Common Mistakes in Buying PC Components

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1. Buying a Power Supply With Lower Wattage Than Its Actual Wattage

Buying a power supply might be one of the trickiest. One of the confusing things about power supplies is their wattage. Some manufacturers label it as Total or Combined Power, Maximum Output Power, or Peak Output Power. The problem is that some manufacturers (mostly generics) were not being truthful about those numbers. To avoid confusion, you should look for the Combined Wattage of the 12v rail.

The 12v rail is the main source of power for the major components of the system – those are the processor, graphics card, some PCI-E cards, and components connected through the Molex connector. If the wattage from this rail is 650 watts, then that’s the usable wattage that the power supply can provide “continuously”. We say continuously as some power supplies were rated and marketed with their Peak Output, which is the highest power it can provide in a very short time.

Peak output power is usually higher than the continuous power or the wattage from the 12v rail. This is dangerous as the buyer believed that the power supply has enough power but in fact it has lower wattage. This could cause system malfunction, or worse, the power supply exploding while in use with the potential of damaging some components or worse still, the whole system.

Fake 80 Plus PSU

2. Buying a Power Supply That is Not Truly 80 Plus Certified

Aside from the wattage, beginners often rely on the 80 Plus rating when choosing a power supply for their system, if they even do. If a power supply has 80 Plus certification it means that it passed the test to deliver and maintain at least 80% efficiency at three load levels – 20%, 50%, and 100% of its wattage. A 500-watt power supply at 100% load should deliver not more than 625 watts (500 watts ÷ 80% = 625 watts).

The problem is that there are many power supply models by not-so-popular brands has 80 Plus certification stickers but have not really been tested. Yes, the 80 Plus certification sticker can be faked, and if you are not aware and don’t know how to spot a fake 80 Plus-rated power supply you’ll fall victim to thinking you got a quality made power supply.

Fake 80 Plus PSU

To check if a power supply is 80 Plus certified, check CLEAResult and search for the manufacturer and model of the power supply you want to buy.

3. Not Checking The CPU Cooler’s TDP Rating

When you check a CPU cooler’s specifications, you might see a wattage or TDP rating on the list. This rating tells you how much heat it can dissipate produced by the processor. The cooler’s TDP rating should be higher or at least match the processor’s TDP, but never lower. Though it will still work, this will result in the processor heating up easily and performing worse than the stock cooler.

Cooler TDP

4. Not Checking The CPU Cooler’s Dimensions and Clearances

Aside from checking the cooler’s compatibility and TDP rating, you should also take a look at the cooler’s dimensions to see if it will fit into your case and not overlap and hit with the other components. You can check the dimensions of your case and cooler on their respective website. Also, check your RAM dimensions as this is where the overlapping usually occurs. Look into your RAM’s height and the cooler’s vertical clearance for RAM and you will see if they will collide.

Cooler Dimension

5. Not Checking The Motherboard’s RAM QVL Compatibility List

Qualified Vendors List (QVL) is a list of tested, qualified and supported memory modules and models on a particular motherboard. Sometimes a memory module will run fine even if not on the list, but when the system crashes and problems start to come up, it’s hard to identify which component is causing the problem especially when you test the memory on another PC and still works fine. But when you put a memory that is on the QVL, all the problems miraculously disappeared. So it is recommended that you check the QVL before buying RAM modules for your system.

Motherboard RAM QVL List
This list is provided by the motherboard’s manufacturer and can be found on their website.

6. Pairing a High-End Processor With a Motherboard Without Heatsink on the VRMs

VRM, Voltage Regulator Module, regulates the voltage from the power supply to the processor. As it regulates the voltage it heats up, and when it heats up the voltage delivery to the processor becomes unstable resulting in the system slowing down or freezing up. To keep the VRMs stay at operating temperatures, motherboard manufacturers put a heatsink on top of the VRMs.

But should all motherboards have heatsinks on VRMs? No, for motherboards designed for lower-end processors like Celeron, Pentium, i3, and Ryzen 3, VRM cooling is not necessary as those processors don’t need high voltages to operate. But if you are putting in midrange to high-end processors like Intel i5, i7, Ryzen 5, or higher, on motherboards without VRM heatsinks, you may have a problem. Those processors require higher voltage, and that voltage needs to be stable to ensure that the processor will not slow down and run at its maximum performance.

Motherboard VRM

Most buyers will buy a cheap motherboard paired with a lower-end processor, and that’s fine. The common mistake is that when they upgrade to a much faster processor, they still put it on their cheap motherboard. The system will still run, but this often results in the system being unstable especially at intensive usage even though the processor and the motherboard are compatible.

7. Unbalanced Performance Between The Monitor and The Graphics Card

This may be the most unnoticeable buying mistake as the downside is not immediately seen or noticed. This happens when the monitor is too weak for the graphics card, and vice-versa. Most users and gamers only pay attention to screen size, but there is so much more to consider. If you don’t know your system and have very little knowledge about the monitors, you may end up buying a too-weak monitor or too much for the graphics card to keep up.

Before you buy a monitor, check reviews for your graphics card and you will see there at what resolution your graphics card can deliver a very playable experience. Also, look at the frames per second (fps) performance for the type of game you are playing. That will indicate if it is ideal to pair your graphics card with high refresh rate monitors. Some reviews recommend which type of monitor is best paired with that graphics card.

8. Not Checking The Fan RPM For Case Fans

The case fan is the cheapest upgrade you can buy for your system, but sometimes it performs well below its expectations and its contribution is barely felt. Aside from its size, a fan has an RPM (rotations per minute) specification. This is how fast the fan turns in a minute. The faster the fan rotates, the more air it pulls/pushes, delivering better air circulation for your system. At 120mm, we recommend fans with 1500 RPM and 1200 RPM for 140mm fans. Just keep in mind as the RPM goes higher, the fan also gets noisier due to the fan rotation.



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