Right now, the only PC game I really play is Minceraft. I've been specifically avoiding new PC games because right now, my current computer is Sucktard-a-tron. I've had several games recommended to me, such as Skyrim, but I know that my computer would run it like crap. So, I've been holding off trying any PC games, really, until after I get this new computer up and running.
Every new build somebody posts will help me, but honestly, I don't want to be the guy who is given a fish, and fed for a day, I want to be the guy who is taught how to fish, and fed for a lifetime. That link you posted looks like a promising start.
Also, I feel the urge to say that Overclocking sounds like something you'd get in trouble for with OSHA, and Solid state drive sounds like a video game title.
"Solid State Drive: Tactical Automotive Action! Pre-Order Today!"
First off, stay off prebuilts if possible, especially if you are going to do any sort of intensive gaming. Companies use prebuilts because business warranties are much better than what consumers get, they need to have some sort of idea what is going on and having tens of different kinds of computers would be a true nightmare for the IT department as software doesn't always work with different things like originally planned. The additional costs are usually just a drop in the ocean and they save time by having broken things replaced in less than a few days. So called "gaming" prebuilts from companies like iBuyPower, CyberpowerPC and Alienware the computers tend to be extremely unbalanced often having i7s which are very close to being the fastest consumer processors in the market coupled with low-mid-range graphics cards which is just as important if not more important than the processor for a gaming build and having poor build quality and poor quality components in general. There have even been cases where they have sold consumers PCs with water cooling loops they have made, the cooling loop has broken, the computer broken and they refuse to replace it or refund your money back. Many prebuilts also have overheating issues.
A bit back to the Intel i7s, they are not worth it at all unless you do a lot of professional stuff like video editing, image editing, rendering, that kind of stuff. They only have the benefit of having hyperthreading over the i5s which basically means that you get an additional but much slower core(~1/6-1/4 of the performance of a real core) for every real core the processor has. Most programs, however, cannot utilize them and they are basically left unused. Games typically use two or four cores, some less intensive or poorly coded ones sometimes only use a single one. More cores do not typically add any real multitasking performance as you usually don't run two games or a game and an intensive editing program at the same time as that could bring nearly any computer down to its knees.
Higher processor clock rate does not straight out mean better performance, nor do more cores as not ever program is able to utilize them.
Comparing graphics cards and processors with different manufacturers without any real-world testing, or benchmarks, is practically impossible. This is why we rely on benchmarks.
Higher numbers, in general, do not necessarily equal higher performance. For example, faster RAM past a certain point does not really benefit you much if at all in most computers and uses. This is why unused RAM=wasted RAM=wasted money.
Now, back from the "rant", building computers is fairly easy and nearly always gives better results and the warranties tend to last longer without you having to shell hundreds for an extra year after a "free" one or two. Many power supplies, for example, have three, four or five year warranties. On a self-built PC you have to focus on quality, you cannot use horrible ---- like a lot of the companies do, and even then you end up saving money in almost every single case possible. That is because you can get the same graphics card in a much cheaper build as nearly all prebuilts without sacrificing much else, maybe getting a bit cheaper processor that doesn't have hyperthreading and spending that to the graphics card and cutting down the RAM amount a bit, 8GB is fine for pretty much everything except workstations.
So, as I already mentioned you want quality parts for the PC. Why? Because they usually have better warranties and are much less likely to break. A poor power supply can break most of your computers insides and at the absolute worst case scenario kill you in a housefire. You do not want that, so you check reviews(from tech sites, not users, I'll add some links), maybe even Google it and see if that helps although I find it being less and less useful.
You sometimes recieve the components you have ordered broken, this is, in most cases, purely a unlucky event but doesn't necessarily say anything the quality of the actual product, even the best manufacturers sometimes accidentally have a broken product leave the factory. Just RMA it and hope that the next one is fine. Both processor manufacturers (Intel and AMD) have really low DOA(dead-on-arrival) rates while as some things such as power supplies are fairly common, maybe even as high as 5% to arrive broken, some due to shipping, some due to other things.
About the overclocking Mhyles mentioned, it means running hardware(as in CPU, RAM, GPU, monitor) at higher speeds they were meant to be used at. This does not necessarily mean that it will break but it typically reduces durability but can significantly improve component performance as 15-30% is quite typical if you have decent equipment which doesn't even cost a ton and being able to toss in a CPU cooler and getting another 20% more processing power and because of that making you computer last longer can be quite useful. Overclocking processors quite close to the limit with an mid-range air cooler, for example, typically brings the lifetime a bit down from around ten years to somewhere around seven or eight at minimum but at that time your computer will almost certainly not be able to run anything much more intensive than Word or a browser and older software. Some components are either completely locked meaning their clock speed cannot be incresed (and possibly decreased), some have their voltage locked so that you cannot overclock as much as you could have possibly otherwise.
E: I'll keep adding more info but apparently I already answered one of the OPs questions so I'll just leave it like this for a minute. Sorry if this seems like I'm explaining to an idiot but someone else might find this useful and I don't know how computer-knowledged you are.
I've learned more about computers today than most of my life combined.
I've only read as far as the CPU in the guide Mhyles posted, and I wanted to ask questions here as soon as I had them, before reading on.
Are you saying that a high number of cores WOULDN'T increase performance when running a bunch of programs at the same time?
I just read that you can actually get multiple graphics cards working together in a single computer. But it sounds like it's more trouble than it's worth. So am I better off just getting a single, really good graphics card?
And what are the pro's and cons (performance-wise) of a second monitor? I was thinking of having the main screen for gaming, and a second, smaller one for web-browsing/IM-ing/etc. while I play. Is that a lot more system-heavy, or is it more of a drop in the bucket?
Having other cards can almost be a must if you game on multiple monitors as the power needed to drive three 1080p displays is a lot if you want fairly high settings. It is also one of the only cases where VRAM, or video card RAM, makes a difference. Usually, as with normal RAM, they are not too different, unused is wasted. Screen size does not affect performance, resolution does. Running a very high resolution screen requires a lot of VRAM to load the textures on the screen to the VRAM. AMDs cards tend to be a bit more efficent at higher resolutions as they are not usually so limited by memory and bandwidth as Nvidias offerings and the performance limiting factors are elsewhere. Do not mix up the video card manufacturer with the card/cooling manufacturer, the GPU manufacturer, which there are two of a bit like in the processor side, AMD, and this time, Nvidia. The GPU manufacturers only make the most important part which is the GPU and the PCB partners basically manufacture everything around it. Asus, Gigabyte, MSI, Sapphire and HIS are some of the good quality PCB manufacturers. The GPUs are nearly always fine like processors but the graphics cards tend to vary in quality more or less.
Some graphics cards use the default or reference cooling design which is basically what the GPU manufacturers have designed at first to keep the cards cool enough to operate. Then there are aftermarket coolers designed by the PCB manufacturers that are in most cases quieter and more effective thus keeping the card cooler which is important if you want to overclock, silent designs are just nice in general.
Two screens and only using the other one for games and other for videos/Skype/browser etc. is a good idea a sit doesn't require much additional power to that of just the game. A single GPU card is most likely the best solution.
Yes, you are basically set for a working computer with the motherboard if it has all the connectors you need, but there are a couple of other things. Keep in mind that it's most likely cheaper to upgrade you exisitng computer if it has good parts than to build a new one so you might want to have a couple of extra SATA connectors handy for new hard drives and SSDs. You never know when you might need one for one reason or another. Another thing is the socket and upgradability. When AMDs and Intels processors shared sockets is wayyy in the distant past so you want the right socket, the most recent being AMDs AM3+(which is intercompatible with their and only their previous few socket) and Intels LGA1155(which is not intercompatible past the two latest generations). Motherboards have different chipsets that affect such things as how many GPUs you can have, how many SATA ports you can have at most and on the Intel side can you overclock or not. Better chipsets tend to have bit of a premium on them but you need what you need and the quality tends to improve at least slightly the higher you go.
I'll list some tech sites and resources here. Remember that nothing is 100% accurate and performance can vary greatly from game to game and program to program. Simply never drivers can improve performance greatly. Tom's Hardware's charts (1 and 2) are among the best, in my opinion. Anandtech's bench (3) is also good but in some cases outdated:
I'll list my self-made GPU price-performance chart soon