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General rules of thumbs and Q&A guide on basic PC parts

General rules of thumbs and Q&A guide on basic PC parts

 

 

Welcome to this extensive guide on some of the basic reasoning on what you want/need for the basic PC components, why that is/isn’t and some overall reasoning behind this and why to choose what. Of course this means that there will be some personal opinion and experiences sauce in it, and also that this is not always 100% applying to every scenario. Daily usage, mostly gaming and simple content creation is overall considered as point of reference. Still it should be useful for anyone on the market as a tool to assist you. Asking around for your specific scenarios on the forum really helps. Also some tech babble/terms and (video) explanation on what it is and means come around. Newer and less experienced people should find that very handy. So many terms thrown at you by sellers and stores… Click links for videos and some sites for more explanation and background info. Thx to LTT.

 

 

But first:

 

 

Q: Why do I (possibly) see typos, weird choice of words and possible wrong phrases?

 

A: That’s my fault. I am no native English speaking person. Still most understand perfectly what I mean and if not, asking is no problem. Also I might use some common (online) wording of stuff.

 

 

 

Q: So for who is this guide then?

A: For anyone that is considering to buy a new/used component(s) for the PC. There is so much choice, so much to consider: it can be very overwhelming especially for the many folks out there that are not up to snuff on what’s out there, have been out of the loop or simply just don’t care.

 

Since you are on the LTT community forum and also probably looking at Linus his vids, this is a great place to assist you in finding the right parts and what stuff you could encounter for your build. So ask around if you have questions. There are many enthusiasts here that have knowledge and experiences they want to share. Knowing it all is impossible, but doing some research is a valuable tool that makes you spend your money properly and have an overall better experience.

 

 

Q: So will you list best parts, prices or so and say what we need to buy? And who are you to tell us?

 

A: No, it will more be a description of parts used in general, terms that might be thrown around when looking/asking around for parts and some overall logic thinking. It should be used as a tool to better understand what you buy, why you buy and do you need to buy it. I am just an enthusiast. I have my experiences in building PC’s for myself and many others over the years and also like to expand my knowledge on the basic parts by watching videos, check guides, forums etc. But I am not a professional that is working for a manufacturer or whatever.

 

This guide is written with a general gaming purpose as in mind and will not be suitable for every scenario or way of reasoning. If you find something that is missing, needs adjustment, have suggestions, or see info that is plain wrong feel free to send me a message. For comments and discussions be constructive when (dis)agreeing. Feel free to share and use this guide on the forum for new people.

 

 

 

Table of content

 

  1.           General rules of thumb, considerations, tips and terms used
  2.           Motherboard
  3.            CPU
  4.          DDR RAM
  5.           PSU
  6.          Case
  7.           Storage
  8.           GPU
  9.            Cooling in general and cooling parts

 

 

 

 

1: General rules of thumb, considerations, tips and terms used

 

Before you decide what to buy, you must know what you want to do and be able to do. So consider the software you use, do you have extra purposes besides some simple daily usage and browsing, and possibly special software/games that have high demands. Otherwise you might get the situation that you spend more than needed, or worse: you still don’t have the power for a smooth user experience. It is all about the choices and needs. No reason to overdo it.

 

 

 

So my recommendations in general: First find out what you need. Generally speaking persons with demanding software will know what makes the usage heavy. But if you are not sure ask around, check online and if available look at benchmarks or guides. After that pick the parts that fulfill your requirements for hardware, software needs, any other secondary reasons and of course budget. Budget is a big factor, but don’t let it overrule your needs. Overall it’s better to spend 1 time good and bigger then in multiple times. Note here that with bigger I don’t mean over the top and super expensive. A bad user experience is often caused by the budget reasoning.

 

 

 

General points to consider:

  •           User scenarios
  •           Hardware requirements
  •           Software requirements
  •           Secondary needs like (future) expansion possibility, available slots/connectors
  •           Other requirements
  •           Budget
  •           Build it yourself or let it be build

Avoid common PC building traps CPU's vs GPU's What is a motherboard DDR and GDDR memory Types of memory Custom PC vs pre-built PC Benchmarks What is overclocking (OC) Futureproofing Bottlenecks Avoid common PC traps 2

 

 

Q: I am still uncertain where to start for picking basic hardware parts. Suggestions?

 

Spoiler

A: First a good question would be if there is need for a dedicated GPU. If you want to build a PC that is used for only some browsing, doing some simple tasks like documents and old/very light games, running on internal graphics is a good cost efficient solution. But if you need all basic parts the following order is a general good one: GPU>CPU>Mobo>PSU>Case>RAM. The GPU/CPU combination should in general be in balance. For gaming graphics are very important, but the GPU is in general the first hardware that has to be replaced. But because of the usable lifespan of decent chosen parts in general I still prefer having a solid base to work from: a mobo with a proper CPU that can last some years and upgrades. A still decent GPU can then give you a good experience until ready for upgrade.

 

Q: So how does that go with budget? What could I skimp on to reduce cost?

Spoiler

A: The following list is descending in order of importance with cost in mind in my opinion.

  1.           A decent CPU that is unlocked (like a i5) CPU is preferred
  2.           GPU that can run your games acceptable even if it is a in between step
  3.           A good quality PSU
  4.           A mobo that has the connectors you need and supports unlocked CPU
  5.           RAM that fits the mobo
  6.           A case where it all fits in
  7.           Basic storage

Apart from the GPU, the other parts and requirement growth for these parts are on a level with useable lifespan where picking the right stuff can last you 5 years+ in general. A good CPU from 5-6 years ago that is unlocked (like the 2500k), can still manage its own. There is not much stretch anymore of course, and is also not up to snuff with current standards. But still it works.

Q: So you would first save on storage. How and why?

Spoiler

A: First there is the reason that many people do have older drives around or external storage that could be used temporarily. Second reason is that for operating the PC only your main drive is needed. These days I only advise SSD as main drive with at least 250 GB for gamers. It can hold your OS, some basic programs and some games. Extra HDD can be added later without any hassle. So as a temporarily solution until you save up more, you can skimp on extra storage that needs to be bought.

Q: What about the case?

Spoiler

A: For the case it depends much on preference, but if it has decent cooling results and fits your hardware all is good and can still be reasonable priced. More than that adds cost in general. Special design, windows, RGB lights and ease of use are big cost factors as example. A good case can last several builds and also be a pleasure to work with. Sadly smaller is not always cheaper.

Q: And for RAM?

Spoiler

A: First is speed and timings. Cost grows fast in general the better these are. Since the performance gain is relative small opposed to other parts like the CPU and GPU, it is better to save money on RAM. Amount is a second point to skimp on, but don’t go to low. 8GB is seen as minimal with gaming and multitasking these days. While 16 is preferred and is enough for mainstream usage. Above that is only with RAM demanding tasks. A third option is the brand and type. Any reputable brand works.

Q: Any savings for the mobo?

Spoiler

A: A lot actually. As long as you don’t miss functionality you require, the rest can be skimped on: think less expansion slots, color scheme and looks, extra options, smaller amount of connectors for USB and other kinds of bells and whistles. For high end OCers the OC functions of a board are a important factor and ease of use like voltage points, but a basic mobo for the unlocked CPU’s is in general good enough with power phases that is required for a good OC. Some future planning for expansion you need is of course advised, if there is room in budget.

Q: The PSU is important. Can I save money on it while holding quality high?

Spoiler

A: Yes you can, since for quality it is not automatically guaranteed that a expensive PSU is better. However make sure that you have a good quality by reading reviews and use the tier list for good indications. Now that is out of the way, a first thing to skimp on is wattage range. Many people come with a very high margin on this, and going 100-200 watt lower if possible can be a big saving. Another good one is skimping on the 80 plus rating. The rating is not tied to quality of a PSU, only their theoretical efficiency. Going for a silver or bronze PSU that is good quality is then a good money saver. Another point that ads cost in general is modular cables, fan less or quiet operation designs and special form factors.

Q: Since it is vital for the gaming experience, can you save on the GPU?

Spoiler

A: You don’t want a bad experience by taking a GPU that is not powerful enough, but there is room to play with settings. So a lower tier card can be a viable option, especially if you also consider that when looking at usable lifespan you might upgrade in a few years anyway. Also look between AMD and Nvidia. Performance wise 1 might perform a bit less or better then the in general opposing competition, but could also bring a bit different price tag then. So benchmarks are your friend. More overhead is nice, but you only need what you need. Another big thing is bells and whistles like RGB lights and factory OC. Especially for the Nvidia GPU boosted cards, the current boost goes over the factory clocks anyway. So a factory OC is nice, but the related price bump is big sometimes. As long as the cooler is decent a simple own OC is free. And despite a factory OC it is also no guarantee that those cards are better suited for higher OC results. More VRAM also brings more cost. So if you aim for more VRAM consider the sense of doing so. What I mean with this is the following: more VRAM is in general not delivering more performance. So despite sitting in between the next tier in price, in many cases it would be a better bang for the buck to go a higher tier card most of the time. A last thing you should not value highest when it comes to GPU’s is future proofing. For certain is that it depends on resolution and refresh rate you run at. The market is shifting slowly from there is nothing good enough for mainstream usage on the most used resolution, to there are options these days despite the still growing demands. But is the big price step worth it with the relative big and fast advancements on graphical area? So keep this in check and reasonable by considering an upgrade.

Q: What to save on with the CPU?

Spoiler

A: For the CPU you better spend one time good, even while gaming is the main focus. The GPU can then be a average tier card but still good enough with some tweaking for your setup. Because some games require 4 threads that leaves you with a i5 range quad core CPU in general and is also preferred. But a current i3 CPU with hyper threading can be a viable budget decision to step in on a good platform, while saving up for a step up to a i7 if you know you need the power. The i3 is still a good value to sell in general if done relative soon. However if you have sufficient power with a i5, going straight for that is the better solution. For AMD we are on time of writing so close to Zen that I would not even bother thinking about the older platforms. Just wait a while longer. Despite higher initial cost, in general don’t go locked on the CPU. A simple OC is no big hassle these days, is free and can add several years of usable lifespan saving you money in the long run.

Q: Any other general things that is handy to know?

Spoiler

A: Don’t go crazy with the amount of fans. A bunch of fans can rack the price up quickly, especially if you go for the better quality and other extras like special bearings and RGB. The amount standard in a case could benefit from 1- 2 extra fans maybe, but filling every slot is not needed. Depending on brand the already installed fans can be decent quality enough as well. As with many other parts for a PC, the cost for more performance is very steep. Optical media drives are for many no longer required because of digital formats and platforms, so don’t take one for installing Windows alone. This can be done via USB as well, so that saves a few bucks. In general also avoid multi GPU setup for SLI/Crossfire. Sure there is a small place in the market for this, but if there is a single card solution possible instead that is overall a better option. Don’t go crazy with PSU wattage. Unless going multiple GPU cards there is no reason to go above the 500-650 watt range.

 

Q: Something not mentioned is warranty and service. How does that factor in?

 

Spoiler

A: Well that is different from person to person, but I personally find it a nice addition if there is extra warranty. It is a bit different per PC part but especially with PSU’s and storage I look a bit further into this. Warranty is no guarantee it won’t die on you, but it’s valuable to have just in case. You always hope you never need it, but even the best brand can have an issue with a high quality part. Certain brands give extra focus to customer support and service besides better warranty. These can be reasons to shop by a specific brand first. Especially for persons like me that build systems for others on a regular base, it is a nice extra to consider.

Q: I don’t understand all abbreviations used in conjunction with PC parts, so can you explain some?

 

Spoiler

 

A: I will shortly explain some down below that are also found in this guide.

CPU = Central Processing Unit, processor

GPU = Graphics Processing Unit, processor handling graphics, iGPU is a integrated GPU on the CPU

DDR = Double Data Rate, used in conjunction with a number to specify a generation of RAM

RAM, VRAM = Random-Access memory, working memory for CPU or GPU (VRAM)

OC = over clock of parts beyond standard specification increasing performance output

SSD = Solid-State Drive, used for storing data

HDD = Hard Disk Drive, used for storing data

PSU = Power Supply Unit, delivering power on the right manner to your components

Mobo, motherboard = the main PCB what connects all used parts for a functioning system

AIO = All In One used in conjunction with liquid cooling solutions for a stand-alone loop

Rad, radiator = used for transferring heat from one medium to another

TDP = Thermal Design Power, used to specify the maximum heat that can normally be dissipated

 

 

 

 

 

2: Motherboard

 

The mobo is where all components connect on to function and communicate with each other. This also determines what CPU you can use. So make sure that the socket is compatible with your CPU. There are different sizes of form factor like ATX, mATX, so make sure it fits the case. Bigger boards carry more connection of several types, giving the user more flexibility.

 

So my recommendations for the mobo: First make sure that the mobo supports the CPU you plan to use. Also know that you can fit it in the case you have in mind. Other than that it must have all connections and features you require like the amount of PCIe slots, proper USB implementation, SATA connections, sound implementation and other support for devices you have like NVME for NVME drives. If you go OCing there are many options these days that improve results, like more phases and better quality components. But in general any decent brand of mobo should be good enough for normal OCing (assuming it is supported). So apart from looks it might be wise to spend the money from an very expensive board on parts like the CPU itself. If you plan to make use of multiple GPU’s make sure that SLI and Crossfire is supported.

 

 

 

General points to consider:

 

  •           Form factor of mobo and possible size allowed in case
  •           Socket type
  •           SATA slots amount for storage
  •           Possibly M.2 slot for storage and support for storage drives
  •           NVME support
  •           SLI and Crossfire support
  •           USB connectors
  •           USB implementation speed (especially with USB 3.1, check mobo reviews)
  •           PCI(e) slots
  •           Sound implementation and quality
  •           Network connectivity and speed, possibly also wireless on certain mobo’s
  •           Other connectors you might want like fan headers, thunderbold or display connectors
  •           Especially with OC in mind the options, possibilities and does it support a unlocked CPU
  •           Looks and extra’s like RGB

Motherboard sizes Chipsets Sata 3 6 Gbps PCIe 3.0 USB 3.0 USB type C Motherboard connectors BIOS and UEFI Display connectors Thunderbolt VRM's Fast SSD technologies explained Which motherboard to buy

 

 

 

Q: Are bigger size boards like ATX better than smaller boards like Mini ITX?

 

Spoiler

A: No. Bigger (or to some degree even more expensive mobo’s for that matter) is saying nothing about the quality. But it does for expansion and limits on possibilities. Smaller physical size means less room for extras. However small, but powerful form factors are getting more and more common. The quality of components and even OC possibility does not have to suffer with smaller size. And because of components using less power without losing performance = less heat, even small cases can handle a powerful system. As long as it has all features you make use of, it is good to go.

Q: Apart from professionals I see no one talking about soundcards anymore. So onboard is good?

 

Spoiler

A: Yes. Audio implementation is for normal usage good enough, even from the lesser current implementations. In special scenarios and for professional use soundcard have a place, but in general there is no longer a market for soundcards.

 

 

 

3: CPU

 

Without a CPU you would have a car without engine. So when it comes to the CPU, it determines a lot of the other parts used. But even more important:  it is the major factor for computer performance and scenarios you will use the system for. For gaming the CPU is also very important, despite many games being more dependent on the GPU. If the CPU does not have to power to feed the GPU with info, your gaming experience will also suffer. So be sure you pick the one that fits your needs. Content creators in general want more cores, while gamers will prefer higher clock speeds.

 

 

 

So my recommendations for the CPU: Picking the right one is very important and will depend on your needs. So consider what programs you use and to some degree even the games you play. Also take a unlocked CPU, since it can give you more usable lifespan when needed. Newer games get more and more CPU hungry despite the mainly higher need for graphics. This also means that you need a balanced system with GPU and a CPU that can feed the GPU enough data for most optimal performance. Also for things like VR a good CPU power is required. Certain games are more CPU depending then GPU, so read reviews about games where they find that out. For gaming clock speed is preferred over amount of cores/threads. But if you plan to do some content creation, a i7 with hyper threading is a good spot to aim for at least. If you do mostly content creation that benefit from multi core performance, a different platform like the X99 might be a better option. Architecture is key for performance since it will define the efficiency for results, so in general newer architectures are preferred. Cache size increases the higher the CPU is scaled in performance, but if there is choice more is better in general. Currently when it comes to CPU’s Intel is the way to go, since even the lower new gen i3 compete with AMD’s best CPU’s or are even better in performance depending on what benchmarks. It could however get a very interesting time with AMD releasing Zen soon. Current AMD can still be a valid options for budget and simple PC use, but AMD can’t compete in mid and high end CPU’s. For gaming a decent unlocked i5 is a good middle ground.

 

Zen update: Now the high ranged Ryzen 7 Zen CPU’s have been released there is finally more choice again. More than ever it now really depends on your needs and use scenarios when deciding between Intel and AMD. But one thing is for sure: compared to Intel the Zen lineup is currently bringing a good middle road between performance and cost. It brings very decent performance (especially multi threaded) with lower cost, especially for the top 1800x. If gaming is your only focus Intel still has the upper hand, but AMD has an acceptable alternative as well now. So if you have a scenario that besides gaming you also do multitasking or streaming, Zen might be a viable option. There are however some ups and downs for each choice, so reading up on what works for your needs is advised.

 

 

General points to consider:

  •           Workloads and scenarios you use your PC for
  •           Possibly hardware requiring a good CPU. Think high end GPU’s or VR as example
  •           Socket type
  •           Clock speeds and amount of cores
  •           Software that make use of multi cores
  •           Architecture
  •           Cache size
  •           Power consumption and efficiency
  •           Locked or unlocked
  •           Hyper threading
  •           The iGPU if using the internal GPU for graphics

CPU shopping tips Intel Turbo Boost Multiple cores info CPU cache Hyper Threading Intel i3, i5 and i7 CPU sockets CPU micro architecture Heavy multitasking: when more cores really shine

 

 

 

 

Q: Why are AMD CPU's that also have high(er) clock speeds and core amount lagging behind Intel performance for the last several years?

 

Spoiler

A: Well these values are important but are only part of the total performance picture. Use scenarios like gaming overall have no or only marginally use for more cores/threads above 4. Multithreaded applications get improved, but also have been already improved for years. It’s just not going that fast, and it also relates to how games are created and work. But the other side of the flipped coin for AMD is that the performance of architecture used is gaps behind Intel. So if the instruction set is relative slow it can still do the same thing, but much slower. Architecture matters a lot and also explains that comparing cores and clock speeds alone is not the best way to compare, unless you talk about same architecture. If you still do it, you might be fooled in getting a CPU and expectations that don’t live up to it. Friend or foe, it doesn’t matter. Everyone agrees that AMD is far behind and that is bad for us consumers. If they where competitive it would be good in so many ways: more options, better gains in performance and better pricing to name a few. Currently Intel steps forward are present, but are very safely calculated each generation. Partly this is because the main focus has shifted from more raw performance to being more power efficient with similar performance as example. But it is also because there is no real competition, what reduces the need for bigger but more risky steps. Luckily there seems to come an exciting time ahead with Zen being launched.

 

Zen update: The above is still valid and will be for any pre Zen AMD builds based on current available chips. But this point will also apply for any future architecture for both sides.

Q: So Zen will be good (updated on Zen release)?

 

Spoiler

A: Well the results are not final yet, so we have to wait and see when launched how it performs. Initial results can look good, but that’s no guarantee. Still it is realistic to at least see a good step forward and getting more competitive again. Zen will finally get by the time with support for the newer current standards. However, even if AMD gets competitive in the mid and high end CPU’s again, holding the momentum is step 2. But unless they fail to deliver, CPU market might spark interesting times coming years.

 

Zen update: The top CPU’s have been released and AMD delivers a good up to date CPU that is competitive with Intel. It has its own strengths and weaknesses compared to Intel, but it is a compelling choice again to look what AMD offers. The following is based on current available info from reviews and certain aspects might still be improved or change in the near future. Zen has made a big improvement over their previous architecture and also stepped forward to be viable again as a choice to consider. So far their intended tactic of delivering a platform that can compete with Intel and is a good middle road between the standard and enthusiast platform holds true for the current top CPU’s. The lower range Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 3 variants still have to be released so that story is not set in stone, but it can be expected to be a similar story. Also there are some (maybe temporarily) odd balls for the Zen platform. First there seems to be some conflicting issues with higher speed RAM sticks causing performance hits. So for now the general idea seems to be to not go over 2400-2666 speeds for RAM. Second is the OC potential that is not very high. You can say that AMD pushes it’s hardware for the consumer, but OCers might wish for something more are left in the rain. Third is that it seems that some games are less optimized to work with Zen resulting in lesser performance. This does however not mean that it is not good for gaming. The performance is still very viable for gaming. All in all Zen delivers bigger then quad core CPU’s at a price point that is more suitable for the mainstream market and sits right in between the current Intel mainstream and high end platform. The initial step AMD has taken is good, so now let’s hope they can keep the momentum.

Q: So if I am a gamer that also streams and edits some video content, you recommend a normal Intel i7 over the enthusiast platform?

 

Spoiler

A: Yes. It is a bit more general recommendation, but it overall brings the best bang for the buck. As a gamer higher clock speeds are more preferred then core amount. A simple drawback from the more high end CPU’s with more cores is that in general the clock speeds are some steps lower the more cores you get. You can OC them, but that is not always preferred. Also the architecture is currently a bit behind compared to the mainstream platform. Cost to step in on the high end platform is also increased over the normal mainstream platform. The mainstream i7 are quad cores with hyper threading, which also has high clock speeds. Games in general don’t benefit from more than 4 cores/threads, but if they do you have more and that can also help with streaming. And for editing the total of 8 threads still can do a lot of work. All in all a very balanced CPU that gives best gaming performance, but also is versatile enough to be used for streaming and editing at reasonable cost. The story changes however if you insist on doing all things together. If you are multitasking heavily, more physical cores is better. So as always it will depend on the usage scenario.

 

Zen update: With decent enough and respectable standard clockspeeds despite being octa cores, the Ryzen 7 1800x might be a very good game streaming option that keeps the price in a overall acceptable range. For gaming it is not the ultimate CPU, but can still hold it's own + having the benefit of extra cores. Initial benchmarks seem to have an excellent middle of the road in performance for this specific scenario.

Q: I am not planning to OC, so why do you still recommend a unlocked CPU?

 

Spoiler

A: Easy answer is cost and increased usable lifespan. OC is not difficult and a simple small OC is easy enough to do without much hassle and issues. And getting a small bump on scenarios where you just come short on CPU power, might just be what you need. Even if on a budget the extra cost is in general not that much extra, while if you have to upgrade later because it just is not enough, the cost you have then might be much bigger. Once you reach the limit of a locked CPU, you MUST buy a better one. If you have a higher ranged CPU that fits your platform, you still have to find a good one. But if you are really unlucky you even need a new platform with maybe even new RAM. And your old stuff still will result in less money compared to the upgrades you need. So in the long run going unlocked right away is the cheaper solution. An upside of this is also that despite the still growing need for good CPU power, your CPU can last some upgrades making it a 1 time big investment. Many people that I advised an unlocked CPU, later thanked me for insisting on that.

Q: How good are iGPU for gaming?

 

Spoiler

A: Obviously it depends on what one. I see the internal graphics mainly as extra tool or budget solution. It is great for simple daily usage that is not demanding much graphics power and simple display tasks. Spending a bit more on a CPU with good internal graphics is in general cheaper than buying a separate GPU. It also makes very small form factors easier if there is no GPU involved. AMD is on this point still very viable. The newer Intel graphics are also good. These days you can even do simple gaming or much less demanding older games with decent game play. But if you really want to game I still advise buying a GPU, simply because they are more suited for that and give much more bang for the buck. A iGPU is also a handy troubleshooting tool if needed when the GPU is faulty.

 

 

 

4: DDR RAM

 

RAM is these days not the most exciting for normal users, but nevertheless still an important part of the PC. Being short on it is a very bad thing for performance. It gives the CPU quick access to random data it needs to complete its task, on a way that is much faster than the normal storage. It is however volatile, meaning that the data is only temporarily stored and gone when the power goes off. RAM speed and timings are important for the results. The better these are, the better your CPU can do what it needs to do. Especially if you run internal graphics on the CPU, RAM can influence the performance. For maximum efficiency make use of the channel support your mobo has: in general it is dual channel. But other variants also exist. As example a Intel X99 mobo has quad channel support.

 

 

 

So my recommendations for RAM: Take enough for your needs. Having more does not really improve performance, but having short you do not want. 8GB is in general considered minimum these days, but 16GB is an amount that is considered enough for the coming years for gamers. But for example with VM’s and heavy content creation (especially video editing and rendering), higher amounts are welcome. Obviously higher speed and lower timings are preferred, but are overall no real performance gains that are worth the in general big steps up in cost. So with the new DDR4 standard 2400 - 2666 MHz is in general a good speed (for DDR3, 1600MHz is overall considered to be a good sweet spot for the cost). Unless the increased price bump is very low, it is overall better to spend the money on more important parts like the CPU, GPU or more/better storage like a SSD. When using the iGPU higher speeds can have benefits however, and give you just that bit extra fps in games. So it might then be a good idea to invest some more on RAM with higher speeds. Especially the onboard graphics from the current gen AMD benefit much from it. Also take a kit fitting the size of the channel support for best efficiency. So if your board supports dual channel support rather go with 2x8 vs 1x16GB. If expanding amount, try to match as much specs as possible for best compatibility. It is even preferred to go with 1 kit only. RAM can behave odd some times when mixed, even from same type, speeds and vendor. With 1 kit you have the guarantee they work together.

 

 

 

 

General points to consider:

 

  •           Type of DDR your mobo supports
  •           Amount you need and that is supported. Also goes for the OS you plan to use
  •           Amount of slots
  •           Try to match the kit with channel support of the mobo
  •           Speed and timings, XMP support
  •           Physical height of heat spreaders that might have placement issues with CPU cooler

What is DDR RAM RAM speed and timings RAM channels XMP memory profiles What is ECC memory

 

 

 

Q: DDR3 or DDR4: I heard it does not really matter for gaming performance in general. How come?

 

Spoiler

A: RAM is so fast, that it is already several years no real bottleneck in the system for home users. Other things have much more effect on gaming then the RAM in general. DDR4 is replacing DDR3 because its potential better, faster, can be larger in amount, has better power savings, etc. And cost of DDR4 is now lower then DDR3. So there is no real reason to go with the older DDR3 in general for Intel. AMD will finally also get the step up for DDR4 with Zen. The improvements are however a very big thing for large servers as example where RAM has way more meaning then for most daily home users. And it means that for the normal users won’t have to worry much about RAM bottlenecks. It seems like 2400 and 2666 MHz are a good sweet spot for DDR4 if the price tag is overall not to steep. But even then you will only notice the difference in specific scenarios and the actual gain is questionable. Above those speeds the gain is only marginal and cost is high, so not worth it.

Q: So onboard graphics are some of the rare cases where higher speed can be use full. Why?

 

Spoiler

A: Graphics use high amounts of data. So the onboard solutions can make use of RAM for the data it needs. This is because the available amount in the CPU is very small and also lacks the physical room for extra storage. The RAM then functions similar to the GDDR memory on GPU’s. The faster it can deliver the better. Still there is price to consider in this case and for the performance gain it might be better invested in a normal GPU.

Q: You can also overclock RAM. Is it worth the gain?

 

Spoiler

A: Every gain is nice to have, so make use of the speeds and timings your RAM is rated for by doing it manual or even easier using XMP. But as with anything else with OCing going above that is no guarantee. RAM can be unstable and is hard to diagnose with OCing. Overall it is not recommended to go above specifications, since the gains are in general minimal. Of course for extreme OCers that want to get every % out of the system everything counts.

 

 

 

5: PSU

 

A good power supply makes all the difference for your build and is a part you overall should not skimp on for budget savings. A good one lasts for years, holds its own for a stable system, gives a good OCing experience and can go with you for several builds. Check the PSU tier list for a good idea on the quality of the PSU type you are considering to buy (good read).

PSU Tier list on Linus Tech Tips

 

 

 

So my recommendations for PSU’s: Invest in a proper quality PSU that has the wattage and amps needed (use tier list and don’t go lower then tier 3). The money is worth it and if picked correctly it should go with you for several years and builds without problems, as long as it has all connectors you need. In general 500-650w is good for most builds these days. Prefer (semi) modular if possible for a more tidy system without loose cables and easy installing. You can save dosh on lower wattage and sometimes ratings, since a higher rating is not automatically a better quality PSU.

 

 

 

 

General points to consider:

 

  •           How much watt does the combination of parts use (TDP is only a worse case indication)
  •           What and how much connectors I need
  •           Form factor: does it fit my build
  •           How efficient is the PSU (the 80 plus rating). Obviously there is a cost delta between efficiency, cost for paying the bills, and price of the PSU that needs consideration. But being more efficient is better for the world we live in and the bill height for power consumption (its however no guarantee that the actual PSU is a good PSU)
  •           Is OCing a factor, keep the amps on 12V rail in mind (now or in the future)
  •           Is the PSU (semi)modular or not
  •           If you want custom cables that is also an option. Check sites like Cablemod

How to choose the right PSU 80 Plus ratings Modular vs Non Modular Single Rail and Multi Rail What is TDP

 

 

 

Q: What wattage I need?

Spoiler

A: This obviously depends on what parts you put in the system and the overall watts or TDP of parts used. TDP of parts is only a indicator in overall very worse case scenario’s, not actual usage numbers. But in general the power need of parts like CPU and GPU have much improved over the years despite getting more powerful. A high end single card system with current gen parts can run easily on a 500-650w range PSU, even when OCing. Even with multi GPU you overall would still be ok. Currently Nvidia GPU’s are considerably more power efficient then AMD cards on similar performance levels. So if you go with multi AMD GPU and a OC this might be an factor. It doesn’t hurt to go a bit higher when considering that. Older gen parts are in comparison more power hungry so if you go with stuff from like 3 generations ago you might also need to up it a bit. In the old days I overall found that there is no need to go over 1000w unless in extreme situations, but as you see that general rule of thumb is a bit obsolete today. Today I overall recommend 500-650w for an average high end system.

Q: The calculators on sites give different results than what you mention. Is it ok to go with less?

 

Spoiler

A: The calculators are overall on the high side, but this also has to do with the fact that the best efficiency of a PSU is not at 100% use of wattage and they sometimes use the TDP. Generally said a PSU works most efficient in a certain range of the load, like 40-70% of max wattage. I generally use those numbers for an overall idea to select a PSU, and with current gen parts you get more and more in the territory where the PSU might not have all cables you want, despite having the wattage required. As example: a current complete high end X99 platform with a 5960x (OCed @4GHz) used as test bench with a 1080 was running at 64w idle and about 300w load. If you have a 650w PSU with good amps, it should still be enough to get a very decent OC without running at 100%.

Q: What connectors I need? And how long?

 

Spoiler

A: The connectors needed are overall pretty standard and contain in general more of those with higher wattage PSU’s, but always check specifications. So it depends most on what and how many parts you are going to use in the PC. Most people mess up with the PCIe connectors for the GPU’s and have short on those or don’t have the correct ones. So check PSU specifications for what is delivered and your parts for what you need. There are however separate converters that can solve a missing cable. Length you need depends on case and how you do your cable management. Length you get is different per brand/type and is not standard. There is more an average length range where it falls under. Higher wattage PSU’s do overall have more length though since these are overall used in bigger cases with more parts.

 

 

 

6: Case

 

This is a choice that depends much on personal preferences, so I won’t go to deep on it. Most important is that it has the dimensions to fit all you need and support the mobo size you choose. But the case also has great effects on noise and temp levels. A good quality and functional case can go with you for several builds, while a bad one makes you regret the choice in the long run.

 

 

 

So my recommendations for cases: it is a worthwhile investment to get a nice, good quality case. It does not have to be over the top for budget to be good these days, and looks are of course subjective. But if it fits all parts you have, has decent cooling and temperatures on his own, you can enjoy your build for years. Obviously fans can be replaced with temps and noise in mind but read reviews since it can give an overall good indicator for how a case would function and holds its own.

 

 

 

 

General points to consider:

 

  •           Outer dimensions
  •           Front panel layout and options
  •           Inner dimensions that might restrict mobo size, CPU cooler height, GPU length
  •           Drive mounts
  •           Possible mounting amount for fans and rads and their possible size
  •           Standard delivered cooling fans and the overall temps they can maintain with a build inside
  •           Overall noise levels and possible sound dampening
  •           Cable management options for a clean and tidy look
  •           Looks and aesthetics like going with a windowed version, RGB lights, etc

PC case sizes

 

 

 

7: Storage

 

Storage is a relative easy choice: you need enough for your needs. Speeds needed depend on workloads, so there is where the main difficulty comes in deciding. In general the more speed, the better. But then comes cost in the mix, which might make it hard to choose. In general most people use a simple combination of a decent sized and good SSD as boot device + storage for main programs and games, while they have (multiple) HDD in large sizes for storing larger files and stuff you want to keep, but don’t need all the time, or that don’t really require fast speeds. Remember that different scenario’s might require a different approach in picking the best disk for your needs. Some one that archives data will value redundancy and safety very high for their needs.

 

 

 

So my recommendations for storage in general: use a SSD for main drive of about 250GB at least. This holds your OS, games, programs and possible files that need fast access and can benefit of SSD performance and speeds. Besides that use any amount of drives (most likely HDD) you need for mass storage. Possibly do this in certain RAID configurations that can improve redundancy. Because of pricing of PCIe based SSD, I would recommend these only if you have daily use scenario’s that benefit much of these performance levels. Think video content creators for example. In normal daily use most people will not notice and use the better speeds.

 

 

 

 

General points to consider:

 

  •           Amount of storage
  •           Workloads
  •           Speeds of used disk and needs for your use scenario’s
  •           Possible speed restrictions in parts used (SATA connection, PCIe lanes, NVMe support, etc)
  •           Redundancy and safety
  •           If you go RAID, is it properly supported and do you have the amount of disks needed for it

SSD vs HDD SSD controllers RAID 0, 1, 10 RAID 5, 6 M.2 NVMe SSD flash memory Fast SSD technologies explained

 

 

 

Q: Why does everyone recommend a SSD these days? Do I really need them?

 

Spoiler

A: Need is a big word, since before SSD where mainstream, we have used normal HDD for years. So you can most certainly run ok on normal HDD. But HDD speeds are limited + access times are much higher and doing multiple things at same time is not a HDD’s strong suite. SSD have a much better potential on those areas, and cost has reached a point where they are a viable option for normal consumers. It makes a big difference in how snappy your PC overall responds and can transfer data. Over the years size has also increased, so that you can have more stored on it. Cost per GB is still higher then HDD for now, but it is low enough to use it as a main drive. The step from a HDD to any decent SSD is very noticeable.

Q: What about SATA, PCIe and M.2 interfaces for SSD?

 

Spoiler

A: These are the main interfaces used for current SSD. So your mobo needs to support the type of connection from your SSD. SATA is the most common, since those are used for a normal HDD as well. However once SSD became more mainstream, this type of connection ran into its theoretical limits soon, what was no issue before for a normal HDD. SSD got improved, but where constantly limited by this. So that’s where the other types of connection come in. PCIe was already available and has much better bandwidth and potential. Laptops use often M.2 connections because of size restrictions. There is also a SATA Express connector, but seems that one was already DOA. Important for the mentioned connections is the PCIe connection used and lanes available. So remember to verify, that your intended parts can work together, especially with M.2. It has many variants and even slots despite the same name. Short said: although SATA is already fast for a SSD, PCIe and M.2 seem to be the future connections because of their better potential when compared. Both use PCIe lanes for the performance of SSD.

Q: Another thing I see mentioned being important for PCIe based SSD is NVMe. Why?

 

Spoiler

A: Similar as with interfaces for HDD, the protocol used to give commands to the HDD is holding the potential of SSD back. These days it uses AHCI, but when this was developed it did have HDD in mind and not SSD. Since SSD are capable of handling way more requests at the same time opposed to the HDD there was also need for a protocol that did support this. And that’s what NVMe does. It is better suitable for how SSD work and unlock their full potential this way. If you want most optimal performance possible you need NVMe drives and a setup that supports this (mobo, OS).

Q: What about SSHD drives?

 

Spoiler

A: The road in between of a SSD and HDD performance. A good option if you have a situation where there is only one drive slot. But overall it is better to spend your money on a SSD + HDD combo. They are not as fast as a normal SSD. So I only advice these in special circumstances if there is no other option available. And that option is for me NEVER because of budget savings. Remember that it is no big hassle to add a drive later. This gives you a much better result and the extra dosh needed isn’t that big over a SSHD overall.

Q: Should I use RAID and what is it?

 

Spoiler

A: Overall it’s not needed to go into RAID. It’s not that hard to do these days. But many people have less need for it because of cloud and NAS storage. RAID stands for Redundant Array of Independent Disks and also explains what it does. It gives options for redundancy and speed with multiple drives. Results depend on RAID configuration used. Most common are RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10 but other variants also exist. I will not go in depth to explain them, and what you possibly want to use depends on your needs. However 2 important terms you will encounter in these setups to achieve their goal is mirroring and striping. Besides that you need to have support for the RAID you want to use and also a minimum amount of disks. There are also many guides out there that explain in depth what they do. Remember to check how many disks you need minimal for proper functioning of the setup.

 

 

 

8: GPU

 

The GPU is the most debated part for a build when needed. And for good reason, because gaming experiences overall fall or stands with how good the graphics are. This also makes the choice very hard overall to decide what one to buy. And then you have the choice between AMD and Nvidia, the brands, the types, current or old gen… But there are some things that can help. For many builds this will also be the part that is changed first. The graphics power requirements are growing quickly and will keep doing so for the foreseeable future. Also for certain programs and workloads the GPU has its uses. But that really depends on scenario and software you use. GPU’s are in a exciting time with big steps forward, what is needed for the bigger and faster demands of screens and graphical possibilities in games. Also they get more power efficient especially with the relative recent step to smaller sizes of production. Unlike the CPU area AMD and Nvidia are very close in performance levels, although both have their stronger and lesser area’s and own used techniques for certain goals. However currently at the time of writing AMD has no answer yet for the higher end Nvidia 10 series cards. And although the performance for gaming is very similar on the cards that are on comparable performance level, when speaking about performance per watt Nvidia is currently the better choice for already a few generations. The new AMD Vega cards are not here yet for a while.

 

 

 

So my recommendations for GPU’s: Know what you want to do and what the requirements are for those scenarios. In general more resolution, higher frame rates, higher settings and multiple screens will require more graphics power. So what screen(s) setup you have is a main factor. And if you consider a new screen, try to plan ahead for that if possible and in the budget. Make sure the available VRAM is enough if you plan on using older gen or low end cards. 3-4 GB is a good minimal amount for the current more serious gaming needs.  Also take a GPU with a decent cooler. Not even talking about manual OCing yet, the cooling is very important for results of a card. A good cooler does not have to be noisy. Future proof is overall no real factor when it comes to GPU’s when playing the newest titles and plan to keep playing new titles. The steps are going up fast, making 2-3 gens older more or less obsolete. So although a GPU can last plenty of years you might run into their performance limits in only 2-3 years or even sooner depending on games. Unless no better single card solution is possible avoid multi GPU. So many possible drawbacks or even unused GPU’s.

 

 

 

 

General points to consider:

 

  •           What is my screen setup and what card(s) can run the requirements or come closest
  •           What games and what type of games I play, so proper card benchmarks are your friend
  •           What video settings you find acceptable, remember that resolution matters for this as well
  •           VRAM needed, also when using more screens, higher resolutions and settings
  •           Cooling
  •           Noise
  •           Possible features that are AMD or Nvidia specific
  •           Gsync and Freesync if you have/get a screen that supports one of these techniques
  •           Physical size of the card, especially length for older cases or small form factors
  •           Slots needed for the card, possibly covering up certain used PCI slots and/or connectors
  •           Power connections you need and that are available from your PSU
  •           Power consumption
  •           Budget
  •           Looks

GPU shopping tips GDDR5X HBM memory Refresh rates Resolution Response times Gsync Freesync API's explained DirectX 12 and Vulkan Game engines Multi GPU scaling issues HDMI 2.1 HDCP

 

 

 

Q: So what card I need? So much options and considerations… You have a suggestion?

Spoiler

A: Apart from the basic technical stuff like size of the card, power cables required and possibly looks, a good place to start besides knowing your screen setup is having a budget range where you can pick from. Then check reviews of the cards once you have several options narrowed down. Also check results from games you (plan to) play. Some games just work better with AMD and some work better with Nvidia cards. Even with a same type of card there can be major differences between brands because of used coolers and PCB design. And even then it depends on what price point you get the maybe better performance. But a decent cooler is advised

Q: How much VRAM I need? And what about GDDR5x and HBM types?

 

Spoiler

A: Simple answer: just have enough and it depends on situation/game. VRAM has the same principal for the GPU as normal RAM has for the CPU. Having more is not better or worse, but being short on it has drastic negative effects on the game experience. But don’t think that a card with less VRAM is also worse than one with higher amounts, so this should not be really used to compare unless talking about same gen type cards. 1 thing that is important to remember is that VRAM usage alone is only a part of the total picture for performance results. Even if total usage seems to be over the amount you have according to monitoring programs. Until you have actually stuttering and glitches, you haven’t run into the limits. This has to do with how good a card handles the data. So it’s better to have a faster card with lower amounts, then a slower card with high amounts of VRAM. Luckily amount overall increases with the higher tier a card is. The numbers have and will be increasing for now, simply because the demands go up. And honestly several games are just poorly optimized even from the big names (shame on your management by caring less for quality and more about the timeframe). Currently above 3 GB is wanted for newer titles and 4+ is overall reasonable enough for the coming time. If the price tag is not too big a bump, it is handy to go higher when possible. However it will always depend on titles you play and settings used. And for games that have graphical mods it might be wanted to have even more. With multiple screens some extra is also handy since this basically increases the amount of resolution = more data to be processed. With 1 or 2 generations it is likely that HBM(2) will be more mainstream and starts replacing the normal GDDR5 memory. The upside is that this type of memory is considerably faster so it can feed the required data more quickly. However it is still expensive currently. Also the low production capacity is the main reason that it is currently not much used, so we first get steps in between with GDDR5x.

Q: So Nvidia and AMD cards have different specifications and results, how to compare then?

 

Spoiler

A: Benchmarks, because comparing specifications says nothing. Many popular games are tested to see the performance on certain resolutions and settings, so you can get a good indication. Note here that these are indications and be sure that the source of the benchmarks uses proper testing to get certain results. Also understand under what scenario, drivers and system setup it was done. Because of your own different system setup or different drivers you might get different results. The best indicators are frame times and frame rates. Also asking around on forums like this helps a lot.

Q: Frame times? Thought frame rates are most important?

 

Spoiler

A: Both are very important, but you should look at them as a whole, not separate. Frame rate most understand: it should be high enough and in a perfect world would constantly exactly match your screen refresh rate for the best and smoothest experience. Too low is unwanted and gives real bad gaming experiences, mostly caused by lacking the graphical power from your GPU or possibly lacking CPU horsepower to feed your GPU. So in a way you can say in general that as long as the frame rate pushed out is high enough to match your screen or is above, you are good to go. But no matter how high your frame rate is, if you have terrible frame times you will notice the stuttering: even on high refresh rate screens. Easiest way to explain frame times is comparing it to internet. If you have a super high speed internet connection that is great… Until the connection keeps dropping all the time. There you go with your 500 Mbit connection tearing your hair out, no matter the speed when working. See frame rate as the speed and the frame times as the connection. So don’t stare blindly at frame rates alone and if possible find testers that also check frame times. Hiccups are unwanted.

Q: So high refresh rate screens, do I want them?

 

Spoiler

A: Well if you have the option it is never bad to do. Overall all above steady 40 fps is playable, but most agree that 60 fps is minimum in the PC world also because of screen refresh rates. Hz and fps is not entirely the same thing but go hand in hand. So when using a high refresh rate screen your picture will be refreshed much faster, resulting in a smoother and faster experience. So especially with shooters people use this effect to improve their perception and thus reaction time. But also in other types of games it has uses. The effect is good and noticeable, but has diminishing returns for human perception the higher it gets. It is different per human, so there is no real fps amount that is best. But the step from 60 to 100+ is biggest and above 120/144 Hz the actual noticeable effects are for many not relevant enough (pro FPS players want to go as high as possible). One thing is certain: once you are used to higher Hz you don’t want to go back. But make sure you have the graphics power to achieve the higher speeds. Lowering certain video settings can help to improve the fps.

Q: What about Gsync and Freesync?

 

Spoiler

A: Well both have the same purpose, but different means to achieve it. The goal is however to get a smoother play, by simply said using a variable refresh rate for the screen and make it match with the overall fps your card delivers. The result is very noticeable and great to have. It also works with higher Hz screens, but has diminishing returns the higher the fps gets. This is because of the perception of humans that is associated with the higher refresh rates and screens that support it, making errors less visible because the screen get refreshed faster. So a combination of variable refresh rate and a higher Hz screen overall should get very good results overall. However the adaptive refresh rate is originally intended for when the GPU does miss the power for minimal refresh rates. A good example would be when you achieve below 60 fps on average, let’s say 51 fps. You would notice stuttering normally, but with these techniques you should still have a smooth game play despite the fps number. The techniques are currently mutually exclusive. So for Nvidia this means it only works with Gsync and AMD only works with Freesync. Sadly the Nvidia implementation brings extra cost to the screen you buy, because of the needed module. Nvidia has said in the past that they plan to do more with it, but so far no extra’s have been mentioned and launched.

Q: Resolution and settings. Should I care about that?

 

Spoiler

A: Well resolution is a big part of the gaming experience and also immersion of the game. Higher resolutions do require more graphics power to run properly. So adjust your choice for the card to the resolution you (plan to) use if possible, especially if also aiming at higher Hz screens. With the steps forward last couple of years, we are on a point where 1080p (currently the most standard used resolution) is achievable on a nice price point. But as said resolution is a big part of the game immersion. So the higher you can go the better. But higher resolutions like 1440p or 4k is not for everyone, since it is no easy thing for the GPU. It is already very hard for most cards to run 1440p on high settings with high fps, and certain games can’t even be maxed out yet on 4k with 60Hz on multi card setups. This to give an indication what it requires.  Also for the higher resolutions make sure that you have the connectors that are able to run it when planning to use older cards. Luckily with higher resolutions you can do a step back in settings. And the impact of settings are then also bigger on higher resolutions. But it will always depend on the game as well.

Q: About going multi card setup with SLI/Crossfire then. Why should we avoid that?

 

Spoiler

A: Nvidia SLI/ AMD Crossfire makes multiple cards work together. So in theory that is great since it can boost the performance possible to the level you want. In practice it sadly is not always working properly. Reason for that is that a setup with multiple cards can never guarantee that you get improved results. And even if the fps is higher it can still cause a choppy game play despite the higher fps making the playable result even worse. Implementation from the game can be bad, drivers can messed up, or there simply is no support to name a few common issues. So overall it is not recommended and better to spend more money on a single card solution, then go multi card setup.

Q: Currently DX12 (and Vulkan) is a hot topic. What is that about and should I care?

 

Spoiler

A: Yes and no. Those are API’s and are used to achieve certain effects and improvements for games compared to the predecessor DX11. In theory that is. These API’s and the positive results they can bring, are another thing that is very depending on how well it is implemented. For games this means that even though the support can be build in, it might not always be an improvement (currently). Also the GPU must be able to make use of it, so you need newer gen cards, and obviously you must be able to use DX12 with your OS. Between AMD and Nvidia that have different support levels for DX12 and methods of working with it, AMD has the better support efficiency with current gen cards. This makes certain AMD cards catch up in results and in a few game titles even pull ahead of their Nvidia competition by a few fps. Still this depends very much on how well it is implemented by the game, so again it depends on the game you play. To get back on games: games are developed over several years most of the time. Currently games are not yet entirely based on the new DX12 despite the support. This is one of the main reasons why I find choosing the card for their DX12 performance is a relative small factor in my reasoning for choosing a card currently. Many games run better on the familiar DX11, so in benchmarks I find those results currently more important. This probably is no longer valid in like 2-3 years when DX12 is mainstream then, so making use of it then is a no brainer. But for now I say don’t focus to heavy on it and rather take the better on average performing card. Despite DX12 bringing interesting stuff to the table, results of the past with older DX support wars show that it is overall not the main thing to focus on with GPU choice.

Q What is left is OCing. Should I get a card with out of the box higher factory clock speeds?

 

Spoiler

A: That depends mostly on availability and budget you are willing to spend on it. Obvious higher speeds are nicer, but out of the box results are no guarantee that the card will also be able to OC higher manually. So for myself I overall find a small price bump acceptable, but avoid big price tags. A simple manual OC is like with the CPU overall easy done these days. So I find the decision for a proper cooler and sound levels more important, besides the better PCB options for power phases if aiming for high end OCing. Especially with GPU boost from Nvidia on their cards that currently surpass the out of the box speeds anyway, the choice for the cooling solution used is a big factor no matter of you go for a simple or big OC. Remember that the silicon lottery still applies.

 

 

 

9: Cooling in general and cooling parts

 

Cooling is a very important part of a good functioning system and durability over time. Improper cooling reduces lifespan, can cause instability, errors or even dead of parts. There are a few areas of cooling in a PC to consider. But in general you want temperatures to be as low as possible.

 

 

 

So my recommendations for cooling: Make sure you have enough. I find it worth it to invest a bit in proper cooling and better cooling does not have to mean much noise these days. For the CPU I would overall recommend a decent air cooler even for a simple OC. If you want high OC AIO’s can be a option for performance, but remember that a good high end air cooler is just as effective unless you buy the bigger but also much more costly AIO’s. So make sure you know why you choose them. This also applies for the other more exotic forms of cooling: understand that the benefits and reasons are worth the cost for you. These are overall used by only very high demanding situations like special scenario’s and record OCing. For the case: make sure you have ample airflow and in general slightly positive air pressure. In general the amount of delivered case fans is decent enough and there is overall no need to make use of every fan mount. 2-3 case fans should be ok, because remember that you also possibly have fans from other devices like the CPU cooler delivering airflow inside. So use them to direct the heat if possible.

 

 

 

 

General points to consider:

 

  •           Ambient temperature, seasons, humidity, dust, animals and other airborne parts
  •           Overall system temps
  •           CPU temps
  •           GPU temps
  •           Airflow
  •           Possible restrictions that might require more pressure like thick rads
  •           Forms of cooling
  •           OCing
  •           Does it fit my case
  •           Sound levels
  •           Aesthetics

Basic CPU cooling solutions Safe PC part temperatures Positive vs negative airflow Static pressure vs high airflow Push vs pull vs push pull PC fan bearings Danger of dust Liquid cooling radiators Decibels Thermal throttling Coil whine

 

 

 

Q: How many case fans do I need? More is better, right?

 

Spoiler

A: You need enough to cool the system properly and that is mostly depending on the airflow and possible restrictions in your case. More fans seems better but is not always more effective. So in general the placement is more important than the amount. There is also something called pressure that comes into play. You want a slightly positive pressure in your case. That means that there is a balance between intake and exhaust. Doing this properly also helps to keep junk build up like dust and hairs to a minimum (assuming the intake is filtered of course). Pressure is also something that comes around with restrictions like rads. A very thick rad might require some more pressure to get air trough. Overall the amount of fans that move air adds up fast when considering a complete build: 2-3 case fans for in- and exhaust, CPU cooler fan or fans (many of the better coolers have more then 1), GPU cooler, PSU cooler.  So for a normal case, with parts mentioned above, 2-3 case fans is overall sufficient if placed correctly. Make sure that for rads the whole area is covered for proper dissipation of heat, preferred exhausting.

Q: Do I need an exotic cooling solution like water loops, AIO’s or liquid Nitrogen when OCing?

 

Spoiler

A: No, only when (very) extreme OCing and you want every max result you need to look at that. For normal use even with simple decent OCing in mind, a decent air cooler is overall best solution when considering price performance. AIO’s make liquid cooling somewhat a viable option for cost, but all methods from custom water loops and above make it a segment that has overall no value for normal users that only require a decent OC when considering performance. Looks of a custom loop for example is obviously impressive over just a cooling block for many, but that’s personal. :)

Q: So there is no need for liquid cooling and AIO’s then?

 

Spoiler

A: Yes there is. Liquid cooling has more potential then air, so there are uses for high end cooling. But a proper loop costs a considerable amount more than even the best high end air cooler. Obviously there are also other reasons then purely performance measured in temps. Sound levels and aesthetics are some important factors and a custom loop can cool also GPU and other parts in the system at the same time. Despite more moving parts (pump besides the fans) a good liquid setup can be used to create a high performing system with relative low and steady sound levels. Good AIO’s can then be considered a good middle road between air and custom loop. Still the general rule applies that a high end air cooler competes with even some high end AIO’s when it comes to temps and sometimes even sound levels. So from a performance point of view where budget comes second but is still important, you can say that only the better high end AIO’s are worth it for the extra performance while still having reasonable sound levels. But it always depends on what you want.

 

 

Thx for reading this guide, hope it was useful. :)

The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.

 

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5 minutes ago, Oshino Shinobu said:

Spoilers remain broken for me -.-

 

Some advice: Change the blue text. It's really difficult to read on the night theme. 

Should work. Maybe wasn't loaded properly. Any color suggestion that works good on the night theme? Green maybe?

 

The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.

 

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Just now, Gonio said:

Should work. Maybe wasn't loaded properly. Any color suggestion that works good on the night theme? Green maybe?

 

Red works nicely for me. A light red.

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1 minute ago, Gonio said:

Should work. Maybe wasn't loaded properly. Any color suggestion that works good on the night theme? Green maybe?

 

Yeah, spoilers seem to have broken for me for ages. They don't work on any of my devices, not sure why. 

The orange you used in parts is fairly easy to read. It fits with the LTT theme as well. 

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Wow, if I ever need to give somone a primer on pc building I'm just linking them this. However the title under cpu "why is AMD that also has..." should read:

 

Why is it that AMD (perhaps specifying the fx lineup) has higher clock speeds and more cores, but worse performance?

 

That was the only part where I was confused, it sounded like you were saying amd is lagging behind in core count. Thanks. :-)

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9 minutes ago, Oshino Shinobu said:

Yeah, spoilers seem to have broken for me for ages. They don't work on any of my devices, not sure why. 

The orange you used in parts is fairly easy to read. It fits with the LTT theme as well. 

Orange it is then. Sucks about the spoilers.

The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.

 

Basic PC parts guide

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8 minutes ago, EminentSun said:

Wow, if I ever need to give somone a primer on pc building I'm just linking them this. However the title under cpu "why is AMD that also has..."

 

That was the only part where I was confused, it sounded like you were saying amd is lagging behind in core count. Thanks. :-)

Thx bro, adjusted it a bit. Should be more clear now.

The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.

 

Basic PC parts guide

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  • 2 months later...

Has been updated for the Zen CPU launch.

The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.

 

Basic PC parts guide

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