, great layout, and great reviews. read the reviews but take them with a grain of salt. just because of a few bad reviews or somebody listing some cons doesnt mean the item is horrible and should be avoided, but if many people have the same issue, then you should avoid it. this is something you have to judge on your own.
also, if you really want to save money, look for combos, and sales. rebates are useless since they are a really unreliable discount to go on, but sales are good.
most important piece, the torso of the computer, this is the one that will determine a lot of things for your computer. This is the piece I would recommend getting first.
Major things to look for.
i. Motherboards have 4 different sizes, ATX, extended ATX, micro ATX and ITX. get an ATX motherboard. Micro ATX is the smallest, but a desktop is not something that you are worried about size on, and micro ATX is truly a waste because it sacrifices performance to be smaller.
i. cpu socket. AMD and Intel use different cpu sockets, so if you buy an AMD board and an Intel cpu, you are floating down fail river without a paddle, luckily its easy to tell.
under cpu socket type, if its amd3/3+/2 then its AMD. if its Intel G45 or LGA 1366 then its Intel. get an am3 motherboard.
i. Memory standard is what type of ram you need, for example DDR3 2000(O.C.)//1600/1333/1066
this means that the motherboard supports DDR3 ram running at the speeds of 1600/1333/1066 as well as 2000 if the ram is overclocked to it.
i. really not an issue but its worth mentioning that if you get a hard drive with a sata 6gb/s and your motherboard is only 3gb/s then you could possibly run into issues, I doubt it, but dont take any unnecessary risks. a sata6gb/s motherboard will be perfectly fine for 3gb/s
i. make sure that your case supports the size of your motherboard. if you get an ATX motherboard, then your case should be able to support ATX.
i. pci 2.1x16 is the format that most current video cards use
i. BIG NO NO. if your motherboard has an integrated graphics card on it dont get it. its a waste since you will be buying a video card which will handle all your video related stuff.
the brain of the computer, does all the calculations and whatnot. very important piece, and can be overclocked.
On the topic of AMD vs Intel, Intel is better, BUT in terms of price:performance AMD rubs Intel into the ground. Grab an AMD cpu because Intel charges way too much, and Intel loves to switch cpu sockets which means you have to buy a new motherboard if you want to upgrade.
Get an AMD cpu because upgrading with AMD is easy to do, AMD has a new cpu lineup coming out called BULLDOZER and it is said to be completely compatible with am3 with a simple bios update.
I suggest grabbing the AMD Phenom II X4 970 Black Edition Deneb 3.5GHz 4 x
its no different from the other AMD phenom ll X4 editions except these are set to be overclocked to 3.something by default. you can overclock on your own (and amd provides some tools to do so) but really, dont worry about it until later.
not many programs support very good core utilization, so while hex cores are great, a quadcore is easier to manage and will have around the same performance.
this is your short term memory of a computer, as well as the middle man from the hard drive to the cpu. the hard drive contains written bits of 1 and 0s, but the CPU cannot understand this, so here comes the ram.
the ram translates these 1s and 0s into high voltage or low voltage, which the cpu can read. i
somewhat hard to grasp I guess, but the learning isnt exactly important.
things to look for
i. type: your ram comes in different pin sizes for each DDR iteration.
240pin DDR3 ram will not fit into a motherboard that supports 240pin DDR2 ram, it literally will not go into the motherboard without breaking it. though they have the same number of pins, the notch between the 2 is different. get DDR3. http://www.gocomputertraining.com/images/DDR3-and-DDR2-desktop-RAM.gif
ii. speed: in addition to the type, there is also another standard that the motherboard and ram must meet, this is speed. when looking at ram it will say DDR3 1600 or DDR3 1333 the number after the DDR3 is the speed. this must match one of the standards that the motherboard supports, and make sure it isnt a standard that the motherboard supports but only if overclocked to it.
iii. Capacity: How much memory you have. 4gb has been fine for me and is generally 50 bucks cheaper than 8gb, but 8gb is only 100 bucks. Its really up to you.
4. Hard Drive
The library of information, storage of knowledge etc. Pretty easy to get, and really few requirements to meet.
i. brand: Western Digital to me, as well as reading reviews, is the best brand for quality, but like anything, you can be shipped a dud and it happens.
ii. speed: important that your hard drive is 7200rpm, because the faster the hard drive, the faster you can access data. going over 7200 though you enter the jet engine area, where the size of a hard drive drops, prices increase, and sound increases. these are mainly for servers, and are pretty much not worth mentioning.
iii. size: I suggest not going over 1TB because after you go over 1TB you start getting into hard drives with more platters, and more platters = increased chance of failure. if you need to expand, just get another hard drive.
iv. type: for the love of all that is electrical and shiny, MAKE SURE IT IS A SATA HARD DRIVE. if it says IDE then its old, and something to avoid. you rarely run into IDE hard drives but still. also, the sata 3gb/s or sata 6gb/s is really irrelevant. your hard drive will never be getting these speeds unless you are doing a high level raid setup.
5. Power Supply Unit:
The thing that brings power to the computer, somewhat important.
things to look for:
i. Modular: A power supply unit that is modular means you can plug in the cables that you need, versus one that you have all the cables there at once. this helps with cable management which helps you increase airflow to parts as well as prevent embarrassing mishaps where mr.cable decides to visit his good old friend mr.cpu heatsink fan
ii. wattage: bigger is better, but you dont need 1000w. unless you plan on having 4 high end video cards all overclocked and a cpu overclocked to 5ghz you dont need much. I would say 650w would be plenty.
iii. type: make sure its ATX if your getting an ATX motherboard.
iv. cables: your motherboard will require either a 20 or a 24 pin connector to power it. make sure that the powersupply has this. most power supplies have 20+4 which means that its got 20 pins and then an additional 4 pins separated from the 20 pins that you can use to fit both 20 and 24 pin motherboards.
another thing to note on the cables, is that your video card will require some additional power cables. I have an AMD 5850 and it requires 2 6pin power connectors, make sure your video card and power supply have the required cables.
6. Video card
This is the thing that does your visuals. Very similar to the cpu except that this one features a lot more ram built in, and unlike the CPU which does the heavy calculations, the video card does very speedy quick calculations.
things to look for:
i. benchmarks: video cards are hard to determine specs on, you should visit sites like tomshardware and search for the benchmarks for a video card in comparison to others.
ii. brand: like the cpu, there are only 2 different brand makers for video cards, AMD and Nvidia. AMD has been leading the game for a while, but my knowledge of Nvidia is limited. I say go with AMD because Nvidia has been sucking for a while.
iii. type: there are the desktop/gaming video cards, and the professional/workstation video cards. GET THE DESKTOP/GAMING CARDS!! the professional ones cost a huge amount of money and are for people who are running 2-3 monitors and working on huge resolution pictures in photoshop. professional/workstation cards are like tanks, while the desktop/gaming cards are like corvettes.
iv: model: for an AMD card, I suggest going for the 6xxx series, and the higher the number, the better the card.
I have an amd 5850, and its very simliar to the 6850. the 6850 is slower, but its newer, runs cooler, and better support for directx11, so the 6850 is better. I've played crysis, stalker, and a plethora of other games using my 5850 and I've been able to max them all without dealing with issues, (well some on crysis, but thats crysis...)
The case is the most overlooked part of a computer, and yet is also the most important part.
i. material: A good case is one thats made out of steel/aluminum but plastic is also acceptable. the material helps to keep the computer safe, light weight as well as absorb heat from components.
ii. airflow: A good computer will have good airflow, which means that air comes in from areas that hit high heat components (cpu/video card) and have an exit that is in a good area. usually air comes in on the side, and out the back.
iii. ports: Typically a computer will have a mic plugin, headphones plugin, and a few usb. it really depends on where your computer is going to be located (on top of desk, etc) and what you want to plug into it.
iv. size: a computer should be roomy, but not too big. too big means that cables will be stretched out, and airflow management will be a pest, but too small means that stuff wont fit. make sure that your case supports your motherboard size (ATX).
Heres a good case for you, one that really is a top notch case that I use and is highly recommended.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811119216 Big enough for 6 120mm fans, and plenty of room for hard drives and other things. also feature dust filters, a great design for getting plenty of air in and out, and features usb/audio/headphone/esata on the top.
windows 7 64 bit. 32bit only uses 3.25gb of ram no matter how much you have in it. 64bit supports 32bit programs. the edition really doesnt matter, and you really dont have any other choice on OS (you can do linux as well, but do that later)
9. Solid State Drive (SSD)
New viable product that is very similar to a hard drive except much faster and much more stable. Unlike the hard drive which is a spinning platter with a needle hovering over it, the SSD is a solid thing, much like a flash drive. its at least 20 times faster than a hard drive but has a 2 major flaws.
i. read/write: An issue here is that a SSD will start going bad if you write to it too much (save data/modify data) you have to take some caution to a SSD, but windows 7 handles it very well. still over time bits of it will die but by then you should be buying a new one anyway. DO NOT DEFRAGMENT IT FOR THE LOVE OF C'THULU
ii. size: expensive, a 64gb SSD I recently bought this month cost me $104, and it was $35 off. A SSD will not be a replacement for your hard drive, but if you save a few programs on it/put your OS on it, you will see plenty of benefit from it.
optional, but something to consider grabbing later on.
10. Disc drive.
Reads discs, enough said...
Costs are cheap, around 25 bucks, and the only thing to look for is that it supports burning of dvds. there are also blueray ones out, but the blueray drives cost 50+ and the blueray burners are 125+
Dvd drives cost around 25. make sure it can burn as well as read.
11. CPU heatsink.
The heatsink is what keeps the cpu from bursting into flames and destroying all life as we know it. its important.
The stock heatsink that comes with the amd x4 is basic, and kind of sucks. You will be buying a new one to save on noise, and keep your cpu cool. heres one thats really the best for its price.
120mm fan, can support another one, and is big, 40 bucks and fits almost every motherboard as well as features a tutorial to installing it.
for me, my computer at 3.4ghz would be hitting 60c+ on the stock cooler within a minute of playing minecraft/dwarf fortress or stress testing it.
with this one, 20 minutes of pure 100% use resulted in temps hitting 48c at the highest point.
anti virus: microsoft security essentials is the best, as well as free if your copy of windows is legit
videos: Media player classic 32bit, plays dang near every single video format in existence
audio: I use foobar since it also plays pretty much every audio format in existence as well really customizable and lightweight
image viewing: ifranView
internet: chrome/firefox (IE/Safari are NOT ACCEPTABLE BROWSERS for both security and customization. they exist to download a better browser)