PC gaming is very much alive and well. The games are approaching hyper-realistic levels of audiovisual detail, thus requiring progressively more powerful processors and higher speed memory and storage devices. These are leagues away from your daddy’s gaming computer, unless your dad is still keeping up with the cutting edge trends (in that case, do not read further; make do with his hardware hand-me-downs).
The sheer variety of computer parts can also be mind-numbing. Granted, there are only two viable product lineups to choose from when it comes to both CPUs and GPUs (Intel vs. AMD, nVidia vs. AMD), but you’d be kidding yourself if you think it’d make it any easier. There are a dozen or so options for every generation of CPU and GPU, and some of these may even have a variant with additional functionalities.
I am not going to go way too in-depth here; that would make this blog post way too long. I will share with you some useful bits of advice, along with some links to sites that you can check data on. This is not for the weak of will; you could just go the way of the pre-assembled system or (gasp) a gaming console, if you don’t want to get your hands dirty, so to speak.
Tip #1: Determine a Ceiling Budget
You have to determine what is the absolute most you can spend on this entire system (operating system included). With a gaming rig in mind, you shouldn’t go lower than $500, but that will only afford you a threadbare unit that will run most of the modern games, but at very compromised levels of graphical detail and low framerates.
If you want something that will definitely impress you with performance and eye candy, $1000 is the lowest budget you should consider. This might mean more hours working shifts at the fast food restaurant, or you might even have to take out a title loan, but you’re a gamer who wants to enjoy his/her gaming experience, right?
As for my personal rule of thumb for an economy gaming rig, around 10% of the budget will be for the CPU, 10% for the motherboard, 5% for the memory, 20% for the video card, 15% for the display, 10% for the storage devices, 5% for the chassis, and whatever else is left for the input devices, fans and cooling devices, OS, and other accessories.
Tip #2: Go Small and Elegant
You’ve seen the hulking led light-encrusted show rigs with big side-windows displaying the metal and silicon guts of these multi-thousand dollar machines. Well, if your budget isn’t going up to that level, then forget having that kind of hardware bling-bling setup. Besides, that’s secondary to the actual performance of the PC. Staring at a nice chassis is nice, but you should be staring more at the display.
You don’t need five or more drive bays; two bays for conventional hard drives and maybe two for SSDs and you’re all set. You don’t need it to be made of tank armor either; reinforced PC chassis have their place in a warzone or an industrial facility, not your room. This means you should be looking at some of the more petite cases being offered. Here are a couple of examples that showcase compact size and supreme portability while still looking very classy and gamer-oriented.
Take note that their size won’t allow them to accommodate full ATX motherboards, but there are plenty of Micro-ATX and Mini-ITX motherboards in the market nowadays. Yes, you only need one or two expansion slots, and those are for the video cards. You may have to go the mATX way if you simply have to add a high quality sound card, however.
Tip #3: Plenty of Research
One can never understate the importance of doing your research for which parts are of the best value for the performance they give. There will be products that become the darling of the PC enthusiast community, and there will be grave disappointments and utter fails. You must be able to know which is which.
There are a plethora of PC hardware sites and user forums out there. Tom’s Hardware, AnandTech, HardOCP, Overclock.net, the list goes on. Sign up, read, ask questions, and try not to get into flame wars and pointless arguments. Above all else, enjoy interacting with your fellow enthusiasts and learn all that you can.
About the Author
Stacey Thompson is a professional writer, marketer, entrepreneur, and a lover of weird little animals. She is based in San Diego, California, and is currently working with her gal-pals to create their “personal group” blog, Word Baristas.