For years, gaming PCs have had the stereotype of being powerful, yet complicated and very expensive machines. And for a long time, this stereotype had some truth to it. But thanks to recent advances in technology for several PC components, building a PC to match or even surpass the power of an Xbox One or PS4 while being at a similar price point is now possible. I’m here to to tell you why you should consider building a PC over getting a console.
PC Vocabulary 101
Before I get into this article, I’m going to give you a list of some terms and acronyms that while many of you may be familiar with, some of you might not understand exactly what they mean or what they do. Here’s a small vocabulary cheat sheet:
CPU: Central Processing Unit. The Brain of the PC. CPU chipsets are only manufactured by Intel and AMD.
GPU: Graphics Processing Unit/Graphics Card. An optional processor devoted to rendering graphics, therefor taking stress off your CPU. Since GPUs are basically powerful CPUs devoted to graphics, the chipsets are also made by Intel (GeForce) and AMD (Radeon), but have 3rd party manufacturers like MSI, EVGA, and others. Intel GPUs work better with Intel CPUs and vice versa with AMD processors.
RAM: Random Access Memory. Short term memory storage the CPU uses to run programs without taking up space in your Hard drives. The data is discarded when it is no longer necessary to run whatever program needed it.
Motherboard: If the CPU is the brain, the motherboard, or MoBo, is the heart, lungs, and nerves that keep everything alive.
HDD: Hard Disk Drive. The most common form of data storage. Slower than SSDs but cheaper per gigabyte and offer more storage.
SSD: Solid State Drive. Much, much faster than HDDs but more expensive per gigabyte of storage. To give you an example of how fast they are, my PC starts up completely from booting up to desktop in about 12 seconds.
PSU: Power Supply Unit. Fairly self explanatory, provides power for the PC.
Case: The physical case you put everything into. More for looks than performance really, so get one that looks sweet and has a window so you can throw some colored LED lights in that SOB to show it off.
Putting Current Generation Consoles Into PC Terms
If we’re comparing consoles to a PC, the only natural place to start would be performance. Since the Xbox One and PS4 have dedicated GPUs and CPUs made specifically for them, there’s no direct comparison to those used by PCs. A rough equivalent would be a PC having a AMD Athlon X4 CPU ($75) and an AMD Radeon R7 265 GPU ($157).
However, my friends on Reddit have already built a similar computer, appropriately called…
The Next Gen Crusher
CPU: AMD Athlon X4 860K 3.7GHz Quad-Core Processor ($74.88 @ OutletPC)
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-F2A88XM-D3H Micro ATX FM2+ Motherboard ($63.89 @ OutletPC)
Memory: *Crucial 8GB (1 x 8GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($29.89 @ SuperBiiz)
Storage: Seagate Barracuda 1TB 3.5″ 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($46.89 @ OutletPC)
Video Card: EVGA GeForce GTX 950 2GB Superclocked+ ACX 2.0 Video Card ($149.99 @ Newegg)
Case: Rosewill REDBONE ATX Mid Tower Case ($44.99 @ Newegg)
Power Supply: EVGA 430W 80+ Certified ATX Power Supply ($29.99 @ Amazon)
Read more about the Next Gen Crusher (and other example builds) here.
Reasons To Consider Building A PC
If you’re a gamer, there is a plethora of reasons to build a PC. Among my favorite: UNLOCKED FRAME RATE! Until recently, most console games were locked at 30 frames per second (FPS), with recent releases finally hitting the 60 FPS mark. On my PC, I’m able to play Fallout 4 in 1080p at roughly 80 FPS. Not only that, but you can also play in higher definitions. Also, there is unlimited backwards compatibility; One of my most played games is Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings, released in 1999, 17 years ago. Another great point is Valve’s online distributing program, Steam. Not only does Steam provide free online multiplayer, but the Steam Store has become well known for it’s popular, crazy sales. My last gaming related point is 3rd party modifications to games. Ever wanted to play as Sonic the Hedgehog in Skyrim and fight a gigantic dragon-shaped Macho Man Randy Savage or a giant Thomas the Train? You can do that, and more.
One of the main reasons I wanted to build my PC (parts list here for the curious) was that you can really get more bang for your buck in performance. While one can spend $500ish dollars to get an equivalent PC, spending more money to own parts that will stay relevant means that your computer will be able to play new releases for longer. Not only that, but it’s very easy to customize. Want more of a gaming machine? Get a powerful GPU and save money on the CPU. Not for gaming at all? Skip the GPU and spend the extra money on a much more powerful processor.
You’re also able to upgrade parts once yours become old. Once you’ve built a computer for the first time, it’s as easy as turning it off, unscrewing the old part and popping the new one in. On a similar note, the actual process of building it is challenging but fun. It helps to have a friend who’s done it before to help you, especially with the software aspect of it. All in all, my build took five hours from unboxing to getting to the desktop, but for me it felt rewarding, similar to how food always tastes better if you cook it yourself. Side note: Do NOT buy pre-built gaming PCs from 3rd party manufacturers. They are almost always overpriced and underpowered. Always build it yourself.
Finally, I think this is an understated reason to buy a gaming PC: You can do so much more on it than play games. The main catalyst to build mine wasn’t that I wanted to play games, but that my laptop was an insufferable piece of crap and I wanted something nice to do homework, browse the internet, and also play games on. Since buying an Xbox One and getting a nice laptop would have cost me somewhere in the neighborhood of $900, I figured I might as well spend an extra $200 and build a PC that does everything I’m looking for and does it better than an Xbox One and a laptop.
Of course, with all of this, there’s some things to be cautious for. If something goes wrong, it can be expensive to fix. I had to replace my $180 GPU not two months ago because I neglected to take it off of the motherboard before traveling. Once it gets old, you must also make sure their PC meets minimum or recommended specs for newly released games.
Wrapping Things Up
In conclusion, I think that I’ve made a good argument to consider going the PC route for gaming. At the very least, I hope that I’ve informed some of you on how PCs work and how they’re becoming more and more affordable. If you’re considering building a PC, I will attach some helpful links and resources to the bottom of this article to get started. Thank you for reading!
/r/BuildaPC: Great community for asking advice and help. Can look over your builds before you buy and let you know of any deals on parts.
PC Part Picker: Your best friend in the build process. Compares prices and specs between any given part by any manufacturer by any online retailer. This website is fantastic and unbelievable useful.
Tom’s Hardware: A fantastic forum that can help you answer any problem you may have by searching the forums. If you have a problem, someone else probably has had it too, and they asked about it here.
Gearforgaming.com : A great resource to read up on the latest gaming hardware/accessory news and reviews. You can use their comparisons and guides to help determine which specific components would be best for the pc you are trying to build.
TheGreatSetup.com : Perfect site for gaming computer buying guides, product reviews and how to’s. There’s also updated builds so you don’t need to worry about the builds being out of date, and also no matter what your budget is, there are guides for everyone here.