Building a Gaming PC
Well, it's 2008. And there is no better time than now to get a gaming machine. Even for those without deep pockets, there are gaming machines that you can build yourself. The advantage to building it yourself, of course, rather than simply buying a Dell or Alienware gaming machine, is the lower price and faster shipping.
The lower price is because you don't need to pay for it to be put together; you're doing that yourself. And the shipping is far faster because, once again, they don't need to build it for you. This is a comprehensive guide, starting from an explanation of all the parts inside a computer, where and how to buy them, and the process of actually building the computer. Keep in mind that for any part you buy, besides the things to check that I list below, make sure that the brand is reputable, and that the part is compatible with anything it's connected to. I can't tell you how many stories I've heard about people buying incompatible parts and having to deal with returning them and buying new parts. All the parts that I have selected as recommendations are already checked for these things, but if you wish to buy a different part you'll need to check this yourself. At the end of this guide, you will have built yourself a great gaming machine in your budget range.
For computer pricing purposes, we'll be using newegg.com, a premier site for buying individual computer parts. Their prices are generally decent (although people on Ebay.com will often give better prices).
We'll show you 2 gaming computers built with the best parts at various price ranges: Basic Gaming and High-End Gaming. Let's take a look at just what's inside a computer:
The computer processor is an important part of building any computer. It is, in essence, the computer's brain. There are four big factors to take into account whenever you select a processor for your computer. The first is the type. There are two types of processor today, AMD and Intel. Both have positives and negatives which should impact your decision. Generally, AMD are cheaper than Intel processors of similar standards and achieve similar results for gaming purposes. However, there are also areas in which the Intel surpasses the AMD, such as video rendering and and music encoding. The Intel processor will also generally consume less power than an AMD processor of similar speed. It's all about trade-offs, and neither can claim total superiority.
The second factor you'll need to take into consideration is the number of "cores" in the processor. Each core can only do one process at a time. If you run two programs at the same time with a single core, it will quickly go back and forth between processing those programs to create the illusion that it's processing both at the same time. Today, we have dual-core processors. For obvoius reasons, having two processors give instructions in the computer is more beneficial than just one processor (single-core). For truly high-end machines, there are also quad-core processors. Unfortunately, right now most computer games aren't designed to take advantage of multi-core processors. In the near future, however, games will be specifically engineered to fully utilize dual-core and quad-core processors, and in preparation for that it's vital to make sure that your computer comes equipped with one of them.
The third factor you'll need to consider is speed. The concept itself is simple really: generally, all other things being equal, the higher number the faster it goes (go figure...). Keep in mind that this is different than it being dual-core. Dual-core allows two different programs to actually run simultaneously, while the processing speed defines how fast it can actually process the program. Both are important factors for gaming.
The fourth and final factor you'll need to consider is whether to use a 32-bit or a 64-bit processor. Put simply, 64-bit is newer, although some older games aren't compatible with it. So long as you're planning on using relatively newer games, 64-bit processors won't be a problem. And they're definately recommended, since in a few years 32-bit will fade our more and more.
How to Install the CPU
If the processor is the brain of the computer, the motherboard is the body. It provides a single piece for all the various parts of the computer to connect to. To the right is a simple diagram with a basic motherboard shown. The motherboard choice should be based on your processor choice. Not all motherboards are compatible with all processors, and an AMD-compatible motherboard is never compatible with an Intel processor and vice versa.
For the motherboard, the requirements are a bit simpler than the processor. You need to make sure that the processor is compatible, that the motherboard is from a reputable company, that it's gotten good reviews from other buyers (generally 4/5 stars), and finally that it has PCI Express slots.
RAM stands for Random Access Memory. It's temporary memory that the computer uses while running programs, especially games. It's also volatile memory, so when the computer is turned off, all information in the RAM is erased. Having more RAM will all you to store more information at one time, without having to constantly update what's there. Put simply, More Ram = Better Game Performance.
There are many different kinds of RAM. To go over all the different kinds could be an article unto itself, and quite a large one at that. Suffice it to say, the primary concern is that the RAM is compatible with the motherboard, since each motherboard also has it's own RAM requirements.
The Hard Drive
The Hard Drive is the primary means of permanent storage on a computer. Anything that you save, from music to documents to games, are all saved onto your hard drive. Having a big hard drive is important for gaming, since today's games are quite large in size and will only get bigger. Besides size, you also need to make sure that your hard drive has a high RPM (Rotations Per Minute) so that large amounts of information can be accessed quickly. A reputable brand is certainly also a good idea.
The Video Card
THIS is the bread-and-butter of any true gaming machine. While the processor might handle such tasks as the A.I. and gaming physics, the video card handles the most important part in today's games: the graphics. You could have a top-notch processor, RAM, and hard drive, but a crappy video card will put it all to waste. Some motherboards have something called Integrated Graphics, which is basically a video card integrated into the motherboard. WARNING: This is utterly terrible for gaming purposes and should never be used.
On any video card, the two factors to consider are video memory, and external ports. Video cards have their own memory like RAM, but gaming requires intense graphics rendering which the video memory is especially efficient with, and you need a powerful video card to handle this. The other thing to consider is external ports. For older monitors, the VGA connection is used, and for newer ones the DVI connection is used. Some video cards only have one, some have both. Either way, you need to make sure that your monitor has the right one.
Computer Games Today: Call of Duty 4
The monitors we will be using are LCD monitors. These are the new, thin, flat monitors. The older monitors are CRT, and use technology similar to older television sets. For a monitor there are few additional requirements beyond the basics listed up top. The two primary concerns are resolution and response rates. You'll want a high maximum resolution, and a low response rate. Both are listed at any detailed site for any piece of computer equipment.
The Sound Card + Speakers
Sound is important in gaming. Why spend thousands of $$$ if it won't just look good, but sound good as well? Most motherboards have onboard sound, akin to integrated graphics, but once again this is usually pretty mediocre. If you're going to buy surround sound (described below), make sure your sound card is compatible.
The sound card might process what sounds should be played from the rest of the computer, but it's the speakers that actually give you sound. The big choices here are whether to get a subwoofer, whether to get surround sound, and whether to go wireless. It's all price, really, for speakers.
The case stores everything inside it (just about). The biggest concerns about the case are size and aesthetics. Gaming PC's will usually need bigger cases since they'll have some power-hungry and larger parts in them. As for aesthetics, that's all up to the buyer. Generic cases can be bought for as little as $10, but some stylish cases cost over $200.
User-Built Gaming Machine
The Power Supply
Many novice buyers will sometimes be cheap with their power supply since other parts can be a bit pricey. This item is NOT, however, something you can cut corners with!! For gaming especially, you need a large power supply, end of story. Sometimes, cases will come with a basic power supply. Unfortunately, these will not usually provide enough power for your gaming needs. You will need to buy a power supply separately. The primary concern is the number of Watts it produces.
The Operating System
The choice for all the computers is Windows XP. Windows XP is far and away the better choice for gaming right now over Windows Vista. There are still too many games, even new ones, that just aren't Vista-compatible. Also, Vista has yet to recieve enough security updates to be considered truly secure. It will still be a few years before many businesses transfer to the new Operating System.
Peripherals and More
These are a few additional items that are needed with your gaming computer.
This is the website where all pricing information is based off of. If you cannot find a better price on Ebay (definately take a look), I would highly recommend buying from them.
Selecting The Parts
Hopefully by now, you've become well-versed in what to look for in your computer parts. Below, I have recommended parts for two different computers that I've built at different budgets. In this next section, I'll first list the recommended part for the Basic machine, then the High-End machine.
The Basic Gaming Machine: $1500
Don't be misled: this is a gaming computer. It will be able to play the games you want to right now. This is also the gaming rig for the guy on a budget. If you want to go cheaper than the computer described here, it is possible but don't expect to play the latest and greatest games well, even with low graphics settings. It's good to remember, though, that with this machine you wont be able to max out graphical settings like resolution, anti-ailising, or anisotropic filtering.
The Power Gaming Machine: $3500
This computer will play anything. You'll be able to max out your settings on any game out today, and this will be able to handle games for the next 5 years to come easy. Some parts are not the #1 performer on the market today, but they are all excellent for gaming. Buying those slightly better performers will often bring up the price by thousands of dollars, so unless you're willing to spend $6000+, this computer will do everything you need.
Basic Gaming: AMD Athlon 64 X2 5600 ($139.99)
This is a solid processor for gaming. It's very affordable, and will play most games well, if not at top resolution, and is a dual-core. It consistently gets superb reviews from buyers and should be a welcome economic addition to anyone's budget gaming rig.
Power Gaming: Intel Core 2 Quad Q6700 Kentsfield 2.66GHz ($539.99)
This is almost #1 on Intel desktop processor power on the market today. And it's cost shows it :) At quad-core power, it will be able to take advantage of the newest games that utilize 4 cores. Outperforming almost anything else on the market, this is a monster among monsters.
Basic Gaming: ASUS M2N-SLI Deluxe ($129.99)
Far and away a fantastic motherboard. It has expansion ports of all shapes and sizes, and gets great customer feedback from whoever buys it. Combined with the processor above, you're sure to get a machine that can hold it's own while gaming.
Power Gaming: ASUS Striker Extreme ($289.99)
This motherboard is specifically designed for gaming. It has all it needs to create the ultimate gaming rig. With PCI and PCI x16 Express slots, as well as SLI capabilities and up to 8 GB of ram, nothing will be outside of your reach.
Basic Gaming: CORSAIR XMS2 2GB DDR2-800 240-pin(2x 1GB) WIN2X2048-6400C5DHX ($53.00)
This RAM is great on a budget. 2 GB will work well enough for games. Plus, the motherboard has expansion for another 2 GB later if you wish to expand your RAM in the future.
Power Gaming: CORSAIR 4GB DDR2-800 240-pin(2 x 2GB) (2x $119.00)
2GB is acceptable for gaming, but 8GB is incredible. With 8GB and a Quad core processor, you could run 2 games simultaneously with no delay. Also, with CORSAIR memory you know you're getting a good product with a good warranty.
Basic Gaming: Seagate Barracuda 320GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA ($84.99)
This is a fine hard drive. At 7200 RPM, it's a suitable speed for gaming, and with 320 GB of space it should last for a while without getting full. If we assume that the average new game these days is 5 GB (a high estimate), you could fit 64 different full games onto it.
Power Gaming : Seagate Barracuda ES.2 ST31000340NS 1TB SATA ($329.99)
This is a massive hard drive. With a 7200 RPM SATA connection and a 32 MB Cache, this monster will be able to hold anything you want it to. Few people can fill an entire terabyte in the entire life of the hard drive.
Basic Gaming: EVGA 768-P2-N831-AR GeForce 8800GTX 768MB ($469.99)
This is from the GeForce 8800GTX series, the top line of graphics cards available today. With 786 MB of video memory, and a reputable company like ASUS, this thing will work for any games. Even though this is a budget gaming computer, this video card is anything BUT budget. Gaming primarily requires a powerful video card, and this is exactly what this computer gets.
Power Gaming: (2x) EVGA 768-P2-N831-AR GeForce 8800GTX 768MB ($469.99 each)
These video cards have a special technology to them called SLI which allow you to "bridge" two of them together (connector included with video card) into one monitor. In effect, it will give you 1.5 GB of video processing technology. If a single top series video card is good, two of them together will blow away anything imaginable. Stress test it as much as you like and it won't slow down for anything.
Basic Gaming: HP L1906 Silver-Black 19" 5ms LCD Monitor ($229.99)
This is a great gaming monitor. It has a relatively quick response time, which means that data sent to it from the various parts of the computer will have a quicker response time. 19" is also great for gaming.
Power Gaming: SAMSUNG 245BW Black 24" 5ms DVI ($409.99 after rebate)
This 24" monster is about as large as monitors come without getting exhorbitantly expensive. You'll be able to look at anything with a fantastic defautl resolution of 1920 x 1200. Also, since it's widescreen you'll be able to watch DVD's in their native settings.
Basic Gaming: Creative Sound Blaster SB0570 Audigy ($27.99)
This sound card will give you grerat sound for all your gaming needs. Also, it's surround sound compatible, so at a later date you can buy surround sound.
Power Gaming: Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi XtremeGamer 7.1 ($80.99)
This is a true gaming sound card. It is capable of all kinds of surround sound up to 7.1, and it will give games a deep and rich sound around the room.
Basic Gaming: Logitech S-220 2.1 Multimedia Speaker System ($22.99)
These speakers will work well. Also, they have a subwoofer, which will be able to provide you with some deeper sound capabilities. Logitech is a superb company for sound equipment, and great for gaming purposes.
Power Gaming: Logitech THX Z-5300e 280 Watts RMS 5.1 ($134.99)
With surround sound and THX certified, these little babies will provide all the sound you need.
Basic Gaming: COOLER MASTER Centurion 5 CAC-T05-UW Black ($44.99)
This case is a Mid Tower. It has 2 fans included with it, which is very important in a gaming computer, which will be creating a lot of heat. Along with the power supply fan and the processor fan, the computer should have more than enough airflow to keep it cool.
Power Gaming: Antec Performance One P180 Silver cold rolled steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case ($114.99)
This case is a sleek silver, and includes 3 additional internal fans. Looks aestheically pleasing and not squarish and bulky like some of the more generic cases today. With all that cooling, it will make sure that there are no overheating problems.
Basic Gaming: SAMSUNG Black 20X DVD+R Burner ($27.99)
A great CD/DVD Burner at a great price. Can't be beat. With DVD-Burner capabilities, you can copy your games to create backup copies.
Power Gaming: ASUS 20X DVD±R DVD Burner with LightScribe Black SATA Model DRW-2014L1T + ASUS Black SATA DVD-ROM Drive Model DVD-E616A3T($38.99 + $20.99 respectively)
With two DVD drives (one being a DVD-Burner), you'll be able to burn directly from disk to disk without saving it onto your hard drive first. This allows for faster burning.
Basic Gaming: Broadway Com Corp Okia-black-650 ATX 650W Power Supply ($54.99)
This is a hefty 650W power supply. Nothing less should be used in a gaming computer, especially if you plan on possibly upgrading some parts in the computer in the future.
Power Gaming: SILVERSTONE OP1000 ATX 12V 2.2 1000W ($219.99 after rebate)
Nothing less should be used in such a powerful gaming machine. 1000W will give you enough power for this computer, and many future upgrades. It's also been specially approved to work well with SLI that consumes quite a bit of power. The biggest downside of such a power supply, really, is that it's big. With a solid 5-star rating at NewEgg, and it being my own power supply that has lasted for quite a while, you can be rest assured that it will handle all your gaming needs.
Keyboard & Mouse:
Basic Gaming: Logitech 967740-0403 Black Keyboard + Logitech MX518 Gaming Mouse ($9.25 + $39.99 respectively)
The mouse is important in gaming. Generic mouses just won't cut it when you'll need sensitivity adjusted and more. There are some mouses that are simply fantastic for gaming, and this mouse is one of them. Winning multiple awards, and my personal mouse of choice, it will certainly serve any gamer well.
Power Gaming: Ideazon Merc Stealth Illuminated Gaming Keyboard- ZXP-2000 + Logitech MX518 Gaming Mouse ($74.99+$39.99 respectively)
The same mouse is used, because simply put it's just a fantastic mouse at an amazing price. The keyboard, however, is a specialized gaming keyboard. It will help to enhance your gaming experience. With special function buttons that you can just about program to do whatever you like, and a specialized area which is especially good with dungeon crawling games, this keyboard certainly won' disappoint.
Both: Microsoft Windows XP Professional 64Bit SP2C - OEM ($139.99)
Windows XP is far and away the choice for gaming right now. At a later time you will be able to upgrade to Windows Vista if you want to. With it being 64-bit, you might have some problems with older games but at least it won't become incompatible for newer games (64-bit will be phasing out 32-bit).
The other reason not to pick Windows Vista is security. Windows XP didnt really become secure until they released Service Pack 2, and that was years after it was released. Windows Vista isn't at that stage ye. Nothing will be made for at least 8-10 years that won't be XP Compatible anyway so no harm done.
Price vs. Alienware:
Basic Gaming: Aurora 7500 (Customized to compare) $2,373.00
The Aurora 7500 is one of Alienware's starter level gaming computers. It has all the customization items required to match up against our personally-built Gaming Computer, but costs $873 more.
Power Gaming: Alienware Area-51 7500 (Customized to compare) $4,776.00
The Area-51 7500 is actually not their top gaming computer. It's their mid-range gaming machine. It compares similarly to our Power Gaming machine, although it costs about $1150 more than our personally-built computer does. Alienware computers have a good reputation of quality. If you are ok with spending $6000+, you will likely be able find find a better machine than the one built here. Nevertheless, they and other computer resellers prey on the fact that they don't believe most users are able or willing to build their own machines.
Our Total Prices
Basic Gaming: $1476.13 (less with mail-in rebates)
We stayed within the $1500 budget. Most likely, shipping and mail-in rebates will cancel eachother out, so the computer will cost about $1500 in the end. Compared even to relatively well-priced Dell gaming machines, this is far cheaper and specially designed for gaming.
Power Gaming: $3613.85
Well, unlike our Basic Gaming machine, it wasn't exactly within budget, coming out about $100 over what we were looking for. Some people would ask "why not downgrade a few parts and save $100?" Well, for me at least, I hate cutting corners at anything I do. This is a fantastic gaming computer, and cutting anything from it would just hurt it's performance. Even going $113.85 over budget, comparing it to it's Alienware counterpart, we can see a great price disparity. If you want to try to find lower prices, EBay may have your solution. I have yet to find a game out today that will not play amazingly well on this machine.
Whichever compuer you choose, you'll be well on your way to a superb gaming experience. If you want to change out the recommended parts I selected with one of your own, remember to look at all the important features I wrote about, especially compatibility. Also, make sure you check the ebay listings throughout the page. They'll oftentimes have even better prices than NewEgg, and will allow you to make your computer even cheaper. Hope you have a good time :) Feel free to post comments I love to hear feedback.
Last Upated January 28, 2008
More Information on Building a Gaming Computer
This site has many computer games for sale. Once you have built the computer, you'll certainly need the games. This is your place.
If nothing else, this is a great website to visit. It has a program called 3D Mark 06, which is the premier full gaming rig test in today's market. Also, there's a free version, so you really shouldn't have ANY excuse NOT to go here!!
Do you have a massive budget? Well this will certainly fix that. Some of the high-end machines on this site are even better than the Power Gaming machine described here, although they'll cost you an arm and a leg. For those of us who MUST have the
- Tom's Hardware
Tom's Hardware Guide is the Internet's premiere resource for hardware news and reviews. Honestly, they have many great reviews on some of the products listed in our gaming PC's.
This is the site where all prices were obtained. If you can't find the item you're looking for on Ebay (or feel uncomfortable on Ebay), this will probably be your cheapest choice. Their shipping rates are also fantastic and quick to anywhere in the
- Vigor Gaming
Vigor Gaming has some superb gaming computers for sale. However, like Alienware, be prepared to pay a heck of a lot more.
This is a great website for many different items. Although they don't have a great selection of computer parts, their prices are extremely competitive, and may even sometimes beat NewEgg.
This site is good for basic computer equipment link monitors, but keep in mind that they don't give nearly as much information as NewEgg.com
Tiger Direct is a site very similar to NewEgg.com If you want to look for a better deal, you should also try Tiger Direct.
- Putting the Computer Together
Ok, so you've bought all the parts...now what? This is a great guide to putting it all together. Even experienced computer builders should take a look at this site. It has clear instructions on how to do it, so make sure you adhere to what it says
- Making Money Online
WAIT!! It's not a scam, it's a fellow Hubbers article, one of the top ones on Hubpages. Actually read it...it's quite good.