If you are looking to build your own Gaming PC, firstly good on you. Moving away from pre-built PCs is a step towards a future where you are totally in control of your budget when it comes to your gaming hardware.
While sometimes you might be able to build onto the foundations given to you by buying a gaming PC that has already been assembled for you, there is no doubt the satisfaction of turning your new Frankenstein on for the first time and seeing it start to install Windows 10 if a thrill you certainly won’t get from just taking one out of the delivery box.
Why build your own Gaming PC
Satisfaction is a big part of it. If you are here then chances are you have already got excited about the prospect of scrolling through lists of hardware on Amazon and deciding what components are right for you.
Building your own PC allows you to compromise – or not – on areas that can directly affect your cost. For example you could easily choose a small, cheaper storage solution in the short term in order to push your budget on a better GPU, knowing that in the future, you can upgrade the areas you initially held back on
Certain components are easier to upgrade than others – you certainly won’t want to be swapping out your motherboard often, that’s a right pain in the ass, so that is an area you might choose to focus on getting right first time.
An area many first time builders save money on is in the power supply. It’s easy to pick up an unbranded Chinese clone on eBay for this most unsexy of parts, but stop and think about it for a minute, that is the one component that could actually fry everything else you have bought. Branded PSUs from the likes of Corsair or Seasonic are expensive for a reason – they are reliable.
It’s not unreasonable to think that you may have got this far down the article and think ‘this isn’t for, it’s too complicated already’, but don’t be put off so easily, we are going to talk you through everything you need to get up and running with your own custom-built rig that you can rightly be proud of. Let’s go.
The basic parts you need to build a gaming PC
The Central Processing Unit (CPU) is often described as the brain in your PC and if you think of it like that you will have an idea of how important it is. Now, as in real life, some brains are cleverer than others. In respects to a CPU cleverness generally equates to speed. The faster it goes, the better (and more expensive) it gets. A nice fast CPU can transmit information to the other components in your PC faster. We are talking about minutes here, or even seconds faster, but nanoseconds and it still makes a massive difference. CPUs these days, in the main are multi-core – which, for sake of analogy means multiple brains within one, er head. Quad-Core, eight-core, 12-core – the more cores a CPU has the more different things it can concentrate on at one time. It’s not always as simple as that, but this isn’t a science lesson and you can learn about that another time.
GPU (Graphics Card)
The graphics card is probably that one component that separates a PC from a gaming PC. This provides the grunt and determines how good your games look by the time it gets to your monitor. You can spend from a couple of hundred to well over a thousand in this area and is not an area to scrimp on, although you can make a better decision when you take into account your other parts. For example, if you don’t have a 4k monitor is it worth spending £800 on that new RTX 3080? Nope. Of course, if you are going to be getting a 4K monitor (and you likely will before too long) it’s better to take the plunge than have to upgrade in the future as GPUs depreciate in value quite quickly as new models are always coming out.
We already touched on how important the motherboard is to your build as it is what connects all the components together. Therefore if you ever need to change your motherboard, you need to disconnect everything and that is more trouble than it sounds. There are a huge number of different makes and models of motherboards out there and you need to make sure you get one that is compatible with all your other parts – certain mobos are designed for AMD CPUS, others for Intel, for example and they have different socks for the CPU to fit into. You need to get this bit right.
You sometimes still hear beginners get memory mixed up with the amount of storage space on a PC. That’s wrong, RAM is the component that determines how much data your PC can retain at a given moment. Therefore, somewhat obviously, more ram = good. Although there is a point of diminishing return where you add more ram than you actually need and it ceases to make any difference. As a general rule of thumb 16-32GB is generally the sweet spot for a gaming PC, with 32GB being the preferred (and more expensive) option. It is possible to go with 16GB initially and add a further 16GB at a later date if you need to fit it in a budget.
See above re confusion but storage these days is generally either the aging HDD format (hard disk drive) or SSD (Solid State drive). Hard drives were the preferred and mainly only option for many years. They are mechanical and have a lifespan as all mechanical things do. The harder they work over time the more likely they are just going to die on you when you need it most. In recent years flash memory (or solid state) has jumped to the fore as USB pen drives have been made into whopping sizes and formats that we can not use to replace hard drives of old. Technology continues to improve to make these even faster and we are just about to see them make their debut in the new next generation consoles from Sony and Microsoft too.
Power Supply Unit
We touched upon this at the start. This, for us, is not an area to scrimp on but unfortunately they get expensive fast. The actual power output of your PSU will need to exceed the power draw that all your components need. For example, a monster graphics card is power hungry – add on ram, motherboard, SSD etc and you soon need quite a bit of juice., Use an online PSU calculator to work out the minimum wattage you need and try and then go for a higher one still to allow you some upgrade headspace. It will be cheaper in the long-run.
You can cut corners here to trim your spend, but cheaper cases, while perfectly functional may not come with the quality of life enhancements that spending a little more will bring you. Some cases have fans already, saving money, some open easier, some have a better array of front-mounted ports. Sometimes it’s a simple as the metal edges won’t cut you ribbons every time you put your hands inside, but most of all your case is going to be the showcase for all the expensive parts you have inside, especially if it has a glass side. It’s worth researching and finding one that suits your style.
Deciding why you want to build a gaming PC
This step is free of charge but could save you a lot of money. Spend a little time deciding what you want to get out of building your own gaming PC. Do you strive to have the best gaming machine on the planet? Do you just want to play something like Fortnite or Call of Duty the way they should be played – with keyboard and mouse. Do you want to light up your room with RGB goodness? This is the time to do your research and set you budget and align it with what you want to play and to what standard.
Be aware for any half decent set-up, if you have zero components already you could easily go through £1200-£1500 here and come out with something that is good but not the best machine out there. That’s three PS5s or Xbox Series X. Trust us though, it will be worth it in the long run.
Where to buy parts for your gaming PC
Amazon is a great place to start. Not just because they offer competitive prices and tend to hold a huge amount of stock and different brands but because their returns system is so seamless and good. If you buy something and decide it’s not for you they have no qualms about swapping it for you or refunded. No fuss. This is reason alone as to why I always recommend them. Generally most components (outside of sale periods) tend to be priced around the same anyway, so for peace of mind and great customer service – plus generally same or next day delivery if you are a Prime member, you just can’t beat it.
The PC Play.com Build
The Nvidia 3070 graphics card only came out recently and stock has been really short but if you can pick one up that isn’t having its price gouged by idiots on eBay this card is going to see you right for the next few years.
The 3070 is not as good as the 3080 or 3090 released at a similar time but its sweet spot of around £500 sets it nicely into our build budget and it is rapid. Smashing the same levels as the 2080 that came before it and cost getting on for three times as much. There is great advancement in GPUs at the moment and it’s a great tie to need one. Get this. Get it now.
You might not care whether you get an Intel or AMD CPU but it will affect your build. The new Zen 3 Ryzen CPUs from AMD are just out recently and everything points to them being the best bang for buck for gaming. I’ve always been an Intel user though and I’m not going to change here. I’m going for an i7-10700 although you could get the over-clockable 10700K if you have some more cash available – but be aware you would then need to buy a cooler, but as I generally put a water-cooled AIO cooler in my PC (increasing the cost by a further £150 but bringing the temps right down) it doesn’t affect me.
You can argue all day about AMD v Intel and there may be the odd frame difference here or there but we’d rather spend our time enjoying the game instead.
You can spend a lot of money on RAM and in the back of your mind believe that it makes a huge difference to your game of Red Dead Redemption 2. Don’t get us wrong it certainly matters but you can find some great deals for about £70 on Corsair Vengeance Pro (16GB) which is my RAM of choice. If you have an extra £70, get another 16GB (making sure your motherboard has four RAM slots) but you can easily add this at a later date.
Samsung EVOs are great and rapid but also expensive. What you want from your storage is something that is reliable so we’d suggest heading for a Western Digital Blue SSD, the largest you can afford. The minimum you want really is 1TB and the prices shoots up rapidly after that, so get the 1TB and add to it at a later date.
Again this choices are vast and will entirely depend on your choice of CPU. AMD processors won’t fit in Intel boards and vice versa.
Stick to a good brand, in the main they are all kind of much of a muchness these days. Some have better overclocking abilities, better bios and the like so with that in mind we tend to recommend MSI boards.
The Z490 Gaming Edge is around £150, perfect for the CPU here, looks nice and is simple to build with. If it has a flaw it is a little lacking in USB ports so if that is important to you you might want to move up through the models. There is also no build-in WIFI on this one, so again, think about where your gaming PC will be located.
Corsair and Seasonic are our recommended brands here. Both ultra-reliable and safe, but certainly not the cheapest. For the kind of build we are looking at here you want to make sure you get at least 650W. That will cover you but to future proof you could go as high as a 850W and that should last you the best part of any upgrade for the next decade
Other Bits & Pieces
Don’t forget you need to factor things in such as a copy of Windows 10 and you will need a monitor, keyboard, mouse and so on. We will be looking at options for these in future articles.
In the meantime, have fun putting together your own dream machine and finally playing games the way they are meant to be played.