10 Things to Consider When Buying a Gaming PC – CPU, GPU, RAM, Monitor, Cooler and More

By | October 6, 2020

Buying or building a gaming pc needs planning, research, comparing and contrasting, and, if possible, testing out your options.

Many newbie gamers wonder whether to buy a pre-built PC or build one themselves. Self-built PCs are cheaper, and you get more control over the components of your gaming rig.

However, the process can be tedious since you would have to assemble the parts by yourself. If you run into problems with your custom-built gaming PC, you're on your own.

With pre-built gaming pcs you don't have to buy and assemble components yourself and you also get tech support from the manufacturer/seller.

Regardless of whether you’re buying a prebuilt PC or having your custom-made PC, here are ten most important things to consider to make the right purchase.

1. CPU

The CPU (Central Processing Unit) is the brain of the computer. A good modern CPU from Intel or AMD will give you decent gaming experience. For gaming you don't need a very powerful cpu. We recommend a 4 core/4 thread cpu as the bare minimum for entry level gaming.

For decent gaming performance with modern titles, we recommend 6 core/12 thread cpu. Anything higher will slightly improve the gaming performance but not very significantly, unless the game is specially developed to take advantage of multiple cores.

AMD vs Intel

If you're looking for a decent gaming rig, you’re going to need one that will run the latest and greatest games like "Shadow Of The Tomb Raider" and "Far Cry 5" with medium level graphics and decent FPS around 60.

When it comes to processors, Intel is considered the better option for gaming because of its slightly better single core performance. Since most games don't use multiple cores intensively, its only the single core performance of the cpu that matters.

However it should be noted that the difference is only very marginal (less than 10% in various tests) and given the better pricing of AMD cpus, you might consider AMD as well for the price to performance ratio.

Intel

Intel CPUs have better single core performance than AMD processors which results in sightly better gaming performance. With the K series of processors you can overclock as well to boost performance even further, if the rest of your hardware components can handle it.

If you're just looking for the best gaming performance and price is not a factor, then you can go for the latest generation of Intel CPUs.

For gaming we recommend Core i5-10600K or above. It is a 6core/12 thread 12MB Cache CPU, that is a great option for starters, entry level gamers and also competitive gamers.

You may wonder why we would even mention a Core i5 when the i7 and i9 are available options. Like mentioned before, you don't need a lot of cores for gaming. You might want to go for a 8 core/16 thread cpu but that is unlikely to improve gaming performance much.

Also take note of the generation of the CPU. Newer generations are superior in performance to older generation of CPUs.

A 7th generation Core i5 is better than a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd generation Core i7. If you’re going for a Core i7, your minimum specification should be a 7th generation Core i7 processor. Better yet, go all out and purchase a Core i9 if you can afford and willing to spend.

AMD

AMD CPUs generally offer more cores and/or threads than Intel CPUs per price point. They also offer more cache, faster support for memory, and PCIe (Peripheral Component Interconnect Express) 4.0. AMDs are also your best bet if you’re planning to build or acquire a mid-range gaming PC.

If you prefer AMDs, there are some great options for you. The flagship CPUs for AMD are the Ryzen series. For an AMD processor with satisfactory performance, you should be looking at Ryzen 5 3600 and above.

2. Graphics Card / GPU / Graphics Memory

After deciding on what CPU best suits your needs, it is time to focus on the next most important thing about your gaming PC - the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit).

Graphics Card is actually the most important component of a gaming PC, simply because you can't run games without it. Except for old titles, all modern 3d games need a dedicated graphics card to run properly.

Though you could game with Integrated GPU that comes with some Intel (HD graphics) and AMD (Vega) processors, but igpus are usually at the bottom level in terms of performance. You would have to run your games at the lowest graphics settings and resolution.

Currently, Nvidia GPUs are the most popular in the market. AMD also has its Radeon gpu series as a strong competitors.

Nvidia vs Radeon

The gpus are used by graphics card manufacturers like Gigabyte, Asus, EVGA, XFX and MSI to make a complete graphics card that can be installed on our systems.

As a general rule of thumb, more expensive graphics cards will have more powerful gpus and more graphics memory delivering superior performance. However it is quite difficult to accurately determine which graphics card would let you play your favorite games.

Nvidia GPUs

Nvidia gpus are available in all budget ranges from inexpensive to premium. For entry level budget gamers the GeForce series gpus are quite suitable which include the - GTX 1030, 1050, 1650, 1660, 1660 Ti gpus.

For more competitive gamers looking for high fps and superior graphics the higher end gpus like GTX 1080 Ti, RTX 2060, 2070, 2080 are recommended.

Beyond these gpus, Nvidia has recently launched the GEFORCE RTX 3080 series (based on the new Ampere architecture) which offer much superior graphics performance than RTX 2080, at a cheaper price. This is the option for ultimate gamers who want super high fps and high quality textures with ray tracing, and other effects.

In general as the price increases so does the performance of the gpu. However not all gpus offer the best price to performance ratio. So you would need to find the sweet spot of the right budget and optimal performance for your needs.

AMD GPUs

AMD offers the Radeon series of gpus which are actually cheap and affortable compared to nvidia. For entry level budget games the options are RX 550, 570, 580, 5600XT.

Whereas for a medium level budget RX 5700XT is available.

It should be noted that AMD does not have any high end gpus to compete with Nvidia at the level of RTX 2060, 2070 etc. So your options are limited if you are looking to build a high power gaming rig.

Graphics Memory

The graphics card has GDDR memory along with the gpu. The size, bandwidth and generation of the RAM will also have a significant effect on the performance of the graphics card.

For example GDDR5 memory will perform better than GDDR3. We recommend a minimum of 4GB GDDR memory on your graphics card. Having 6GB or 8GB will further improve performance but not very significantly.

Graphics cards with AMD gpus will likely have more GDDR memory as the gpus are cheaper compared to nvidia. So if you are building a budget gaming pc you can consider going for a graphics card with Radeon RX 580 gpu and 8GB GDDR5 memory.

3. RAM

The RAM (Random Access Memory) of your PC is an essential player in determining how well your machine runs games without lag. It is important to note that games generally do not need a lot of RAM.

You can run most of the modern games on a system with 8GB RAM provided you have a good graphics card.

However depending on the game load you might not be able to run other applications in the background while the game is running.

We recommend 16GB ram for smoother performance, so that there is plenty of memory space for other applications run alongside the game without it lagging or stuttering.

Anything above 16GB would be an overkill unless you are doing something that needs a lot of RAM or you are trying to future-proof your PC.

You would be better off putting that extra cash into other components like graphics card which have a more direct effect on game play.

We have profiled some of the games with the most demanding RAM requirements. So far, Half-Life: Alyx has the most substantial demand.

  • Fortnite — 8GB minimum, 16GB recommended
  • Doom Eternal — 8GB minimum, 8GB recommended
  • Destiny 2 — 6GB minimum, 8GB recommended
  • PUBG — 8GB minimum, 16GB recommended
  • Overwatch — 4GB minimum, 6GB recommended
  • Half-Life: Alyx — 12GB

If should be noted that most games don't actually need their specified minimum amount of RAM. They will often run with much lower amounts of ram, if you have no other applications running alongside.

Keep in mind that the operating system, background services like antivirus and other concurrent applications like web browser, office application all need RAM while running.

4. Storage Drive - HDD/SSD/NVME

Besides your CPU and RAM, another contributing factor to the speed of your gaming rig is the type of storage you use. When it comes to storage types, there are 2 available mainstream options - HDD (Hard Disk Drive) and SSD (Solid State Drive), and 2 newly-available options - M.2 SATA and M.2 NVMe Solid State Drives.

hdd vs ssd vs nvme

1. HDD - Hard disks

The hard disk drive is the oldest storage technology in the market and was first introduced by IBM in the 1950s. The advantages of HDD include larger storage capacity and cheaper cost compared to other storage types.

However, HDDs use up more power, take up more space, and are less durable than other storage options. They are also slower, running at a transfer rate of about 200 megabytes per second (200MBps).

The bottom line is to avoid hard disks completely in your gaming pc, as they are now an obsolete technology compared to the new ssds and nvme flash drives.

2. SSD - Solid state drives

The solid-state drive has no moving parts, meaning it can read and write data at faster speeds - up to 550 MBps. An SSD will also allow you to access data simultaneously, meaning faster load and boot times for operating systems and games.

Over the past few years SSDs have become quite cheap and you can easily get a 1 TB ssd from many reputed brands for around $100 or less. For gaming we recommend a 1TB ssd on your system. If would have sufficient space to hold a lot of your favorite games.

3. M.2 SATA

M.2 is a new form factor of ssds which are very small and compact in size. They appear as pcb card with memory chips soldered on them. You just have to plug an M.2 drive into an M.2 slot.

M.2 SATA drives generally run at the same speeds as regular SATA SSDs, but the M.2 SATA drives have M.2 connectors that connect directly to the motherboard, eliminating the need for cables. An M.2 SATA drive offers you a reasonable blend of speed, compactness, and affordability.

4. M.2 NVMe

This option is quite similar to the M.2 SATA drive, except that this one uses the Nvme standard that allows much higher data transfer speeds as high as 3 GB/s.

One thing that we need to clarify here though, is that the fact that the M.2 NVMe drive has such high data transfer speeds does not mean your games will run faster. What it means is that they will load quicker.

Nonetheless, the M.2 NVMe remains the best option in the market for serious gamers who have the funds to acquire it.

5. Monitor Display Panel Type - IPS, TN or VA

Monitor display panels are made using one of the 3 major technologies namely IPS, TN and VA. Each of them has its own pros and cons.

For gaming you would have to choose between IPS or TN.

IPS offers superior color accuracy and clarity and best viewing angles. But they often have lower refresh rates and higher response times. This is steadily improving as manufacturers are making better IPS panels with higher refresh rates.

TN panel on the other hand offer higher refresh rates and lowest response time. But they have the worst viewing angles and poor color accuracy.

Choose based on your Game Type

If you playing games where you need high refresh rates then go for TN panel monitor, keeping in mind that you would compromise the color quality. You can get higher refresh rate IPS monitors, but they shall be more expensive.

If you are playing games that don't need high refresh rates then go for IPS panel monitors. You will get the best colors.

6. Monitor Screen Size and Resolution

In gaming, bigger and brighter is always better. The minimum reasonable screen size for a gaming PC is 21.5 inches if you’re a player who likes to sit close (less than 3 feet) to the screen.

Ideally, you should be looking at buying a 24-inch or a 27-inch desktop monitor for close-range gaming.

curved gaming monitor
YouTube recently dropped the HD (High Definition) tag from all 720p videos on the platform. The world is fast losing support for and recognition of 720p displays.

The minimum and most optimum resolution for gaming and general usage is 1920x1080 also known as Full HD or 1080p. There are higher resolutions too.

Keep in mind that higher resolutions would need more graphics processing power which means you have to purchase a more powerful graphics card. If your graphics card is not capable enough then the frame rate would drop or you would have to play games with lower graphics settings.

1. Full HD (1920x1080 or 1080p)

This is the barest minimum recommended for a gaming monitor. It is also the most common configuration used among most gamers today. It offers good picture quality, clarity, and vivid imagery.

2. Quad HD (2560x1440 or 1440p)

For even better quality viewing, we recommend buying a monitor with a QHD (Quad High Definition) screen, i.e. a resolution of 2560x1440 (also known as 2K). 2K screens are becoming increasingly popular in the market, and many gamers see it as the “sweet spot” for gaming screen resolutions.

It offers significantly better quality images than a 1080p screen does, and won’t drain out your graphics card as a 4K screen would.

3. Ultra HD (3840x2160 or 2160p)

A 4K screen packs double the number of rows and columns of pixels found in a 1080p screen, meaning it has four times the total pixel count of a 1080p screen. This invariably means double the clarity, quality, and richness of the colors.

But this also mean that you need a powerful graphics card that can produce decent FPS at such high resolutions. Usually this is going to be very expensive unless you can afford it.

7. Monitor Refresh Rate

A monitor's refresh rate is the number of times the screen refreshes or updates screen display every second. The standard unit for measuring a screen’s refresh rate is hertz (Hz). When it comes to a screen's refresh rate, higher is always better but also expensive.

For first person shooter and MOBA games the recommended refresh rate is 120 Hz which is twice the standard refresh rate of 60 hz found on budget monitors. At 144hz the game movement would feel as smooth as real life and you would be able to make rapid and accurate moves to counter your opponent.

But a higher refresh rate also requires higher graphics processing, which means that you need a more powerful graphics card. Most budget graphics cards would be able to deliver a maximum of 90-100 FPS at low-medium graphics settings. Additionally the monitor must also support high refresh rates. High refresh rate monitors are also more expensive.

Refresh Rate

Refresh Rate

Refresh Rate depends on the Game Type

If you are a casual gamer playing adventure games where the graphics don't change rapidly you can play comfortably with 60Hz and anything above that would be an overkill. For 1920x1080 @ 60 Hz you can buy a budget graphics card.

On the other hand if you are playing first person shooters, MOBA and other games with fast moving graphics, then you would probably need 120hz/144hz. So you need a more expensive monitor and a more powerful graphics card.

8. Response Time

As a sort of inverse to refresh rate, for a PC monitor’s response time to be good, the number has to be on the lower side. So, unlike the refresh rate where higher is always better; when dealing with response time, lower is always better.

Response time is how quickly the display of a monitor can change from fully active (white) to fully inactive (black). What this means in layman terms is that response time is defined by how long it takes a monitor to change individual pixels from white to black and vice versa.

It is measured in milliseconds (ms). So if a monitor has a response time of 4 milliseconds, that means it can change from white to black and black to white again in 1/250 of a second.

Typical response time values for monitors varies from 15ms all the way down to 1ms. Lower the response time, more expensive the monitor would be.

Response Time

Response Time

Again, if you are playing games where the graphics don't change rapidly a monitor with response time 8ms-15ms would be just fine. You don't need crazy fast response time.

And if you are playing games with fast changing graphics then you might see effects like ghosting if the response time is now low enough. Then we would recommend a response time of 5ms or lower.

9. Adaptive Sync

Adaptive sync (also known as variable refresh rate), in technical terms, is the dynamic adjustment of the vertical refresh rate of a monitor to align with the frame rate delivered by the graphics card. There are 2 major technologies, FreeSync from AMD and G-Sync from Nvidia.

Adaptive Sync ensures that the game displays without any stuttering, tearing, and judder. For adaptive sync to work both your graphics card and monitor must support it.

As a matter of requirement, every gaming monitor today must support a variable and adjustable frame rate to qualify as a gaming monitor.

Adaptive Sync

Adaptive Sync

Adaptive sync synchronizes your monitor’s refresh rate with your graphics card's refresh rate. This reduces tearing in instances where your monitor can’t keep up with the FPS (Frames Per Second) of a particular game.

There are two main options every gamer has when deciding which type of adaptive sync technology to go for - AMD’s FreeSync and Nvidia’s G-Sync.

AMD’s FreeSync runs on top of the VESA Adaptive-Sync standard. FreeSync runs on most monitors because it is a cheaper option compatible with most display scalers, and AMD charges no royalties or licensing costs for it.

On the other hand, Nvidia G-Sync is a proprietory technology and Nvidia charges licensing fees from manufacturers who implement this technology in their monitors. This make G-Sync compatible monitors slightly more expensive than FreeSync ones.

If you're on a budget, you’re better off going for FreeSync as it costs less and is more widespread. However, if you’re looking for a premium and consistent high-quality gaming experience that guarantees that what you see is what you get, then G-Sync is for you.

10. Cooling and Noise

Cooling is also a very important parameter in your PC's overall performance that is often overlooked by users. Without proper cooling your system will start heating up.

A system that overheats will eventually cause the CPU and GPU to throttle their clock frequencies downwards causing slowdown and lags, specially if you are overclocking. Overheating in the long run will reduce the lifespan and durability of pc components.

cpu air cooler

Another major problem with overheating is fans running at higher speed and making a lot of noise. If you find the excessive fan noise annoying then you must ensure proper cooling.

Modern CPUs and GPUs have more processing cores and high processing power and they produce much more heat. So in order to use them efficiently you must ensure adequate cooling.

For better cooling consider aftermarket high TDP air coolers or AIO water coolers. High TDP air coolers have larger heat sinks and bigger fans that can dissipate a much larger amount of heat compared to stock coolers that come with the CPU.

If you concerned about the aesthetics and are a RGB fan, you might want to go with AIO water coolers that use water as a thermal transfer liquid in the cooling process.

11. Budget

Lastly, you should consider your finances. You might have to make sacrifices for some less significant part to make financial room for the more significant ones.

For example, rather than opting for a system with 32GB of RAM, you can get one with 16GB of RAM and invest the extra cash in a better CPU or a more powerful GPU.

Many PCs are overpriced, so you may want to compare prices across different brands and stores before making your choice.

You may also want to future-proof your PC by investing in parts that are easily upgradable to avoid having to buy a whole new PC in a few years.

This may require you to purchase your parts and build your PC, but in the long run, it would save you a few extra bucks.

About Silver Moon

A Tech Enthusiast, Blogger, Linux Fan and a Software Developer. Writes about Computer hardware, Linux and Open Source software and coding in Python, Php and Javascript. He can be reached at [email protected].

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