If you need a new computer, or just want to upgrade your old one, this thread is for you!
Building a PC can get very expensive, and many simply don't know enough about computers to make an informed decision on what to buy.
This thread aims to help those who are less tech savvy, or whose knowledge is simply out of date, get the best PC their budget allows.
Below you'll find several component categories, each with information you should know before deciding what to buy, and a small select list of quality parts that have been well reviewed on major online retailers such as Amazon, Newegg, etc.
At the very bottom there is also a list of PC builds for various budgets. Thread last updated: January 6 2020
What to know:
-Return policy; Do they accept open box returns, do they charge for returns, how long after purchase can returns be made?
-Where do they ship from? Shipping costs, taxes, and return policy can all be greatly affected by this.
USA: Amazon.com Newegg.com
Canada: Amazon.ca Newegg.ca memoryexpress.com
UK: Amazon.co.uk aria.co.uk scan.co.uk overclockers.co.uk
(Should probably only be used for quick price/compatibility overview. Not all retailers it links to are reliable) store.cablemod.com
(Custom order PC cables. any color, any length. Useful for building a PC with a clean interior / better airflow) nowinstock.net
(Cant find the newest GPU/CPU/etc. in stock anywhere? This site shows hour-by-hour who has stock) siliconlottery.com
(Offers CPU delidding service, for those who really care about CPU temps, but don't want to risk opening one themselves)
What to Know:
-Performance is generally measured in two parts; Single threaded, and multi-threaded.
-The better a CPUs single threaded performance, the better it'll be for physics simulation & most modeling tasks/tools.
-The better a CPUs multi-threaded performance, the better it'll be for rendering/baking/multitasking.
-Roughly speaking; The more GHz the better single threaded performance, and the more cores the better multi-threaded performance.
-CPUs can run faster by 'overclocking' them, but they will run hotter and need better cooling. 'Deliding' can significantly lower temps.
-Intel CPUs must have a 'K' or an 'X' at the end of their number to be overclockable (ex: i7-8700K).
$??? - Intel i9-10900K (10 cores, 3.7~5.3 ghz) (not yet officially released)
$??? - Intel i9-10700K (8 cores, 3.8~5.0 ghz) (not yet officially released)
$??? - Intel i9-9900KS (8 core , 4.0~5.0 ghz) (LGA 1151 Intel 300 series)
$530 - Intel i9-9900K (8 cores, 3.6~5.0ghz) (LGA 1151 Intel 300 series)
$400 - Intel i7-9700K (8 cores, 3.6~4.9ghz) (No hyper threading support!) (LGA 1151 Intel 300 series)
$4000 - AMD Threadripper 3990X (64 cores) (releases on Feb 7 2020)
$2000 - AMD Threadripper 3970X (32 cores, 3.7~4.5ghz) (Socket sTRX4)
$1400 - AMD Threadripper 3960X (24 cores, 3.8~4.5ghz) (Socket sTRX4)
$750 - AMD R9 3950X (16 cores , 3.5~4.7ghz) (Socket AM4)
$470 - AMD R9 3900X (12 cores , 3.8~4.6ghz) (Socket AM4)
$340 - AMD R7 3800X (8 cores , 3.9~4.5ghz) (Socket AM4)
$310 - AMD R7 3700X (8 cores , 3.6~4.4ghz) (Socket AM4)
$170 - AMD R7 2700X (8 cores , 3.7~4.3ghz)(Socket AM4)
---VIDEO CARD (GPU)---
What to know:
-Geforce cards offer MUCH better performance for the price vs Quadro cards in the vast majority of 3D software.
-Quadro cards are mainly meant for FP64 focused software like Rhino 3D or Solidworks, and multi-GPU rendering / output.
-Having multiple GPUs improves performance in certain renders (Octane), but do nothing for viewport performance in Max/Maya/etc.
-Large GPUs may sag due to weight, which can cause damage to the PCIe socket. If necessary, use a 'GPU brace' for extra support.
-GPUs creating high pitch noise ('coil whine') is common. Avoid putting your ears near it or risk permanent ear damage / hearing loss.
-AMD GPUs currently have major driver issues (black screen hard crash) and thus are not recommended!
$2500 - Geforce TITAN RTX, 24GB VRAM (basically a 2080 Ti, just with a bit more then double the VRAM)
$1200 - Geforce RTX 2080 Ti, 11GB VRAM
$800 - Geforce RTX 2080 SUPER, 8GB VRAM
$500 - Geforce RTX 2070 SUPER, 8GB VRAM
$400 - Geforce RTX 2060 SUPER, 8GB VRAM
$280 - Geforce 1660 Ti, 6GB VRAM (No raytracing support!)
$220 - Geforce 1660, 6GB VRAM (No raytracing support!)
What to know:
-PCs meant for 3D art these days should have 32GB of RAM or more, but you can get away with as low as 16GB for a budget build.
-Depending on the motherboard, RAM sticks should be installed in sets of two (LGA 1150 / 1151, AM4), or sets of four (LGA 2011-3, TR4).
-Memory performance; "DDR4 3200 7-7-7-24", The 3200 is the max speed (higher is better), 7-7-7-24 is the latency (lower is better).
-RAM speed is limited by your CPU, for instance; i7 8700K = 2666 MHz, Ryzen 2700X = 2933 MHz, Ryzen 3900X = 3200 MHz
-If your RAM is rated for speeds higher then the limit set by your CPU, the RAM will need to be overclocked to reach those speeds.
-There is a special type of RAM known as ECC (error correcting code) which has improved reliability over standard RAM.
-ECC RAM is supported by all modern AMD CPUs, but Intel only supports it on specific workstation/enterprise CPUs and motherboards.
-As of 2019 non-ECC 32GB sticks of RAM have become available, making it possible to have 64GB on Mini-ITX motherboards.
What to know:
-Most setups these days use an SSD for the OS, and a cheap mechanical drive (HDD) for file storage.
-SSD's: The slowest use SATA, the fastest use NVMe with PCIe 4.0.
-HDD's: They're all slow compared to SSDs, but hybrid drives and ones with 'CMR' (instead of 'SMR') tech offer the best performance.
-HDD's live longer the less often they spin up / spin down. (i.e. "Turn off Hard Disk after" = Never)
-For improved reliability; set up two drives in whats called a RAID1 array, where data is mirrored across both drives in case one fails.
-For data backup, you want a NAS (Network Attached Storage) which stores your data both locally and offsite (in case of fire/flood/etc.)
-For long-term data archiving, M-Discs are likely your best bet. They are special DVD / BR discs rated to last 1000 years by the US DoD.
M.2 SSD (NVMe):
$200 - Sabrent 1TB Rocket NVMe 4.0
$125 - Samsung 970 EVO Plus 500GB
2.5' SSD (SATA):
$120 - Samsung 860 EVO SSD 500GB
$110 - Crucial MX500 2.5" 500GB
What to know:
-The type of motherboard you need for your CPU depends on the socket and chipset it's designed for.
-Chipset/Socket examples; an i7-8700K needs an LGA 1151 300 series motherboard. A Ryzen CPU needs an AM4 socket motherboard.
-Almost all motherboards use Realtek audio, but some give it a different name for marketing purposes (ASUS's 'SpremeFX').
-Micro ATX and Mini ITX boards are all generally supported by
standard ATX Mid/Full PC towers, they don't need special towers.
-Thunderbolt 3 is a feature that piggybacks on USB ports, and via a
USB-C cable allows for sending data more quickly on supported devices.
-Thunderbolt 3 is only supported on Intel boards (AMD users are out of luck on this one).
-On ASUS boards the "Multi Core Enhancement" feature makes all CPU
cores run at max Turbo Boost speed, thus also increasing CPU temps.
-Windows 7 can still be installed to modern PCs, but may require specific motherboard settings or additional hardware+software.
-Recommendation: ASRock Taichi boards are the most universally well reviewed across all socket types right now, any one of them is good.
What to know:
-A 600 watt power supply is enough for the vast majority of desktop PCs, the main exception being if running high-spec GPUs in SLI.
-You should always use a surge protector. (preferably one where you can tell when it needs to be replaced, which they all do eventually).
-Be aware that power surges can come through your ethernet cable.
-A cheap/poor quality PSU can result in the early death of other components in your PC, as well as affect general stability/performance.
-"80 PLUS" ratings (Bronze, Gold, Platinum, etc.) measure efficiency, i.e. how much power is wasted. Higher rating = lower power bill.
-The wattage rating (ex: 650W) Is how much it can output to your system, not how much it will draw from the outlet at peak load.
-Do NOT mix and match / re-use cables between modular power supplies. Doing so could easily result in destroying your PC.
$250 - EVGA 220-T2-1000-X1 (1000W)
$190 - EVGA 220-T2-0850-X1 (850W)
$160 - EVGA 220-T2-0750-X1 (750W)
$250 - EVGA 220-P2-1000-XR (1000W)
$160 - SeaSonic SS-760XP2 ATX (760W)
$150 - CORSAIR AX760 (760W)
$120 - EVGA 220-G2-0750-XR (750W)
$110 - SeaSonic SS-650KM (650W)
What to Know:
-Air cooling is the cheapest and most reliable form of cooling.
-High end air coolers are massive. They wont fit in all ATX
cases, may block RAM sockets, and can damage the motherboard when PC
-Water cooling is best for those who intend to have their PC render for days at a time, or do overclocking.
-Water coolers can be bought pre-assembled (all-in-one/AIO), or built from individually chosen parts yourself (custom).
-"Closed loop" AIO water coolers are designed to never be refilled or
require maintenance. They are set-and-forget just like air coolers.
-Custom water coolers can perform much better then AIO coolers, but are expensive and require occasional maintenance.
-Water coolers if leak can destroy your PC.
-With a custom water cooling setup, mixing parts that use different metals (copper, aluminum, etc.) can result in galvanic corrosion.
-Thermal paste; Use no more then a grain of rice worth at a time for best results.
-Case fan size (120mm, 140mm, etc.) is measured from one screw to the next along the border, NOT diagonally.
-Case fan power connectors are universally compatible with all motherboards no matter if they have 4-pins (PVM), or 3-pins (FLX/ULN).
-Liquid LN2/CO2/LHe & Phase cooling; Only used for the most excessive of overclocks. Not viable as every day cooling solutions.
CPU Air Coolers (fans):
$99 - Noctua NH-U12A
$90 - Noctua NH-D15 (get the SE-AM4 version if using an AM4/Ryzen motherboard)
$80 - Noctua NH-D15S (fits better on X99 boards, but one fan less then regular NH-D15)
$90 - Be Quiet! Dark Rock Pro 3
$90 - Cryorig R1 Ultimate
$60 - Noctua NH-U12S (get the SE-AM4 version if using an AM4/Ryzen motherboard)
$35 - Cryorig H7
$30 - Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO
CPU Water Coolers (All-in-one):
$120 - NZXT Kraken X61
$110 - Corsair H100i v2 (requires a special bracket that's sold separate to work with AM4 systems)
$90 - Corsair H80i
$30 - Corsair ML
$20 - Noctua NF-S12A
$15 - Be Quiet! Silent Wings 2
AM4/Ryzen compatible Coolers:
$90 - Noctua NH-D15 (SE-AM4 version)
$60 - Noctua NH-U12S (SE-AM4 version)
TR4/Threadripper compatible coolers:
$80 - NH-U14S TR4-SP3
$70 - NH-U12S TR4-SP3
$70 - NH-U9 TR4-SP3
$8 - Arctic Silver 5
$8 - Arctic MX-4
What to check:
-Will it fit all the parts you've chosen? (i.e. be sure to check both the overall dimensions and internal layout)
-Does it have optical bays? (This is very important for some, and not at all for others)
-Is it designed with water cooling in mind?
-How good is the ventilation?
-Does it have sound dampening? (For many people, a noisy PC is annoying)
-Does it have both USB Type-A and Type-C ports at the front? Type-A is common, but Type-C is the new & increasingly popular standard.
Towers (optical bays):
$190 - Be Quiet! DarkBase 900
$130 - Corsair Carbide Series Air 540
$120 - Corsair Carbide Series 500R
$100 - Phanteks Enthoo Pro
$90 - Nanoxia Deep Silence 3
Towers (no optical bays):
$150 - Phanteks P600S
$140 - CoolerMaster H500P
$140 - Lian Li O11 Dynamic (only for liquid cooled setups)
$120 - Phanteks Enthoo Evolv
$100 - NZXT H440
$90 - Phanteks Eclipse P400S
$90 - Fractal Design MESHIFY C
$90 - Lian Li Lancool II
$80 - NZXT S340
$70 - Be Quiet! PURE BASE 500
$60 - Phanteks P300
Mini ITX cases:
$280 - DAN A4-SFX (Only available through overclockers.co.uk)
$210 - Streacom DA2
$200 - FormD-T1 (requires assembly)
$190 - NCASE M1 V6 (Community designed, funded via kickstarter. Only available through ncases.com)
$170 - IN WIN 901
$110 - Lian Li TU150
$120 - Velka 3 rev 1.1 and the riser cable (the riser cable is mandatory to fit a dedicated GPU in the case!)
$60 - Cougar Case QBX
What to know:
-Common Issues; back light bleeding, dead pixels, ghosting, yellow tinting.
-Screen types; IPS (best color accuracy), VA (best contrast but suffer from ghosting), and TN (fast response times, but worst color accuracy).
-Adobe RGB support is only important for print work. sRGB is all you need to care about for games/video.
-Panels can reproduce more colors the higher their bit depth. They generally come in 6, 8, and 10-bit variants.
-Manufacturers regularly lie about panel type / bit depth. Some 'IPS' panels are actually VA panels, some '8-bit' panels are 6-bit, etc.
-Only Quadro/FirePro GPUs support 10-bit with OpenGL.
-Modern screens use HDMI and/or Display Port. Older standards such as DVI / VGA are generally not supported anymore without adaptors.
-Color calibration almost always has to be done by the user.
-For color calibration devices, if you have trouble using the included software, try this: displaycal.net
4K IPS screens (99% sRGB minimum)
$1100 - BenQ SW271 (27 inch. 99% Adobe RGB)
$550 - LG 27UK850-W (27 inch. 81% Adobe RGB)
1440P IPS screens (99% sRGB minimum)
$950 - NEC PA272W-BK (27 inch. 99% Adobe RGB)
$600 - BenQ SW2700PT (27 inch. 99% Adobe RGB)
$500 - ASUS PA279Q (27 inch. 99% Adobe RGB)
$330 - ASUS PB258Q (25 inch. 75% Adobe RGB)
$320 - ASUS MX MX25AQ (25 inch)
Tablet screens (1080p unless otherwise stated):
(NOTE: Wacom tablets are considered the best you can buy, cheaper alternatives are more likely to have build quality and/or driver issues)
$2,000 - Wacom Cintiq 27QHD (2560 x 1440)
$1,700 - Wacom Cintiq 22HD
$800 - Wacom Cintiq 13HD
$500 - Huion Kamvas GT-191
$300 - XP-Pen Artist 15.6
$330 - VEIKK VK1560
$360 - Gaomon PD1560
Color Calibration devices:
$90 - X-Rite ColorMunki Smile
$130 - Datacolor S5X100 Spyder5EXPRESS
What to know:
-Onboard audio has reached a point where it will be good enough for most people. But for everyone else...
-Years ago, for good audio quality, you would get a dedicated sound card (i.e. an internal DAC / Digital to analog convertor).
-These days, for good audio quality, you get an external DAC.
-Windows OS only requires drivers for a USB DAC if it can go above 96khz. Many DAC's avoid going over 96khz for this reason.
-Linux and MAC/iOS don't require a USB DAC to have drivers unless it goes above 192khz.
-CD audio is all 44.1khz, and iTunes/Spotify audio is all 44.1khz to 48khz (but not lossless unfortunately).
-For extra durability, get a DAC with a 6.3mm audio plug and use a 3.5mm adapter if needed (6.3mm plugs are FAR more durable).
-If you want to convert analog to digital (that is, to record audio), look into getting an external "Audio Interface".
External DAC's (Outlet power):
$500 - Denon DA-300USB (192khz / 6.3mm)
$280 - AUNE X1s (192khz / 6.3mm)
$270 - Mayflower Objective 2 + ODAC Rev. B (96kHz / 3.5mm)
$110 - Micca OriGen+ (192kHz / 6.3mm + 3.5mm)
External DAC's (USB power):
$290 - Apogee GROOVE (192khz / 3.5mm)
$200 - AudioQuest DragonFly Red (96khz / 3.5mm)
$170 - Audioengine D1 (96khz / 3.5mm)
$150 - Audioengine D3 (96khz / 3.5mm)
$150 - JDS Standalone ODAC Rev B (96kHz / 3.5mm)
$100 - AudioQuest DragonFly Black v1.5 (96khz / 3.5mm)
$60 - Zorloo ZuperDAC (192khz / 3.5mm)
What to know:
-CPU speed; Intel laptop CPUs are much slower then their desktop variant of the same number (ex: 6700HQ is 40% slower then a 6700K).
-CPU types; You can get laptops with desktop CPUs, but they use more power, and generate far more heat shortening the laptops lifespan.
-GPU speed; Pascal-based NVIDIA GPUs have near identical performance on both desktops and laptops. atm, AMD is not competative here.
-GPU upgrades; Limited to your existing GPUs generation (ex: 1060>1080), but laptops w/Thunderbolt3 can use external desktop GPUs.
-RAM; Most laptops max out at 16GB of RAM, but for modern 3D workloads it's recommended to get one that can handle 32GB or more.
-Storage; Avoid mechanical drives on laptops as they use more power then SSDs, and are slower + more damage prone then on desktops.
-Screen; You'll want 1920x1080 or better, and IPS for color accuracy. Touch screens are normally only available on slower laptops.
-Screen vs battery; G-Sync/120hz screens can't switch to an integrated GPU so battery life is much worse for web browsing and such.
-Keyboard; Many laptop keyboards lack the right side 'number pad', but some 3D apps (such as Blender) use it extensively.
-Ports; You'll likely want 2+ USB-A ports, a USB-C port w/Thunderbolt 3 support, an ethernet port, HDMI, and 3.5mm headphone/mic jacks.
-Cooling; A cooling pad is recommended to increase the lifespan of your laptop, especially if regularly maxing out the CPU/GPU.
-Battery; Extend battery life by lowering recharge threshold (ex: only perform full rechange when charge goes below 60%).
-Theft/Recovery; Keep the serial number for police in case the laptop is stolen. An internet tracking app can also help them.
----------Suggested Desktop PC setups----------
Note that these are 'balanced' setups, and not necessarily the best for everyone within that budget.Budget: n/a (best money can buy)
CPU: Threadripper 3990X
GPU: RTX Titan (basically a 2080ti but with double the VRAM)
RAM: 256GB 3200mhz (8x 32GB , the maximum sTRX4 socket supports)
SSD: Sabrent Rocket 4.0 2TB with heatsink
PSU: SeaSonic PRIME Platinum 1300W
MOBO: Asus Prime TRX40-Pro
CPU Cooler: Thermaltake Floe Riing RGB 360 TR4 Edition
Tower: Phanteks P600SBudget: $2600
CPU: Ryzen 9 3950X
GPU: Geforce RTX 2080 SUPER 8GB
RAM: 64GB (4x 16GB)
SSD: 1TB Samsung 970 EVO Plus
MOBO: MSI MPG X570 GAMING EDGE
CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-U12A
Tower: Fractal Design Meshify C
Power: Seasonic FOCUS Plus (750W, Gold rated)Budget: $1600
CPU: Ryzen 5 3700X (comes with cooler)
GPU: Geforce RTX 2070
RAM: 32GB (2x 16GB)
SSD: 500GB Samsung 970 EVO Plus
MOBO: MSI MPG X570 GAMING EDGE
Tower: Fractal Design Meshify C
Power: Seasonic FOCUS Plus (750W, Gold rated)
CPU: Ryzen 7 1600 AF (12nm version. About same performance as Ryzen 2600 but half the price. comes with cooler)
GPU: Geforce GTX 1660 Super 6GB
RAM: 16GB (2x 8gb)
SSD: 500GB Crucial MX500
MOBO: ASRock B450M
Tower: Phanteks P300
Power: SeaSonic FOCUS (550W, Gold Rated)