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Nysha's New Creators for November - posted on 1st Dec 2017 at 10:00 AM
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shiny!
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Original Poster
#1 Old 17th May 2009 at 6:15 PM Last edited by leesester : 3rd Feb 2012 at 1:16 AM.
DefaultHelp Upgrading or Building/Buying a New Computer
This article is intended as a starter guide for people who are looking to build their own computer, or who are wondering what a good computer for playing TS2 and TS3 would look like.

Making the Best out of What You Already Have

In many cases, the computer you already have may be upgraded to run the Sims games. Whether or not upgrading is worth it depends on the age of the computer, the computer's ability to be expanded (slots available, case design, supplied power, etc), exactly how much needs to be done/purchased to get the computer working well, your immediate needs, and how much money you have to budget. There are too many variable to put together a guide of absolutes. However, assuming that the computer can be upgraded to run well, a general guideline is that the computer should be no more than 2-3 years old and require less than $200 worth of upgrades to have it working WELL. If the computer is full of outdated tech and you're having to pretty much gut it then it's probably not worth upgrading.

More RAM and a new graphics cards are examples of upgrades you can to do really extend the life of your desktop. Again, assuming the computer has the expansion abilities, a strong graphics card will run you around $100. Many times a new power supply will need to be installed to run the card, which will run another $40-$60. Expect new RAM to cost between $30-$50.

It's Time for a Brand New Computer!
  • If you are building your desktop, you need to be prepared to budget AT LEAST $450 for the new machine. This does not include buying an operating system or other peripherals, such as monitors, mice, keyboards, speakers, etc. People who are used to building their own computers will probably already have these.
  • If you are buying an already fully built desktop, you should be prepared to budget AT LEAST $700. (In some cases, doing some of the upgrades on your own (like the power supply and graphics card) could save a good deal of money.)
  • If you are buying a laptop, you should be prepared to budget AT LEAST $1000.
  • Specific Desktop and Laptop Recommendations (Various Price Points)

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

What specific CPU, RAM, graphics card, and other parts should I look for?
Where's the best place to buy computer parts?
I want to a no fuss, fully build computer. Where's the best place to look?
I want to buy a laptop. Where are some good places to look?
Am I going to run into problems if I buy a dual or quad-core processor?
Which is better, Intel or AMD?
Which is better, ATI or Nvidia?


Other Helpful Links:

Guide to Buying a New Graphics Card
System Requirements for Running TS2/TS3
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shiny!
staff: retired moderator
Original Poster
#2 Old 17th May 2009 at 8:30 PM Last edited by callistra : 23rd Oct 2010 at 5:25 PM.
DefaultWhat specific CPU, RAM, graphics card, and other parts should I look for?
This list is intended to help people who understand the system requirements, but would like some recommendations on what specific parts to look for. Many sections of this guide only apply to desktops. When applicable, laptop recommendations are also included.

Case

A computer case is more than something pretty to look at. A case's ability to keep your hardware cool is very important, and not all cases provide equal cooling. The design of the case, airflow, fans, what the case is made out of, all play a part in this. In addition to keeping your components cool, different cases are better at absorbing noise and keeping your area quiet. Your case also partially determines what kind of hardware you will be able to install, depending the size and design. Some cases may hold more hard drives, optical drives, and many will limit the length of the graphics card you can install. Some cases make installation/building your pc a lot easier than others. Part of this is due to design, and part due to quality.. like rounded or finished edges versus sharp unfinished edges you could cut yourself on. A removable motherboard tray is another awesome feature which makes building a lot easier, but it's not found in all cases. Some are 'tool-less', and some are just plain designed better, making it easier to get in and move things around. There's a lot to think about when choosing a case.

Here are a few good cases:

Antec Performance One P193
Antec Performance One P190
Antec Performance One P183
Antec Performance One P182
Antec Sonata Elite
Antec Two Hundred
Antec Three Hundred
Antec Six Hundred
Antec Nine Hundred
Antec Nine Hundred Two
Antec Twelve Hundred
Cooler Master ATCS 840
Cooler Master Centurion 5
Cooler Master Centurion 590
Cooler Master 690
Cooler Master Cosmos
Cooler Master Gladiator 600
Cooler Master HAF 922/932
Cooler Master Stacker 830
Cooler Master Stacker 831
Cooler Master Stacker 832
Cooler Master Storm Scout
Cooler Master Storm Sniper
Gigabyte 3D Mars
Gigabyte 3D Mercury
Gigabyte Aurora
Gigabyte Cupio
Gigabyte Poseidon
Gigabyte SUMO
Lian Li PC-A05
Lian Li PC-A06F
Lian Li PC-A10
Lian Li PC-A20
Lian Li PC-A70
Lian Li PC-A71
Lian Li Armorsuit PC-P50
Lian Li Armorsuit PC-P60
Lian Li Armorsuit PC-P80
Lian Li PC-B10
Lian Li PC-B70
Lian Li PC-B71
Lian Li PC-E8L
Lian Li PC-60 Plus II
Lian Li PC-60F
Lian Li PC-7 Plus II
Lian Li PC-7F
Lian Li PC-8
Lian Li PC-9
Lian Li PC-V1010
Lian Li PC-V2010
Lian Li PC-X1000
Lian Li PC-X2000
NZXT Apollo
NZXT Adamas
NZXT Guardian
NZXT Hush
NZXT Khaos
NZXT Tempest
Silverstone Fortress Series
Silverstone Kublai Series
Silverstone Precision Series
Silverstone Raven Series
Silverstone Sugo Series
Silverstone Temjin Series (TJ07, TJ09, TJ10, etc)
Thermaltake Armor
Thermaltake Element
Thermaltake LANbox
Thermaltake Kandalf
Thermaltake Soprano
Thermaltake SwordM
Thermaltake Tsunami
Thermaltake V Series
Zalman GS1000
Zalman Z-Machine

Note: Not all of the cases listed above will be appropriate for all builds. It is important to make sure that all of your chosen components will fit inside the case.

Power Supply

A power supply is one of the most important parts of a computer. If a power supply is not strong enough to handle your system then it can die. When a power supply dies, it can take the entire system with it. The most demanding component in your computer will probably be its graphics card. Make sure to check power requirements for your graphics card. It's a good idea NOT to get the bare minimum to run your computer.

Not all power supplies are created equal. Some power supplies don't even run as well as they are rated. A power supply's efficiency, wattage and amps on the rail are all important.

Here are a few good power supplies:

Antec EarthWatts 500W
Antec EarthWatts 650W
Antec EarthWatts 750W
Antec EarthWatts Green 500W
Antec TruePower New TP-550
Antec TruePower New TP-650
Antec TruePower New TP-750
Antec TruePower New TP-750 Blue
Corsair CX400W
Corsair VX450W
Corsair VX550W
Corsair TX650W
Corsair TX750W
Corsair TX850W
Corsair TX950W
Corsair HX520W
Corsair HX620W
Corsair HX650W
Corsair HX750W
Corsair HX850W
Corsair HX1000W
OCZ ModXStream Pro 500W
OCZ ModXStream Pro 600W
OCZ ModXStream Pro 700W
OCZ Z-Series 550W
OCZ Z-Series 650W
OCZ Z Series 850W
OCZ Z Series 1000W
PC Power & Cooling Silencer PPCS420X 420W
PC Power & Cooling Silencer PPCS500 500W
PC Power & Cooling Silencer S61EPS 610W
PC Power & Cooling Silencer S75QB 750W
PC Power & Cooling Silencer PPCT860 860W
PC Power & Cooling Silencer PPCS910 910W
PC Power & Cooling Silencer T12W 1200W
Silverstone Decathlon Series
Silverstone Olympia / Zeus Series
SeaSonic M12 430W
SeaSonic M12 500W
SeaSonic M12 600W
SeaSonic M12 700W
SeaSonic M12 750W
SeaSonic M12 850W
Seasonic M12II
SeaSonic S12 430W
SeaSonic S12 500W
SeaSonic S12 550W
SeaSonic S12 600W
SeaSonic S12 650W
SeaSonic S12 750W
SeaSonic S12 850W
Seasonic S12II
SeaSonic SS-400ES
SeaSonic SS-500ES
SeaSonic SS-600ES
SeaSonic SS-400ET
SeaSonic SS-500ET
SeaSonic SS-600ET
SeaSonic SS-650HT
SeaSonic SS-750HT
SeaSonic SS-850HT
SeaSonic X650 750W
SeaSonic X750 750W
Thermaltake Toughpower and Toughpower XT Series

Note: Not every power supply listed will be strong enough to handle every system. you MUST check power requirements prior to connecting.


Processor (CPU)

Very few games make any use out of triple and quad-core processors. Many games, like The Sims 2, can't even take advantage of dual-core processors. The Sims 3 will take advantage of dual-core processors, but not likely quad-core processors. When buying a new computer to play the Sims games (and most other games) a strong dual core is the best choice.

Desktop CPUs which are known to work well

LGA775 (This socket is discontinued and not usually of good value. There may be some exceptions.):

Intel Pentium Wolfdale E6500
Intel Core 2 Duo E7500
Intel Core 2 Duo E7600
Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 - > "Sweet Spot" for performance/price for this socket
Intel Core 2 Duo E8500
Intel Core 2 Duo E8600

The following triple-core and quad-core processors are good value, if you plan to also do things which would benefit from the additional threads (photo editing, video editing, CAD, etc):


Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600
Intel Core 2 Quad Q8400
Intel Core 2 Quad Q9400
Intel Core 2 Quad Q9450
Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550


LGA1156:

i3 530
i5 750 (Superior to anything AMD offers)
i7 860
i7 870


AM3:

AMD Phenom II X2 550
AMD Phenom II X2 555
AMD Athlon II X4 620
AMD Athlon II X4 635
AMD Phenom II X3 720 (roughly comparable to the E7400 for gaming, but is inferior to Intel's entry level quads for other aps.)
AMD Phenom II X4 810 (roughly comparable to Q8200 for many 3+ thread aps. Not the best value right now as the 925 is cheaper.)
AMD Phenom II X4 920 (discontinued product)
AMD Phenom II X4 925 (roughly comparable to the E8400 for gaming, and Q9400 for many 3+ thread capable aps)
AMD Phenom II X4 940 (discontinued product)
AMD Phenom II X4 945 (the Q9550 and i5 750 are superior)
AMD Phenom II X4 955
AMD Phenom II X4 965

Triple-cores and quad-cores are not recommended if your primary intention is to play The Sims 2. The Sims 2 cannot make use of the additional threads, so it only increases the likelihood of problems. Additionally, the previous listed dual-cores will be at equal or superior to triples/quads for almost all games, including Sims 2. Sims 3 does seem to benefit from the extra performance, however.

Mobile (laptop) CPUs which are known to work well

P7450
P7550
P8400
P8600
P8700
P8800
P9500
P9600
P9700
T7500
T7700
T7800
T8100
T8300
T9300
T9400
T9500
T9550
T9600
T9800
T9900

Motherboard (mobo)

A motherboard is the main board that everything else in the system plugs into. It effects performance (how well things run), as well as what other hardware can be installed. Motherboards come in different sizes. You will most likely want a standard ATX board, or possibly a M-ATX (micro ATX), if you are on a tight budget or would like to build a smaller computer.

For running Intel Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Quad CPUs, a P45 chipset board is a good balance between power and performance. G41, or P43 would be an option if you're on a tight budget. X48 boards give little performance benefit over P45 boards for the higher price tag. The benefit is mostly with running more than one ATI graphics card.

Intel i5 and i7 CPUs listed here must be paired with a P55 motherboard. (i7 also comes in Socket LGA1366, but these CPUs are not in our recommended list.)

For Phenom II CPUs, look for 785G at the entry level. As budget allows, look for 790GX (soon to be replaced by 795GX) and 790FX boards.

A Few Good Intel Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Quad Boards:

Asus P5Q
Asus P5Q Pro
Asus P5Q Pro Turbo
Asus P5Q Turbo
Biostar TPower I45
GIGABYTE GA-G41M-ES2H
GIGABYTE GA-G41M-ES2L
Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3L
Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3P
Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3R
GIGABYTE GA-X48-DQ6
ASUS P5E3 PRO

Motherboards for i5/i7:

ASUS P7P55 LX
ASUS P7P55D LE
ASUS P7P55D
ASUS P7P55D PRO
EVGA P55 LE
EVGA P55 SLI
EVGA P55 FTW/200
GIGABYTE GA-P55M-UD2
GIGABYTE GA-P55-UD3L
GIGABYTE GA-P55A-UD3R
GIGABYTE GA-P55A-UD3
GIGABYTE GA-P55A-UD3P
GIGABYTE GA-P55A-UD4P


Motherboards for Phenom II:

ASUS M4A785T
ASUS M4A785TD
ASUS M4A79T Deluxe
DFI LP DK 790FXB-M2RSH
DFI 790GX-M2RS
Foxconn A7DA-S
GIGABYTE GA-MA785G-UD3H
GIGABYTE GA-MA785GMT-UD2H
GIGABYTE GA-MA785GM-US2H
GIGABYTE GA-MA790GPT-UD3H
Gigabyte GA-MA790GP-UD4H
GIGABYTE GA-790FXTA-UD5

Graphics Card

A good graphics card is critical to playing any game well. Do not expect to buy the cheapest entry level card you can find and get good game play. Sometimes motherboards will have graphics chips on them. They are called "integrated graphics" or "IGPs". While these are fine for every day general usage, they are not suitable for playing games.

Hopefully, you have already checked out the System Requirements for TS2/TS3 sticky, as well as the Guide To Buying a New Graphics Card. If you have, then you know what cards are recommended.

Best Desktop Cards for $X US

~<$100 -----------> ATI 4650, 4670, 5570, 5670 or Nvidia GT 220, 430, 240
~$100 ----------> ATI 4850 or Nvidia GTS 250
~$150 ----------> ATI 5750, 5770, 4870 or Nvidia GTS 450
(Cards above this mark are ridiculously over-powerful for Sims purposes.)
~$200---------> ATI 5830 or Nvidia GTX 460, GTX 465
~$300 ----------> ATI 5850 or GTX 470
~$400 ----------> ATI 5870
~$500-----------> GTX 480
~$650-----------> 5970

* 4870x2 is known to have compatibility problems and is not recommended. 4850x2 is not recommended because of the problems with the 4870x2.
** Prices are based on US $, and will be different in other countries.


RAM

RAM is used to run all applications. Not having enough RAM can slow down your entire computer, including your gaming experience. For Windows XP, you need at least 2GB of RAM. For Windows Vista or Windows 7, you need at least 2.5GB of RAM. Dual channel RAM (or DDR2) should be installed in sets of two. Triple channel RAM (or DDR3) for the options in this guide should be installed in pairs just like DDR2 RAM. However, RAM installed in X58 boards (not suggested in this guide for good reason) should be installed sets of three. Keep in mind, unless you choose a 64-bit operating system, your computer will only show 3-3.5GB of RAM. However, because of the need to install in sets of two or three, we recommend the following:
  • 2x1GB (total of 2GB) of DDR2 RAM for OR 2x1GB (total of 2GB) of DDR3 RAM OR 3x1GB (total of 3GB) of DDR3 RAM for Windows XP
  • 2x2GB (total of 2GB) of DDR2 RAM OR 2x2GB (total of 2GB) of DDR3 RAM OR 3x2GB (total of 6GB) of DDR3 RAM for Vista and Windows 7
    Purchasing this way also uses the least amount of RAM slots. Some motherboards become temperamental when all RAM slots are filled.

Different motherboards support different types and speeds of RAM. You should refer to your motherboard's manual to learn what type of RAM it takes.
  • All of the Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Quad motherboards in this guide support DDR2 RAM. 800mhz (PC2 6400) with 4-4-4-12 timings and 1066mhz (PC2 8500) with 5-5-5-15 timings are the best options for use with all boards in this guide. 800mhz with 5-5-5-15 timings can also be purchased to save money.
  • All of the i5/i7 motherboards in this guide support DDR3 RAM (installed in matched PAIRS, not sets of 3). 1333mhz sticks with 7-7-7-24/20 timings are a good choice. However, as budget allows, 1600mhz with CL7/CL8 timings would also work with these boards. For cheaper RAM on a tight budget, look for 1333mhz kits with 9-9-9-24/20 timings.
  • The Phenom II motherboards in this guide support a combination of DDR2 and DDR3 RAM. Please refer to the individual motherboard's information to determine what type of RAM to buy.

G.Skill, Corsair, OCZ, and Mushkin all make excellent quality RAM, and all offer lifetime warranties. Crucial (NOT Ballistix) and Kingston ValueRAM series are good if you are looking to upgrade an existing prebuilt machine from companies like Dell, HP, Acer, Gateway, etc, because they have a high compatibility rate.

Hard Drive

All modern computers support SATA and SSD hard drives. Some older computers may only support IDE (PATA).

SATA drives typically come with 80GB, 250GB, 320GB, 500GB, 640GB, 750GB, or 1TB storage space. There are some larger 1.5TB and 2TB drives, but currently they offer poor $/storage size value. You can purchase several smaller drives for less than one of the larger ones. Also larger drives have more platters, and therefore are slightly slower and more noisy.

SSD drives are fairly new technology. They are faster than SATA drives and more reliable because there are no moving parts. Prices are continuing to come down, but are still extremely expensive compared to SATA drives. Most consumers will not consider SSD drives due to the high price tag and relatively small storage space. Intel, Samsung (2nd Gen and 2nd Gen Corsair) and OCZ (Summit, Vertex and Colossus) make some of the best SSD drives.

SATA drives are what most everyone uses. The fastest 7200RPM SATA hard drives on the market are the Western Digital Caviar Black hard drives (Samsung F3 drives are also very fast and offer good value), and the fastest SATA hard drives on the market are the Western Digital VelociRaptor hard drives. VelociRaptors in particular are extremely expensive and offer poor $/performance ratio. The Western Digital Caviar Blue 16MB (WD####AAKS) drives offer some of best $/performance ratio and reliability on the market today. Seagate, Samsung and Hitachi also make reliable drives.

Operating System

Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7 support The Sims games. However, 64-bit operating systems are known to have problems with Sims 2, and may cause shuttering/lagging, freezing and crashing. Update: The Windows 64-bit issue has been resolved to the best of our knowledge!
shiny!
staff: retired moderator
Original Poster
#3 Old 17th May 2009 at 8:30 PM Last edited by Nysha : 16th Nov 2014 at 2:19 AM.
DefaultWhat's the best place to buy computer parts?
You've already made the decision that you want to build or upgrade your computer. You've read and researched recommended parts, and now you need to know the best place to shop.

Local Advantages:

Most of the time buying online will save you money. However, on occasion you may be able to find some good local deals. If you're in a time crunch you may also want to buy locally, since shipping from most online stores typically takes at least a week. The best thing you can do in this case is pull out your local phone book and schedule a day to make a few trips around town to see what's available. If you know very specifically what you're looking for, you may also be able to call and get price quotes over the phone. Many stores with physical locations also have websites, but in some cases the site will not reflect all of the local stock.

You may find privately owned specialty shops that have some nice deals and very personalized services, or you might only have large chains. As far as the big chains in the US go, Micro Center is a very good place to check for deals. Best Buy, WalMart, and Office Depot will probably be the last places you want to check, but if you have the time it couldn't hurt. Despite their advertisements, these stores tend to have very limited selections and very inflated prices.


Buying Online:

By shopping online you'll find the largest selections and usually the best prices. Some good places to start your search are as follows:

USA:
Newegg - Arguably the #1 most popular place to buy computer parts and other electronics due to their large selections, fast and reliable service, and very reasonable shipping rates.
Amazon.com - Amazon offers free shipping on all order over $25. They often have good prices, but don't have the same selection as other stores. They also don't move stock as quickly so you may end up with older revisions, but their return processes is hassle free.
Buy.com - Another competitively priced store. They often have unbeatable deals on graphics cards.
ZipZoomfly - Not as wide of a stock as some other stores but you can often find unbeatable deals on graphics cards, CPUs, and hard drives.
TigerDirect - A reliable store with a large variety of electronics. Sometimes Tiger has store specific rebates, but you have to watch the shipping charges.

Performance PCs - If you're looking for computer mods and other special parts, this is one of the best places there is. They're not the cheapest, but if you're picky about how your computer looks you will appreciate what they have to offer.
Frozen CPU - Much like Performance Pcs.

Ebay - This world renowned auction site poses a risk, but can often be a great asset if you're on a tight budget and/or searching for hard to find parts.
Craig's List - Like Ebay, there is risk involved with this choice. In fact, this is probably the most risky choice you can make, since you really don't know who you are buying from. If you are careful with your purchases and always ask to check things out before buying, you can find some amazing deals that cannot be touched anywhere else. You can also sometimes find FREE parts to beef up your older machine, and FREE CRT monitors.

Canada:
NCIX - Fast, reliable, and competitively priced. They offer price matching, so there's hardly any reason to shop elsewhere.
Newegg Canada - Although they offer reliable service and large sections, Newegg.ca isn't actually located in Canada, so you're likely to get stuck with heavy shipping fees and import taxes.
Canada Computers - Cheap prices and good selection, though they don't have the same reliable track record as the above sites.

UK:
CCL Computers - Often the cheapest place to buy in the UK, they offer a good selection and reliable service. For a very reasonable charge, they will build your computer out of the parts you purchase from them. They have kind of crappy RAM selection, though.
Ebuyer - Ebuyer offers a large selection of parts and some of cheapest prices available in the UK.
Novatech - Good selection of parts and fast shipping. They also offer some reasonable prebuilts, as well as a few solid gaming laptops for very good prices.
Scan - Another reliable site for parts. Parts aren't always in stock and not the largest selection out there. They have a lot of options for preassembled systems.
Overclockers UK - While not usually the cheapest, Overclockers offers a selection of parts not always found at other places.
PC Specialist - Offer excellent laptop and desktop building services if you don't feel comfortable building a computer yourself, but want the advantage of picking the best hardware for what you want to use the computer for.

Ireland, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden:
Komplett - Great prices and quick shipping.

Most western European countries, plus Sweden, Russia, China and Turkey:
MediaMarkt - Small selection, reasonable prices, good reputation for reliability.

Australia:
Umart - Umart offers several physical locations across Australia, as well as convenient online shopping.
shiny!
staff: retired moderator
Original Poster
#4 Old 17th May 2009 at 8:30 PM Last edited by Nysha : 30th Jun 2013 at 3:50 PM.
DefaultI want to a no fuss, fully build computer. Where's the best place to look?
Advantages and Disadvantages:
There are both advantages and disadvantages to buying a prebuilt computer.

The biggest advantage to purchasing a prebuilt desktop is time. You don't have to spend as much time researching where to get parts, or spend much time actually putting the computer together. Warranties vary a lot, but there are companies which offer good peace of mind warranties, so you don't have to worry about trying to fix the computer if something goes wrong. That's not to say that you don't get a warranty by building yourself. In fact this is a common misconception. The truth is that every part you buy to put into your custom built computer has its own warranty direct from the manufacturer. These warranties can be anywhere from 30 days to forever (average 1-3 years), depending on the part. The downside is that you do have to put some amount of effort into figuring out what part isn't working so that you can have it fix or replaced.

The biggest disadvantages are a higher price, limited upgrade, expansion and customization abilities, and sometimes even inferior quality components. Basically a prebuilt will likely cost more and not last as long as one you build yourself. Buying a prebuilt computer does not save you money and they are not better machines.

----------------------

Things to Consider While Shopping for a Prebuilt Computer:
By this point, you should have decided that you're ready to purchase a prebuilt computer, have set a reasonable budget, and done research on the kind of components you'll be looking for.

Saving Money

If you're sure you don't want to build your own computer, you can usually save money doing -some- of the upgrades yourself. Installing your own graphics card w/stronger power supply, and additional RAM on your own are two of the biggest places to save money. For example, instead of buying a Dell XPS gaming machine, you could purchase an Inspiron and replace the power supply and graphics card yourself. You cannot do this will all computers, so you need to make sure the computer you are purchasing actually supports the kind of upgrades you plan to do.

Before you begin shopping for a new computer, decide how much, if any, of the upgrades are you willing to do yourself.

Expansion Abilities

It's best to buy a computer that has good expansion abilities, especially if you plan on doing some of the upgrades on your own. For example, if you know you want to add 4GB of RAM, make sure the computer doesn't only support 2GB. If you want to add a new graphics card, make sure the computer supports a full length PCI Express (PCI-E) slot. If you know you'll need a new power supply to run the graphics card, make sure the computer doesn't have a "proprietary" power supply (watch out for Dell!) and that it fits a "standard ATX". If you think you might want to add a second hard drive or optical drive down the line, make sure the computer supports that, and so on.

Case Design

Case design is important, and not just because you're going to have to look at it. The case plays an important factor in your ability to upgrade your computer (see above), and in keeping hot running components cool enough while you game. It's best to stay away from all-in-one-computers, slim designs and mini towers. Look for a mid-tower or full-tower desktop.


The Best Company:

The truth is that mainstream companies like Dell, HP, Lenovo, etc, are are all pretty much created equal. That does not mean that all COMPUTERS are created equal! Most every mainstream company provides both entry level computers which will never work well for the Sims games, as well as some stronger ones that will work fine. What it really comes down to is which specific machines offered are going to be able to provide you with the kind of performance you need. Once you know the kinds of things to look for, shop around. Specials and prices will vary from month to month. Many places that carry computer components will also have deals on prebuilt machines. Of course you can also shop direct from manufacturers like Dell.com or HP.com.

A Head Above the Rest

There are a few companies that will put together custom computers using the same retail parts that you would get from Newegg, TigerDirect, etc. This is usually a better option than going with companies like Dell, HP, etc who are known to cut corners to keep prices down, and build designs that are intentionally limited upgradability in order to force users into buying new. The downside is that many times these companies are much more expensive, but not always. You might be able to find a local shop that will do this for a very reasonable price. Some online websites, such as MaxForce PC, Maingear and AVADirect in the US, CCL Computers and Scan in the UK, and NCIX in Canada, all provide this service at reasonable rates. Of course there are other good companies out there too. In order to get a good deal, you really need to do your research and know exactly what to look for, and how to configure your PC.

Where NOT To Buy - It's impossible to know and warn about EVERY bad company or pseudo company that may market themselves online. However, there are two that have gotten quite a name for themselves. CyberPower PC and iBuyPower are two companies that catch a lot of gamers' attentions. That is because they offer custom builds using retail parts, often at prices around or even BELOW what it would cost to build it yourself. They are able to do this because they do not use new parts to build their desktops. These companies often use refurbished parts instead. Computers have also been known to arrive not properly assembled and with broken parts. They provide terrible customer service, and have a history of not honoring warranties.

CyberPower PC has also now established itself in the UK as CyberPower or CyberPowerSystem. Given the company's US record, it should be avoided by UK customers as well.

Reseller Ratings is a great website to check on the honesty and service of a particular online company, although some smaller companies might not be listed there.


The Alienware/Voodoo Myth:

Some people think that in order to play games they need to go out and buy a hugely priced machine from a company that caters specifically to gamers. This just isn't true. While desktops made by companies like Alienware and Voodoo PC may look quite stylish, they really aren't necessarily the best option. These companies use marketing gimmicks and charge huge markups for eye catching designs. They do offer high end parts suitable for playing modern games, but so do other companies that charge hundreds or even thousands of dollars less. If you buy a computer like Alienware or Voodoo, know you are paying them for their name.
shiny!
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#5 Old 17th May 2009 at 8:31 PM Last edited by callistra : 12th Sep 2009 at 10:07 PM.
DefaultI want to buy a laptop. Where are some good places to look?
Advantages and Disadvantages:

While purchasing a laptop might initally seem like an attractive option, there are some things to consider before taking the plunge.

The most obvious advantage to owning a laptop is portability. However, the greatest advantage quickly becomes the greatest disadvantage when it comes to playing games. Few laptops are suitable for playing game. Ultra portable laptops (under 14") in particular are almost never suitable for playing games. They are specifically designed to be small, light, and energy efficient. Manufacturers rarely offer the strong components that are needed to game, because their compact design doesn't allow them keep these hot-running components cool enough. This does not mean that all laptops are inferior to all desktops. This is definitely not true, and there are laptops which are specifically designed to handle games quite well. These laptops are, however, much more expensive than comparably speced desktops, and seldom last as long. This is because their components run hotter. Laptops are also very limited in expandability. For example, you cannot get cheap a laptop and upgrade the graphics, like you can most desktops.

One alternative to purchasing a desktop to play game on is to buy both a cheap and weaker laptop for portability needs, and a stronger desktop to play games and handle other more demanding programs. Because gaming laptops are so expensive (starting around $1000), it is possible to work both into the same budget.

Where to Buy:

Many of the same places that sell computer parts will also sell laptops. In addition, Xotic PC and Power Notebooks are both excellent places to buy.
shiny!
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Original Poster
#6 Old 17th May 2009 at 8:32 PM Last edited by callistra : 30th Nov 2009 at 12:02 AM.
DefaultAm I going to run into problems if I buy a dual or quad-core processor?
There is no absolute answer to this question. The Sims 2 did have some problems with both Intel's and AMD's original dual core processors. Since then, patches have been released and newer CPUs have come out that don't seem to have the same problems as the original CPUs did. The original Pentium Dual Cores (E2xxx) were reported to have problems. Some of the older AMD Athlon 64 X2 CPUs also may cause problems. However, if you have a dual or quad core processor, you are not guaranteed to have problems. The newest Intel Core 2 Duo Wolfdale CPUs (E7xxx, E8xxx) are known to work perfectly fine, for example.

Guide to Playing with Multi-Core CPUs

Sims 3 greatly benefits from having a multi-core CPU, and no compatibility problems have been reported.
shiny!
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#7 Old 17th May 2009 at 8:32 PM Last edited by whiterider : 19th Jun 2012 at 9:33 AM.
DefaultWhich is better, Intel or AMD?
Intel processors are clock for clock faster than AMD processors. For example the 2.5ghz E5200, which is Intel's weakest dual core processor, performs about as well as AMD's 3.1ghz 6000+ processor, which until just last month was AMD's strongest dual core processor. Intel processors also consume less power and therefore run cooler. AMD processors are often less expensive than Intel processors, especially in prebuilt desktops, so they are a good option for people on a tight budget.

AMD has recently made great strides with their release of the new Phenom II CPUs. Although they are still clock for clock slower than Intel's comparable processors, they are much more powerful than AMD's previous line.

Very few games make any use out of triple and quad-core processors. Many games, like The Sims 2, can't even take advantage of dual-core processors. The Sims 3 will take advantage of dual-core processors, but not likely quad-core processors. You may, however, see advantages from having a quad (or higher) core processor for TS3 due to the effect of spreading the load across multiple cores - so that Windows and other programs will make use of cores 3 & 4, freeing up cores 1 & 2 primarily for TS3.

Intel i3 series processors are not recommended for TS3, due to crashing issues.
shiny!
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Original Poster
#8 Old 17th May 2009 at 8:32 PM Last edited by callistra : 19th Jan 2010 at 6:24 AM.
DefaultWhich is better, ATI or Nvidia?
Both ATI and Nvidia graphics have their strengths and weaknesses, and one cannot correctly say that one company is better than the other.

Each desktop card has a roughly comparable counterpart.

Nvidia .------------------------> ATI
9400 GT/210/310 ---------------> 4350
9500 GT/GT 120/220 ------------> 4650
9600 GSO/GT 130 .--------------> 4670
9600 GT/240 --------------------> 5670
9800 GT ------------------------> 4830
9800GTX+/GTS 250 -------------> 5750/4850
GTX 260 .-----------------------> 5770/4870
GTX 275 ------------------------> 4890
GTX 280 ------------------------> -----
GTX 285 ------------------------> 5850
GTX 295 ------------------------> 5870
------ --------------------------> 5970

Whether the comparable Nvidia or ATI card is actually faster often depends on the game being played, AA/AF settings and the resolution. There hasn't been a well-designed review to determine which, if either, manufacturer has an advantage over The Sims games. The MTS staff happily owns both ATI and Nvidia cards.

Graphics Card Recommendations
shiny!
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Original Poster
#9 Old 17th May 2009 at 8:33 PM Last edited by callistra : 23rd Oct 2010 at 5:10 PM.
DefaultSpecific Desktop and Laptop Recommendations (Various Price Points)
This guide is intended to help users get a general idea of what type of computer can be purchased at various price points. Prices will fluctuate and this guide should be considered more of a helpful starting place than an absolute buying guide. It is recommended that you also have a read through the other posts in this thread.

All prices are based on the US $, and exact pricing may not apply to users in other countries.

Self-Built Desktop Computers:

Around $450
Around $650
Around $850

Pre-Built Desktop Computers:

Around $700 (Configured from MaxForce PC)
  • Case: Antec 300
  • Power Supply: CORSAIR CX 400W
  • Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-880GA-UD3H
  • Processor: Phenom II 550
  • DDR3 Memory: Corsair 4GB 1333mhz CL9
  • Graphics Card: EVGA GT 220
  • Hard Drive: WD6400AAKS
  • Optical Drive: Samsung SH-S243N 24X DVDRW SATA
  • Operating System:Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit

Around $1000 (Configured from MaxForce PC)
  • Case: Cooler Master 590
  • Power Supply: Corsair550VX 550W
  • Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-890GPA-UD3H
  • Processor: Phenom II 945
  • DDR3 Memory: Corsair 4GB 1333mhz CL9
  • Graphics Card: Sapphire Radeon 5750 1GB
  • Hard Drive: WD6400AAKS
  • Optical Drive: Samsung SH-S243N 24X DVDRW SATA
  • Operating System : Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit

Around $1200 (Configured from MaxForce PC)
  • Case: Cooler Master 690
  • PSU: Corsair 550w
  • Mobo: Gigabyte GA-P55A-UD3
  • CPU: Intel i5 750
  • GPU: G.Skill 4GB ECO 1333mhz CL7
  • RAM: EVGA GTS 450
  • HDD: Samsung F3 1TB 7200rpm 32MB
  • Optical: Samsung SH-S223L
  • Operating System: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit

14"-16" Laptops:

Around $1000
  • Asus N82 (14.1")
  • Lenovo IdeaPad Y560 (15.6")
  • SAGER NP2180 (Compal NBLB2) (15.6")
  • SAGER NP5125 (Clevo B5100M) (15.6")


Around $1200-$1300
  • Asus N61 (16")
  • MSI GX640 (15.4")
  • MSI GX660 (15.6")
  • SAGER NP8690 (Clevo W860CU) (15.6")

$1500+
  • ASUS G51 (15.4")
  • MSI GT660 (16")

17"+ Laptops:

Around $1000
  • SAGER NP7110 (Clevo B7110M) (17.3")

$1200-$1300
  • ASUS N71 (17.3")
  • ASUS N73 (17.3")
  • SAGER NP8760 (Clevo W870CU) (17.3")

$1500+
  • ASUS G73 (17")
  • MSI GX740 (17")
  • SAGER NP8120 (Clevo X8100) (18.4")
  • SAGER NP8850 (Clevo W880CU) (17.3")
  • SAGER NP9285 (Clevo D900F) (17")
  • SAGER NP9850 (Clevo M980NU) (18.4")
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