PC gaming is bigger and badder than ever. Many gamers are coming out of the wood works to declare their love of PC gaming. However, since there’s so many intricate details to a custom gaming PC, as buying a custom pc can be a complex and mystifying process for the new guys and gals. Custom gaming PC builders, often toss around terms like Shader Model, Direct X, SLI, Crossfire, liquid cooling, HBM, and GDDR5 without explaining them in plain language. If all this confuses you then it’s better to fall back on the tried-and-true method for making any PC purchase: considering your budget and your needs.
How much money can you spend? You most likely don’t have an unlimited budget, so it’s a good idea to settle on a maximum dollar expense for your new gaming PC. If you are worried about the price, remember that other factors slightly mitigate that since you can use a custom PC for tasks other than PC gaming.
Your budget will determine the types of hardware you can afford. You may love the idea of running two video cards in SLI or Crossfire mode, but if your total system budget is $800, sadly dual graphics cards won’t happen. Once you figure out your budget, you can begin thinking about how to allocate your funds.
2. What Do You Play?
What are your favorite PC games? If you really enjoy playing modern first person shooters or MMORPGs then graphics hardware becomes a higher priority than CPU performance. If turn based war games are your thing then a fast CPU to process the AI quickly may be more important than a high-end GPU. Real-time strategy games often require a balance between graphics and CPU.
3. Graphics: Consider Your Display
Once you understand which types of games you’ll be playing, you should think about the graphics processing unite (GPU). Even in CPU demanding titles, graphics remain an important facet of gaming, thus you want to buy the greatest possible video card within your budget. However, you don’t want to spend too much dough. There’s no need to drop a thousand dollars on two high-end Nvidia graphics cards when you only have one 20” 1080p monitor.
You might favor a high end video card for several reasons. For instance, you may want to enable anti-aliasing in your games. Maybe you are interested in stereoscopic 3D, which requires nearly double the graphics power. However, in those cases, you need to know what you are doing to enable these features correctly. Buying a pricey graphics setup, and then never adjusting your game settings or underutilizing those beasts, is an utter waste of money and a pc gaming crime! We are kidding about the crimes part, but it is a shame.
As a rule of thumb, consider allocating one-third of the cost of a gaming rig for graphics. So if your system budget is $1000, for instance, do not use more than about $330 on the graphics hardware. You should note that the prices of video cards using the same graphics chip can fluctuate from brand to brand. In general, you avoid most overclocked graphics cards as you do not get much additional performance, you pay a good but more and you might run into stability issues down the road.
Like mentioned in a previously blob, you should keep things simple and consider getting the most recent generation of GPU you can afford. Unlike CPUs, newer-generation GPUs often )but not always) perform significantly better than previous generations do. Sometimes the chip manufacturer will rebadge an old chip as a new one with minor modifications, but remember don’t worry about this. Just stick to the newer generation video cards.
4. CPU and Cooling
In general, a quad-core processor from AMD or Intel can handle any PC game you can throw at it. You’ll find that many high-end gaming PCs are packed with Intel six-core processors, which is a little overkill for gaming as of 2015-2016. But if you do photo and video editing, plus other tasks that can take advantage of six cores and twelve threads then go ahead and splurge on that nice eight-core AMD processor or six-core intel beast of a CPU. If the main purpose of your system will be to play games, it’s better to dial back a little on the CPU cost and up the ante on the graphics card or on an SSD, which is discussed next.
If you do not plan on overclocking your processor then the stock fan will suffice, but if you then consider upgrading the CPU cooling system. There are plenty of large aftermarket CPU coolers like the Evo 212 that will do the job exceptionally well. However, If you’re into overclocking and low noise levels appeal to you then consider a system with liquid CPU coolers by a company like Corsair. They are quiet, plus they help your system run much cooler.
Memory is important for all gaming PCs but extremely important for gaming PCs that use an APU. AMD’s APUs rely on the DDR3 memory for their graphics processing. Currently the two popular DDR memory types are DDR3 and DDR4. The relatively new high-speed memory, DDR4 at 3200MHz or faster is specific to intel for now, but it there are some concerns with latency. The low the latency or timing the quicker your computer responds to commands.
DDR3 memory happens to be somewhat cheap so go with that if you can. It is smart to go with at least 8GB of memory, if you’re running a 64-bit version of Windows. Windows 10 Home 64-bit currently supports a maximum memory configuration of 128GB, yes 128GB! You’ll most likely never need that much RAM in your lifetime but it’s good to know. Just remember that 8GB of DDR3 will probably last you many, many years into the future.
6. Storage: Think Solid State Drive
In the context of a strictly PC gaming system you should seriously contemplate buying a solid-state drive. The benefits of an SSD include fast boot times, incredibly quick game loads and game level transitions, lower power use, and less noise. The combination of a small SSD around 60GB and a 1TB hard drive offers better performance than a single 1TB hard drive.
As for an optical drive, if your system is solely for gaming, a R/W CD/DVD combo drive will do the job. A Blu-ray drive is nice if you want to watch HD Blu-ray movies on your PC or burn a lot of data onto one disk. Most likely, any optical drive you get will see relatively little use, given the pervasiveness of digital download services such as Steam, Battlenet, and EA's Origin.
7. Power Supply
Modern gaming PCs are significantly more power-efficient than gaming rigs made 10 years ago. A quad-core CPU and a midrange video card, can idle at under 70 watts, and full load power in an intensive PC game consume less than 300W. Unless you plan on significantly overclocking your system, or running two high end GPUs concurrently, a solid 500W power supply should be more than sufficient.
8. Motherboards and Cases
When you are buying a custom PC you want to be sure that the motherboard has some key features, such as plenty of USB 2.0 ports and some USB 3.0 ports. Similarly, the case you get when you buy a premade system is what you're stuck with so make sure it has a good design for airflow and allows room for upgrades.