I am a PC gamer. I have a water cool completely custom case that I hand crafted from raw materials and PC DIY parts. The case is one of the smallest 3 120mm radiator cases that exists. I have a modest computer inside. The non-water cooling parts cost about $650 dollars and I upgrade the system about every 3 years and the video card about every 2 years.
I have been gaming all my life. I started with simple LCD portable games and we eventually got an Atari which I played the dickens out of. NES was too played until my fingers had blisters. I bought a PC in 1988 and have not looked back since (well except to play karaoke with my ex-wife). Games like Civilization, Battle of Britain, Ultima IV, Leisure Suit Larry, and Wing Commander took my heart.
Sytems I have owned:
I am also an avid technical scuba diver and have logged dives at 170' deep. I play paintball, softball, football, and all sorts of table tops games that include DnD and Axis and Allies. I am also in the process of writing my own table top RPG and have spent three years working on it. I have a woodworking shop and can make furniture, picture frames and the like.
I have a degree in Industrial Design. This makes me a designer of products, architectural way finding, POP displays, and user interfaces. I have also taught design at the college level.
So I decided to clear the air and just come out with it. I'll speak for PC gamers in general.
Point 1: Graphics PC gamers do not feel superior for having better graphics. We enjoy playing a game with good frames at a good resolution. It makes game play fun and helps create an immersive experience. We prefer, for the most part, to sit at some sort of desk but the high quality sounds and great graphics. Yes we pay more for them but we accept that and we are smart and mitigate the costs.
Point 2: Keyboard and Mouse Yes we love our peripherals... true the mouse gives you pin point accuracy but all PC gamers get this benefit so the playing ground is even. The thing that console gamers have to understand is that games like Contra and Metal Gear were not designed to use the KB/M. FPS were. FPS were designed around the keyboard and mouse that's why they EXIST. SO PC gamers enjoy the optimization. We don't care about the game pad being used for FPS. We don't its fine, but we also feel that you pick your poison and that as console drives the market it only makes sense that the two platforms should have integrated play.
Point 3: Dedicated Servers Yes PC gamers love dedicated servers. There's a reason. They are awesome. With dedicated servers you become part of a community, and make friends and great rivalries. You also get to choose the ping you play at and the types of games you enter. Its also much easier to play with friends as we can see what game they are in and just join. It's simple and works. See with a game like BF3 there will be the following types of servers:
- friendly fire on or off
- infantry only
- 32 players on a 64 player sized map
- 64 players on a 16 player map
- high ticket games
A PC gamer picks their thing. And with hackers and exploiters a good admin will kick them. NONE of this is possible in console. Matchmaking sounds good in theory but I personally like the challenge of playing better players and the servers tend to have all skill levels. PC players think that match making is fine but that ONLY having that method is needlessly limiting and we think that console gamers are ignorant for not getting the full server experience because it is really worth it.
Point 4: Cost A PC gamer might pay more... but I have proven that it is possible to pay more on console. Early adoption, second system, repair, replacement, xbox live, no 4-pack sales, more expensive games... it adds up and can cost more since when the next gen system comes out people WILL buy it. Once the PC gamer pays her initial hit upgrading is simple and VERY efficient. It depends on how much you spent on the rig and how much the console gamer buys and what they choose to adopt.
What PC gamers think is that console gamers are ignorant because when they make comments they talk about super $1000 systems. Graphics are based on frame rate at resolution... console gamers don't seem to get it no matter how much we beat it into their heads. We think is a blissful ignorance that console gamers tell themselves to avoid adoption of a superior system. See we don't have sympathy. When PS3 came out and you bought it for $650 you could have just upgraded your PC instead. Now you claim that you don't have the $$. Well clearly it was a choice...
Point 5: Complexity Yes PC's are more complex than consoles. Its a fact. However there are two points that mitigate the argument:
1. Buy a pre-built system: There are PLENTY of companies that sell pre-built machines that are NOT Alienware. Most PC gamers never have and never will purchase an Alienware system. You can buy a great system for well less than $1000. These machines come with great warranties and do things like ADVERTISE ON THIS SITE! Wow PC supporting a 90% console oriented site...
2. They are not as bad as they used to be: It takes some effort to figure out what you need to buy at any given time but the systems go together very quickly and easily. Yes it is more complex but its isn't hard for someone intelligent or someone who want to put a few hours into research.
Point 6: The Gaming Industry or Why do Games Suck Well to be fair not all games suck but I remember in 1988 playing Ultima VI where there were hundereds of NPC's in the world and every single citizen did the following:
- wake up sit on the bed for a while then sit at a desk
- walk to the tavern
- eat breakfast
- go to work
- man the shop
- walk to the tavern at dusk
- sit and eat dinner
- walk home
- lock their door
- turn on their night time light
- go to bed and turn the light off.
EVERY single NPC did this in 1988. So... why has it taken more than 20 years to approach this in an RPG?
Lets look at Deus EX...
It was a simple game RPG. There was some interaction and intrigue but nothing that leaned on graphics. You were set at one end of a map, there were enemies in it and you had to reach the other end using skill you have chosen. This game could have been replicated and reborn... but why did it never happen.
Some PC gamers feel that the emerging console market of the early 2000's stagnated innovation for a couple reasons. The first being that marketing took over and tried to widen the product and thus marginalized the product. The second is that the console's limited hardware and the focus of software companies toward the mass market held gaming potential back.
Point 7: Legacy Right now almost every single game played on console was born from the PC. Not all but almost all. The only reason they exist is because PC gamers took a chance on developers who took a chance. It was a symbiotic relationship that worked well. The modding community charged in and helped to innovate. That whole system has been ripped out except for a few European and Korean developers. In face almost all games that have been proven on PC have come to console. That's fine, but as a PC gamer it is frustrating to know, as a fact, that developers have ignored the PC platform for the money that console can provide. Its a slap int eh face to hear them lie about how they screwed their core fans and then use piracy as a red herring. It's also frustrating that console gamers don't seem to care that their innovation vehicle has been derailed. Games over the last 8 years have stagnated in regards to innovation because of console.
Point 8: The Future This is nebulous. As hardware advances it becomes cheaper. The next gen consoles should have the capability to run at 1080P. In the mean time they are getting old. Developers will, until that time, give benefits to PC since they can. PC hardware is so far in advance at this point its ridiculous. As a PC gamer I am happy to see that DICE is sticking to its roots. I only hope that some of the old school innovation can be revived but I only see it happening outside the US.[b]
In Closing Really in the end a PC gamer doesn't mind or bothered by console gaming. We just want to be left alone and maybe just appreciated for helping drive the kind of games that you play and love. We don't want to be marginalized and we don't like when console gamers use ignorant arguments. We don't see a reason for losing what we had and don't like it when it happens; we just want what we always had... great innovation and awesome communities.
Well well well, we have some idea that we can put together a smoking system for very little $$$. and its been this way for some time.
I believe we have consoles slowing down graphic development for this. Of Course trying to play Arma II at full settings at 1920x1200 is near impossible... damn those European developers for actually taxing hardware...
SO what do we have left? Well all the non-core components. These are things that can stick around for years and years and years. So lets check these out and hopefully help you pick some good stuff!
We are getting closer to the final build result and we can see just how spendy it can be.
In case you didn't know a computer case holds all the computer crap. Cases come in all sizes and colors and prices... and this can be confusing. Since you can buy a case for $35 or spend as much as $300 or more. So what do we spend or select?
Cases come in 3 flavors known as form factors:
1. ATX: This is the standard case AND there are three flavors of ATX cases:
- Full Towers
- Mid Towers
- Mini Towers
All of these cases hold an ATX mother board. Full towers usually have about 7 bays, Mid have 4, and Mini have 2. Bays hold hard drives and optical drives. Most of us don't need more than 2 hard drives and the truly frugal only need one.
2. Micro ATX: A Micro ATX case holds a Micro ATX mother board. These are small cases and can look like cubes or small towers. A Micro ATX mother board can also be placed in an ATX case (see above)... yeah it can get a little confusing. An ATX MB CANNOT go into a Micro ATX case.
(This is the size of case I used when building a machine for your editor and chief...)
3. Mini-ITX: These are ultra small mother boards and there are a variety of cases that can house them. Since Mini-ITX is one of the newer form factors there are not as many options for hardware. Do NOT get a Mini ITX case WITH a power supply, you need to buy that separately. IF the case does come with one, its most likely a small supply that does not have the ability to power your system and power hungry video card.
Suggestion: For more room go with a mid tower ATX or a Mini ATX. Also there are more choices in these. Also i would suggest trying to find a case between $60 and $100. These cases are usually built well enough to last for many years.
These manufactures make nice cases:
- Lian Li
Just be sure the case has two slots for the Video Card. Most new video cards require two rear slots.
Total Price: $50 to $200
The power supply is arguably the most important part of a computer. A nice supply can last for years. There are two types of Power Supply Units... or PSU.
1. Single Rail: These PSU's supply all their power on one "circuit". This means that all the draw of the computer is taken directly by one circuit. These supplies tend to be more expensive since they need more parts to control the power.
2. Multi Rail: These PSU's spread the power they provide across multiple circuits. This means that if a supply provides 30 amps of power and has two rails, likely each rail will supply 15 amps. The problem is that if you need to run 20 amps of stuff, and your video card takes 10 you are wasting the other 5 amps on that rail. When using a multi rail just check to be sure that any single rail is enough to run your video card. In many newer PSU's the manufacturer has taken this into consideration.
Also PSU's can come with "modular" as an option. A modular PSU allows the user to plug cable into the back. Many don't like to use these as the plug could become loose and interrupt or lose power. However, these PSU's allow for the extra cables to not be used
For a mid to high rang video card a 500 to 750 watt PSU should be just fine.
Hmm... Just get one that runs at 7200 RPM. It a good idea to get two. One for Windows and the other to store games. This can be important as if you use Steam you can reinstall the system on the OS drive and Steam will rebuild all of your games!!!
Also be careful when you buy a small case that you can put two standard size internal drives which are 3.5". Sometimes small form factor cases only allow the space for laptop 2.5" drives.
If you choose to do this be sure to get a drive with at least 80GB for the OS.
There are two choices for a cheap system:
1. BluRay Player: $56
2. DVD Burner: $21
Ummm. BluRay seems good for the price... you don't need light scribe or anything like that.
SO far the total cost of the system is:
MB: $100 to $125
CPU: $100 to $150
RAM: $50 to $100
Video: $125 to $175
Case: $50 to $100
PSU: $50 to $85
HDD: $45 to $75
Optical Drive: $21 to $56
Total Price: $550 to $870
So a whole new computer cheaper than a new release console. It can be plugged into an entertainment system and easily upgraded. It makes sense to go lower or higher, but CPU prices tend not to drop as fast as video cards.
No matter what you build you will need put upgrade just like buying the next gen console or when you have to replace a console bc of red ring like only 54% of XBox 360's did.
So my suggestion is to replace the Video Card only after 2 to 4 years and do this twice. The core should last 4 to 6 years and the auxiliary components should last indefinitely. Optical drives tend to die faster like those who bought PS3 found out.
If you choose to replace or upgrade core components leave the mother board alone and just get a newer or faster processor. With cheap RAM prices you can always add more RAM whenever you like.
See its not so hard or expensive.
I hope this helps. PM me with any questions. I can help with all types of Intel builds. I know AMD builds can run even cheaper!!
So I'm back with more stuff you don't want to read b/c you play an inferior console... its okay even Jjm Sterling has turned to the dark side... but he was tricked since his machine was purchased for video editing...
Here we go!!! We are going to build an $800 machine that can run most games at 1920 x 1080 resolution at MAX SETTINGS! The graphics will roughly be about 3-4 times better than a console as far as resolutions, frame rate, and level of detail are concerned. Also we want to build a tiny system that can double as a multimedia center.
The Heart of the System The heart of the system is the Mother Board, Processor, and RAM. These usually have to be bought together. For Intel there are four different types of MB. X series, P series, Z series, H series, and G series. X is more expensive and G and H are for lower end systems or for multimedia machines.
SO what series of MB should you get? It depends... those who want the best will go with an X series, but these usually start at $200. P and Z boards are for enthusiast and you can get these starting at around $100. The G and H boards are for mainstream or multimedia use and can be had for $50.
The question is what type of processor? There are three types: 1366, 1155 and 1156. The number is associated with the type of socket the MB and processor share. 1156 & 1366 is older and 1155 is newer, but all allow for good gaming since the Video Card does 60% to 80% of the work.
For Intel this breaks down into i7, i5, and i3. i7 processors are a bit out of our range and generally not needed for all but the highest level of gaming. Also there are quad core and dual core processors. Quad cores are only needed for the most intense math heavy games. Its usually better to get a faster dual core over a slower quad core. Games like Crisis break this rule.
Well RAM has always had a bad reputation for being expensive. Not anymore! I was shocked to see the prices that RAM currently is. Our machine doesn't need tons of RAM but we do want to take advantage of 64bit technology. 4 Gig is more than plenty and you can run your SolidWorks, Photoshop, and Z-Brush just fine. (well for Z-Brush I'd suggest 8 gigs...).
For $50 you don't deserve this RAM in your system; its good stuff.
So now our Core System is running between: $325 and $275!!
The Video Card!
In Part 1 I want half insane to try to educate the masses on frame rate and resolution. Hopefully its sunken in and I can actually talk about video cards with some focus. This is the single most important purchase of the system. You want to get your moneys worth but also don't want to get something more than you need.
So we are going to try to focus on 1920 x 1080 resolution for the plain and simple fact that these monitors can be had for cheap. They aren't as nice as a 16:10 ratio monitor but for the $ are a much better value for most gamers who probably not educated enough to know the difference to begin with.
Okay so I'm banking on Battlefield 3 being pretty intensive. So lets see what it takes to get some quality using BFBC2 as a reference.
Looks like we are hovering around $425 to $500. That's pretty good to run at full settings on a 1920 x 1080 monitor.
If you choose to run at a lower resolution... YOU WILL STILL BE RUNNING HIGHER THAN CONSOLE... and can knock this down by about $100. If you want to build a larger system you can still kick this down by another $50. This is not using crap parts but highly rated and quality stuff.
I ran for years at 1680 x 1050 resolution and I was very happy with great graphics on a 8800GT video card which now sells for less than $75 dollars. I only upgraded about 18 months ago and then was over driving that monitor until i upgraded that.
The stated system above should last for between 4 to 6 years and if you upgrade the video card can last longer. You can essentially thank the console market for retarding game graphics for that. Also 1920 x 1080 is HD and this is what many games are trying to optomize for.
In Part 3 I will go over all the other machine crap.
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: 1. Core
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 $$. Why is this? Its because Console graphics are so poor and run at such a low resolution its not very hard to do.
Most monitors run at the following formats and resolutions:
- 800 x 600
- 1024 x 768
- 1280 x 1024
- 1920 x 1080
- 1680 x 1050
- 1920 x 1200
Most people would choose the lower 3 as 4:3 format is antiquated and even hard to find. If you are more hardcore you want to go 1920 x 1200 but either of the other two work just fine. Now you need to go and find a video card that will run at 34 FPS at this resolution. YOU CANNOT GET BETTER GRAPHICS BY GETTING BETTER PC HARDWARE! You graphics are completely LIMITED by your monitor. Once you understand this, you need to find your match. So do this:
See all you need is to get 34 FPS under stress... meaning when lots of things are going BOOM! you still get good frames per second. This should be the bottom limit at your resolution.
Best PCIe Card For $175:
Radeon HD 6850 (Check Prices)
Great 1920x1200 performance in most games
Notice that "Great 1920 x 1200 performance"? This means that this card would be good if you have a monitor with that resolution but it is overkill if you have a 1920 x 1080 monitor. So lets do some more research...
All I do is go to the bottom of the page and check the benchmarks for BATTLEFIELD BC 2. Since this is preferred game I want to understand the Frame Rate i will get with my monitor. I also understand that BFBC:2 is more hungry than many other games. I find this:
What this tells us is that if you are using a 1920 x 1080 monitor there is a chance that this game will run decent but might choke up at stressful times. However it looks just fine for 1680 x 1050. Also note that the benchmarks are run at maximum setting, you can always turn them down a bit to get more juice.
You can check some other games and see what their frame rates would be. Just enough is enough. Putting a $500 or even a $300 video card is stupid on a 1920 x 1080 monitor. You are wasting your $$.
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.
There were some diligent console fans using many exceptions to break this statement, but generally my basic math is correct. I may follow up on this with a part II and work it out so the costing is easier to follow, but what I laid out is generally correct.
So now I say that a single base build PC is viable for 10 years!!! Well that has to be double insanity. It's not... and here I offer up some edumication...
ONE: GRAPHICS Graphics are based on Level of Detail. This LOD is known as resolution. Most of us understand that PC gaming offers better resolution over console gaming, and to actually equal the quality of output on a console, a typical PC component cost could be under $300 easily.
Here's a chart that outlines what frame rates a $130 monitor outputs.
This indicates that a 2 year old video card (9800gt @ $170 2 years ago) is still a viable solution. Remember we are really looking for that magic 34 FPS. This is about the point at which the eye can't discern extra frames (which is generally true). There are still many people that have built PC's that have this card or a similar card they are still using.
TWO: PC COMPONENTS PC parts need to get replaced as often as new technology pushes the capability of new types of software. This technology will be around for quite some time, as seeing as how DDR 2 was around for (and is still alive and well) about 7 years, we should expect to see DDR3 match that lifespan. The difference is that at intro dual channel ddr2 was vastly more expensive than ddr3.
-DDR3 RAM: This stuff has just released about a year ago. Now it is cheap. Also ram is easily scalable in most cases.
- Dual/ Quad Core Processors: There are many PC's that were built that have been using true dual core processors. Since then OS and games have started to take advantage of the capability. This means that it is VERY HARD for software to outpace the hardware, and keeps the processors viable for long stretches of time.
THREE: MOORE'S LAW IS DEAD http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moore%27s_law It's dead people. That means the traditional idea of rapid hardware growth IS SLOWING! This means that the drive is slowing and new developmental leaps take longer to produce. IE... your stuff doesn't become as obsolete as fast.
FOUR: $$ COST $$
New technology is getting cheaper and cheaper. The new batch of Intel processors are coming out and they are two things...
They are full dual core models and AMD has a quad core processor that is around $100. This technology. Notice that i3-530 processor @ $123. That's a full dual core with hyper threading. Its essentially faster than anything near its price range that's out now.
CONCLUSION In the end we can talk about building a P55 system with an i3 processor and 4 gigs of DDR3 ram for around $330 + video card.
Now here's the catch. You knew one was coming. High performance video cards are extremely inefficient based on price. Its better in the long run to buy cheaper cards more often then buying one expensive one.
So... Over 10 years you build the $330 system listed above, get a $150 video card ever 2-3 years.
We know this is likely because there are older dual core systems that are 3-4 years old and still going strong. The video card does almost all of the graphics work. YES THIS IS A STRETCH. It would be much more viable at the 6-8 year range, but based on what people are using and the frame rates they are getting with older CPU technologies, getting 30-60 fps for the next 10 years is possible!
On average the core of this system will cost: about $1000 over 10 years. With hard drives and other stuff sensibly bought at the right time we can have a system like this:
- CPU: i3 ($120) or quad core i5 750 ($200) <---- this is what I own...
- MB: p55 ($100)
- RAM: 4gb ddr3 ($90)
- HDD: 1TB ($90)
- optical: blu ray ($50)
- Video: xxxx ($170)
- PSU: xxxx ($60)
- Case: xxxx ($50)
total: $730 or $73 a year
- +3 video cards every 2.5 years ($450)
- +4 GB of Ram ($80) not that you need it...
- +2 HDD's ($180)
total: $710 or $71 a year
grand total for complete system: $1450 or $145 a year
grand total for bare bones: $1200 or $120 a year (this assumes owing a PSU, Optical, HDD, & Case)