Comprehensive Gaming PC/Laptop Buying Guide

90 Blood Elf Paladin
8895
* Yay, capped again! Table of contents, as well as the update information and current discussion can be found here:

http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/7923532867

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 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.

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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* CPU *

The brains of your computer. Many uninformed people will tell you "CPU doesn't matter, GPU owns!", or "You can totally game with Athlon 64s and Pentium 4s", or "MOAR COARS!", or "GIGAHERTZ!". The fact of the matter is, the CPU architecture is the primary drive behind how well the CPU will perform.

So you try to shop for a right CPU, and the first question you ask will be "Which is better, Intel or AMD for gaming?"

"Intel vs. AMD", a perennial question that new builders always ask others in their quest to find most optimal CPU. Answer to that has changed over time -- with domination of AMD during Pentium 4 era, and Intel dominating since Core 2 era to today.

Up until today, if you told me that "I want to buy an AMD FX system!", I would have told you to "No, Intel FTW." AMD is striking back at the Evil Empire with their new, AMD FX Vishera (Piledriver based) CPUs, and it is actually a viable alternative now.

This will bring noticeable change in recommended CPUs for gaming.

More and more recent games are being programmed with more than 4 cores in mind. For example, with upcoming Crysis 3's multiplayer portion, i7-2600k has about ~10 FPS advantage over i5-2500k -- and if you spend $$$$ for the top-end Sandy Bridge-E i7-3930k, whopping ~23 FPS advantage over i5. These are all on stock clock, and all these CPUs could be overclocked, so i5 couldn't ever overcome the FPS deficiency.

So, I will start recommend i7 for a certain crowd of people -- definitely not to those that only play simple games like WoW, but for those gamers also looking to play the latest and the greatest in multiplayer mode.

** The current consensus is as follows:

- AMD FX Vishera CPUs will roflstomp equivalently priced Intel CPUs in heavily multithreaded applications. Only CPU that AMD FX Vishera can't beat Intel is with Intel's very expensive flagship i7s.

- Intels retain their IPC superiority in applications where applications are lightly to not threaded at all (read: most games), but AMD FX Vishera can certainly match or overcome this through overclocking. Most Intel CPUs are locked and cannot be overclocked. All AMD CPUs can be overclocked.

- AMD CPUs/APUs need to be overclocked in order for them to truly strut their stuff. In fact, I strongly recommend that you do so, or you are losing out on a lot of performance gain.

- In the light of recent performance rankings using latest games, dual-core CPUs are on their way out. Therefore, if you plan to play latest games like Crysis 3 and beyond, it is strongly recommended to spend a bit more $ for a quad-core CPU.
** Ultra-budget Gaming CPU/APU - These CPUs will give you acceptable performance, but definitely nothing shockingly good. They will struggle with latest games due to the fact these are all dual-core parts, but they will be sufficient for WoW and older / or not demanding games.

Celeron is a bottom tier CPU from Intel. Raw CPU power-wise, AMD A6 should be superior. However, AMD A-Series platform won't let you upgrade to an AMD FX CPU, while Celeron system could be upgraded to house the best gaming CPU for Intel right now, the i5 Sandy Bridge / Ivy Bridge CPU.

That's not to say AMD has no upgrade path; FM2 socket will be used for at least one more generation. You should be able to upgrade to next-gen AMD APU when they come out sometime in 2014.

In terms of gaming performance, A6 alone should provide playable FPS at low settings in most games. Celeron will require a Radeon HD 6450, and it'll be slightly behind A6 -stock- performance. HD 6570 should outperform A6, but that makes it much more pricier than A6.

A6-5400k can do a Dual Graphics (Hybrid CrossFireX) with a Radeon HD 6570 graphics card, which should give it a performance just below HD 7770. This will require a A75 / A85X motherboard chipset.

Note that AMD APU's built-in GPU performance depends on the RAM speed. If you buy an AMD APU system, always pair it up with fastest RAM supported by the motherboard, and of course, your budget.

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Having explained that, recommendation here changes -drastically- depending on whether you will upgrade your CPU or not.

- If you will not upgrade the CPU...: AMD A6-5400k @ $75

- OR -

- If you will upgrade the CPU to i5...: Intel Celeron G1610 @ $46

You might notice there's a $30 price difference here. That is made up by the fact A6 does not require a graphics card in order to run games. The Celeron system requires one.

Once again, if you don't plan to upgrade the CPU, do not buy the Celeron chip! Also, you should keep in mind that Intel changes motherboard sockets every new generation (not sub-generation, IE) Sandy -> Ivy), which means unless if you will upgrade within a Tick-Tock cycle, you would be forced to buy a new motherboard just to upgrade.
** Budget Gaming CPU/APU - They may be named "Budget", but for gamers that aren't looking to run games maxed out, these will fulfill their needs more than enough.

However, if you play games that are multithreaded well, the AMD A10 will significantly outperform the Pentium CPU. So, choose carefully depending on what games you play. For just WoW, a Pentium can serve you well. For games like Far Cry 3, the Pentium would be obliterated by the A10.

AMD A10 is the top-of-the-line APU, housing the best integrated graphics, with good overclocking, can nearly reach a dedicated entry-level gaming graphics card. Raw power-wise, it should out-do Pentium CPU. Same limitations apply however. AMD A10 can't upgrade to AMD FX, while Pentium can upgrade to i5 Sandy Bridge / Ivy Bridge.

Though, the FM2 socket can use next-gen AMD APU when they come out.

In terms of gaming performance, A10 alone should provide playable FPS with medium settings in most games. Pentium requires Radeon HD 6570 to match A10's -stock- performance.

A10-5800k can do a Dual Graphics (Hybrid CrossFireX) with a Radeon HD 6670 graphics card, which should give it a performance roughly just below GTX 650 Ti / HD 6870. This will require a A75 / A85X motherboard chipset.

Note that AMD APU's built-in GPU performance depends on the RAM speed. If you buy an AMD APU system, always pair it up with fastest RAM supported by the motherboard, and of course, your budget.

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As before, recommendation here changes depending on whether you will upgrade your CPU or not.

Although I recommended A10 above, you can also consider A8.

- If you will not upgrade the CPU...: AMD A10-5800k @ $125
(Alternatively, you can also take the cheaper AMD A8-5600k instead)

- OR -

- If you will upgrade the CPU to i5...: Intel Pentium G2020 @ $65

As with A6, A10 does not require a graphics card (Pentium system requires one), and with good overclock, it can certainly outdo a Pentium system.

Once again, if you don't plan to upgrade the CPU, do not buy the Pentium chip! Also, you should keep in mind that Intel changes motherboard sockets every new generation (not sub-generation, IE) Sandy -> Ivy), which means unless if you will upgrade within a Tick-Tock cycle, you would be forced to buy a new motherboard just to upgrade.
** Mainstream CPU - CPUs here will give you a great baseline gaming performance in most cases, without breaking your budget.

The i3-3220 and FX-6300 trade blows depending on how well multithreaded a program is. For applications and games where it doesn't really use more than two cores, i3-3220 will eke out a win. For others, FX-6300 will take a clear lead. For World of WarCraft, i3-3220 is expected to have a slight lead.

However, there's one factor that can throw i3's advantage out: FX-6300 can be overclocked, and i3 cannot. Through overclocking, whatever lead i3 had would become only a few FPS difference to none.

Due to that reason, there's no real reason to buy an i3-3220 unless:

1) You hate the idea of having to overclock
2) You want to minimize the cost involved (i3-3220 system is good deal cheaper)
3) You want to minimize the power consumption (FX-6300 does eat a lot more power)
4) You won't ever play latest games that utilize more than 2 cores on a CPU

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- Recommended: AMD FX-6300 (Vishera) @ $135

- Alternatively, ONLY AND ONLY IF you fall into one of the exceptions listed above: Intel i3-3220 @ $125
** Best Gaming CPU - These are considered the top of the line when it comes to gaming CPU without having to sell your kidney.

Recommendation will depend on your budget and willingness to overclock.

** Bracket 1: CPUs just below $200

If you refuse to overclock your CPU, Ivy Bridge i5 non-OC CPUs such as i5-3470 is recommended.

If you will overclock your CPU, AMD FX-8320 is recommended.

- Recommended: AMD FX-8320 (Vishera) @ $175 -OR- Intel i5-3470 @ $190

You can also consider AMD FX-8350 for ~$20 more, but I don't think it is worth your money considering you can overclock the FX-8320 just the same.
** Bracket 2: CPUs about $250

No contest. Since AMD's only saving grace against Intel was the ability to overclock... and i5-3570k can overclock...

For most games, including WoW, this is the most expensive CPU you will ever need. You do not need i7 whatsoever for WoW, LoL, and other simple games.

- Recommended: Intel i5-3570k @ $225
** Bracket 3: CPUs about $350 (OPTIONAL)

This option should only be taken by gamers that intend to also play latest and greatest 3D games like Crysis 3, and that you will also extensively play the multiplayer portion of said game.

- Recommended: Intel i7-3770k @ $325
** Bracket 4: Who gives a crap about the money? (OPTIONAL)

Like above, only buy this if you apply to the above requirement, AND money is ABSOLUTELY not an issue whatsoever. Reason being: Unless games you play are truly multithreaded well, most games on i7-3930k will run identical to significantly cheaper i5 series.

The i7-3930k, known as Sandy Bridge-E, requires X79 motherboard chipset. These will not install nor run on any other motherboard!!!.

- Recommended: Intel i7-3930k @ $565
Edited by Kalganized on 5/6/2013 6:00 AM PDT
90 Blood Elf Paladin
8895
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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. They are considered best bang for the buck -- not too expensive, but doesn't perform bad either.

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. Due to the success of NH-D14, there are other similar products made by different companies; they should work generally as well as an NH-D14, but look for the reviews before you buy one.

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.

Therefore, if you were to get a closed-loop liquid cooling setup, I would recommend Corsair H80i (or its equivalent, price-wise) at least.

You must be very careful if you choose to buy a radiator larger than 140mm -- coolers like Corsair H100i won't fit in most typical cases, so do your research before you buy the case.

Interestingly enough, most of these will use either CoolIt or Asetek OEM designs -- you probably have figured out something is amiss when most of these closed-loop liquid coolers have a same design.

Some of the brands that produce closed-loop setup includes:

Corsair (Hydro series)
Antec (Kuhler series)
Thermaltake (Water series)
Zalman (LQ series)
NZXT (Kracken series)

Out of those, these products are generally recommended by many:

Corsair's H110, H90
Thermaltake Water 2.0 Performer
NZXT's Kraken X60
Zalman LQ320

Note Corsair H110 requires a compatible case, as does Kraken X60.

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* Motherboard *

Another crucial part for the PC, but at the same time, can vary greatly based on the features you need.

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.

Note: All motherboards are ATX form factor, unless otherwise noted.

=== AMD Motherboards ===

Warning: FM2-socket motherboards ONLY support second generation APUs (Trinity) from AMD! It does NOT support mainstream Phenoms, nor Zambezi / Vishera! FM2-socket also does NOT support first generation APUs (Llano)! Likewise, FM1-socket does NOT support Trinity!

Second Warning: Many cheapo AM3+ motherboards will not have support for Vishera CPUs. Ensure your motherboard does by checking out vendor's website, and looking for CPU compatibility list for that motherboard.

** FM2-based Motherboards: There are three distinct chipsets for FM2 (Trinity) APUs.

First is the A55 chipset, the cheapest of the lot. It is pretty barren, doesn't even have native SATA III nor USB 3.0 support. It is not likely to have great OC capacity either. I would honestly wouldn't bother with these unless you are aiming to build cheap HTPC with minimal gaming capacity.

Second is A75 chipset. This chipset has SATA III and USB 3.0 support. Some of these models come with good OC capacity too. This is what I would recommend for most Trinity builders.

Third is the A85X chipset. In addition to above, it has gives you few more ports, RAID support, and most important addition being, ability to support Tri-/Quad-CrossFireX setup (APU + 2/3 PCI-E 16x slots, 8x/8x/4x when running Quad-CrossFireX setup including the APU's GPU). Overkill for sure.

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Because I assume you will OC (you have to!), I will not recommend any lower-end FM2 motherboards. If you are trying to make a budget HTPC / cheap gaming PC without intent to play it at high settings, you can consider cheaper ones.

All A85X motherboards have 8-pin CPU power receptacle, however, not all A75 motherboards do. Whatever A75 motherboard you decide to go with, it must have 8-pin CPU power receptacle. If it only comes with 4-pin, do not buy it, as it will be severely limited in OC.

- Budget FM2: ASRock FM2A75 Pro4-M (MicroATX) @ $75

- Performance FM2: These boards are geared for extreme OC more or less. They will all be found at around $100 or above. Examples of these boards include:

ASRock FM2A85X Extreme6 @ $110
Biostar Hi-Fi A85W @ $95

I will note that Trinity APU hit 7.3 GHz (LN) overclock on that Biostar motherboard.
** AM3+-based Motherboards: With the recommendation of AMD FX Vishera CPUs, I finally get to tell you about AM3+ motherboards.

As you know by now, AMD CPUs need to be overclocked to flex their muscles. Overclocking means you need a quality board -- which naturally leads to getting AMD's top-end chipset offerings.

So, AM3+ motherboard chipset lineup description is unnecessary. It all boils down to the following chipset -- The 990FX, or 970. Due to the OC requirement, you're looking at spending at least $100 with AMD motherboards. This cannot be helped -- unless you absolutely refuse to OC AND do not want to buy an Intel CPU.

Isn't that simple? :D

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You are required to pick up an 970 motherboard at minimum -- and one that OCs well too. Read the reviews to find out. There is no other option.

- Recommended 970 Motherboard: Any reputable 970 motherboard with Vishera support, with 8-pin CPU power plug with good enough OC facility (namely, how many phases). Examples of these boards include:

ASRock 970 Extreme4 @ $100
Gigabyte GA-970A-UD3 @ $105

- Budget 990FX Motherboard: Any 990FX motherboard with 16x / 8x PCI-E 2.0 speed when set to CrossFireX / SLi mode. Examples of these boards include:

MSI 990FXA-GD65V2 @ $120
ASRock 990FX Extreme4 @ $145

- Performance 990FX Motherboard: This board is pretty much it when it comes to OCing like mad on AM3+ platform. You don't really need to look further.

ASUS Sabertooth 990FX R2 @ $180

=== Intel Motherboards ===

Small tip: If you live near a MicroCenter, they often hold specials where buying an appropriate i5 with appropriate motherboard would give you a big discount. This changes occasionally, so check to make sure which models are valid for this discount.

Current Intel consumer motherboard chipset lineups are as follows (listed in order of cheapest to most expensive). Deprecated / redundant chipsets are not listed, even though they are considered "current".

First, H61 is the cheapest chipset, totally barren of any features. No SATA III, no USB 3.0, no CrossFireX / SLi, no overclocking, no nothing. Not recommended -at all- unless you want to stay with Intel no matter what + budget is very limited.

Second is B75 / H77 chipset. Identical to H61, but adds the SATA III and USB 3.0 support. These boards are what I would recommend to builders that won't overclock, nor bother with CrossFireX / SLi. B75 boards tend to be cheaper than H77, and you lose nothing worthwhile by going with B75, so pick out the cheapest (or close to) B75 motherboard. Due to no OC facility, if you are willing to overclock, you would be better off with an AM3+ build with Vishera CPUs instead.

Third is Z77 chipset. These are considered "mainstream", and in addition to above, these chipsets support CrossFireX / SLi (cheapest models have gimped speed however), faster / more RAM, more SATA III ports, and most importantly, ability to overclock "unlocked" Intel CPUs. More expensive models primarily support tri/quad GPU setups, and fancier features like mSATA port, FireWire, Intel Ethernet port, and all that.

There's Z75 but these are teamkilled by the Z77 chipset-based motherboards, which don't really cost all that much but supports much more stuff.

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Having said all that, Intel builds do have more options compared to AMD, but also, Intel motherboards have clear cut limitations and restrictions. So, choose carefully... Here are my recommendations for each family:

- H61 Motherboard: NOT recommended unless you want to stay with Intel, AND budget is limited. In that case - ASRock H61M-DGS (MicroATX) @ $45

- B75 / H77 Motherboard: Any MicroATX B75 / H77 board costing below $70. As mentioned, if you are willing to overclock, you will be better off with an AM3+ + Vishera CPU combo.

- Z77 (DUAL-CrossFireX / SLi): Any Z77 board with 8x / 8x PCI-E 16x speed when set to CrossFireX / SLi mode. Examples of these boards include:

MSI Z77A-G45 @ $105
ASRock Z77 Extreme3 @ $125
GIGABYTE GA-Z77MX-D3H (MicroATX) @ $120
MSI Z77A-GD55 @ $120
ASRock Z77 Extreme4 @ $135
BIOSTAR TZ77XE4 @ $135

- Z77 (TRI-CrossFireX / SLi): Any Z77 board with 8x / 8x / 4x(8x) PCI-E 3.0 16x speed when set to CrossFireX / SLi mode. Examples of these boards include:

MSI Z77A-GD65 @ $155
GIGABYTE GA-Z77X-UP4 TH @ $180

- Z77 (QUAD-CrossFireX / SLi): Any Z77 board with 8x / 8x / 8x / 4x(8x) PCI-E 3.0 16x speed when set to CrossFireX / SLi mode. Examples of these boards include:

ASRock Z77 Extreme9 @ $300

Warning: Following motherboard's form factor is Extended ATX. Most typical computer cases are not compatible with this form factor! Ensure your case has Extended ATX compatibility.

Gigabyte G1.Sniper 3 Z77 (Extended ATX) @ $260
ASUS Maximus V EXTREME Z77 (Extended ATX) @ $370


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* RAM *

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

- RAM's price is primarily decided by the RAM's rated speed (DDR3-1600, 1866, etc), RAM kit amount (2x 4GB, 2x 8GB, etc), and finally, RAM's timing (9-9-9-21, 8-8-8-20, etc). Faster the RAM is, higher the RAM amount is, and smaller (or tighter) the RAM timing is, the more expensive they will be.

- 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.

- When buying, ensure that RAM operates at 1.5v for maximum stability. You can however, go for lower voltage ones, but they usually cost more.

- 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. So don't shy from a naked one when you are putting together a budget build.

- Check your motherboard for their RAM support. Generally, there's not much gain to be had in performance with RAM speed faster than DDR3-1600.

- For FM2-based APUs, faster RAM means faster integrated APU's GPU speed. You should always buy the fastest RAM available for your motherboard if you are buying an AMD APU.

- 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.
Edited by Kalganized on 3/3/2013 6:50 PM PST
90 Blood Elf Paladin
8895
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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 7750 (which is still a VERY capable graphics card). 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 "overclock friendly" graphics card brands include:

- MSi TwinFrozr, Lightning
- EVGA Classified
- HIS IceQ, IceQ X, IceQ^2
- Sapphire Toxic, Vapor-X
- ASUS DirectCU II, Matrix, Ares
- Gigabyte WindForce
- Zotac AMP!
- PowerColor PCS+
etc...

Graphics cards require a certain level of power supply wattage, so I recommended them here alongside the graphics card. The recommendation is actually more than what the card + system actually needs, but it gives you some headroom with overclocks or other components. You can probably get a ~50W lower power supplies and still be fine.

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...

That said, here is the guide!

** Cheapest Possible Without Killing Performance - The Radeon HD 7750s have become lot more cheaper than it used to be, while the HD 6670 has barely changed at all.

Due to this, the cheapest card you should get now has changed to the Radeon HD 7750 -- they can be found as low as $80. The GTX 650s remain bit more pricey. Therefore, no longer recommended alongside the HD 7750.

Note that you can find some cheaper HD 7750s, but be wary -- they contain DDR3 VRAM!!!

Recommended:
- Radeon HD 7750 (GDDR5) @ $95
** Budget - GeForce GTX 650 Tis have finally received price reduction. This means that now, instead of the Radeon HD 7770, you should get the GTX 650 Ti as they now cost about the same as an HD 7770.

You can still find few HD 7770s for cheaper than a GTX 650 Ti, some drastically cheaper. In that case, you can go for the HD 7770 in order to save $. Sacrifice some performance, but save some serious amount of dough.

The Radeon HD 7790 was put out quickly to combat the GTX 650 Ti, and performance-wise, the HD 7790 does well... but price-wise, not.

No brainer here as to which is obviously the better deal.

Recommended:
- GeForce GTX 650 Ti @ $120
- (Optional) Radeon HD 7770, only if it's significantly cheaper vs. GTX 650 Ti

Accompanying power supply wattage: 450W
** Best Perf/Price Card For Most Gamers - The new Radeon HD 7790 is already beaten by the cheaper GeForce GTX 650 Ti.

So the competition for the GTX 650 Ti Boost is the Radeon HD 7850... and unfortunately, the price-competitor HD 7850s have 1GB of VRAM while 650 Ti Boost comes with 2GB mostly.

Then the answer is clear as to which card wins this battle.

Recommended:
- GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost @ $175

Accompanying power supply wattage: 500W / 650W for SLi
** Entry Mid-Range Graphics Cards - I'm sure some users have some more $ to spend than $180 for a graphics card, but not $240 for one.

Then you have only one choice to fulfill your needs -- The GeForce GTX 660.

Formerly, this card had a terrible performance/value ratio (it doesn't beat Radeon HD 7870 and yet cost more than it) initially, but the recent price drop has made it a very attractive choice.

Performance-wise, it is about the same as the Radeon HD 7870. However, the GTX 660s are much cheaper now (other than oddball HD 7870 cards selling very cheap).

So if you want to spend about $200 for a graphics card, look no further than a GTX 660.

Recommended:
- GeForce GTX 660 @ $200

Accompanying power supply wattage: 500W, 650W for SLi
** Best Bang for the Buck @ Mid-Range Arena -

The Radeon HD 7870 XT continues to reign as the best bang for the buck without costing an arm and a leg.

nVidia continues to have no answer for this freak of a nature -- the GTX 660 is hopelessly outgunned by the HD 7870 XT, and while GTX 660 Ti offers a good competition for this card, they cost a lot more than this card usually.

Then there's the overclocking factor. With it, the HD 7870 XT not only beats the HD 7950, it can come pretty damn close to stock HD 7970 performance.

Seeing all that, this card has no faults more or less.

Warning: Despite the naming (HD 7870 XT), these cards do NOT CrossFireX with HD 78xx series! You can, however, do so with HD 79xx series.

Recommended:
- Radeon HD 7870 XT (Tahiti LE) @ $240

Accompanying power supply wattage: 550W, 750W for CrossFireX
** Between Mid-Range and Top-End - I realize some people want something more than what the HD 7870 XT offers, but don't want to shell out $400 for a top graphics card.

In this case, you can go with either Radeon HD 7950 or GeForce GTX 670. Much like the HD 7850 vs. GTX 650 Ti Boost, a similar situation can be observed here:

Radeon HD 7950 is often a good deal cheaper than the GeForce GTX 670. Consequently, the GeForce GTX 670 is ahead of Radeon HD 7950. So you can go with the card that fits your budget limitation and desired performance.

One difference that can tip this in favor of the AMD card is that while 99% of Kepler (GeForce 600 series) are voltage locked, and thus, not overclock friendly, most of AMD cards are not locked. This means, the Radeon HD 7950 could be overclocked to overtake GTX 670 without much effort. So, if you are an overclocker, go with a Radeon HD 7950. If you are not, the GTX 670 would be the best deal.

Do watch out for the price on that GTX 670 though. Many of these will cost too close to Radeon HD 7970.

Recommended:
Either. Get one that fits your budget, AND whether you overclock or not.
The Radeon HD 7950s can be found at around $300. The GeForce GTX 670 is around $340.

Accompanying power supply wattage: 450W (GeForce GTX 670) / 550W (Radeon HD7950)
** High-End Best Bang for the Buck Single-GPU Graphics Card - nVidia is trying to make up for the loss of GTX 680 sales with the "new" GTX 770.

Although it's named GTX 770, it has nothing in common with its bigger brother, the GTX 780, in that while GTX 780 is made with a gimped GeForce TITAN core, the GTX 770 is made with slightly improved GTX 680 core instead.

So effectively, the GTX 770 is in reality, a GTX 680 with faster VRAM, and a new GPU boost tech.

The performance (and surprisingly enough for nVidia) and the price matches the HD 7970 GHz Edition. Therefore, I can now recommend either GTX 770 or the HD 7970 depending on your preference.

The GTX 770 has PhysX, and tends to run cooler and quieter than the HD 7970.
The HD 7970 tends to be slightly cheaper, and they all have the Never Settle gaming bundle.

If you've wanted to play the games offered by the Never Settle bundle, you may be much better off with the HD 7970. If you already have these games, or don't care about them at all (and don't want to put in the effort to sell the game code), you might prefer the GTX 770 instead.

Make your choice. Either way, you can't go wrong.

Recommended:
- Radeon HD 7970 (Standard) / GeForce GTX 770 @ ~$400

Accompanying power supply wattage: 550W, 750W for CrossFireX / SLi
** What about the GTX 780 / GeForce Titan?! - The GeForce GTX 780 certainly performs very well for how much it costs -- it can come pretty close to Titan performance for much less too, with good OC thrown in.

However, with such a performance, you are going to pay a lot for just a graphics card.

If I had to choose between the GTX 780 and the Titan, I'd go with the GTX 780 instead. Only benefit the Titan has is the superior GPGPU capacity, but even then, if you needed a good GPGPU performance out of your graphics card, you'd have bought the Radeon HD 7970 instead.

Anyway, seeing the performance of these two titanic beasts, the correct audience for these cards are:

1. Those with tons of disposable money who wants best of the best without any considerations whatsoever taken on the value/performance ratio

2. Those who run multi-monitor setups, or driving a very high-resolution monitor

3. Those who run the absolute latest and most demanding 3D games and needs them to run at maximum settings with all the fancy anti-aliasing turned way up

For the rest of us, a card like GTX 780 / Titan is a severe overkill that won't provide you with a better gaming experience over, say, the HD 7870 LE, or the GTX 660 Ti.

Up to you though.
** But I want to know what to buy, GTX 690 or HD 7990! - Fine, fine...

The winner between two gigantic behemoths aren't exactly clear cut. Consider the following pluses of each card.

Note the HD 7990 is NOT referring to earlier released HD 7970 X2 or other freak variants that vendors put out on their own. This HD 7990 is an official AMD product.

GeForce GTX 690:

* Pluses:
- Most games will run flawlessly out of the box
- Design is much more attractive (if looks matter to you)
- Eats less power
- Has much more stable frame rendering without having to be tweaked

* Minuses:
- Can't OC. Voltage lock etc. Natch.
- VRAM limit hurts anti-aliasing performance with multi-monitor gaming

Radeon HD 7990:

* Pluses:
- If supported properly, always beats the GTX 690
- Actually runs a bit cooler than the GTX 690
- Higher VRAM amount than the GTX 690. This is very crucial with multi-monitor gaming
- You can OC. With more exotic cooling, push it even further with voltage tweaking

* Minuses:
- If NOT supported properly, performance can be poor to disastrous, to not working at all
- Frame rendering lag. However, latest beta drivers show huge improvement in this arena

Seeing these, pick and choose what matters the most to you, and decide for yourself which card suits your tastes better.

Note both cards require a beefy power supply. Don't pair this up with wimpy 500W power supply -- expect at least 750W.
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.

AMD CrossFireX was plagued with microstuttering problem pretty bad for a long time, but latest beta version of RadeonPro (can be found at Guru3D forums) can alleviate this to near perfection. So, unlike in the past, you can finally choose to go with either CrossFireX or SLi -- and without microstuttering in the way, CrossFireX would be a better choice due to higher VRAM bandwidth + amount since multi-GPU setups often power a multi-monitor gaming setup.
Edited by Kalganized on 5/31/2013 6:45 AM PDT
90 Blood Elf Paladin
8895
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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. However, if you're a thrift user and don't use more than 100GB, for example, you could potentially use SSD as the sole drive in your system.

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.

To reuse them, they must be in a standard form factor, AND use SATA interface. If they use old IDE interface, they can't be reused.

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

- 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).

- 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.

- Both Seagate and Western Digital drives have more expensive models. They aren't really designed for consumer consumption, so I wouldn't really bother with them. I specifically am referring to Seagate Constellation / WD RE models.

- Some hard drives (like Seagate Momentus) come in 2.5" shape. You don't want these.

** Here are the general tips for the SSD:

- 120/128GB is the sweet spot of SSD you should buy. Smaller SSDs have performance penalty, and thus, not recommended. Up until 240/256GB, SSDs retain decent price per GB ratio, but beyond that, the price tends to rapidly inflate.

- If an SSD seems too cheap to be true, it's usually because they use old tech. You do not want these.

- Here are the recommended SSD brands:

- OCZ Vertex 4 (Marvell-based, Indilinx firmware)
- Corsair Neutron GTX (LAMD-based)
- Samsung 830 / 840 (Custom)
- OCZ Vector (Custom) (Second fastest too!)
- Plextor M5 Pro (Marvell-based) (Second fastest)
- Samsung 840 Pro (Custom) (Currently fastest drive, also very expensive)

... Nowadays, you can pick almost any and it should be OK, but these listed here are one of the fastest SSDs on the market.

- SSDs usually come with a Marvell or a SandForce controller. SandForce is known for their speed, but their second generation controllers had caught a lot of flack for being unstable / not working right. Marvell drives are known for being generally, reliable and still performing well enough. Some SSDs come with their own firmware/controller setup, IE) Samsung SSDs.

- Some of the SSD packages come with screws, a bracket, and a SATA cable (Intel 520). Some come with less accessories (Corsair Performance Pro), and some come with just the SSD (Crucial m4). Be mindful of this when you buy an SSD.

- 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 (unless it's older generation SSDs).

- 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.

- SSD firmware makes a rather big difference in maintaining speed and reliability of the drive. Because of this, before you proceed with installing Windows on the SSD, update the firmware on the SSD if there is one for yours. You should continue to update it whenever possible, especially if you use a SandForce-based SSD.

- Always do a fresh install of Windows 7 / 8 on the SSD. This is because Windows 7 / 8 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, you can elect to fix Windows swap file (virtual memory) to fixed size (1GB~2GB) to the mechanical hard drive, but this isn't required.

- To further save on writing cycles, assign Windows temporary folders to a hard drive, change where your web browser stores cache / cookies. Doing those two alone will significantly save on the writing cycles of your SSD.

- Never run any "SSD optimizers" nor "SSD defragmentation software" of any kind except ones supplied by the vendor of the SSD. These are not necessary and in fact, will hurt your SSD. However, Windows 8's default defragmentation program is now called "Disk Optimizer", and it is OK to leave it to "optimize" the SSD. It knows what it's doing, so do not worry.

- Leave Windows 7 / 8 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.

- Avoid using any disk eraser tools on the SSD, except when selling the SSD to someone else in some way.

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

* 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: It's been a while since I updated this section. With advent of many motherboards coming with onboard USB 3.0 connector, HAF 912 is definitely showing its age.

Now, I would only recommend cases that has at least 2 USB 3.0 connectors at front, and the honor to best recommended this time, goes to CoolerMaster Storm Enforcer.

- CoolerMaster Storm Enforcer @ $80

It is bit on a garish side, I suppose.

If you want any other cases instead, that is your choice, as usual, but ensure: Air flow, ease of use, SSD bracket, front panel USB 3.0 availability, and ability to hold long graphics cards.

Here are some of other well-known case manufacturers:

- Antec
- NZXT
- CoolerMaster
- ThermalTake
- Silverstone
- AZZA
- Corsair
- Rosewill (budget)
- HEC (budget)
- Lian Li (pricey premium)
etc...

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

* OS *

If you do not own a copy of Windows 7 or Vista 64-bit, it's time to move to a modern age. Windows 8 Professional can be bought right now for $15 / $45 until January 2013.

If you hate Windows 8's default UI, install Start8 or Classic Start to revert the UI to Windows 7 style.

There's absolutely zero reason to buy Windows 7 as Windows 8 also performs better a little.

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 / 8 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 8. 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 1/3/2013 5:23 PM PST
90 Blood Elf Paladin
8895
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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+).

Recently, Korean monitors have been making a splash with foreign users with their 27" 1440p IPS monitors that cost fraction of what other major players in US wants them at. Although buying them means you won't really have warranty support, but considering their price (~$300) vs. the cost Dell, HP, Apple etc. wants for 27" 1440p monitors ($1000), it's a gamble worth considering.

The best part about it is, they aren't using some cheap IPS panels -- they are using exact same LG IPS panels in use by $1000 monitors that Dell, HP, Apple etc. is also using.

If you are interested in that, look into Yamakasi Catleap.

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

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

* Keyboard, Mouse, Speakers *

Casual gamers should be fine with a $20 mouse and keyboard. Hardcore gamers that make use of extra macro keys and such should invest more money.

Mouse? Up to you. Fancier ones have more macro keys you can make use of.

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.

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. Mechanical keyboards use mechanical switches that will give you much better experience with your keyboard over typical $10 keyboards using membrane switches.

The most popular mechanical switch type is the Cherry MX switches. Most mechanical keyboards you can buy (made for gamers) will feature one of those Cherry MX switches. Cherry MX switches come in 5 flavors, each with different actuation point, force required, and noise made:

* Black: Made for "gaming", requires most force to press down to register. Linear, does not make audible click when it is registered. Some people complain about fatigue after a while due to requiring more force to register the key, but some people love it because it's the closest to what they are used to with cheapo membrane keyboards.
* Red: Made for "gaming", is basically Black, but requires lot less force to register the keys. This is one of the more popular switch type for gamer keyboards.
* Brown: Made to be usable for both "gaming" and "typing". These keyboards make audible click when key is registered, so you know exactly how much force you needed to register the key. They are usually considered best type of switch for gamers that don't game a lot and wants to have feedback when they type.
* Blue: Made to be a typist's switch. They make the loudest noise when the key is registered. They also require a little more force than the Brown switches in order to register. It depends wholly on a person as to whether they like Blues or not. Some "gamer" keyboards have Blue switches, like BlackWidow series.
* Clear: It's in-between Blue and Brown switch, but this switch is very rare.

Of course, Cherry MX isn't the only type of mechanical switches available. There are others, such as Alps and such. There's even old IBM Model M-style buckeye spring-type keyboards. But suffice to say, Cherry MX is more or less "the switch" to go for the most.

Other companies are also making mechanical keyboards nowadays. Some of these include: CoolerMaster, Rosewill, and few others. Lesser known, but held in high regards include Ducky, Filco, Das Keyboards, and more.
Edited by Kalganized on 11/17/2012 1:54 PM PST
90 Blood Elf Paladin
8895
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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
- Second-generation Intel Sandy Bridge i-series CPU, such as i3-2120, i5-2500k, i7-2600k
- Second-generation Intel Sandy Bridge-based Pentiums
- 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:
- Second Generation AMD FX "Piledriver" (Vishera) CPU, such as FX-8350
- First generation AMD FX "Bulldozer" (Zambezi) CPU, such as FX-8150
- Phenom II CPU, such as Phenom II X4 955 BE, Phenom II X6 960T

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 600 models, of sub-model 650 or above.
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.

=== Upgrade Checklist! ===

So your system doesn't meet the requirements above, and you want to upgrade (not get a whole new PC). So what do you need?

- Minimum required parts:

* CPU: Well, duh, right? :) Refer to the first post of this guide for which CPU to get.

* Graphics card: Since this assumes the above requirements, it's time to get a new one. Refer to the graphics card / power supply guide few posts above.

- Required for the most part:

* Motherboard: If you own an Intel CPU, then 100% guaranteed you will need a new motherboard. Intel is terrible with playing with new sockets every new generation.

However! If you are an AMD user -- and you are using AM2+ at least (Plain AM2 does not apply!), you can simply upgrade the CPU only (Athlon II / Phenom II only, provided BIOS supports it), but you will have to look through used shops finding old AM2+ compatible Phenom IIs. While you can do this, since AM2+ is likely using DDR2 RAM, it's recommended to just get a new Intel CPU + motherboard combination, unless money is very short.

AM3? You can potentially upgrade up to Piledriver / Steamroller CPUs (if motherboard provides necessary BIOS).

AM3+, you're home free for quite some time -- as they support current Athlon II, Phenom II, AMD FX (Bulldozer, Piledriver AND expected to also support Steamroller with BIOS update).

In conclusion: Intel sucks.

- Required sometimes:

* RAM: If your system uses DDR or DDR2 RAM, you NEED to buy a DDR3 RAM provided you are also replacing the motherboard.

* Power supply: If it's too old or weak, it's as good time as any, but if you aren't intending to get a new graphics card (or it has already been replaced with a quality power supply), what you have now may be fine for the time being.

* Case: If your case is propriety design from major companies, and won't fit standard power supplies or motherboards, you will need a new one.

- Generally not required:

* Sound card: You can either keep using what you own, or use the onboard sound.

* Hard drive: You can keep using this as long as it does not exhibit any problems, AND is SATA-based, standard form factor.

* DVD drive: Likewise as above.

- What about Windows? Wouldn't upgrading CPU+Motherboard screw it over?

If your copy of Windows is from HP, Dell, and other major shops who never give you the actual Windows DVD itself, then yes: Upgrading CPU+Motherboard has a very high chance of screwing you over. Because of this, if you own a HP, Dell, or major shop PC, back up all your crucial data, buy a copy of Windows 7 64-bit Home Premium, then do a fresh install.

Otherwise, proceed as normal.
Edited by Kalganized on 11/2/2012 1:17 PM PDT
90 Blood Elf Paladin
8895
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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

Remember: These prices do not factor in - rebates, OS, or accessories like monitor, keyboard, mouse, etc.

Here you go:

** Special Build: Set it and Forget it! AMD Trinity Build

This build is for users who want to just build a PC then forget about it (of course, you still have to manually tweak and OC this). Just about the only upgrade you can do for it is an SSD / a Radeon graphics card for Dual Graphics option.

It has a DDR3-2133 RAM because you want to maximize APU's built-in graphics. DDR3-2133 is a perfect choice as it's not too expensive, and yet best performance given per dollar. You can drop down to DDR3-1866 if you want, and that's the slowest RAM I'd take for a Trinity build.

400W power supply is for Dual Graphics support. Pair it up with Radeon HD 6670, and you can easily beat pretty much all budget Intel systems that use Pentiums and Celerons.

CPU: AMD A10-5800k
CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper 212+ EVO
Motherboard: Any A75/A85 based motherboard, strongly recommending OC-friendly ones
RAM: Any 2 x 4GB RAM while keeping my notes (DDR3-2133+)
Power Supply: ~400W rated 80 Plus Bronze certified power supply
Hard Drive: Cheap 500GB or -smaller- if you are fine with it.
DVD Drive: Cheap DVD burner
Case: Cheap ATX mid-tower case, but must support tall CPU tower coolers and have at least 2 fans

Example build: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/uBsr

Estimated cost: ~$475
Estimated FPS in WoW: ~30

** Build 0: Absolute MAXIMUM CHEAPEST Build

Warning: Take this build ONLY and ONLY IF you will upgrade the CPU down the road. If not, take the above Trinity build.

CPU: Celeron G1610
Motherboard: ASRock H61M-DGS
RAM: Any 2 x 4GB RAM while keeping my notes (DDR3-1600, 1.5v)
Graphics: Radeon HD 7750 (GDDR5)
Power Supply: Corsair Builder 430W V2
Hard Drive: Cheap 500GB or -smaller- if you are fine with it.
DVD Drive: Cheap DVD burner
Case: Cheap ATX mid-tower case with at least 1 fan

Example Build: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/VoiW

Estimated cost: ~$415
Estimated FPS in WoW: ~30

** Build 1: Tight Budget Build

Warning: Take this build ONLY and ONLY IF you will upgrade the CPU down the road. If not, take the above Trinity build.

CPU: Pentium G2020
Motherboard: Any B75 motherboard
RAM: Any 2 x 4GB RAM while keeping my notes (DDR3-1600, 1.5v)
Graphics: Radeon HD 7770 / GeForce GTX 650 Ti (if you can spare extra $)
Power Supply: ~450W rated 80 Plus Bronze certified power supply
Hard Drive: Cheap 500GB
DVD Drive: Cheap DVD burner
Case: Cheap ATX mid-tower case with at least 2 fans

Example Build: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/Vojl

Estimated cost: ~$455
Estimated FPS in WoW: ~40

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

CPU: AMD FX-6300
CPU Cooler: CoolerMaster Hyper 212+, or EVO, or above if wanted
Motherboard: Any 970 / 990FX motherboard, recommending great OC board
RAM: Any 2 x 4GB RAM while keeping my notes (DDR3-1600)
Graphics: GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost 2GB
Power Supply: ~500W rated 80 Plus Bronze certified power supply
SSD: Optional, recommending 120/128GB budget SSDs
Hard Drive: Cheap 1TB drive
DVD Drive: Cheap DVD burner
Case: CoolerMaster Storm Enforcer or similar mid-tower case with at least 2 fans

Example Build: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/Ud5M

Estimated cost: ~$740
+SSD cost if you choose to add an SSD.
Estimated FPS in WoW: ~50+

** Build 3: Give me a pretty good system just under 1k

Note: If you want the capacity to run SLi / CrossFireX with the Intel i5 CPU, you will have to upgrade the motherboard to one of the recommended Z77 motherboards.

Note: Many motherboards only come with 2 SATA cables, and some SSDs do not come with an extra SATA cable. Check the motherboard and SSD content details, and ensure you have enough SATA cables.

CPU: (Intel) i5-3330 / i5-3450 / i5-3470 (Get cheapest one) / (AMD) AMD FX-8320
CPU Cooler: (AMD) CoolerMaster Hyper 212+, or EVO, or above if wanted
Motherboard: (Intel) Any B75 motherboard / (AMD) Any 970 / 990FX motherboard (OC Friendly)
RAM: Any 2 x 4GB RAM while keeping my notes (DDR3-1600, 1.5v)
Graphics: Radeon HD 7870 XT 2GB
Power Supply: PC Power and Cooling Silencer MK III 500W or other similar power supplies
SSD: Any of the 120/128GB performance-based SSDs
Hard Drive: 1TB or above if wanted
DVD Drive: Cheap DVD burner
Case: CoolerMaster Storm Enforcer or similar mid-tower case with at least 2 fans

(Intel) Example Build: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/MFio
(AMD) Example Build: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/MFjt

Estimated cost: (Intel) ~$905 ~ +++ / (AMD) ~$955~ +++
Estimated FPS in WoW: ~55+

** Build 4: Yay overkill!

Note: This build assumes you will overclock the CPU. If you will not, replace CPU with i5-3330, and don't buy the CPU cooler. Motherboard can be kept if you NEED SLi/CrossFireX. Otherwise, get a B75 motherboard.

Note: Many motherboards only come with 2 SATA cables, and some SSDs do not come withi an extra SATA cable. Check the motherboard and SSD content details, and ensure you have enough SATA cables.

Note: i5-3570k can be swapped with i7-3770k if you want the best possible performance from latest 3D game's multiplayer portion. i7-3930k will require an X79 chipset-based motherboard, not Z77.

Example build assumes you will overclock.

CPU: i5-3570k
CPU Cooler: CoolerMaster Hyper 212+, or EVO, or above if wanted
Motherboard: Any of the recommended Z77 motherboards
RAM: Any 2 x 4GB RAM while keeping my notes (DDR3-1600, 1.5v)
Graphics: Radeon HD 7970 -OR- GeForce GTX 770
Power Supply: PC Power and Cooling Silencer MK III 600W or above if wanted
SSD: Any of the 256GB (or bigger) performance-based SSDs
Hard Drive: 1TB or above if wanted
DVD Drive: Cheap DVD Burner
Case: CoolerMaster Storm Enforcer or above

Example Build: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/MFki
(Example has HD 7970; change it with a GTX 770 if you want that instead)

Estimated cost: ~$1340 ~ +++
Estimated FPS: Do we really need to say this?
Edited by Kalganized on 5/31/2013 6:45 AM PDT
90 Blood Elf Paladin
8895
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* 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 - You can find some AMD A-Series based laptops at this level. They are not going to come with mind-blowing graphics or fast RAM, but they will be the best performer in games in this budget bracket.

Don't confuse AMD A-Series with their gimpy E-Series version!
Don't bother with any Intel offerings at this budget range either.

Example)
ASUS K Series with A8-4500M (Trinity)
http://www.bestbuy.com/site/Asus+-+K-Series+15.6%26%2334%3B+Laptop+-+4GB+Memory+-+500GB+Hard+Drive+-+Indigo/Light+Indigo/6940249.p?id=1218816101846&skuId=6940249&st=asus%20k%20series&cp=1&lp=1

** Budget range up to $500 ~ $650 - Here, you will see high-end AMD A-Series Trinity APUs alongside Intel i5s with GT 630M graphics.

You will also see laptops with DDR3-1333 RAM, rather than 1066. Sometimes, you can find ones with DDR3-1600 even. With AMD A-Series, it's paramount that you get the fastest RAM available as the integrated GPU performance relies massively on speed of the RAM modules.

The A-Series (Trinity) APU with a Hybrid CrossFireX option should prove to be more powerful than GT 630M in raw performance, but driver issues may cause it to be not as good.

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)
Acer Aspire with A8-4500M (Trinity) + Hybrid CrossFireX w/ Radeon HD 7670M
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16834215663

Acer Aspire with i5-3210M + GT 630M
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16834215662

** Budget range up to $650 ~ $1000 - There's a relatively large gap in price here because laptop prices are fairly close despite having pretty big GPU differences.

This range is exclusively Intel CPU only, sadly. You won't see AMD here. Also, there are just not many laptops with AMD graphics at this range.

If possible, you should aim for a laptop with GTX 660M, as these GPUs will perform as well as yesteryear's laptops that cost $1200+.

That said, within this budget range, you will find hardware ranging from:

Ivy Bridge i5 ~ i7
DDR3-1333 ~ DDR3-1600
5400RPM drives ~ 7200RPM drives
1366x768 resolution ~ 1920x1080 resolution
nVidia graphics: GT 640M ~ GTX 660M
AMD graphics: HD 7730M ~ HD 7850M

Warning: Some GT 640Ms will have a suffix "LE". Avoid those like a plague! Also, try to get a graphics card with GDDR5 VRAM; many of the budget ones will have the GPU paired up with weak DDR3 VRAM.

Example)
Acer Aspire with i7-3632QM + GT 640M
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16834215615

Acer Aspire with i7-3632QM + GT 650M
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16834215672

Lenovo IdeaPad with i7-3630QM + GTX 660M
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16834310660

XoticPC Force 16GA-009 (Based on MSI 16GA (MSI GE60 Barebones))

(17" version is available for $10 more)
i7-3610QM + GTX 660M + DDR3-1600 RAM + 1080p matte screen
Does not come with a copy of Windows 7

http://www.xoticpc.com/force-16ga009-msi-16ga-msi-ge60-barebones-p-5035.html?wconfigure=yes

** Budget range up to $1100 ~ $1800 - Now, this is the upper-range of laptop gaming area; GPUs here will perform as well as mid-range gaming PCs, and can truly be a replacement for a desktop in gaming.

CPUs will be i7-3610QM at least at this price.
RAM should also be DDR3-1600 at least at this price.
You should also see 7200RPM hard drives only at this price.
You should also start seeing 1920x1080 resolution more.

The GPUs you can choose from this range will be:

AMD graphics: HD 7870M, HD 7950M, HD 7970M

nVidia's naming and product placement here will be very confusing if you don't do homework beforehand. In order of weakest to strongest:

GTX 670M (Last-gen Fermi-based, formerly GTX 570M)
GTX 670MX (Based on Kepler)
GTX 675M (Last-gen Fermi-based, formerly GTX 580M)
GTX 675MX (Based on Kepler)
GTX 680M (Kepler)
GTX 680MX (Kepler)

Wow, confusing. The -MX part will cost more.

In terms of raw graphics power, HD 7870M and GTX 670M are roughly equal. The HD 7950M outperforms GTX 675M. The HD 7970M is slightly behind GTX 680M, but it is offset by the price -- GTX 680Ms often command more than $200 premium over the HD 7970M.

As for the desktop equivalency, for your information:

HD 7870M / GTX 670M = desktop HD 6770 / GTX 650
HD 7950M / GTX 675M = desktop HD 6870 / GTX 650 Ti
HD 7970M / GTX 680M = slightly ahead desktop HD 7850
GTX 680MX = slightly behind desktop HD 7870 / GTX 660

Note that if you buy a HD 79xxM-based laptop that isn't Alienware, you must update to 12.11 drivers (or later) in order to avoid the infamous Enduro problem. Failure to do so will cause your graphics card to perform anywhere from 20% ~ 50% lower than expected.

For the laptop choices, I would divide between pre-configured laptops or major brand-names, vs. barebone units.

Pre-configured laptops include HP Envy, Dell Alienware, ASUS G75x series, MSI GT6x / 7x series.

Barebone units often give you best bang for the buck as you can configure a laptop exactly the way you like it. Everything about it will be customized to fit your tastes. But of course, you don't get the "first-class support" that you would normally get from big name companies.

I personally like MS-1762 only because you can get fancy backlit SteelSeries keyboard on the laptop (replacing default keyboard on it). ;)

Examples of barebone units include:

MSI: MS-16F3, MS-1762

Clevo: Sagers use NP9xxx lineup, Malibal only uses names (Satori), others may use their own. By default, you will see P151EM1, P150EM, P170EM.

Some of the more well-known, bigger boutique names like CyberPowerPC and iBuyPower uses some of the MSI and Clevo barebone chassis for their gaming laptop line-ups. Since the appearance of the laptop does not change, you can easily see what they are based off of.

Barebone builders (list courtesy of NotebookReview forums):
XoticPC
GenTechPC
RJTech
RK Computers
BTOTech
PowerNotebooks
DiscountLaptops
Sager
Malibal
LPCDigital
Reflex Notebooks (Canada)
fortnax Notebooks (Canada)
mythlogic
Affordable Laptops (Australia)
Logical BlueOne (Australia)
... and many more!

Do shopping around, compare prices, and find the best deal you can.

** Any higher? Overkill.

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

You could throw in a bigger monitor, some offer 18" (Alienware m18x)
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 12/17/2012 3:48 PM PST
90 Blood Elf Paladin
8895
------------------------------------------------------

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

If you have questions or asking if build is good or bad, take it to this topic:

http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/6934365605
Edited by Kalganized on 10/24/2012 9:13 PM PDT
90 Blood Elf Paladin
8895
Just one run is sufficient; time depends on RAM amount / speed
85 Human Paladin
3070
archived
90 Blood Elf Paladin
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I am in process of revamping + adding lots of new data!

(Done! for now.)
Edited by Kalganized on 6/4/2012 8:53 PM PDT
90 Blood Elf Paladin
8895
Sections changed were mentioned in the first post
90 Night Elf Druid
5315
Hey Kal, I have been doing some research looking through the past 2 sections of this thread and looking at other websites and I think I have a build.

This is a gaming build that I will be using for WoW, BF3, Diablo 3 and many others. I was trying to stay under $1500 and I just want you to look it over before I purchase anything. This is my first build so hopefully everything is compatible and what not.

CPU: Intel Core i5-3570k
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819116504

Mobo: ASRock Z77 Extreme4
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813157293

GPU: EVGA GTX 670 FTW
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814130787

RAM: Corsair Vengeance 8 GB DDR3 1600
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820233144

PSU: PC Power and Cooling MKIII 600W
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817703036

Case: Antec Three Hundred
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811129066

SSD: Intel 520 120 GB
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820167093

HD: Western Digital Caviar Black 1 TB
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822136533

CD Drive: Asus DVD Burner
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16827135204

CPU Cooler: Hyper 212 Evo
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16835103099

OS: Windows 7 Home Premium

Total: $1,442
90 Blood Elf Paladin
8895
The tall heatsinks on the Vengeance RAM may interfere with fan installation on the Hyper 212.

If you are getting an SSD, you can save some $ going with a different / slower hard drive. For example, Seagate sells a 1.5 TB for bit less than that WD hard drive.

Otherwise, looks good.
Edited by Kalganized on 6/5/2012 10:43 AM PDT
90 Night Elf Druid
5315
Ok I switched out the RAM for something more low profile without the tall heatsinks. One last question though. Is there a big difference between the ASUS GTX 670 DC2 Top and the EVGA GTX 670 FTW? To me it just seems like the cooling would be different, but other than that seem not all that different.
90 Blood Elf Paladin
8895
ASUS DC2 Top is known to use custom voltage regulators for more stability / overhead for overclocking. Their fans are proven too (cool and quiet).

FTW does not seem to do anything special other than to take stock 670 then OC it a bit, but I could be wrong.
Edited by Kalganized on 6/5/2012 6:12 PM PDT
90 Night Elf Druid
5315
The ASUS does seem to be the better buy, now just to wait for it to be in stock at newegg.

Thanks for the help, I will be back here if I run into any problems.
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