So you’ve had a console for a while now, and even though your finger speed is on point, your thumb control is dialed in and you’ve finished all your games on max difficulty, you’re still curious about the fabled mouse and keyboard killer combo.
There’s a common misconception that gaming PCs are outrageously expensive to acquire, and that you need a beast of a machine to play even the most console-like games (yes, this is a proPC article).
Before you start a flame war in the comments, hear us out. If you’ve ever wanted to get into PC gaming, now is the best time in the history of the world (or is that, Blizzard World?). Sure, that’s a bit dramatic, but really, modern games don’t require the high-level components of their forebears.
The days of Crysis blowing up your brand-new GPU are for the most part, done for. Competitive video games are a major driver in the strategy to make games more accessible to moderately-specced gaming rigs. Blizzard games, for example, run on very cost-effective hardware, and if you’ve been enticed by the idea of picking up a copy of Overwatch, we’ve got your back.
Today, we’ll take you through a very capable, console killing gaming PC build guide specifically designed to play modern competitive games.
The CPU – Intel Core i3
First thing’s first, you don’t need Intel’s i9 or an AMD’s Threadripper to play games at high frame rates. Most, especially e-sports titles, are very well optimised for even the most bang-average processor. That being said, don’t try whip out that old grey tower out from storage and think it’ll do the job, you’re still going to need some horsepower.
As this is a budget build, we’re going to go with Intel’s i3 processor. Generally, it’s best to go for the higher spec, faster GHz i3’s at the top of the range. It’s a modern processor, with everything you’d need to browse the Internet, work on projects and of course, game.
The GPU – NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060
There has never been as versatile a GPU as the GeForce GTX 1060. Low power consumption, high frames per second and many, many manufacturers means finding one for a low price shouldn’t be an issue. If you’re looking at playing games with ultra-setting textures turned on, shoot for the more expensive 6GB option, though the 3GB is perfectly adequate for pretty much every competitive title. The priority for this build is frames per second performance, we recommend the GTX 1060 3GB variant.
RAM – 8GB DDR4
Although the age-old adage of “more is better” is mostly true with PCs, modern competitive games don’t require loads of it. 8GB is more than sufficient for games like Counter-Strike, DOTA 2 and, of course, Overwatch.
A word on memory speeds: you don’t need to get the XXXXL Uber-Alles RAM kits to see great gaming performance. You also don’t need expensive brand-name versions either. Typically, for every new processor and memory architecture version iteration, there is a well defined sweet spot for cost-per-performance. Currently, this is the 2400MT/s options (don’t worry about the MT’s, just pick up modules that won’t break your bank account but are at least 2400MT’s).
Storage – SSD’s Are A Must
If you haven’t used a computer with a solid-state-drive yet, it’s time to get out from under that rock and join the rest of us. SSD’s are cheaper than ever and offer incredible relative performance for the money over mechanical drives. Sure, you lose out on some capacity, but if you’ve got a Netflix subscription and not storing hordes of totally legitimate video files on your drive, you’ll be fine. You simply cannot compare mechanical drives to those of the SSD variety.
In much the way that the brand of RAM you utilise doesn’t really matter, SSD’s are similar. You don’t need the needle-crashing performance of Samsung’s latest SSD model to reap 80% of the benefits of SSD tech. Buy what you can afford, just don’t get anything under 120GB if you aren’t prepared to be selective about what games or programs you install.
Case and Power Supply
If you’d like us to make a straightforward recommendation of price for performance for these components of your build, one word: Coolermaster. Built for both the budget and enthusiast PC user, Coolermaster offer lots of options at various price-points. Shoot for one of their micro-ATX sized cases and you won’t go wrong. You might not get any see-through windows in your side-panels, but hey, who really needs that anyway when your eyes should be glued to the screen, right?
As for power supplies, higher output units aren’t required for modern computer components. One of the advantages to rapid computer technology development is that as things get smaller, they generally need less power to operate. A power supply unit (PSU) of around ~450 watts should be more than sufficient. Coolermaster has some excellent options here, and because most of them are black in colour, they’d match your Coolermaster case, too.
Display – 1080p For Competitive Gaming
If you’re interested in maintaining high framerates with lag or stutter free game play, Full HD resolutions are where you should be aiming. If you’re looking to weight your budget to any particular components in your PC build, your money should go to your GPU, and then to your monitor.
Run-of-the-mill displays are fine to actually play games, but you’re going to want something a little better than average if you’re going to be spending the time to get good. If it is at all possible, try to splurge on a display with a 120 – 144hz refresh rate. Yes, these are expensive, but they are truly worth the money.
Peripherals – Buy Expensive, Buy Once, Buy Cheap, Well…
Over the past few years, as PC gaming has returned with force, many component manufacturers have joined the peripherals business. Although you can get away with using cheap mice-and-keyboard combo kits to get started, it’s best that you invest some money in quality components.
Short of monitors, mice and keyboards are going to be with you for the longest amount of time and use. Quality options from the likes of Logitech, Steelseries and Razer should do the job for years to come, so don’t be tempted to skimp. Remember, it is these devices that you actually use to interface with your gaming PC.
Spend your money where you spend your time, we say!
And that, folks, concludes our budget PC build article. While we didn’t take a deep dive into all the myriad options available to you, we’ve tried to offer you as best a bang-for-your-buck approach to joining the ever-expanding PC gaming guild.
See you online.