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Question
Hey there. Hope this finds you well.

I'm going to be building a gaming PC for my Christmas present. This is my first time doing it, but I will have help from others with experience.

Before I order parts, I just want to double check if everything's compatible. I'm not sure where or how to do that. Could you either do it for me or tell me how to do it?

Thanks for your help. :)

Raygo T2 Mid Tower Computer Case
Patriot Viper Xtreme 8GB 2x4gb
Seagate 1TB Solid State Hybrid Drive SATA 6Gbps 64MB Cache 1 TB
AMD FX-8320 8-core CPU
Asus AM3+ Motherboard (M5A78L-M/USB3)
SolidGear 650W Power Supply
XFX Radeon HD 7970

Answer
Compatibility is fairly easy to assess in the era of plug-n-play; you generally just need to be able to connect the devices/components together (I know, this sounds overly simplistic). For example if you select a PCI Express x16 based graphics card, you will need a PCI Express x16 slot available on your motherboard.

Similarly, ensure that the memory you have selected is compatible (you haven't provided a direct link on this item, so it's hard to say) - AM3+ means DDR3, so ensure you've selected DDR3 memory. While it's a reasonable idea to look at the supported speed grades for the board, and pick RAM that conforms (e.g. Newegg lists the selected board as supporting DDR3 1333, so DDR3 1333 would be a good choice), in general if the memory "out-specs" (e.g. is faster, lower latency, etc) the board, the board will simply downclock the memory to what works, and life goes on. As I said - plug-n-play makes things quite simple. The same is generally true for things like PCIe revisions (while some may say you must have a 3.0 card for a 3.0 board, in general any card will work with any board, excepting some very early 1.0 and 1.1 revision boards with 2.0 and 3.0 cards (this is a very rare combination - an old motherboard and a modern graphics card)).

Some things worth keeping in mind though, which go somewhat beyond compatability:

- The higher-spec AMD FX CPUs tend to demand quite a lot of power; the model you have selected has a TDP of 125W - this is substantial. Ensure that your cooling, power, and so on can handle this demand. You shouldn't have a problem with a standard AM3+ board, however, but keep in mind that higher-spec chips can exceed 200W TDP (and have a very short list of supported motherboards).

- Micro-ATX boards may cost less initially, but they seriously limit your expansion capabilities - you have less expansion slots available for future add-in cards. With the Asus board you have selected, you will have a single PCI slot (with graphics card installed, and blocking the closest PCI slot with its cooler), and no PCIe expansion slots - this will limit your options for additional peripherals, like sound cards, NICs, video capture hardware, or any other expansion features you may want or need in the future. The lack of PCIe is also potentially problematic, as many new expansion devices are PCIe exclusive. Furthermore, the proximity to the graphics card may result in overheating of any peripheral add-in or the 7970 itself, due to the reduced airflow from having a card sandwiched below it.

- The hybrid hard-drive is of little advantage.

- The power supply you have selected comes from an unknown manufacturer, and may not be of good quality (Generally unknown/no-name products have a reputation for quite literally blowing up in users' faces), it is also smaller (in rated output) than I would suggest for such a machine - the graphics card and CPU alone will be enough to seriously strain that unit under heavy load, and as the machine is intended for gaming, you should plan for heavy load to be a fairly constant pattern. A larger, and higher quality unit would be my suggestion - look at PC Power & Cooling, Enermax, Antec, Corsair, or Silverstone, and something in the 850W or greater range; better efficiency is also a good idea (it will mean less waste heat, and therefore less heat generation within the tower overall - this will help cooling).

- The case you have selected looks very basic, and may not offer the best cooling situation for the hardware you're installing - something with an additional front intake (or a few of them) would probably mean better overall running temperatures, which will help stability and longevity. Cooler Master and Silverstone make a number of good enclosures at a range of prices - you don't have to step up to a $300 aluminum enclosure, but something with good cooling layout is almost a must for a gaming machine. The Cooler Master HAF XB series are a good example of this, and are not terribly expensive; http://www.coolermaster-usa.com/product.php?product_id=10102&product_name=HAF%20


- Otherwise the brands of hardware you have selected are very good; XFX, Asus, Seagate, Patriot, and AMD are all well regarded, and you have selected a very appropriate memory configuration (again, ensure the specific kit you've selected is DDR3), and good CPU/GPU combination that should result in very good performance in a variety of games and other applications. The motherboard itself is not bad - simply limited by its size (as mentioned above), if you were to go with a full size ATX board, Asus is still a good place to start; ASRock and BioStar are also worth a look.

Finally, keep in mind the operating system and display - in general I would suggest Windows 7 for a gaming computer; specifically 64-bit Home Premium or Professional (depending primarily on your networking needs). Regarding the display, select something that is appropriately sized for your viewing distance (further away means larger), and has an appropriate resolution for the system - generally something around 1080p is a good choice; very high resolution displays (2560x1440 or 2560x1600, as well as 4K resolutions) will place a much higher demand on the graphics card when it comes to gameplay, and in many cases will result in lag or poor performance with modern titles. If you want a very immersive/expansive gaming experience, a large 1080p HDTV may be worth considering.

If you have any other questions, feel free to ask.

-bob  

Gaming

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Bobbert

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I have nearly two decades of experience in IT, computer repair, and related fields and will attempt to provide the most solid, brand-agnostic advice when it comes time to purchase a new computer, or upgrade an existing machine. I can answer anything from the seemingly basic to the downright complicated - and will do my best to provide this information in a clear and concise manner. I have a personal interest in PC gaming, and can apply my experience to such an end. Questions related to 3D games on OS X or other platforms are less likely to get answered.

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