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PC Builder's Guide - How to Build a Sub $300 PC

Descent

Hella Constipated
7,686
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#1
*REQUEST THIS TO BE PUT IN THE WIKI UPON COMPLETION*

So, you want a new PC, but don't have the cash? With the help of a simple guide on the Internet, you can build your own PC. It's cheap, fun, and in the end you'll gain massive amounts of knowledge.

Don't be scared. PC parts are anything but fragile. You can't simply break something randomly, they need to be pushed to their limits. All you need is a phillips head screwdriver and some needle nose pliers, and you are good to go!

It usually takes around forty-five minutes to assemble for a first time builder, after you read the installation guides. It's not a duanting task by any means...If you can hang a picture on the wall AND hook up a TV, then you can assemble a PC. They literally just snap together these days.

So, how do I select the parts? What do I need to know?

Select the parts according to your needs. In this price frame, an AMD Sempron 2200+ is the best chip for you. Anything higher, and you'll go over budget.

I've never heard of AMD. I always though Intel was better! What gives?!

Intel just has fancy marketing to make you THINK they are better. In today's age, their chip designs are dated.

Intel chips run hotter, are generally slower, and more expensive than AMD's.

AMD chips use the xxxx+ rating to dictate their speed, because they are more effecient.

Wow, I never knew that. What about motherboards? What do I need to know about these?

Well, there are rules. The chipset can make or break a board.

What is a chipset? It's a memory trafficker, in layman's terms. It can do more, but we'll leave that out for now.

For the AMD Socket A platform, there are lots of horrible ones. Let's review:

Teh Crap:

Via (Besides KT880)
SiS (Besides the 748, which is acceptable, but for the price an nForce2 is better).

Teh Awesomeness:

nVidia (nForce). You can't go wrong with one of these, they are excellent.

For motherboard brands, avoid these:

ECS
PC Chips

Be sure to get these:

Chaintech (Currently the best for the sub $300 PC category)
Asus
Abit
FoxConn
ASRock (Asus Value Brand)
MSI

As of writing, the Chaintech 7NIL1 is the best board for the money at $39. I own one of these personally, and it is splendid. Very fast, very stable, and very cheap.

Integrated video is always a plus, but if you get a decent cheap board, you can easily get away with an AGP video card.

What kind of video card should I get? There have to be some decent affordable ones...

Yes. There are numerous ones. The most viable include these:

Radeon 8500 (32MB)
Radeon 7200/7500
Geforce2
Geforce3 (If you are lucky!)
Geforce4 MX (Only the 128-bit memory models)
SiS 315 (Almost as fast as a Geforce2 MX 400, and about $10 cheaper. Unlike SiS' other products, the drivers are fantastic).

Don't need 3D, or extremely cheap? Look into these (Personally I don't recommend these):

ATi Rage Pro
S3 Savage IX
TNT2 M64
nVidia Vanta

All of these retail for ~$10, but I would get the TNT2. Then again, why get either? Spend the extra cash and go for a decent card. It will increase the resell value if you ever get rid of the PC.

Well, of course I need memory. Generic it is!

Not so fast there, buddy. You don't want that stuff, trust me.

Generic memory is unstable, cheaply made, and often incompatible with certain chipsets. High density 16Mx64 modules should be avoided at all costs.

Spend the extra $15 and get a stable system.

Good brands include:

Kingston
Crucial
Corsair
Mushkin
Rosewill
Samsung based memory (Includes Rosewill)

Anything else, and you can kiss my ass! The last thing you want is unstable memory. Dual channel is a tad pricey in this range, so you may want to reconsider...

Okay, how about a hard drive? I can just buy any old one, right? The same should go for an optical drive.

NO! Don't lose your data, or your manhood with crap.

For hard drives, Western Digital, Samsung, and Seagate are the must haves. Avoid anything else.

For optical drives, Sony, Pioneer, Toshiba, Lite-On, and Asus are the best options.

Cooling! What isn't crap for that?

Two words: Zalman, Thermalright. Avoid Thermaltake at all costs. Stock cooling is acceptable, but not great.

The case! I can just use a cheap one, right? Same for the PSU!

Fucks no. Case, maybe, but the PSU? Never.

For cases, companies such as Aspire and MGE make excellent budget cases with excellent power supplies. Antec does too, but theirs cost a bit more.

Try not to spend over $35, total. What's the point of having a "ricer" system that looks like God, but has crappy parts? It ain't "Ghetto Fab," bitch!

Linkworld makes acceptable cases, nothing special, and nothing too great. The included PSU's are crap, though.

Try to soup up your machine with an MGE, Aspire, or Sparkle PSU.

The best combo so far seems to be the AMS Gigastar/Sparkle 300w PSU.

http://www.newegg.com/app/ViewProductDesc.asp?description=11-180-025&depa=1

http://www.newegg.com/app/ViewProductDesc.asp?description=17-103-483&depa=1

Sweet! Looks like I got everything I need. Thanks Jim!

Don't sweat it, it's all in a days work.
 

Jung

???
Premium
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#2
Descent said:
Intel chips run hotter, are generally slower, and more expensive than AMD's.
I'm pretty surrey that's only for the Prescott core. AMD is well known for having heat issues.
Descent said:
For optical drives, Sony, Pioneer, Toshiba, Lite-On, and Asus are the best options.
What about Seagate?
Descent said:
Cooling! What isn't crap for that?
One word: Zalman. Avoid Thermaltake at all costs. Stock cooling is acceptable, but not great.
ThermalRight > everything else.
 

tzedek

Original Member
2,515
3
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#3
no offense but this is all opinionated. I guess its a decent starting guide, but really should be titled "How to build a pc like Descent would".

for instance i have owned 2 thermaltake cpu coolers (1 intel and 1 amd) and i have loved both of them. Personally I would highly recommend thermaltake coolers becuase of their price and quality.
 

Descent

Hella Constipated
7,686
109
157
#4
Shit! I knew I forgot a company there.

Thanks. This Abilify crap gives me horrid memory lapses. I forgot my best friend's name for a full five minutes last week.

EDIT: Yes, there are many opinions here, but some stuff is fact, such as the memory issue.