I don’t think there’s ever been a better time to be a PC gamer. The industry is booming; some of the greatest games of all time have been popping up every other month lately; hardware is becoming better, but more affordable all the time.
We’ve also enjoyed finally being able to access some amazing game series like Mega Man, Castlevania, and Street Fighter, that up until now were console exclusives. Additionally, and what’s always been great about PCs, is the degree to which you can customize your experience. With a console, you only get what comes out of the box. You can’t update the graphics card, memory capacity, or OS.
If you’re buying the day it comes off the shelf, your system starts becoming outdated from the first time you turn it on. With a PC that you’ve built yourself, that will never happen. You can swap out components, and update the OS, as they become available, and you see fit.
With that being said, many people are hesitant to invest in building their own gaming rig. They’re worried about the steep initial cost, not possessing the tech know-how to put one together, and afraid that they’ll buy something that doesn’t work with their other pieces. Believe me: we all had the same fears when we started out. But trust me – building your own rig isn’t hard, and it just takes a little bit of research to learn what works for you.
This guide will serve as your introduction to building your own rig and give you some helpful tips to get started.
Start with Your Budget
Like anything else in life, before you start ordering parts, or thinking about specs, start by putting together a budget. With PCs, there’s a wealth of different price tiers that you can tap into, that will still allow you to construct a great rig at a price you can afford.
Typically, builds will come in three price tiers: budget, performance, and dedicated gaming.
- Budget builds are just that – designed to give you a rig that will run most of your games, on the cheap, but may not be as fast or pretty as other builds. Budget builds typically range from $300 to $800
- Performance rigs are middle of the road builds that are much faster, and have better graphics, than a budget PC, but are still fairly affordable; you will only encounter an occasional drop in speed or framerate on most games. Performance rigs range from $800 to $2,000
- Dedicated gaming machines are the best of the best – the cutting edge powerhouses that can run even the most demanding software, including the newest games, without breaking a sweat. Obviously, though, you’re going to be paying for it. Dedicated gaming rigs start around $2,000, and can go as high as $30,000.
No matter which PC you choose, you may not be able to afford every single piece out-of-pocket, even if you stick to your budget. You’ll probably need to put at least a few things on a credit card, so ensure you know where your credit stands before you request a credit increase, or apply for a new card, to afford your purchases.
Understand Graphics Cards
Nine times out of ten, PC gamers prefer their rig not only because of the level of customization they enjoy but because PC games just look better. While there’s no denying that consoles are starting to catch up, gaming rigs have one critical advantage when it comes to keeping ahead of the graphics race – the ability to future proof. When you buy a graphics card, you determine how much you’re willing to spend, and what level of graphical fidelity you can live with. If you buy it, and you don’t like it, you can always upgrade later. With consoles, the game will look the exact same, every single time.
Don’t Skimp on RAM
What many people confuse when they build their own rig is the difference between memory and RAM. When you see a hard drive advertised with 1TB of memory, that means the actual physical memory used to store software data and code. RAM, or random-access memory, refers to the amount of processing power that the computer can actively dedicate to running a program, or performing a task.
The easiest way to explain it is this: think of your computer like your brain. Memory is the storage capacity to retain every single fact, detail, memory, and experience you’ve ever had. RAM would be the amount of brainpower that you call upon when you need to type a blog post (like I’m doing now), perform an exercise, or do both at the same time.
Computers, like humans, can quickly get overwhelmed if they try to run too many applications or processes at once. Though your graphics card will allow your computer to process the graphical data that often slows down computers, your RAM is really what allows your computer to run any game quickly, and without frequent loading times. At the least, you’ll need 8GB of RAM to run most games fairly smoothly, but if you can afford the investment, I’d recommend starting at 16GB.
Related: Best Ethernet Switch for Gaming