Hard Drives

Picking the perfect hard drive for your budget

Hard drives can now be divided into two categories: SSD and old school (spinning disk hard drive). SSD is the newer technology, and will probably one day replace the old school hard drives. In them mean time, however, they are very cost prohibitive to produce at larger capacities. Rather than asking you to choose one technology over the other, the best choice is to go with both technologies at the same time. In other words, the best configuration at present is to select an SSD for your primary hard drive and an older spinning hard disk for your secondary.

Utilizing the performance advantages of the SSD hard drive, I recommend installing the operating system and one or two of your favorite games on the SSD. Because the SSD is only going to be about 120-250GB, you will only be able to install a select few games on this hard drive. The operating system and any games installed on the SSD will load windows and games significantly faster. In addition, the data will be much safer as there are no moving parts to speak of involved with SSD. very cool. The important metric to consider with SSD’s is their read/write speed, but since there is no easily enforceable standard in place it’s best to read customer reviews. StealthMachines recommends Intel and Mushkin brand SSD hard drives.

Spinning hard disk drives are nothing new. They have been around for over a decade. Spinning hard drives are capable of enormous disk capacities, are cost effective, and are tried and tested solutions to nearly every application you throw at them. The important metric to consider when purchasing a spinning disk drive are capacity, cost, RPM, and cache size. You should be able to get several terabytes of storage for a very affordable price. RPM should always be 7200 RPM’s or more. With cache size, the more the merrier. As I said, spinning disk drives are generally cheaper, although in 2011 there was a major market scare due to flooding at the major manufacturing facilities. Western Digital and Seagate are the only brands I trust consistently, although companies like Maxtor and Hitachi will occasionally dress to impress.

If you are on a budget, go with a single hard old school hard drive. The performance is still decent, and you will need that extra capacity. If you have some extra change that you have not already allocated to a solid primary graphics card, memory, power supply, etc. then definitely consider an SSD in addition to an old school hard drive. Never purchase an SSD by itself unless the SSD is at least 250GB and/or you plan on adding a second data hard drive on your own. Personally, I rather enjoy watching my computer boot up in seconds, and that is something you will only understand after you purchase your first SSD.

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What you need to know about purchasing a motherboard

If you were to compare the human anatomy to a computer, the processor could be compared to analytical thinking, the graphics card to visual and creative thinking, the RAM would be the brain’s short term memory, and the hard drive would be the brain’s long term thinking. The motherboard is what ties it all together, and could best be described as the spine of the computer.

Because you need a spine to live, it goes without saying that a computer also needs a motherboard in order to make anything happen. The motherboard controls the communication between every single device in the system. For this reason, it’s important to pick the right motherboard for the job. There are dozens of variables which contribute more or less equally to your ultimate selection of a motherboard. The good news is at StealthMachines we have preselected the very best motherboards which meet or exceed the expectations of nearly all of our clients. Rest assured that the motherboard which you pick, so long as it is picked from our website, is the correct selection. However, if you’re the type who likes to know exactly what you’re buying, I’ll tell you a few pointers.

The most important things to consider when purchasing a motherboard are as follows. Make sure that the processor and memory are compatible with the motherboard. Again, we do this for you. When selecting a motherboard’s memory, make sure that the amount of memory which the motherboard supports will provide you with all of the memory which you ever plan to upgrade to. It’s always good to provide yourself with some wiggle room in this regard. Make sure the motherboard can support the latest PCI-E slot (currently 3.0) and has room for more than one PCI-E slot. The PCI-E slot, for those of you who are not in the know, is the port which the graphics card is installed on. Make sure that the motherboard supports USB 3.0. Make sure that the motherboard supports the latest SATA connection speed (currently 6Gb/s). There are PLENTY of USB 2.0 ports on every motherboard. Don’t stress about this.

Most importantly, read reviews. No two motherboards, even with the same specs, were created equal. The masses are your friend… use the masses to tell you what motherboard is best right now. provides an excellent collection of reviews to read on the individual part level. Don’t trust a knock off brand to your spinal cord. Spinal cords are very expensive to replace, so don’t mess around with this.

I recommend EVGA all the way. No other company provides the level of reliability and service of this company, bar none. Avoid Asus when EVGA can provide a comparable replacement. Asus used to be the king of the industry, but they have since lost that title to poor customer service and unreliable motherboards. That’s not to say they don’t put out a great product once in a while, but lately it seems very hit or miss. MSI is decent. Gigabyte is decent. Intel and ASrock apparently do a good job too. All the others are probably crap. Seriously.

And then there’s Foxconnn. I don’t trust Foxconn anymore (Read this article to find out why). If you are an informed consumer, you probably will want to read this article.

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Processors – AMD vs. Intel – Which is Better?

A classic battle of the titans in the computer business is AMD vs. Intel. AMD, the fabled underdog in this tale, always has a soft spot in the hearts of true nerds. Intel, however, has historically put out a better product flagship product and for this reason they are the uncontested champions of the enthusiast market.

AMD represents everything rebellious in the computer industry. Over the years, AMD has earned the right to call themselves Intel’s only true competitor in the gaming industry. It is important to understand, however, that AMD does things a little differently than Intel. AMD’s focus is on producing a product that is affordable. AMD processors are generally very underpowered compared to Intel counterparts, but they are smart in choosing this path. Unlike Intel, AMD does not care about being top dog. Instead, AMD would rather put out a product that costs 1/5th the cost of an Intel and performs at about 4/5ths the performance. In terms of bang for buck, AMD is a no brainer. Personally, I prefer AMD for this simple reason.

One thing that I do not like about AMD is the way which they have chosen to connect the processor to the motherboard. AMD uses pins protruding from the processor, while Intel uses pins protruding from the motherboard. This means the AMD pins are prone to bending much more frequently, especially when you have big cumbersome hands like I do. There is no worse feeling in the world than bending a processor pin beyond repair. To add insult to injury, AMD heatsinks use a pressure based application technique, which causes many processors to stick to the heatsink when you attempt to remove them. Again, the pins are more prone to bending because of this.

Intel has historically always produced the more powerful processor. There is no doubt about it… if you want the most powerful computer on the market you will need to go Intel. It will cost you, however. As I mentioned previously, Intel processors run significantly faster but also cost significantly more. For the enthusiast, there is no other option but to go Intel. For the middle way gamer, however, more discretion can be used.

A good place to look when comparing processor performance is This website compares all of the latest processors side by side. While this isn’t the most accurate website in the world, it will give you a basic idea of what’s going on in the benchmark world presently.

These days more than ever, it is important to consider liquid cooling. Liquid cooling will significantly improve the life and performance of your processor. As processors get smaller and smaller, they produce more and more heat per unit area. The only real way to protect your system is to go liquid. StealthMachines sells liquid cooling that is closed system, meaning zero maintenance. Do yourself a favor and don’t risk it with air cooling. You used to be able to get away with it, but anymore liquid cooling is the only way to ensure a reliable system.

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Power Supply

The Most Important Thing to Consider When Buying a Power Supply

Selecting a power supply should be fairly easy for you. Choose from among the brands listed on our site and don’t stray too far from these brands. There are others that we don’t have listed, but none of them compare in terms of reliability to what we list. The biggest players in the power supply market are Antec, Thermaltake, Corsair, Silverstone, Enermax, Cooler Master, and OCZ. I prefer Silverstone because of modular cabling, reliability, efficiency, and warranty policy.

Modular cabling is huge. In a nutshell, modular cabling is the simple invention which permits wire jobs to be done with a great deal of craft. Modular cabling allows the manufacturer to select only the cables which are necessary for a build instead of a big lump of wires, which is huge. Post purchase, the customer has the option to add or remove modules himself, which is nice.

Reliability is perhaps the most important thing to consider when selecting a power supply. This is why StealthMachines recommends you stick only to the power supplies we currently have listed on our site. The power supply is the only line of defense, short of a surge protector (read: you MUST have an adequate surge protector on your computer at all times!), between your home’s potentially dirty power and your StealthMachine’s sensitive electronic components. For this reason, you must have a reliable power supply. If the power supply fails, all of the parts fail. Do not mess around with a sub-par power supply.

Efficiency is something to consider when purchasing a power supply. Larger power supplies do have the potential of increasing your utility bill, so it is prudent to select a more efficient power supply. I recommend at least a bronze rated power supply, but silver or gold is always better if possible.

Like all parts, make sure that the power supply which you select has an adequate warranty policy. Don’t just take the manufacturer’s word for it… read real reviews or call StealthMachines toll-free 888-273-2440 to find out if that manufacturer remains true to their word when parts fail.

The most important thing to consider when purchasing a power supply is the wattage of the power supply. You need at least a 750W power supply for a single graphics card system. You need a 1000W power supply for a two graphics card system. For a three+ graphics card system, select at least a 1250W power supply. If you are only purchasing a system with one graphics card, consider strongly the possibility that you will one day wish to add a second graphics card or more hard drives down the road and over-plan your power supply’s rating. Also consider the fact that it is never a good idea to stress out your power supply. Although a power supply may be rated to handle the graphics card which you have selected, if it just barely can handle that card then the system will fail down the line. When a power supply fails, everything else can fail too so be careful. Call StealthMachines if you are unsure and we’ll be glad to help you out!

Again, the power supply is the computer’s last line of defense against dirty power. Dirty power exists in nearly every home, no matter how new or well built. Do your computer a favor and purchase, at minimum, a surge protector. Better yet, select a UPS (battery backup) to turn that dirty power into clean power.

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How to Choose the Best Case for Your New Computer

The case which you select is like the styling of a car. The selection of a case is primarily based on personal aesthetic taste and secondarily based on practical use, particularly in the case of StealthMachines cases, which are all hand selected for their superior quality. While you may select any case you want for a case (even one which we do not have listed in our catalog) we recommend the ones on our site the most.

Looking at the pictures is the best way for you as a customer to gauge which styling you like the best. Because we provide you the model number of every part within our catalog, doing your own further research is a simple manner of copying and pasting the model number into google.

There are literally hundreds of cases to choose from, which is why you will only see a handful of the selection on our site. There are simply too many too list, and therefore we only list the very best for you.

In terms of performance, there are a few things to look out for. In general, a case should be manufactured by a quality name-brand such as Antec, Cooler Master, Thermaltake, Corsair, or NZXT. The case should be built of quality materials like steel or aluminum, and the less plastic which is relied upon the better. When selecting a case material, keep in mind the thickness of that material. A thicker steel is much better than a thinner one. A larger case with larger fans is preffered as this will help dissapate noise and heat, as well as provide more room for expansion later. One final but important feature of any case is to consider the wire manageability of the case. If a case is easier to wire tie, it will look better and be easier to upgrade. Consult websites like to read reviews about individual cases to help you gauge which individual case is your best bet.

Adding your own unique styling to a case is where the fun comes in. You generally have the option to pick a case color as well as case lighting preferences. Choose from case fan lights, LED sticks, and liquid cooling tubing color. Also select whether you want a clear side panel (recommended) so that you can show off StealthMachine’s industry leading wire management and intelligent design. The case is the one component you will probably never need to replace, so choose wisely. I’ve still got my first computer case… a Gateway 2000 full tower. That ugly white thing is so beautiful, but only because I loved the styling to begin with.

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Memory is Cheap but do Your Research First

Memory is a very important component. Your motherboard needs it, your graphics card needs it, and every computer application from Notepad to Crysis 2 requires memory. But memory is overrated. Furthermore, memory is cheap if you’re an educated consumer. Lucky for you, consider yourself educated.

Many manufacturers these days are pushing for faster memory, more memory, etc. That’s because MOST computer manufacturers are trying to make more money. Who can blame them when the average consumer is perfectly willing to go along with the mantra that bigger is better and better is faster?.

Before I continue, there are some exceptions to consider. If you love tabbed browsing, photoshop, CAD, or simply keeping up with the Jonuses, go to town on more memory. If not, read on…

I’m sure it’s true that more memory will be very important for future applications, but in the mean time very few applications know how to utilize all that memory. So why waste your time with it now? Moore’s law dictates that computers double in power every two years, and that trend is also approximately correct with memory. As memory gets more powerful, it follows that it will also get cheaper per gigabyte and per clock cycle. Speaking of clock cycles, don’t let faster memory fool you. While faster memory is slightly faster, it’s rarely worth the extra cost. Check the StealthMachines website to see what we are selling in order to determine where the sweet spot of memory speed currently is.

You can also save some serious money by only installing the memory that you need now with the intention of upgrading later as prices come down. Installing memory yourself is fun, easy, and a great way to breathe new life into your aging system.

A word of caution :
Be sure to select the right version of Windows before purchasing your new computer. Certain versions of Windows only support certain amounts of memory, and this makes the task of upgrading a difficult one if you don’t have the correct copy of Windows to begin with.

Some things to consider :
While upgrading memory is simple, determining which memory to install is not always easy. In addition, you need to make sure that the motherboard which you purchase is capable of handling more memory. Check the detailed specifications of the motherboard to see what kind of memory it supports (DDR3, DDR2, etc.), how many pins the memory must be (usually it’s 240-pin as of the writing of this article), and how many gigabytes of memory which the motherboard supports. If you’re confused, why not give your friendly StealthMachines staff a call or write to us… Toll-free 888-273-2440 or, respectively.

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Graphic Cards

Graphics Cards – the Single Most Important Component

The graphics card is the single most important component in any gaming computer. These days, almost every computer game is extremely graphic intensive, particularly if your game of choice is 3D (nearly all of them are) or your game resolution is HD. Unlike lesser components in the system, it is important to understand that there is little room for skimping on the almighty graphics cruncher. The reason for this is the simple fact that graphics cards are extremely powerful. In fact, the modern graphics card is so powerful that its processing power is being used in place of regular processors in supercomputers that need that extra um-pa-pa. The reason for this can be seen in the numbers. As of the writing of this article, a top-of-the-line processor boasts up to eight processing cores. Not bad. A graphics card, however, has 1,792 cores (the Radeon HD 7950 graphics card). It’s difficult comparing apples to oranges as the two technologies render differently, but looking purely at this metric I often wonder why graphics card manufacturers don’t try to take over the processor market. Oh wait, AMD bought out Radeon. But that’s neither here nore there. The real lesson you’re interested in here is simple: pay the extra money for that graphics card. You won’t regret it when you’re fragging the enemy in combat. Or turning your computer into a supercomputer… Or even surfing the web with tabbed browsing…

A general rule of thumb when selecting graphics cards is just about foolproof: the more you spend, the better performance you’re going to get. This is true pretty much across the board. A couple of things to look out for, however. First, make sure that you know whether you want Radeon or Nvidia. I’ll cover that in a second. Secondly, try to maximize the memory capacity of your graphics card. Graphics cards have a nasty habbit of stealing system memory if they feel like it, so don’t let that happen to you. The more memory capacity you have, the better. Third, make sure that your graphics card can handle the latest directx revision, whatever that may be.

Radeon vs. Nvidia

Radeon and Nvidia each offer their own advantages. The debate ranges on as to which is better, so a lot of your purchasing decision will come down to other people’s personal opinions. At the risk of being shunned by the same people who help me earn my bread and butter, I’ll go ahead and spill the beans on my own personal opinion.

Radeon :
In my experience, Radeons (6000 series in particular) fail a lot. Their support is generally lacking, and this is a problem when you have a failing graphics card. I also don’t much care for Catalyst, Radeon’s video control panel. That said, Radeon does bring something special to the table. I am in LOVE with Radeon’s Eyefinity technology, which allows you to hook up just about as many monitors as you like onto one graphics card. I also love supporting the underdog, so provided they improve reliability with the new 7000 series, I don’t see any reason not to go with them.

Nvidia :
Nvidia is, in my experience, the more reliable and more robust of the two brands. It doesn’t have as good of a bang for the buck as Radeon, but what you get is smooth sailing through and through.

SLi / Crossfire :
For those of you who aren’t in the know, SLi and Crossfire are technologies that allow more than one graphics card to be utilized by your computer. When considering whether to add a second graphics card, ALWAYS make sure that your primary graphics card is top-of-the-line. Because you only get about a 20-30% increase in performance in adding a second card, it’s always a better idea to improve the primary graphics card until it is no longer possible to do so. When you do upgrade to a second card, don’t go crazy. I would love to sell you a 3- or even 4-way sli setup, but for the money you’re paying you would be better off purchasing a second machine instead (wink, wink). One important thing to consider when purchasing any computer is upgradability. By going with atleast a 1000W power supply and a robust primary graphics card, you can purchase a second graphics card later as prices of graphics cards come down in a year or two.

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Network Cards

Network Cards – Don’t Believe the Hype!

There’s a lot of hype about which network card to go with. Having low latency is perhaps the single most important consideration for any gamer to make. You can have the fastest graphics card, the best processor, and the biggest monitor on earth, but if you’re lagging out it’s all for nothing.

Some gamers, desperate for an end to their lagging woes, think their network card is to blame. At the dawn of high speed internet there may have been a grain of truth to this. Anymore, however, the network card you select has almost no bearing on system performance

I might be the first one to say this publicly, but I really don’t care. I’m tired of explaining this one to my customers. Purchasing a high end network card is the single biggest waste of money that you could plop those Benjamins down on.

So why the hype? Why does everyone seem to recommend high end network cards? MARKUP! Every time a computer manufacturer sells a network card, they make a ton of money. I’d rather earn a ton of customers and tell you the truth in the matter. I’m just sayin’…

So what’s a fella to do who’s looking to improve bandwidth? Well you’ve got some options.

1) Select a high speed internet provider who can keep up with your gaming savvy. The two most obvious choices are QWEST and Comcast. They’re about equal in performance, although I prefer Comcast for most purposes. I will say that QWEST generally offers better upload speeds, which is very important for some people. QWEST also offers connection speeds which don’t change when your neighbor logs on. Comcast usually gives you the most speed for your buck without weird power outages.

I hate the customer support of both companies, but that probably won’t change soon. Bottom line is they both work, just make sure you purchase the speed which is right for you. Oh and make sure you look out for those promotional offers they’re always advertising!

2) This is perhaps lesser known but very important. Instead of joining games based on how many people are in them, look first for games which are geographically close to you. Even with a low ping, a server which is all the way across the US is going to behave SLOWLY as soon as you join. It should also go without saying that you should select games that have low pings, although this metric changes every few seconds depending upon dozens of factors.

In conclusion, your motherboard’s built in network card is JUST FINE! As long as it’s 10Mbps or higher (100 is only useful for LAN parties) you’re in good shape!

If you have any questions, be sure to post here, e-mail us, or give us a call. We’ll be glad to help you out!

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Sound Cards

Should You Buy A Sound Card?

Sound cards are kind of funny. They’ve been built into motherboards for a few years now, and yet my customers always assume they won’t hear anything unless they purchase a sound card.

The fact of the matter is that sound cards are no longer necessary. Every motherboard StealthMachines sells includes high quality surround sound! The sound is so crystal clear that it’s better than sound cards. For this reason, I ALWAYS recommend staying with the motherboard’s built in sound card.

Unless you’re paying >$200 for a sound card, chances are the quality of that sound card is crap. Sound cards have one very big disadvantage that always seems to be overlooked. Have you ever heard that hissing sound when you turn up your speakers too loud? That sound isn’t your speaker’s fault. The sound is coming from your sound card, and it’s actually caused by interference.

Unless you’re paying the big bucks for a sound card, the static is nearly impossible to avoid. Motherboard sound cards have added protection from static interference noise, and consequently every motherboard which StealthMachines produces has built-in crystal clear sound. We don’t need your extra money because we care more about ensuring you get the most bang for your buck.

Please, for your own sake, head this advice. Save your money and stop paying extra for sound cards. I’d SPAM to make more money off of you, so stop letting me do it! Remove the sound card and upgrade that graphics card instead.

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My Advice on Overclocking

Many competitors of StealthMachines will advertise that they can overclock their processors to extremely high speeds. I always smile when I see this. They’re basically advertising that their computers will break down faster so they can sell you a new one sooner.

While I agree that this business model probably gets them more repeat customers, I do not feel it’s right to sell my customers computers which are designed to fail. I’d much rather sell computers which last for years and pick up referrals.

My advice on the subject of overclocking is by no means the right advice for every situation, but it is the right advice for most situations. If you’re looking to get the very best 3Dmark score possible, then by all means overclock. Overclocking does a good job of padding your score and it will literally make your geo metro computer appear to run at porsche speeds. For all other situations, DO NOT overclock!

It is a little known fact that overclocking does almost nothing to increase system performance in-game (where 99% of users actually need performance improvements). While your system may SAY it’s running faster, in all reality it’s running at the same if not slower speeds. The reason for this isn’t simple, but I’ll give you the basics. When overclocking, you must sacrifice at least one of two things…

One is heat. This is guaranteed. If you overclock, you are subjecting your computer to unnecessary levels of heat. Unless you’re using advanced cooling like liquid nitrogen, extra heat is unavoidable. EVEN IF your processor is liquid cooled, you are subjecting the other parts (memory and motherboard to be specific) to temperature extremes which they are not designed for. The damage of this heat is not immediately apparent.

What nobody in the computer business seems to take into account is the reality of creep. Electronics are made of metal… and not just any metal. Electronics are made of solder, a lead based metal which is easy to melt. When metal is exposed to heat for long periods of time, it begins to deform. This deformation is gradual enough that even the most robust of burn-in tests would never detect the long-term damage caused by even the smallest amount of excess heat.

Even if you get the heat under control, you’re still having to sacrifice other timings. By increasing your voltage and core clock, you nearly always need to decrease important but often overlooked metrics. An example of this is the core multiplier. You basically have to reduce these other metrics in order to keep the computer from tripping over itself. It’s the equivalent of increasing a human’s reading speed by skipping over words. Something has to give. In the case of my human example, your comprehension level is what gives. In the case of computers, your memory speed or core multiplier are often the first to go. System stability is often quick to follow.

That’s the last point I would like to make. Overclocking causes instability. This instability might go unnoticed for weeks, months, or even years. But then it will hit you. Blue screens of death, artifacts on the screen, SPAM, etc. are all symptoms of an unstable system and the cure is to avoid overclocking like the plague. There’s a reason they call it overclocking… it’s putting your parts over their designed limits. The Titanic was pushed to its limits. We all know what happened to that “state of the art” cruise ship.

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