By Elliot Bauman
While consoles such as the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One certainly maintain the spotlight when it comes to gaming, the personal computer is a very viable alternative.
Although it is true that a PC will require a greater financial investment than simply purchasing a PlayStation or Xbox, the resulting device retains an enormous amount of versatility.
Sure, users can watch TV on the Xbox One or stream movies through Netflix on the PlayStation 4, but a PC can do both of those, and much more.
Another favorable advantage for PC gaming is the fact there is no required subscription fee to access online content. This is not the case with traditional consoles, as both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 require a membership to either Xbox LIVE or PlayStation Plus in order to play games online.
Thankfully, some of the cost of buying a top-tier gaming PC can be alleviated by building one, as opposed to purchasing one pre-built or pre-assembled by a manufacturer. For those looking to tackle this endeavor, consider these important components required to build a quality gaming PC.
The CPU, or central processing unit, is essentially the brain of the computer. This component is responsible for carrying out instructions that govern the functionality of the PC. Today, most CPUs are manufactured by either Intel or AMD, and it seems clear that Intel has the advantage.
CPUs come with a core count (usually two, four or six), and a locked or unlocked rated clock speed, in GHz. In both cases, generally speaking, the higher the core count and clock speed, the better. If the CPU is unlocked, then the rated clock speed can be increased by a process known as “overclocking,” but this requires additional cooling.
When it comes to gaming, or PC use in general, it is important to have a quality CPU. Intel’s “i5” series offers great performance for price, with the i5-4670 being a particularly good model. The unlocked version, the i5-4670k, is a great alternative for users that would like to explore overclocking.
As its name implies, the motherboard is a printed circuit board that all other components in the PC connect to. Unlike CPUs and other required parts, performance is fairly consistent across most motherboard types and manufacturers, and thus the focus shifts to size and features.
Builders need to be sure that their selected motherboard will properly fit inside the PC case and be compatible with their CPU socket type. This information is easily found online. Other features to look for include number of ports and memory slots, SATA connectors and good manufacturer warranty programs.
Also referred to as a video card, the graphics processing unit renders and displays images onto the screen. While not critical for typical PC use, when it comes to gaming, video editing and 3D modeling, the GPU is arguably the single most important component, and it is where builders should focus their financial resources.
Contemporary GPU manufactures use technology from either Nvidia’s GTX series or AMD’s Radeon line, and both are equally capable. Like CPUs, graphics processing units have rated clock speeds, and the faster the clock speed, the more powerful a GPU will be.
Another important consideration is the amount of memory, or VRAM, a video card has. Once again, more memory is better.
GPUs range from $100 to more than $1000, so the build budget will determine what video card is selected. That said, it is worth skimping on other components to afford a stronger GPU. EVGA’s GTX 770 offers great performance for the price and will handle most applications very well.
There is not much to say regarding how much memory, or RAM, a PC has. The more RAM a computer has, the more tasks it can handle at once. Eight GB is standard, and four GB is the safe minimum. Enthusiasts or builders with some spare cash may want to upgrade to 16 GB or 32 GB of RAM, but eight GB is more than sufficient.
When it comes to data storage, there are two options. The traditional method is through the use of a mechanical hard drive. The other alternative is through the use of a solid state drive, or SSD. SSD’s are faster and quieter than their mechanical counterparts, but are more expensive. Both types of storage can get the job done, and the selection between the two depends on budget.
6. Power Supply
The power supply of a PC is fairly self-explanatory; it simply provides power to the motherboard, and thus all other components. Builders need to ensure that their selected power supply will be able to satisfy the Wattage requirement of all other PC components. It also is worthwhile to look for an efficient power supply, in order to save on electricity costs.
As all of these components consume energy, they dissipate some of it as heat, and as a result, the inside of a PC can get very toasty. This is where cooling comes into consideration.
The convention is to use fans, but the option to use liquid cooling is now available, which is nowhere near as dangerous as it sounds. Unless builders plan to overclock their CPU, traditional fans will sufficiently cool the PC.
Another fairly unexciting category, the case does what one would expect—it holds all of the components in place. There are hundreds of options for cases, depending on size, color and other aesthetic properties. Many cases come with fans pre-installed, so a good selection can take care of cooling as well.
Things such as a mouse, a keyboard and a monitor top off the remaining requirements for building a PC. There are literally thousands of options to choose from, so it comes down to builder preference and budget.