Hardware Guides

Gaming Laptop Buyer's Guide - 2012 Edition

By Published August 17, 2012 at 1:04 pm

Buying a gaming-capable laptop can almost feel like an act of betrayal for system builders, but laptops are an inescapable requirement for the traveling gamer, students, and most jobs. With this 2012 edition of our gamer's buying guide to laptops, we'll provide laptop buying tips, examples of 'good' laptops, and help you understand what the most important aspects of a gaming laptop are.

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After yesterday's exciting GTX 660 Ti announcement, we thought it'd be a good opportunity to explore some modern laptops for viable options.

And for those looking for budget desktop builds, we recently put up our build list for this month - here's our $525 Cheap Bastard's gaming PC list.

Coming from a case and power supply background, I strongly value the presentation of a system. Your build's appearance and layout can either add value to the hundreds or thousands of dollars you've spent on parts, or it can diminish value. Well, I say you owe your PC some tender loving care. After taking the time to pick the right gaming case and choose the best motherboard, it only makes sense to assemble everything in an easy-to-maintain fashion.

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Here are the benefits and procedures of good cable management and a handy step-by-step guide for how to cable manage your computer. You'll find some of the best cable management practices below, many of which have been showcased in our case reviews (see the video portions of the R5 review or Thor V2 review).

We've also included a video with this guide, so check that out for a more visual representation of our pointers.

Picking the Best Gaming Motherboard 2012

By Published July 19, 2012 at 11:49 am

Update: Please refer to our 2013 Motherboard Buyer's Guide for updated information.

Scoping out parts for a new system is an exciting time: Everything's shiny, fast, and thoroughly disgraces the previous build's specs for the same (or less) investment. The CPU should be an easy choice - grab something that makes sense for the budget and the utilization of the PC, then move on. It's often a toss-up between two different CPUs, but once that's decided, it's smooth sailing. Sort of.

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How-To: Benchmark Your PC Like a Pro

By Published June 26, 2012 at 3:14 pm

Putting a new gaming rig to the test is a rare-but-joyous task; like anything else, there's a certain intrinsic value to be had the first time a new system is burned-in for testing and functionality. Following-up with our "refurbished product burn-in" testing guide that we recommend for all used parts, this How-To guide for benchmarking your gaming PC will put you in a position to boast FPS -- whether on an optimized budget build or hardcore machine -- and troubleshoot for any problems that may arise. Find them early and often, then tweak for the future.

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As this guide is intended to be a quintessential software toolkit for intermediate and new builders, we'll go over the basics of how to benchmark your PC and testing each major component, including memory, video cards, CPUs, and solid-state or storage drives. The ultimate goal is to create a guide that is representative of what our professional benchmarking team does here.

Picking the Best Gaming PC Case

By Published June 16, 2012 at 12:40 pm

Building a new gaming PC is an exciting time for anyone, and whether building from the ground-up or just looking to replace a boring enclosure, using guidelines to pick out a case can ensure the best-looking, most-functional chassis for your gaming rig's needs. Not all cases are built the same - but by looking out for a few dead-giveaways, we can easily pin-point cases that are composed of mediocre materials or are otherwise poorly engineered.

This hardware guide aims to help system builders choose the best gaming PC case for their budget, including details on the array of feature sets that chassis now include.

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As gaming-grade equipment continues to set the standards for most high-end systems and PC builds, upper-range components are held to higher standards of performance as price is relentlessly driven down by market irregularities and consumer demands; for this reason, it's tempting to grab that 600W power supply for $40 online - but, of course, many of you have already seen us suggest that PSUs are "the last place to skimp" in our PC builds.

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But spending $200 on a power supply without truly understanding the specs is just as bad. Just because it's more expensive doesn't mean it's better (although that is generally a safe bet, given the reliability of user reviews), but the objective of this PSU spec reference guide is to define what each of those rows listed under a power supply really means. We'll answer the questions of modular vs. non-modular PSUs, ATX12V vs. EPS12V form factors, a power supply's optimal efficiency, how big of a power supply you should get, and more.

In the enthusiast world, very little is more agonizing than waiting for a necessary shipment for an upcoming build; waiting until Thursday to order was a mistake - you know it on Wednesday, but you waited anyway. Now it's a toss-up on whether that open-box product will even get here before the weekend.

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Kingston: "RAM is a Commodity"

By Published June 02, 2012 at 10:51 am

After talking with ASUS about their success (and how easily it apparently comes to them), we decided to launch our new series of interviews with all the various gaming hardware vendors out there; it's a great way to learn about a company's merits and determine who's behind the components, what personality the company has, and how trustworthy their products are.

For this issue, we talked with Kingston about SSDs, RAM, their testing methodology, e-sports, and their "startup mentality."

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Must-Have PC Building Tools

By Published May 20, 2012 at 3:29 pm

Proper preventative maintenance can extend the life of your computer by many years, as we've written about previously, but getting to a point of maintaining requires, of course, the completion of an actual build. Between beginners, intermediate builders, and enthusiasts, there's an abundance of cool hardware utilities for system building, testing, and benchmarking. With anything from a screwdriver to 'anklet' ESD straps to open-air test benches, there are many applications of the ever-increasing selection of hardware assembly tools out there.

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In this guide, we'll look at the Must-Have PC building tool kits, testers, and benches that aim to make your life as a system builder easier.

PC Hardware Warranty Comparison Guide

By Published May 08, 2012 at 3:03 pm

Making the best quality hardware is pointless without the best hardware warranty – no company is immune to acute device collapse and catastrophic failures, whether initiated by other devices or a result of prolonged decay and eventual death. We know – it’s tough to talk about your dead components, but it’s an important part of moving forward; the process is tough, but well-defined: Acceptance, grieving, thermalpaste, gaming.

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Device failure sucks. Troubleshooting is a painful process and may point to a zapped motherboard, bent pins, faulty memory, or a collapsed video card. Warranties serve as a backup and tend to be of 1, 3, or 5 year durations (which are absolutely planned to be within ‘average’ parameters), and as Google’s HDD test showed, failure rates in hardware tend to be highest at the 3-month and 3-year marks.

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