Building a Computer 101: The Supporting Cast

We have a computer! (in theory…sigh.) We can’t see what we are doing, we have no input, we have no Operating System (OS) and if we could get to a desktop and listen to something the sound would be “bleh”.

Cue the supporting cast. This rag tag band of misfits is employed to make your computing experience as resplendent as possible. We will be seeking out the services of a mouse, keyboard, sound card, monitor, 7.1 speakers and head phones.


This better be comfortable. You have a few key decisions to make when choosing a mouse-like input device: wireless vs. wired, trackball vs. laser vs. stationary track ball vs. other, number of buttons, on board memory storage, input type (PS/2 vs. USB), size and weight. To properly make the decision you should know what dominates your computer use. I will be using my mouse for graphics work and gaming. I will want something that is wired, because wireless gains me no advantage and batteries are bad for the environment.

My Selection: Logitech G9 Black 5 Buttons Tilt Wheel USB Wired Laser Gaming Mouse
Price: $75

  • Wired
  • Laser (My Razer trackball is annoying when it picks up dust and etc.)
  • High DPI, meaning high sensitivity
  • On-the-fly adjustable sensitivity
  • Various weights and other cool crap


The keyboard is your second major input device. You will likely spend an insurmountable amount of time on this thing. Pick something with durability and comfort. (Or keep buying the same old crappy keyboard every time it breaks.) Once again there are a number of features to balance and choose from but the main choice is between wired or wireless. I will be going wired again because I don’t like batteries in something I use a lot.

My Selection: Logitech G11 Silver & Black USB Standard Gaming Keyboard
Price: $60

  • Wired
  • Light up keys at variable illuminations
  • Hot Keys
  • Programmable

Sound Card:

A good sound card is vital in having decent audio quality. On board audio, while sufficient for office type use, will seem lacking when you demand higher quality during gaming or video playback. The quality during manufacturing of the codec as well as the codec itself is extremely important in determining whether or not you rip your ears off. There are a decent number of options when it comes to sound cards. I prefer to take the easy route and go with the tried and tested. I will be picking up a soundblaster x-fi based card. However, if you want to shop around…make sure to look for high sample rates, well reviewed chipsets/codecs and that the card supports the output you want. (2.1, 4.1, 5.1, 7.1, etc.)

<note>My Selection comes with head phones. This is useful if you don’t want to annoy family members. My headset also has a mic, this would be useful for all you WoW types.</note>

My Selection: Creative 53SB000003000 7.1 Channels 24-bit 192KHz PCI Interface Elite Pro Sound Card and HS-900 Headphone Bundle
Price: $150

  • Uses the Soundblaster X-Fi chipset
  • Better ranges than the high end gaming card
  • Supports all of the fancy EAX and 3D sound options for gaming
  • Comes with well reviewed headset
  • Don’t have to buy a separate headset


Choose LCD (new hotness) or CRT (old heaviness). (There are other options like projectors and such.) Choose the size of the screen, while keeping in mind where you will be putting your rig. Make sure it has inputs that coexist with your video card. Look for contrast ratios, resolutions, brightness, refresh rates and power usage. I will be going with a 24″ LCD that can take input from the GeForce.

My Selection: Westinghouse L2410NM Black 24″ 8ms HDMI Widescreen LCD Monitor 500 cd/m2 1000:1 Built in Speakers
Price: $410

  • Justin actually has this monitor and he likes it. (I found this monitor before asking what he had.)
  • 24″ and widescreen
  • 1920×1200 resolution (To gain full advantage from the vid card I would need a 30″ widescreen.)
  • Well priced for how well it is reviewed (which is high) and what you get (plenty of features).


A better person to talk to about audio would be John. He knows a heck of a lot more than I do. I will say that you want something with decent wattage per speaker, a good frequency range and a high signal to noise ratio. There is so much preference based decisions in this department. We have the capability to go 7.1, but do we have the space? Some of the 2.1 systems are better designed for use with a computer and have more wattage. (More wattage generally means more sound.) This one is really hard for me to decide on because I feel my current 5.1 from soundblaster is pretty crappy. (I’ve read that the fault could lie with my Audigy 2 card.) I also have a hard time setting up 5.1 because I won’t spend money on unsightly stands. So I’ve picked more of a placeholder set of speakers and hope to converse with more knowledgeable individuals to ascertain a better solution.

My Current Selection: Creative Inspire P7800 90 Watts 7.1 Speaker
Price: $80

  • I know they will work with the Soundcard
  • 7.1 audio for a cheap price
  • Only 90 watts 🙁
  • Where am I going to put all these speakers? I’ll need to build some kind of audio add on to my desk.


All that is true for speakers is the same for headphones. Look for wattage and frequency range. The quality of the components and the type of ear piece is important as well. If you want VOIP make sure to get a headset with a mic or you will be needing to purchase a separate mic. Remember that the human ear is only so capable and unless you are an extreme audiophile, any headset in the $40-$120 should do you just fine.

My Selection: Included with the Soundcard.
Price: See Soundcard.

That is it. Our computer is complete, the final tally from for all of the components is…




That is before any shipping and mail in rebates, of which there were many. This is a top of the line brand new, completely functioning (some assembly required) computer with Grade “A” components. The only thing missing is another video card running in SLI which would add about $400 to the price and last you about 7 years. (We also need to go software shopping, next post! ^-^)

Ironically, only days after the first list there has already been announcements of a newer graphics card coming out in the GeForce line. This is why it pays to be informed and have a list. As parts get updated you can decide if they deserve to replace the incumbent part. If not then you can feel good knowing that the price on your current part will drop. When it eventually come time to buy this computer I feel that I will be spending about $3,000 all said and done.

I’d like to hear your thoughts or suggestions on the subject matter. If you have any questions about specific parts or where to get more information, I will do my best to be of service.

  1. Dangit, I’m out almost $4k and I don’t know what software to buy now! Update!! Halp!! 😉

  2. Been busy Job Hunting :-), but per your request I think I’ll do that now…

  3. Hurrah! How’s the job hunt?

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