I’m shopping for a gaming PC, and it’s been a challenge. In the process, I’ve learned a few things which I’d like to share with you.
Don’t get me wrong, owning a MacBook Air is great. But OS X has never been great about gaming. Apple’s sleek machines just aren’t built to be power-hungry graphics powerhouses (outside of Mac Pros). Thus, the gaming PC.
Shopping for a gaming PC has taught me a lot. It’s not easy to get into building your own computer, especially if you don’t know how to do it right. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.
Take it with a grain of salt, as I am a newbie to building a gaming PC. Veterans, feel free to sound off in the comments below.
Do These 3 Things Before Building a Gaming PC
Research and Read (a lot) before buying
These are the three biggest things you can do to make your search for the perfect gaming PC easier- read, read, read.
PC gamers are passionate about their hobby and they love to share it with others. After all, the only thing more fun than building a gaming PC is posting your build online to show it off to everyone else.
/r/BuildAPC, Tom’s Hardware and PCPartPicker are incredibly helpful resources for people who are getting started and don’t know where to look. Part manufacturers seem to have taken it upon themselves to make naming and research as confusing as possible (more on that in a minute), so having someone help you through the process is a godsend.
Once you’ve settled on a build that seems reasonable and is rated to play your favorite games, toss it out on one of the forums for help. Just be honest that you’re a first-timer and people should help you. Probably.
Researching parts is comparing apples and horses
This is one of the most annoying parts of learning about PC components. They all use long, confusing names that sounded cool on paper to some marketing department but mean nothing to a layman. How am I supposed to compare an AMD Athlon X4 860K 3.7GHz quad-core processor to an Intel Core i3–4170 3.7GHz dual-core processor without an engineering degree?
The best way is to find reviews for each product and compare benchmarks. You can also make an educated guess based on the brand and when it was made (newer chips tend to be faster… I think).
According to this helpful guide, Intel chips tend to have fewer cores, but these cores are pound-for-pound more powerful than an AMD equivalent. AMD processors tend to use more cores that are less powerful. Newer games that are built to take advantage of multi-threaded computing can take advantage of this, but a lot of older titles tend toward the single-threaded life.
Single-threaded means they only use one core at a time, and if we’re getting into single-core performance then Intel comes out on top.
Another thing to look out for is the difference between generations. An i3 isn’t the same as an i3 released several years before because of Intel’s chip generations.
Really, the whole thing is a confusing mess for newcomers. There’s just no quick-and-dirty way to compare parts that I’ve found. If there is, please let me know in the comments. I could use it.
You may be better off on a Console
This is something I considered long and hard before keeping on with an attempt to purchase a PC. Consoles are plug-and-play. They offer (mostly) seamless gaming without any of the hassles of checking system requirements and downloading drivers.
I say that with a grain of salt because consoles seem to be emulating the worst of PCs in the last few years. Constant updates and patches used to only be something you saw on bad PC games. Using a console is not frictionless.
Your choice of platform is a personal one, in the end. If your friends are on Xbox Live and want you there so everyone can play Destiny together, the answer is obvious.
I value my Steam library and certain PC games (Hearthstone, Civilization V, Undertale) too much to leave that ecosystem. But really think about whether going PC is the best choice for you before buying.
Do you have tips for building a good gaming PC? Let us know in the comments!