Build a Gaming Computer
Build a Gaming Computer - Introduction
When looking to build a gaming computer you will be searching out some of the fastest components available and one of the first components you should be looking at is the processor.
First off we need to make a decision as to whether we are going down the AMD or Intel processor route.
For any serious gaming PC build you are going to be looking at multi-core processors or at the very least a top of the range dual-core type if you are on a tight budget.
Both manufacturers have plenty of offerings that we could select from to build gaming computer type PCs.
AMD have their triple-core and quad-core Athlon II X3 and Athlon II X4 processors or for even more power their Phenom II X4 or X6 quad-core and six-core processors.
Similarly, Intel have their new i3 / i5 / i7 range of processors and excellent performers they are too, especially their latest Socket 1155 second generation Sandy Bridge series!
Intel’s Core i3 will typically match the AMD Athlon II X3/X4 processors and the Intel Core i5 will match AMDs Phenom II X4 processor.
The Intel Core i7 processor range knocks spots off any of the AMD offerings when it comes to playing games but with a hefty cost penalty to boot.
Do you really need to go for this level of gaming capability? It just depends on whether you are out for every last bit of performance you can get and how much you are willing to pay for it!
Build a Gaming Computer – CPU
So, let’s take a look in a bit more detail at some of the CPU’s on offer today that you might select to build a gaming computer shall we?
For a decent gaming PC built around an Intel processor we are going to be looking for at least an Intel Core i5 and for a full on gaming rig one of Intel’s Core i7 series.
For an Intel Core i5 based gaming PC you could take a look at the Core i5 760 which won’t break the bank but will give you damn fine performance for a quad core processor running at 2.8GHz although this offering from Intel doesn’t support Hyper Threading.
There’s one hell of a lot of ‘bang for your buck’ here but for those of you who favour AMD at somewhere around the same price level you could go for the AMD Phenom II X6 1055T with six cores for just a little more than their own four core Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition!
Again, clocked at 2.8GHz but when it comes to gaming performance, the Intel Core i5 760 wins the day.
Then again, for multi-threaded performance such as video editing etc. the AMD takes the crown so the choice really depends on whether you’re just using your PC mainly for gaming or not.
Want to raise the performance a little?
Take a look at the Intel Core i7 875K, great for gaming with massive performance, an un-locked multiplier and with a clock speed of 2.93GHz and turbo mode of 3.6GHz!
This baby is a quad core 45nm based processor with 8MB of L3 cache yet still only 95 watt TDP.
It uses the cheaper LGA1156 socket rather than the more expensive LGA1366 socket based motherboards.
You don’t get a stock cooler with this chip but then this processor is designed for overclocking and Intel figure you’re going to want to choose your own method of cooling here to suit your rig.
For an AMD alternative we’re looking at the AMD Phenom II X6 1090T Black Edition, a fantastic six core processor at a cheaper price than the Intel 875K.
Multi-threading performance is phenomenal with this beast and it’s easily the best processor AMD has come out with in a long time.
Again, based on the 45nm architecture and running at 3.2GHz with a power rating of 125 watts.
Very impressive performance when playing games but really this chip comes into its own when performing multithreading tasks and video editing.
For our money Intel’s range of i5 and i7 processors knocks spots off AMD when it comes to gaming setups.
Still, if you are into overclocking this chip is certainly one for you with 4GHz operation easily attainable.
This processor uses AM3 socket motherboards which are pretty damn cheap to buy so you can get yourself some serious performance without breaking the bank.
Ok, so now for out and out full, on gaming performance, where money is no object, you have to be thinking Intel – specifically the Intel Core i7 980X, a blisteringly fast processor but at a ridiculously expensive price.
What an absolutely stunning performer this processor is! Six cores and two threads per core of sheer heaven!
Blows away anything else by comparison and AMD currently have nothing to match it – in fact, nowhere even close!
Based on a 32nm architecture and perfectly capable of some serious overclocking taking the stock operating frequency of 3.33GHz beyond 4GHz!
The only problem we can see with this beauty is the fact that it uses the LGA 1366 socket which Intel is planning to drop in the near future.
Now let's not forget Intel's new Sandy Bridge processors!
Intel's new Sandy Bridge processor is a full reworking of their first generation i3, i5 and i7 series but requiring new socket LGA1155 motherboards.
These 2nd generation processors use less power and have vastly superior integrated graphics.
The K series edition processors have an unlocked multiplier allowing awesome overclocking and featuring HD3000 onboard graphics having twice the power of the standard HD2000 non K series - great for gamers and 3D Gaming.
And at prices that won’t break the bank!
Of particular note are the Intel i5-2500K
and Intel i7-2600K
unlocked multiplier processors which are great choices for those with gaming in mind.
Build a Gaming Computer - Motherboard
Next on the list once you have selected your processor will be your motherboard.
For AMD processors you’ll be looking at AM2 & AM3 socket boards and for Intel processors you’ll be selecting an Intel Socket 775 for Intel’s Dual Core Duo type low end processors, Intel Socket 1155 for the new Sandy Bridge i3 / i5 / i7 processors, Socket 1156 for the older Intel Core i3 and i5 processors and Socket 1366 for older Core i7 and Extreme edition processors.
You won’t need on-board graphics for any serous gaming rig but you can usually make use of the standard on-board audio which is pretty good on most modern motherboards – generally 6 or 8 channel.
Your motherboard will require a PCIe 16 x slot for the best gaming type graphic cards and all new motherboards will come with at least one of these slots.
If you want to make use of ATI Crossfire X or NVidia SLi dual or multi graphic card setups then you will need the corresponding number of 16X PCIe slots and you should check that they are certified for use with Crossfire X, SLI or both.
So what about some motherboard examples that would be suitable for our gaming PC build?
Starting with our top of the range Intel processor, the Intel Core i7 980X let’s take a look at a motherboard that will be able to do it justice.
The ASUS Rampage III Extreme is the perfect platform for Intel’s super processor with massive overclocking abilities although requiring a second mortgage to boot!
This most definitely is a ‘money’s no object’ piece of kit but then so is the processor!
It’s an X58 chip-set based board and has remote overclocking facilities such as being able to monitor and overclock from a Windows Mobile or Android phone!
Dropping down to more reasonable levels of affordability we have the ASUS P7P55D-E Pro which is based on the Intel Socket 1156 socket. This motherboard is a great board for an Intel i5 or i7 based gaming setup.
It has USB 3.0 and SATA 6GB support with fantastic transfer speeds.
For the AMD crowd then the MSI 890FXA-GD70 board has DDR3 support and is a great basis for AMD Phenom II processors and multiple Crossfire X multi GPU support.
Not only that but this board supports all AM2, AM2+ and AM3 socket processors so is a great way to start off with a cheap processor and upgrade when you can afford to.
For a cheap but fully functional offering take a look at the MSI P55A-GD65 which is a great option for an Intel Core i5 setup.
It has a pretty compact layout with lots of features and a great performance at a budget price.
For the AMD gaming enthusiast on a budget we would suggest the ASUS M4A79XTD which has fantastic overclocking abilities and support for multiple GPU cards at a price to make you happy!
For an Intel Sandy Bridge processor based gaming PC take a look at the awesome ASUS P8P67 motherboard which uses the P67 chipset and has full overclocking support and dual PCIe X16 graphic card slots, SATA 3 , RAID, USB and Firewire support.
Build a Gaming Computer - Graphics Cards
This is the one component that most gamers looking to build a gaming computer spend a long time over selecting as it is the key component of any decent gaming PC.
Your choice starts simply – ATI Radeon or NVidia GeForce.
Both manufacturers offer excellent cards and it is pretty much down to personal choice as to which manufacturer you will choose.
They are continually competing for the lead and no sooner is one crowned the King then the other comes along to steal the crown.
Basically the amount you are going to have to spend is directly related to the resolution and detail you will get and how smoothly your chosen games play as you pile on more and more effects etc.
As already mentioned, you can connect up two or more cards to run together and improve performance even further and you can start off with a single card and then add more as money allows (obviously they will need to be certified as Crossfire or SLi compatible and be of the same make and model) providing you have selected the motherboard correctly to allow this.
ATI’s multi graphics card configuration is called Crossfire X and NVidia’s version is referred to as SLi.
Graphic cards have their own on board memory ranging from 256MB up to 1GB and beyond.
Obviously the more memory the better and DDR3 type will be required for the best performance.
The graphics memory stores all of the data required for rendering models, textures etc. and to generate realistic 3D pictures.
Build a Gaming Computer - Memory
For a fast gaming PC you will also need fast system memory and lots of it.
A decent gaming PC setup will be using DDR3 type memory which will provide faster performance than the older DDR2 type and prices are pretty comparable today so no need to use anything other than DDR3.
You’ll need at least 4GB for a decent gaming PC made up from 2 x 2GB DDR3 modules configured in dual channel configuration which will give you the best performance.
If you’ve gone all out for the older LGA1366 socket Intel Core i7 & i7 Extreme range of processors then you’ll be needing triple channel memory so 3 slots of 2GB DDR3 giving you a total of 6GB.
Build a Gaming Computer - Operating System
For a new build you’re probably looking at Windows 7 and if you plan on using more than 4GB of memory you will need to get the 64 bit version as the 32 bit version only allows you to address approximately 3.2GB of memory – your 32 bit operating system cannot address more than this and if you install more it will just be wasted.
Windows 7 64 bit will make use of the full 4GB and allow you to install more at a later date if you choose to.
Build a Gaming Computer - Case
Decent gaming PC cases are not small. When you come to build a gaming computer you will find that you need excellent cooling to keep all of your components from overheating when playing your games at full on speed.
Your graphics card, processor and power supply will be chucking out lots of power that needs to be channelled away quickly with a decent supply of cool air coming in to keep temperatures from soaring.
So, look for large well ventilated cases with provision for two or three large cooling fans. Keep the fan diameter high and then you will be able to shift lots of air without too much noise being generated!
Build a Gaming Computer - Power Supply
At least 600 – 700 watts and if you are running Crossfire X or SLi you’ll need far more – these cards are generally damn power hungry!
There are lots of 850W – 1000W models available - check that the one you choose has enough PCIe connectors to power all of your graphic cards.
Build a Gaming Computer - Monitor
Presumably you’ve spent a lot of money on your graphics card to get great gaming performance so now you will need to do this justice by choosing the best monitor you can afford.
For gaming PC builds a 24 inch monitor has to be the one to aim for with say 1920 x 1080 resolution and fast refresh rates.
We wouldn’t suggest dropping below 22 inch and you can go up to 30 inch if your pocket allows but then this will be costing you some serious money and you’ll need a pretty special graphics card to go with it!
We hope this article has helped you in your quest to build your own gaming pc which you will surely be very proud of :)
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