Buying a Gaming PC

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If you are in the market for a new PC able to keep up with your hard core gaming needs then this will be a useful step by step guide to help you select suitable components for your dream gaming PC. The first thing we will look at is Noise:

Quietness:

It is important to consider noise output at the first stage because if your gaming PC also needs to be as quiet as possible it is important to choose the right components. You CAN NOT have a silent extreme gaming PC but you can reduce the noise to a very large extent by choosing the case, the case fans, the power supply, the CPU heatsink and graphics cards very carefully.

Simple rule of thumb is the more fans you have the higher the noise output.

With an extreme gaming PC you will have lots of fans. There will be one in the PSU, one or two on the CPU heatsink, 2 to 7 case fans and the graphics card fans.

Selecting a case which has plenty of cooling but also has some noise dampening features (for example the Fractal Design Define R4 or Antec P183 or Corsair Obsidian S550D case), will reduce noise output.

Smaller fans have to spin faster to provide the same amount of cooling. So choosing a power supply with a quiet large fan is a good idea. Similarly larger case fans will provide lots of cooling but will be a lot quieter than smaller case fans. Selecting quieter case fans like those made by Fractal Design or Zalman or Reeven will reduce the noise even further.

A quieter CPU heatsink and fan combo and choosing a lower overclock on the CPU will also help to make the PC quieter.

Solid state drives have no moving parts so they are completely silent. Choosing an SSD as the primary drive will mean eliminating hard drive noise completely during ordinary operations.

As for graphics cards, it is very difficult to get high end graphics cards which are quiet. Most standard design gaming cards tend to have only one small fan when they are first introduced. These tend to be very noisy under load. Eventually manufacturers release versions with 2 or more fans.

Graphics cards get very hot under load and if there is only 1 small fan it needs to spin very fast to keep the card cool. Due to the small height of graphics cards it is not possible to fit very big fans on them, so the solution is to have 2 or 3 fans. With multiple fans each of these fans don’t need to spin as fast as when there is only one fan and this means the total noise output is reduced. Therefore these multi-fan versions are a lot quieter than the standard graphics cards but will still be the noisiest component in the PC when they are put under load.
 

Case:

The next step is selecting the right case.

Obviously you will want to get a case that looks good. However, the a case you select also need to have plenty of air flow to keep the CPU, motherboard, RAM, hard drive and graphics card(s) cool.

Gaming at maximum settings tends to put these components under load causing them to heat up very quickly. Good cooling will serve to keep all these components humming along nicely.

Good airflow requires plenty of vents and a decent number of fans and usually means a larger case. Also high end graphics cards tend to be quite long and need slightly bigger cases.

So it is necessary to ensure that there is adequate space available to keep the case and provide airflow when you need to use it. You don’t want to end up with a PC that won’t fit where you need to keep it or will not get adequate airflow.

If space is tight, then selecting a smaller case might be necessary. However, this will mean less airflow and possibly having to use a less powerful graphics card. Also if you would like an extreme gaming PC in a small case, you have to be prepared for it to be noisy. Since there is room for fewer fans inside the smaller cases, the fans that are installed need to rev faster to provide adequate airflow, which obviously means that they will be noisier.

As mentioned above it is possible to get cases which have some soundproofing features built in to reduce noise levels and if quietness is important, it is a good idea to go for one of these cases.

Motherboards:

Next up is choosing a motherboard. The motherboard connects everything to each other and all data travels through it. So is very important to make sure that the motherboard you select is actually able to connect with all the other components that you wish to use!

When choosing a motherboard all the letters and numbers may look confusing but the main thing is making sure the board has the right socket and right chipset. Different processor architectures use different sockets.

On a basic level an AMD processor will not work on a motherboard designed for Intel CPUs. Even within AMD and Intel there are different sockets. So a motherboard designed for AMD AM3+ CPUs will work with AM3 CPUs and maybe even AM2+ CPUs provided it is backwards compatible. However, it will not work with AMD FM1 or FM2 socket CPUs which are based on completely different architectures. Similarly Intel Socket 1155 CPUs will not fit on motherboards which support Intel Socket 775, Socket 1155, Socket 1366 or Socket 2011 CPUs. So the first thing to do is to check whether the motherboard you are selecting is compatible with the CPU you would like to use.

Once you know the socket of the CPU you wish to use in the PC, you then need to look at the various motherboard chipsets available for that particular socket. Different chipsets will have different features and will make a big difference in the performance of your PC. For example, for Intel Socket 1155 you have a choice of motherboards based on the Intel H61, Intel H67, Intel B75, Intel H77, Intel P67, Intel Z68, Intel Z77, Intel Q67, Intel Q77 chipsets. So there is quite a lot of choice!! It is important to do research into what motherboard would be appropriate and one way you can do this is by calling one of the Arbico Computers sales team on 08456 252627.

Other important considerations when selecting a motherboard are to ensure it will fit the case you have selected. Fitting a small motherboard in a large case is usually fine but obviously a large motherboard will not fit in small case. So a full E-ATX (extended ATX) motherboard will not fit in a standard ATX case and a standard ATX board will not fit in a micro ATX case.

Not all motherboards support SATA III and/or USB 3. So if you intend to have SATA III or USB 3 devices it is important that the motherboard you choose supports these features. There is no point going for a fast SATA III Solid State Drive only for it to work at slower speeds because the board only supports SATA II. Similarly while USB 3 devices are usually backwards compatible with USB 2 ports, they will work much better and faster with USB 3 ports.

The motherboard should support the amount and speed of RAM you would like in the PC and have the appropriate number of memory slots to fit the required amount of RAM. If you have splurged on fast gaming memory but the board only supports a slower memory speed, the RAM sticks might not work properly or work at slower speeds.

The motherboard chosen should also have the adequate number of PCI and PCI Express (PCI-E) slots for the graphics cards and additional expansion cards you would like to install. When looking at PCI and PCI-E slots remember that nowadays high-end graphics cards have big heatsinks which mean these cards take over two or even three slots, so some of the PCI or PCI-E slots might be covered by the graphics card heatsinks.

Finally make sure the motherboard can support any essential features you might need (such as firewire or ESATA or a certain number of USB or Ethernet ports) either inherently or via cards that can be installed in free PCI or PCI-E slots.
 

Processors

The choice of processor will depend on personal preference, budget and what the main purposes of the PC will be.

It is important to remember that for gaming purposes although a certain minimum CPU specification is necessary to run modern games, most of the in game processing is actually done by the graphics card. So a high end graphics card with a mid-range CPU will deliver much better gaming performance than a top of the range CPU paired with a mid- range graphics card.

So if your budget is limited it is important to set aside as much of it as possible for the best possible graphics card which can be managed while not compromising too much on the other components. This can be quite a tough thing to do and you are welcome to call one of the Arbico Sales team if you need some advice.

Broadly speaking, AMD CPUs tend to provide more bang for buck at the lower end while Intel CPUs dominate the mid and high end when it comes to sheer power. Within AMD and Intel there are further choices.

However for extreme gaming the choice is more limited because you will need a processor which can be overclocked. So realistically you have a choice between the AMD Phenom and FX range and the Intel i5 3570K, i7 3770K, i7 3820, i7 3930K and i7 3970X. The other CPUs in the Intel range cannot be overclocked and AMDs FM1 and FM2 CPUs don’t stack up as well in gaming performance even after overclocking.

Over clocking is where the processor settings are adjusted via software to make it run faster than it would normally run. Please remember overclocking requires some technical knowledge and if done incorrectly will damage the components in your PC. Such damage will not be covered by your warranty. Obviously if you are buying one of Arbico’s extreme gaming PCs our normal warranty terms will apply and cover any of the components that have been overclocked by our experienced team members.

If money is no object than the Intel Socket 2011 Core i7 3970X CPU is the best gaming CPU available. The highest end extreme gaming PCs combine an overclocked 3970X CPU with 64GB of RAM and 2 of the top end NVIDIA or AMD graphics cards in SLI or Crossfire mode (more on this in the Graphics card section).

Next up is the Intel Core i7 3930K which is also Socket 2011 CPU and still costs quite a bit.

For most gamers with a budget between £1000 and £2000 though the choice is between the Intel Socket 1155 Core i5 3570K or Intel Socket 1155 Core i7 3770K. Either of these can be overclocked and paired with between 16GB and 32GB of RAM and a high end AMD or NVIDIA graphics card.

Under the £1000 range an overclocked AMD Phenom or FX CPU is the best choice. Choosing an AMD CPU will be mean that you will be able to select a good case, cooling, motherboard, power supply and graphics card and get a well-rounded extreme gaming PC.

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