PCs are an investment – you put time into researching all of the internal pieces you want to ensure they last you as long as possible, and play all of the games you might want to play. So, to help you through the purchasing process we’re discussing all of the things you need and what you should consider when buying a gaming PC.
Why not a regular computer?
Gaming computers come with a whole swathe of advantages – primarily that you can game on them. This might seem an obvious statement, but almost every game has a community now – there are Discord servers, subreddits and Steam groups where gamers can find people to play with, share their achievements and discuss the in-game lore. Gaming isn’t a hobby you do on your own anymore unless you want to.
They are also excellent dual-purpose machines – you can have one machine for work and for your free time. A gaming PC’s higher specifications may also help you be more productive at work because they can run more programs simultaneously, even if you may have to resist opening a game during a meeting.
Build or buy?
One of the first things you need to consider when buying a gaming PC is whether you’re going to build it yourself or buy it pre-built. It used to be significantly cheaper to build it yourself, but as this is no longer the case you should consider the challenges that brings. Building a computer yourself takes time, a precious commodity in the modern world, and researching all of the parts to ensure they’re compatible and what their individual warranties are takes up a lot of preparation time.
However, if you do build your own gaming PC, you’ll be able to make it look exactly how you want it to – do you want the different cooler colours to match your office walls? If so, building your own is the best way of doing that. You’ll also get a sense of accomplishment – building a PC is a challenge, so if you do it, it will be something you can tell your friends and family about.
Buying a pre-built PC saves you time, ensures that it’s put together by professionals who know exactly what they’re doing, and means that the whole machine is under the same warranty. It also means that if something does go wrong, you’ll have support in fixing it. However, you do have to be careful and make sure you’re not being charged too much for the premium of having it built by someone else and then delivered to your door. Additionally, if you buy a pre-built computer, you may find that there are discounts on it, making your investment cheaper.
The case is an extremely important choice, and there are a few important things to think about when it comes to your computer case:
- How much space do you have?
- Where are you going to put it?
- How intensive is its use going to be?
Answering these questions will help decide which of the three types of case will be best suited for you: small, mid-tower or full tower. A small case is, as the name implies, small – all the parts are packed together to save as much space as possible. This means that it takes up less room on your desk, but isn’t suited for hyper-intensive games as the case doesn’t have as much space for cooling systems, so it becomes very hot. Mid-tower cases provide more space inside but are significantly larger. They can be cooled more easily, and there is more air flowing through them. The largest of all case types is the full tower. You may feel dwarfed by cases of this size, and it may not fit under your desk, but for showing off, cooling your gaming PC and if anything needs replacing or upgrading, it’s easiest to do this in a full-tower.
For mid-tower and full tower cases, there will be options for glass side panels, allowing you to show your friends and family any lighting inside the case. These panels usually cost a little bit more.
The processor is the bit of your computer that makes all the decisions, like the brain in the human body. When choosing a processor, there are two main brands: AMD and Intel. AMD’s Ryzen 5000 processors are excellent for gaming whereas with Intel good options include the i5 and i7. One thing you’ll see a lot of is the number of ‘cores’ – for a gaming PC, the minimum is six, but eight is also a good number to have. There are processors with more available, but you needn’t worry about these for now.
Graphics card (GPU)
You can’t have a gaming computer without a graphics card. Integrated graphics cards (which are part of the motherboard) aren’t powerful enough for modern games, so you have to look elsewhere. Here is where you look at companies like Nvidia and AMD. They both have a variety of cards suitable for different games and budgets – but check what games the cards can play before you buy one. There’s no point buying a card that won’t run the games you want to play.
RAM is what keeps programs running. Most gaming PCs will be fine with 16GB of RAM, although 8GB is also reasonable for some games. As RAM can be upgraded fairly easily for a reasonable price, there’s no need to go overboard on RAM until you know you need it. Having 64GB of memory won’t be a good investment if your games only need 16GB.
There are several different types of storage you can get for computers now. The hard disk drive (HDD) is the slowest, cheapest and largest. However, it isn’t necessarily suitable for a gaming PC when other options are available, so unless you’re storing a large number of photos of your dogs, this probably isn’t the best option for you.
The solid-state drive (SSD) is another reasonably cheap storage alternative, but it’s much faster than HDDs are. SSDs access memory much more quickly because they don’t have moving parts, unlike HDDs. SSDs are also what we call ‘non-volatile memory’ – the data stays put and accessible without power.
M.2 drives are the final option, but there are two types of these: SATA and NVME. The M.2 SATA is the more affordable of these two options, and is faster than an SSD as well as being smaller, while the NVME is the fastest of all of these, small like its M.2 SATA counterpart, but is the most expensive.
Power supply (PSU)
This is the bit that gets plugged into the socket. Generally, you want a power supply that’s a little more powerful than your machine needs (a 650 watt PSU is perfect for a computer that needs 400 watts) but don’t overdo it massively (your 400-watt machine does not need a 1 kilowatt PSU, so save yourself the money). Power supplies also come with an efficiency rating – for a gaming PC, any PSU with a rating over 80 is ideal.
PSUs also come in three types: non-modular, semi-modular and modular. Non-modular power supplies already have all the cables attached to them; semi-modular ones have some essential cables attached, but leave others up to you to plug in; and with modular power supplies, you plug everything in yourself. While this might seem confusing, you do only need to plug the cables you’re going to use into the power supply, so it won’t be as confusing as it seems.
The motherboard is the bit that connects all of your other components together. It doesn’t need to be the best one to exist, but it does need to be compatible with all your other internal components. There’s a lot to consider when it comes to the chipset of motherboards, but the big question is: do you want to overclock your CPU and squeeze extra performance out of it? Not all motherboards support overclocking so be careful to choose the one that suits your needs.
Motherboards can also come with wireless cards, better sound cards, different numbers of RAM slots as well as whether you can overclock it. So take these into account when looking at motherboards.
Gaming PCs can get hot, so your computer needs to have an appropriate cooling system. There are lots of different options for this, including air and water cooling. Choose the one that works best for you, as they all have different features, like lights, and levels of noise. There are plenty of options for a whole range of prices, however.
Now that you have your gaming PC, you need a mouse, mouse pad. keyboard, monitor and maybe even a gaming chair. Unsurprisingly, all of this can add to the cost of your gaming set-up, but unless you want a glowing keyboard, you don’t have to have one.
Getting the right monitor is important, however. Bigger, brighter monitors are best for gaming, so ideally you’ll have a 24- or 27-inch monitor, but if that’s too expensive, don’t go smaller than 21.5-inches. Other things to consider for a monitor include the response time, refresh rate and resolution. 1080p monitors (1920×1080) are becoming the standard, so invest in one of those. If you play a lot of shooters or want a gaming experience that’s as smooth as real-life, find a 144hz one. If you play lots of adventure games, then a 60Hz monitor is fine.
The response time is similar to the refresh rate – the lower the response time, the faster your actions will appear on the screen, so if you play shooters, you should have a monitor with as low a response time as possible, but adventure games don’t need that, so a slower response time is fine.
Buying a gaming PC is something that involves a lot of research and can seem quite a daunting task, especially if you’re not familiar with the terminology. The key things to remember are: do you want to build it yourself? How big do you want the case to be? What games will you be playing on it? What internal components are necessary? What peripherals do you want? That should give you a starting point as you do more research.
Author Bio: Rachel Gowland works at digital marketing agency, Tillison Consulting. She’s a passionate gamer and avid reader who loves to travel, using her knowledge of foreign languages to connect with people around the world.