Advice for Best PC Builds forum competitions

Almost anyone can throw together a decent build list, but so many people have issues (some little, some big) that ought to be avoided. Finer details are often overlooked and I'll go over some of those here. A bit of a tl;dr, but it may help. I'll see if I can condense it as time goes on.

Regarding rules:

These are often changing (sometimes part way through a competition, sometimes even several times), so always read the posted rules at the start of a competition thread. So many people get disqualified over little things that could have been avoided.

The biggest issues are double checking your price links. Currently, we can source parts from Newegg and Amazon. In the past, it was one or the other, so this is a good improvement. However, mail-in-rebates (MIRs) and promo code discounts are not allowed. Mail in rebated can be tricky to get and are sometimes not honored at all, that's why they aren't allowed.

Promo codes are temporary and often expire before the competition is over or soon after, so they aren't fair representations of a component's usual price. However, we don't count shipping costs because they vary from location to location, so that can partially make up for the loss of MIRs and promo code discounts.

MIRs can be disabled in pcpartpicker by unchecking a checkbox when you go to select a component. Shipping is listed separately and can thus be ignored. Promo codes are not always listed separately, so you need to double check your price links to ensure that they are not affecting your build's cost. If they are, then you must manually enter the real price in the system build by clicking on the options symbol under the "where" column.

I recommend that when you post the BB code to Tom's, should you have any manually entered prices, you should also add @ Newegg or @ Amazon to the prices of the individual components because manually adding a price removes this from the BB code. This helps the mods who check your build for disqualifying discrepancies to know where to look.


More about those fine details I mentions: For example, the Best PC Builds currently going on as I write this is for a $600 VR PC.
These are the minimum specifications all qualifying builds must meet:,32826.html

You look at the graphics, the CPU, the RAM, and you start building, right? Maybe you also noticed that the minimum specs state you need at least one USB 3.0 port and two USB 2.0 ports. If you didn't, like some people who posted builds in the forum, then you might not bother getting a case that has at least one front USB 3.0 port and two USB 2.0 ports, like those members did. A case with 1 front USB 3.0 port and 1 front USB 2.0 port or just two USB 3.0 ports or just two USB 2.0 ports means you need to use some rear ports. That's annoying and sometimes not even feasible.

There are dozens of cases between $30 and $50 that have at least one USB 3.0 port and two USB 2.0 ports, some of which are pretty decent, so there's really no excuse for a case with too few front USB ports. With that said, also always check if your motherboard has the right USB headers.

Not all lower budget boards have USB 3.0 headers and when they do, the headers are sometimes in a place that a large graphics card will block. Attention to detail like that goes a loooong way towards making a build easier should someone actually build with your list. For example, my submission to that Best PC Builds competition has a decent $45 case with two USB 3.0 ports and two USB 2.0 ports.


Regarding the hardware more directly:

This is a much more personal thing and I am not going to argue whether my preferences are the best. However, there are a few things where I believe doing something one way instead of another is less subjectively wrong and more objectively wrong. One of my biggest pet peeves is using single channel memory. Understand that you are cutting the memory bus width in half by doing this. Some may argue that dual-channel has been shown to not be a big deal and while that's not entirely wrong, people forget that much of that research was done a long time ago and things have changed.

Single channel memory not only saves you practically nothing, making it pointless just for that reason, but it also can and does affect performance in many things in subtle ways. It increases stutter in some games and can even do hard to diagnose things like hurt SLI performance scaling (I've seen it myself). While only loosely related to Best PC Builds, also keep in mind that the biggest bottleneck in most low end laptops is single channel memory hampering integrated graphics (the company jerks even make it so both slots in a double slot system use the same channel to save money on the motherboards).

Saving about $2 is not worth it. On the other hand, if you happen to be building with a quad channel LGA 2011 system, then depending on the purpose of the build, it may be just fine to use only two channels. A gaming system will work alright with two channels, but a professional computer may benefit from filling all four channels.


Another hardware detail is getting the right PSU, aka power supply. A general rule of thumb is to get a power supply that can handle roughly 50% to 100% more than the expected gaming load of the computer. This puts it within the 50% to 75% of its maximum rated load because power supplies are their most efficient around that range. Also, this improves the longevity of a power supply. Power supplies will break down somewhat faster if used at 100% load or very low loads like 10% most of the time they are powered on.

Beyond that, always look for a good-quality or better power supply with at least a 3 year warranty, preferably 5 years or more. if you have the time, look at the PSU tier lists here on Tom's and if you have more time to do a really good job of picking your PSU, check out professional reviews like from the Tom's team or Johnnyguru.

If you really want to be good, you can try making sure that the PSU's cables are long enough for the case and motherboard you pick out. For example, some really aren't long enough for a MicroATX board in a large ATX tower case. Remember, it really is the little things that can matter the most. The difference between a tight fit and barely not fitting can be waiting several days for a replacement to an otherwise fully functional part for which you might not get your money back.


Useful resources for when you are picking parts:
Tom's PSU guide:,2916.html
Tom's PSU tier list (while not perfect, this can be helpful):
When picking a PSU, one of the best things to do once you have a unit you think you want on your parts list is to google for professional reviews of it and check a few.

Tom's Graphics Hierarchy Chart:,4388.html
You can get an idea of what performance level you want and checkbox a few cards in that area according to the list in pcpartpicker to see which ones are the cheapest for their performance and get a good idea of what card you want in your parts list very quickly.

This isn't really used as often anymore since things are basically "get i5 and you're great, get i3 for lower budget, get i7 if you have a high budget with money to bleed" right now, but Zen might change that to making the chart useful for Intel to AMD comparisons.
Tom's CPU Hierarchy Chart:,4312.html