The biggest advantage of building your own PC is that you can choose which components to use. If you buy a cookie-cutter system from Dell or HP, most of the decisions are made for you. You can specify a larger hard drive, more memory, or a different monitor, but the range of options is quite limited. Want a better power supply, a quieter CPU cooler, and a motherboard with built-in FireWire and RAID 0+1 support? Tough luck. Those options aren’t on the table.
When you build from scratch, you get to choose every component that goes into your system. You can spend a bit more here and a bit less there to get exactly the features and functions you want at the best price. It’s therefore worth devoting some time and effort to component selection, but there are so many competing products available that it’s difficult to separate the marketing hype from reality.
On your own, you might find yourself struggling to answer questions like, “Should I buy a Seagate hard drive or a Western Digital?” (hint: Seagate) or “Does Sony or HP make the best DVD writers?” (hint: neither; go with a Plextor.) We’ve done all that research for you, and the following sections distill what we’ve learned in testing and using hundreds of products over many years.
We recommend products by brand name, and we don’t doubt that some people will take issue with some of our recommendations. We don’t claim that the products we recommend are “best” in any absolute sense, because we haven’t tested every product on the market and because “best” is inherently subjective. However, although what’s “best” for us may be just “very good” from your point of view, it almost certainly won’t be “awful.”
So, keeping all of that in mind, the following sections describe the products we recommend.
For more detailed selection criteria and in-depth explanations of technical issues related to choosing components, see Building the Perfect PC: A Pocket Guide to Choosing and Buying Components (O’Reilly).
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