View Full Version : Building a pc: hardware compatibility & extras

26-01-2013, 01:32 PM
I've not actually built a pc from scratch before, so I figured I'd replace my 5 year old rig that's noisy as hell.

I've been recommended the bit-tech buyer's guide, and the workhorse pc looks what I'm after: http://www.bit-tech.net/hardware/buyers-guide/2012/08/31/pc-hardware-buyer-s-guide-august-2012/4

I may swap out a few of the components (case, gpu, hdd), but:

1. How do I figure out if all the components are compatible? For instance, the motherboard is listed as 'M-ATX', does that just mean I need a case that supports that form factor? Or is there more to it?

2. What else do I need? Cases seem to come with a bunch of fans these days, and there's a cpu fan on the components list, so is that it for cooling? What about wires?


26-01-2013, 04:56 PM
1. Well most follow common standards. If a case supports mATX and ATX, you can go with either of those types of motherboard. There are a handful of things to look out for though, like does the power supply have the necessary connectors, is the case wide enough to fit the CPU cooler, and so on.

2. Windows and a Phillips screwdriver. You won't need additional cables unless you want to mount more hard drives or optical drives.

PS: From that build, I would certainly pick a different motherboard and ditch the sound card.

26-01-2013, 05:46 PM
PS: From that build, I would certainly pick a different motherboard and ditch the sound card.
I was already planning on ditching the sound card, but could you elaborate a bit more on the motherboard?

One of the big things I'm worried about is getting an incompatible motherboard. Last time I had a shop custom build a pc and the motherboard had all kind of horrible compatibility bugs with the hardware I'd chosen. (Ie. "compatible" but flaky firmware and drivers made it terribly unstable).

26-01-2013, 05:55 PM
That motherboard is overpriced and an mATX board. You could get a feature-packed ATX board like the Asus P8Z77-V PRO for the same price, or save tons of cash with something like an Asrock Z77 Extreme4.

26-01-2013, 06:24 PM
Bit-tech infamously used to recommend builds without actually trying to put them together, resulting in instances of having to take a crowbar to a case to fit a high-wattage PSU. Or removing all door fans to fit a large profile cooler/GPU.

Unsure if they've changed that policy, but I'd read up on dimensions / experiences of others with the same build just in case.

28-01-2013, 09:39 AM
Given you've noted "noisy as hell" as being one of the key drivers I'd recommend a peek at www.silentpcreview.com (http://www.silentpcreview.com) as part of your research. Noisy computers are one of my real bug-bears.

General rules of thumb with noise are:
Higher power draw (TDP) of components means more heat, means bigger, faster, noisier, cooling.
Bigger fans running slowly are queiter, whilst pushing similar air volume, as smaller faster spinning fans.
Vibration noises from unbalanced fans and (particularly) hard discs that transmit to the case can be particularly aggravating.

On to your specific questions:
Motherboard - important qualities are form factor and socket type. The form factor of ATX, M-ATX, Mini-ITX etc signifies the motherboard's physical dimensions. As such, any case must be able to accomodate a given form factor. A larger case may not always be able to accomodate smaller motherboard form factors due to placing of standoff pins.
Motherboard dimensions affect the number of expansion slots you'll get - most users these days will have plenty of expansion slots left over even on M-ATX boards.
Motherboard dimensions indirectly affect your system footprint - smaller cases accomodating smaller motherboards.
The socket on the motherboard, eg. LGA1156 / LGA1155 / LGA 1366 determines the type of processor you can fit in the motherboard. *Most* (but by no means all) current desktop intel choices are likely to point to the LGA 1155 socket. Intel are launching a new socket type along with their new "Haswell" chip line up this year (likely June), and as such it *might* be worth holding off till then to pick up one of the newly socketed motherboards and one of Intel's new processors.

Other motherboard compatability features to look for are PCI3.0 - this enables you to make full use of PCI3.0 graphics cards (though a PCI2.0 slot can run a PCI3.0 card just fine, albeit slightly hamstrung). Also USB3 headers and SATA3 (sometimes refered to as 6gbit SATA). Again backward compatability is a given, but if you're buying SATA3 hard drives it'll be nice to have enough SATA3 interfaces to plug them in to.

Also wise to physical dimensions - typical problem areas for cases are the length of graphics card they can accomodate, the height of the tallest CPU cooler they can take, and the depth of the longest PSU that can fit within. Googled reviews can generally answer all of these questions for any given case you like the look of.

01-02-2013, 08:36 PM
I second Silent PC Review. They're great indepth no bullshit reviewers. I've bought my current cooler, case and power supply based on their reviews and I'm very happy with how it turned out.