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Buying a high-performance gaming computer can be expensive, and you may not even get all the specs you’re looking for. If you want the best of the best in gaming computers, you can build one to feature all the latest and greatest parts for unsurpassed performance. Plus, you can save money because the parts combined are often cheaper than a prebuilt system with the same specs. To get started on building your own PC, check out this guide.
The CPU, or central processing unit, is like the brains of the computer, translating and performing all the commands of your machine’s hardware and software. When choosing a CPU for gaming, consider these factors:
Manufacturer: The two main CPU manufacturers are Intel and AMD. The performance of each depends on each individual model, but the biggest difference is that all AMD CPUs can be overclocked, whereas only Intel CPUs with the letter K in their model can be overclocked. Overclocking lets you push a processor to work faster than the manufacturer’s specified clock speed, so you can game as hard as you want without burning out. Keep in mind that overclocking often consumes more power and can be potentially risky if not done carefully.
Number of cores: A CPU will have one or more cores for performing tasks. A CPU with multiple cores will be able to run several different programs and the most task-heavy games on different cores, making your computer more quick and efficient. For graphics-hungry games like Max Payne 3 or Skyrim, a processor with four or more cores is ideal. For extreme gaming with 3D graphics like Call of Duty: Black Ops II, a processor with six or more cores will give you all the performance you need.
Clock speed: Clock speed, measured in GHz, is the speed at which a CPU executes its internal operations. While clock speed influences how fast your computer runs, it should be looked at alongside the number of cores. For the optimum performance for playing high-end games with detailed graphics, consider at least four cores at a speed of 3.4GHz. If you want to run your processor above its specified clock speed, look for one that can be overclocked.
The motherboard is the central circuit board that holds all the parts of your PC together. It’s connected to key elements of the computer, including the CPU, RAM, USB ports, network ports, expansion slots, and keyboard and mouse ports. The motherboard also determines what type of processor, memory and hard disk interface speed are compatible with your machine. Here are some things to consider:
RAM, or Random Access Memory, is like the computer’s short-term memory, storing currently running programs and data. If you’ve got the latest RPG, an online cheat sheet and Skype all open at once, RAM will store all these programs so you can quickly switch between them and multi-task with ease. When choosing RAM, make sure its specs are compatible with your motherboard.
The internal hard drive stores all of your computer’s data, including the operating system, software, files and more. When choosing a hard drive, consider its storage capacity and speed.
Storage capacity determines how much you can store on your hard drive. Capacities range from 80GB to 4TB or more, so choose a size that fits your needs. If you’re a die-hard gamer, a hard drive with 1TB of space or more will offer plenty of room for all your games and other files.
Speed determines how quickly your data is transferred and is based on how fast the hard drive disk revolves. A hard drive of 7200RPM or more will load up games quickly and ensure you’re not frozen in the middle of a critical battle.
If you live for speed, you may want to add a solid state drive to your PC. Because it runs on flash memory and has no moving parts, it’s faster and more efficient than a hard drive. A solid state drive generally has a smaller storage capacity of 60GB to 512GB, but if you add one alongside your hard drive, you’ll enjoy lightning-fast program start-ups and smoother gaming.
With an optical drive, you can pop in your latest PC game or burn that how-to video you made about conquering Mass Effect 3. When choosing an optical drive, consider the functions that are important to you, whether it’s Blu-ray support or CD recording/rewriting capabilities. Optical drives also have different interfaces like SATA, PATA and SCSI, so pick one that’s compatible with your hard drive.
A sound card can transform an ordinary gaming experience to one filled with immersive audio that makes you feel like you’re in the middle of the action. Most motherboards come equipped with an integrated sound chip but a dedicated sound card will deliver superior audio capabilities like surround sound.
A video card is a must for bringing out the best graphics in games. The right card will process images more quickly, and features like HD and 3D can come into play. You may even scream when that zombie leaps off the screen because it looks so real. Many video cards have HDMI ports for connecting HD-compatible devices and DVI ports for connecting computer monitors. Others may include DisplayPort, which transmits HD signals and lets you connect multiple monitors through a single cable.
If your motherboard doesn’t have one, you’ll need a wired network card to connect to an Ethernet network. Connecting to the internet on a wired network is quick and reliable but requires cables. To connect to the internet without the hassle of cables and wires, install a wireless network card.
An operating system (OS) controls the computer’s hardware and software and makes programs run. For PCs, Windows is the most popular and widespread OS, while Linux, an open-source OS, is another popular option. Macs, on the other hand, run on Apple’s OS X. Many popular games only work on Windows or Apple’s OS X, so keep this in mind if you’re building a gaming PC.
A computer case encloses your PC and should complement the size of your motherboard. A full-sized tower is great for a powerful gaming computer with tons of drives, expansion slots and added extras. Other things to consider include:
Ventilation: A case with plenty of ventilation is important for keeping your computer cool. Integrated fans, vents for attaching fans and ventilated panels will all improve airflow.
Ports: Many cases will have ports on the front and back for USB devices such as headphones, microphones, flash drives and more. Expansion slots will expose expansion card ports such as the HDMI and DVI ports of video cards and the digital audio ports of sound cards.
Design: Cases come in a variety of designs and colours, so choose one that pleases your eye.
When you’re playing power-hungry games, your computer’s bound to overheat if it’s not properly cooled. A fan or cooling system will combat the heat. Many computer cases come with built-in fans, but if yours doesn’t, attach some to keep the air moving. To keep your processor cool, add a CPU cooler.
For a hard-working gaming PC, consider a liquid cooling system. Coolant is stored in a liquid tank and passes through tubes connected to a water block on the CPU. The liquid absorbs heat from the CPU and then empties out in the radiator, where it cools down and recirculates to start the cooling process over. A liquid-cooling system is silent and cools the CPU much more efficiently than a fan system, ensuring your machine won’t overheat.
If your computer case doesn’t have integrated power supply, you’ll need to add it to support all the functions of your PC. For a top-performing gaming PC with a fast CPU and several optical and hard drives, go for a higher-wattage power supply of 500 watts or more.
Once you’ve got the main parts of your machine, you’ll need a monitor, keyboard and mouse.
Monitors come in a range of sizes, with many being HD quality. A large LED display with a high resolution will really suck you into a game with its brilliant picture. For 3D gaming, you’ll need a 3D-ready monitor, as well as a video card with 3D support.
Keyboards can be wired or wireless, but a gaming keyboard is a must-have for any gamer. With advanced functions like programmable keys and backlighting, you’ll have every strategic move right at your fingertips.
If you’re slaying dragons and fighting off the bad guys, you’ll need more than just a regular corded or wireless mouse. A gaming mouse offers advanced ergonomics, programmable buttons and higher sensitivity, perfect for executing quick moves and enjoying long gaming sessions.
Sound can make or break a game, so add some computer speakers to boost your experience. For realistic surround sound, opt for 5.1-channel speakers – you’ll hear every footstep, gunshot and car chase in clear detail.
A headset is an ideal accessory for gaming. Features like noise-cancelling microphones and sound-isolating ear cups will let you talk to your opponents or immerse yourself in your favourite first-person shooter game.
So you’ve got all the parts of your PC and they’re sitting in a jumbled mess in front you. You’ll need to carefully install each one in the right place for your new PC to work. Make sure you have the right tools and knowledge before attempting to put things together.
If you find the task too overwhelming, you can always enlist the help of Geek Squad. These computer pros will install any of your PC components and configure them for use, making it easy to get your new customized computer up and running.
If you’ve decided to take on the challenge of building your own PC, you can count on Best Buy to have all the parts you’re looking for. With CPUs, motherboards, hard drives and RAM from Intel, ASUS, WD and Kingston Technology, Best Buy offers an amazing selection to suit your needs.
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