Not your 1990s gaming PC
The phrase “PC gaming” may bring to mind Oregon Trail, displayed in Apple II font in all its glorious green text glory.
PCs for gaming have come a long way since those days in terms of technology powering game development, and the components that influence today’s best gaming PCs.
There’s a lot that goes into PC gaming, including your internet connection. Along with the best internet speed for gaming, you also need to think about if you’re going to build it yourself or dish out some cold, hard cash for the latest, most advanced model. Either way, there’s definitely a lot to consider. Here’s a rundown of what you need to know to get the most out of your gaming PC.
Graphics Cards: From Bits to Visually Stunning Scenery
According to Joel Santo Domingo of PC Magazine, the graphics card as the “most pivotal decision.” The graphics card, or Graphics Processing Unit (GPU), helps convert data into images that you see, and interact with on your monitor.
As technology has advanced, so have GPUs. Today’s PC games, like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt or Dying Light, feature characters and scenery that looks life-like. This is quite the leap from the boxy, jigsaw-shaped graphics seen in Oregon Trail.
To get the most out of the stunning visuals and minute details for a better gaming experience, you want a powerful GPU. Nvidia and AMD are the big players in the graphics card arena. As such, they’ve released numerous GPUs over the years. Matt Smith of Digital Trends recommends staying away from Nvidia GPUs with model numbers that contain 20, 30, or 40, and avoiding AMD model numbers that contain 4, 5, or 6.
Depending on the type of gaming you do, if you’ll be using multiple monitors or only one, or if you are building your own gaming PC, GPUs can run anywhere from $99.99 to over $600.
Processors: The Workhorse
The Central Processing Unit (CPU) is the beating heart of any PC. While the GPU makes game play visually enjoyable, the CPU does all the work of making play itself enjoyable. Syncing music with actions, character movement, whether or not you’ve hit your targets, managing load screens, and all those other functions that happen in the background are all handled by the CPU.
When it comes to who has the best reputation in the industry, Intel is leading the charge. Particularly its i7 Core lines of processors (for those with a little more cash to spend), and its i5 Core processors (for the more budget conscious).
RAM: Get What You Need.
It stands to reason that more RAM means better gaming, but according to Hardware Secrets, that’s not the case. Why? Because most of game processing is executed by the video card, so more RAM just adds to the price tag without improving game play.
So, get the amount of RAM you need, which generally is 8GB, though some suggest 16GB. It’s best to look at the kind of gaming you do, and go from there.
To SSD or Not SSD?
The consensus is yes, get a solid-state drive (SSD). They’re quicker, so you get faster everything: boot times, launch times, and load times for things like new levels. The question, then, becomes one of a size. The general rule of thumb is no less than 200GB. One reason for this is that you want the SSD to also have the operating system, and with Windows, that takes up space. A smaller SSD with Windows leaves little room for its purpose: games.
You’ll also want to consider any extras or peripherals, like keyboards, mice, monitors, headsets, and even virtual reality. Will you use a dual-monitor, or multi-monitor setup? Do you want a wireless keyboard or wired keyboard, and do you want a keyboard specifically for gaming? Do you want to start playing games in virtual reality?
Consider the type of gaming you do now, and the type of gaming you want to participate in the future, and either build your own or purchase one that fits your needs. PC Gamer provides you with a list of components to build your own, as does PC World, along with more in-depth tips on what to look for in each component. If you’re looking to purchase one, check out the review of best gaming PC desktops on PC Mag.
*Frontier has conducted impartial research to recommend products. This is not a guarantee. Each individual’s unique needs should be considered when deciding on chosen products.