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I am 21 years of age and live in the beautiful state of Colorado. All my life, I’ve always been a bit of a nerd and have always loved technology. It never mattered what it was. Everything from gaming to cool cars, phones and computers, I have always had an interest in different forms of tech.
I built my first PC only about two years ago but I have learned an incredible amount since then. When I was getting ready to order everything, I spent probably 100+ hours researching different components, watching build videos, weighing pros and cons of certain components, etc. My only reason for taking the first step into the PC world was simple: I wanted better graphics than what Xbox/Playstation had to offer. I have a terrible tendency to want the best of the best and at the time, I was a console gamer of about 12 years. Of course, as a console gamer, it’s very difficult to understand the point of having a gaming PC when all you do is turn the Xbox on and call it good. That is until, you actually try gaming on a high end PC. That is when your opinion changes and a console is no longer good enough. Anymore, it’s not even about the graphics. It’s about the performance, the smoothness, the convenience of programs like Steam, etc.
AMD or Intel?
This is of course, a touchy subject for some. I will state that I try to be unbiased towards one or the other because I do believe that it will depend on your specific uses and why A or B would be best for you. I have personally used both platforms and I personally enjoy using both platforms. I just believe that they each have their own uses and budget.
Intel - Intel is what you could consider your “mainstream” product. Intel, as of now, has the lead when it comes to single core performance and clocks per instruction which results in more FPS while gaming. In some cases, there is a drastic difference in the FPS you get while gaming on an i7-8700K and say, a Ryzen 5 2600X. That will be your primary advantage when choosing to go with Intel as far as gaming is concerned. The disadvantage is that typically, you pay for it. Intel’s mainstream CPUs are considerably more expensive than the Ryzen counterpart. Not only that but also account for the fact that if you want hyperthreading, you must go with an i7 and if you want to overclock, you must pay even more for the unlocked K version of the CPU whereas every single Ryzen CPU is unlocked and if you’re looking at a Ryzen 5 or better, it has hyperthreading.
AMD - In the last few years, AMD was pretty far off the radar until the Ryzen launch. Ryzen, you could consider to be your new kid on the block. AMD has the advantage of multi-core performance over Intel but it will lack in single-core performance. Again, it will depend on your uses but typically, AMD Ryzen will offer you a better CPU geared towards editing, 3D CAD software, rendering, running VMs and workloads like that. Of course, you may lose a few FPS when switching to Ryzen but as far as the performance-to-cost ratio, AMD will win all day long. If “bang for the buck” is what you’re looking for - consider Ryzen.
GPUs: What do you need?
Nvidia: Nvidia offers fantastic graphical performance for all of their cards. In recent years, they offer everything from a GTX 1050 to a GTX 1660ti and the praised 2080ti that costs half of a kidney. Nvidia cards are fantastic, as long as your wallet can support them.
GTX 1050ti - For up-to 1080p60 on medium to high quality settings.
The 1050ti is a great product for someone wanting simple and straightforward 1080p60 gaming performance while not braking the bank. The 1050ti is also a fantastic option for someone wanting a GPU for editing and rendering purposes.
GTX 1660ti - For up-to 1080p60 maxed out, 1080p high refresh rate at lower settings and 1440p60 gaming.
The 1660ti has just released and if you ask me, it has awesome performance for the price. The 1660ti is essentially the 2060 without the RT and Tensor cores which provide the DXR and DLSS functions.
GTX 2060 - For up-to 1080p60 maxed out, 1080p high refresh rate at lower settings and 1440p60 gaming.
The 2060 has very similar performance (with a slight edge) to the 1660ti but the 2060 is equipped with RT and Tensor cores which will provide you the option of using the newer DXR and DLSS functions.
GTX 2070 - For up-to 1080p high refresh rate at higher settings, 1440p high refresh rate around medium settings and even capable of 4K60 at lower to medium quality settings.
GTX 2080 - For up-to 1440p high refresh rate at higher settings and 4K60 at higher settings.
GTX 2080ti - For up-to 4K60 maxed out, 4K high refresh rate at lower to medium settings and 1440p high refresh rate maxed out.
RAM: What do you need?
8GB - 8GB is considered to be the standard in 2018. 8GB of RAM is just fine for a regular budget build. It will provide you a fluent experience for watching videos, browsing the web and having a few tabs open at the same time. 8GB is also just enough for gaming. If the budget allows, I always suggest 16GB but it certainly is not needed.
16GB - 16GB is definitely the sweet spot for most computers in 2018. It will give you enough for running more intensive programs such as Photoshop or even video editing software. With 16GB of RAM, you should have the ability to run several tabs at the same time and no game that currently exists (to my knowledge) would eat up 16GB of RAM or even come close to doing so. If you want some headroom or need to use more intensive programs, 16GB is the way to go.
32GB - Now we’re getting into the territory of what is called “diminishing returns”. 32GB is absolutely overkill for any computer that you aren’t using for editing 4K+ resolution video, running multiple virtual machines or processing a TON of data and stuff of that nature. There are actually a lot of uses for this amount of RAM, however, for the majority of consumers, it’s overkill. I won’t even bother covering 64GB or 128GB because chances are, if you need that much RAM, you know what you’re doing and have a VERY specific use for it.
CPU - Central Processing Unit. The part of the computer that controls the entire system and does mathematical processing of data. This is considered to be “the brain” of all operations.
*GPU - Graphics Processing Unit. The part of the computer that controls all 3D function. This includes things such as lighting effects, object transformations and 3D motion. Because these types of calculations are rather taxing on the CPU, the GPU is designed for these functions and therefore can handle them efficiently.
PSU - Power Processing Unit. This part of the computer controls power delivery to all components within a computer.
SFF - Small Form Factor. Typically refers to a ‘SFF’ computer. One that is made or built to be more portable than usual. This isn’t necessarily just for portability but also for someone who just prefers to have a small computer rather than a massive behemoth under or on top of the desk.
HTPC - Home Theatre PC. Typically refers to a computer that is designed for living room use. HTPCs are typically built to replace a game console but with the added functionality of a computer. They also tend to be a small form factor.
SSD - Solid State Drive. A storage device containing non volatile flash memory, used in place of a hard disk because of its much greater speed. An SSD is also quieter due to no moving parts and typically, smaller in size. SSDs are the future but they tend to come at a higher cost.
HDD - Hard Disk Drive. A hard disk drive, hard disk, hard drive, or fixed disk, is an electromechanical data storage device that uses magnetic storage to store and retrieve digital information using one or more rigid rapidly rotating disks coated with magnetic material. This technology is a bit older and while it has the benefit of being really cheap in terms of gigabytes per dollar, it has the disadvantage of being loud, typically larger in size and has a higher potential to fail.
LAN - Local Area Network. A local area network is a computer network that interconnects computers within a limited area such as a residence, school, laboratory, university campus or office building.
RAM - Random Access Memory. Random-access memory is a form of computer data storage that stores data and machine code currently being used.
Ethernet - A type of network interface card that connects an individual computer to a network. I.E - a computer that is plugged into a modem rather than using WIFI.
G-Sync - G-Sync is a hardware-based technology that manipulates the display panel’s VBI (vertical blanking interval). VBI represents the interval between the time when a monitor finishes drawing the current frame, and the beginning of the next frame. It reduces screen tearing which in return, can provide a more fluent experience while gaming.
FreeSync - FreeSync is the brand name for an adaptive synchronization technology for LCD displays that support a dynamic refresh rate aimed at reducing tearing and stuttering caused by misalignment with content's frame rate. FreeSync is software based unlike G-Sync’s hardware based solution to screen tearing. This can provide a more fluent experience while gaming.
Fractal Design Meshify C - The Meshify C is everything that I personally look for in a case. Great build quality, great cable management, mesh front panel for airflow and something that isn’t incredibly large in size. The Meshify C hits all of my personal requirements and that is exactly why I use one. For the price, it’s hard to find a case that does the job better than the Meshify C.
Fractal Design Define R6 - The Define R6 is a fantastic case! It offers a ton of room for building and is truly ideal if you’re looking to create a custom water cooling loop. Again, Fractal Designs crushes it in terms of build quality, cable management and even though it does not have an open-front panel, it still has pretty decent air flow for what it is. Once I do my first custom loop, this will probably be the case that I use.
Fractal Designs Focus G - Seems like there aren’t too many budget cases out that are half decent. Most of your “premium” cases will be in the range of $80+ USD but the Focus G hits most key points just without the premium materials and premium price tag. With the Focus G, you’ll have good build quality for the price, a good amount of room to work in and also some pretty decent cable management options as well. You won’t have a tempered glass side panel so make sure to use the appropriate materials to clean it. It will scratch very easily if you use something like a paper towel to clean the side panel.
NZXT S340 Elite - A mature, simple but aesthetically pleasing case at a fair price point. The S340 Elite hits a little of bit of every key point while shopping for a case. Glass side panel, decent airflow, subtle looks, good build quality and quiet operation. If this is within your budget range, it’s certainly a good candidate.
Lian-Li PC-011 - What a beautiful case! This case is pure show and tell. For a bit of a premium price, you truly have it all. USB Type C in the front I/O, good airflow, lots of tempered glass and fantastic cable management. Lian-Li, you really stepped it up with this one.