Wanna Build a Great Gaming PC?

(GavSohun on Kotaku  wanted to know how to build a good gaming PC. I wrote this post as a reply, but it’s easier to bookmark it/link people/print it, etc here. Then RPS created a guide, because they are a hivemind and GavSohun must be attached to it via magic. SUPER BONUS ARTICLE!)

Rock Paper Shotgun’s the best PC-gaming site in the world. Articles like this are part of the reason why. For step-by-step instructions, as well as a buying guide, Maximum PC usually puts out a great stand-alone issue every year. I think there’s one out right now, actually! It’s well worth the $7-10 to pick it up and get started.

Don’t worry, however, I won’t leave you hanging with just a link.

First, the best places to buy computer parts are either Newegg.com or Amazon.com. Go there. Buy stuff from them.

For motherboards, I prefer something from ASUS. Now, what’s important to understand about motherboards is that you need to make sure that their socket fits your processor’s socket. A new AMD processor, for instance, will have an AM3+ socket, so you want to buy a motherboard that has that. Ideally, you’ll have multiple PCIe slots (this is what your processor runs into), so you can plug in a sound card, a 3D card, and whatever else you feel like. It should support DDR3 and SATA 6.0GB/S.

Speaking or processors, my personal recommendation is an AMD processor. They’re significantly chaper than intel processors, thus offering more bang for your buck. My current processor is an AMD Phenom II X4 965. If those numbers are confusing, don’t worry! Basically, AMD’s the company, Phenom II is the series (so like an intel i5 or i7), the X4 stands for the number of processor cores (essentially, it’s like having four processors instead of one! More is better.), and 965 is the model number, which is usually associated with its clock speed. In this case, mine’s 3.4GHZ. My friend who owns a 970 has 3.5GHZ available, and, therefore, has a bit more speed.

A cooling fan is super important; CoolerMaster makes good ones, so pick one up (but make sure it fits your processor type; not all intel fans fit all AMD chips, for instance, and vice versa). They’re only about $15 and totally worth it.

If you decide to go with this, you’ll need DDR3 RAM. In fact, most modern PCs will use DDR3 RAM, and you should have a bare minimum of 4GB for gaming. That’s a fairly good set right there. 8GB gives you plenty of breathing room for games and emulation and stuff. Another great brand is Corsair.

In terms of 3D cards, the best bang for your buck is going to be a GeForce GTX 560 TI. The best 3D card company in the world (they have AMAZING customer support) is, without a doubt, evga. Get one from them. If money is less of an object, pick up their GTX 560 TI w/ 2GB of RAM (the normal version has 1GB, which is GENERALLY plenty, but if you want to be more future proofy, you should go with 2GB). If money is no object, then get 3 GTX 590s and you too can run Epic’s Samaritan demo. One thing to look for in a 3D card is an HDMI or mini-HDMI slot (if it’s mini-HDMI, they probably come with a converter to full HDMI). What this means is: if you want to game on your TV, but want way better graphics than your consoles (or want to do netflix or whatever), then you can get a cheap HDMI cable (all HDMI cables are basically the same, because they’re digital and not analog, so you can pick a 25 foot cable up on Amazon for like $5, instead of a Best Buy’s $40 or whatever) and plug it into your TV.

You’ll want a Power Supply. Corsair make the best ones I’ve ever used, and you’ll want, ideally, a 700-watt power supply, unless you’re running multiple graphics cards.

For a case, you’ll want either a mid-sized or large case. An Antec 900 (my personal case), Antec 1200 (I’ve built a PC with one; it’s monster-sized, but easy to work in!) CoolerMaster Cosmos (THE SEXIEST CASE EVER AND I WANT ONE), or the Coolermaster HafX are all awesome choices.

For hard drives, if money’s no object, pick up an SSD to install Windows on and a 2TB drive (ideally from Seagate or Western Digital) for your steam games. If you can get a SATA 6.0GB/S drive, do so. They’re faster than the SATA 3s, and PATAs and others.

ASUS has a great blu-ray burner that would make a great disc drive; LG also makes superb drives, so pick one up from them.

If you MUST have a sound card (it’s not super vital, since, if you have a 3D card, you should be able to process audio with your motherboard and output it over your HDMI cable unless you want dedicated speakers), go with an ASUS. I have a SoundBlaster X-Fi and it’s absolutely awful in terms of driver support. I regret it, but I didn’t know better at the time. Fortunately for me, a guy named Daniel_k released some unofficial drivers for it that work better, but it’s not an ideal solution.

For a headset, pick up a Razer or a Turtle Beach X11 (which can be used interchangeably with a 360). For speakers, Logitech makes awesome 5.1 or 2.1 (five speakers and a subwoofer or two speakers and a subwoofer) systems. I’ve got a Turtle Beach X11, but I’ll definitely be picking up a Razer one of these days.

In terms of peripherals, I think Epson usually has the cheapest ink and the best printer quality (at least in terms of inkjets), so I’d suggest going with them. For a keyboard, something from either Logitech or Razer is ideal, and the same can be said for a mouse. My mouse is a Microsoft Habu, which was developed in collaboration with Razer, and is absolutely wonderful. If you find that you want to play with a controller (racing and sandbox games tend to feel better on a controller), pick up a 360 controller for PC, ideally wireless. They are AMAZING, work with most games (and are the standard controller for games with controller support these days), and will allow you to PC game from your couch.

As monitors go, Dell makes arguably the best you can get (not counting NEC, who are THE leaders, but are ultra-expensive), and a Dual-monitor setup is nice. By the way, if you want to do a triple-monitor setup, go with AMD/ATI graphics cards, but be wary, because their drivers generally suck more. However, it’s cost-prohibitive. ASUS also make good monitors. I’ve got an HP, and while I like it… mine was discontinued and its HDMI doesn’t work super well. If you want to do 3D, you’ll need an nvidia 3D kit and a monitor that does 120hz.

There’s a list of what monitors do this on nvidia’s site. Check it out here.

Viewsonic kinda sucks, and Acer’s not something I’d recommend, but whatever floats your boat. I think LG are pretty good, but I haven’t seen their monitors in a while. Anyways, in terms of size and resolution, you’ll want a minimum of 23″ (24, 25, 27, and 30 are the other sizes you might want to consider), with a minimum resolution of 1920 x 1080 and a 16:9 aspect ration. Basically, if you don’t know what that means, it’s 1920 pixels (the dots that make up the images on your screen) wide and 1080 pixels tall, which is full high definition. 16:9 basically means that for every 16 units across, it has 9 units down. Another common ratio on monitors (but not TVs) is 16:10. I have a 16:10, 24″, 1920×1200 monitor.

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  1. Hey Doc!! Sorry it’s been so long, real life has been getting in the way….

    Your advice was really useful and I ended up using a lot of your suggestions: I got an Asus motherboard, 8GB of Corsair RAM, an Antec 1200 case and an EVGA GTX 580 graphics card 😀

    It looks great all set-up 😀

    Again thanks so much for your help it helped so much!

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