Choosing the components that are going to make up your gaming PC, or any PC for that matter, is probably more complicated than actually putting them together. You need to make sure everything is compatible with each other before buying. The CPU, RAM and Graphics Card must be compatible with the motherboard; the power supply needs to provide enough juice to power everything, in short, you're going to want to do a little research prior to buying any parts. A great place to start is About.com's very own PC Hardare/Reviews site
, which has a greate Do It Yourself/Tutorial Section
Build Your Own Gaming PC - The Parts
- Case: NZXT Hush - See The PC Parts & Case
I chose the NZXT Hush over other cases partly because of it's price and of the very good reviews it received on airflow and ease of installation. Front panel cables are long enough to reach anywhere in the case and the case is lined with some sound dampening foam which works very nice on cutting down on fan noise. The case also comes with 7 expansion slots in the back and 6 front drive bays, four 5.25 inch bays and two 3.5 inch bays.
- Power Supply: Ultra X3 1000W - See The Power Supply
The configuration of my PC at the time of writing probably only needs a 600 Watt power supply at most. However, I wanted the option to upgrade, adding a second PCI-e SLI graphics card or a multi hard drive RAID configuration is going to take extra power. I had originally decided upon the Ultra X3 800 Watt power supply but found the Ultra X3 1000 Watt online for only a few dollars more which made my decision to go with the larger much easier. The Ultra X3 1000 Watt power supply is both energy efficient and quite. It also allows you to plug in only the cables you need so there won't be any extra dangling inside the case. There are also 6 and 8 pin PCI-e power connectors for the latest graphics cards.
CPU: Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6850 Quad-Core Processor - See the CPU
Deciding on which CPU to choose from was probably my toughest decision. When I began this process I knew I wanted a multi-core CPU, I chose Intel over AMD because the Intel currently has the market cornered on multi-core CPUs with the majority of their CPUs benchmarked faster than anything AMD had put out in the past year. The site Tom's Hardware and their CPU charts and comparison was very helpful. I decided upon the Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6850 Quad-Core Processor which is now Intel's 3rd faster CPU available, behind the QX9770 and the QX9650. Right now the performance isn't a lot better than the high end dual core CPUs but I'm banking on the benifits of having a quad core CPU when games optimized for quad-core start being released.
Heatsink/CPU Fan: Zalman CNPS9700 LED - See the Heatsink
CPUs packaged by the manufacturer typically include a Heatsink and fan, this was the case with my QX6850. You can save a few extra dollars by purchasing your chip OEM, but this will only include the chip, no manufacturer packaging, manual or heatsink/fan. Typically the heatsink/fan that comes from Intel or AMD is not sufficient if you want to perform any overclocking. Although I don't plan on doing any until my chip starts to show the signs of being dated, I bought a Zalman CNPS 9700 LED based on numerious good reviews. As you can see from the picture it is quite large but fits in my mid-tower NZXT case with ease. The fan is extremely quiet at idle, does get a little lounder than I expected when it's RPM is cranked up.
Motherboard: ASUS Striker Extreme - See the Motherboard
When choosing a motherboard I wanted one that would support Intel's new 45nm Chip architecture, I also wanted one that would take advantage of the 1333MHz front side bus(FSB) found in the QX6850. The Striker Extreme supports dual channel DDR2 RAM, NVIDIA nForce® 680i SLI as well as all the cables and power cords you'll need. I also wanted a mobo that would support the USB, firewire and other media slots in the front panel media reader I wanted to install.
Graphics Card: eVGA GeForce 8800GTS 512MB - See the Graphics Card
The Graphics Card is probably the second most important component for gaming behind the CPU. When I first set out I had planned on going with the 8800 Ultra but at a whopping $700-800 price tag I decided to reconsider. I finally decided on the brand new eVGA GeForce 8800GTS 512MB. This graphics card is built on a new architecture and despite having less memory that the GTX and older 8800GTS (which are both a year old), it runs on less power and has out performs both. The price to performance ratio of this card was head and shoulders above the others and made my decision easier.
RAM: Corsair DOMINATOR 2GB PC2-8500 DDR2 DIMM Dual Channel Memory Kit - See the RAM
One fact that many people don't realize is that having more RAM isn't always going to make your applications run faster. 32 bit operating systems only support the use of 2GB of RAM so putting 4GB into your PC isn't going to make things run faster since the OS can't use it all. 64 bit OSs can support up to 16GB of RAM but the move to 64 bit operating systems has been a slow one. We'll get there eventually but until that time I decided to stick with 2GB and select Corsair Dominator RAM which is well know for PC gaming RAM.
Hard Drive: Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 500GB Hard Drive - See the HDD
I went with the Seagate Barracude 500GB hard drive based on past experience. I've had Seagate hard drives in the past and have never had any problems with them. That's not to say other brands are any different, I just went with what I knew and was comfortable with. It'd be nice to have a second hard drive so I could set up some sort of RAID control but that will have to wait for now.