I’ve been really interested in gaming desktops recently, wasting an ungodly amount of time watching YouTube builds, especially on channels like Linus Tech Tips. I’ve learnt quite a few things on the subject lately. Here’s some things to take into consideration if you’re looking to build or buy a gaming desktop (or laptop). This post is mainly aimed at inexperienced PC enthusiasts.
1. You don’t need the latest and greatest
Unless you have a very deep wallet, you’re going to want to keep your budget restricted. One way to do this is to look for less expensive components, and this definitely isn’t a huge deal. Take Intel’s i5 8600K for example: It costs $250 on Amazon, and can handle pretty much anything you can throw at it. But the i5 8400 costs $180 and will play most games with just a few less frame rates then the 8600K will. Not to mention that the 8600K will need a more expensive fan in order to keep it cool enough so it doesn’t bottle neck.
Sure, the 8600K is better, but do you really need to buy it or do you just want to say that you have something better than the 8400?
The same thing goes for all components: Do you really need an Nvidia GTX 1080 or will a 1060 do just fine? Spoiler alert: unless you have a 2K monitor and a very good CPU, you will be just fine getting the 1060.
Again, if your budget allows for it, go all out, but don’t feel pressured to get the cutting-edge components.
2. i7’s are NOT as better than i5’s as you think they are
The main difference between the i7’s and the i5’s is that the i7’s have more cores than the i5’s. This means that the i7 chip will handle multitasking better if you’re pushing it hard, like playing a modern game while streaming it to Twitch. Some gaming titles also work better with more CPU cores.
However, chances are that you’re not streaming while playing a resource intense game like The Witcher 3. This means that an i5 will suffice just fine for you. Don’t feel discouraged getting it because “i7” sounds better. Of course, if you can afford it, get the i7, but you’re not going to see a big performance improvement in most cases.
3. There’s more to a CPU than just it’s frequency (gHz)
A big mistake that a lot of people make is judging a CPU only by its clock speed. This is denoted by numbers like “2.9 gHz” or “4.2 gHz”. A higher number does not necessarily mean that it is more powerful and better than a CPU with a lower frequency. You have to take into consideration the year of release, generation, cores, architecture, and quite a few more specs to be able to see which is one is better.
You can tell which CPU is better by comparing them on a site like userbenchmark.com, or by looking at the price as the more expensive one will typically be more powerful.
4. Generation matters
The generation of a component is when in time that component is released. For example, an i5 3330 was released in 2012, and an i5 8400 was released in 2018.
You’d definitely want the latest generation of a CPU as they improve quite drastically over even just a year. For example, an i5 8600K is 3% better than an i7 6900K. 2 years difference, and one of the best CPU’s of the time is now inferior to a modern i5.
The same thing applies for RAM, graphics cards, and all the other components.
5. One size does not fit all
You cannot simply buy any random component and expect it to fit into your motherboard. Every component can only fit into a specific sized slot, and these connection types differ with each generation in most components. For example, you cannot buy DDR4 RAM if the motherboard you have can only support DDR3 RAM. Likewise, you cannot buy an i5 8th Generation processor if the slot is only designed for older CPU’s.
You should consult a website like PC Part Picker to check compatibility across components.
6. Check if the components will bottleneck each other
It’s no good having a gaming PC with a top-of-the-line graphics card that has a mediocre CPU. It’s like having a car with a Ferrari engine but with square wheels. The wheels will severely hold up the performance in this car even though it has other really good parts.
You can check your components for bottlenecking with thebottlenecker.com. Try match components together as best as possible to get the most value. If push comes to shove, you should take a more powerful CPU over a more powerful graphics card as the CPU takes a heavier load most of the time (but still try get them matched).