written by: theinkandpen (Robert Mullon)•edited by: Christian Cawley•updated: 9/22/2011
A budget PC will not be sufficient to play the most demanding games or for editing video/audio. This guide provides beginners with information on how to build a powerful computer, including reviews and general tips.
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Who Needs Such a Powerful Machine?
For daily tasks – like browsing, Skype conferences, listening to music, or occasional gaming – a budget or mid-range computer is perfectly fine, perhaps a unit built around an LGA775/AM2 processor and a mainstream video card. However, the difference in performance between an LGA775 and i5/i7 processor is noticeable with High-definition video editing, software-reliant audio production or intense maxed-out gaming. For a freelancer this difference is crucial since it saves time.
Building a powerful PC does not just mean choosing the most expensive parts, or buying technology by release-date; a user needs to know how to choose components which suit the build’s purpose, components which integrate flawlessly in the chosen architecture. A simple example would be the mistake of buying a core i7 980X processor for gaming, when games have barely scratched the four-thread surface. Such a processor is overkill for this purpose, even when planning for a high-end gaming rig.
Bright Hub’s purchasing guide for high-end computers should help power-users put together their dream-machine. Though the links below feature pre-built units, it will give readers some ideas on which parts are preferable when building a powerful PC.
Case-design in a PC is quite often overlooked, after all it should merely contain your components and fit into a desired space. Choosing a case is no trifling matter however, particularly when assembling a powerful build.
The user should consider whether the case is sturdy enough, built of materials which can stand the heat and provide better cooling. The case should obviously be spacious enough for adequate airflow, and to allow extra fans and larger components to be fitted. For instance, the Thermalright Venomous X or Scythe Infinity are big tower-style coolers and a large case is needed to provide adequate airflow between the PSU and CPU socket.
Below are three articles which should help in making the choice for great cases.
Always choose the best and most efficient PSU for your system, without compromises on quality. This is even truer for high-end systems, which have components with higher power consumption. If overclocking or running a Sli/Crossfire configuration, with two graphic cards in one system, it is wise to go slightly over the power requirements allowing for peak loads.
As usual, choose a unit with a double 12v rail and calculate the requirements for your systems with an online PSU calculator. Included below is an article on how to estimate your PSU requirements, as well as high-quality PSU brands.
Obviously socket type is crucial when picking a Motherboard, but it is not the only thing to consider. For a powerful system, the Mobo should support PCI-E 3.0 for graphic-intensive PC’s and Sata 3.0 allowing high transfer-rates for your drives.
It should also support faster DD3 speeds, like DDR3-1866, 2133 or 2200. Modern logic-boards are also unlikely to feature PS/2 sockets for keyboard/mouse, with more USB sockets instead. Lastly, consider a motherboard with two or more 16x PCI-E slots when building a gaming PC, for eventual Sli/Crossfire purposes.
Something like the Asus Rampage II is an example of an extremely high-end feature-rich board for the 1366 socket, particularly if there is an interest in overclocking. However, a unit like the Sabertooth P67, with its thermal armor designed for better heat-dissipation, is still a good board for the 1155 socket.
As usual, read below for more information and a variety of choice.
The CPU will obviously match the socket of the chosen motherboard. Processors are aplenty, though the choice of an AM3, 1155 or 1366 socket processor seems best suited to our purchasing guide for High-End Computers.
Intel’s i7 980X or 990X-Extreme are beastly units, featuring 64-bit architecture, Turbo-Boost and the Hyper-Threading technology seen since the days of the 478 Socket. The processors are hexacores (6 cores), but HT means they essentially run 12 threads. This processor is highly recommended for intensive 3D work, video encoding and professional audio editing (i.e. recording studio or similar).
For gaming there are a number of processors which are good, and not exclusive to the latest sockets. Since not all games take advantage of multiple cores/threads, picking a CPU for a gaming PC should not be as expensive as more demanding high-end builds.
The very latest cards to come out from the leading brand manufacturers, as of time of writing, are the Radeon HD 6990 and the Nvidia GTX 590, which are both dual-GPU GDDR5 cards. They are quite expensive since they provide the best performance for 3D designers, Video editing and the usual strenuous graphical applications on a PC.
If the build requires intense graphic-processing, the above cards are highly recommended. Unfortunately there are no available reviews of these cards on the Hub, since they are the newest offering from both brands. However, they are both overkill for a gaming PC and any of the GPU’s below will comfortably run any modern gaming title.
The final step of our purchasing guide for high-end computers, is adding sound which means buying a soundcard. As usual choice depends on the build – a professional sound studio would choose entirely different hardware than a media PC.
Below are good some choices for soundcards, which conclude this guide.