Announcements

Loading guide and announcements...
If you're having trouble loading the guide or announcements, please read this blog post.
This site requires JavaScript. Make sure you've whitelisted us in NoScript.
If you continue to have problems, feel free to contact us. Please note your browser (Chrome, Firefox, etc), version, platform (Windows 8, OS X, etc), and country.
Thanks!

Select Country:  

Subscribe to receive news and guide updates from Logical Increments

We're constantly updating our guide and part list. Enter your email address to be notified of updates. And don't worry - we hate spam, too. Your information stays with us.

Follow Logical Increments to get quick, up-to-date information:

PROTIP:

This is just a guide. The recommended components are sweet, but if you do your own research, you can probably do even better. NEVER buy something because "someone says so."

Compatible:

It is extremely important to make sure all that you are buying is compatible, that your hardware fits in your case, and that your PSU can handle it. If you buy all the parts from a single Tier of our guide, they will be compatible and will fit.

Prices:

Prices shown here are taken from a small selection of stores (which we're slowly adding to). You can lower your total cost by getting combos, buying used, or by looking at other places and comparing prices.

Gaming:

All these builds are focused on optimum gaming. If you do not game, get a GPU from a less expensive tier and use the saved $$$ to upgrade something else, such as a better SSD or nicer monitor.

Gaming stars:

If you mouse-over any tier name, a description of that tier will pop-up, along with a star-rating that shows how well that tier is expected to handle some popular games. Our rating system is very harsh, and you can read a full explanation in our blog.

Countries, links and prices:

All the items shown in the guide are linked to an e-store that sells that item. By default, the links are to USA stores, but if you select another country, the links, prices, and currency will change accordingly.

Other necessary parts:

Things not listed in the main parts list that you will also need:

  • Operating System - You will probably need a copy of Windows, unless you already have one you can use. If you go to University or work at a big company, you may be able to get a copy cheap or free from them. Otherwise, Windows 8.1 System Builder 64-bit is recommended. Get the pro version if you need drive encryption or the ability to join a domain (unlikely for a home PC).
  • Optical Drive - If you want to install things from CD or DVD, or burn CDs or DVDs, you'll want a DVD-RW drive like this one.
    If you want to watch blu-rays on your PC, you'll need a blu-ray drive like this one. It will also burn CDs, DVDs, and blu-ray discs.

Credit:

Many anonymous /g/entlemen, /g/uideX, Gentoon Link, Lolicon, !LiMR.MODv, I am !Google, GodMode, Orange Jews, !no1CURR, Acbn, mtndew, TheChecker, Radish, !ibdeLETEdU, !sRYnNViDIA, bedford, !rMACSUCksA, Sand !Ebridgeevc, !Hu6tDS8lls, !ObamaSWSkk, Father Longcat, Optometrist, meow, Mochizuki, !Vda0WP6CB6, apathy-kun, Shen-Long, !ApNwvTMfag and others helped make 95% of this guide.

What is it?

A Graphics Processing Unit (GPU), also known as a video card or graphics card, builds pictures and then displays them on your screen. Here this refers to the whole card, unless stated other-wise.

Brands:

ASUS, EVGA, Gigabyte and MSI are very good. Sapphire, XFX and Zotac are good. HIS is ok. Almost all video cards use reference designs designed by the GPU manufactuer (AMD or Nvidia), so most of the differences between cards come down to better heatsink/fan,warranty, and customer support. If you plan on using the card more than a year, read the fine print of the warranty. If your warranty says 3 years, but the fine print says you have to pay for labor after 1 year, then it's basically a 1-year warranty.

Tiers:

A general guide:

  • Sub $100 is low tier. Play old (pre 2006) games easily, and modern games on low or not at all.
  • $100-$200 is mid tier. Play modern games, at medium settings.
  • $200-$300 is high tier. Play modern games on high or max.
  • Above $300 is very-high/flagship tier. "Flagship tier" is ideal for multi-monitor gaming systems.

Resolution:

Your resolution has the biggest effect on your GPU's performance. 1920x1080 is very popular at the moment, but a mid-tier/low-tier GPU can still play modern games on reduced res.

Warning:

Recommendations are valid at the shown prices. If a recommendation is only available at a higher price, or an alternative is cheaper than usual, then these recommendations no longer apply.

Alternatives:

Consider switching to these "great, but" cards if you can find them with good discounts/combos: 5770, 6770, 550 Ti, 460, 560 Ti, 5850, 5870, 470, 6950, 6970, 570, 580, 670, 680

Heatsink + Fan (HSF):

Most graphic cards with reference designs have similar or identical performance/noise/temps, since the internals and HSF are similar. Only the sticker outside is different.
Cards with custom HSFs cost more $$$, but may have superior cooling, better overclockability and lower noise. Examples: MSI's Twin Frozr, Gigabyte's Windforce, Asus' DCII. However, especially on lower tier cards, custom HSFs may be used to lower costs for the manufacturer, and may perform worse than the reference model. Also, non-reference HSFs usually exhaust the hot air back into the case rather than out the back, which can make them perform worse if your case has poor airflow.

Tips:

  • When comparing GPU benchmarks, pay more attention to game performance at your preferred resolutions. Place less emphasis on GPU performance in synthetic benchmarks.
  • SLI/CF setups may trump the single cards in performance, but may have microstutter / temp / noise / power draw / game compatibility / future upgrade issues.
  • The best performance for your $$$ is usually in the mid-tier cards. The higher the card, the larger the price increment goes. The priciest cards usually have terrible performance/price.
  • A general rule: Mid-tier cards scale better than high-tier.
  • A general rule: nVidia has better driver support, especially under Linux.
  • A general rule: nVidia's SLI has less microstutter, but less average FPS, than AMD's CF. With new drivers, microstutter isn't really an issue anymore.
  • Remember to make sure your power supply can power your cards (and has enough cables if SLI/Crossfire), and that your case can fit them and provide adequate cooling.

What is it?

A Central Processing Unit (CPU) is the brains of the computer. This is what runs all your programs, calculations, operations.

How Powerful?

Modern CPUs are quite powerful, and the cheapest of our recommendations would be enough for someone simply browsing the web, using Office, and watching YouTube. Games and serious work applications can see significant benefit from the more expensive CPUs.

More cores?

The overwhelming majority of programs (games included) are lightly threaded, which means they only run on one or two cores. Only a handful of current programs can actually benefit from anything higher than a quadcore. These are programs like file compression, video encoding, and server applications. If you are going to be using your computer for any of those sorts of tasks, then you may benefit from a more expensive CPU, otherwise stick with i5 or below if money is a concern.

Tips:

  • Cheap CPUs with on-board graphics are good for budget builds.
  • Today's "moderate" $125 CPUs are actually great, and more than enough for web browsing, email, Facebook, and the other 99% of typical tasks.

What is it?

The CPU needs a heatsink and fan, since the CPU gets hot when stressed. Regular non-OEM CPUs typically come with a free stock HSF for normal users.

Things to note:

Before you read the table of HSFs below, please keep in mind the following points:

  • The budget, mid-tier, and high-end columns are for air-cooling. CLCs are closed-loop-coolers, which use water.
  • If you're not overclocking, stock HSFs are fine. If your CPU runs warm, stock HSFs tend to get loud when they spin up to keep it cool.
  • Budget HSFs are meant to replace stock ones for cheap. They provide better cooling (a few degrees), but the most important factor is that they are much quieter than stock.
  • Mid-tier HSFs provide a balance between good cooling, quiet operation, and a moderate price. They are often significantly thicker than budget units.
  • High-end units provide the best cooling, but they are the most expensive and the most bulky. Check to make sure your case can fit them before purchasing.
  • CLCs are divided into two: 120mm units, and 240mm units, as shown in the pictures:
  • 120mm CLC units perform somewhere between mid-tier and high-end air coolers, but they are often priced as high as the high-end. They offer less value, but take up much less space.
  • 240mm coolers compete with high-end air HSFs, and can be superior in cooling. However, they are very expensive, and do not fit all cases. Never buy a 240mm unit until you have made sure that you can install it in your case.
  • Many CLC units are made by the same manufacturer (Asetek), with the main difference being the type of fans that are used.
  • If your budget is constrained, you can always stick with stock HSFs, and buy something later when you have the $$$.

Which:

Mouse over the links for images and descriptions

Brand Budget ($0-$35) Mid-tier ($35-$65) High-end (>$65) CLC (120mm) CLC (240mm)
AMD Stock ($0)





Antec


Kuhler 620 ($60)
Kuhler 920 ($120)
Kuhler 1250 ($120)
be quiet!
Shadow Rock 2 ($45)
Dark Rock 3 ($60)
Dark Rock Pro 3 ($90)


Cooler Master TX3 ($20)
T4 ($25)
212+ ($30)
212 Evo ($32)
TPC 612 ($50)
TPC 812 ($70)
Seidon 120V ($50)
Seidon 120M ($70)
Seidon 240M ($95)
Eisberg 240L ($170)
Corsair


H60 ($62)
H80i ($75)
H105 ($110)
Enermax
ETS-T40 ($50)



Intel Stock ($0)




NZXT
Havik 140 ($60)

Kraken X40 ($90)
Kraken X60 ($120)
Noctua
NH-U12S ($62)
NH-D14 ($75)
NH-U14S ($70)
NH-D15 ($110)


Phanteks

PH-TC14PE ($85)


Prolimatech
Megahalems* ($60)



Raijintek Aidos ($25)
Ereboss ($50)
Nemesis ($85)


Scythe
Mugen 4 ($50)
Ashura ($55)



Silverstone AR01 ($35)




Swiftech



H220 ($100)
Thermalright

Silver Arrow ($80)


Thermaltake
Frio ($60)

Water 2.0 Performer ($70)
Water 3.0 Extreme ($110)
Xigamatek
Dark Knight II ($50)



Zalman
CNPS10X Performa ($42)



*The Prolimatech Megahalems do not come with fans.

Stock:

Many people think the stock HSFs are bad. They are actually adequate for stock settings, will work fine, and are free. If you OC significantly, however, stock HSFs become quite loud. If you live in a hot area without air conditioning, you may need something better than the stock HSF.

Non-stock:

Aftermarket HSFs cost $$$, but typically are much quieter, and have better heat dissipation, meaning you can overclock heavily. If the stock HSF is good enough, you do not need an aftermarket HSF.

Compatibility:

  • Make sure the HSF is compatible with your motherboard + CPU socket. For example, a HSF that is compatible with AMD's socket AM3 is not necessarily compatible with Intel's socket 1150. Multiple sockets sometimes use the same mounting system. Intel sockets 1150, 1155, and 1156 all use the same HSF mounting system, so share compatibility.
  • Make sure the HSF you buy will fit your case, and will not disturb the other components in your PC (your RAM, specifically).

Water Cooling:

Done properly, water cooling can give you better cooling with less noise than the best air cooling. However, electricity and water don't mix well, so it can be dangerous. Do your research. More reading can be found in links at the bottom of this guide. Corsair makes some high quality closed loop solutions, like the H80i and H100i , which will fit in many of the cases we recommend. We'll do a proper water cooling guide eventually. If you would like to try writing one, email us.

More info:

Check Frosty Tech and Silent PC Review for high quality heatsink and fan reviews.

What is it?

Solid State Drives (SSDs) store data, just like Hard Drives (HDDs). SSDs have no moving parts, are silent, less susceptible to mechanical failure, use less power, and are much faster.

Worth it?

SSDs have smaller capacities, and are more expensive than HDDs. They are not necessary, but are considered one of the best upgrades for those who can afford them.

Brands:

SSDs are maturing, and most recent SSDs have good reliability. While we can recommend a few drives, please bear in mind that SSD recommendations may change from week to week, as new drives are introduced.

-Performance SSDs (topping the charts, very high prices)

-Value SSDs (good performance, great prices, these are the drives to get if you do not know what you are looking for)
-Stability SSDs (focus on good firmware and stability)
-Laptop SSDs (focus on using minimum power)
-Retired SSDs (former champions, not worth the price any more, but still excellent drives when on sale)

Using an SSD

Since SSDs are still so expensive relative to capacity, the best way to use them is to install your Operating System and most used programs on the SSD, and have a regular old hard drive to store all your movies, music, games, and other big data files. This makes managing the storage on your computer a little more complicated.

SSD Caching

An alternative way of using an SSD is to use it as a cache for your regular hard drive. This simplifies use, because in Windows you just see a single drive, so you don't have to worry about where to install programs or store data. The best way to do SSD caching is to use Intel Rapid Response Technology, available on the Z87, Q87, H87, Z77, Q77, and H77 chipsets. To use, install windows like normal on your regular HDD, then connect your SSD, change a few settings in the BIOS, then install and configure Intel's drivers. Complete instruction are here on the Intel site.

Reviews

Anandtech, like usual, has excellent SSD reviews. Their Bench tool is a good place to compare performance.

What is it?

Random Access Memory can store a small amount of data, but with extremely high data transfer speeds. RAM is volatile, meaning it loses all the data stored in it when the power goes off.

Size:

4GB is fine, 8GB is fine too. Getting more RAM does not improve performance, unless the program you're using actually needs more. Currently to use more than even 4GB, you have to have a ton of programs and browser tabs open, be editing video or large audio or image files, or be using some other specialized data processing app.

Brands:

Corsair, G.Skill and Kingston have a well-known reputation for quality control. Crucial, GeIL and Mushkin are also good. Getting RAM from another manufacturer is fine as well, although read reviews before buying the absolute cheapest no-name brand.

Speeds:

All modern platforms use DDR3 RAM. 1333MHz or 1600MHz makes little difference on modern processors for everyday tasks: get what is cheaper. Same goes for CAS latencies (a speed setting).
The one exception to this is APUs, such as AMD's A-series. Since APUs share memory between the CPU and GPU, having more bandwidth and faster latency becomes useful. If you can find faster RAM for a small price increase, it is worth getting. 1866 MHz is currently a good option.
Your mobo may run at 1066/1333/1600 by default: Go into the BIOS and set it to the rated speed on the RAM, or try overclocking at your risk. Overclocked RAM needs to be checked for stability, because unstable RAM will cause data loss.

Tips:

  • RAM is easy to replace/upgrade.
  • Mixing different brands / speeds of RAM is not ideal, but rarely causes actual problems. It will all run at the speed of the slowest type you use, so if you combine DDR3-1333 and DDR3-1600, both will run at 1333.
  • RAM heatsinks are pointless unless overclocking and raising the voltage, and the cheap heatsinks usually increase temperatures (not good). Manufacturers keep adding heatsinks because you keep buying them.

What is it?

A Hard Disk Drive (HDD) stores all your data. That means your Operating System, applications, documents, movies, pictures, music, etc etc.

Which:

For OS/applications: You definitely want a 7200RPM drive. An F3 Spinpoint, WD Black or new Blue, or new Seagate Barracuda have very similar performance, so get whichever is cheapest. Storage: F4, WD Green/Blue are fine. You don't need the speed of a 7200 RPM drive. If using an SSD for your Operating System and not editing large amounts of audio / video, get whatever is cheapest.

Platters:

HDDs typically have 250/320/500/667 GB or 1TB platters. Try to get the highest platter density possible, or the smallest number of platters. This generally reduces the risks of mechanical failure because of fewer moving parts, and increases performance because more bits can be read at the same speed.

RAID

  • A RAID (redundant array of inexpensive disks) is a cheap way to improve HDD read/writes or set up a backup. Unfortunately, you will need more than one HDD, and comes with tradeoffs.
  • Raid-0 combines two hard drives as a single drive (2 x 1TB drives seen as a single 2TB drive) and increases sequential read and write speeds. However, it doubles your risk of failure, since either drive failing results in you losing all your data. Since the performance increase is rarely felt outside of specific data intensive tasks (games, browsing, bootup speeds are hardly effected), Raid-0 is not recommended for most people.
  • Raid-1 duplicates your data across two drives. Speed is unaffected. You lose half your space, but if one of the drives fails, you still have all your data and can use the computer like normal. It's still not quite as reliable as backing up your data externally, but once it's set up your data is duplicated instantly and without you having to do anything. A good option for someone with important data, although not a replacement for external backups.

A note on drives larger than 2TB

HDDs larger than 2TB cannot be formatted/recognized by older 32-bit versions of Windows. If you intend to buy an HDD with a capacity larger than 4TB, please make sure you read the links below so that you will know if your OS can support such drives.

Tips:

  • HDDs are very easy to replace and/or add, unless you're replacing the one your Operating System is installed on.
  • If your budget is constrained, drop your HDD to the lowest you are comfortable with, and add another later.
  • Get a SATA drive, not IDE. IDE is an old outdated interface.
  • Some new HDDs use Advanced Format. Those using Windows XP or an old version of GNU/Linux should consult the manufacturer website on how to properly align their partitions.

What is it?

A case is a large box that holds all your components together securely. Case choices are subjective: The same case can be called ugly or beautiful depending on the viewer's taste.

Criteria:

Recommendations are based on prices and features. A good case fits your hardware, has good airflow, is quiet, and is sturdy. Bottom mounted PSUs and cable managment options are great bonuses.

Alternatives:

If you like a case that fits the criteria mentioned above, then get it even if it is not mentioned here, as long as the price is reasonable. Take a look at the four tables below for some alternative suggestions.

Standard cases:

These cases are suitable for the majority of builds, providing a balanced approach to cooling and noise, and will support standard ATX motherboards. Most of these cases are either mid-tower (normal) or full-tower (large).

Mouse over the links for images and descriptions

Brand Budget ($0-$60) Mid-tier ($60-$120) High-end ($120-$180) Luxury (>$180)
Antec GS One
GX500
GX700
300
900
302
1100
1200

Bitfenix Merc
Outlaw
Shinobi


Cooler Master HAF 912
690 III
Enforcer
HAF 922
Scout 2 Advanced
HAF XM
Trooper
Stryker
Cosmos SE
HAF 932
HAF X
Cosmos II
Corsair 200R
230T
300R
400R
C70
500R
600T
650D
Air 540*
900D
Fractal
Core 3000
Arc Midi R2
Arc XL

In Win
BUC


Lian Li
ALL
ALL

NZXT Source 210
Gamma
Tempest 210
Tempest 410
Phantom 410
Phantom 530
Phantom 630
Switch 810
Phantom 820
Phanteks

Enthoo Primo
Enthoo Primo
Rosewill Blackbone
Challenger
R5
Blackhawk
Armor Evo
Thor V2

Silverstone

Raven 02
Raven 03
FT02
TJ07
TJ11
Thermaltake V3
V4
V5
Commander
V6


*The Corsair Air 540 is a cube, and not a typical standard shaped tower. However, it is well reviewed, and can handle ATX motherboards, and thus is included in the "Standard cases" section.


Silent cases:

These cases try to cut down noise, but often at the cost of increased heat. Noise reduction is achieved via dampening/absorption foam padding, covered vents, silicon/rubber mounts for fans, and so on. Most of these cases are either mid-tower (normal) or full-tower (large).

Mouse over the links for images and descriptions

Brand Budget ($0-$60) Mid-tier ($60-$120) High-end ($120-$180) Luxury (>$180)
Antec
P280
Sonata III
P183

Corsair
330R
550D

Fractal
Define R4
Define XL

Nanoxia
Deep Silence 1


NZXT
H2
H440


Micro ATX cases (small):

These cases are small, and are meant to handle mATX motherboards. The smaller size helps those who are limited on space, and it reduces weight too. Make sure to check size compatibility before buying any hardware that is meant to go inside these cases.

Mouse over the links for images and descriptions

Brand Budget ($0-$60) Mid-tier ($60-$120) High-end ($120-$180) Luxury (>$180)
Corsair
350D


Fractal Core 1000
Define Mini
Arc Mini R2


Rosewill Line-M



Silverstone
TJ08
FT03


Mini ITX cases (tiny):

Tiny cases, meant for HTPCs or SFF enthusiasts. Make sure to check size compatibility before buying any hardware that is meant to go inside these cases.

Mouse over the links for images and descriptions

Brand Budget ($0-$60) Mid-tier ($60-$120) High-end ($120-$180) Luxury (>$180)
Bitfenix
Prodigy
Phenom


Cooler Master Elite 120
Elite 130



Fractal
Node 304


Silverstone

FT03 Mini


Dust Filters:

For those in dusty environments (or with pets), dust filters cost only a few dollars and are very helpful in keeping your PC clean.

Tips:

  • A good case should last you through several builds. Remember that you will be living with this case, so get something you will be happy to look at every day, so choose wisely.
  • Do not pay more for a case because it has a side window or more LEDs. These things do not improve your system's performance, and look silly (grumble grumble). Seriously though, get whatever you want, it's your computer.
  • "Cold cathodes" are not cold, either.

What is it?

A power supply unit (PSU) takes AC power from the mains and converts it to clean DC power, usable by your PC. Higher quality PSUs give cleaner power and higher efficiency, and have more protections to prevent your PC from catching on fire and burning down your house. Also, cheap PSUs rarely provide their rated power. A $25 500W PSU is very likely a 200W PSU with a fancy sticker.

Which:

  • Seasonic (all)
  • XFX (all)
  • Antec (Earthwatts series, Neo Eco series, HCG series, True Power New series)
  • Corsair (TX-V2 series, HX series, AX series)
  • Silverstone (Strider Plus series, Strider Gold series, Zeus series)
  • Cooler Master (Silent Pro Gold series)
  • Rosewill (Capstone series)
  • There are others, let us know if we've missed quality PSUs.

Use a PSU calculator (e.g. extreme.outervision) to determine your power needs and add some headroom. You don't need to worry about getting a power supply that is too powerful. If you get a 1000W power supply and your PC only needs 150W, the 1000W PSU will only supply 150W.

Modularity:

Normal PSUs have all (or most) of the power cords fixed. Modular PSUs allow you to add or remove cords for less clutter and improved airflow, but usually have a price premium.

Warning

Low quality PSUs may not provide the rated wattage, may deliver dirty power (damaging your components over time), are less efficient (hotter, noisier), and can explode (yes, kaboom-style, with fire and smoke).

Tips:

  • Check for the cables needed if you go for CF/SLI.
  • Some PSUs do NOT come with a power cord, so check first.
  • Check jonnyGURU for some nice reviews.
  • Check this PSU Review Database to see a very comprehensive catalogue of PSU reviews.

What is it?

The motherboard electronically connects all your PC parts. It also takes power from the PSU and provides it to many of your PC parts.

Compatibility

  • Socket needs to match your CPU socket (1150, AM3, etc)
  • Needs to fit your case. Normal sizes, from small to large: mini-ITX, micro-ATX (uATX, mATX), ATX, E-ATX (extended ATX). A smaller motherboard will fit in a larger case, but not vice-versa.
  • Video card needs the correct slot on the motherboard. For the last few years, this is PCIe.
  • If you have an old regular PCI card that you want to use, such as a sound card, check to see if your motherboard has any regular PCI slots. Many modern motherboards have only the newer PCIe slots.

Brands:

Asus, EVGA and Gigabyte make excellent mobos. MSI, ASRock and ECS are also good.

SLI/CF:

If you want to SLI/CF, make sure you get a mobo that explicitly allows it (some mobos allow CF but not SLI).
The difference between PCIe 3.0 x16/x16 and PCIe 3.0 x8/x8 is trivial and can be ignored (As of August 2013).

Needs:

Carefully weigh your needs and get a mobo that matches them. Get a mobo that has the slots/ports that you need for your storage/cards. If you intend to overclock, get a mobo that can overclock.

Alternatives:

There is a huge number of mobo models available from many manufacturers, and thus there are plenty of good mobo alternatives for each tier that cannot be included due to space constraints.

Overclock:

Overclock only if your mobo is suitable (see "Power" below). Low-tier mobos were not designed to OC (and may fry), so get a mid/high end mobo and do your research before OCing.

Power (VRMs, Phases):

This is usually the big difference between a cheap motherboard and a more expensive motherboard. More power phases, solid capacitors, ferrite chokes and MOSFET heatsinks are usually present in good-quality mobos. High-end mobos may have DrMos and tantalum capacitors.
You can determine the number of phases by counting the number of chokes. Higher is usually better, but going overboard (32 phases) does not help much.
Low quality VRMs are typically the first thing to fry, especially if overclocking. Getting something good will ensure lower temps, stable/clean power for your CPU, and a reliable, long-lasting mobo.

Tips:

  • Get a mobo with the latest possible chipsets, as that determines the features available.
  • Get USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gb/s.
  • Get a good warranty.
  • Do your own research, and do not be fooled by marketing terms such as "maximum rugged military killer sniper extreme gamer." Marketing does not contribute to quality manufacturing, but does cost money for advertising.

What is it?

The components described above are what makes a computer, but you still needs peripherals to actually use the computer. These are bought separately, and include the following:

Combo Drive:

Not technically a peripheral. The Samsung/LG/LITE-ON/Sony DVD-writers that you find for $20-$25 are fine. Get a SATA drive, not IDE.

Sound card?

Not a peripheral either, but modern mobos have integrated sound that is good enough for most users. A discrete sound card is only recommended for audiophiles and professionals, or if your headphones won't go loud enough with onboard audio.

Others:

You will also need:

We are actively researching peripherals, and have some recommendations available on our peripherals page. We will be adding the missing categories over time.

Peripheral recommendations are subjective. For example: Monitors range from $100 to over $1000. Keyboards and mice can go from $5 to $200 or more. Thus recommendations can vary by person and wallet.

What is it?

An operating system operates your system. The main (or most popular) three OS groups are: Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X and GNU/Linux.

Windows:

This is the most popular OS group in the world, especially for gamers. The latest version is Windows 8. A common practice is to pirate Windows for free. This is illegal and you really should not do it. Believe it or not, lots of engineers spend many thousands of hours writing the software, and if you're going to use it, then you should pay them for their hard work. Would you do your job for free?

For most users, Windows 8 System Builder Edition 64-bit is the recommended version. The Professional version adds these features, so get it if you need any of these:

Windows 7

Many people dislike the new visual style of Windows 8, which is designed for touchscreen devices rather than keyboard and mouse. Personally, I (Orion) have gotten used to Windows 8. I prefer 8 for its improved search and UI responsiveness. However, if you want to stick with trusty old Windows 7, here are your best options. Again, if you need Domain join or drive encryption, go with Pro. Otherwise Home Premium is fine:

OS X:

Usually found on Apple computers. It is UNIX based, and is marketed by Apple as being stable. You can try running OSX on a normal PC: "Hackintosh", though this is also against Apple's Terms of Service and thus illegal, even if you buy OSX. That said, I doubt Apple is going to sue you for going to all that trouble to use their software.

GNU/Linux:

An open-source, free OS. Free as in freedom, and often free as in free beer. You can legally install and use most variants of GNU/Linux for free. Try Ubuntu (easiest to get started with), Mint, or maybe even Gentoo!

What is it?

A prebuilt is a PC that you buy without getting to choose the components inside. The components are pre-chosen for you, and the PC comes complete and ready to use out of the box.

Sounds good!

It sounds so, yes. Prebuilts proudly show their CPUs, RAM and HDD. Sometimes, prebuilts may mention the VRAM, but rarely mention the actual graphics card.

What is the catch?

Prebuilts usually come with horrible and explosive PSUs, low-quality mobos, low-tier GPUs, and a low-airflow case. The RAM is typically too much, and the CPU is immensely more powerful than the GPU, making it a very unbalanced PC. Prebuilts are always overpriced when compared to PCs that you buy and assemble yourself.

Verdict:

Never buy a prebuilt. If the PSU and mobo do not fry themselves, then you will have an unbalanced PC than can barely play games, and you will have paid way too much for it. Always insist on choosing quality components.

But... I am scared of assembling a PC!

No one is born with all the knowledge they need in life, but people learn. Assembling a PC is similar to assembling a Lego kit, and you can check the "Assembly" section below for more info. If you absolutely refuse to assemble your own PC, then most PC stores will do it for you for a small fee. The important thing is to choose quality components, even if someone else assembles your PC for you.

My time is more valuable than that

If you still aren't interested in building your own, and your time is worth more than the extra cost, then at least choose a reputable builder. If something goes wrong and your builder has poor service, you could end up wasting more time than if you had just built the thing yourself in the first place.
Puget Systems is the only builder we currently recommend. You'll notice they choose most of the same parts we do, and a google search will show you that people think they're pretty much the best builder around.

What is it?

Assembly is when you take components and put them together to make a working machine.

Time needed

Professionals may assemble a PC in 15-20 minutes, but if this is your first time, you can expect to spend about 2-4 hours.

Is it difficult?

No. It is similar to Lego, but for adults. Most parts fit only into their designated slots, and only fit in one direction. All components come with detailed instruction manuals. There are tonnes of websites and videos online that will take you through the process step-by-step.

Websites:

Videos:

Combos:

Total price can be reduced by 5%-15% with combos, more if you check other sites. Check Microcenter for cheap Intel CPUs/mobos/combos (if you are lucky), and Fry's weekly CPU/mobo sales.

Greed:

People usually buy a LOT more than they really need. Their hardware stays at 5%-10% utilization, the $$$ spent being totally wasted. Carefully weigh your needs, and buy what is suitable.

Future:

Whatever PC you buy, whether it is for $800 or $4000, will be obsolete in a few years. Buy a good PC, and when it becomes obsolete, buy a new one.
Future-proofing is impossible. You can buy something that will be "ok" in 3 years, but you cannot buy something that will be "the best" by then, or even "really good."

Rebates:

If you want to get your rebate, make sure you follow the directions 100%, keep copies (scans or at least pictures) of all the materials you send, and put a reminder on your calendar to contact the rebate company if you haven't received the rebate in the specified amount of time. As long as you do these things, they are required by law to pay you. However, they will use any reasonable excuse to avoid paying, so make sure you follow the rules exactly!

Prices:

Prices shown are a conservative estimate, as real prices often fluctuate. Newegg often gives major discounts on certain items for limited periods. Total price does not include shipping/taxes.

Outside USA:

These builds are tiered according to hardware prices in the US. Elsewhere, the price differences might affect which is the best component in that tier.

Remember:

Take all "internet forum advice" with a grain of salt. Do your own research to find out what best suits your needs.

And also:

Take all "internet forum advice" with a grain of salt. Do your own research to find out what best suits your needs.

Seriously:

The above advice was repeated intentionally. No one cares more about you than you yourself, so do not get tricked into getting/doing something that you will regret.

Good stuff:

This guide is good when it comes to recommending products that give you good "bang for your $$$." That means not including some excellent, but overpriced, alternatives.

This guide is good in trying to make sure the builds are balanced. This means that none of the builds is CPU heavy at the cost of a weak GPU, or has lots of RAM but a low capacity HDD, etc etc.

Bad stuff:

This guide is NOT good in recommending "premium quality, premium prices" products. An example: EVGA makes top-tier mobos, but the heavy price premium makes them un-acceptable for most people.

This guide is NOT good for those who insist on being loyal to only one brand.

This guide is NOT good for those looking for: water-cooling, or using more than two monitors. (Well, not yet. This might change as new products are introduced/prices lowered.)

This guide is NOT meant for those who wish to have "special purpose builds" where the intention is to get a certain form-factor/maximum OC/etc.

Note:

Once again it must be stressed that this is only a guide. Neither this nor a thousand other guides can substitute you doing your own research, and getting what is best for you.

If you like something recommended here, please take the time to read up on why it is good when compared to other alternatives, and purchase it only if you are satisfied with the comparison.


The following retailers sell PC hardware. Including them in this list does NOT guarantee good customer service or timely delivery: These are all just options.

NORTH AMERICA region

USA

CANADA

MEXICO

EUROPE region

General European e-retailers

UK

GERMANY

FRANCE

ITALY

ROMANIA

SPAIN

SWEDEN

SWITZERLAND

PORTUGAL

TURKEY

OCEANIA region

AUSTRALIA

NEW ZEALAND

ASIA region

General Asian e-retailers

PAKISTAN

INDIA

JAPAN

SOUTH KOREA

PHILIPPINES

SOUTH AMERICA region

BRAZIL

AFRICA region

INTERNATIONAL e-retailers

(Did I miss any? Let me know!)

Tips:

Some online retailers do price-matching. Some search engines look for the best hardware prices (usually locally, not internationally) such as:

Try PcPartPicker.com for a very nice way to choose hardware and compare prices.

What to do:

If you need help, try Googling or read the fine manual first, before going to a forum.

If you are asking for help on a forum, please do not post a wall of links. Instead, take a screenshot of your shopping cart, and add:

  • Your budget
  • Your intended use (general/gaming/etc etc)
  • Your current PC and items you wish to transfer (screen/HDD/RAM/etc etc)

If you want help, please make it easy for others to help you.

Sources:

It is strongly encouraged to visit these sites to get more in-depth info:

  • Anandtech - The best (Orion's opinion) hardware reviews. Objective and detailed. Active, high quality forums too.
  • Tomshardware - Another classic hardware review site. Great info and forums.
  • JonnyGuru - The best site for power supply reviews
  • TechPowerUp - Detailed reviews, good forums. Tends to get into more technical depth.
  • FrostyTech - The best site for heatsink reviews.
  • Bit-Tech - Another quality review site with forums.
  • HardOCP - Known mostly for their hardware forums, and their reviews that concentrate on what settings games are playable at.
  • Guru3D
  • SilentPCReview - If you're interested in minimizing the noise of your system, go here.
  • Overclockers - As the name suggests, lots of info for overclockers.
  • VR-Zone
  • HardwareCanucks
  • DonanimHaber
  • Google

Disclosure:

logicalincrements.com is an affiliate of several online retailers, such as Amazon, NCIX, Newegg, TigerDirect, and others. The compensation received from these affiliate programs funds the website's upkeep and development, and allows us to keep it running without ads.

There have been several suggestions that we add a way for readers to donate to the site. We thank you, but the website can support itself with the revenue generated when you buy from our links. If you insist on donating, then we would like to follow the honourable example set by Philip (of PCPartPicker) in suggesting that you donate to a charitable organization instead.

Disclaimer:

  • The information contained in this guide is provided "AS IS" without any warranty, express or implied. You must make your own assessment of it and rely on it wholly at your own risk.
  • This guide is but a suggestion and should not substitute actual research.
  • You are fully and solely responsible for any purchases you make.

comments powered by Disqus