If you’re in the market for a new gaming computer, you may be wondering whether you should buy it outright or build it yourself. There are pros and cons on both sides, and you should consider what your goals are when deciding between the two.
We’ve pulled together some information to help you better understand the components of a gaming PC to help you decide the best way to allocate your gaming computer dollars.
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Buy vs. Build a Gaming Computer – Which Is Better?
As we already mentioned there are pros and cons to building your own gaming PC. Let’s look briefly at what they are.
- It’s cheaper in the long run. Actually, building is almost always more of an expense upfront, but when you are able to hand-pick each component of your PC, you end up with a better-quality machine overall. This means parts won’t break and need replacing down the road.
- It’s easier to fix. You were the one who built it, so you know what’s going on and how to replace it. (You’ll probably have some extra parts lying around from the build as well.)
- You get street cred for building your own PC. I mean, you did it yourself! How awesome is that?
- It’s more expensive up front.
- There is more room for user error. So much of your new machine is unknown, so there is a learning curve when figuring it out.
- The parts aren’t always ideally compatible. Factory computers with stock parts often have components that are well-tested together. A custom-built computer doesn’t have the luxury of compatibility testing each part, so do your research to see if others have experienced compatibility issues in the past.
What about buying a ready-made gaming PC?
- You can plug and play. If you’re itching to get gaming, just unpack the box and plug it in.
- Quick delivery. No need to wait for individual pieces to ship in the mail.
- It’s cost effective. The overall cost of the unit will be much lower because factories can buy parts in bulk and pass the savings on to you.
- Repairs are difficult, and problems aren’t always easy to diagnose.
- Build quality is not as good. Companies often skimp in certain areas to keep costs down.
- There aren’t many configurations to choose from. Choices are limited.
Understanding the Components of a Gaming PC
So, what are the different components of a typical gaming PC? Let’s define them briefly.
- Processor – otherwise known as the central processing unit, or CPU. It’s the most important part of any computer. It is the main memory unit, the main control unit, and it processes all the data that is fed to it by the computer’s software.
- Motherboard – this is a small circuit board to which all other PC components connect.
- Graphics card – also known as the GPU. Its main function is to render images onto the computer’s display. A high-quality GPU is an essential component of a good gaming PC.
- Memory (RAM) – RAM stands for random-access memory. It’s essentially the short-term memory for your computer. Data hovers here in temporary storage until it can be stored onto the hard drive.
- Storage – this is where data gets stored in the long term. Unlike memory, it doesn’t get wiped out when the computer is turned off accidentally. Data can be stored in an internal hard drive or an external drive or disk.
- Power supply – not to be confused with the power cord. A PC’s power supply is an internal component that steadily converts AC current into DC to distribute throughout the unit.
- CPU coolers – processors generate a lot of heat, so they need to be kept cool to protect the computer. Coolers can use air (fans) or water to cool the system.
Graphics Processing Unit – GPU
The graphics processing unit was first designed as a way to render graphics in an accelerated way. This is because about two decades ago, the demands of 3D graphics applications were becoming more intense, especially in games, where real-time action was needed.
Fast-forward to today, and GPUs have come a long way. Modern GPUs are lightning fast and are able to process multiple images at the same time. They can be integrated with the computer’s CPU directly or connected via a PCI Express slot.
Central Processing Unit – CPU
This is the brain of your computer. All signals sent from hardware or software are received and processed by this unit
And like your brain, it controls all the other parts. It is located on the motherboard of the PC, and each socket is built with a pin layout to support a specific type of processor.
CPUs work really hard, and therefore generate a ton of heat, enough to do permanent damage to your computer. They need to be kept cool either with built-in fans and a ventilation system or with water-cooled coils that draw the heat away.
Hard Drive Storage – Standard or Solid State?
Hard drive storage comes in one of two forms: HDD (hard disk drive) and SSD (solid state drive). So, what’s the difference between the two, and which is better?
HDDs are the traditional option for hard drive storage, and until fairly recently, they were the only option for hard drive storage. They use mechanical parts to function, which makes them somewhat large and also fragile. However, they are very reliable, have a good lifespan, and are much more affordable than SSDs.
SSDs are smaller, sleeker and faster than HDDs because they use microchips rather than mechanical components to function. Their smaller size and relative sturdiness make them the better option for laptops, and their speed makes them a great option for gaming PCs as well. If you have room in your budget, it is best to spring for one of these rather than the HDD.
Temperature Control – Air vs. Water
We mentioned before that your CPU and other PC components will become very hot during heavy use. One thing you’ll need to decide when building or buying your new PC will be how you want it to keep itself cool.
Air cooling basically means there are fans strategically placed in the PC case to blow air onto and away from its parts. There is also an intake and exhaust in the design.
This works pretty well for everyday functioning, but if you plan to use your PC for gaming, you’ll want to consider a water-cooled option.
Liquid does a much better job of transferring heat away from objects than air does. It’s the difference between sitting in front of a fan to cool off versus jumping into a pool.
Why a Gaming Keyboard is Important
It may seem like any old keyboard should work just fine, but if you are a serious gamer, the quality of your keyboard really can make or break your gaming experience.
A keyboard is essentially an input device, and as a gamer, there needs to be a lightning-fast connection between the board and your CPU. Even a fraction of a second makes a difference during rapid combat situations.
Comfort is also a factor when you’re playing for extended periods, so don’t overlook it. Many keyboards are built with ergonomics in mind. Try out a few before you buy and see which one feels right to you.
I hope we’ve helped make things more clear as you save up for your gaming computer. Whether you decide to buy or build, you should feel empowered to make the choice that’s right for you, so you can spend your hard-earned cash to get exactly what you want.
Do you have any tips for how to allocate funds for your next gaming computer. We’d love to hear about them in the comments!