Okay so I have to admit I'm a little beefed at D'Toid. But just a little. See last year I wrote a pretty killer blog post about how to build a PC and some info regarding the technical aspects of how PC's work. I did this for two reasons.
1. I wanted to show people that for most gamers that are moderate to hard-core a PC is actually cheaper over a 5 year span.
2. I wanted to educated console users about how to build a PC and what all these numbers and styles of components mean.
The reason I am beefed is because that D'Toid staff chose another blogger's post about machine building that wasn't as good. Now don't get me wrong, I haven't lost any sleep over it. But alas even my brother blogger couldn't get through to people about how to build.
So its a new year and due to particulars ni my life I'm considering building a new machine (machine = PC). After reading some D'Toid posts it still very clear that people are just as confused and have not taken the wonderful opportunity to learn. But that's okay. I am here to help, and like I said, it's a new year!
So where to start... Well unless you hard hardcore (which I am not) you do not keep up month-to-month with the latest in hardware. Technology changes too quickly. The best thing to do is let the experts and testers do the work for you. I choose the following sites to get an idea of what I need.
Both these sites have great reviews and BENCHMARKS. Benchmarks show how the hardware perform at tasks. This is important as better performance costs more money but we want to spent $800 for a PC and not $2000.
There are two category of components:
Core components include:
- the motherboard aka main board
- CPU aka processor
- RAM aka memory
- Video Card aka GPU aka Video Adapter
Auxillery Components include:
- hard disks
- Operating System
- Keyboard and Mouse
- Speakers and Headphones
- blu ray player
The difference between the two is that once purchased the Core components will eventually need to be replaced, but the Auxiliary components do not. These can stay in a system after upgrade and temper the cost when the system needs to be updated.
FIGURE OUT YOUR GRAPHICS!!!
The one thing that is most confusing is understanding what graphics you need. Graphics for a PC are based on two things!!!!
2. Frame Rate!!!
The reason that I put these things ----> !!!! is because I keep reading posts and people don't seem to get it. So I will use small words which hopefully will help.
When you play console, the resolution is fixed by the people that make the game. The resolution is meant to work at a specific frame rate, that way play is enjoyable. The magic frame rate you want is 34 FPS. This is because a human's eyes cannot poll information to the brain faster than this. SO ideally when playing console the graphics are at a level of detail and resolution that allows for play of between 25 to 30 fps.
For PC you need to decide what Frame rate and resolution you WANT and can afford. Now here's the good news!! Its cheap to get good graphics. In fact PC graphics blow console out of the water for very little $$. Why is this? Its because Console graphics are so poor and run at such a low resolution its not very hard to do.
Most monitors run at the following formats and resolutions:
- 800 x 600
- 1024 x 768
- 1280 x 1024
- 1920 x 1080
- 1680 x 1050
- 1920 x 1200
Most people would choose the lower 3 as 4:3 format is antiquated and even hard to find. If you are more hardcore you want to go 1920 x 1200 but either of the other two work just fine. Now you need to go and find a video card that will run at 34 FPS at this resolution. YOU CANNOT GET BETTER GRAPHICS BY GETTING BETTER PC HARDWARE! You graphics are completely LIMITED by your monitor. Once you understand this, you need to find your match. So do this:
1. go to http://www.tomshardware.com/
2. search for "best graphics card"
3. choose the: best graphics card for may 2011 link http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/best-graphics-card-game-performance-radeon-hd-6670,2935.html
4. do some research!
See all you need is to get 34 FPS under stress... meaning when lots of things are going BOOM! you still get good frames per second. This should be the bottom limit at your resolution.
Best PCIe Card For $175:
Radeon HD 6850 (Check Prices)
Great 1920x1200 performance in most games
Notice that "Great 1920 x 1200 performance"? This means that this card would be good if you have a monitor with that resolution but it is overkill if you have a 1920 x 1080 monitor. So lets do some more research...
So I head over to http://www.anandtech.com/
to search for some more info. And after some digging I find this:
All I do is go to the bottom of the page and check the benchmarks for BATTLEFIELD BC 2. Since this is preferred game I want to understand the Frame Rate i will get with my monitor. I also understand that BFBC:2 is more hungry than many other games. I find this:
What this tells us is that if you are using a 1920 x 1080 monitor there is a chance that this game will run decent but might choke up at stressful times. However it looks just fine for 1680 x 1050. Also note that the benchmarks are run at maximum setting, you can always turn them down a bit to get more juice.
You can check some other games and see what their frame rates would be. Just enough is enough. Putting a $500 or even a $300 video card is stupid on a 1920 x 1080 monitor. You are wasting your $$.
So you should also start to understand that high end video cards are not needed. Only people with 2550 x 1600 resolutions or higher MIGHT need two video cards depending on desired frame rate and graphics settings.
Also since most of what runs a game is a video card we can get away with a $100 processor.
This enables us to buy a complete system for around $800 that can run all your games on max settings based on a 1680 x 1050 or 1920 x 1080 monitor. Whats more the first upgrade can just be a new video card since other core components are not needed for gaming. And when a full upgrade happens, only Core components need to be changed costing about $450. But this only needs to be done whenever you aren't getting you necessary frame rates.
In part 2 I will describe the actual building of the PC and the costs. I aim to build a mini-its system that is about the size of a console, but delivers about 3 times the graphics quality for about $800.