A few naive questions before I begin building...

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A few naive questions before I begin building...

Postposted on Thu May 22, 2014 3:26 pm

Hi. I'm planning on building my own PC for the first time and I'm much more confident than I was prior to reading the excellent TechReport guides. I still have a couple of (probably daft) questions though if you wouldn't mind giving me your time:

I'll need a memory card reader for my digital camera's storage card. These readers all seem to be of smaller width than an optical drive. Do all cases come with a suitable slot on the front?

DDR3 sticks appear to come in two shapes – 'normal' and those odd looking ones such as Corsair Vengeance. Is there a difference between the two types? If not, why the odd shape of the Vengeance?

I'm not a gamer so a mini or micro board would probably be fine. However, would I be correct in thinking that a full size ATX is easier to work with (fiddly plugs etc)?

Is the motherboard's backplate (for the mouse/keyboard etc) an industry standard size i.e. any mobo backplate will fit any case?

Do CPUs come with a tube of thermal paste or is that a separate purchase?

My grateful thanks in anticipation of your assistance. I can't promise there won't be more questions...
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Re: A few naive questions before I begin building...

Postposted on Thu May 22, 2014 3:46 pm

Sorry for the caps but did not have time for formatting....

I'll need a memory card reader for my digital camera's storage card. These readers all seem to be of smaller width than an optical drive. Do all cases come with a suitable slot on the front?
SOME DO BUT NOT ALL. YOU MAY NEED TO BUY AN ADAPTER.

DDR3 sticks appear to come in two shapes – 'normal' and those odd looking ones such as Corsair Vengeance. Is there a difference between the two types? If not, why the odd shape of the Vengeance?
VENGEANCE HAS SOME ELABORATE CUSTOM HEATSINKS AND THAT’S THEIR CURRENT DESIGN. CORSAIR HAS SOME RAM WITHOUT THEM. FOR SOME CORSAIR RAM YOU CAN UNSCREW THE HEATSINKS FROM THE RAM.

I'm not a gamer so a mini or micro board would probably be fine. However, would I be correct in thinking that a full size ATX is easier to work with (fiddly plugs etc)?
ONLY USED ATX BUT CANNOT IMAGINE THEY ARE MUCH DIFFERENT. THE MORE IMPORTANT CONCERN IS HAVING A CASE THAT IS EASY TO WORK IN.

Is the motherboard's backplate (for the mouse/keyboard etc) an industry standard size i.e. any mobo backplate will fit any case?
YES MOTHERBOARD BACKPLATES FOR PORTS ARE STANDARD SIZE.

Do CPUs come with a tube of thermal paste or is that a separate purchase?
ACTUALLY DON’T REMEMBER BUT MY BELIEF IS THAT THIRD-PARTY PASTE IS BETTER AFTER READING YEARS OF TESTING REVIEWS.

EDIT: Added "HAS"
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Re: A few naive questions before I begin building...

Postposted on Thu May 22, 2014 3:55 pm

I'm no expert but I think I can address these.

1) Memory card reader - I believe most of these are designed to occupy 3.5" external bays. Not all cases have those, but it shouldn't be too hard to find one that does. Make sure it's external, as internal 3.5" are meant for hard drives and won't be terribly useful for a card reader. Even if you don't have a case you like with 3.5" external bays, I believe they make 5.25" -> 3.5" adapters. 5.25" bays are very common, that's the wider size for optical drives you were referring to.

2) I think you're referring to the heat spreader. It doesn't make a difference as far as whether or not they'll fit into your slots, but since they take up more room, you may run into issues with clearance against your heatsink in tighter cases. You probably wont' notice a difference between RAM with heat spreaders and RAM without, unless you plan on overclocking your RAM.

3) ATX will be easier to work with and will allow more flexibility for expansion down the line. That said, I just built a pretty capable micro ATX box without too much trouble. If you don't think you'll be adding a ton of hard drives or graphics cards, you should definitely consider micro ATX or even mini ITX.

4) Not certain how they match across form factors (like putting a micro ATX mobo into an ATX case), but yeah I don't think this will be an issue.

5) CPUs come with thermal interface material pre-applied to the stock heatsink. If you plan on getting a different/better heatsink, you will need a tube of paste. If not, you're set.

Hopefully I haven't told you any lies. I'm sure someone will correct me if I have.
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Re: A few naive questions before I begin building...

Postposted on Thu May 22, 2014 3:57 pm

dortmunder wrote:I'll need a memory card reader for my digital camera's storage card. These readers all seem to be of smaller width than an optical drive. Do all cases come with a suitable slot on the front?

You're talking about a 3.5" external drive bay. Look for that in the spec sheet of the case(s) you're considering. Would this USB reader for $7 work just as well?
dortmunder wrote:DDR3 sticks appear to come in two shapes – 'normal' and those odd looking ones such as Corsair Vengeance. Is there a difference between the two types? If not, why the odd shape of the Vengeance?

Yeah, the actual board is the same on everything (Sans truly low-profile DIMMS). Heatsinks change the overall shape. Stay away from super tall heatsinks like Corsair Vengeance, they can interfere with an aftermarket tower-style CPU cooler if you have any intent on adding one now/later.
dortmunder wrote:I'm not a gamer so a mini or micro board would probably be fine. However, would I be correct in thinking that a full size ATX is easier to work with (fiddly plugs etc)?

No difference between the two in that regard. mATX just has a couple less expansion slots. Still more than enough for the majority of users. Case choice is going to heavily dictate how easy it is to build.
dortmunder wrote:Is the motherboard's backplate (for the mouse/keyboard etc) an industry standard size i.e. any mobo backplate will fit any case?

The hole in the case for the backplate is a standard size. Each mobo will come with it's own backplate because the rear port cluser arrangement is always unique to each mobo.
dortmunder wrote:Do CPUs come with a tube of thermal paste or is that a separate purchase?

There will be stock TIM pre-installed on the stock heatsink. Set it on and latch it up. Otherwise, you can buy aftermarket stuff. You're talking about <4C difference though.
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Re: A few naive questions before I begin building...

Postposted on Thu May 22, 2014 4:33 pm

Memory card reader - buy an external one, it's easier to plug your cards into it (you can put in anywhere on your desk) and it's easier to replace when it goes dead (these things do die, I went through 2 garbage Rosewill internal memory card readers before getting an external one by different brand). You can also easily unplug it and use it on any different PC/laptop which might not have it.
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Re: A few naive questions before I begin building...

Postposted on Thu May 22, 2014 4:41 pm

The others have got you covered on this. I will add that mATX isn't more difficult to work with as connectors are all standard sizes. Good mATX cases may even be easier to work with as they are smaller, lighter and cable lengths won't be an issue for routing like they can be with big cases. If you're cramming more than one optical drive and two hard drives into the case it's probably better to go bigger though.
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Re: A few naive questions before I begin building...

Postposted on Thu May 22, 2014 6:24 pm

dortmunder wrote:Hi.
Willkommen im The Tech Report!

dortmunder wrote: I'll need a memory card reader.
Most of the internal card readers will fit into a 3½" drive bay (the same size as a floppy disk drive). A few large ones will fit into a 5¼" drive bay (the same size as a Blu-ray drive). If your case has only 5¼" bays, you can use a £6 or £5 or £10 adapter to install a 3½" device in a 5¼" drive bay. Do look for a reader that supports USB3, like this £30 Silverstone FP-56 (5¼") or £23 FP-37 (3½").

dortmunder wrote: DDR3 sticks appear to come in two shapes – 'normal' and those odd looking ones such as Corsair Vengeance. Is there a difference between the two types? If not, why the odd shape of the Vengeance?
It is very much like having a giant surfboard-sized wing attached to the boot lid of your Honda Civic. It's all about appearances. You will want two DIMMs. I recommend lower profile memory like Crucial Ballistix Sport BLS2K8G3D1609ES2LX0 or Ballistix Tactical BLT2K8G3D1608ET3LX0 (16 GiB kits) or BLS2K4G3D1609ES2LX0 or BLT2K4G3D1608ET3LX0 (8 GiB kits).

dortmunder wrote: I'm not a gamer so a mini or micro board would probably be fine. However, would I be correct in thinking that a full size ATX is easier to work with (fiddly plugs etc)?
I believe that Micro-ATX offers plenty of space for an enthusiast PC. Take a look at the £122 or £120 Gigabyte GA-Z97MX-Gaming 5, for example. All that you get with an ATX motherboard are another two or three slots (which are frequently obsolete PCI slots rather than potentially useful PCIe slots, anyway). Micro-ATX motherboards can be installed into ATX cases, but you may need to unscrew and re-install a standoff at the lower edge before you install the motherboard. There are a number of good Micro-ATX cases available, like the £56 or £70 or £67½ Silverstone Precision PS07.

dortmunder wrote: Is the motherboard's backplate (for the mouse/keyboard etc) an industry standard size i.e. any mobo backplate will fit any case?
A new I/O shield will be included in the box with the new motherboard. It takes only a minute to pop it into the case.

dortmunder wrote: Do CPUs come with a tube of thermal paste or is that a separate purchase?
Processors that come with CPU coolers (as most of them do), have a square of thermal interface material (TIM) already-applied to the heatsink. You will peel off a protective plastic film and then place the heatsink on the CPU that you have already mounted on the motherboard. The TIM is good for only one use. If you remove the heatsink and re-install it, you will need to clean off the gooey TIM and install new paste.
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Re: A few naive questions before I begin building...

Postposted on Fri May 23, 2014 12:17 am

A superb set of replies – many thanks to you all. I hadn't considered an external card reader so I'm particularly grateful for that suggestion. One more query (not build related but I'm sure you'll know the answer):

I do a lot of CD ripping and audio editing with Exact Audio Copy and Audacity. Am I correct in thinking that a sound card's job is to enable you to HEAR good audio rather than to CREATE good audio? In other words, does my EAC and Audacity do the same job with or without a dedicated sound card?
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Re: A few naive questions before I begin building...

Postposted on Fri May 23, 2014 12:46 am

dortmunder wrote:I do a lot of CD ripping and audio editing with Exact Audio Copy and Audacity. Am I correct in thinking that a sound card's job is to enable you to HEAR good audio rather than to CREATE good audio? In other words, does my EAC and Audacity do the same job with or without a dedicated sound card?

Using EAC you are extracting the data directly from the CD. You should be good in that regard (you probably know about getting a known good optical drive that can do jitter correction and all that). However, if ever you need to record via the microphone and/or line-in, the sound card's analog-to-digital chops will be tested.

As for "fiddly plugs", if you mean those pins where you need to plug individually (PWR, RESET, etc.), micro vs full won't make a difference. If you buy an Asus board though, they include a block adapter that should make your life easier. See the following image from the PC build guide.
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Re: A few naive questions before I begin building...

Postposted on Fri May 23, 2014 9:10 am

Flying Fox wrote:If you buy an Asus board though, they include a block adapter that should make your life easier.

Even though I agree that the Asus block adapter does make things easier, am I the only one that doesn't think it's that big of a deal to attach the front panel headers? The Asus block adapter is a welcome addition, but it wouldn't sway my purchasing decisions in itself.
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Re: A few naive questions before I begin building...

Postposted on Fri May 23, 2014 10:41 am

DPete27 wrote:
Flying Fox wrote:If you buy an Asus board though, they include a block adapter that should make your life easier.

Even though I agree that the Asus block adapter does make things easier, am I the only one that doesn't think it's that big of a deal to attach the front panel headers? The Asus block adapter is a welcome addition, but it wouldn't sway my purchasing decisions in itself.

To you and me, may be not much difference (I actually feel that the increased "height" of the block adapter may make the whole thing more loose so I choose not to use it). The OP is a first-timer so it can help. ;)
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Re: A few naive questions before I begin building...

Postposted on Fri May 23, 2014 11:21 am

Flying Fox wrote:
DPete27 wrote:
Flying Fox wrote:If you buy an Asus board though, they include a block adapter that should make your life easier.

Even though I agree that the Asus block adapter does make things easier, am I the only one that doesn't think it's that big of a deal to attach the front panel headers? The Asus block adapter is a welcome addition, but it wouldn't sway my purchasing decisions in itself.

To you and me, may be not much difference (I actually feel that the increased "height" of the block adapter may make the whole thing more loose so I choose not to use it). The OP is a first-timer so it can help. ;)

I generally don't move my systems around much, so the adapter coming loose is not a concern; I use it if it comes with the motherboard. It doesn't really factor into purchase decisions though, since it is more of a one-time convenience rather than a feature you will use daily. It definitely rates a mental "Oh, that's a nice touch!" though.

Us older geeks probably appreciate it more, since the vision issues which tend to come with middle age can make dealing with the front panel wiring a bit more challenging. Hmm.. I wonder if you can get aftermarket front panel block adapters?

Cases where the USB2 wiring has individual wires rather than a block connector are annoying too. I realize we needed that back before the USB header pinout was standardized by all motherboard vendors, but there's no excuse for it today.

Or maybe I just need to get a decent set of progressive lenses. Tried progressives a few years back and hated them. Might be time to re-visit that.
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Re: A few naive questions before I begin building...

Postposted on Fri May 23, 2014 11:25 am

Most good motherboards now have labels directly adjacent to the header now, which is typically all I'm concerned with (not having to dig up the useless motherboard manual). It would be nice if they standardized into one block like USB/Audio, though.
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Re: A few naive questions before I begin building...

Postposted on Fri May 23, 2014 11:43 am

SuperSpy wrote:Most good motherboards now have labels directly adjacent to the header now, which is typically all I'm concerned with (not having to dig up the useless motherboard manual). It would be nice if they standardized into one block like USB/Audio, though.

Labels on the motherboard may not be much help if your eyes have enough miles (photons?) on them; see my previous post. :wink:
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Re: A few naive questions before I begin building...

Postposted on Fri May 23, 2014 1:19 pm

Thanks again for all the comments. As regards the block adapter, I'd probably try to do without it in the (irrational, I know) belief that the connection wouldn't be 'as good'. I'm a bit OCD that way...

If you're interested, I've made my kit selection:
CPU: Intel Core i3-4130
MOBO: Asus H87M-E
RAM: Crucial Ballistix Sport 2x4Gb
SSD: Samsung 840 EVO 120GB (I've a 1TB HDD for file storage)
OPTICAL: Asus DVD-RW Drive DRW-24F1ST
PSU: Corsair CXM600W

That just leaves the case which is currently giving me a headache – every time I identify a possibility there seems to be a user review that puts me off. With the latest one (Corsair Carbide Series 300R) it's that it needs SATA leads with a 90 degree connector which I daresay aren't supplied. Cases seem to have gotten longer, too. My current one is 18.5 inches long and sits nicely on a wooden board. Most boards I'm seeing are an inch or two longer so would overlap. Better stop moaning, though and continue the search...

Regards to all.
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Re: A few naive questions before I begin building...

Postposted on Fri May 23, 2014 2:14 pm

dortmunder wrote:PSU: Corsair CXM600W

You don't need that big of a PSU for your system. Keep your eyes peeled for the CX430 which is on sale at newegg FREQUENTLY for $20 after MIR. The CX430 can even power system with a low-midrange graphics card easily. IF you're targeting the modular PSU, the CX430M for $30 after MIR is modular.
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Re: A few naive questions before I begin building...

Postposted on Fri May 23, 2014 2:48 pm

dortmunder wrote:Thanks again for all the comments. As regards the block adapter, I'd probably try to do without it in the (irrational, I know) belief that the connection wouldn't be 'as good'. I'm a bit OCD that way...

While there is indeed a (very slight) additional risk of a poor connection, we're not talking about critical functions which will damage anything or affect system stability. It's just the power/reset buttons, and the power/HDD indicator LEDs.
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Re: A few naive questions before I begin building...

Postposted on Fri May 23, 2014 4:21 pm

I'm glad to hear you like the USB card reader. There is a large variety from 5$ to 16$. I bought 6 of these (memory stick too) for myself and friends. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... -_-Product

Consider getting the 240G SSD if you can squeeze it into the budget. They are a little faster and the extra room never hurts.

Keep in mind that the CX430M only comes with 2 SATA connectors but the CX430 comes with 4 Sata connectors.

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Re: A few naive questions before I begin building...

Postposted on Fri May 23, 2014 4:30 pm

JohnC wrote:Memory card reader - buy an external one, it's easier to plug your cards into it (you can put in anywhere on your desk) and it's easier to replace when it goes dead (these things do die, I went through 2 garbage Rosewill internal memory card readers before getting an external one by different brand). You can also easily unplug it and use it on any different PC/laptop which might not have it.

I went with a Rosewill internal mainly because I wanted the front panel eSATA/power port. But the included 4-port USB hub is junk (randomly hangs up, have to reboot to bring it back). Card reader is still working... for now. Rosewill can be great value for the money, but sometimes they do miss the mark on quality.
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Re: A few naive questions before I begin building...

Postposted on Fri May 23, 2014 5:24 pm

just brew it! wrote:
JohnC wrote:Memory card reader - buy an external one, it's easier to plug your cards into it (you can put in anywhere on your desk) and it's easier to replace when it goes dead (these things do die, I went through 2 garbage Rosewill internal memory card readers before getting an external one by different brand). You can also easily unplug it and use it on any different PC/laptop which might not have it.

I went with a Rosewill internal mainly because I wanted the front panel eSATA/power port.

I also went with their card readers because they had a USB 3.0 port in front (which my current case unfortunately doesn't). That port still works but the card reader doesn't, same thing happened with the previous reader by the same brand. Their WiFi cards are also pretty junky (at least the ones which had Realtek chipset) and seem to die before the warranty expires (I've had one of them doing that). And that's not only my personal experience - I've seen plenty of other people leave reviews related to premature death of their Rosewill devices on Amazon and Newegg. Plus I've seen how horrible some of their keyboard designs can be, especially the "USB connector" part on models with detachable cord which some people had to re-solder after some time ("wink, wink"). All in all I just try to avoid their products from now on and go for different brands.
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Re: A few naive questions before I begin building...

Postposted on Fri May 23, 2014 6:00 pm

DPete27 wrote:
dortmunder wrote:PSU: Corsair CXM600W
You don't need that big of a PSU for your system. Keep your eyes peeled for the CX430... PSU, the CX430M is modular.
They're £33 and £38. The more efficient CS450M is £57 while the RM450 is £66.


just brew it! wrote:Maybe I just need to get a decent set of progressive lenses.
Here's a cheaper solution.
http://www.walgreens.com/store/c/walgre ... 11-product
Use a good bright light while you're at it. When your pupils shrink down, the smaller aperture increases the depth of field.
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Re: A few naive questions before I begin building...

Postposted on Fri May 23, 2014 7:27 pm

dortmunder wrote:I'll need a memory card reader for my digital camera's storage card. These readers all seem to be of smaller width than an optical drive. Do all cases come with a suitable slot on the front?


I would suggest using a USB card reader, and plugging it in as necessary in one of your USB slots. My high-end case came with a built in card reader and it doesn't work very well; I think this is because plug-and-play SD card reader drivers are expecting to see a removable device. Most cases have at least two USB slots on the front, heck even silly NUCs have one.

DDR3 sticks appear to come in two shapes – 'normal' and those odd looking ones such as Corsair Vengeance. Is there a difference between the two types? If not, why the odd shape of the Vengeance?


The big flashy gamer heatsinks give you ULTIMATE XTREEM M-M-M-MONSTER SKILLZ!!!!1!!1!one! So no, not really any meaningful difference, but do be aware that gamer/enthusiast memory tends to use DRAM modules cherry-picked for better latency and reliability. This isn't something that matters for the typical user, but the price difference between CL 11 and CL 9 is negligible so I personally would get some 1600MHz CL9 memory, or 1866MHz if the price is the same. 16 GB if you can swing it, as the state of the industry is such that memory capacity is going to bottleneck you a lot faster than CPU or memory speed.

I'm not a gamer so a mini or micro board would probably be fine. However, would I be correct in thinking that a full size ATX is easier to work with (fiddly plugs etc)?


Makes no real difference. mATX is generally the price/performance/features sweet spot, but Haswell brought with it some very very sexiful mini-ITX motherboards for not a lot of money. The difference is in how many expansion slots are available, the plugs you care about are all crammed into small areas whether it's mini-ITX or extended ATX.

Is the motherboard's backplate (for the mouse/keyboard etc) an industry standard size i.e. any mobo backplate will fit any case?


The size of the backplate is standard. I/O port configuration varies, which is why each mobo ships with its own backplate.

Do CPUs come with a tube of thermal paste or is that a separate purchase?


CPUs bought as a retail box, as opposed to OEM or tray, come with a heatsink which has thermal paste pre-applied. You won't need paste when you attach it, but if you ever want to take it off and reseat it on this or a different CPU you'll want to apply new thermal paste.

If you're interested, I've made my kit selection:
CPU: Intel Core i3-4130
MOBO: Asus H87M-E
RAM: Crucial Ballistix Sport 2x4Gb
SSD: Samsung 840 EVO 120GB (I've a 1TB HDD for file storage)
OPTICAL: Asus DVD-RW Drive DRW-24F1ST
PSU: Corsair CXM600W


You didn't mention a budget so I'll assume you want to keep it affordable but have some room to grow if it's a meaningful improvement for a system you can expect to use for 5-10 years. Asus is a fantastic brand but I have a hard time recommending it when features are being sacrificed. And, while the i3 had its day, it's 2014 now and it doesn't offer very good value relative to improved Pentiums and true quad-core i5s. I'd suggest an ASrock H87M and put the saved money towards a i5-4460 or similar chip. Or, if you're sure you can get away with a dual-core CPU, save some buckzoids and get a Pentium G3450.

PSU is, as noted, far too beefy for what you need. Get something in the 400 watt range, preferably 80 Plus Bronze and from a reputable vendor like Corsair or SeaSonic. This is more cash that can to toward a better CPU.

Per my above comment I would really suggest a 2x8 GB memory kit, any reputable brand is fine. Memory is going to become a major bottleneck even as CPU/GPU/etc. requirements stagnate. The reason for this is that developers are lazy and don't optimize for efficiency anymore, and also because the industry has moved away from spending years doing it right for a masterpiece launch in favor of rushing buggy, bloated code out the door as fast as possible in the name of "open beta" or "agile" or whatever buzzword provides a convenient excuse for getting paid as soon as possible and filling out the details later.

If you need to save money, save money on the case. Sure, fancy cases have a lot of neat features and it's something that lasts many builds, but when your CPU has slowed to a crawl because the OS, antivirus and running application(s) are cage fighting for limited system resources, are you really going to be thinking happy thoughts about how the tradeoff was worth it for the 30 minutes of bliss you had assembling the system five years ago? Again, a good case will last a lifetime and it's a very worthy investment on its own merits but sacrificing everyday performance for case bling is one of my pet peeves and whenever I see "i3" and "enthusiast case" in one post the little vein on the side of my head starts throbbing, it's the one responsible for quasi-populist rants and nerdrage posts.

TLC vs MLC debate aside, the 840 EVO is a really nice SSD for that price point, and one of the few 120GB SSDs that isn't crippled. Do be aware that Windows itself can take upwards of 40GB these days, which leaves little room for the other stuff you want to run quickly. You can however use Intel Smart Response and/or Windows system settings to use it as a dynamic cache, with most of the beneifts of having an SSD but without needing to closely manage the contents of the drive.
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Re: A few naive questions before I begin building...

Postposted on Fri May 23, 2014 7:47 pm

dortmunder wrote:That just leaves the case which is currently giving me a headache – every time I identify a possibility there seems to be a user review that puts me off. With the latest one (Corsair Carbide Series 300R) it's that it needs SATA leads with a 90 degree connector which I daresay aren't supplied. Cases seem to have gotten longer, too. My current one is 18.5 inches long and sits nicely on a wooden board. Most boards I'm seeing are an inch or two longer so would overlap. Better stop moaning, though and continue the search...
Right-angle SATA cables aren't expensive at Monoprice (best place to get cables and a few other things) -- and I often use them even where the regular ones will fit, simply because they generally make cable management easier (at the HD end they get all the cables going in the same direction right away, which is nice).

If the Carbide is the kind of thing you're looking for, have a look at Fractal Design's line. I'm not sure if you can find one for an ATX mobo that is less than 20" deep (cases for mATX tend to be have more compact dimensions in all directions; if you've gone ATX, the mfrs figure keeping things small isn't your priority) but the Arc Mini I used for my last personal build was hands-down the best case I've ever had the pleasure to use. That said, I agree that a case is one place where you can save a few bucks to put towards things that actually make a difference in day-to-day performance.
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Re: A few naive questions before I begin building...

Postposted on Fri May 23, 2014 9:37 pm

Fractal Design Core 3000 FD-CA-CORE-3000-USB3-BL Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case 69.99

Lotsa cooling options and it does not look too bad either. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6811352026
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Re: A few naive questions before I begin building...

Postposted on Sat May 24, 2014 12:51 am

It's lolwut expensive and my general disposition toward cases is well known and documented, but as a satisfied user of a Lian-Li PC-V354B I'd be remiss in not noting it for your consideration--again, assuming that you aren't sacrificing something important to get it. It's one of the few micro-ATX cases out there that actually has a smaller size and volume than the fugly but functional ATX midtower I got ten years ago. The small form-factor case selection gets better if you are able to go to mini-ITX.

Also, have you considered the Intel NUC and similar systems? I'm a big booksize PC fanboi but the main drawback is lack of discrete GPU horsepower; this isn't an issue for you. Many subcompact PCs have comparable or less price to the build you're looking at.
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Re: A few naive questions before I begin building...

Postposted on Sat May 24, 2014 1:09 am

Once again, thanks for all the comments and advice. I'm really knocked out by how helpful everyone is. Particular thanks to NovusBogus for spending all that time on me.

The reason for listing the Corsair CXM600W was because of what Tech Report's February System Guide said about the CX430M - “output power should be enough to handle a system based on the other budget components”. I didn't like the word 'should' so took no chances.

I see another System Guide has just appeared so I'll need to have a look at that. Good thing I'm not in a hurry...

To JustAnEngineer – I've just twigged why you wrote “Willkommen im The Tech Report!” Despite the handle, I'm Scottish, not German! I took the name from John Dortmunder, the central character from a series of novels by Donald E Westlake. Dortmunder is a petty thief in New York and the stories are laugh out loud funny. Check out 'Why Me?' in particular.

Another thought has just occurred to me – do modern boards have wi-fi built in or will I still have to use the dongle currently plugged into the back of my PC?
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Re: A few naive questions before I begin building...

Postposted on Sat May 24, 2014 1:33 am

dortmunder wrote:do modern boards have wi-fi built in or will I still have to use the dongle currently plugged into the back of my PC?


Some do have a proprietary Wi-Fi card included (you can see it from the motherboard's photos on manufacturer's site), most do not. If you need Wi-Fi connection - I suggest buying a Wi-Fi card separately, it will be easier to replace when it will die after a year or so :wink: Or use your current USB "dongle" if it still works.
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Re: A few naive questions before I begin building...

Postposted on Sat May 24, 2014 4:52 am

Another option for WiFi is to use a £45 wireless bridge plugged into the gigabit ethernet port on your motherboard rather than using USB. You can use this with a £20 wired ethernet switch if you have more than one device to be networked near your PC.
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Re: A few naive questions before I begin building...

Postposted on Tue May 27, 2014 5:48 am

My continued thanks...
In advance of the build, I'm gathering some drivers/firmware but am confused about the Asus mobo. The TR guide says to go to the website and download the latest firmware. The Asus list of downloads for their H97M-Plus has 'Bios' and 'Bios Utilities'. Do I want one or both?
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Re: A few naive questions before I begin building...

Postposted on Tue May 27, 2014 6:09 am

dortmunder wrote:The reason for listing the Corsair CXM600W was because of what Tech Report's February System Guide said about the CX430M - “output power should be enough to handle a system based on the other budget components”. I didn't like the word 'should' so took no chances.

Another thought has just occurred to me – do modern boards have wi-fi built in or will I still have to use the dongle currently plugged into the back of my PC?


You definitely will not need a 600W power supply, the components you listed will not even reach 200W at full load. If you had a discrete graphics card in your system (as the budget system in the System Guide has) you might be using 200-350W at full load (depending on the card) but even then a 430W power supply of good quality would suffice. You can use an online power calculator such as this one from Asus to calculate your max usage.

Some motherboards have in built WiFi, most don't check the specifications before you buy. WiFi cards which connect to the motherboard via PCI or PCI-E slot and have an antenna poking out the back are cheap though (~£15) so onboard Wifi isn't essential. That way the WiFi card won't be taking up a USB slot.

Here's a list of UK retailers, there's too many to comment on individually but you can check them out for yourself, I've used them all at some point or another and haven't really had an issue with any of them: amazon.co.uk, scan.co.uk, dabs.com, ebuyer.com, aria.co.uk, cclonline.com. There's also misco.co.uk, microdirect.co.uk and overclcokers.co.uk but I've never used any of them. Novatech.co.uk and Tekheads.co.uk have fewer offerings but occasionally have good deals. A long list but it's good to know your options, it might help in finding a case that you really like since retailers tend to only offer a limited selection.
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