As has already been established, custom gaming computer systems can offer wonderful performance numbers and sleek styling, but they can often be cost-prohibitive. Furthermore, even non-custom computer systems can represent more than you are looking to spend, and the component quality is not always up to par. For gamers looking to achieve the highest possible performance at the lowest cost, building their own gaming system has become a more viable option, especially when a tower is all that is needed.
One of the key advantages to building your own gaming system is the cost efficiency of it. If you know where to shop for your components, you stand to spend a great deal less money assembling your system than you would for a comparably-powered, pre-made computer gaming system. Furthermore, the statement above is true: creating your own gaming system allows you to closely monitor the quality of individual components. Many computer manufacturers will save money on the manufacturing of their systems by cutting corners in specific hardware areas, from motherboards to onboard audio. By purchasing each component separately, you are afforded the opportunity of comparing the reviews and reputations of each piece and determining which brand or incarnation will be best for your system. It is possible and recommended to create a system using only the highest-quality parts by purchasing each piece separately and assembling the gaming rig yourself.
How do you Go about Building your own Computer?
Once you decide to build your own gaming system, how exactly do you go about it in an efficient and effective manner? The first step seems simple enough, but it is often the one that proves most problematic in the long run: determine what you are looking for from your system right at the outset. Do you want to go for a complete top-of-the-line gaming monster, or would you prefer to keep the setup at a more cost-effective midrange level? Do you plan on running multiple monitors separately, or will a standard display setup suffice? What types of activities do you see yourself doing on your newly-assembled computer system? Is gaming going to be chief among those activities? Once you determine exactly what you want from your new computer system, you can start looking at individual components.
The logical place to start when looking at computer components is the central processing unit, or CPU. The CPU is the heart of your computer system, and every other decision from memory to motherboard will be based on your choice at processor. The most important factor in selecting the proper processor remains the cost-to-performance ratio. As mentioned in an earlier article, AMD’s latest dual-core 64-bit processors represent the pinnacle of technological achievement, at least for the time being. The performance numbers generated by these processors indicate that the gaming experience found through them is unparalleled. However, at the highest end the cost for just the processor is over $1000. Obviously, not everybody is prepared to spend a grand on one particular component regardless of how well it performs. It is still possible to get a very well-performing processor for significantly less money, one that will anchor your new gaming system for years to come. Websites like NewEgg offer some of the best prices in the industry for computer components, and they allow you to compare both price and product reputation before buying.
Once you have determined the type of processor you will use in your gaming system, the next step is to select an adequate motherboard. Again, the key is to determine what it is that you want from your system. Certain motherboard chipsets work better with different types of processors, and it is recommended that you research these things before making your final decision. Moreover, the performance and configuration that you are ultimately looking for will determine your motherboard selection. How much system memory to you plan on running? What type of graphics card and interface are you leaning towards? The current industry standard is PCI Express, so if you plan on running more than one of these cards, your selection of acceptable motherboards narrows considerably. Once you determine exactly which components you plan on using with your system, selecting the right motherboard becomes significantly easier.
You will want to determine fairly early how much system memory, or RAM, you plan on using with your system. This decision will help determine which of several main components you will end up purchasing. If you plan on using your new computer system primarily for gaming, it is recommended that you purchase and run at least 1GB of RAM. The old level of 512MB of RAM simply is no longer acceptable for most heavy gaming applications, especially when the rest of your system utilizes so many resources. For higher-end gaming, or if you plan on running most games at their highest possible graphical level, you will probably want to upgrade to 2GB or RAM. DDR2 is the latest memory standard. DDR stands for dual data rate, and it essentially means that the memory operates at a higher overall speed than traditional SDRAM. DDR SDRAM itself is rated at several different speeds, so check the specifications on your motherboard to see which memory speed it supports.
Once you determine your ideal storage device configuration (DVD-ROM, DVD-RW, hard drives, etc.), one of the last ways that you can directly impact your new gaming system’s performance is through its graphics card. As stated previously, the current standard in terms of graphics card interface is PCI Express as it allows for the greatest transfer speed between card and motherboard. Furthermore, both of the major graphics chipset manufacturers, nVidia and ATi, now offer support for multiple-card configurations. nVidia calls their particular offering SLI, and ATi refers to theirs as Crossfire. By running multiple graphics cards together, you stand to dramatically increase your gaming system’s 3D-processing capabilities, greatly boosting the gaming potential of your new computer. In fact, nVidia now offers quad-SLI technology, allowing users to simultaneously run four graphics cards. Obviously, the cost and heat output associated with doing so is quite high, so this option is not for everybody. The debate between nVidia cards and ATi cards is a subject for another discussion; their rivalry is almost as storied as the Intel-AMD rivalry, and there are stalwarts on both sides that will not be swayed. However, determining which video card configuration you plan on using will ultimately decide which motherboard, computer case, and power supply that you end up purchasing.
Research, Research, Research!
If you have never before assembled your own computer system, it is recommended that you research the process thoroughly before finalizing any decisions. The components listed above will give you flexibility in terms of your system’s performance, but there are other important components to consider including storage devices, a computer case, and cooling solutions. This latter is particularly important; today’s components operate at drastically higher temperatures than their predecessors, so it is important to do so at all costs. The actual assembly of the components is quite easy as they are primarily plug-and-play, but research is again recommended for those who have never done so or who are the least bit uncomfortable with the process. If all else fails, turn to a computer professional to handle the actual assembly of your new gaming system.