Friday, September 23, 2011

IMS Gaming Rig 2011

Welcome to the IMS Gaming Rig Build 2011 Edition! Hopefully, the next few posts will be exciting and at least a little informative. My plan for these articles is to explain some of the choices I made when I picked out my components and walk through some of the steps I took in getting from a pile of parts to a working, badass, face-melting gaming rig.
Before we start, let me get some disclaimers out of our way:
1. I am not claiming to be an expert on computers, building computers, computer hardware, or other computer-related info. I have successfully built computers before, and I hold a degree in Computer Networking. I like to think I understand enough about computers to make educated decisions on components, but I do not claim to have all answers about everything computer related.
2. The parts I’ve chosen are NOT the latest and greatest. I know this already, so don’t email me asking why I didn’t go with Part X. The answer is probably that I didn’t want to pay that much for it.
3. If, for some reason, you choose to follow my lead and build a computer based on the information I will provide, neither the IMS, their subsidiaries, or their partners take any responsibility for you messing it all up and burning your home down or any other conceivable outcome in this or any other of the known universes.

K, now I feel a little better. My current computer was built by me around five years ago. It was my first build, and I was most certainly scared shitless about doing it. This was before I had started my degree, mind you. My first build was very much a sweaty, white-knuckled affair. A friend had helped me pick out the components, but it was up to me to do the heavy lifting. And as is my luck, all did not go swimmingly. If I remember correctly there was an issue with how the BIOS auto configured the RAM timings. But after a few minutes on Google, I found the solution and was up and running. Keep these last few sentences in mind. All may not go as planned! Don’t Panic. There are only a few ways you can really mess up a build, and thankfully, they are all pretty easy to avoid. The biggest mistake that rookies make is forgetting to install the brass standoffs between the case and the motherboard. If you forget them and attach everything and plug it into a power source, you have now created a short over the entire under surface of your motherboard. ZAP! Your motherboard and possibly your processor are now fried! That being said, you may be shipped a part that is just DOA. It happens from time to time, and you can’t do anything about it but send it back to where you got it from and wait for a replacement. Yes, it will suck, but it’s the price you may have to pay for your new hotness.
For me there are two big reasons to build a computer yourself. Reason the first: you get exactly what you want. Second reason, and possibly the biggest reason: cost. I checked the price of a similar build at an online retailer that builds high-end gaming rigs, and the price was more than double.
If you think you want to build your own computer, there are going to be some big-picture-type decisions you need to make before you start digging into the components.
How much do you want to spend? If you don’t care much about any specific brands or specs, you can get some really good deals on barebones kits that just need an OS and video card to be ready to go. Anything under $600 is usually considered a budget PC build. $700 to $1500 is a mid-budget, fairly powerful machine. More than $1500 is your enthusiast, high-end build. After picking out my parts, I fall right around the border between mid and high. I didn’t pick out many parts that are on the bleeding edge of what is available. I think you can get much better value by buying parts that are around 9-12 months old or older. One place where this will really make a difference is choosing a video card. The latest and greatest video cards will easily cost you north of $500 for just one card, but the prices for those will usually drop dramatically after about eight months.
AMD or Intel? Some people have very strong opinions about processor decisions. Your choice will have an effect on not only the processor but what kind of motherboard you will have. The specific model of processor can also affect what kind of RAM you’ll need. I really don’t have a dog in this particular fight, and if you don’t either, you just need to find a processor with the speed and price you are comfortable with.
SLI or Crossfire? These are two brand names for the same idea. You can get two identical video cards and join them together for increased performance. If you want to include that feature in your build, you need to pick a motherboard and power supply unit. You will have to decide if this is something you want to do or if you might want to do it in the future. It’s usually a good idea to plan for future upgrades when picking out parts like your motherboard or PSU.
We are halfway home! In the next post I will cover the specifics on the parts that I picked out and how they will all work together. So until then, keep reaching for the stars!!!!