Building a PC can be daunting. Where do you start? How much money should you spend? Are different parts better for certain builds? The list of questions is endless — but knowing where to start is half the battle. My No. 1 tip? Have a designated purpose for your build. If you set out with a goal in mind, you’ll be able to streamline your purchases and buy only the necessities. In this piece, I’ll help you prepare your PC for the major game releases that are coming this year. (I’ve definitely got my eye on Dynasty Warriors 9.)
It’s fair to say that everything is easier with the right equipment, and the same can certainly be said about PC gaming. It’s easier to complete and beat a game if your PC is running at top speed, without lagging and time outs. As fascination with bitcoin mining grows, we’re seeing an unfortunate side effect for PC gamers; cryptocurrency miners are stocking up on quality GPUs, which is causing a shortage in supply and unfortunately, a price spike for gamers (more than $700 in some cases) — though some retailers are offering discounts for gamers.
Yet, advancements in hardware like Nvidia’s 10 series GPU’s, make now the perfect time to build your own PC. It’s a double-edged sword, but investing in quality equipment will make your PC last infinitely longer. If you cut corners, and your PC isn’t up to the job you’ll experience hang ups and lag time, which nobody wants to deal with in the middle of a virtual war zone.
In the past, putting together a high-end PC meant better framerates or texture quality; but building a high-end machine today unlocks more possibilities than ever! A high-end PC enables you to do things like play VR, use 4k resolution, and stream video games on Twitch TV, all popular activities within the gaming community. Here’s how to ensure your PC can handle these new technologies:
1. The Starting Point: Choosing the right CPU
When you get into the nitty-gritty of building your own gaming rig, it’s easy to fall into the rabbit hole of options. When it’s all said and done, investing in the right CPU is what pulls your entire build together. A CPU is like the drill sergeant of your computer; it carries out the instructions of a computer program.
Now is a great time to be in the market for a CPU; AMD and Intel offer a wide range of CPUs and the competitive market just means more options at every price level for the consumer. Intel has a history of making some of the best performing CPUs on the market like their Intel Core i7-8700K, and recently AMD released their new Ryzen platform, offering high- performance CPUs on a budget. Both processors work well for gaming, so you can’t go wrong with either choice.
2. Motherboard or bust
When building your own gaming PC, selecting a motherboard is a critical decision. It houses the most important parts of your PC, such as the graphics card, CPU, and every other component your computer needs to be functional. If your motherboard dies, your PC is out of commission until it’s fixed or replaced. When you’re building a PC designed to support your gaming habits, the reliability of your motherboard matters. Gamers push the limits when it comes to the capabilities of a PC, so you’ll want a motherboard that stands up to the test.
Before purchasing, take into account the need for a motherboard that supports all the hardware you plan on incorporating into your build: PCIe slots for video cards, SATA ports for drives, adequate memory slots for your desired amount of memory, USB ports for peripherals, etc. The good news is that you won’t need to break the bank when choosing a motherboard. There are good options at every price level — it all just depends on what you’ve got in mind for your build.
The ASUS Maximus IX Formula will give you the most bang for your buck, but be prepared for some sticker shock as it will set you back almost $400. One consideration to note with this particular motherboard is that the armor impedes access to some ports and connectors. If you’re not looking to spend your paycheck in one sitting, the ASRock Fatal1ty B250M Performance motherboard is a more reasonably priced alternative. However, with this option your upgrade potential is limited by the board’s mATX size and the chipset’s 12 lane PCIe 3.0 I/O potential.
Protip: Make sure your board supports the socket and wattage requirements of your CPU before you buy it.
3. DRAM is not ‘one size fits all’
In my opinion, you really can’t get anywhere without solid memory performance. It’s what gives your PC the speed to win. Memory features should be unique to your personal gaming needs. Whether you’re a casual gamer or a budding esports pro, there’s a variety of memory modules available to boost your speed. Think of it like preparing a meal in the kitchen: a home cook doesn’t need professional cookware to meet their needs, whereas a Master Chef dishing out Michelin-star food, will definitely require the professional-grade equipment.
Similarly, it’s essential to pick DRAM that meets your individual gaming style, aesthetic, and needs. While standard PC DRAM is the most affordable option, it’s not designed for gaming and won’t be up to the task. We at Ballistix offer high-performance DRAM built specifically for gaming, for example, but there are plenty of options.
4. The heart of your build: a solid graphics card
Without a graphics card, your gaming rig is essentially lifeless. Choosing a good graphics card will be one of the most important components of your build and it’s imperative to keep future PC expansion in mind. If you are a gamer that plans to have multiple graphic cards in the future, make sure you have a case, motherboard, and power supply that will support multiple video cards down the road.
Both Nvidia and AMD provide powerful graphics card options that drive today’s most demanding games (like Call of Duty: WW2). Before purchasing a graphics card, read online reviews first and listen to fellow gamers’ advice about what worked — or didn’t work! — for them, paying close attention to the performance of different card options. This will help avoid confusion and ensure you purchase a graphics card that’s capable of running the type of games you want to play. The Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti is a great graphics card solution if you’re on a budget.
5. Old Faithful: Why you should invest in an SSD
From vacation photos slowing down your performance, to an older system struggling to boot up thanks to an outdated hard drive, investing in a solid state drive solves dozens of computer-related issues0. It’s the most substantial upgrade you can invest in to keep your system running at top speed. This makes an SSD is an essential building block for any gamer looking to build their own rig.
To construct the ultimate gaming PC, you need to choose a SSD that will reduce load times. Not sure where to start? The Crucial system scanner takes a look at your individual PC and offers compatible solutions for your machine.
Pro Tip: installing your operating system and most-played games directly onto your SSD, will help you get to your desktop faster and on to the next battle quicker!
6. The golden rule: Choose a quality power supply unit
When choosing a power supply unit (PSU), remember the golden rule: quality over anything else! You don’t want to cut corners on your PSU purchase, as it’s what drives all the hardware in your build. Opting to settle for the pre-bundled option that came with your case can do more harm than good. Yesm pre-bundled options are often cheaper, but they’ve been known to burn out pricier components you’ve bought for your build, like the motherboard. The benefits of choosing a more expensive, better quality PSU far outweigh the additional cost, so choose one with a decent warranty and you’ll be set.
Protip: Before purchasing a PSU, calculate how much power your system draws from the wall and purchase a PSU that meets your demands.
7. Last but not least, choose a case that fits your unique build
It sounds simple enough, but you need to make sure the case you choose fits the components you’ve purchased. For example, if you purchase a mini ITX case meant for a media center, it may not fit a high-end video card or a big power supply. Even worse, it may not have the right screw holes for your motherboard. It’s easy to overlook these details when you’re buying equipment from different vendors and websites, but ultimately the case you select has to fit the components you’ve chosen for your build or you’re back to square one.
Additionally, your case is a big part of your gaming identity — personalization may not be required, but if you’re building your own rig, why not let it reflect who you are? A couple of things to keep in mind: if you like to game at your friend’s house, look for a case with handles; and if you hoard huge 4K games, find a case with an expansive hard drive bay. When it comes to aesthetics, some cases are flashier than others (think windows and lights), but it all comes down to personal preference.
Now for the fun part … get creative and the sky’s the limit! Good luck with your PC build!
Patrick Soulliere II is global esports and gaming marketing manager at Ballistix (a Micron company).