Consoles might be the most popular gaming platform these days, but there are still many advantages to playing games on a PC.
If you’ve been thinking about getting your first gaming PC, here are six things to consider before you make any purchases.
1. Build Your Own Computer vs. Buying a Pre-Built
The first thing to decide is whether you’d like to build your own PC or whether you’d prefer to buy a pre-built system. If you’ve never built a PC before, it can seem intimidating, but these days it’s a relatively simple procedure.
The advantage of building your own system is that you can configure it to your specific needs and to the games that you play. Building your own system will also give you confidence when upgrading parts or diagnosing hardware issues. The downside is that you’ll need to spend more time researching parts and checking that everything in your build is compatible.
Pre-built systems are easier to get started with. And in addition, because system integrators buy parts in bulk, they can offer cheap prices so you can sometimes get hardware for less money than if you bought the same components yourself.
2. The Most Important Components for Gaming
Whether you’re buying or building, the most important components for gaming are the processor and the graphics card. The processor is the brain of the PC and performs calculations, so it’s important for open world and strategy games like Civilization 6 or Grand Theft Auto 5.
The graphics card is what creates the on-screen graphics, so it’s important for visually detailed games like The Witcher 3 or Rise of the Tomb Raider.
Most games will require a mix of processing power and graphics power, so for the best gaming experience you should get the best processor and graphics card you can afford. Typically the graphics card will be the most expensive component in a gaming PC.
The processor could be Intel or AMD, with AMD processors generally being a bit cheaper than their Intel equivalents. And the graphics card could be Nvidia or AMD, with AMD once again usually being the more affordable option.
3. Checking How Good a Part Is
But how do you know how good a part is? Both graphics card and processors can have confusing names, and it’s not obvious to first-time buyers whether an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 is better than an AMD Radeon RX 560, for example.
To see a comparison of different graphics cards from both the major manufacturers, you can use what’s called a GPU hierarchy table. These tables, like the one from Tom’s Hardware, show you the names of the different graphics cards, what their basic features are, and assign each one a score out of 100.
To see whether one card is better than another, you simply search for the product names in the table and compare them. You can also find similar tables for processors.
If you’re wondering how your hardware will perform in real-world gaming, you can look up some benchmarks. These are where users describe what hardware they have and submit information on how many frames per second they see on various games. One site where you can find this kind of information is UserBenchmark.
4. Gaming Considerations When Choosing Hardware
Before you settle on your hardware, you should consider what your gameplay requirements are. Some games are far more demanding than others. If you play relatively resource-light games like Fortnite or Minecraft, for example, you can get away with mid-range or budget hardware.
But if you want to play the latest AAA games at the best settings, you’ll need to spend more.
Two big factors in how resource demanding a game is are the resolution at which it’s played and the graphics settings you choose. The resolution could be as low as 720p, though most people will prefer 1080p and above, and it could be as high as 4K. The higher the resolution you play at, the more powerful hardware you’ll need.
When it comes to graphics settings, playing games on high or ultra settings will be much more demanding than running them at medium or low settings.
5. Other Considerations When Choosing Hardware
You might want to consider users for your PC other than gaming. For example, maybe you are a YouTube creator and you want to use your PC to edit videos. Or maybe you want to stream your games to Twitch or another platform.
For these uses, you’ll need a slightly different approach to hardware.
Video editing requires lots of memory, so while a pure gaming PC can get away with just 8GB of RAM, a content creator would ideally want 32GB or even more RAM. And streaming requires a lot of processing power, so you’ll need a better processor relative to your graphics card if you want to stream as well as play.
In addition, most people will want to use their PCs for general productivity tasks like browsing the internet, sending emails, and watching videos. None of these tasks is particularly demanding so you’ll be able to easily do any of these on a gaming PC.
However, if you want to do more advanced productivity tasks, you might consider getting a better processor which will be able to open programs more quickly and switch between multiple tasks more easily.
6. Planning for the Future
A final issue to consider before making a purchase is what your plans are for the future. Lots of hardware companies will talk about making your PC “future-proof,” but really it’s impossible to know what requirements might come along in the future. However, you can make some plans to ensure your system lasts longer before you need to replace it.
Firstly, think about how you’ll upgrade your system down the road. If you get a PC with a good processor and motherboard but not such a good graphics card, you can buy a new graphics card later and install it relatively simply. You can also easily add more RAM to your build in the future.
But if you need to upgrade your processor, you’ll usually need to upgrade your motherboard too, and then you’ll often end up replacing the whole system.
That’s why, if you’re looking for longevity, you should prioritize your processor and motherboard. Although different types of motherboard probably won’t have much impact on gaming performance, they will offer different features such as support for M.2 SSDs.
Even if you’re not using an M.2 drive now, you might want one in the future. So you’d need to have a motherboard which supports that.
Another factor in how long a system lasts is how reliable the components are. First-time buyers often opt for a cheap power supply unit because it doesn’t seem important. But a cheap PSU can die and take other components in your system with it. A more expensive but more reliable PSU will keep your system running for longer.
Issues to Consider When Buying a Gaming PC
These tips can help you when buying your first gaming PC, whether you opt to purchase a pre-built computer or to build your own. And once you’ve made your purchase and got your gaming PC up and running, don’t forget to check out these vital tweaks to optimize your PC for gaming.