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last update: April 15 / '22

This page is where I discuss PC gaming hardware. The page is divided into sections and each section contains components that have different levels of importance in the system and different upgrade/life cycles. Along the left side you will see a brief description of the part and it's purpose in the system. To the right you will find discussion on the current options for that part, what I recommend, and future directions or options for that part. One part for each section will have a "fancy carrot" This denotes what I recommend highest in terms of manufacturer, performance, and features, and should provide an excellent gaming experience at a good price. Recommendations are (most often) listed alphabetically by manufacturer (and then ranked by power/features). Hopefully, by translating some of the technospeak that hardware sites use into regular speak you will be better able to choose upgrades that suit your needs and give you a happy computing experience.

NOTICE for 2022: Note that it is likely throughout 2022 due to the hardware parts shortage system parts may be much more expensive than normal. And, system builders will always get priority over home builders (so they will get parts first). So it may be cheaper, and much faster, for you to buy a pre-built system from a trusted manufacturer compared to making the parts yourself. I watch a streamer and several people have used Artesian Builds and reported very good builds with fast speed. (You can also put in the code "Bogotter" for a little bit off.)

The Core
What I call "the core" of the computer are the parts that are the most critical in determining the power of your system. It is these four parts, the central processing unit (CPU), the graphics processing unit (GPU), also known as the graphics card, the random access memory (Ram), and the motherboard. Of all the parts in your system these have the greatest impact on your overall performance.

CPU


The Central Processing Unit, or CPU as it is most commonly referred to, is essentially the brain of the computer. Much like a human brain all of the logical processing goes on here.
If you are buying a new CPU, $200-300 seems to be a 'sweet spot' that will last you at least 2 to 3 years. Targeting the $300+ range will put you into the higher-end category and set you up nicely to pair your system with a really great GPU and will last 3, possibly even 4 years. However, I do not recommend spending over $350 on a CPU as CPUs beyond that range often are so far into bleeding edge that their advantages are lost due to lack of current support for those features. By the time those features are closer to mainstream, faster cores are often available. Or, they are simply priced so high due to being bleeding edge and having a small bit more power.

The industry should be complete transitioning the primary graphic cards from PCIe v3 to v4. Both Intel and AMD should have this as standard. However, currently (at the start of 2022) Intel is moving towards the bleeding edge implimentation of DDR5 for memory. With this change comes a new socket type, LGA 1700. This will be incompatible with your old CPU and Ram, so if you wish to change you'll need to change those, as well as your motherboard. AMD is expected to make the change to DDR5 at a later time.

Lifespan: Up to 4 years, possibly as long as 6.

Intel socket 1700 12th generation Recommendations:
Intel Core i5-12600K Alder Lake - A solid gaming 10 core CPU for gaming. This new Intel line has 2 types of cores designed for different tasks.
Intel Core i7-12700K Alder Lake - A solid gaming 12 core CPU with more than enough power. This new Intel line has 2 types of cores designed for different tasks.
Intel Core i9-12900KF Alder Lake - A solid gaming 16 core CPU with more than enough power. This new Intel line has 2 types of cores designed for different tasks. This likely is beyond the power gamers will need unless you are streaming or otherwise creating media.

AMD Six and Eight Core Recommendations, socket AM4:
The Ryzen line is the newest CPU line from AMD. Note that you will need an AM4 compatible motherboard which has a X570 series chipset in order to use them.
Ryzen 5 5600X -Six core CPU.
Ryzen 7 5800X - Eight core CPU.
Ryzen 9 5900X - Twelve core CPU. Overkill for gamers, but good if you are also doing content creation.

Note: Word from reviewers is, at this time (launch in July, 2020), the XT versions of the Ryzen CPUs are not worth the increase in cost. They offer nearly identical performance, and some do not include CPU coolers. It is possible a bit further in their life cycle they will have more to offer, as they are designed on newer chipset architecture. But, for the moment, reviewers mostly think they introduce more confusion than they offer a clear upgrade step.


CPU Cooling

An 'aftermarket cooler' is never required, but they can be cooler and quieter than retail coolers. A good liquid system will keep your temperatures low as well as offering a lower noise volume if it doesn't use fans. However, I only recommend liquid if you are going for a silent system or are going to do extreme overclocking. Although a self-contained smaller liquid cooling system may be the best of both worlds. Most aftermarket air coolers will do just fine under mild overclocking conditions and are a lot lower cost than liquid and much easier to install.

When installing the CPU cooler be careful not to touch the surface with your fingers, particularly the part which contacts the CPU, as finger greases will harm most coolers. Usually you can hold the coolers by their fin areas with little to no danger of harm. I recommend using rubber gloves if you have them.

Self-contained Liquid Recommendations:
Corsair Hydro Series H60 2018 - A solid Corsiar unit. Self contained you don't have to worry about checking liquid levels or leaks. (This is an updated for 2018 model.)
Corsair Hydro H115i PRO RGB - A higher-end Corsiar unit which takes up 2 fan spots. Be sure you have room on the case before purchasing this one. Self contained you don't have to worry about checking liquid levels or leaks.

CPU Cooler Compound / Paste
ARCTIC MX-4 2019 Edition
NewEgg link

Do realize that if you use an aftermarket cooler you will have to apply thermal compound (in almost all cases), whereas retail coolers often have cooling paste pre-applied. It is fairly easy to do this if you follow the directions. The manufacturer should include paste with the cooler, but this can be better than the free stuff for low cost and it reportedly performs at maximum cooling capacity very quickly.

For cleaning off thermal paste you can use "isopropyl rubbing alcohol" which can be found in most regular shoping stores, like Safeway, for about $1.75. I've seen them sold in 70% and 90% bottles. I'm pretty sure either is fine. I use 70%.

GPU


The Graphics Processing Unit, or GPU as it is most commonly referred to, is what drives the graphics of the system.

The GPU consists of 2 chips - one drives 2d elements, such as video streams and web sites, and a 3d element, which runs games.

The more powerful your GPU is, the better performance you will have in video and games.

A graphics card worth about $350 should cover you for high-end settings on new games for ~2 years depending on the exact settings you use. Typically graphics cards in the $250-300 range will do just fine for mainstream/medium settings and resolutions for new games or slightly higher for games that don't use the most current graphical effects. At $500 and higher you are into the high end and will have a better gaming experience at higher resolutions or higher graphical settings. Note though that the majority of users won't need to spend this much, as the increase is only typically necessary for bleeding-edge games with maximum settings, or very high resolutions such as ultra wide 3440x1440, or 3840 x 2160 (aka '4k').

I have developed a rating system that may help people choose which graphics card is best for their resolution and use. Note that this is not an absolute science, as each game varies in how much graphical power it will use, and in-game settings will require different levels of power. Note that these ratings may chang as time goes on and the cards age, are replaced by newer cards, or games require more power.

The rating system is basically as follows; for gaming with 1920x1080 resolution a 3 or 4 star card should do very well at medium to high settings. At 2560x1440 a 4 or 5 star card will do well. And at higher resolutions you'll ideally want higher than 5 stars (those in the 6 to 7 range.) Though it should be noted even the most powerful cards can struggle with ray tracing and all effects on at 4k resolution, and framerate may drop to the 60-85 FPS range. (Comparison date; Dec. 2020.)

Hidden advantages:
It is important to note that there are some hidden advantages with your choice of graphic chip manufacturer.

AMD: no current advantage.

Nvidia: Currently hold a small advantage with DLSS, allowing a game to run at a lower resolution while upscaling it to a higher resolution in software to allow for faster framerates while retaining image quality.

Lifespan: About 3 years. If you want to be completely current on features and power you will want to change your GPU with every major graphics card series name change. If you want to stay in the mainstream, you should change your GPU every other generation.

Nvidia Recommendations:

GTX 1660 Super three star - Asus GTX 1660 Super, 6 gig / Evga GTX 1660 Super, 6 gig
This is a solid mainstream choice. While this card may be able to do ray tracing, it is not optimized for it, and performance may suffer with it turned on Average ram should be 6 gig. Also note the number of fans can vary by card, ideally you want two or more.Note: PCIe plug x1 (8-pin).

RTX 3060 Ti four star - Asus TUF RTX 3060 Ti, 8 gig / Asus ROG Strix RTX 3060 Ti, 8 gig / Evga XC RTX 3060 Ti, 8 gig / Evga FTW RTX 3060 Ti, 8 gig
This is a solid mainstream choice capable of ray tracing.Note: PCIe plug x2 (two 8-pin).

RTX 3070 overkill 1 - ASUS TUF Gaming RTX 3070, 8 gig / ASUS ROG Strix RTX 3070, 8 gig / Evga XC3 BLACK, 8 gig / Evga FTW3 ULTRA, 8 gig
This is the higher mainstream card capable of ray tracing. Note: 11.5+". Note: PCIe plug x2 (two 8-pin).

RTX 3080 / 3080 Ti overkill 2 - ASUS TUF Gaming RTX 3080, 10 gig / EVGA GeForce RTX 3080 XC3 BLACK, 12 gig
This is a high-end card capable of ray tracing. Note: 11.5+". Note: PCIe plug x2 (two 8-pin).

On the Horizon:
Note: Rumors are there is an RTX 3080 Ti in the works, but that seems odd with the 3 series just launching (basically in October).

AMDRecommendations:

RX 5600 XT four star - ASUS Radeon RX 5600 XT
A great choice for ATi for those looking for a mainstream card. Note: 11.1+". Note: PCIe plug x1 (one 8-pin).

RX 6800 overkill 1 - ASUS Radeon RX 6800 / MSI Radeon RX 6800
A great choice for ATi for those looking for a mainstream card capable of ray tracing. Note: 10.5+". Note: PCIe plug x2 (two 8-pin).

RX 6800 XT overkill 1 - ASUS Radeon RX 6800 XT / MSI Radeon RX 6800 XT
A great choice for ATi for those looking for a high-end card capable of ray tracing. Note: 10.5+". Note: PCIe plug x2 (two 8-pin).

RX 6900 XT overkill 2 - ASUS TUF Gaming Radeon RX 6900 XT / XFX Black Gaming Radeon RX 6900 XT
A great choice for ATi for those looking for a very high-end card capable of ray tracing. Note: PCIe plug x2 (two 8-pin).

On the Horizon:
ATi note: AMD is designing GPUs for both the Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X consoles. While Nvidia came out with RayTracing capable cards first, the AMD 6 series is showing a strong first showing closing the gap.


one star One star cards will be an entry level or lower mainstream gaming cards. Most games will need to be set at low settings. I only recommend 1 star cards if you can't afford a 2 star, as there will be a big rift between them in power. While a one star card may run the game, you are talking about very low settings.
two star Two star cards are lower mainstream and should be fine for lower or medium settings.
three star Three star cards are a great choice. Most people will want a 3 or 4 star card. Games should run at medium or higher settings.
four star Four star cards are a great choice and have a touch more oomf. Most people will want a 3 or 4 star card. Games should have no problem running at higher settings.
five star Five star cards are higher-end and are best for high-resolution and high settings.
overkill 1 Overkill Rank 1 is a high-end card and has power or features that exceed all but the most demanding games. It is best to avoid this type of card unless you have a high spending limit.
overkill 2 Overkill Rank 2 is a high-end card and has power or features that exceed all but the most demanding games, and likely will remain overkill for quite some time. It is best to avoid this type of card unless you have an unlimited budget.

Note that some cards are 10.5", or larger, and may not fit in all cases. These cards are referenced by a note in the above text. Also note that some cards may require more than one PCIe plug. These are noted in the text above as "Note: PCIe plug x2" with an additional note if they require the 8-pin type.

Ram


The Random Access Memory, or Ram as it is more commonly referred to, is effectively the short-term memory of the system.

In general, the more ram a system has the more it can work with at one time. If it has too little information will have to go back and forth between the ram and the hard drive.

Ram has two ratings; one is the overall speed, and one is the timings. "Tighter" timings, those which are smaller numbers, can be "faster" ram. While this may not yield a huge difference compared to regular speed ram, if you can get ram with lower timings for not too much more than regular timings you may want to go for it. If you have a choice of slower overall speed versus tight timing, tight timing will often yield a better rain.

Note that it is ideal to match the ram speed to the (fastest) motherboard FSB speed. I say ideal as most times faster ram speeds will increase the cost, and the gain may be very small for such an increase. However, if you are an overclocker and choose to alter these settings for even higher performance you are free to do so. Additionally, when the system boots, even if you have modified these settings they will be temporarily reset to safe settings during boot to be safe, so you don't have to worry about extreme settings messing things up and preventing a boot cycle.

Lifespan: Add or change as needed. Typically needs change with CPU / Motherboard generations. Roughly 4 years, but I recommend changing with your Motherboard change. Check the standards every other year.

Note: I've heard mention that the new AMD systems run best with DDR4 3600 speed ram. However, check your prices and ram timing as these kits can get very expensive very quickly. From reviews, if you are looking at DDR5 then you will want to look for DDR5-6000 for the fastest kits, DDR5-5200 for more mainstream kits, and DDR5-4800 for a minimum speed. At the time of this writing kits are in very limited stock, so options may be equally limited.

Recommendations DDR5:
Corsair Vengeance - DDR5 4800 32-gig.
Corsair Vengeance - DDR5 5200 32-gig.
Corsair Vengeance - DDR5 5600 32-gig.
G.SKILL Trident - DDR5 6000 32-gig. This is the fastest DDR5 speed, but not the best timing. (Which may make it seem slower than it's raw speed.)

Recommendations DDR4:
Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro - DDR4 3600 32-gig. This kit is tuned for AMD use.
Corsair Vengeance - DDR4 3600 32-gig.
G SKILL Ripjaws V - DDR4 3600 32-gig.

Motherboard


The Motherboard, sometimes abbreviated as MB, is effectively the nervous system in the computer. It controls the flow of information between various locations.
Intel's socket 1200 with the z490 series chipset is the newest board types, releasing in mid 2020. This type will be required to use the new Intel series 10 chips. While these do not support PCIe v4, the newest AM4 boards for AMD do. However, due to the temperatures the chipsets run at when under max load this is not currently an advantage. (And possibly why Intel did not incorporate it yet.)

Lifespan: Motherboard changes are dictated by CPU socket changes. The tech rarely changes during a CPU lifecycle.

Intel is moving forward with DDR5 and PCIe version 5 and includes them in their newest chipset. (Though some LGA 1700 boards will still ship with DDR4 support.) AMD is expected to follow with their own DDR5 and PCIe v5 implementation at a later time. Their plans for the timeline of these changes may be announced at CES in the first quarter of 2022.

Intel Recommendations, socket 1700:
Asus Prime Z690-A - A mainstream board that should be sufficient for any gamer. (Note this only supports one graphics card.)
Asus ROG Strix Z690-F - This appears to be a mainstream targeted board that should be sufficient for any gamer with a few extra features for a bit better experince.
Asus ROG Z690 Apex - A gamer enthusiast board with a few extra features. This is likely overkill unless you plan on going multi-GPU.
Gigabyte AORUS ELITE AX - This appears to be a minimal board that should be sufficient for any gamer. (Note this only supports one graphics card.)

AMD AM4 Recommendations:
Asus AM4 TUF Gaming X570-Plus - a mainstream motherboard.
AM4 ROG X570 Crosshair VIII Hero - a high end motherboard.
MSI MPG X570 GAMING PLUS - a mainstream single slot GPU motherboard.
MSI MEG X570 ACE - a high end motherboard.

Non-core Systems
The non-core is what I'd consider the parts of the computer that are required for operation, but are parts that have a far less significant impact on the system's overall performance.

Sound Card / Speakers / Headphones


An add on sound card helps out the CPU by accelerating sound independent of other CPU processes. Additionally some sound cards can greatly increase the quality of the sounds.
For me, good positional audio really increases my enjoyment of a game. Creative Labs used to be king of the hill, but since the launch of Vista they have had compatibility issues (with games) which apparently remain even with Windows 7. Acceleration can, and can not, happen depending on the game. The Asus "Xonar" line emulates the same surround quality that the Creative Labs cards do, though it may suffer similar results.

Lifespan: Sound card tech rarely changes. I recommend updating as needed due to a tech change.

Recommendations:
Creative Sound BlasterX AE-5 - This card features new SBX features, EAX, and CrystalVoice for cleaner audio input.


Speakers

I tend to stick with one speaker set and change when the sound technology changes. The technology for speakers tends to change so slowly that a decent speaker set will likely last you several years, possibly through several system builds.

Lifespan: A personal choice, but I recommend every 5 years or as needed.

Recommendations:
Logitech Z313 2.1 speaker set - A low cost 2.1 speaker set choice.
Logitech Z623 2.1 speaker set - A 2.1 speaker set with THX certification.
Logitech Z906 5.1 digital speaker set - A high-end speaker set for the true sound enthusiast with THX certification. This is one of the few speaker sets that uses a digital connection. Note that these reportedly get so loud they shake the walls. Do not use these if you live in an apartment and have neighbors close by.
AmazonBasics - If your sound card and speaker set can use a digital connection, this would be a good choice for a cable. At 6' this should be plenty long enough to go from your PC to your speaker set.
Belkin PureAV AV20000 - Another digitial cable.

For those who may want to run a second set of speakers to use for voice chat - so that you can have your game sounds and voice chat on separate speakers - you may want to look at the Logitech V10 USB speakers.


Headphones

I prefer speakers to headphones, but some people may be gaming on the go or may prefer to use headsets so they don't bother their roommates. It seems there are three types of headsets; the tiny in the ear type (aka "ear buds"), the type you put on your ears (not really sold anymore), and the type which are larger and have foam pads and go around your ears. The tiny in the ear type are not very good for gaming due to their inability to reproduce good tonal range due to the tiny speaker size. (They also tend to have very short cords.) However, there has been a new focus on this type in recent times (2016), as some compeitive gamers are prefering them for their portability and not being a heavy set on their head for multiple hours during a competition. The over the ear type is ideal for extended use and gaming, often superior in tonal range reproduction and volume, but may not be ideal for taking outside of the home due to the size and sometimes weight. Also, this type often features the best microphones.

There is some debate if surround sound actually works with headsets. While headsets can include multiple speakers on each side to truly reproduce surround sound, this will obviously come at a sacrifice of speaker quality due to the multiple smaller speaker size compared to two larger ones. Thus, most 5.1 and 7.1 sound is simulated in that only 2 speakers are acting as several, which is not true surround sound.

USB connections are sharper and clearer in microphone audio quality. If that is important to you, or you happen to be using the microphone for other things such as podcasting, you definitely want to look at a USB type. However, if you chose to use a USB headset be aware that this ignores any add-in sound card you may have, as it is plugged in via USB, not to the sound card. If you have a USB connection type not only will you be unable to use alternate connection points, such as a mobile device or stereo system, but they often also require special drivers in order to get full functionality.

Good headphones can cost as much as a good speaker set, however, they will often have a shorter lifespan due to wear and tear on the cord and headset as you take them off and on. If you are someone who uses a headset frequently and sound quality is not terribly important, it's likely that almost any decent headset ($35-50) will do you just fine. However, if sound quality is important, or if the headphones are your main or only listening device, and you are gentle with equipment, it may be worth it to consider a more expensive headset. (Non-wireless will tend to be around $50-75, with wireless running around $125.)

Note that some new consoles (PlayStation 4) and media devices (phones) are using a new unified single jack. I'll post headphones which could work for PC and consoles when I see them and note them below.

Recommendation:
HyperX Cloud II - 4-pole 3.5mm connector and/or USB, 7.1 sound, 53mm size, Frequency response: 15Hz-25KHz - The microphone can not be rotated out of the way, however, it can be removed during times you are not using it. This is a great mainstream gamer headset. It has a unified single jack style used by new consoles (PlayStation 4) and media and USB connection.
HyperX Cloud Revolver S - 4-pole 3.5mm connector and/or USB, 7.1 Dolby sound, 50mm size, Frequency response: 12Hz-28KHz - The microphone can not be rotated out of the way, however, it can be removed during times you are not using it. This headset has a wider tonal range. It has a unified single jack style used by new consoles (PlayStation 4) and media and USB connection.
Logitech G230 Gaming Headset - 3.5mm connection type, 2.1 sound, 40mm size, Frequency response: 20Hz-20KHz - An over the ear design. Cloth ear covers. The microphone can be rotated up to be out of the way.
Logitech G432 Gaming Headset - USB connection type, 7.1 simulated sound, 50mm size, Frequency response: 20Hz-20KHz - An over the ear design. Faux-leathercovers. The microphone can be rotated up to be out of the way.
Logitech G533 Artemis Spectrum - USB connection type, Wireless, 7.1 simulated sound, 40mm size, Frequency response: 20Hz-20KHz - An over the ear design. Washable cloth ear covers. The microphone can be rotated up to be out of the way. Dolby DTS Headphone X certified.
Logitech G935 LIGHTSYNC - USB connection type, Wireless, 7.1 simulated sound, 50mm size, Frequency response: 20Hz-20KHz - An over the ear design. Washable cloth ear covers. The microphone can be rotated up to be out of the way. Dolby Certified. In-line audio controls.
XXL Sturdy Hard Shell Headphone Carrying Case - Carrying case. While not necessary for a home user, if you are going to travel, particularly if will be doing so frequently, you may want to consider a hard shell carrying case for your headpones.

Hard drive


The hard drive stores all of the information in the computer. You can think of this like your long-term memory. When your PC operates it moves information from the hard drive's long term storage to the system ram.
A solid state hard drive is one of the better choices in terms of improving your game and overall computing experience as it greatly reduces load times. However, note that not all are created equal and there are differences in manufacturing that you can't see. Cheaper drives may be slower than the more expensive drives, but they will always be faster than 'old school' hard drives.

The only real limitation to solid state drives is that they can be a bit pricy in terms of cost per gig (take the formula of ( Price / gig capacity ) to calculate the cost per gig), in comparison to the older drive types. If you tend to store a lot of information on your system besides games (such as music, movies, pictures, homework files, etc.) you will probably want to get a second drive for those files. (I no longer provide recommendations these for gamers, as larger SSDs are becoming cheap enough there should be plenty of room for most people.) For games, even the smaller sized solid state drives (256) should be fine. Most single player games average around 5 gig, while online games will varry between 10 and 20 gig.

Flash storage capabilities and speeds have grown tremendously since the introduction of SSD. We are now seeing a new connection standard, M.2. This will provide even greater speeds than a typical SATA connected SSD. However, note that at this time (April 2017), games don't really need faster speeds than SSD. While it's true some applications may max the speeds of SSDs, in gaming the gains will currently be pretty small. The real gain for M.2 over a SATA SSD won't be apparent outside of heavy transfer applications such as video editing or repeatedly moving huge amounts of files (which games don't do.) For now someone should only consider an M.2 drive (over a standard SSD) as a final upgrade to the system.

NOTE: M.2 drives come basically in two configurations; a standard (not noted) format, and NVMe, which is specificially designed for PCI-Express use and has speeds which are double or greater. While either should fit in your motherboard's M.2 slot, you may need to set the bios to correctly detect the NVMe type since it is still ealy in development of this technology.

Lifespan: Hard drive tech changes rarely, but I recommend changing your hard drive about every 3 to 4 years, whenever it is that you change your motherboard and CPU.

Note that all drives are "OEM" items and do not have a box or cables. However, your motherboard kit should include the necessary Sata cables.

Recommendations; solid state, 2.5":
Western Digital Blue, 500 gig - A decent sized drive. Likely ideal for most minimalist gamers.
Western Digital Blue, 1 tb - A larger drive. This should be a comefortable amount of space for a gamer to work with.
Western Digital Blue, 2 tb A large drive with plenty of space.

Recommendations; solid state, M.2:
Western Digital Blue SN550, 500 gig - NVMe M.2 2280 type - Enough room for gamers, but a few larger games might make things tight. This is great for those needing to keep low cost, but that's partly due to the fact this is an older generation and may be a bit slower.
Western Digital Blue SN550, 1 tb - NVMe M.2 2280 type - Plenty of room for gamers. This is great for those needing to keep low cost, but that's partly due to the fact this is an older generation and may be a bit slower.
Western Digital Black SN850, 1 tb - NVMe M.2 2280 type - Plenty of room for most gamers. The Black line is a leader among the very fastest drives.
Western Digital Black SN850, 2 tb - NVMe M.2 2280 type - Plenty of room for gamers, and there should be enough to spare to keep some non-gaming data as well (such as music or video.). The Black line is a leader among the very fastest drives.
Western Digital Black SN850, 2 tb - NVMe M.2 2280 type - The same as above, but with a built-in heat sync to keep it cooler during long read sessions. (Not really a must for gamers as most games are 'burst' read, not 'sustained'. Sustained would only be helpful during installations or video rendering work.)

Blu-ray /
DVD /
CD

DVD burners are getting lower in price these days, so there isn't any reason not to get one (compared to getting a CD type). Just be sure it has features and speeds you are happy with. Try and check for a sata connection type and Windows Vista certification.

Lifespan: Media tech changes rarely. I recommend changing as necessary.

Recommendations:
Asus DVD/CD burner (DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS - OEM) - A good drive that should cover all of your DVD or CD burning and reading needs.
Asus Blu-ray/DVD/CD burner (BW-16D1HT) - A good drive that should cover all of your Blu-Ray, DVD, or CD burning and reading needs. The free software which is included may not have very many Blu-ray audio playback options. Additional software may be required to get the full uncompressed 5.1 audio. Note that Blu-ray players and burners actually run slightly slower than standard DVD/CD burners when reading. If burning and reading time of media is really important to you, consider carefully if you want a Blu-ray burner.

Power Supply


The power supply unit, or PSU, is basically the heart of your system. It controls where the power goes and how much is sent.
Something new to watch for is compatibility with the new PCI Express 16 Version 2 standard (PCIe v2). This requires an 8-pin power connector for graphic cards. Previously power supplies used a 6-pin type, most on the market only have 6-pin. However, many new power supplies use a "6+2" pin method. My recommendations all have at least one 6+2-pin PCIe connector, with two or more total PCIe connectors.

Lifespan: About 4 years. I recommend changing every 3 years or as needed.

Recommendations:

There are three things to consider when purchasing a power supply; the overall Power ratting, the 12 volt rails / total amps, and the Fan size / speed.

Power rating is the overall big number you see listed on the box. Today, right now, you want to target 500w or higher with a new system for single graphic card use, or 750w or higher for dual graphic card use.

The 12v lines and total amps is equally important and equally as tricky to gauge your needs. These are very important for graphics card power, but also important if you run lots of devices (such as multiple hard drives.) The short version is that you want at least 34 total amps these days. If a power supply has multiple 12v lines you can add their amounts together to find the total amps.

Fans are important to consider if you are concerned about noise. Larger fan size doesn't automatically mean that the fan will be quieter, but it does mean that it can run at a lower speed. You will want to be sure that the fan has a speed control, which is critical for keeping noise at a minimum. Some fans run at only one speed, meaning they produce more noise than they have to and will likely be overly loud. Most power supplies these days have variable fan speeds.

Efficiency is also something you may wish to check. Most power supplies these days will have >80% efficiency. Less efficient units will produce more heat and may cost you more in terms of a monthly power bill. (Though this monthly cost increase likely won't be too noticeable.) Also, some fan speeds may increase with heat increasing your noise, so more efficent heat disipation will reduce noise as well. Some will refernce "bronze", "silver", or "gold" certified. Basically any will be fine, as they are all 80%+, with the higher certifications costing more, but also containing better parts.

PCIe connectors are also something you may want to consider. The power supplies I recommend all have at least two PCIe connections that use the new 6+2 pin connectors. Some graphic cards only require one PCIe plug, however, some require two. Depending on how many of which cards you will use you may want one, two, four, or six PCIe connectors total.

While it is tempting to buy a cheap power supply, don't. The power supply is the heart of your system, so you want a good one. Read some reviews and go with a well-known brand that matches your price and performance needs if you are unsure.

Recommendations: All power supplies listed are PCIe v2 compatible and have two or more 8-pin ("6+2") PCIe connection types.
Corsair RM Series RM850X, 850w - Modular, quiet, xGPU+. This is an ideal choice for a multiple graphic card systems. This PSU gets the fancy carrot for having plenty of power for dual GPU systems. The Corsair RM series is both modular and quiet.
Corsair RMX Series RM 1000x - Modular, quiet, xGPU+. This is an ideal choice for a multiple graphic card systems. Having more power ensures things run smoothly, but this may be into the overkill range unless you are running triple GPU. The Corsair RM series is both modular and quiet.
Corsair HXi Series HX850i, 850w - Modular, quiet, xGPU+. This is an ideal choice for a multiple graphic card systems. This PSU gets the fancy carrot for having plenty of power for dual GPU systems. The Corsair HXi series is both modular and quiet, has slightly higher quality parts than the RM series, and may run slightly quieter.
Corsair HXi Series HX1000i, 1000w - Modular, quiet, xGPU+. This is an ideal choice for a multiple graphic card systems. Having more power ensures things run smoothly, but this may be into the overkill range unless you are running triple GPU. The Corsair HXi series is both modular and quiet, has slightly higher quality parts than the RM series, and may run slightly quieter.

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Note that a reference of "Modular" means that you only plug in the power lines that you need, freeing up space for airflow in your case. A reference of "xGPU+" means this power supply could handle two or more graphic cards depending on their plug configurations.

Case

I have to say that the Antec Nine Hundred is an amazingly quiet case and it isn’t overly large like some. I accidentally had one fan bumped to high when I first booted up, boy was that loud, but that's actually a good feature - the fans can be switched between three different settings depending on your cooling needs. The extra room in the case makes it easy to set things up. The fan settings are a great option, allowing you to go for silence or for maximum cooling. There are even thingies in the tray of the case so you can twist tie cables here and there to make cable management easy. The Antec Nine Hundred is easily one of the best cases I have owned. (So far I’ve owned at least 6.)

In my opinion cases that cost more than $100 are too expensive. Usually the features you gain for the really expensive cases simply aren't worth the cost. If you find a case you like, look around for better prices; sometimes you can find really good cases much cheaper at one retailer compared to another. If you like one which is more than $100 look very carefully at the stats, ask yourself if you really need the features it offers compared to a less expensive case.

General case comments:

Drive bays - Each case has a different number of bays. Consider your needs. You likely won't change your needs drastically, so there isn't much point in getting something that would be overkill.

Cooling - Case fans can make a decent amount of difference in the overall temperatures inside your case. Choosing a case with more than one fan, particularly if they can be changed to different speeds, is a good idea. Two should be plenty.

Noise - Few cases are louder than others simply based on design. The exception to this are ones which have open sides or fronts, as the open nature will allow for a little more noise to come out. Basically your noise level will be impacted more by the number and type of fans the case has than by design.

C00ln3ss! - The "coolness" factor of a case can deceptive. Be sure the case meets your needs on the above factors before buying it just becaue it looks cool. Some of those cool design factors may impact the ease of installation of parts or how well the case cools the parts inside.

Size - Some cases (especially the smaller ones) can be difficult to work with (when installing stuff). This can be problematic if you expect to change out parts. While the larger cases can often provide plenty of internal room, they can take up a lot of external room - meaning that large case which is very roomy inside may take up all of the available space you have in your PC area. Balance the case size with your biological size needs - meaning leave enough room for your PC parts as well as enough room for your body parts. Consider where that PC will go in relation to where you will go. Will the size be helpful or harmful to your personal space?

Weight - A minor point, but one to consider none the less. Aluminum cases will be lighter compared to Steel cases. If you are going to be changing parts every now and then, or carrying your PC to a friends for those lan party weekends, you may want to consider a smaller aluminum case.

Lifespan: About 5 years. When you need to change will be determined by changes in the industry which alter Motherboard or graphic card size.

Recommendations:
Choose a case that fits your computing needs as well as your personal needs. I'd avoid ones that include 'no name' power supplies, as the power supply is really the heart of your system. (See the power supply section above for details.)

Asus TUF Gaming GT501 - This is somewhere between a mainstream and enthusiast case. It will be large enough to fit all your needs, yet features handles for carrying around to lan events. It includes 4 fans with lots of places to mount additional ones.
Corsair Carbide Series SPEC-06 - This is a great budget case. It comes with two fans, one in front and one in the back, with optional locations to mount fans in several places.
Corsair Graphite Series 760T - This is a great mainstream case with some higher-end features. It comes with two 140mm fans in front, with optional locations to mount fans in many places.
Phanteks Eclipse P600S - This is a great mainstream case with some higher-end features. It comes with two 140mm fans in front, and one 140mm fan in the rear, with optional locations to mount fans in many places. You can also remove the front cover to reveal a mesh front for better cooling (though this increases noise that comes out of the case.)

Peripherals
The peripherals are what I'd consider the parts that create an interface between the user and the system. These parts are unlikely to have an impact in terms of hardware performance, but may alter how the user interacts with the system based on their ease of use to their owner.

Mouse

There are many features to consider when purchasing a mouse, and unfortunately most of them will only be discovered through use. In overall design there are three commonly discussed grip types; claw, palm, and finger-tip. With a claw grip the mouse tends to have a higher curve, or bulge in the middle. People who use a claw grip are more likely to arch their fingers and poke downward on the main buttons. With a palm grip you are more likely to control the mouse with the palm of your hand than your fingers. And a finger-tip user is more likely to touch the mouse with just their finger-tips. With these second two styles the users fingers are more straight than curved. If you aren't sure which kind of mouse would be more comfortable, I'd say try holding your arm in a fairly comfortable position and see if your fingers and palm rest in a more curved or straight position.

The next thing to consider with mice, particularly gaming mice, is where are the buttons placed? Most will only use the primary two buttons, but for some buttons on the side that your thumb can reach may also be useful. I myself only tend to use one button with my thumb because I'm usually lightly holding the mouse with my thumb for control, so using it to press requires I stop movement for that brief second. Button tension should also be noted, as some buttons give a stronger resistance, requiring more force to press them down.

Lastly, some mice have a curve in their design, with the right mouse button side of the mouse being lower than the left button. This may or may not suit your style depending on the kind of grip you use, and the frequency at which you press right mouse. Some games, such as MMOs which use hold right mouse to rotate the screen, or RTS and MOBA style games which use it to tell your character where to move, may require you to be as comfortable clicking on the right mouse as the left. Some designs may not work well based on the games you play and your grip style. Ambidextrous mice may be designed with no such curve, leaving the left and right mouse buttons at an equal height.

Unfortunately, only you will know which mouse is best for you, as this is often one of the most personalized parts of a gamers' system.

Lifespan: About 3 years or as needed.

Recommendations, Wired:
Corsair M65 RGB ELITE - 8 buttons, 18000 dpi max. Certainly a more enthusiast mouse design, but most interesting to me is the large thumb buton on the side. Typically side buttons are placed in poor to reach locaitons, making a side button fairly useless, but this placement looks both easy, and resistant enough to prevent accidental clicking.
Razer DeathAdder 2013 - 5 buttons, 6400 dpi max.
Razer Taipan Ambidextrous - 9 buttons, 8200 dpi max.
Razer Ouroboros Ambidextrous - 9 buttons, 8200 dpi max, charging cord / cordless. For the extreme enthusiast, this mouse features the ability to change its shape for the perfect fit, allowing you to change the side panels and adjust the height and length of the back section.
Logitech G Pro Hero - 6 buttons, 12000 dpi max, profile settings. A solid gaming mouse.
Logitech G Pro Wireless - 6 buttons, 12000 dpi max, profile settings. A solid gaming mouse, but wireless.
Logitech G502 Lightspeed wireless - 11 buttons, 12000 dpi max, profile settings, charging cord / cordless.
Logitech G604 Lightspeed wireless - 15 buttons, 16000 dpi max, profile settings. An advanced gaming mouse for someone who wants to be able to put alternate commands on their mouse buttons.
Logitech G903 Lightspeed wireless - 11 buttons, 12000 dpi max, profile settings, charging cord / cordless.


Mouse pad:

I don't know how critical exact mousing is to everyone else, but I like my movements to be precise. Fumbling and hitches were left behind long ago when I stopped using non-gaming mice. While I would not recommend an expensive mouse pad to all, for those who don't want their mouse movements disrupted, I'd say get yourself a good one. This one has been used and endorsed by professional gaming teams.

Recommendations:
ASUS ROG Sheath Extended Gaming Mouse Pad - 35.4" x 17.3" - Cloth surface type.
Logitech G240 - 13.39" x 11.02" - Cloth surface type.
Logitech G440 - 13.39" x 11.02" - Hard surface type.
Logitech G Powerplay - 13.5" x 12.6" - Hard surface with special wireless recharging for the G703 and G903.

Keyboard

Keyboards are on the verge of a change. The mainstream current type uses a method which requires longer keystrokes and more force to push. Newer mechanical types are starting to emerge, offering shorter distances to push and shorter keys (meaning you will get tired less frequently and, in theory, can react quicker), individual mechanical sensors for each key, and padding which allows for a quieter experience. Unfortunately, at this time (early 2013) there are only a few mechanical keyboards to choose from and they are pretty expensive at about $150, particularly compared to a cheaper mainstream type which range around $20.

Lifespan: About 5 years. Change as needed.

Recommendations:
Logitech G105 Gaming Keyboard - A gaming keyboard for the mainstream gamer who doesn't want a mechanical keyboard.
Razer Lycosa Gaming Keyboard - A keyboard that has programmable profiles for quick programmable key changes.

Recommendations, Mechanical:
Corsair Gaming K63 - This is a basic mechanical keyboard that should be fine for most gamers in the new 10-keyless form.
Logitech G513 (Tactile) - This is a basic mechanical keyboard that should be fine for most gamers.
Logitech G Pro - This is a basic mechanical keyboard that should be fine for most gamers in the new 10-keyless form.
Logitech G815 LIGHTSYNC RGB (Tactile) - This is a fancier mechanical keyboard that has extra features like saved preference keys. Note that this is sold with three different key types, so be sure to read about the different types and pick the one for you.
Logitech G915 Tenkeyless LIGHTSPEED (Tactile) TKL - This is similiar to the regular G915, but is a ten keyless keyboard, and is wireless.
Logitech G915 Lightspeed Wireless RGB (Tactile) - This is a fancier wireless mechanical keyboard that has extra features like saved preference keys. Note that this is sold with three different key types, so be sure to read about the different types and pick the one for you.
Asus ROG Strix Scope - This is a fancier mechanical keyboard that has extra features like saved preference keys, swapable key caps, and extra wide control key (often used in shooters).
HyperX Alloy FPS Pro - This is a basic mechanical keyboard that should be fine for most gamers in the new 10-keyless form.
Razer Blackwidow Tournament - This is a basic mechanical keyboard that should be fine for most gamers.
Razer Blackwidow Ultimate - This is a fancier mechanical keyboard that has extra features like saved preference keys.

Game Controller

At times console ported games may be easier to control with a game pad than with keyboard and mouse. Here are a few suggestions that are both Xbox 360 and PS3 like.

Recommendations:
Xbox Core Controller for Xbox Series X or S, or PC - Xbox Series X or S wireless controller to use for PC gaming.
Xbox One Elite 2 for Xbox One/One S, PC - Xbox One style for PC gaming. This is referenced by many as the perfect controller. It has two different stick heights you can change, as well as a few settings for the tension (how much it resists movement). It also has additional button sets and D-pad to change those as well. On the bottom it has additional paddles that can change the button layouts.
Logitech F710 Wireless Gamepad - A solid gamepad. Playstation 'dual shock' style. Cordless.

Power

Your system is always at risk of damage from any kind of anomaly on the power line. As such I always recommend people protect their system with a good surge protector or universal power supply (also known as a battery backup). Don't go cheap with these. A good surge protector will stabilize the flow of electricity as well as decrease 'line noise' and help stabilize any over or under current situations. Also, many of them will cut power once power is lost, preventing your system from flickering on and off during a situation when power becomes unstable.

A good surge protector will probably run you between $15-35 and is a very worthwhile investment for any system.

Uninteruptable Power Supplies (UPS) tend to be a lot more expensive and range in price from about $75 to $750. Here is the tricky part - you want a battery backup that will be able to cover your current power needs. This is something you don't have to consider if you are using a simple surge protector. I would say that you probably want to target one which has a "VA rating" equal to, or higher than, your power supply rating. The average gamer doesn't need a battery backup, however, if you would like an extra few minutes to shut the system down after you loose power you may want to consider one. I'd say you probably only want to consider one if you work with media, such as video or audio editing. An gamer doesn't need to spend the money on a UPS.

Recommendations:
APC SurgeArrest P8T3 - 1750 joules - This should be all you really need unless your area is prone to surges on data lines (such as an area that gets lightning strikes).
APC SurgeArrest P11VNT3 - 3020 joules - A bit more protection than the base model and a couple more plugs.

Monitor

Monitor

The newest trend to look for with monitors, particularly for gaming, are speeds of 144Hz or higher. These will allow for faster refresh rates (as your FPS cap is the same as your Hz speed), which is especially important if you are doing competitive gaming.

'4k' monitors are starting to appear, but be mindful that the higher resolution will take significantly more power to run the screen, as the power required is effectively the same as running four 1920x1080 monitors. In my opinion these will not be good for gaming for quite some time, as developers will not fully embrace the resolution and create content for that high of a resolution for quite some time. Also, the aspect ratio is exactly the same as a 1920x1080 monitor.

A newer trend in gaming monitors is a curved monitor with a 21:9 aspect ratio. These flagship monitors are running at 3440x1440 and will include higher-end features, such as higher quality panels and Nvidia G-Synch technology. While it may be a while for lower resolution versions to filter into mainstream, I think these will be embraced much more quickly than it took for triple monitor adoption due to the fact that this is a single unified screen (as opposed to the multiple panel format of triple monitor.)

HDR, or high dynamic range, monitors are starting to show up in the market in the high-end. Nvidia has a G-Sync HDR branded tech which will work with their GPU line. While this will offer a much nicer gaming experience in terms of brightness, depth, and vibrance of color, this will not enhance the gaming outside of that. So be mindful of this as the prices will remain very high for these monitors until probably 2020.

The only major disadvantage to the LCD tech is that currently they do not have 'glass screens'. This means that you have to be extremely careful to not get anything on it, point at it with fingers, pens, or other poking devices, squish bugs on it, bump into it, etc. It cannot be cleaned with normal cleaning methods (you have to use a soft cloth and plain water and press pretty carefully, which is best done in vertical and/or horizontal movements or use a special cleaning kit). I think the reason they don't currently have glass covers is that the screen changes color depending on temperature and we don't currently have the technology to place hard glass over the LCD mesh without affecting the temperature.

Lifespan: About 4 years.

1920 x1080 res, 16:9 aspect, Recommendations:
Asus TUF VG247Q1A - 24" 144/165Hz. A solid 1080 monitor.
AsusVG278QR - 24" 165Hz. A solid 1080 monitor. This has a faster Hz rating for more FPS.

2560 x 1440 res, 144Hz and 165Hz, Recommendations:
ASUS ROG Strix XG27AQM - 27" 270Hz A great gaming monitor with new generation options. It has HDR 400, super fast refresh, and is Nvidia G-Sync compatible.

3840 x 2160 (4k) res, 16:9 aspect, Recommendations:
Asus ROG Swift PG32UQX - 32" A large size with great res. This has the newest quantum dot and mini-LED tech, providing vastly superior color depth with HDR 1400 certification, as well as the highest G-Sync certification.
LG UltraGear 27GN950-B - 27" A large size with great res. This has HDR 600, and very high color accuracy. This is also Nvidia G-Sync compatible.

3440 x 1440 res, 21:9 aspect, G-Sync, Recommendations:
Asus PG35VQ - 35" One of the new ultra wide screen monitors. Note: Due to it's features this monitor is very pricy.

Monitor stand Recommendation:
Ergotech Triple Horizontal LCD Monitor Arm Desk Stand (100-D16-B03) - An ex-guildie got this when he moved to triple monitor and he really likes it. The max monitor size is only 24", so those with larger monitors are out of luck.

Projections:
4k monitors are just now starting to show up on the market, but 1440p is still the mainstream choice due to the graphical power to run at higher resolutions.

Operating System

Operating System

There is often little choice in which operating system you use. While non-Microsoft operating systems will work for many non-gaming applications, they really won't work for gamers.

Windows 11 is the newest version of Windows. (Somehow in spite of MS saying Windows 10 would never change the name and just always be updated.) It adds in new core level security features as well as some other options, but Windows 10 will not hit end of life until, I think, 2025. So if you aren't sure if your system can take Windows 11, or you don't want to switch, you can probably stay on 10 for a bit longer. However, I recommend getting 11 with any new build.

Recommendations:
Windows 11 Home - OEM 64-bit DVD - - NOTE: This is a DVD, so you will need a DVD or Blu-ray drive to install. This is the version most people want to get as it has all the features a gamer needs. This is an OEM version which means it may be missing things that are normally in the box. (Typically this is stuff like marketing materials, non-critical manuals, etc.) I've heard it also does not include free phone support, which the retail version gives you. (Though this is only something like 90-days.)

Comments and stuff Copyright E. Stryker 2006-2020
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