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For many gamers and PC enthusiasts, building their own PC is half of the fun of owning one. Going over all the different parts and finding that perfect combination of budget and raw power that will turn your pet project into an absolute monster is an art form to itself and will leave you with the perfect computer customized exclusively for your needs.
If this will be your first time putting together a PC, you should know that you will be committing hours upon hours of research and careful planning if you want to make sure your baby works perfectly and comes together within your budget. Making sure all parts are compatible with each other and that none of the parts cause a bottleneck that will hinder the performance of other parts is essential to make sure your PC performs at full capacity and gives you your money’s worth.
With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of things to consider if you are building a PC for the first time – or are a seasoned PC builder in need a bit of a refresher – that is sure to get you started on your right foot.
Choosing the Right Video Card
If you are a gamer, a video card will probably be the first thing you will consider on your checklist.
The first question you will need to ask yourself is: What kind of gamer are you? Are you a casual gamer that enjoys smaller PC games like Hearthstone or web-based games? Or will you be playing MMORPGs or top of the line blockbuster games like Dota 2 in 4K resolution and 120fps?
If you are more of the former, you can probably make do with the usually integrated video card. If you plan on doing some heavy gaming on your computer, however, you will need to realize that you will be putting the lion’s share of the processing power on the video card and will, therefore, require a card featuring a GPU that is powerful enough for your needs. A quick search online on the ideal specs for the games you plan to play will already give you an indication of how high end a card you may need.
Once you’ve decided which card fits your needs best, you can choose a monitor that will translate your graphics processing power into amazing images. If you are a hardcore gamer of MMORPGs or blockbuster titles, you will not want to settle for anything less than a 24” or higher, 4K monitor that can handle 120fps. If you will stick to playing web-based games likeHearthstone, then a normal 1080p monitor should do just fine. While online casino players will only require an HD monitor to fully experience their favorite games, professional poker players that usually play multiple tables at once should also look for a 4K monitor to make sure they have the pixel density required to be able to open many windows at the same time.
SSD vs Platters
Getting the right driver can be as important to your computer’s gaming performance as choosing the right CPU or video card. Most CPUs will have enough processing power to handle pretty much everything you throw at them (provided you don’t go overboard with multitasking with high-performance applications), however, drives can easily become a computer’s bottleneck when they are dealing big applications that use large amounts of data.
While there is an ongoing debate about whether the read/write limits can render Solid state drives (SSDs) less reliable than the common mechanical failures of traditional drives, and whether traditional drives can handle reading long, sequential files at fast speeds, no one can doubt that SSD’s performance is vastly superior to their counterparts.
While they may be vastly most expensive on a Gigabyte to price ratio, SSDs are incredibly fast, particularly when accessing large amounts of small files at a time. Therefore, it is highly recommended that your OS is installed on an SSD to make sure your system runs smoothly. While getting an SSD large enough to also cover your data needs would run to expensive, an SSD for your OS and apps coupled with a traditional drive for your data will give you the perfect marriage of speed and disk size at an affordable price.
Selecting your RAM
When it comes to selecting the right amount of RAM for your computer, a good rule of thumb is that your computer should have at least twice as much system memory as your graphics card has VRAM. Therefore, if you purchased an 8GB graphics card, you will want to buy at least 16GB of RAM.
How exactly you distribute this RAM will depend on your motherboard, how many DIMMs it can hold and whether it supports Dual Channel RAM. If it supports the latter, you will definitely want to take advantage of this feature to better your computer’s performance, and you will want to break up your desired amount into at least 2 DIMMs. Most computers these days support up to 4 DIMMs, which will leave you additional room to improve your RAM further down along the line.
Which CPU is best?
While you can easily get sucked into the Intel vs AMD debate for hours at a time online, the truth is they both produce high-quality processors that can meet your computing and/or gaming needs.
Therefore, the most important questions to ask are: Which features does the processor support that will provide your particular computing needs with the best performance? Do you need virtualization or HyperThreading? Will you be multitasking a lot? If so, how many cores do you need? What speed? Remember, it is usually better to have more cores at a lower speed than fewer cores at higher speed.
Once you’ve answered all the questions, find the most affordable processor that suits your needs.
Do Your Homework
While we hope this list will have given you a few important things to think about before you get started, the most important takeaway you can take from this article is to do extensive research. Ideally, you will want to build a computer that suits your current needs and surpasses them enough that you won’t need to update any of the parts or think of building a new computer for at least a few years.
Using sites likes PC Part Picker can also be a hugely helpful resource to plan your custom PC and make sure that none of the parts are incompatible with each other. Either way, make sure you have all the information before you start purchasing the parts. Good luck!