Building A Custom PC 2011 Part 1: The Assessment

Martin Brinkmann
Apr 9, 2011
Updated • Dec 2, 2012

I'm building a new PC every 18 months or so and post the progress of selecting the right PC components here on this blog. I actually spend more most of my time on the evaluation of computer hardware, as I have to live with the selection for the next 12 to 18 months. Bad choices in the beginning can have a huge impact on my productivity, that's why I'm extra careful here.

I always start with an assessment of my needs. What do I need the new PC for? What would I like it to be? Which features should it have? Do I have hardware that I need to connect to the computer? Are there additional important characteristics that I should pay attention to?

The Assessment

I first and foremost need the PC for work which leads to the first batch of requirements:

  • Responsive: I do not like waiting, not for the PC to boot, not for programs to open or for other operations during work.
  • Silent: Noise can easily distract me from work, especially those high-fieping sounds that some PC components can make. The PC should be a silent PC, barely noticeable if at all.
  • High Resolution: I like working on high resolution monitors. I currently use a 1920x1080 Samsung 24" HD monitor and I like my new system to at least stay at that resolution.
  • Wireless: I favored cables in the past, but wireless technologies have evolved and I like to get rid of cable restrictions which limit my work radius and comfort.
  • Windows: I'm a Windows users and it will stay this way. I may consider running a dual boot system though.
  • Power Saving: The more power I can save the better. Less power means less heat and less heat usually means less noise. That's good, plus you save money as well.

But work is not the only activity on that computer. I'd furthermore like to use it for entertainment and gaming as well:

  • Fast: The components should be as fast as possible without putting a serious dent into the budget or the work requirements. For instance, while it is very nice to run two high end graphic cards in SLI or Crossfire mode, it usually impacts the noise level of the PC negatively.
  • HD: The hardware needs to be Full HD compatible.
  • Future Proof: The PC should be capable of playing all games of the coming 24 months without difficulties (while I have no intention to play everything, it is reassuring that I could). I do not mind turning a setting down to play the game though (not the resolution though).
  • Storage: I need enough storage for my extensive entertainment collection. I currently have 2 TB, would like to increase the size as much as possible without having to install two hard drives. At least one fast SSD for the operating system, core apps and games. Should have at least 128 Gigabytes of space. One external backup drive to backup the SSD, and important data that is stored on the storage drive.

And then there are things that I do not need at all:

  • 3D: 3D technologies are hyped like hell but I personally do not find it interesting at all, especially with those stupid glasses that you need to wear. When they are at holographic displays I'm listening, right now I'm not.
  • Blu-Ray: I do not watch movies on my PC, and I do not need extra storage volume on recordable discs. Blu-Ray is to expensive and of no use to me.
  • Gimmicks: I do not a webcam, card reader and other peripherals like that. This includes premium motherboards who come with lots of gimmicks that I do not need.

Now that I have written down what I want, need and what I do not want or need, it is time to find the right PC hardware for that. The next part will be about that, stay tuned.


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  1. clanon said on July 27, 2011 at 11:51 pm

    hi, what soft and drivers you use on HD playback?
    my a31p 2ghz won´t play smooth those files.

  2. fokka said on April 10, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    you want to play new games for the next 2 years, but also want a silent, power saving pc? does not compute.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on April 10, 2011 at 6:08 pm

      I have done the exact same thing for the past ten years or so. What makes you think this is not possible.

  3. Dan said on April 10, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    Timely! I’m in the market, too, and have the same requirements.

  4. sean said on April 10, 2011 at 7:43 am

    would u be goin the amd way?
    Motherboard- asus crosshair iv formula -expensive but future proof
    processor – amd phenom ii x6 1090t or an x4 could do.
    graphics- hd 6850 -should be sufficient fr gamin needs

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on April 10, 2011 at 9:24 am

      Sean I always start with no preferences, could go AMD or Intel, will have to see how their products perform.

  5. ilev said on April 9, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    I on the other hand still use my 10 years old IBM Thinkpad A31P with XP Sp3, 1GB of memory , ATI Radeon video card with 64MB of memory !! and screen resolution of 1600×1200.
    I don’t play games or watch HD movies on this laptop (I stream full HD movies & audio to my Media Streamer connected to A/V system with Pioneer KURU 50″ HD TV), but even with it’s old video card I can watch 720p/1080p HD movies on the laptop.
    This laptop is on 24/7 (I switch it off only on vacations) and still fast and responsive. I use maily portable applications and replace installed applications when I find a suitable portable replacement.
    During those 10 years I have replaced under extended warranty the screen(once), the internal HD (once) and the external power adapter (once).

    1. clanon said on July 28, 2011 at 12:54 am

      hi, what soft and drivers you use on HD playback?
      my a31p 2ghz won´t play smooth those files.

    2. Martin Brinkmann said on April 9, 2011 at 8:49 pm

      I would do pretty much the same if I would not play the occasional game. No need to update at all in that case unless you need one of the new technologies.

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