want to build a gaming pc, not sure where to start

#1 Posted by Darth_Navster (34 posts) -

So I've decided to take the plunge and build a gaming PC. I've been primarily a console gamer so I really have no idea how to start on this. If anyone could provide some advice that would be most helpful. Here is my current situation:

1) I'm in Canada, so I'd prefer to just use Canadian retailers to avoid the hassle of customs.

2) I'd like to set a hard max on my budget at $700 with taxes and shipping in. Preferably $600-650. I'd go higher, but at that point I don't think the graphical jump from consoles is worth it.

3) I want to use this with my current HDTV, so no monitor needed, but HDMI output is.

4) I do not have a copy of Windows, so that will need to be included in the budget.

5) Not sure how much this is relevant, but hearing the Bombcast rave about Sim City kind of sparked my interest in this. I'm a fan of strategy games from the 90s (C&C, Sim City, Civ, Shogun, etc.) so that's the genre I'll likely be playing a lot of.

6) No spare hard drive, so that needs to be included.

7) I have two 360 controllers that I'd like to use for more action-y titles. Do I need an adapter for them or can I run them with the PC out of the box?

So that's what I'm working with. Any recommendations as to what I should get? Is this even a good time to buy?

#2 Posted by Old_Corncob (134 posts) -

I decided to do the same thing about 2 years ago, WITH NO PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE, OR EVEN A TECH BACKGROUND.

But I had the attitude that I could do anything, if I just took time to digest information, and slept on it.

I bought "how to build pc's for dummies" and used that, and you know what? It worked.

I just read each chapter about 3 or 4 times, before bed, over about 2 months.

I built a kick-ass gaming PC, and it still runs Battlefield 3 at max visual settings like a motherfucker.

I ended up spending about $5,000 dollars though, because I bought all the best parts I knew.

I would recommend one thing though, don't bother with two video cards in SLI mode, because most games don't support it well. Just buy one beast video card and do a lot of diagnostics to make sure you are running enough cooling. I use good old fashioned fans. Sounds like a jet engine, but I wear nice ear-goggle style headphones, so I can't hear it.

That's my pro-tip.

my PC, about 2 years old

#3 Posted by SexualBubblegumX (542 posts) -

My adivice, go to cpusolutions.com. You can have them build as much of it as you need for a very reasonable price. Whne I got my comp I had mine put together without dvd drives and an OS since I had that stuff lying around already. If you head there you can get a wicked sweet PC for 700, just make sure you get a PC without an OS since it does tend to be cheaper like that.

#4 Posted by Xeirus (1333 posts) -

@Darth_Navster said:

So I've decided to take the plunge and build a gaming PC. I've been primarily a console gamer so I really have no idea how to start on this. If anyone could provide some advice that would be most helpful. Here is my current situation:

1) I'm in Canada, so I'd prefer to just use Canadian retailers to avoid the hassle of customs.

2) I'd like to set a hard max on my budget at $700 with taxes and shipping in. Preferably $600-650. I'd go higher, but at that point I don't think the graphical jump from consoles is worth it.

3) I want to use this with my current HDTV, so no monitor needed, but HDMI output is.

4) I do not have a copy of Windows, so that will need to be included in the budget.

5) Not sure how much this is relevant, but hearing the Bombcast rave about Sim City kind of sparked my interest in this. I'm a fan of strategy games from the 90s (C&C, Sim City, Civ, Shogun, etc.) so that's the genre I'll likely be playing a lot of.

6) No spare hard drive, so that needs to be included.

7) I have two 360 controllers that I'd like to use for more action-y titles. Do I need an adapter for them or can I run them with the PC out of the box?

So that's what I'm working with. Any recommendations as to what I should get? Is this even a good time to buy?

  1. Can't help ya, ordering online should be fine though, that's how I did it.
  2. Again, online stores, look for sales.
  3. Finding a video card online should be very easy (sorry if these all sound the same)
  4. How do you currently run you PC without a copy of windows?
  5. Shouldn't matter
  6. take the HDD from your current computer to put as a spare
  7. You have to buy new controllers :(

First thing is to be patient, wait for sales and buy when things have no shipping costs, etc. I started with Newegg.com

#5 Posted by Dagbiker (6978 posts) -

@Xeirus said:

@Darth_Navster said:

So I've decided to take the plunge and build a gaming PC. I've been primarily a console gamer so I really have no idea how to start on this. If anyone could provide some advice that would be most helpful. Here is my current situation:

1) I'm in Canada, so I'd prefer to just use Canadian retailers to avoid the hassle of customs.

2) I'd like to set a hard max on my budget at $700 with taxes and shipping in. Preferably $600-650. I'd go higher, but at that point I don't think the graphical jump from consoles is worth it.

3) I want to use this with my current HDTV, so no monitor needed, but HDMI output is.

4) I do not have a copy of Windows, so that will need to be included in the budget.

5) Not sure how much this is relevant, but hearing the Bombcast rave about Sim City kind of sparked my interest in this. I'm a fan of strategy games from the 90s (C&C, Sim City, Civ, Shogun, etc.) so that's the genre I'll likely be playing a lot of.

6) No spare hard drive, so that needs to be included.

7) I have two 360 controllers that I'd like to use for more action-y titles. Do I need an adapter for them or can I run them with the PC out of the box?

So that's what I'm working with. Any recommendations as to what I should get? Is this even a good time to buy?

  1. Can't help ya, ordering online should be fine though, that's how I did it.
  2. Again, online stores, look for sales.
  3. Finding a video card online should be very easy (sorry if these all sound the same)
  4. How do you currently run you PC without a copy of windows?
  5. Shouldn't matter
  6. take the HDD from your current computer to put as a spare
  7. You have to buy new controllers :(

First thing is to be patient, wait for sales and buy when things have no shipping costs, etc. I started with Newegg.com

3. He's asking what type of video card to get.

4. He's still going to need to buy a new copy of windows.

7. He dose not have to buy new controllers, all he has to do is get an adapter.

Perhaps you dont know what your talking about and just want to help. But please dont misinform people

#6 Posted by believer258 (11979 posts) -

For 7), if they're wireless 360 controllers then an adapter exists that allows you to use them with the computer. If they are wired then you can just plug the suckers into any Vista or Windows 7 machine and it will be immediately recognized, no dicking around necessary. For XP, all that's necessary is a driver install.

#7 Posted by EthanielRain (882 posts) -

I recommend this site.Is newbie-friendly and should have everything you need.

#8 Edited by SJSchmidt93 (4896 posts) -

Just a tip with the pricing -- the real thing you want to think about is how long you want to have it be a viable gaming PC -- the graphical jump is going to be big now regardless but in a year or two it may not be. The cheaper your PC, the sooner you are going to have an obsolete piece of hardware and you'll need to upgrade.

Also, speaking from experience, you can never get enough fans in a gaming PC.

#9 Edited by MonetaryDread (2066 posts) -

Well as someone who just built a computer I would go to Newegg.Ca to look for parts.  It has the best selection of parts available to Canadians.  When you have a pc that you want to build, just shop around for parts, check out stores in your area (they are usually more expensive, but you don't have to pay for shipping to Taiwan if a part breaks and needs to be RMA'd).  When you are done pricing out the local shops, you should go check out the price at online stores like Newegg.ca, Directcanada.com (the store I bought the majority of parts for with my latest build. THey are based in Vancouver, so the shipping was a couple of dollars for next day delivery), NCIX.ca, tigerdirect.ca. 
 
Edit:  If you are looking for a great reference to build a pc from, look at http://pcper.com/hwlb
This is a link to the Hardware Leaderboard on PC Perspective.  These guys know what they are talking about, so these builds are solid.

#10 Posted by SathingtonWaltz (2053 posts) -

@Darth_Navster: Everything you could want to know is at www.hardware-revolution.com

#11 Posted by GiantBomber (352 posts) -

Start with the motherboard, that's the #1 bottleneck in a computer system.

Your welcome :)

#12 Posted by Korwin (2888 posts) -

Canada you say? I understand NCIX is a site you should visit.

#13 Edited by Wallzii (174 posts) -

My first question is what resolution is your TV? If it is 720p or 1080p, two much different GPUs will be required.

Next, Newegg.ca and NCIX are both great sites for Canadian customers for PC parts, and NCIX even builds and tests the system for you for a small fee if you aren't comfortable doing that yourself. No customs, no hassles, but expect prices to be slightly higher than their counterparts in the United States.

As for your controllers, if they are wired they are plug and play. If they are wireless, you'll need one of these to sync them with your PC. If Amazon won't ship that to Canada, check eBay, or even a local retailer might carry them.

I would definitely say it is a good time to buy as the new Ivy Bridge CPUs have come out, reducing prices of other chips out there, ones that you will use in your build. New motherboards released along side with those have brought some price drops to the older boards as well. GPU prices are also pretty good, but depending on what resolution your display is, that will vary a bit. At the end of the day, new tech is always around the corner, and if you wait too long for it to come, you'll end up never buying anything.

#14 Posted by mosdl (3229 posts) -

No idea how Canada is, but here in the US there are several stores (Frys for example) that will sell basic mobo/cpu/harddisk/case combos for decent prices, and then just slap in a graphics card.

#15 Posted by BlamBlam (46 posts) -

I was directed to this website from a poster on Tom's Hardware forums. $1300 build through TigerDirect.ca and NCIX Canada translated to just under $1200 with noticeably better components.

http://www.directcanada.com/

#16 Posted by Subject2Change (2966 posts) -

700 CAD is unfortunately not enough to build a good enough Machine in my opinion, being you are lacking an Operating System.

#17 Edited by Xeirus (1333 posts) -

@Dagbiker said:

@Xeirus said:

  1. Can't help ya, ordering online should be fine though, that's how I did it.
  2. Again, online stores, look for sales.
  3. Finding a video card online should be very easy (sorry if these all sound the same)
  4. How do you currently run you PC without a copy of windows?
  5. Shouldn't matter
  6. take the HDD from your current computer to put as a spare
  7. You have to buy new controllers :(

First thing is to be patient, wait for sales and buy when things have no shipping costs, etc. I started with Newegg.com

3. He's asking what type of video card to get.

4. He's still going to need to buy a new copy of windows.

7. He dose not have to buy new controllers, all he has to do is get an adapter.

Perhaps you dont know what your talking about and just want to help. But please dont misinform people

First of all lets not be a prick, ok?

I have a controller and could not find an adapter for sale, so I was speaking my my own experience.

He doesn't have to buy a new copy of Windows, the hell are you talking about? I have transferred my copy of windows across multiple computers, when you build a new one you recycle parts and/or the OS.

Buy an EVGA branded Nvidia card, you're welcome.

It's cute you come at me all cocky and everything, but lets not get ahead of ourselves, thanks.

Also, it's "you're", maybe when correcting someone you should know how to spell, hm?

#19 Posted by Darth_Navster (34 posts) -

@Xeirus:

Ok, looks like I'll need to provide some more details.

1) I'm in a Mac only household, so I have no copies of Windows at all.

2) I'd like to keep my current iMac intact for computing applications. I'd like to use this new PC as primarily a games console. Therefore, no spare hard drive.

3) The entire reason I'm doing this is that for years I've been hearing that PC gaming is comparable in price to console gaming. If I'm paying upwards of $1000, I'd rather just stick with consoles.

4) I definitely want to assemble the system by myself as a learning experience.

5) My 360 controllers are wireless. I also have a Sixaxis and a Dual Shock 3. I have no preference as to what controller to use with the PC, but it is my understanding that PC games tend to be more compatible with 360 drivers. I could be wrong though.

6) I've been on newegg, tigerdirect, etc. but I am absolutely paralyzed by choice. I haven't the faintest idea what is a "good" deal and what counts as an up-to-date review of components. Some more specific help here would be nice.

#20 Posted by Darth_Navster (34 posts) -

@clstirens: Thanks for the suggestion! This might be the direction I go in.

#21 Edited by clstirens (847 posts) -

@Darth_Navster: No problem, just keep in mind that the 550 ti is good, but not perfect. It can run BF3 at 1080p on Med/high (not ultra. my 560 ti runs some ultra at 58~fps). Any other game, except Metro 2033 and Max Payne 3 it should run on pretty much max.

Even then, the rest of the PC should last a while, so the graphics card is always the first part you can upgrade.

EDIT: oh, and you'll want to grab an OEM copy of windows. It's cheaper, but it's tied to the motherboard on the pc you install it to, so keep that in mind.

EDIT 2: On that note, a a 560 ti is pretty much the sweet spot on "upper mid range" until the 660s come out later this year. However, don't buy a Zotac brand card, they never updated the vBios for the 560 like EVERY other manufacturer did, and their 560 TIs were the most problematic.

#22 Posted by Darth_Navster (34 posts) -

@wallzii I have a 42" 1080p capable LCD tv.

#23 Posted by konig_kei (642 posts) -

Check Pcgamer and other Pc oriented websites/magazines they usually have a budget Pc build and just base your comp off that. But to be honest just wait till you can have a bigger budget. It is possible to build a reasonably good budget Pc though, I did it like last year and I totaled about $850 aud without a monitor or windows 7.

#24 Posted by Xeirus (1333 posts) -

@Darth_Navster said:

@clstirens: Thanks for the suggestion! This might be the direction I go in.

His links are probably the best you'll just with the limited experience. I'd go for it!

Also, be prepared for at least 1 piece of hardware to be DOA, with so many pieces coming it's very likely one will be bad. Good luck!

Also, look up videos of how to ground the mobo and make sure to do (at least a little) cable management, with zip-ties and such.

#25 Posted by Darth_Navster (34 posts) -

@Xeirus: How good are the manufacturers/retailers with exchanging faulty equipment? Is it a hassle with certain brands?

#26 Posted by Darth_Navster (34 posts) -

@konig_kei: Unfortunately there's not going to be a bigger budget. I'm saving up for my wedding and hopefully a down payment on a condo next year, so that's sucking up all my extra funds. Am I just better off sticking with my consoles?

#27 Posted by Xeirus (1333 posts) -

@Darth_Navster said:

@Xeirus: How good are the manufacturers/retailers with exchanging faulty equipment? Is it a hassle with certain brands?

I have exhanged a mobo thorugh Intel and it worked out fine, also exchanged a video through EVGA and that went great. Just know it does take a while for shipping so you'd be out at least a week-2 weeks

#28 Posted by konig_kei (642 posts) -
@Darth_Navster

@konig_kei: Unfortunately there's not going to be a bigger budget. I'm saving up for my wedding and hopefully a down payment on a condo next year, so that's sucking up all my extra funds. Am I just better off sticking with my consoles?

What's more important to you? Rts style games like civ and such plus the graphical jump or the cheaper buy in price on consoles?

Think of the Pc as an investment if think you're going to put some more money into it in the future then go for a Pc otherwise consoles are fine. Also steam sales(summer sale is coming up), like 150 bucks and you've bought a whole year of games.
#29 Edited by GozerOnline (15 posts) -

I live in Edmonton, so I know your pain... getting good prices and selection on Canadian parts can be difficult. The online retailers mentioned previously (ncix.com, tigerdirect.ca, newegg.ca, and others -- ncix.com is my personal favourite) are all reputable. Depending on where you are, you might be able to find other local shops with good deals as well (but perhaps more limited selections).

My biggest advice is to figure out what type of CPU/motherboard you want and their compatibility. If you decide to go Intel, you may want to get a LGA1155 CPU, so you'll need a compatible motherboard with the same type of socket. That's probably the hardest hurdle. Once you have that, you can find memory that the CPU and motherboard supports.

Most of the other components are pretty universal these days (SATA hard drives, SATA optical drives, PCI express graphics cards)... get the best GPU you can afford for gaming. Be careful when buying a case as some don't come with power supply (but are usually simple to add on, just be prepared for the added expense). Usually a 500-520w PSU is good enough if you only have a single hard drive, optical drive, and for even a fairly substantial (non-overclocked) GPU.

Don't just buy... research! arstechnica.com and other sites have sample build configurations all the time, including budget configurations. Sites like tomshardware.com and hardwarecanucks.com have reviews on individual components. One of my favourites is Tom's Hardware "Best Graphics Cards For the Money: May 2012" type lists, which gives their recommendations on the best video cards at different price ranges. I think they have it for others components as well.

Finally, places like ncix.com have a fantastic set of forums. Feel free to post a sample build configuration and someone can give you pointers.

Good luck! It's a lot of fun, and addictive. The hunt is half the fun!

#30 Edited by clstirens (847 posts) -

@GozerOnline said:

I live in Edmonton, so I know your pain... getting good prices and selection on Canadian parts can be difficult. The online retailers mentioned previously (ncix.com, tigerdirect.ca, newegg.ca, and others -- ncix.com is my personal favourite) are all reputable. Depending on where you are, you might be able to find other local shops with good deals as well (but perhaps more limited selections).

My biggest advice is to figure out what type of CPU/motherboard you want and their compatibility. If you decide to go Intel, you may want to get a LGA1155 CPU, so you'll need a compatible motherboard with the same type of socket. That's probably the hardest hurdle. Once you have that, you can find memory that the CPU and motherboard supports.

Most of the other components are pretty universal these days (SATA hard drives, SATA optical drives, PCI express graphics cards)... get the best GPU you can afford for gaming. Be careful when buying a case as some don't come with power supply (but are usually simple to add on, just be prepared for the added expense). Usually a 500-520w PSU is good enough if you only have a single hard drive, optical drive, and for even a fairly substantial (non-overclocked) GPU.

Don't just buy... research! arstechnica.com and other sites have sample build configurations all the time, including budget configurations. Sites like tomshardware.com and hardwarecanucks.com have reviews on individual components. One of my favourites is Tom's Hardware "Best Graphics Cards For the Money: May 2012" type lists, which gives their recommendations on the best video cards at different price ranges. I think they have it for others components as well.

Finally, places like ncix.com have a fantastic set of forums. Feel free to post a sample build configuration and someone can give you pointers.

Good luck! It's a lot of fun, and addictive. The hunt is half the fun!

The good thing with Barebones kits you are basically guaranteed compatibility.

#31 Posted by Cubical (637 posts) -
#32 Posted by Patman99 (1603 posts) -

@Darth_Navster: Fellow Canadian, buy your shit from NCIX. They sell some sell all the parts in the world at great prices and even give you some suggestions for what parts to use in your gaming rig. They even show multiple versions depending on your brand/price of choice. They also offer to assemble it for only $50. Not only do they do a tremendous job at wire management and part installation (I should know because my current PC was acquired by this route) but they also give a 1 year warranty on any of the parts. They also have brick and mortar stores so you can just drop your PC off if shit gets fried.

Also you can wait around to wait for a sale (which they put on for almost every occasion (eg. Mother's day, St. Patrick's day, thanksgiving, the summer, and so on)). I bought my PC during the last "beat the heat" summer sale and got a fairly large and heavy gaming PC, and monitor for only $4 shipping.

#33 Edited by RedJimi (36 posts) -

A few approaches you might want to try:

1) Check out the specs on your "must play" game list and elaborate on those. If you know what you want to play, you might have it in you to choose wisely.

2) visit your local library and read a years worth of a single good computer magazine. I would read Mikrobitti, but then again I'm a Finn. This should give you a feel for the modern hardware.

#34 Edited by Jace (1094 posts) -

http://i1002.photobucket.com/albums/af150/The_FalconO6/CurrentLogicalPCBuyingGuide/Guide.png

@Darth_Navster: That is all you need.

#35 Posted by Doctorchimp (4078 posts) -

@Jace said:

http://i1002.photobucket.com/albums/af150/The_FalconO6/CurrentLogicalPCBuyingGuide/Guide.png

That is fantastic!

Any reason they skipped over the i7 3770k?

#36 Posted by Hunkulese (2785 posts) -
@Darth_Navster

@konig_kei: Unfortunately there's not going to be a bigger budget. I'm saving up for my wedding and hopefully a down payment on a condo next year, so that's sucking up all my extra funds. Am I just better off sticking with my consoles?

With your budget you probably are better off staying with your consoles. You're going to end up with mostly low end stuff and you'll be feeling underpowered really quickly. When you build something new you should aim to at least run everything that is currently out on max settings if you want it to last a couple years are you'll need to spend around $1200 for that. Put away your $700 and get a new console next year
#37 Posted by shinboy630 (1161 posts) -

@Darth_Navster: On the controller issue, I dont own a 360 so I use my PS3 dualshocks. They work great! All you need is DS3 Tool (free software) to get them running on your PC, and if you want the use them wireless all you need is a bluetooth dongle, which are pretty cheap. In my opinion setting up a PS3 controller wireless on a PC is easier than getting that 360 adapter to work (I had to try to help a friend with his 360 controllers), simply because they use bluetooth.

#38 Posted by Jace (1094 posts) -

@Doctorchimp: The guide was last updated on May 20th. Were Ivy bridges out then?

#39 Posted by Darth_Navster (34 posts) -

Thanks everyone for your input. After weighing my options, I've decided to hold off until I actually need a new computer. Buying a cheaper rig just to have a console replacement seems like a half measure that I wouldn't be satisfied with in the long run. Here's hoping that EA releases a Mac version of Sim City. Failing that, it would be a good excuse to pick up a copy of windows 8. Anyway, thanks again for all your help.

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