Written by Alex Maidment (nSanity Beach)
At present, PC gaming can offer gamers a far better performance and experience than the leading consoles. In order to keep costs low, games consoles often miss out on the best and latest technology and can at times struggle with higher frame rates and more demanding games.
The future offering of consoles is promising but right now, a custom PC build can offer a lot of bang for buck, but there is one key question, does it have to be on a big budget? In short, no. It is possible to pick up a decent build online that can run games at a decent frame rate at full HD.
If you’ve got the ability to build your own PC, it can be even cheaper than buying pre-built.
Let’s start with one simple factor: the price of the PC will reflect the performance it gives. If you’re looking for a beast that can run the latest AAA games at 60-120 FPS on a 4K resolution monitor, then you’re going to be looking at a big budget with the graphics card (GPU) pushing towards a £1000 alone.
If however, you’re just looking for a decent machine that will run 1080p games at 30-60 FPS, then the budget doesn’t have to be so high. In order to stick to a budget and spend a few hundred quid to get your game on, you have to consider the different components and how expensive they can be.
Here’s a basic list of components:
- Graphics Card (GPU)
- Memory (RAM)
- Power Supply (PSU)
- Fans and Cooling (if needed)
On top of the actual PC parts, other bits you might need to consider include:
- Operating System – there are plenty of ways to get this cheaply and still legally!
- Monitor – If you don’t already have one, monitors can be pretty cheap for a half-decent small 1080p monitor
- Peripherals – A keyboard and mouse can be pricey but you don’t have to spend loads of money one them. To get started, you can pick up a combo kit for £20-30. You can even pick up a cheap mechanical keyboard on Amazon with great reviews for less than £40!
- Cables – sometimes all of the cables are supplied with the various components but keep in mind you might need SATA cables, display cables and power cables.
Let’s focus a little more on the main components you need for a decent gaming PC.
Motherboards can vary hugely in price and you need to take other components into account before choosing one – if you have your heart set on a certain CPU, the motherboard you pick needs to have a CPU port that supports it.
They also come in different form factors e.g. ATX and ITX. You’ll need to make sure it fits in your case of choice.
On the whole, the motherboard can actually be one of the cheaper components in the build, but make sure you don’t go totally for price over quality.
The CPU can be pretty pricey and on the whole, people usually choose between AMD and Intel. Intel are often slightly pricier so when working on a budget, AMD can really give a great performance for the cost.
On my last PC build, the CPU (an Intel i7-4790k) was a quarter of the total cost of the PC!
The GPU is another expensive component and again, it was roughly another quarter of the overall cost of my PC (this time an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970). There are cheaper options and actually in the last few years, the quality of GPUs has come along way with a lot of options on the market meaning you can pick up something decent for less.
RAM can be pretty cheap, especially if you’re looking at 8Gb rather than 16 or 32. For a lot of games, 8Gb RAM will suffice and it will be the GPU vRAM that does some of the heavy lifting. If you’re building on a budget, don’t get sucked in to pretty looking RAM with RGB or a certain colour scheme, just look out for decent performance.
Storage is another pretty cheap component with a lot of options on the market. SSDs will give a faster performance and the price has dropped massively in recent years making them much more affordable but a large HDD can be extremely well priced.
One way to try and get the best of both worlds is to go for a smaller sized SSD and then get a decent sized HDD. You can then run the OS and select programs and games from the SSD and keep files, photos and programs that don’t need as fast performance on the HDD.
PSUs can be slightly complicated if you don’t do your research. There are a lot of different variants to consider from wattage to cable types to quality. People often underestimate how important the PSU is and while they can be pretty cheap, they can also kill your build if you don’t buy the right one.
There are a lot of different cases on the market from the very aggressive looking large ATX cases through to small cube-shaped ITX cases. Firstly, choose a case that can definitely fit all of your components. There’s nothing worse than getting into a build and then finding that the GPU or a cooling fan won’t fit in the case.
With so much choice on the market, there are loads of options that cost next to nothing and do a great job! If you’re not looking for something that lights up, has funky features or a window on the side, it really doesn’t have to cost much.
Fans and Cooling
Depending on your set-up, you might need some additional cooling components to stop the machine from overheating and to keep it running nicely. A lot of cases with come with a couple of case fans and this might do the job for the most part. The CPU will also likely come with a CPU cooler.
If you want to add some additional fans, you can pick up a couple of case fans pretty cheaply along with a decent CPU cooler that’s better than the stock CPU cooler.
On the whole, PC gaming can be expensive but if you’re sensible about how you research and keep a budget in mind, you can definitely do PC gaming on a budget and love it!
A general word of warning for building your own PC: do your research, watch tutorials on how to build a PC, try out PC Part Picker to ensure all of your components work together and take it easy, don’t panic and use PC building forums to your advantage.