How To Build a Gaming PC

Or you could just play video games. That works too. Summer is one of the best times to catch up
on the never-ending pile of new releases that have stacked up throughout the
past school year, and efficient time management can see ten to 20 games
beaten in the three month time span that we are liberated from school-enforced
work loads. What if simply playing games is not enough, though? Summer free time is precious after all, so
why should you settle for simply playing
video games? If you want to take it to
the next level—to not simply play, but experience
video games—nay, immerse yourself in graphical splendor whenever you pick up
your controller, tune in on the next paragraph for Timmy’s Super Summer Project
Corner—Gaming PC Style!

That’s right. For those who truly want to go above and beyond, constructing your own
gaming PC is the way to go. Not only
does it make for an amazing summer project, it is also a cool and uncommon
résumé pad, and it will certainly give you a better appreciation for just
exactly how much hardware and software goes into giving you the gaming
experience you know and love. What
materials are needed? An internet
connection, a credit card and a credit line of roughly $1000, give or take
$300, and this handy-dandy guide, of course.

Let’s start with the very basics: PCs have a number
of core components, but the three that matter the most (and cost the most) are
the processor (or CPU), the graphics card (or GPU) and the memory (or
RAM). CPU power influences how quickly
programs are able to launch and execute functions, GPU strength directly
affects how pretty your graphics look (especially
how smooth you can get the edges of polygons) and RAM dictates how many
programs you can have open at the same time. Additionally, you will need a good-sized hard drive (between 500 gigabytes
and 1 terabyte is about right these days), a DVD drive for reading your game
disks, and a power supply to juice the whole thing up. All of these components connect to a rather
prickly piece of silicon called the motherboard, which you also buy separately,
along with an outer case to store it all. 

So much for the overview. Now on to the specifics: the largest issue to
contend with when assembling all these disparate parts is compatibility. Will the
right pins fit into the right holes? To
that end, there is an important distinction to be made: Intel vs. AMD. No, I do not just love to use three-letter
abbreviations; those are the two major CPU manufacturers these days, and they
are NOT compatible with each other. Since you will have to decide between one of these two manufacturers when
it comes time to choose your processor, keep in mind that Intel’s Core i7 line
currently holds the crown for fastest gaming processor, but not for best
value. AMD consistently offers cheaper
chips with less brute force, but still a respectable amount of pizzazz that should
satisfy all but the most discriminating of connoisseurs. A good rule of thumb when choosing processors
(and all components): bigger numbers are good. Another very
helpful tip: motherboards compatible with AMD chips will say “Socket 3+,” while
Intel boards will accept chips fitting “Socket 1155.”  Do not try to mix the two…you will end up with a
very expensive piece of useless silicon if you do.

As far as graphics cards go, a similar rivalry
exists between ATI, manufacturers of the Radeon series, and Nvidia, with their
line of GTX cards. If you have extra
money to burn and want the very best in state-of-the-art hardware, there is
currently nothing better than the Radeon 6990 (read this article in six months
and laugh at the obsolescence). All that raw power comes at a price,
however—a pecuniary price of over $700, and also categorically buggier and more
experimental driver software. If you
want a more polished, foolproof experience, Nvidia is definitely the way to
go. Fortunately, both cards fit into the
same slot on the motherboard: PCI Express 2.1 x16. You will remember that, right?

Once you have decided on your dream parts, ordered
them from or a sketchier-but-cheaper site, and the whole mess is
dumped unceremoniously on your front door, the rest is a lot like putting
together a Lego set. It can actually be fun
for the whole family! You can work the
screwdriver while mom and dad chase away runaway screws while trying to stop
you baby brother from sucking on the power supply leads. It is way more fun than a family board
game. In all seriousness, though, a
Phillips #0 and #1 screwdriver, and a pair of needle-nose pliers are a must for
the assembly process and a well-designed case will save you hours and hours of
grief.  A couple of key things to
remember: follow the instructions to the T, NEVER force anything into a slot
that looks kinda right but you are not sure and Google is your friend for any and all questions.

So, there you go!
Install a copy of Windows, pop in your favorite game, and watch your
eyes pop out! Alternatively, you can
skip this whole guide and go on to get the exact same
result…for at least $2000 more. If you
do go the custom route, though: happy building, and happy summer!

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