What makes a good gaming PC? - 2014 Edition
Definition of a 'Gaming PC': A high specification computer used to play the latest, most visually demanding game titles such as Battlefield 4, Metro: Last Light and BioShock Infinite.
The simple answer:
- A dedicated graphics card from NVIDIA (GTX 750 Ti and above) or AMD (Radeon R7 260X and above)
- A high-speed (>3.0GHz), quad-core or better processor from Intel or AMD. (Recommended Minimum: Intel Core i5 or AMD FX 6300)
- 8GB of RAM
The simple wrong answer:
- Integrated graphics from Intel or an AMD APU
- A low speed (<3.0GHz) or Dual-Core processor
- Less than 8GB of RAM
Where the Graphics Processor Unit (GPU) is located is the
single most important factor for a gaming PC. If the GPU is built into the CPU this is known as 'integrated', 'onboard' or in the case of AMD processors it's called an APU. If the GPU is located on a separate board which slots into the motherboard then this is known as dedicated or discrete.
“Why are integrated graphics and APUs not good enough?”
Integrated graphics provide a mere fraction of the performance and video quality of that from a discrete graphics card from AMD or NVIDIA. As a result they cannot play the latest games and often provide such low video quality in games that the game jitters and jumps from frame to frame making it uncomfortable or impossible to play.
AMD and Intel have made big steps in improving their integrated graphics and APUs but they are still a long way behind dedicated graphics solutions and none provide the performance of a dedicated graphics card.
“Why aren't Dual-Core processors good enough for gaming?”In the past the speed of the processor was usually more important then the number of 'cores' for gaming purposes, modern games however are designed to utilize more than two cores and opting for a dual-core processor will hold you back in some of the latest games.
What's more, many games are developed for consoles first and then 'ported' to PC. Since the latest consoles have 8 cores at low speed if you don't have a lot of cores your PC likely won't handle next-generation game titles well.
More memory is good for general PC use but there are few games which use more than 2GB of memory due to programming restrictions. This is changing but it will be a long time before more than 8GB of memory affects gaming performance in a significant way.
"Don't I need more than 8GB of memory (RAM)?"
Where memory size does matter significantly is the memory attached directly to the graphics card. This memory should be GDDR5 and you should have at least 2GB. Although less important than the model of graphics processor you have these specifications have a direct impact on image quality in games, particularly at higher resolutions.
"What about SSDs (Solid State Drives)?"SSDs provide your PC with vastly improved responsiveness in general use but they offer no benefit to a gamer beyond game levels loading a few seconds faster. For that reason if your priority is gaming then spending the money on a faster GPU and foregoing the SSD is a superior option.
“What do I need if I just want to play the Sims, use Windows 8.1 and watch High-Definition video (i.e. a general purpose computer)?”A PC with an Intel CPU with integrated graphics or an AMD APU (e.g. Intel Core i3-4130 or AMD A8-7600).
“Why write this guide?”As computer enthusiasts at Sword it disturbs us when we see other companies misrepresenting the computer they are selling to their unsuspecting customers. Customers may buy a so called gaming PC only to find that it plays the old games they have but when they go out to buy a new one they find it doesn't work.
These sellers damage the reputation of all computer resellers on eBay and we're here to help show you there is real quality to be found on eBay. In fact quality not just above that of other eBay sellers but also above that of leading PC manufacturers.
About Sword Computers
Too many computer resellers on eBay deliberately mislabel computers suitable for Home or Office use as Gaming PCs and take the stance “If people don't know enough not to buy them then that's their problem.”
Sword Computers is different. We're enthusiastic experts in computers and we're keen to learn what you need - and to help you learn too - so that you get the computer which is just right for you. That's why we have a 100% feedback record and customers who return to us again and again after many years of happy, enjoyable, trouble-free computer use.