The Gaming PC Buyer's Guide: The Specs That Matter
June 4, 2017
Gaming offers an escape from the daily grind and a great way to unwind with buds. However, it's hard to get serious about battling baddies if your specs can't fuel your favorite titles. A top-of-the-line gaming PC can set you back thousands of dollars, but you can immerse yourself in a realistic gaming world for far less if you know where to concentrate your resources. Learn which features matter and which ones are overkill in order to maximize your gaming experience without breaking the budget.
Not Just a Game Box
Most PC gamers focus on what's inside the gaming computer, but the outside matters, too. A desktop pc allows for better air circulation and cooling compared to a gaming laptop, whose sardine-like schematics can overheat more easily. Besides, who wants to game with friends on a laptop screen? A desktop and large display serve as home base to hang out and entertain your pals.
When it comes to cooling, bigger is usually better, so opt for a mid- to full-sized tower over a compact desktop computer. As a bonus, a full tower allows for more flexible upgrades down the road. The extra room accommodates a broader range of computer parts, and full towers typically support multiple hard drives and video cards.
Dance of the PC Graphics
Even newbie gamers know that a state-of-the-art video card can kick a game's graphics into high gear. However, many overlook the importance of their display. If your computer monitor can't display 4K resolutions, it doesn't matter that your blazing-fast video card supports 4K gaming. Before you buy, check the maximum resolution, refresh rates and response times that your display can support, and choose a graphics card just slightly more powerful for optimum syncing. Likewise, check that your motherboard can support the video card's maximum capacity. Don't forget to change the default settings in your game to see the pay-off of your investments.
Brain Power and Your Computer CPU
The processor is the brain of your gaming computer, carrying out your decisions and tallying up the carnage. A faster CPU speeds up your game's AI, allowing you to control bigger, badder armies and confront craftier adversaries. If you play online games, a faster processor better manages your network connections for smoother playback and less lag. Most experts recommend a quad-core processor, which balances performance and cost. A dual-core can't handle the more processor-intensive games on the market, while an octo-core is overkill for most casual gamers and adds serious Benjamins to the cost of your rig.
When shopping for specs, don't overlook memory. Invest in at least 8 GB of DDR3 or DDR4 RAM, which are faster than the old DDR2 RAM and provide a more responsive gaming experience.
Solid State for Faster Storage
Tired of staring at the screen while your game boots? A solid state drive loads your game faster than a traditional spinning hard drive, so you can spend more time gaming. They also save your files and load the next level at noticeably zippier speeds. Solid state drives have come down considerably in price, but they still cost more. If your budget is less than large, consider pairing a small SSD with a large traditional hard drive to balance performance and storage size. For the fastest possible load times, be sure to install the operating system on your solid state drive and not your spinning hard drive.
Consider your interests before you shop for a gaming computer. For example, fans of first-person shooters get more out of realistic graphics and an immersive experience, making the video card, display and sound system the core components. Empire builders and obsessive strategists need smooth playback and zippy response times, so an advanced CPU and RAM are the most important. By prioritizing what kind of experience you want, you can crank up the volume on your games while clocking in under budget.
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