How To Build a Gaming PC
Most premade PCs tagged with the word “gaming” usually come at a premium, especially if they’re from known brands. Moreover, premades are likely to contain subpar parts since not every part comes from the same manufacturer. For instance, a premade from Asus will have an Asus case and mobo, but the RAM, Storage and even the PSU are outsourced from other outfits.
This is the advantage of assembling your own PC. If you know where to look, there are plenty of savings to be had. Plus, with the freedom to pick parts from the plethora of outfits that are offering them, you can make the most of your money and get the best performance per dollar spent.
With that said, this how to build a gaming PC guide will focus on what you need to watch out for when picking the parts for your custom-built PC.
Motherboard and Processor
The mobo and CPU go together like peanut butter and jelly. Your processor choice will dictate your motherboard options. So what should you choose?If you really want a gaming PC, you need to go with Intel processors. Now, we understand that competition is good and would have suggested AMD’s CPUs if one of them can actually outperform any of Intel’s mainstream and enthusiast-grade offerings in terms of gaming. Sadly, that’s not the case. AMD was more focused on its APU line in the recent years. And while the “Zen” CPU family is quite anticipated by plenty of enthusiasts, it doesn’t come out until next year.
So which Intel processor to go for?
This is where you need to think long and hard. Ask yourself what you’ll be doing with the PC. If it’s just all out gaming, then you need to go for the mainstream Skylake-S chips (LGA 1151). According to tests ran by Digital Foundry, the quad-core Skylake i7-6700K, which was overclocked to 4.6 GHz, outperforms the octa-core Haswell-E i7-5960X, overclocked to 4.4 GHz, in titles such as GTA V, Assassin’s Creed Unity,Crysis 3 and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.
However, it is also important to note that the i7-5960X produced significantly more frames in CPU-bound scenes of Crysis 3. Nonetheless, i7-6700K’s general improvements to the IPC allows it to push more commands to the GPU and thus, it excels in GPU-bound scenes.Note that Digital Foundry’s tests were done with both a single GPU setup using an Nvidia Titan X and a dual-GPU setup with two GTX 980s. The i7-6700K came out on top on both setups running the aforementioned titles.
If you’re going to use the PC as for tasks other than gaming, such as video rendering, then go for LGA 2011-v3’s Haswell-E and Broadwell-E chips. Although they have lower base clock speeds than the Skylake chips, both Haswell-E and Broadwell-E CPUs have more cores and overclocks better. And while Digital Foundry’s tests showed the i7-6700k won, the reality is that it, for the most part, the difference in frames didn’t go over 5 fps.
Moreover, with DirectX 12 and Vulcan’s promise of utilizing more CPU cores, the gaming future of Haswell-E and Broadwell-E chips look better. The only real caveat is that they’re expensive. In fact, the 5960X costs roughly $1,000 while the more recently launch i7-6950X retails for more than $1,700. Still, there are less pricey options.Broadwell-E’s i7-6800K, a hexa-core, sells for $434 while Haswell-E’s i7-5820K can be had for $350 brand new. If you really want to save money but want to stay on LGA 2011-v3, grab a used i7-5820K, which retails for $200-250 on eBay.
Which motherboards to pick?
If you got a Skylake chip, couple it with the Z170 chipset. While the H170 and H110 are also compatible boards, they do not offer overclocking and are limited to 1 PCI-e lane. Hence, it’s better to get the Z170 in case you’re planning to overclock and add another GPU to your system.
Note that there are Z170 boards that retail for roughly $500 while most go for $150-$250. There’s really no significant difference in performance. All you’ll really get with a pricier board are better aesthetics and more features, such as better on-board audio controllers, multiple ethernet ports, built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth controllers.For Haswell-E and Broadwell-E chips, you’ll have to go with the X99 motherboards. They currently retail for $200-250.If possible, go for boards from one of the big four—Asus, MSI, Gigabyte, Asrock.
RAM and Storage
If you decided on one of the processors/motherboard combos suggested above, you’ll have to get DDR4 RAM sticks. To make sure you meet most titles’ requirements, get at least 16 GB of RAM since some games require at least 12 GB.As for storage, get an SSD as your system drive. Both Samsung and Intel have decent SSD offerings. If you’re on a budget, get a 128-GB SSD and couple it with an HDD for data.
For the GPU, there’s really no sense in going for last year’s 980Ti when this year’s GTX 1080 outperforms it by a decent margin when it comes to games. The good thing is that the 1080 also retails for $600-$700, which is the same price point as the 980Ti, depending on the AIB partner.If you want a much cheaper card, then go for the GTX 1070 at roughly $400. An even cheaper option is the AMD RX480, which retails for $200-$250.Note that according to benchmarks done by JayzTwoCents, two 8GB RX480s running into Crossfire will produce better performance in some titles than the GTX 1070.Either of the suggested cards will be plenty for your gaming needs.
PSU and Case
There are plenty of outfits offering PSU-case combos. If possible, do not go for these combos and pick your PSU separate from the case. You’ll want an 80+ gold certified PSU and a spacious case since you’ll be mounting monstrous graphics cards in there, especially if you opted for Nvidia cards.
All that hardware will go to waste without a proper gaming monitor. The size of the monitor and the resolution you’ll play at will be dependent on the hardware you have and the type of games you want to play. You’ll obviously have lesser restrictions on the resolution if you’ve got dual RX480s, a GTX 1080 or a GTX 1070.Ideally, you’ll want a monitor between 24-27-inches that has 144 Hz refresh rate and 1ms response time. Opting for the fast IPS panels, which have better displays than TN panels, wouldn’t hurt as long as the response time and input lag are low enough.
Most 24-inch monitors run natively on 1080p while 27-inch monitors will be at 1440p. Both 1080p and 1440p are ideal for shooter games and MOBAs. The mentioned graphics cards will have no problem producing 144 fps for Dota 2, CS: GO and League of Legends, even with everything maxed out.Bear in mind that these monitors can get really pricey with features such as G-Sync. They can sell anywhere from $500-$800. Without G-Sync, there are plenty of 27-inch 144 Hz 1ms monitors for roughly $200.For open-world games such as GTA V, having a 4K monitor creates a more immersive experience. However, be prepared to pay a premium for them, especially for curved ones that are over 30 inches.