When you're looking for items to buy you should be paying attention to:
- Technical quality
The actual PC is the most important part, but also one of the easiest pieces to configure. As long as you know the very basics of what you want, the details are relatively insignificant.
If you walk into a computer shop saying you want a Dual DVI 512meg vid card for less than $150, that's exactly what you'll get. The exact model and brand doesn't really matter here.
Your computer is made up of the following items:
- Mainboard (Motherboard )
- Sound Card
- Network Card
- Graphics Card
- CPU (Processor)
- RAM (Memory)
- Hard Drive
- PSU (Power Supply)
This is the central nervous system of your computer. It controls everything else in the computer.
Although you really shouldn't buy cheap anything when it comes to your computer, this is the one thing you never want to skimp on. Get a crappy Mainboard and everything suffers.
If you're piecing together a computer yourself, you need to also make sure that your Mainboard is compatible with the restof the items you're about to buy. If you're not a computer geek, just ask someone who is or someone in the store to help you set up your system.
These days, almost all Mainboards come with sound, network and graphics cards built in. This saves you having to buy specific cards for these functions, which in turn saves you money.
I would still recommend you get a Mainboard without an onboard graphics card or just don't use it. You're going to want a real graphics card for your machine, so make sure the Mainboard has a PCI Express slot to accept your new graphics card.
As for brand names, I will only recommend two brands: ASUS or MSI.
- Recommended: MSI P45 Platinum
Sound Card: As mentioned earlier, pretty much every Mainboard sports an onboard 5.1 surround sound card. Unless you're planning on doing high-end recording or music production, this will be more than enough for what you need.
Save your money and stick to the onboard option.
- Recommended: On-board
Network Card: All Mainboards have built in network cards, but if you want to go wireless you'll need to buy a wireless card as well.
- Recommended: Onboard
If you want to run dual monitors (and I highly, HIGHLY recommend you do), you want to get a graphics card with Dual-DVI video outputs. Get an ATI or NVIDIA graphics card, ideally with a minimum of 512 megabytes DDR3 ram.
This card will be far more powerful than anything you're ever going to need, but considering the price of a card such as this you'd be a fool to buy anything less.
This card will be more than enough power to run everything, including high-end games (but not at the maximum texture and graphics quality).
If you want to use your PC for high-end gaming as well as poker, grab a vid card with a little more juice.
- Recommended: BFG GeForce (Nvidia) 9800GT
The Central Processing Unit is your computer's brain. Anytime your computer has to do a calculation, or perform any sort of task requiring "thinking" or logic, it's using the CPU.
Online poker actually requires a decent amount of CPU usage, especially if you're running multiple tables across multiple screens. You don't need anything crazy, but don't get anything less than a Dual core Intel 2.6 gigahertz processor.
Why Intel? I personally hate AMD and will only recommend Intel chips. There's a reason Apple Computers has begun using all Intel chips in their systems. Intel simply makes the best CPUs on the market.
All the dual core and better chips are 64 bit also, allowing you to use 64-bit software (such as Windows 7 Ultimate x64).
In case you don't know, 64-bit software can operate much faster with much more efficiency as its 32-bit equivalent. Since you have a 64-bit chip, you might as well use 64-bit software.
Soon enough there will be no such thing as 32 bit (also known as x86), as 64 bit is slowly taking over the entire marketplace.
- Recommended: Intel Core 2 Duo E8200, 2.66GHz
Random Access Memory is your computer's muscle. While your CPU is doing all the thinking work, the RAM is doing all the heavy lifting.
The more RAM you have, the quicker your computer will run. Simple as that. Make sure you get RAM compatible with your Mainboard and a minimum of two Gigabytes.
If you want to have a high-speed machine (especially if you want to do any serious gaming), get 4 gigs and call it a day.
It's always better to buy RAM in pairs and buy all of it at once. Having different brands of RAM used in the same computer has been known to cause errors.
Plus, all RAM these days is DDR (Dual Data Rate). This means to get the most performance out of your RAM, you need to have two identical chips in the correct RAM slots on the Mainboard.
If you want 4 gigs of RAM it's better to buy two 2-gig chips rather than four 1-gig chips.
- Recommended: OCZ Dual Channel DDR2 2x2048MB (4-Gig)
As long as your hard drives are compatible with your Mainboard (almost all current Mainboards are running the SATA2 interface) just get the one with enough storage.
Every day the price of drives goes down and the storage gets bigger. Buy whatever's big and cheap, probably around 500 gigs in size.
- Recommended: Western Digital Caviar 500Gig
The Power Supply Unit takes the power from your wall and distributes the correct amount of juice to everything in your computer.
You want to make sure you get a PSU with enough power to run your computer without issue. Basically, get a 750-watt PSU and you're good to go.
- Recommended: Ultra LSP750
All the guts and wires of the computer need to be contained somewhere - that's your case.
The case also includes all the fans required to keep your computer cool. If you don't have fans, your computer will melt or set itself on fire.
When looking for a case you need find something that looks cool, fits your parts and, most importantly, is quiet.
With all the fans running in a PC, they can get pretty damn noisy. A good case will keep your computer cool and quiet without forcing you to wear earplugs in your own room.
- Recommended: Cooler Master HAF 932
All the Rest
Now that you have a PC, you need the rest of the crap that goes with it. This includes:
I cannot be any clearer on this one. Monitors should always be plural.
Once you start using dual screens, you'll see why it's impossible for you to ever come back. Your best bet is a pair of 20" or 22" widescreen LCD monitors, side by each.
- Recommended: Two Viewsonic vx2262wm 22" Widescreen LCD
What mouse to use is really a matter of personal preference.
You need something that functions accurately and consistently on the surface you're using it on. If you want to avoid carpel tunnel I would highly recommend you look into a trackball or "thumb" mouse, such as the Logitech TrackMan Wheel.
These let you keep your wrist stationary, using just your thumb to control the pointer. It takes a little bit of usage to re-learn how to operate your mouse, but once you do you'll find yourself being more accurate with less effort.
Also, these work on any surface without any surface jump errors. When your money is on the line, an accurate mouse is a requirement.
- Recommended: Logitech TrackMan Wheel
This really doesn't matter for poker as anything will work. Simply for ergonomics I'd recommend getting a split or wave keyboard.
You'll have to re-train yourself to type on it, but it's a small amount of work to keep your wrists happy.
- Recommended: Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000
You're going to need to hear your computer somehow. Use your headphones, grab cheap speakers, or buy a full-on surround sound system. Whatever works for you.
Anytime you're spending hours at a time at a desk, you need a proper task chair to give you the back support needed to keep yourself healthy and pain free.
If you're uncomfortable, you're not going to be able to play your best game.
High-end office chairs can cost thousands of dollars, but you can find decent task chairs for cheap prices by hitting up Staples or IKEA. Just be sure to get a task chair instead of an executive chair.
Task chairs keep your weight forward in the proper position for typing, rather than lounged back where you need to strain to reach the keyboard.
It's possible to shave a few hundred dollars off of this system without having to sacrifice all that much performance. To do this, get less RAM, a cheaper case, cheaper (or on board) video card and a slower processor.
But it's always best to do something correct the first time rather than have to buy it twice. Buy a PC that's faster than you need right now, and it will still be adequate in a couple of years.
If you have any questions about specifics parts, or compatibility, feel free to drop your question in a comment. I'll see what I can do to help you out.