How to Build a PC, Part 1 - Buy components
Components to consider
First decide if you want Intel or AMD. AMD is usually cheaper while offers really good performance.
Either one has a full range of products, interestingly their names a very aligned:
|Entry Level||i3||Ryzen 3|
Intel CPU socket is changing frequently, while AMD's socket is relatively stable, so if you plan to upgrade your CPU while keeping your motherboard and the rest of the system, AMD might be the better choice.
Learn more: CPU
The motherboard chipset should match your CPU. Again both Intel and AMD offer full range of products:
- Intel: X for Extreme, Z for Performance, H for Mainstream, B/Q for Budget.
- AMD: X for Enthusiast (e.g. X570), B for Performance (e.g. B550; the "m" in B550m stands for mATX), A for Mainstream (e.g. A520)
The full-size motherboard (305 × 244 mm) is called ATX. If you do not need to use all those ports and slots, consider the smaller sized mATX (244 × 244 mm) or Mini-ITX (170 × 170 mm).
Most of the motherboards have an Ethernet port, but not all have Wi-Fi built-in. If you need Wi-Fi, pay attention to the motherboard spec, otherwise you can add a Wi-Fi card or use a USB Wi-Fi dongle.
Learn more: Motherboard
As of 2023, new pc should shoot for 32 GB (2 x 16 GB).
Depending on your CPU and motherboard, you may need DDR4 or DDR5. DDR5 is the latest, with lower power comsumption comparing to DDR4.
The memory spec usually looks like
DDR4-3600 CL18, where the
3600 is the frequency, the higher the better, and
CL18 is the latency, the lower the better.
Learn more: Memory
HDD is still useful for storing huge amount of data, like vidoes; otherwise prefer SSD.
Learn more: Storage
If you CPU does not come with an integrated GPU, you need to pick a dedicated GPU, which has its own memory, on a separated board, and is connected to the motherboard through PCIe.
The 2 GPU brands are NVidia GeForce and AMD Radeon. You can choose either one, it does not matter if your build is Intel or AMD based.
As of 2023, NVidia's RTX 40 Series is the latest; RTX 30 Series and 20 Series are still in production. Radeon RX 7000 series is the latest, based on RDNA 3 architecture; Radeon RX 6000 series are based on their RDNA 2 architecture, now selling much lower than the MSRP.
Note that when you actually buy the GPU, you will encounter many other brands that build and sell the graphics card, they differ in design, price and other aspects like warrantee, but under the hood the GPU are all coming from NVidia and AMD.
Learn more: GPU
Power Supply (PSU)
You can calculate the required power by adding up all the components, or use tools like https://pcpartpicker.com/
Learn more: Power Supply
Pick the case based on motherboard size.
Pay attention to the ports: VGA vs DVI vs HDMI vs DisplayPort. Make sure you have the right ports in you motherboard or GPU, especially if you have multiple monitors, make sure they all can be plugged in.
Learn more: Monitor
(Optional) Wireless Card
If you motherboard does not come with Wifi, you need to buy a separate wireless card.
(Optional) CPU Cooler
You should consider buying a CPU Cooler if:
- the CPU does not ship with a cooler (especially for some highend CPUs).
- you want to do heavy overclocking, which nees a more powerful cooler.
- you want a quieter cooler.
(Optional) Thermal paste
Some coolers have thermal paste pre-applied. If not you can buy thermal paste for under $10.
Accessories and Peripherals
- Keyboard + mouse
- Sound card
- USB to install OS
- (Optional) ESD Wrist Straps / anti-static strap
- (optional) Zip ties (for cable managment)
Where to buy
- B&H (https://www.bhphotovideo.com)