With Microsoft and Sony failing to announce any next generation hardware at E3 this year many of you may be thinking about getting a gaming PC as for many people the gaming experience on consoles has fallen substantially in recent years. The Xbox is nearly seven years old and the hardware only runs games at 720p and around 30fps. Indeed this is the same thought process I went through about 8 months ago.
This isn’t going to be a guide on how to build a PC but rather it will discuss the concerns many people have before building a PC as well as the thought process I went through when deciding to build a PC. Putting the parts together really isn’t that hard but it certainly helps to have some knowledge of what you are doing. In a follow up article there will also be a couple of systems that if I was building a system today I would build.
Expense and Difficulty
Expense and difficulty are the two words that you most often hear when anyone is talking about building a computer, especially a gaming one. There is no doubt that building a computer is more expensive than buying a console but there is a large difference, you can use your PC for lots of other purposes. When I first thought about building a new computer it was actually because my laptop was around four years old and I was fed up of the time it took to open applications and load videos. When looking into the sort of laptop that could do all the things I wanted I found that I would have to spend well over £1000 and even then most laptops have one flaw or another that makes you question whether spending that much money is a good idea. In fact when I looked at building a desktop I found that I could build a top of the range one for about £800. Couple that with a nice monitor and the overall cost was going to be about £1000 yet compared to a laptop, the performance I would be getting was incomparable.
Possibly the most important thing I learnt when building my computer when it comes to expense is to set out the amount of money you want to spend and work around that. As you are buying individual components there is often a better CPU or hard drive for only £20 more. It may make you think, “well why don’t I just spend a little bit more and get something better”. Unfortunately if you take this sort of attitude then quickly you’ll be spending that little bit more on all your components and you’ll have spent an extra £300. Setting a budget and sticking to it is the best way of keeping costs down. Once you’ve decided you’re interested in building a PC you’ll probably have the next thought I had. Can I actually build it though?
The wonders of the internet have meant that typing into Google “How to build a computer” comes up with literally thousands if not millions of guides and just like this one most will start by denouncing how difficult it is. Yet when you are thinking about building a computer this really doesn’t offer much solace. I wasn’t only worried about whether I could build my own PC but also what would I do if something went wrong, would I be spending hundreds of pounds on useless components. Possibly the most useful thing I learnt was how incredible Youtube is as a computer building resource. By watching people build computers you soon learn your SATA III port from you PCI slot. The videos may be long but are more informative then any guide could be. Also don’t necessarily just watch “how to build a pc videos”. I found Linus Sebastian’s Linus tech tipsand Newegg TV extremely useful for just getting an insight into all the different components and what they do. Most importantly don’t be put off by your first few articles or videos. By the time I came to building my computer I was pretty confident I could do it with my eyes closed, I knew exactly where everything was meant to go.
But What if Something Goes Wrong?
This leads to the third major concern people have when building a PC, what if something goes wrong. Things probably will go wrong but as long as you have access to the internet, somewhat ironic considering you’re building a machine to access the internet, you have nothing to worry about. Within a month my rather expensive graphics card started crashing my computer whenever I loaded up a game. At first I thought it was probably a one off thing. When it persisted my next thought was, “oh no I’ve broken it”. However, this is where the internet came in handy. There are thousands of forums dedicated to PC problems and solutions. I posted my problem on a couple of forums including Tomshardware.com and within a couple of days I had a response. They said it was probably faulty and I should RMA it. This took about two weeks and I was sent a replacement. My worst fear before building my computer was how was I, someone with little knowledge of computer hardware, going to diagnose the problem if something went wrong. The answer I found was simple, the internet will.
Finally and arguably most importantly, for your wallet at least, is component choice. Once again Youtube is an encyclopedia of knowledge. When I first thought of building a PC I went on a few custom PC websites such as cyberpowersystem.co.uk. I didn’t really know what I was doing and my component choices were built solely on the adage, more expensive equals better. Normally in technology this is indeed the case, however, by watching unboxings and reading reviews you quickly learn what is important when building a computer. Before watching videos and reading articles I remember clicking the option to install a case with the maximum amount of fans possible when on cyberpower. After all a cooler computer is a better computer, right? Well not exactly. The more fans you have the more noise is produced and therefore installing fans in your case is all about the best performance to noise ratio.
Another great way of learning about component choice is to go onto a website/forum such as Tomshardware.com. In the forums there are hundreds of new posts everyday of people asking others to critique a system they are about to build. By reading these posts you soon see that there are patterns to the components that people are recommending. Most people will recommend Corsair power supplies for example. Also when you are about to build a system don’t be afraid to post your build on it for people to look at. At the end of the day most people on the forums will be looking to help you. From my experience the PC building community seems pretty tight knit and a world away from gaming forums.
Finally when it comes to components read reviews. Kitguru, hardwarecanucks, hothardware, tomshardware and Anandtech are all excellent resources for component reviews and if a product has 8 or 9 out of ten its more than likely that it will be excellent and you won’t have a problem with it. You quickly realise that when it comes to components that are only ever or two worth considering in every price range. Component choice will be covered in more detail in the next article but for the moment here are a few key details. Stick to companies such as ASUS, Gigabyte and MSI for motherboards and graphics cards. Intel and AMD make CPUs. Intel packs more performance, AMD is more budget orientated. Graphics cards are often the most expensive part of a system, a gaming one at least. They also make the biggest difference on gaming performance. SSDs are very fast and very good, buy one.