Building a PC: the case, power supply, video card and DVD – Part 2

In my last article I talked about several of the parts needed to build a PC, the motherboard, processor (CPU), memory (RAM) and hard drives. This week I want to cover the case, power supply, video card and DVD.

Cases have changed from plain beige literal desktop cases that the monitor sat on, to black cases that sit on the floor with every color imaginable as well as configurations from windows to lighted in between. I have sold translucent green, yellow with windows and internal lights to black and silver with external lights and many in between.

NUC next to mid-tower ATX case

NUC next to mid-tower ATX case

The case you choose should reflect first the space you want to use and 2nd your personality. If it is going on the floor, I don’t see a reason for any fanciness, a plain black case will do.

When building a PC a thick metal case prevents two things, first in my book is cuts. Normally the cheaper the case the thinner the metal and more sharp edges it has. There is nothing like literally shedding blood when installing a motherboard, then more blood when installing the RAM and even more when installing the DVD drive. The 2nd issue is case stability. I have had cases that did not stay “square” and when someone put their feet on them, it slightly twisted the case, causing it to short the motherboard and thus shut down the PC. It was so bad that just putting my hand on the top of the case caused it to flex.

I have been using the Cool Master Elite 311 with included power supply for several years. The only drawback is its size. It is bigger than most people and businesses need. Antec and In-Win have given me a better than 50/50 in quality. I just found that Cool Master and Thermaltake just don’t disappoint.

Cases will need fan(s) depending on type and size. The Intel NUC is too small for a fan and uses the case as a heat sync. Many small and mid-sized cases will have one fan, normally at the rear center of the case. They are used to draw heat out of the case. With quality components I don’t see the need for 2, 3 or more case fans. I use Antec or Cool Master fans when I need to replace one.

Many cases come with power supplies, which we will go into more next, however, check the warranty and know that the “quality” of the included power supply is normally not as good as buying a separate one. The included 450 watt power supply in the Elite 311 has been more than sufficient for my business customers’ needs.

Power supplies convert the wall AC power DC power that computers use. In the USA it converts the 120 wall socket to the various 12, 9, 3 volts et al needed by the different parts.

The Wattage is how much juice the parts can suck / draw before there is an issue. The higher the power supply watts the more things can run, HOWEVER if you get a 750 watt power supply and only need 300 watts, you are wasting electricity. The unused wattage simple becomes heat. A fan in the supply sucks thee heat out through the back of the power supply.
There is also energy efficiency of the power supply. Many inexpensive / cheap ones are only 50 to 60% efficient. That means they really are only capable of putting out and running at half their supposed wattage. Even very good units may only be 80% efficient.

The next consideration with power supplies is noise. Almost all of them have one or more fans to keep the electronics in the power supply (not the case) cool. This is part of the efficiency of the power supply, the quality of the fan used. The blade angle and RPM partially affect how loud a fan is.

While I have used many brands, the last 7 or 8 years I have tried to stick with the Enermax brand. I just have not had to warranty them. Other quality brands I have used are Zalman, Cool Master, Thermaltake and Seasonic. Just be sure to get the right size for your case.

Tom’s Hardware had been my primary go to source for years on tech hardware. I won’t go any more depth here other than recommending you check them out here.

Video cards can cause “aggressive” discussions between geeks. Here is my take. I use the integrated Intel video 99% of the time. Intel has setup so that the CPU’s power and RAM can be used to run some of the best on PC games. Since most people play online games and use YouTube et al, I just don’t see the need for anything more. Many of the Intel boards support up to 3 monitors too.

Back of a motherboard

Back of a motherboard

For those of you yelling “refresh rate”, “independent CPU’s and RAM are better”, just calm down. While I fully understand that a separate video card with its own CPU and RAM will process video data faster, remember that you still have to transfer that data across the motherboard.

Before Intel graphics were “game quality” I used different chipset video cards. The two major players are ATI and NVidia.

About 10 years ago I decided to just stick with NVidia cards. The ATI ones added way to much software to the system. There are many companies that assemble video cards using the NVidia chips. I personally stick with EVGA and Zotac. I have never had a warranty issue with either.

Both built in (Blue square) and add on video card

Both built in (Blue square) and add on video card

The higher horsepower (RAM and CPU) the video card the more likely the need for fans and additional power to the card. You need to take this in consideration with your power supply.

Finally let’s discuss DVD player / burners. First you want SATA, this is easy because almost all are made that way. If you have a full size case you want a 5.25” drive, if you are using a micro case you need a “slim” drive and if you have a NUC or similar case you need an external drive, make sure the drive is USB 3.0 or higher.

As for brands, don’t get lite-on. I prefer Samsung, ASUS is good too, other than that it is up to you.

When it comes to DVD-ROM (read only, not a burner) or DVD+-RW (can bun CD’s and DVD’s) or Dual layer or Blu-ray, I will leave that to you. I put on plain old Samsung DVD+-RW drives. If we need to “burn” more than 4GB of data, I use a USB “thumb” drive.

That is enough for now, next time I plan on covering Windows, 3rd party SW, AV / Security SW and then move on to Tablets, laptops, and more on the NUC devices.

Until we meet again, have a virus free week

One thought on “Building a PC: the case, power supply, video card and DVD – Part 2

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