Choosing The Right Parts For Your Build (Part 5) - Choosing your case & Picking the right storage

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Choosing your case

A good case is a essential part of any PC build, and you don’t need to shell out a small fortune to get a high-quality chassis with excellent cooling. The first thing on your check list is that a case is roomy enough to hold the rest of your components. Confirm that it has a motherboard tray of the right dimensions (ATX, micro-ATX or mini-ITX) and that it’s deep enough to accommodate your chosen video card. Almost any case will accommodate a mid-ranged or entry-level card, but some high-end models are the best part of a foot long and only specially designed cases will fit them in!

Description: a good case with big space

All good cases have mounting points for multiple fans. These all should be of at least 120mm in size, though several case manufacturers now have models supporting even larger 140mm or 200mm models. As a rule, the larger the fans, the quieter they can operate while still shifting the same airflow. Cases from well-known manufacturers usually come with fans of a decent quality included. These include Corsair and Antec, as well as Cooler Master and Fractal Design. Thermaltake has a great range of chassis if you want your gaming rig to look as aggressive as its components, while a special mention has to go to Lian Li – arguably the manufacturer of the most beautiful PC cases in the world. If you opt to go for a cheap and cheerful unbranded case, double-check that you don’t need to buy fans as well, otherwise you’ll probably end up spending just as much as you would have done for a decent branded case with them included as standard.

When picking a case, you should also double-check that it has enough bays to accommodate your storage solution. If you need a system that can accommodate plenty of hard drives, double-check that your chosen model has enough 3.5” and 5.25” bays. It’s also worth paying a little more for a case with some form of anti-vibration technology for the hard disk bays. There’s nothing more annoying than a badly designed case that transmits resonance from your hard disk and amplifies it into a loud distracting buzzing sound!

Picking the right storage


Description: Corsair AX850

Corsair AX850

You might be tempted to reuse hard disks from a previous build, and truth be told you probably won’t cost yourself a great deal of performance if you choose to do this. Hard drives have not exactly evolved at the lightning pace, and with a few exceptions like the Western Digital Raptor, they are still variants on the same 7200rpm design we’ve all been using for the past decade, just with ever larger capacities. With that said, today’s high-density drives are capable of performance faster than older models, with sustained transfer rates of over 130MB/s. If using a mechanical drive for your OS, insist on a 7200rpm model and don’t be tricked by ‘Intellipower’ spin speeds or any other nonsense; there are just cunning ways of hiding a lousy 5400-5900 spin speed that will cost you responsiveness and performance.

We would argue that one of the most noticeable and valuable investments you can make is a solid-state drive, or SSD. These drives are capable of a sustained transfer rate of as much as 5x that of a conventional disk, but truth be told this actually paints them in a rather unfavourable light. When tasked with small file random reads and writes – operations that are actually far more likely when running an OS volume – they can be as much as 200 or 300 times faster than a hard disk. If you’re spending more than $1,500 on your new build and have not factored in an SSD, you’re doing yourself a disservice; you have overlooked the single most noticeable performance-determining upgrade that money can buy.

Description: Force GT 120GB SSD

Force GT 120GB SSD

Given the fairly minimal differences in cost, we recommend buyers limit their searches for a new SSD only to the latest 6Gbps models. These are dominated by two internal controllers, one made by Marvell and another by SandForce. The vast majority of the solutions on the market, be they from Crucial, Corsair, OCZ, Patriot, Plextor or Kingston, are based on one of these two options. When coupled to a suitable 6Gbps controller you can achieve more than half-a-gigabyte per second in transfer rate, and response times of less than 0.1ms. A 60GB capacity is enough for Windows and a decent smattering of programs, and with such drives available for $120 or less, you should certainly factor in an SSD boot disk into any moderately-specified PC. Larger capacities are obviously more expensive, but will allow you to access more of your data at ultra-fast speeds.

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