Comprehensive Gaming PC/Laptop Guide: MK II

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Now, with a cleaner and 'intelligent' division of addendums and more sparkles!

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Last Updated: May 23rd - Absolute CHEAPEST BUILD example added. A decent performing gaming PC for less than $400. WoW.
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=== NOTICE TO ASROCK Z68 EXTREME3 GEN3 / Z68M/USB / H61M/U3S3 OWNERS ===

Since I personally recommended these boards to many of the users telling that they can use Ivy Bridge CPUs later down the road, and should just use these boards with cheap Celerons and Pentiums until then, I believe it is my responsibility to tell you that the BIOS updates for these boards are out, which allows usage of Ivy Bridge CPUs.

Note that you also need to update other drivers as noted by the download page. Don't just update the BIOS. Namely, you need to update the BIOS, Intel ME, Video drivers, and AXTU drivers.

** ASRock H61M/U3S3

http://www.asrock.com/mb/download.us.asp?Model=H61M/U3S3&o=BIOS

** ASRock Z68M/USB

http://www.asrock.com/mb/download.us.asp?Model=Z68M/USB3&o=BIOS

** ASRock Z68 Extreme3 Gen3

http://www.asrock.com/mb/download.asp?Model=Z68%20Extreme3%20Gen3&o=BIOS

There's a bunch of "Need new PC" "what should I upgrade" and other similar topics here again and again, so why not create a single go-to guide for it? So I finally got to what I should have long time ago.

The laptop guide can be found at the Addendum, #3. So if you came in here looking for a laptop buying guide, scroll fast to the end of this guide!

The guide will keep it simple and to the point. I will give you the list of the best parts for the level of performance you need, then you choose which one will suit you the best for your budget.

You might wonder "Why not recommend X?". That is because they are not the best bang for the buck. For example, GeForce GTX 550 Ti. Absolutely terrible, overpriced graphics card that can only manage to match much cheaper Radeon HD 6770.

I recommend NewEgg for buying parts, but pcpartpicker.com website may help you find deals from other sites, such as TigerDirect, MicroCenter, us.ncix.com, Amazon, and few others. Also note that all prices are from NewEgg, and may fluctuate but not deviate too far from the price listed here. The prices here do NOT include rebates.

Once again, I strongly recommend you use price-comparison sites like pcpartpicker.com to find deals easier!

All the prices are based on the US dollars.

For actual instructions on building computers, check out YouTube / NewEgg for DIY guides. NewEgg in particular has really in-depth video guide on YouTube. You may still ask if you have a question stumping you though.

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** Table of Contents **

CPU: This post.

CPU Cooler + Motherboard + RAM:
http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/4850585139#2

Graphics Card + Power Supply:
http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/4850585139#3

Hard Disk + SSD + DVD Burner + Case + OS:
http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/4850585139#4

Monitor + Keyboard/Mouse/Speaker:
http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/4850585139#5

Addendum:
* 1: ("When To Upgrade?" Advice)
http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/4850585139#6

* 2: (Recommended Builds for TL;DR Crowd)
http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/4850585139#7

* 3: (Recommended Gaming Laptops & Advice)
http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/4850585139#8

Bonus! Comprehensive Overclocking Guide by Mÿxxï of Korgath server:
http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/3988300793

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* CPU *

Due to AMD CPUs performing poor vs. Intel in every price bracket right now, I cannot recommend to you any AMD CPUs. If you're a member of Team Red, you should hope that upcoming Piledriver doesn't suck anymore. :(

I did not mention Llano (AMD A-Series) APU here because it's really suited for budget laptops. Desktops have no real purpose for them as Intel setup will destroy APU's only advantage once a dedicated graphics card is installed into the Intel setup.

Intel i7 CPUs are not mentioned here because there is no benefits to using one for gaming purposes. People who buy i7 CPU are the types of people that deal with more professional stuff that takes advantage of multiple threads offered by i7 -- such as CAD, professional Photoshop / movie production, and such. No, doing FRAPs and editing it does not count as professional stuff. Stick to i5 unless you know exactly what multiple threads mean for you and your job.

If you have to get an i7 CPU, i7-3770k if you will overclock, i7-3770 if you will for the Ivy Bridge, i7-2600k if you will overclock, i7-2600 if you won't. Note that i7-2700k is just i7-2600k with 100 MHz clock increase -- AKA, waste of money.

There's also Sandy Bridge-E CPUs, such as i7-3930k and 3960x... but really, you should only be buying these if you know what you are doing. For most gamers, this is just a pure waste of $.

=== Ivy Bridge vs. Sandy Bridge ===

Now that the Ivy Bridge is out and about, there are many discussions on the merits and downsides of Ivy Bridge, vs. Sandy Bridge.

To put it simply, here are the cliff's notes on the differences, and my recommendation.

1. Ivy Bridge performs anywhere from 5% to 10% over Sandy Bridge, given same amount of clock, and threads. In addition, Intel HD 4000 is decent enough to actually play games with.

2. Ivy Bridge consumes a lot less power than the Sandy Bridge equivalent.

3. Contrary to the initial belief, Ivy Bridge CPUs are bit more costly than the Sandy Bridge equivalent.

4. Should you buy Ivy Bridge? If you won't OC or will keep the overclocking to 4.5 GHz or below, the answer is yes, but only if you can get one at a close price to the equivalent Sandy Bridge CPU. However, if you intend to overclock beyond 4.5 GHz range, then go buy a Sandy Bridge CPU, OR buy a high-quality cooling setup like Noctua NH-D14, Corsair H80, and other similar level of cooling.

Now that said, initially, only the flagship Ivy Bridge i5 and i7 CPUs will be available. i3, Pentiums and Celerons come much later.

Here is the recommended CPU lists reflecting it:

** Extreme Budget - Should only be bought if you must save every $ as humanely possible. Otherwise, I would recommend spending $25 more for the Pentium G630.

- Intel Celeron G530: $50

** Budget - Should be plenty enough for most people on budget. Sadly enough, in CPU-bound gaming, all current AMD CPU models compete with this $80 CPU.

- Intel Pentium G630: $75

** Good Enough - Most people should be happy with this level of performance. If you don't play CPU-bound games a lot, then don't go any further than this, and instead, invest more in a better graphics card.

- Intel i3-2120 @ $125

(Ivy Bridge equivalent, estimated arrival: Q3 2012)
- Intel i3-3220 @ ~$135

** Best - This is the best gaming CPU. Going any further than this will not grant you any gaming performance benefits.

- (Sandy Bridge) Intel i5-2500k @ $220, $180 if you buy locally at MicroCenter
- (Ivy Bridge) Intel i5-3570K @ $250, $190 if you buy locally at MicroCenter

If you will not overclock, get the following CPUs instead of the ones above. While above CPUs are slightly faster, when run at stock clocks, there is unnoticeable performance difference between them.

- (Sandy Bridge) Intel i5-2300 @ $180
- (Ivy Bridge) Intel i5-3450 @ $200, $160 if you buy locally at MicroCenter

Note that only Intel CPUs with -k suffix can be overclocked safely (IE) i5-2500k). All other Intel CPUs listed here can't be overclocked safely.
Edited by Kalganized on 5/29/2012 1:43 PM PDT
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* CPU Cooler *

Needed if you will overclock your CPU. Stock fans are bad at dealing with heat when overclocking. If you will not overclock, skip this part -- stock fans are good enough in that case.

I recommend CoolerMaster Hyper 212+, or its EVO variant. It should cost somewhere around $30 at most.

If you want to go overkill, there is Noctua NH-D14, but it's a HUGE cooler, and definitely needs a lot of work / pre-planning. Oh, and it's very expensive. I wouldn't recommend this unless you absolutely must have the best air-cooling solution available at all costs.

There is also a closed-loop liquid cooling set for users that want to try out water cooling for their computer without going full water cooling setup. Examples include Antec Kuhler and Corsair Hydro series of coolers. Note that cheap Kuhler / Hydro coolers don't cool all that much better, if anything, worse than Hyper 212+ / EVO.

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* Motherboard *

These motherboards are compatible with all CPUs listed above (Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge LGA 1155 CPUs).

You can go more expensive if you want. What you pay is what you get, but I don't really recommend it unless you NEED something specific these expensive motherboards offer you.

Z77 motherboards natively support Ivy Bridge CPUs from get-go. In addition, all Z77 motherboards also support existing Sandy Bridge CPUs. Z68 motherboards are supplanted by these, thus, no longer recommended.

B75 motherboards have arrived, as a budget Ivy Bridge motherboard. Great alternative budget board without sacrificing too much, although a lone H61 motherboard remains as a bottom of the barrel sort of a deal.

If you live near a MicroCenter, buying an i5-2500k / i5-3570k along with a Z77 motherboard will give you a bonus $50 discount.

** Absolute Bottom of the Barrel - You don't want anything. Just the cheapest of the cheapest that can get you going. Don't expect anything here. If you are looking to save maximum amount of cash (and you don't care for absolutely everything, just want a computer), this will do for you.

The board supports Ivy Bridge CPUs right out of the gate. Does not require a BIOS update.

- ASRock H61M-DGS Micro ATX Motherboard @ $55

** Recommended Budget Motherboard - If you want budget board, but want to use USB 3 devices, or SSD, then this board will do for you. Best balanced in terms of features, expandability, and price. Only thing missing from here is the ability to overclock, and lack of SLi/CrossFireX support.

- BIOSTAR B75MU3+ Micro ATX Intel Motherboard @ $70

** Best Z77 Motherboard - Has the proper SLi/CrossFireX support (2x PCI-E 3.0 slots, 8x/8x upon SLi/CrossFireX), and are the cheapest upon the writing of this article. All other currently cheaper Z77 motherboards only come with a single PCI-E 3.0 16x slot, and the other PCI-E 2.0 slot runs at 4x with SLi/CrossFireX, which makes it not suitable for a SLi/CrossFireX setup.

- BIOSTAR TZ77XE3 ATX Motherboard @ $125

-OR-

- ASRock Z77 Extreme4 ATX Motherboard @ $135

*** Best Tri-SLi/CrossFireX Z77 Motherboard - Get this if you are going to try tri-SLi/CrossFireX. This motherboard has three PCI-E 3.0 slots, running at 16x/8x/4x. 4x on PCI-E 3.0 is fine, as that equates to 8x on PCI-E 2.0 specification.

- MSI Z77A-GD65 ATX Motherboard @ $190

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* RAM *

There is no specific RAM product recommendation to make, except:

- Average cost of RAM sets for 2 x 2GB is ~$28, 2 x 4GB is ~$47.

- For H61 motherboards, DDR3-1333 is the maximum speed it supports. However, buying a faster RAM will still work -- they will just be downclocked to DDR3-1333 speed.

- For B75 / Z68 / Z77 motherboards, although they usually support faster RAM, there is virtually zero benefits going beyond DDR3-1600 speed. Stick to DDR3-1600.

- What does 'dual', 'triple', and 'quad'-channels mean? That means you should buy RAM in sets of two, three, and four respectively to maximize your RAM performance. Sandy Bridge systems covered in this guide, all AMD systems support ONLY dual-channel, which means you want to buy in pairs, not single sticks -- IE) Do not buy 1 x 8GB stick. Buy 2 x 4GB sticks.

- When buying, ensure that RAM operates at 1.5v for maximum stability.

- For gaming, going beyond 8GB of RAM has zero benefits for you. For those on extreme budget, 4GB will also serve just fine. 8GB is just an icing on the cake.

- Some RAM sticks have tall heatsinks. These may interfere when you install a custom CPU cooler with a fan. Only one that comes to mind of this is the Corsair Vengeance RAM sticks.

- RAM without heat spreader/heatsinks work just fine.
Edited by Kalganized on 5/22/2012 2:00 AM PDT
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* Graphics Card & Power Supply *

=== Important note before we begin ===

ALL the graphics card listed here REQUIRES a proper mid-tower case or above. If you have a slim case, you are severely limited in what graphics card you can get -- with best being a low-profile Radeon HD 6670. If you want to get a better graphics card than that, you need a new case and a new power supply at minimum.

I automatically assume you are playing at 1920x1080 monitor resolution, and WoW with maxed out settings (except shadows set to high, and no anti-aliasing).

If you are looking to overclock your graphics card, look for specific brand sub-types -- as you need a good cooling for them. Some of these include:

MSi TwinFrozr
EVGA Classified
HIS IceQ
Sapphire Toxic
ASUS DirectCU
etc.

They will cost you though.

Graphics cards require a certain level of power supply wattage, so I recommended them here alongside the graphics card.

While I leave it up to you to buy the actual power supply, any power supplies you choose to buy must have 80 Plus Bronze certification. If the power supply you are looking at has no 80 Plus certification whatsoever, do not buy them. Even if your budget is small, never skimp out on a power supply quality. Bad ones will die faster, cause system issues, and ultimately, can destroy rest of your computer if it chooses to die.

The wattage I recommend you here automatically assume that you have a high-quality power supply, not crappy $30 500W DiabloTek piece of !@#$.

There are power supplies with higher level of 80 Plus certification, IE) Silver, Gold, Platinum. They are not necessary, and does add noticeable amount $ required to buy them. If power saving is absolutely paramount to you with regardless of up-front cost, by all means, go for them. Otherwise, don't.

When you choose a power supply, get one that will power the graphics card you plan to stay with, not for you are buying for now.

- Recommended power supply brands include:
Corsair (not including Builder series)
Antec
Seasonic
PC Power and Cooling (Silencer MK III series only)
etc.

- Note on SLi/CrossFireX: For most gamers, this is not a necessary feature, and it's much better to get a better-performing single card rather than trying to set up two mid-range cards. While performance improvement is there, SLi/CrossFireX has lot of extra headaches that do not come with a single GPU setup.

Consider SLi/CrossFireX only and only if, you want to do a multi-monitor setup (3x monitors minimum). 2 monitor setups are exempt from requiring CrossFireX / SLi, as you will still keep games on a single monitor anyway.

Because of the above reasons, cards like Radeon HD 6990 / GeForce GTX 590 will not be mentioned.

** Cheapest Minimum Recommended - If you have a terrible power supply, and would like to get a graphics card upgrade that will perform well without needing a good power supply, this is the only graphics card that will fit the bill. Accept no substitution.

The Radeon HD 7750 is slightly behind, or roughly equal to Radeon HD 6770, previously recommended budget card.

- Radeon HD 7750 @ $110 ~ $120

** Budget - Good enough to run most games with high details. Due to a price drop, Radeon HD 7770 is now the budget recommended card. HD 7770 performs at around HD 6850 level (wins some, loses some), but requires significantly less powerful power supply.

- Radeon HD 7770 @ $140
Accompanying power supply wattage: 400W

** Best Perf/Price Card For Most Gamers - If you only play WoW, and other not-so-demanding games (such as Skyrim), stick to these. Don't go any further. Buck stops here.

- Radeon HD 6870 @ $170 ~ $190 ==OR== GeForce GTX 560 @ $170 ~ $200
Accompanying power supply wattage: 500W, 700W for CrossFireX / SLi

** Between High-End and Mid-Range - The Radeon HD 7870 had another price drop (from $350 ~ $360 price range). With special deals, you could probably find one at $300. Because of this, GeForce GTX 570 is no longer recommended, as not only does HD 7870 outperform it, when overclocked, HD 7870 will match up to GeForce GTX 580 / Radeon HD 7950.

- Radeon HD 7870 @ $320 ~ $340
Accompanying power supply wattage: 550W, 700W for CrossFireX / SLi

** High-End Best Bang for the Buck - The GTX 670 does everything right. Good cost ($400), great performance (that it comes very close to HD 7970 / GTX 680), and significantly smaller power consumption that it can be run on a weaker power supply. Therefore, I can no longer recommend Radeon HD 7950 due to the power of GTX 670. I personally recommend spending ~$20 more for the ASUS DirectCU II TOP version of the GTX 670, as out of the box performance will equal GTX 680.

The question is, will you find one in stock?

- GeForce GTX 670 @ $400
Accompanying power supply wattage: 450W, 650W for CrossFireX / SLi

Note that GTX 670 default is powered by 2x 6-pin PCI-E power plugs, with some of the custom designs having 1x 6+2, and 1x 6. Ensure this before you buy a power supply.

** Absolute Best Single-GPU Graphics Card - If you want to run the most demanding games with absolute top graphics settings with fluent FPS, this is the card for you. However, considering the performance level of GeForce GTX 670, unless you need to have as much FPS as possible, it's probably a lot better to go with the GTX 670 instead.

- GeForce GTX 680 @ $500
Accompanying power supply wattage: 550W, 750W for CrossFireX / SLi

Alternatively, Radeon HD 7970 can now also be recommended as a possible upgrade due to a price drop. It now costs $450. Performance between this and 680 is almost identical, with GTX 680 having slight lead in various games/configurations. GTX 680 remains hard to find, so if you want the top-end single-GPU card right now, the HD 7970 can be chosen instead.

** Overkill: SLi GTX 670. No questions asked. Especially with good cards like ASUS DirectCU II TOP GTX 670, there's zero reason to spend ~$200+ more for 1~3% more performance increase (GTX 680 SLi / GTX 690), unless you must absolutely have every little bit of FPS gain as humanely possible.

- GeForce GTX 670 x2 @ $800~840
Accompanying power supply wattage: 650W
Edited by Kalganized on 5/11/2012 5:45 PM PDT
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* Hard Disks, SSD, and DVD drive *

Many users will be just fine with a single 500GB or 1TB mechanical hard disk, but more and more users are putting in extra dough for the SSD today. SSD (Solid State Disk/Drive) is worth the money if you can spare it; it does significantly reduce time you spend waiting for things to load (especially when you boot the system!).

SSDs are however, still too small for many users to be used alone, so it is recommended that you pair it up with a 500GB (or higher) mechanical hard disk as a data drive.

DVD burners should never cost more than $19. Any higher, you are getting ripped off.

It is notable that hard disks and DVD drives are often scrounged up from your old computer. It is recommended that you do so (unless if they are showing signs of dying), as it'll shave a good amount of $ total off your build -- leaving more money for you to either save, or to invest in a better part elsewhere.

** Here are the general tips on the hard disk:

- Average cost of 500GB drive is ~$70, 1TB is ~$90.

- Ensure that it runs at 7200 RPM, unless if it is being accompanied with a SSD as a data drive, then in which slower drives are OK (such as 5400 / 5900 RPM).

- More cache on the hard drive is good, but too much will cost too much. 500GB tends to come with 16MB, 1TB 32MB, and higher 64MB.

- SATA II / III distinction is worthless on a mechanical hard disk as they can't even come close to fully saturating SATA II interface anyway.

- Western Digital drives tend to be more expensive than the competition for no reason.

** Here are the general tips for the SSD:

- 120/128GB is the sweet spot of SSD you should buy. Smaller SSDs have performance penalty, while larger SSDs are 2x as expensive.

- The only SSD brands that you should consider buying:

Crucial m4 (cheapest)
Corsair Performance Pro (bit more costly, but faster than Crucial m4)
Plextor M3 Pro (costs only a little more than Corsair, faster still)
OCZ Vertex 4 (about the same price as Intel 520, beats 520 at some tasks, loses at some)
Intel 520 (fastest, but also the most expensive)

Crucial, Corsair, and Plextor uses Marvell controller (each with their own firmware).
Vertex 4 uses in-house Indilinx controller.
Intel 520 uses SandForce controller, but with Intel's custom firmware.

Intel 520 comes with its own SATA cable. Crucial m4 does not, nor Corsair Performance Pro. I mention this because most motherboards only come with -two- SATA cables. You will need to buy a separate cable if you buy either Crucial m4 or Corsair, if you can't get one from somewhere.

Crucial m4 is the most barebone of them all. It doesn't come with an extra SATA cable, nor a SSD bracket.

Corsair Performance Pro comes with a SSD bracket and screws, but no SATA cable.

Intel 520 comes with all that plus some more. For convenience purposes, I would buy Intel 520 if budget allows (not to mention it's the fastest of the bunch).

- Many cases have SSD brackets or places where SSD can be installed to. Some do not. If it does not, do not panic. Since SSD contains no moving parts, you can just lay it flat somewhere in the case and it will be OK. Just remember about the SSD when you move your PC. You could hold it in place using the duct tape or something.

** SSD optimization tips:

There are some extra work you have to do to ensure full performance on your SSD.

- Plug SSD SATA cable to a SATA III port on the motherboard. Plugging it to a SATA II port will gimp its performance.

- Enter the motherboard BIOS during boot, and ensure that SATA mode is set to AHCI (or RAID if you do RAID). Leaving it to IDE compatible will cause big performance penalty to SSD speed. Most modern motherboards today will have it at AHCI by default, but it doesn't hurt to double check.

- Always do a fresh install of Windows 7 on the SSD. This is because Windows 7 does bunch of extra tasks specifically designed for the SSD during the installation only. Do not copy over your OS as it is to the SSD.

- Once installed, disable Windows Search, and drive indexing on the SSD. Also fix Windows swap file (virtual memory) to fixed size (1GB~2GB) on the SSD.

- Never run any "SSD optimizers" nor "SSD defragmentation software" of any kind. These are not necessary and in fact, will hurt your SSD.

- Leave Windows 7 and programs + specific games you want to see speed boost on the SSD. All "data" such as music, movie, pictures, and all other games, should be on the mechanical hard disk.

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* Case *

Before we begin: Never buy a case that comes with a power supply. These power supplies are absolutely atrocious and you WILL regret it if you do buy them.

** Best recommended: This case has the best balance of features and price. Good airflow in the case, SSD bracket, decent looks, and price. I would not go any cheaper than this to be honest.

- CoolerMaster HAF 912 @ $60

If you want any other cases instead, that is your choice. I simply recommend HAF 912 as it strikes the best balance in features and price.

When shopping for a different case, I'd look for features like how well the air can flow in the case, ease of use, SSD bracket, and whether it can hold long graphics cards or not.

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* OS *

If you do not own a copy of Windows 7 or Vista 64-bit, you should get a copy of Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit OEM. They cost $100 a pop.

If you do own it, feel free to re-use it. You may be asked to get a new key from Microsoft. Do not panic if that happens. Call Microsoft, explain that you just built a new computer, and get a key.

If you own a 32-bit version of 7 or Vista, don't worry. 32-bit key can be used for 64-bit version. You just have to... acquire the 64-bit version of OS somewhere. If you can't / won't, bite the bullet and buy the 64-bit version.

HP/Dell/etc. never gives you an actual OS disc; they simply "bundle" it onto the hard disk as a recovery partition. So you still have to buy a new copy -- not to mention the keys used by HP/Dell/etc. are specific to an OEM -- they will only activate on HP/Dell/etc. computers.

If you own a copy of XP, I strongly recommend you to upgrade to Windows 7. Many games today take advantage of DirectX 11 effects, and WoW is one of them. For most users, using DirectX 11 in WoW will improve performance as well as including some new fancy graphics effects.
Edited by Kalganized on 5/22/2012 2:39 AM PDT
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* Monitors *

Size is up to you. However, you should buy a monitor whose native resolution is at least 1920x1080. Also try to ensure response rate of below 5ms.

LED backlighting is optional. Some monitors will have backlighting leak out, but how bad that can be is totally RNG as each monitor is differently built.

ASUS monitors seem to be very popular for monitors. 24" ASUS monitors top out around ~$200, with smaller monitors costing less. If you want to go as cheap as possible for a monitor for whatever reason, you can find a full HD monitor with <5ms response rate for about $120.

IPS panels (such as Dell U2412M) are becoming more popular, but they are pricey. The advantage of an IPS monitor over typical LCD monitor (based on TN) is that color accuracy is much better on an IPS monitor than a TN monitor. The commonly stated disadvantage is that IPS monitors don't have response rate as good as that of a TN monitor -- especially if the IPS monitor is a true 8-bit color depth panel (professional models costing $500+).

The ~$300some IPS monitors such as Dell U2412M uses e-IPS technology, which is 6-bit + some trick, so it's not as accurate as true 8-bit color depth panels, but still way better than a typical TN monitor many people use. It also has decent enough response rate that you should generally not experience any ghosting.

Cheap IPS monitors are something you should not buy if possible -- with them, what you pay is what you really get.

If color reproduction is somehow important to you, look into an IPS monitor. If not, stick to a $200 or less monitors.

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* Keyboard, Mouse, Speakers *

Up to you. Buy whatever fits your budget and needs.

Casual gamers should be fine with a $20 mouse and keyboard.

Gamers that do make use of extra function keys / buttons on the mouse can get them from usual shops.

However, it is important to note that these things don't improve your FPS nor make your system run faster. Never sacrifice main computer parts for a fancy keyboard, mouse, or speakers.

If you have some $ to spare, mechanical keyboards are considered the "ultimate" in gaming keyboard, such as Corsair's K60/90, and Razer's Black Widow keyboards.

As for the mouse, the usual Razer fare may work for you.

Here are the list of few "gaming" keyboard / mouse manufacturers:

Microsoft (Sidewinder X4)
Logitech
Razer
SteelSeries
Saitek
Tt eSports
Corsair

Speakers generally aren't bought since many users re-use their existing sets, or have a dedicated headset already, so it's not really worth mentioning.
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* Addendum 1: When do I upgrade CPU / GPU? *

I realized I never really got into details on when you should upgrade. Here is a general guide when you should upgrade.

For CPU, if you have these CPUs, you do not have to upgrade yet. Otherwise, it's time for an upgrade -- you would replace CPU, RAM (if RAM is not DDR3. If DDR3, reuse), and motherboard:

* Intel:
- Second-and-half generation Intel Ivy Bridge i-series CPU, such as i5-3570k, i7-3770k
- Second-and-half generation Intel Ivy Bridge-based Pentiums / Celerons
- Second-generation Intel Sandy Bridge i-series CPU, such as i3-2120, i5-2500k, i7-2600k
- Second-generation Intel Sandy Bridge-based Pentiums / Celerons
- First-and-half generation Intel Westmere i-series CPU, such as i3-560, i5-680, i7-970
- First-generation Intel Nehalem i-series CPU, such as i5-760, i7-960

For the listed Pentiums and Celerons, if you feel that you want more CPU performance, upgrade to the same family i3 or i5 CPUs (no need to get a new motherboard/RAM). IE) Sandy Bridge Pentium G630 -> Sandy Bridge i3-2120. You can choose to go Ivy Bridge only if the motherboard supports it.

* AMD:
- First generation AMD FX "Bulldozer" CPU, such as FX-8150
- Phenom II CPU, such as Phenom II X4 955 BE, Phenom II X6 960T
- Athlon II CPU can work, but upgrading is recommended for this case.

Best upgrade for AMD CPU users is honestly at this point, going to an Intel build. This will change if upcoming Piledriver doesn't suck.

For GPU (graphics), if your graphics cards is equal or better than following, you're still good. Otherwise, it's time to upgrade your graphics (IF you want to), and also may require power supply upgrade:

* GeForce:
GeForce 500 models, of sub-model 550 Ti or above.
GeForce 400 models, of sub-model 450 or above.
GeForce 200 models, of GTX 280 or above.

* AMD:
Radeon 7000 models, of sub-model 7750 or above.
Radeon 6000 models, of sub-model 6770 or above.
Radeon 5000 models, of sub-model 5770 or above.
Radeon 4000 models, of sub-model 4870 or above.
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* Addendum 2: TL;DR, Just Gimme a Good Build! *

Fine. But I put so much effort to the guide as whole! For you! You have to read it!... I'll make you read it... [Yandere eyes]

Oops! Ignore that! :) Anyway...

From any of these builds, customize or change things as you see fit, but do note that you need to add in price of OS / Monitor / Keyboard / Mouse / Speakers, if you need them.

You can take these as a guideline too (as well as the price), if you HAVE to get a pre-built system.

Note that while I use a specific CPU cooler / motherboard / power supply / case, you do not have to get the exact same product if you have something else on your mind. Just ensure that you get what fits your budget, and the required features (such as that power supply MUST be 80 Plus Bronze certified).

The estimated FPS for WoW listed here assume we are playing with following settings:
1920x1080 resolution
All ultra, except shadows set to high
DirectX 11 mode, WoW 64-bit client
Multisampling 1x, Anisotropic Filtering Trilinear
Playing in a 25-man raid / crowded cities. Anywhere else? Let's just say high enough FPS
These are all minimum expected FPS, but may fluctuate on various factors

Here you go:

** Build 0: Absolute MAXIMUM CHEAPEST Build

Note: Only take this if you REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY need to save as much money as possible NO MATTER WHAT. You sacrifice everything to get this build going.

CPU: Celeron G530
Motherboard: ASRock H61M-DGS
RAM: Any 2 x 2GB RAM while keeping my notes (DDR3-1333, 1.5v)
Graphics: Radeon HD 6670 (It MUST mention that it is GDDR5 in the name/VRAM)
Power Supply: Seasonic SS-300ET 300W
Hard Drive: Cheap 500GB or -smaller- if you are fine with it. Do not pay over $80 for this.
DVD Drive: Cheap DVD burner
Case: APEX PC-389-C Black Steel ATX Mid Tower

Estimated cost: ~$385
Estimated FPS in WoW: ~30

** Build 1: Tight Budget Build

CPU: Pentium G630
Motherboard: ASRock H61M-DGS / BIOSTAR B75MU3+ (If you want to use SSD)
RAM: Any 2 x 2GB RAM while keeping my notes (DDR3-1333, 1.5v)
Graphics: Radeon HD 7750
Power Supply: PC Power and Cooling Silencer MK III 500W, or other similar power supplies
Hard Drive: Cheap 500GB
DVD Drive: Cheap DVD burner
Case: HEC Blitz Black Steel Edition ATX Mid-Tower

Estimated cost: ~$495 ~ $515
Estimated FPS in WoW: ~35

** Build 2: Best build for good gaming without spending big $

CPU: i3-2120
Motherboard: BIOSTAR B75MU3+
RAM: Any 2 x 4GB RAM while keeping my notes (DDR3-1600, 1.5v)
Graphics: Radeon HD 6870 or GeForce GTX 560
Power Supply: PC Power and Cooling Silencer MK III 500W, or other similar power supplies
SSD: Optional
Hard Drive: Cheap 500GB
DVD Drive: Cheap DVD burner
Case: HAF 912

Estimated cost: ~$600
+SSD cost if you choose to add an SSD.
Estimated FPS in WoW: ~45+

** Build 3: Won't overclock. Give me a pretty good system just under 1k

Note: If you want the capacity to run SLi / CrossFireX, you will have to upgrade the motherboard to either Biostar TZ77XE3 ATX -OR- ASRock Z77 Extreme4 ATX.

CPU: i5-2300, or i5-3450
Motherboard: BIOSTAR B75MU3+
RAM: Any 2 x 4GB RAM while keeping my notes (DDR3-1600, 1.5v)
Graphics: Radeon HD 6870 or GeForce GTX 560
Power Supply: PC Power and Cooling Silencer MK III 500W, or other similar power supplies
SSD: 120GB Intel 520, or other similar non-SandForce SSDs
Hard Drive: 1TB
DVD Drive: Cheap DVD burner
Case: HAF 912

Estimated cost: ~$902 ~ +++
Estimated FPS in WoW: ~50+

** Build 4: Yay overkill!

Note: This build assumes you will overclock the CPU. If you will not, replace CPU with i5-2300 / i5-3450, and don't buy the CPU cooler. Motherboard can be kept if you NEED SLi/CrossFireX. Otherwise, get the Biostar B75MU3+ motherboard mentioned above.

CPU: i5-2500k, or i5-3570k
CPU Cooler: CoolerMaster Hyper 212+, or EVO, or above if wanted
Motherboard: ASRock Z77 Extreme4 ATX or above if wanted
RAM: Any 2 x 4GB RAM while keeping my notes (DDR3-1600, 1.5v)
Graphics: GeForce GTX 670 or above, but recommending to stay with GTX 670
Power Supply: PC Power and Cooling Silencer MK III 500W or above if wanted
SSD: 120GB Intel 520 or above if wanted
Hard Drive: 1TB or above if wanted
DVD Drive: Cheap DVD Burner
Case: HAF 912 or above if wanted

Estimated cost: ~$1240 ~ +++
Estimated FPS: Do we really need to say this?
Edited by Kalganized on 5/28/2012 4:03 PM PDT
100 Blood Elf Paladin
9210
------------------------------------------------------

* Addendum 3: Finding Gaming Laptops That Can Handle KEKEKE ZERG RUSH ^_^ *

I see "get me a gaming laptop plz" topic frequently enough, but since you can't really "custom build" a laptop from ground up, it only gets a small addendum section to itself. Sad, I know.

A lot of people either buy laptops that can barely handle the intense gaming sessions, or buy ones that can't do it at all. My goal here is to ensure that whatever laptop you choose to buy, is going to be a good performer for the price you pay.

=== Caution! i5 and i7 on laptops are not the same as desktop counterpart!!! ===

As you know, I recommended way earlier that i7 has no benefits over i5. That only applies to the desktop scene. On laptops, following changes happen:

All i5 CPUs are all native dual cores, with virtual quad core operation through HyperTheading.

Most i7 CPUs are native quad cores, with virtual octa core operation through HyperThreading. Even then, SOME i7s are not a native quad core.

How do you differentiate which one is a native quad core or not? Look for the laptops with i7 CPUs with the following suffix: QM.

Example: i7-2630QM

** Users on budget less than $400 - Throw in $30 more and buy a laptop with an AMD A-Series APU in it, such as AMD A4 and A6. You can't really go below this. AMD A4 is the least I'd aim for.

Example: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16834215257

** Budget range up to $500 ~ $650 - You can buy an AMD A-Series laptop with a dedicated graphics cards at this level. May occasionally find Intel i3 / i5 CPUs with a GT 630M or HD 7670M at this price range, but you'll have to look for them.

Most laptops here come with DDR3-1066 RAM. Some come with DDR3-1333. You want to get ones with DDR3-1333 if possible. Pretty much most hard drives here will be 5200 RPM. This cannot be helped.

Do not get a laptop with 17" monitor or ones with higher resolution than 1366x768. Laptop GPUs at this level aren't meant to power a higher-resolution monitor.

Example: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16834246328

** Budget range up to $650 ~ $900 - You can buy an Intel i5 laptops with GeForce 540M / GeForce 630M here. Note that 550M is just a slightly faster clocked version of 540M, not worth paying more for it. Same with 555M found in Lenovos (gimped).

GT 640M / HD 7730M is the most powerful card you can possibly find at this level.
You may find some i7 quad-core CPUs at the upper echelons.

DDR3-1066 will be less common as you put in more money. Try to aim for DDR3-1333. You may find 7200 RPM hard drives here and there.

You can go with a laptop with a larger monitor / resolution here, but don't go for ones with 1920x1080 resolution. GPUs here can't cope with them.

Cheapest Example: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16834246327
Example (by Boxerone): http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16834215254

** Budget range up to $1300 - It is notable that the laptops in between price of $650 ~ $950 does not really change in terms of graphics power. The next step up can be found in laptops costing more than $1000. Therefore, there's a gap between $650 and $1000.

Notably, these laptops at $1000~$1300 come with the following graphics cards:
GeForce 650M / 560M / 660M / 570M
Radeon 7770M / 7850M / 6950M / 7870M

i7 with a -QM suffix CPU is a must. RAM must be DDR3-1333 at this point, as with hard drives being 7200 RPM.

MSI-1761 and Sagers offer 1920x1080 resolution from get go. ASUS G74 models do not until you pay into more expensive versions.

Example 1 - MSI-1761 barebones builders like this website:
http://www.xoticpc.com/force-1761-msi-1761-p-3152.html?wconfigure=yes

They also have 1762 based on an Ivy Bridge system.

Example 2 - ASUS G74 / MSI GT series

- Note 1: Many ASUS G74 with SX suffix come with gimped 560M. Double check the bus width of the GPU before you buy (you can do that through GPU-Z)! Standard 560M has 192 bit bus width, while gimped ones have 128 bit. This is pretty big in terms of performance difference.

- Note 2: While most of GeForce 600 series are Kepler based, there are few that are just a rebadging of the old GeForce 500 series. Do not pay more for the following:

GeForce GTX 670M (rebadge of 570M)
GeForce GTX 675M (rebadge of 580M)

** Any higher? Overkill.

Example graphics cards you can get at this level:
GeForce 580M / 680M + SLi if possible
Radeon 6990M / 7950M / 7970M + XFire if possible

You could throw in a bigger monitor, some offer 18".
You could buy an SSD as well as an extra data hard disk.
You could upgrade to a fancy lighted keyboard, or stuff like that...
Edited by Kalganized on 5/23/2012 3:36 PM PDT
100 Blood Elf Paladin
9210
(Reserved in case I need to make something else)

------------------------------------------------------

Hope this guide is helpful in deciding what you want for your new gaming PC/laptop.

Any questions can be posted in this topic.

Some leftover facts:

1. If you spend over $500 total, NewEgg, TigerDirect, etc. may offer you zero-interest financing options for you.

2. These websites may charge you tax depending on where you live. IE) NewEgg will charge you tax if you order in California.

Let the game begin!
85 Undead Warrior
600
alright i got a dvd drive/windows 7/hard drive outa old computer now my build is

XFX Double D HD-687A-ZDFC Radeon HD 6870 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.1 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support Video Card with ...

PC Power and Cooling Silencer MK III 500W Modular 80PLUS Bronze Power Supply compatible with Intel Sandy Bridge Core i3 i5 ...

G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1066 (PC3 8500) Desktop Memory Model F3-8500CL7D-8GBRL

ASRock H61M/U3S3 LGA 1155 Intel H61 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Micro ATX Intel Motherboard

3 choses of cases to fit everything smothly whats the best
HEC Blitz Black Steel Edition ATX Mid Tower Computer Chassis Gaming Case w/ Front Blue LED 120mm Fan & Top 120mm Fan

AZZA Spartan CSAZ-102E Black SECC Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case

AZZA Toledo 301 (CSAZ-301) Black SECC Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case

and do i need any wires sense im salvaging some parts?
Edited by Kelcici on 5/4/2012 12:12 PM PDT
100 Blood Elf Paladin
9210
* Breadisfunny:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822148840

* Kelcici:

Your RAM is slow. You should get a DDR3-1333 version of it.

All three are of good case; get whatever design you like the most / fits your budget.

No, you do not need any spare wires.
85 Undead Warrior
600
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820231311

this ram? and all my parts should work together right? about to order it lol
Edited by Kelcici on 5/4/2012 12:21 PM PDT
100 Blood Elf Paladin
9210
That would do.

What do you have in your shopping cart, and what are you recycling?
85 Undead Warrior
600
AZZA Spartan CSAZ-102E Black SECC Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case $59

XFX Double D HD-687A-ZDFC Radeon HD 6870 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.1 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support Video Card with ... $159

PC Power and Cooling Silencer MK III 500W Modular 80PLUS Bronze Power Supply compatible with Intel Sandy Bridge Core i3 i5 ... $59

G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Desktop Memory Model F3-10666CL9D-8GBRL $41

ASRock H61M/U3S3 LGA 1155 Intel H61 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Micro ATX Intel Motherboard $66

Intel Core i3-2120 Sandy Bridge 3.3GHz LGA 1155 65W Dual-Core Desktop Processor Intel HD Graphics 2000 BX80623I32120 $124

im yanking out the dvd drive and hard drive off my old cp and have a copy of windows 7 already i looked in it and i belive the hard drive had a sata cable into it and do i need to take any wires out of my old computer while im in it?
100 Blood Elf Paladin
9210
The motherboard will supply you with 2 SATA cables, so you do not have to. But you can choose to take the SATA cable with the old hard drive / DVD drive and use it if you want, and save the 2 new ones for SSD or something.

It's up to you.

You do not have to take anything else from it.
85 Undead Warrior
600
alright thanks man going to order all this now :P
100 Blood Elf Paladin
9210
I cannot find this model on pcpartpicker, but I picked it out because it is:

1TB
7200 RPM
64MB cache

And apparently, firmware update makes it perform real well

All under $100
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