I’ve often been asked how to build a quality gaming computer or workstation. While there are many things you need to consider, one of the most important is your foundation or motherboard and processor. You also need to know what you want to play(or a general idea) or applications to run. Let’s take a dive and look into this, I’ll also provide some images from my latest upgrade/build.
The first question you should ask yourself is where this PC will go. Is this going to be connected to your TV as part of your home entertainment system or on a desk with a monitor.This will help you determine the size of the case you need. Home entertainment PCs are typically in smaller cases due to space constraints. These are best built with a mITX form factor, but can be more challenging to build. If this is your goal, be sure to get a solid case and mITX motherboard. Also do the research to make sure the components you want will fit. When looking for a case, I look to Fractal Design and Antec.
Most of the time, I start with the processor. The brains, the engine, etc. Since we are looking at gaming or high performance this is easy. The simple answer is an Intel Core i7 or AMD FX series. With current models available, I prefer Intel. You’ll notice there are many models of each of those available. The range in GHz, number of cores, and cache; the larger those number the faster and more powerful they are. Choose one that you feel will fit your needs, then go one step up. You’ll likely spend a big chunk on this one component alone, don’t worry- this is one of the most important part of your computer.
Next you’ll need to select a motherboard. You know your processor and that tells you the socket type you need to look for. For example the Core i7-6700k uses a socket of LGA1151. Motherboards will also have different chipset options from model to model. When building for gaming or solid/high end workstations I recommend the best chipset for that series. It’s like building a house, if your foundation is not strong enough-you may be in trouble. Many motherboards have lots of extra features and may or not require certain add-on cards for you needs. For gaming, make sure your motherboard supports at least 2 pci express x16 slots for video cards. You may end up only using one, but having that option is important. What if a new game comes out you want tot play, but requires a more powerful video card solution. You now can upgrade the card or add a second one. Most motherboards will have a quality sound card built in, but if you want the best that usually requires an add on card. Consider this when selecting your motherboard. You also want to consider how many drives you plan on connecting, both optical and disk based. I always go with ASUS for my boards.
Now that we have these two critical parts planned out; let’s look at the video card. Currently I recommend AMD and have found them better than the competition in most cases. First, look at the most demanding game you think you’d want to play. What does it require in graphics performance? Use this as a baseline. You do not want any card lower than that baseline and I recommend going at least two models higher to give you some leg room. AMD’s new Fury line is looking very promising. XFX typically has some of the best cards and warranties.
Storage. You want to game and that means we need speed. First you’ll want an SSD for your OS. For best performance use a PCI Express SSD. Intel currently has the best drives in both PCI Express and 2.5in. Again I recommend going for the best that you can. As far as storage for games, files, and other things use a high speed hard drive such as the WD Raptor series or just use a large SSD.
Next you’ll look at RAM. RAM is your temporary storage for files that are in use. For gaming you’ll want at least 8GB if not more. Take a look back at the specifications of your motherboard. It will list the clock speed and even have a list online of tested RAM modules. Go for the fastest clock speed modules supported by your motherboard. You may consider overclocking, but that is usually much more work. I usually go with Corsair
Now that you have your components figured out, we have one last part. The power supply or PSU. This is pretty easy do a web search for PSU Calculator. Find two from component manufactures and enter your components. It will tell you how much wattage is needed for your system. I always add at least 200w to that for my selection and prefer Fractal Design or Antec. Also make sure the model you choose has proper connections to power all your devices. Modular PSUs typically do and are better for cable management.