Whether you’re building a gaming PC from the ground up or looking to upgrade an older system, you have more choices than ever. Above all, remember that you’re building a PC for its unique uses. Therefore, there are a few important things to consider before you start ordering the parts.
Tip: Those with a PC running an AMD Ryzen CPU can easily overclock their RAM with AMD Ryzen Master.
How much are you willing to invest in this endeavor? They say you can never overspend when building a PC. But luckily, there’s always a way to maximize value on any budget.
Provided you have at least $700-$800 set aside for your build, you can put together a decent mid-range 1080p gaming PC that will see you through the years. Sure, you’ll have to make some compromises, but a reasonably powerful machine is still possible within this budget.
On the other hand, if you have more money left over, say around $1200-$1400, you can really gear yourself up with high-end components capable of powerful 1440p and even 4K gaming.
2. The games you want to play
Think about what kind of games you want to play. A PC to run eSports games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, League of Legends, or even Fortnite doesn’t have to be anywhere near as high quality as one designed to run AAA titles like Cyberpunk 2077, Dying Light 2, or Horizon Zero Twilight is required.
The resolution you want to play your games at should also be considered. For a long time, gaming in 1080p or Full HD resolution was the norm, but today 1440p or Quad HD gaming has become gamers’ sweet spot in terms of image quality and performance.
note: The higher you set your game resolution, the lower your performance will be.
In terms of performance, you need to consider how many frames your PC takes to boot. While many agree that games running at 60 FPS+ should be the minimum standard these days, which can be enough for story-based single player games, in more competitive multiplayer games you need as many FPS as possible.
In summary, there is a balance to be struck between resolution and frame rate. For gamers who are looking for the highest possible frame rates, the financial investment in the PC increases significantly.
3. The upgrade path
The processor (CPU) and motherboard are two of the most basic components of a PC. These decide the platform you buy into (Intel or AMD) and the possible upgrade path you have access to for years to come.
It’s often tempting to choose one brand over another simply based on personal favorites or affordability. But you should give due consideration to the upgrade path before committing to one platform for years.
For example, Intel is widely known for renewing its motherboard sockets almost every year, which severely limits the upgrade path for users. Almost six years after it first launched in 2016, AMD has continued to release new CPUs for its AM4 platform. The company has promised to support the new AM5 platform launched in 2022 through 2025 and possibly beyond.
A durable motherboard platform gives you plenty of opportunities to deploy a new and more powerful CPU every two to three years. This can significantly reduce your overall investment in your PC compared to a platform that is updated every year.
4. Alternate Uses
Gaming PCs pack tons of horsepower, which of course makes them ideal for many non-gaming scenarios, such as: B. professional video editing, photo editing and online streaming of games.
While gaming PCs are versatile machines, they need to be configured if you have additional uses in mind. For example, a 6-core processor with 12 threads is more than enough for a pure gaming build, but for a productivity build that requires all the CPU power, you should go for an 8-core or a 12-thread -Processor even opt 12 core processor for best results. In addition, additional memory or RAM also improves the performance of a machine that you use for productivity.
Finally, the GPU doesn’t have to be the best of the best on a productivity build, but it should at least be powerful enough to keep up with the processor during graphically intensive sessions.
5. Graphics card
Your PC’s graphics card single-handedly determines the performance you can expect from the games you play. Currently, the two major manufacturers of desktop GPUs – NVIDIA and AMD – offer a range of graphics cards in different price ranges.
Depending on your budget, you can either opt for a high-end card like NVIDIA’s RTX 3080 or AMD’s RX 6800 XT, or a mid-tier card like the RTX 3060 Ti or RX 6700 XT. There are also low-end cards like the RTX 3050 and RX 6500, but you’ll have to limit your expectations at these price points.
You can also opt for a previous generation card to save some money. Price points aside, factors like ray tracing support can also influence your choice of GPU. NVIDIA’s RTX cards are known to generally outperform AMD’s offerings for games that support ray tracing lighting, reflections, and shadow effects. Even NVIDIA’s FPS enhancement technology is rated superior to AMD’s.
However, if you’d rather focus on pure performance and want to save money, consider AMD’s high-end GPUs, but they’re significantly cheaper.
Good to know: Are eGPUs the new trend? Find out all the important aspects about it and decide for yourself.
PC memory is one of those areas where it is easy to overspend. While there’s no longer any reason to go for mechanical hard drives, it’s also not a good idea to spend hundreds of dollars on expensive Gen 4 or Gen 5 SSDs.
For most real-world scenarios like booting up your system or playing games, a decent 3rd Gen NVMe (PCIe 3.0) SSD is all you need for a smooth and fast experience. Sure, the latest 4th or 5th Gen SSDs tout blazing-fast speeds, but you’ll rarely find a use case where you’ll feel this difference unless you’re copying multiple large files on a day-to-day basis.
As such, a 500GB NVMe SSD under $50 should generally be sufficient for your operating system and a few games. If you have some space in your budget, go for a 1TB SSD. And you can always have cheaper HDDs for your build’s secondary storage.
7. Display and power supply
Achieving a given frame rate at a given resolution might just depend on your GPU and CPU, but actually experiencing them simply isn’t possible without a decent display.
If you have an outdated Full HD monitor with a refresh rate capped at 60Hz, your gaming experience isn’t going to feel “high-end” at all, regardless of the other components in your build. This is where high refresh rate displays come into play.
In recent years, 1440p 144Hz monitors have gained traction as the perfect balance between price and performance. They offer significantly higher picture quality and refresh rates without the prohibitive prices of high refresh rate 4K displays. Our ultimate monitor buying guide sheds more light on different technologies related to gaming and non-gaming monitors.
Another aspect that is often overlooked is choosing a good power supply. A cheap, no-name brand PSU can often limit your build’s potential – or worse, explode and die, taking many other components with it. Always choose at least an 80+ Bronze fixture with adequate wattage from a reputable manufacturer.
8. Aesthetics and Size
A gaming PC should look and function like this. The case you choose to house your components not only determines the physical footprint of your PC, but also its appearance. The aesthetic of your case is determined by its color, RGB fans, build quality, and more.
Gamers often leave the case choice to the last and don’t invest as much research into it compared to the other components. But your case goes beyond size and aesthetics. Cases with good airflow, cable management, and upgradability can enhance your build experience and everyday satisfaction. They also allow for future upgrades rather than worrying about changing the case entirely.
For a deeper dive into the factors that make a good PC case, read our guide to choosing a PC case.
9. The used market
If your budget is a bit tighter, you might want to look into the used market. With the recent cryptocurrency crash and new CPUs and GPUs from Intel, AMD and NVIDIA, there is a flood of older generation products at bargain prices on sites like eBay, Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. For example, you can get a 3070 Ti for just $300 and a Ryzen 5 5600X for just $113 on eBay.
You may be reluctant to buy used products, especially GPUs as they may have been used for cryptocurrency mining. But with eBay Buyer Protection, you can rest assured that you’ll get a refund in the event of a dead-on-arrival product.
Tip: Take control of what’s happening under the hood of your PC with these fan control tools for Windows.
frequently asked Questions
Is it cheaper to build or buy a gaming PC?
It’s usually cheaper to build a gaming PC than to buy a pre-built one (for a specific configuration). In addition, creating one can be a great experience and can teach you a lot about PC hardware. You also have full control over the components and customization of your build. Check out our list of the best custom pc builder websites for prebuilt and custom builds.
How many years does a gaming PC last?
A gaming PC with a mid-range configuration like a modern six-core CPU and an RTX 3060-like GPU can easily last you around three to four years if you play on medium to high settings. A high-end system with an 8-core CPU and an RTX 3070 Ti-like GPU will easily last more than five to six years before showing its age.
How hard is it to build a gaming PC?
It can be daunting to build a gaming PC if you’ve never done it. The learning curve is steep, and searching for PC components can take many hours, if not days, before you can be confident in your chosen configuration. If you’re willing to put in the time and want to learn a new skill, building a PC can be fun and save you money in the long run.
Photo credit: Unsplash. All screenshots by Tanveer Singh.
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