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So you’ve decided that you no longer care about money and are now interested in building your own PC. Congratulations! It’s going to be long, arduous, not to mention expensive, road to travel. But at the end of the day, you’ll have a machine that’s completely suited to your needs and customized to match all of your likes and dislikes (not to mention have the insufferable bragging rights of saying “yeah I built it myself but w/e).
And while handheld devices are starting to pretty much replace a lot of what we need computers for (like e-mails and excel sheets), it can’t replace the PC when it comes to professional gaming or video editing or graphic design.
Of course, that’s the best-case scenario; the worst-case scenario is that you spend thousands of dollars on separate parts only to find out later that you’ve either crossed wires you shouldn’t have and are now watching your motherboard burning through your desk, or you’ve spent thousands of dollars for parts that are incompatible with one another. It can go either way.
But hey, I’m not trying to scare you: I’m just saying that building your own PC is cool and satisfying, but it requires a lot of technical know-how and research. Which isn’t to say that we should fetishize PC builders as some kind of esoteric tech guru. At the end of the day, they’re just geeks who are very passionate about having the right kind of equipment for the right situation.
But if you want to be a tech guru, the best place to start is always, always, going to be the basics.
Tech Guru 101: Go Back to The Basics
We’re going to assume that, if you’re interested in building a PC, then you are no computer novice: you know all the lingo, the abbreviations, the differences between SDD and HDD, etc. Basically, you ought to know your computer basics.
But using a PC is very much different from building one, and in the latter case, you’re going to have to go back to basics again, starting with getting the right parts.
It might seem like common sense, but a lot of over-eager builders skip this step and just start buying the latest, most advanced tech they can get their hands on, thinking that everything will just snap into place.
Of course, they’ll realize too late that their parts are either incompatible or they don’t behave in their most efficient because of how they’ve been mixed and matched. It’s a rookie mistake, and you hate to see it, but it happens anyway.
Our advice? Go back to the basics and read the fine print of every part you get. Cross-reference each part with every other part you have, read manuals, online guides, and forums, and try to find as much information as you possibly can before you even start the building process.
And remember: you’re going to get what you pay for. Remember that the best gaming PC’s under $1000 can run triple-A games smoothly, but they’re probably not going to be your best bet if you want to go pro.
Tech Guru 1010: Finding the Right Processor (CPU)
Your CPU is your computer’s brain. It’s the thing that runs pretty much every instruction you give it into actionable results, whether it’s running a videogame, allowing you to livestream on Twitch, or playing your umpteenth of hour of YouTube.
It’s perhaps one of the most –if not the most –crucial components of your computer, and you’ll have a wide array of CPU’s to choose from depending on your purposes. For gamers, however, there are only two choices: Intel or AMD.
Intel’s i-series of CPU’s are pretty reliable, and have been so since the early 2000’s. They also have a solid selection ranging from the latest generation of i5s to the i7s. Meanwhile, AMD’s Ryzen and Threadripper CPU’s, while on the higher-end of the market, are preferred by e-sports enthusiasts for their sheer firepower and processing capabilities.
Again, choosing a CPU is entirely dependent on what you need your computer for. Sure, you could get yourself an AMD Ryzen 9 3950X or an Intel i9-9900KS just so you could watch Netflix and play Solitaire, but you’d be wasting a lot of your hard-earned cash on hardware you’re not going to use. If you’re going to buy a powerful CPU, make the most of it.
Tech Guru 101: Don’t Forget to Call Your Mother(boards)
In essence, a motherboard is a large circuit board that connects every other component of your CPU while facilitating communication between each chip, module, processor, and everything else in between. If your CPU is the brain, then the motherboard is…ok I don’t know enough about human anatomy to make an analogy. The heart? Sure, let’s go with that.
The right motherboard is necessary to make the most out of your other components: you could have the fastest processor, the best GPU, and the best RAM, but if your motherboard is out of date, then none of those components are going to reach their full potential.
Not all motherboards are compatible with each CPU, so it’s essential that you get the right motherboard for the right components. Different motherboards will also different capabilities like overclocking, connectivity options, and even lighting. For gamers, the Asus ROG Maximus XII Hero Z490 is a perfect balance between affordability and capability (although it might struggle with, while the Gigabyte X570 AORUS Master offers more-than-enough power for the more casual user.
Tech Guru 101: Spend On Your Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)
You might not think that a GPU is important if you’re just going to be using your PC for casual browsing, but trust us, you’re going to want to spend for a good one anyway. Your graphics processing unit, or GPU, is the PC component responsible for allowing your computer to display complex and intricate graphics in the smoothest way possible (of course, you’re going to want an Ultrawide monitor for best results). That being said, while you should get a cheap GPU, you don’t need to spend for it unless your career depended on it.
Sure, most CPUs have integrated graphics, but you’re going to want to get a GPU anyway, especially if you’re building a gaming rig. In fact, don’t even bother building your own gaming rig if you’re not even considering a GPU.
When it comes to the GPU arms race, Nvidia regularly tops most lists in terms of capabilities, with their GeForce line dominating the scene. Yes, GPU’s are notoriously expensive, with the Nvidia GV 100 Volta clocking in at a whopping $8399, while the slightly ‘lower end’ GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER retailing at a ‘mere’ $700.
But think of it this way: the only reason you’ll spend that much on a GPU is if it impacts your career: while the GV 100 Volta costs roughly the same as a second-hand 2010 Ford SUV (seriously), if you’re using it for, say, professional e-sports or for video editing, you’ll probably make ROI pretty quickly.
We’ll leave it here for now, but there’s plenty more we haven’t discussed! Stay tuned for Part 2!