Monday, 10 November 2008

Build your own gaming rig - Intro + CPU + MoBo

Ok, so It's The Hardware Hut's first post and it's a big one!

This is part of a series of articles that I've started to write for the soon to be published Underground System's E-magazine.


Building your very own gaming rig - Part 1

In this article I will walk you through the steps of creating your very own gaming rig. In today’s article we will take a look at the various components that a computer is made from and what you should look for when you buy these components. Now we will be looking at these components from a gamers point of you, but that doesn't mean that the end result wont be able to meet your other computing requirements.

The first thing you need to establish is your price range. How much money are you willing to shell out on your new rig? Now this part is totally up to you. It is possible to make a gaming rig for under $1000, but to be honest I would recommend saving up until you have at least $1000+ to spend. That way you'll end up with a decent rig and wont be wanting to upgrade anything any time soon. Also on the same note... as the computer industry is coming up with new and improved hardware everyday, even the most expensive gaming rig out there today wont be considered anywhere near as good in 10 years time... even in 6 months a lot can change!

Ok, so you've sorted out your price range. Now we'll start going through each item of hardware and assess what you need to be looking for to find the right hardware for you.

The first item that we will look at is also one of the most essential. It's the CPU (which stands for Central Processing Unit). The CPU is basically the brain of the computer. It handles all of the processes that are vital for any modern computer to function. Now there are many different CPUs out there and most can be put into six categories. Each category is graded on price and performance. The categories are:

Cheap - Poor performance
Cheap - Decent performance
Average - Poor performance
Average - Decent performance
Expensive - Poor performance
Expensive - Decent performance

The thing to remember here is that one person's idea of cheap might be another person's idea of expensive. If you have millions of dollars spare, then go ahead... buy the most expensive CPU out there, It'll probably be the best out there. But if all you have is the money you've saved up over the summer holidays after working at KFC then just get a CPU with the best performance at a price level that you can afford. Basically what I'm trying to say is that you want to establish a price range for each component, source all components at that price and then look through the list to find the best part for that price.

When buying a CPU there are three key things to look at. The first of these is It's operating speed. Now this is extremely obvious... this is the speed at which it operates, the faster it operates the faster it will get through all of those processes and the more data it can handle in same amount of time.

The next thing to look for is it's L2 Cache size. The CPU uses caches to hold duplicates of data that it has to process on an every day basses. This means that a CPU can operate a lot faster as it doesn't have to take the time to travel to the main memory for every single piece of information. The bigger the L2 cache is, the more data it can store and less data that it has to travel to the main memory to obtain. Once again... the bigger the better.

The final thing to look at is whether the CPU has a Single, Dual or Quad Core... Now we can leave the single alone. But there is quite a bit of argument between the dual and quad. It's a huge misconception that increasing the number of cores increases your computers performance by the same amount. In my opinion, quad cores deliver better performance when using Windows Vista, though a dual core would still be highly acceptable. So you can either take my advice on this one or scout out some reviews/research of your own.

Now we'll move onto the next component, The Motherboard (or MoBo). Now if the CPU is the computers brain then the MoBo is it's heart (or some other extremely vital organ (even though all vital organs are no less vital than the others (that’s right three brackets inside other brackets))). The MoBo has the most features out of all the components that we will be looking at and all of these need to be considered when trying to find the ideal part for you.

The first thing we will look into is the RAM slots. It's very important to take into account how many RAM slots there are on the motherboard and how much RAM that each slot can take. In my opinion RAM is one of the easiest thing to upgrade, in most cases it's just a case of buying it in your local shop, taking it out of the packet and placing it into one of the slots. This means that if you ever want to upgrade your RAM (with the price dropping everyday you see bargains all the time) you need to have a motherboard that can hold more than what you get when you buy the whole rig. Otherwise you'll have to upgrade your whole motherboard just to swap a few RAM sticks over. The other thing to look for here is what type and speed of RAM that the slot can hold. The RAM types are : DDR, DDR2 and DDR3. The average rig out there will be using DDR2, and you can very easily find a couple of good low priced RAM sticks for DDR2. DDR isn't used too much any more and it really isn't recommended buying any. The last option is DDR3, It's not too widely used at the moment but it does mark the future. I'd recommend that you look for a MoBo that is DDR2 compatible and then if you have the extra cash to spend pay out for a Motherboard that can take DDR3 AS WELL. This way when DDR3 becomes more widely used and drops in price you'll have the option to upgrade. I must repeat that it's not necessary to use DDR3! I don’t use it and I probably wont for a while!

The third thing you should be looking at when selecting your motherboard is whether it has a PCI-E or an AGP interface. This is the interface between the motherboard and the graphics card. I wont go into great detail here by describing them, but I will instead just tell you which is best and why. Basically, AGP are the older style and they are very quickly dieing out. The only option at the moment is to buy a motherboard that uses PCI-E... if you see one that uses AGP then disregard it very quickly!

Ok, lastly on the motherboard features is the Hard drive connections (either SATA or PATA). For this you will want to look for the number of each that the motherboard has. You want at least two IDE or PATA slots on your motherboard as this is where your CD/DVD players connects to the motherboard. The more of these slots you have the more Players you can have connected. Even if you only have one CD/DVD player when you first put your rig together it's always best to have at least two in case you decide to upgrade later on (and we all do).

Ok, so that pretty much raps up this months article. Be sure to read next months issue as we'll have a new article continuing on from this one where we will continue on and look into other components that you'll need to understand before you run out and impulse buy using the cool graphics on the packaging as a guide.