#1 Posted by bwheeeler (680 posts) -

Wanting to use some graduation money to get a PC that can actually play new games, and it feels like conventional internet wisdom is always BUILD YOUR OWN. But that seems like a lot of work, and hard, and stressful! Is there any way to get a relatively affordable gaming PC that will be decent for a few years without stumbling down the long road of building my own? Like, does anybody have a computer they bought at Best Buy that has no problem playing stuff? I don't know much about this at all.

#2 Edited by MB (14041 posts) -

It's not a lot of work, nor is it hard or stressful. I think the extra bang for your buck you will get from building your own is well worth it, not to mention the knowledge you'll gain from doing a little research and watching a couple of tutorial videos on YouTube. Not to mention you can select every component down to the individual fans and cables if you really wanted to. Tested has some great videos on this subject.

There are plenty of off the shelf PC's that are more than capable, you'll just pay more and get less if you go that route. Not to mention you're missing out on an opportunity to learn something useful that will benefit you and your hobby for years to come. Come on dude, build your own! I built my first PC before YouTube or tutorial videos were even a thing and it wasn't even hard then.

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#3 Edited by bwheeeler (680 posts) -

@mb: Honestly, this kind of convinced me! Could be a fun project to start the summer.

#4 Posted by chrissedoff (2244 posts) -

If I was a new graduate, I'd save whatever money I possibly could. It's tough out there!

#5 Edited by fisk0 (5183 posts) -

I think some companies sell motherboards with pre-fitted CPU's on them, which could be a decent option. Applying thermal gel and mounting the CPU fan is pretty much the only somewhat hard part that remains when building PC's these days, especially since you usually get a pretty small tube of gel with your CPU or fan, giving you a limited amount of tries to get it right. Everything else is clearly labeled and only fits in one way in modern PC's, making it very unlikely you'll do anything wrong.

Back when I started building PC's back in the mid 90's you had to set a bunch of jumpers on the motherboard to the right setting according to a schematic in the manual for your CPU, you had to think about master and slave drives and channel transfer speeds and stuff, not to mention IRQ's, today everything like that is auto-identified and configured when you power on the PC, the only time you have to mess with voltage settings is if you want to overclock stuff, which really is unnecessary if you just want to play the latest games and not be a crazy person.

#6 Posted by FinalDasa (2417 posts) -

@mb: I've always been intimidated by which components work well with others. Is there a good cheat sheet for ordering parts that go good together?

Also is there a good judge of good components for a good price? I don't want to shell out $200 for a graphics card and have it not pack a punch.

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#7 Posted by konig_kei (755 posts) -

It's like putting together a Lego pod racer.

#8 Edited by MB (14041 posts) -

@finaldasa: PC Part Picker is a good resource. You start with a CPU and go from there, it automatically sorts compatible parts for you. Beyond that, there are plenty of sites that do regular features about the best parts for different price levels, especially CPU's and GPU's. You can always just ask here too, there are a ton of knowledgeable people that are always helping out (or at least trying).

Check Tom's Hardware for video card heirarchy charts. They update it regularly.

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#9 Edited by SoldierG654342 (1864 posts) -

No, but it's a smarter move financially. You can get powerful pre-built rigs, but they come at a premium. Honestly, the hardest part about putting a PC together theses days is scouting out the best deals for parts. Once you get your components, everything ether screws or snaps together. It's also a great learning opportunity, and you'll be better equipped to deal with problems since you know what and where everything is.

#10 Posted by StarFoxA (5257 posts) -
#11 Posted by FinalDasa (2417 posts) -

@mb: Thanks! I think my next task for this year will be finally building a gaming PC.

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#12 Posted by LTSmash (699 posts) -

I just used Tested's latest PC build with Lloyd Case as a template, and with a few minor tweaks ended up with a great gaming rig.

#13 Posted by GreggD (4585 posts) -

@bwheeeler: I built my first gaming PC last November. It was a fun day project, and I learned a lot in the process. Only a little PC know-how is required to do it right, which honestly can be gained by just reading some how-to guides on the subject. By the way, I spent about 1300 in total on my build, not including my monitor, speakers, and M+KB. My big suggestion is to try and go with an EVGA GTX series card. I got an EVGA GTX 770 with ACX cooling and 4gb of VRAM, and got about 200 dollars worth of free games out of it from promotions through both NVidia and EVGA. Some food for thought, if you don't mind plunging a large sum into the graphics alone to yield more rewards/smoother gameplay.

#14 Posted by believer258 (12814 posts) -

You can buy a good pre-built gaming PC, but it costs way too much for something that's not nearly as difficult to learn as people think. I'm not going to say that there isn't anything to it - there is, it requires some research and some work - but I'm talking about an afternoon or two's worth of work, maybe a few more. All you really have to do is know which part is which, where it goes, and what plugs into it.

#15 Edited by TheHT (12351 posts) -

@finaldasa: Yeah, I think this year I'll start looking around gettin ready to build a new PC. The last time I was lookin at making a PC I chickened out and just bought a HP PC. That was like 5 or 6 years ago and I remember it was right before the whole intel "i" stuff started coming out, but I was too impatient to wait. I've only upgraded the graphics card and the power supply since, but the road ahead looks pretty scary for this thing.

PCPartPicker seems fuckin awesome, but I'm seriously gonna have to work out some budget.

#16 Posted by MB (14041 posts) -

@finaldasa: Great! You can always start your own topic for build advice, too. I recommend watching the Tested build videos when you get a chance, Will and Norm do a pretty good job of demystifying the whole process while not dumbing things down too much.

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#17 Posted by FinalDasa (2417 posts) -

@theht: That's essentially what I did expect my PC is only a year and a half old. Only thing really holding me back is my graphics card. It serves it's purpose (replaced my 6 year old macbook with it) and can manage a good deal of games, but nothing too modern or with great looking graphics.

@mb : Yeah I've certainly watched those in the past and realized it's much easier than I build it up to be in my head. They make it all seem super manageable. Also having a seperate, non-gaming PC, makes me feel somewhat more confident. If something breaks I won't be stuck without a computer altogether.

If I do go through with it I might catalog the process and blog about it!

Moderator
#18 Edited by joshwent (2762 posts) -

@finaldasa: @bwheeeler: I wrote this literally yesterday for another thread, and it must have been good timing because it totally applies here too!:

It can really seem like a daunting task to build a PC (especially a cheap yet high powered one) considering the almost infinite number of parts in their infinite combinations, but there are resources that help take a lot of the guesswork out of it. I love this stuff but I'm nowhere near an expert, but with help from a few key sites and methods it was all pretty painless. (and fun!)

The first step if you don't have a grasp on even all the parts that make a PC go, is to just spend a little time watching videos. YouTube has tons of great things from folks who build computers for a living. Even a general search for, "how to build a computer" will probably help a lot. This 3 part series from newegg clarified most of the things I was unsure about:

Loading Video...

The next would be looking for some articles about perspective cheap builds. Many PC sites will release articles a few times a year about the best parts in certain budget levels, like what graphics cards are currently the best around $100, $200, etc. There are also articles about entire PC builds also based around a target budget. Here's a pretty good article from Lifehacker to get you started.

Once you have an idea of what parts might be good, head over to a retail site (I like newegg, but others are fine too) with reviews from folks who've actually bought them and look up those parts. There are usually sections like, "Users who bought this also bought..." with links to parts that are similar but cheaper, or other components that are compatible. Also, check out the reviews. If there's one thing PC enthusiasts like talking about, it's how product X sucks and you can get product Y that does the same thing for cheaper.

The last step, once you've found parts that look good to you and you've seen them being praised by others, is to make a list in an awesome site like pcpartpicker.com. There, you can add all of the parts you're considering, and it will automatically tell you the estimated power required so you can base your power supply choice off of that, and even if all of your parts are compatible. It's a priceless help. But of course, it's good to make sure on your own, so if you just google, "is 'part x' compatible with 'motherboard y'", there should be lists that you cam double check with. Here's a link to my build on that site, but don't necessarily take those parts as a recommendation. They're all great, but it was about a year ago, so you're sure to find some things that are even more current and cheaper.

Also, a last optional step once you have the build sorted out is to post it for others to see and let you know if they think it's good. There are lots of sites out there which actually specialize in that, and you can even post your build right in pcpartpicker, but if you really want, some folks even post their perspective builds in the PC forum right here, and we're always eager to help.

So yeah, I went from a dude with only the most basic knowledge of computers to building a crazy cheap pretty powerful PC just by dedicating myself to going through these steps. If you put the time in, you can get a great computer out, and with the added satisfaction of having made the damn thing yourself!. Good Luck!!

Bonus random tips:

- For now, you don't really need more than 8 gigs of ram if you don't plan on doing crazy high res video editing or 3D modelling/animation.

- When budgeting, don't forget peripherals (Monitor, mouse, keyboard, speakers, etc.). These can easily add a ton onto the overall cost, so it's best to think about those while you're deciding on the other parts. Of course, it's what's inside that counts, as it were, so you should absolutely try and get the best internal parts and skimp on a cheap keyboard or something if you have to.

- Like the point above, don't forget that you might need to buy an OS. Despite being kind of old now, Windows 7 Home Premium still goes for around $70, which can be a nasty boost in cost if you've budgeted everything else without it.

- Have fun! Really the most important tip. If you ever feel overwhelmed, just remember that you have the internet (aka, the collected wisdom of PC builders around the world) at your fingertips. Google your question, or ask on a PC building site, and you'll have your answer in no time.

#19 Posted by Waffles13 (622 posts) -

People always seem to think PC building is a way, way bigger and more intensive process. The fact is that as long as you use common sense and maybe a video tutorial or two, you really can't screw it up. The only really "controversial" part is the CPU and GPU brands, but at this point it pretty much boils down to AMD for price and Intel/Nvidia for performance (more or less). Everything beyond that is largely personal preference and as long as you use Newegg or Amazon reviews you really can't go wrong. Putting it together is like Legos, except it all can only fit one way.

#20 Posted by FinalDasa (2417 posts) -

@joshwent: Wow! Thanks! You should blog this, if you haven't, for easier access! Luckily with the earlier purchase of an off-the-shelf HP I have a lot of the accessories I want. That should certainly help my budget.

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#21 Posted by OurSin_360 (1038 posts) -

Only thing stressful for me the first time was putting in the Cpu, and that literally took less than a minute lol.

But to answer the question, no you do not have to make your own pc to play modern games, it's just the best way to get the most customizable experience for yourself. It's also typically the cheaper option, but you can even get a gaming laptop to play most modern games on medium settings. If your not worried about price for high end pre-built pc's that use all the most expensive parts, or want to save money and aren't worried about playing games on the highest settings you can go pre built. But IMO, i think the best way if your on a budget and want the best performance is to build your own. You will have the option to go cheap on certain things and honestly it's just real fun to do and rewarding afterwards.

#22 Posted by Ravelle (1688 posts) -

Only thing stressful for me the first time was putting in the Cpu, and that literally took less than a minute lol.

But to answer the question, no you do not have to make your own pc to play modern games, it's just the best way to get the most customizable experience for yourself. It's also typically the cheaper option, but you can even get a gaming laptop to play most modern games on medium settings. If your not worried about price for high end pre-built pc's that use all the most expensive parts, or want to save money and aren't worried about playing games on the highest settings you can go pre built. But IMO, i think the best way if your on a budget and want the best performance is to build your own. You will have the option to go cheap on certain things and honestly it's just real fun to do and rewarding afterwards.

Installing CPU fans is even more frustrating, screws falling between components and the case etc, the bracket and screws that don't want to fit.

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#23 Posted by OurSin_360 (1038 posts) -

Only thing stressful for me the first time was putting in the Cpu, and that literally took less than a minute lol.

@ravelle said:

@oursin_360 said:

Only thing stressful for me the first time was putting in the Cpu, and that literally took less than a minute lol.

But to answer the question, no you do not have to make your own pc to play modern games, it's just the best way to get the most customizable experience for yourself. It's also typically the cheaper option, but you can even get a gaming laptop to play most modern games on medium settings. If your not worried about price for high end pre-built pc's that use all the most expensive parts, or want to save money and aren't worried about playing games on the highest settings you can go pre built. But IMO, i think the best way if your on a budget and want the best performance is to build your own. You will have the option to go cheap on certain things and honestly it's just real fun to do and rewarding afterwards.

Installing CPU fans is even more frustrating, screws falling between components and the case etc, the bracket and screws that don't want to fit.


Installing an after market fan is annoying, but if you just put in the default it's not that bad at all.

#24 Edited by Ravelle (1688 posts) -

@oursin_360 said:

Only thing stressful for me the first time was putting in the Cpu, and that literally took less than a minute lol.

@ravelle said:

@oursin_360 said:

Only thing stressful for me the first time was putting in the Cpu, and that literally took less than a minute lol.

But to answer the question, no you do not have to make your own pc to play modern games, it's just the best way to get the most customizable experience for yourself. It's also typically the cheaper option, but you can even get a gaming laptop to play most modern games on medium settings. If your not worried about price for high end pre-built pc's that use all the most expensive parts, or want to save money and aren't worried about playing games on the highest settings you can go pre built. But IMO, i think the best way if your on a budget and want the best performance is to build your own. You will have the option to go cheap on certain things and honestly it's just real fun to do and rewarding afterwards.

Installing CPU fans is even more frustrating, screws falling between components and the case etc, the bracket and screws that don't want to fit.

Installing an after market fan is annoying, but if you just put in the default it's not that bad at all.

Yeah, I've had several after markets, it's usually the plastic twisting mounts that are always the issue, I've ruined an expensive Fan by trying to force them in their holes and twisting them. Really wish the came up with a much quicker and safer way of placing your CPU fan.

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#25 Posted by cyberbloke (65 posts) -

You don't have to self-build.

There is a lot of snobbishness attached to PC gaming, and building your own is seen as rite of passage.

I have built three PCs in the past, and they all turned out great.

I am, however, currently gaming in an iMac running Bootcamp. I'm sure an up-to-date self-build would perform better, but my Mac does pretty well.

#26 Posted by fisk0 (5183 posts) -

@ravelle said:

@oursin_360 said:

Only thing stressful for me the first time was putting in the Cpu, and that literally took less than a minute lol.

@ravelle said:

@oursin_360 said:

Only thing stressful for me the first time was putting in the Cpu, and that literally took less than a minute lol.

But to answer the question, no you do not have to make your own pc to play modern games, it's just the best way to get the most customizable experience for yourself. It's also typically the cheaper option, but you can even get a gaming laptop to play most modern games on medium settings. If your not worried about price for high end pre-built pc's that use all the most expensive parts, or want to save money and aren't worried about playing games on the highest settings you can go pre built. But IMO, i think the best way if your on a budget and want the best performance is to build your own. You will have the option to go cheap on certain things and honestly it's just real fun to do and rewarding afterwards.

Installing CPU fans is even more frustrating, screws falling between components and the case etc, the bracket and screws that don't want to fit.

Installing an after market fan is annoying, but if you just put in the default it's not that bad at all.

Yeah, I've had several after markets, it's usually the plastic twisting mounts that are always the issue, I've ruined an expensive Fan by trying to force them in their holes and twisting them. Really wish the came up with a much quicker and safer way of placing your CPU fan.

Yeah, that's the part I've found the hardest in my last few PC's too. At least they've gotten better than Socket A was about 13 years ago, that thing was a total nightmare. It's still really frustrating though, especially since the very small tubes of thermal gel don't give you a lot of margin for error, if you need to reapply it.