How to Choose or Build Your Own Gaming Computer
When it comes to gaming, most people think of either Sony's Playstation or Microsoft's Xbox. While these two have their merits and do what they advertise, they are nothing compared to gaming computers. With their superior graphics, faster processors, larger memory capacity, and incredible flexibility and upgradability, gaming computers and gaming laptops break free of the nefarious console wars. The only downside of PC gaming is how much you will want to upgrade your rig (slang for the computer itself). In this article we will be looking at how to choose or build your own gaming computer or laptop. Whether you want to build your own for the first time (like myself) or pick up a pre-built laptop for someone, this is the information you need to know before you buy anything. Check out what you could be making one day, if you had the money that is.
CPU - Central Processing Unit
The CPU is the brain of the computer, running all the functions you need to make a computer work. The most important part of a gaming computer build as it processes all the data of the computer, including the games you want to play. The price of this part will differ greatly but the more you pay, the faster your PC will run. Looking through PC Part Picker, the Intel Core i7-6700k comes with the best rating by the users. It is a bit pricey at $485 but will last for a long time. If you are looking for a cheaper option and an AMD socket, the AMD FX-8350 rates high as well. It comes with 8 cores and a great price of $245, almost half of the Intel CPU.
The motherboard, or the nervous system of the computer, is an integral part of any gaming computer build. This is the piece of the computer that links everything together to work as one unit. All of your components will plug in here and the motherboard will facilitate smooth communication between it all. It's a pretty big deal. Certain motherboards only work with certain other parts so it's best to check what components you want first and make sure it will all fit in correctly. The most crucial port to check is the processor socket. This is where your CPU will plug in and there are two very different sockets, Intel or AMD. Make sure to check what your socket your CPU uses so that you don't end up forking out a lot of money for a part that wont fit. Motherboards won't vary too much in price, the average being between $150 and $250. The more you decide to fork out for your motherboard, the more ports you will have access to. This can be helpful if you want more RAM slots with the latest compatibility or expansion slots for graphics cards. There's a large selection of motherboards over at PC case gear for you to browse through to find the right fit.
Short for Random Access Memory, RAM is the short term memory of the computer and can't be downloaded. It stores frequently used computer functions and runs them at a much faster rate than your hard drive will. This is why the larger the RAM and the more you have, the better your computer will be able to handle large amounts of processes. It is the simplest component of the gaming computer to install and upgrade. The motherboard will contain multiple sockets for the RAM to easily pop in and out when you want to upgrade. The differences you will see when buying RAM is how many gigabytes you will be getting. 8GB will be a sufficient amount of RAM, and if you're looking for a cheap gaming computer build than the G.Skill Ripjaw Series is a good buy at $89. If you want to run more programs at the same time however, look out for the Kingston HyperX Fury RAM.
Cooling is there to make sure your computer doesn't overheat and break while running. With our climate and heat, it is even more important for gaming PCs Australia wide. Cooling comes in two major form, fan cooling and water cooling. Fan cooling is pretty self explanatory. You hook up a big old fan to your motherboard and position it correctly in your case and voila. Noise is a big issue with fan cooling but is only an issue with older components. The Noctua NH-D14 is quite and runs at a pretty decent RPM, with a great price of $99. Water cooling requires fans as well but not in the same sense. The fans cool water that is then run directly to your CPU. It's an enclosed system that sends the cold temperatures directly to where it's needed. They will set you back a bit more but run more efficiently and look really cool. The NZXT Kraken X62 Liquid CPU Cooler will set you back around $234 but has RGB lighting and who doesn't want that???
There's two ways to go when looking at hard drives for your system and I recommend getting both. Lets start of with your normal everyday hard drive. A hard drive is where all your stuff is stored. Your files, photos, music, programs, and games all go on here. The price of this component will mainly change depending on how much space you want. With portable hard drives so freely available these days, I recommend going for a smaller, hence cheaper, hard drive. Western Digital has a couple of choices, the WD10EZEX or Caviar Blue 1TB for $63 or the WD30EFRX or Red 3TB at $158. Now on to the second type of hard drive, Solid State Drives or SSD for short. These hard drives will bump your price up on your computer but are miles faster than your average hard drive. The PC building community recommends getting a smaller SSD so you can put your Operating System (Windows, Linux) and a few of your favourite games on their so they will start up and run at incredible speeds. A relatively cheap and great SSD is the Samsung MZ-75E250B/AM 250GB drive at a price of $138.
Now that we have gone through most of the components it's time to look at the most important part for PC gaming Australia and worldwide, the graphics. The higher end and more expensive video card you buy, the more games you will be able to run with crazy good graphics now and in the future. While it is better to go high end on this part, you can get by with a cheaper mid range graphics card. It will still run a lot of modern games at a good frame rate with a good look but will be outdated sooner. You will also be paying for your display ports with this piece. Some higher end GPUs will offer a variety of display ports including HDMI while mid range will offer less display port options. on the higher end we have the EVGA GeForce GTX 1070 Video Card costing about $626. Of course that is a expensive high end piece, but you can get the Sapphire Radeon RX 480 at a lower price of $319 but still with a great rating.
Where are you going to house all this great technology? In the skull, I mean case of course. The right case for you depends on everything else in this article plus how much you want to show off. You want to make sure you choose a case that fits everything and have enough space for air to circulate. Showing off wise, you can get cases to show the insides or light up at the flick of a switch. This all depends on how much money you are willing to spend as there are options to suit every need. The Corsair 760T Black comes in at $235 but is worth every penny. It comes with 2 red LED fans in the front, one in the back, and a plexi side. You can look at all your pretty parts and have a red glow coming from it at night. If you are after a cheaper alternative, the Thermaltake Core V1 Mini comes in at $65. It has a great customer rating and will save you some serious desk space. Of course for all this you will need a power supply. To make it short and simple, look out for something that will fit in well and has a good user rating. The Cooler Master VSM Semi-Modular Power Supply comes in at $135, a nice price for a small powerful package.
Gaming Laptop or Gaming Computer?
Now that we've gone through all the components, you should have a pretty sound idea of what you're after. But there's one more question to ask, do you want a gaming computer, or a gaming latpop? There are pros and cons to each so lets start by looking at a gaming computer. Computers are much easier to build and also upgrade. The cases and parts are made to be taken apart and replaced. You will also have a lot more space for components and better cooling with a tower. Of course being so big, it has little to no portability, unless built to be a portable unit. You will have to pay for a few extras, including a keyboard, mouse, monitor and if you want it, a wirless adapter. This can all add up to quite a bit but can be manageable if budgeted well. On the gaming laptop side you have huge portability but little customisation options. No need to buy peripherals (keyboard, mouse, monitor) as they are all built in. You can take it anyware in a backpack or carry case. However with such a small size, cooling can be a bit of an issue. Laptops are a lot harder to upgrade and extremely difficult to build. This means you will need to look at a pre built system which can cost quite a penny. The two main differences between computer and laptop are customisability and portability. Whichever you prefer will decide which system you choose.
But what about...
Yes there is a few components I have missed out on. We haven't looked at keyboards, mice, or monitors, all esential to running a gaming computer. You need more than just a paragraph to look at all these components so we have gone in to more detail about each part. We haven't included a disc drive in this article either. With Steam being huge in the gaming computer community, theres no need to install a game off of a disc. If you do want to go old school or watch DVD's / Blu Ray's on your computer, feel free to look at the optical drive choices available. For gaming there are really only two operating systems to choose from, Windows or Linux. A lot of games just don't have great Mac support so I recommend to steer clear of that. Windows comes at a price (around $130) but is well supported and easy to use. Linux comes for free but can be a little tricky to navigate if you have never used it. For internet connectivity you should definitely pick up the TP-Link TG-3468 Network Adapter. Cheap and it will easily handle Australian internet speeds (thanks government). If you want to, you can go for a wireless internet adapter but you will lose some of the speed and can run in to connectivity issues. The choice is up to you.
Now that we have gone through every part you need, where do you get it? There are a lot of websites out there for you to start with. A great community to start off with is Reddit's Build a PC community. It might look a bit confusing but read through their beginners guide and then you will understand a lot more on the site. Once you've got the basics down are confident you're ready to build, it's time for the parts. You can just go prebuilt and get a working PC delivered to you at a slightly higher price than building. This could be a great option but building your first computer to what you want is where a lot of the fun is. You could search through all the sites above for the best price or you can use PC Part Picker. It's a great website where users make and share their own gaming computer builds. You can make your own account and create your own build as well. If a part seems a bit too pricey for you, you can create an email alert for when it drops down to a better price. We decide to use this ourselves and created a cheap but great gaming computer build and a high end build for you to check out and maybe even make. So get out there, pick your parts, build your gaming rig, and we will see you on the battlefield.