Do you want to build your own gaming PC? No problem, with these tips, the self-made gaming computer succeeds.
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It’s hard for PC enthusiasts these days to build their own gaming PC. Scalpers screw up the prices for graphics cards and processors. These are dealers who use software (bots) to buy up hardware just to sell it on at a higher price. The manufacturers cannot meet the high demand, and regular consumers have no chance against the bot traders. Although, the homemade gaming PC brand has many advantages:
- Those who build themselves understand the machine (almost)
- Pre-installed software (bloatware) is not an issue
- Do-it-yourself builders decide on the size and appearance of the PC
- Better price-performance ratio compared to ready-made computers
- Fun at work (if everything works out)
If you are new to the PC building, don’t worry. Building your own gaming computer is easier than you think. As in love, all you need for the first time is a little rest, patience, clarification and a sure instinct.
Components to Build your own Gaming PC
- A processor (brain)
- A motherboard (control centre)
- RAM (short-term memory)
- The graphics card for a picture on the monitor
- SSD or HDD (storage)
- A power supply that pumps electricity into the digital veins
- One housing
- Cooler for the processor
- The right tool
In the following, the article explains which components harmonize with each other and what is hidden behind the manufacturer’s cryptic identifiers. As an example, you can see a compilation of parts for a gaming PC.
AMD or Intel, red against the blue – it’s the never-ending dispute between gamers and enthusiasts. With the Zen3 architecture, the Reds left Intel behind in terms of gaming performance. You can find the architecture in the AMD Ryzen 5 5600X, which is in direct competition with the Intel i5 10600K. Both processors are six-core. However, the i5 10600K clocks at 4.1 gigahertz, the Ryzen 5 5600X at “only” 3.7. But never mind, because the Ryzen processor works more efficiently, its architecture is better.
And that is reflected in the performance: Even if you overclock the i5 10600K heavily, it cannot match the performance of the AMD processor. Due to the high demand, the Ryzen 5 5600X currently costs around 350 euros; the Intel i5 10600K is about $100 cheaper.
Both processors have in common that they are the final stage of their generation of sockets. AMD is expected to launch its AM5 socket in early 2023. If you want to update the processor in two years, you have to buy a new motherboard from Intel and AMD. However, AMD is careful to enable its customers to upgrade the processor later and change its chips’ socket less often. Intel is pursuing a different strategy: the competitor changes the socket of its processors every two generations.
Another plus point with AMD: If you like the Ryzen 5 5600X is too expensive, you can also use the previous generation with Zen2 architecture. The Ryzen 7 3700X is currently a little cheaper than the Ryzen 5 5600X and harmonizes easily with the latest AMD mainboards. Its performance is weaker in games, but it offers two more cores. If your leisure time is trimming videos or editing pictures, you’ll be fine with the 3700X.
When you compare processors, you will notice two retailer IDs: Boxed and Tray. Boxed processors usually come with a CPU cooler; tray processors do not. AMD mostly sells its Ryzen chips as a boxed version with a cooler. If you want to overclock the processor or value quiet cooling, you still have to buy a CPU cooler. The confusion is made perfect by upper class processors from Intel like the i9 9900K: They are in a box but come without a cooler.
AMD Ryzen 5 5600X 6-core, 12-Thread
- Socket: Socket AM4
- Cores: 6
- Threads: 12
- Clock frequency: 3.70 gigahertz
- Boost: 4.60 gigahertz
- TDP: 65 watts
By the way: TDP is the abbreviation for Thermal Design Power and describes the thermal power loss of the processor. This is important for the choice of processor cooler. Cooler manufacturers indicate how much TDP a cooler can handle.
We chose the Ryzen 5 5600X, which has the AM4 socket. Accordingly, we need a motherboard that offers this socket. The choice is not that easy because not every motherboard with an AM4 socket can handle the processor. Why? The board names of the various manufacturers usually hide formulas such as B550, X370 or B450. They describe nothing more than the chipsets of the various motherboards.
And that’s exactly what you need to consider: A motherboard with an AM4 socket and B450 chipset can process Ryzen processors of the Zen3 architecture – but only if you have updated the BIOS beforehand. Stupid: You need a processor from the previous generation for this. Anyone who wants to buy a new motherboard that processes the new processor right from the start. Most retailers point out to customers whether the motherboard in the shopping cart needs an update – but don’t rely on it to build your gaming PC yourself! Some dealers offer to update the bios of older boards at an additional cost.
When choosing a motherboard, the question of the form factor also arises: The most common form factors are ATX, Micro-ATX (mATX) and Mini-ITX. Nice: They apply to the motherboard, power supply and case and differ in size. Logical: ATX is the largest form, Mini-ITX the smallest and Micro-ATX is located in the middle.
Important: Decide on a form factor and buy the power supply unit, case and motherboard in the same form factors. Exceptions confirm the rule: a case that fits an ATX mainboard usually also takes a micro-ATX mainboard. Of course, it doesn’t work the other way around.
If you want to build a small gaming PC yourself, you can use mini-ITX mainboards, cases and power supplies. A high-end gaming PC, however, needs space, so we opted for an ATX board. Accordingly, when choosing the case, we will later make sure that it can accommodate ATX boards.
A suitable choice for the Ryzen 5 5600X is the MSI MPG B550 Gaming Plus. It comes in the ATX form factor, processes a maximum of 128 gigabytes of RAM with a rate of 4,133 MHz per second on four slots. It also has a PCIe 4.0 slot for the graphics card.
PCIe is the data highway on the motherboard. The processor uses them to communicate with graphics cards, memory, etc. PCIe 4.0 is still of no interest because no graphics card uses the higher data throughput compared to PCIe 3.0, and accordingly, there is no performance gain in games. But that may change in the future. There is space for two super-fast M.2 SSDs on the board. They are already benefiting from PCIe 4.0. A total of six SATA ports can connect HDD hard drives, “normal” SSDs, DVD drives or integrated card readers.
- Form factor: ATX
- External connections: 1x DisplayPort, 4x USB 2.0, 1x Gigabit-LAN, 5x audio, 1x HDMI, 3x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, USB 3.2 Type-C, 1x S / PDIF out optical
- Internal connections: 1x USB 3.2 Type-C, 1x USB 3.2 Type-A, 2x USB 2.0, 6x SATA 6Gb / s, 1x TPM header, 2x M.2 slots
- Slots for expansions: 2x PCIe 4.0 x16, 2x PCIe 3.0 x1
Working memory (RAM) has never been more important in gaming PCs than these days because fast clocking is reflected in more images per second on the monitor. If you compare RAM modules with one another, you will notice two things in particular: strings of numbers such as 16-18-18-38 and the clock rate of the RAM specified in MHz per second. What’s it all about?
The column address strobe latency (CAS latency) is hidden behind the sequence of numbers. That is the delay time between two moments within a work process of the computer. In general, the lower the latency, the better the performance and the more expensive the memory.
The MHz per second reveal how fast the RAM clocks. The rule here is: higher is better. However, the motherboard and processor have to play along. If you plug RAM modules with a rate of 4,000 MHz per second into a mainboard that can only process 2,133 MHz per second, the mainboard clocks down the main memory – you are wasting money on a rate that you cannot do anything with. The same applies if the processor cannot process high clock rates of the main memory.
We decided on the MSI MPG B550 Gaming Plus in conjunction with the Ryzen 5 5600X. As a reminder: the mainboard holds a maximum of 128 gigabytes of RAM, which can clock with up to 4,133 MHz per second. The Ryzen 5600X can handle a maximum of 4,000 MHz per second. Higher memory clock speeds would be a waste of money. At the moment, the sweet spot between price and performance for RAM is 3,600 MHz per second. With 4,000 MHz per second, it is hardly noticeable that there is more performance in games.
We decided on a RAM module consisting of two bars with a clock rate of 3,600 MHz per second and the lowest possible CAS latency. The Crucial Ballistix Black 32 GB Kit combines all of this. 32 gigabytes of RAM are more than enough for gamers; the bars clock at 3,600 MHz per second and that with a CAS latency of 16-18-18-38.
If you want to save, you can use two 8 gigabyte bars because 16 gigabytes of RAM are still sufficient for most games. However, gamers don’t want to install just one RAM bar, as two bars run in dual-channel mode. Think of the modules like a motorway: two lanes are better than one.
- CAS latency: 16-18-18-38
- Frequency: 3,600 MHz per second
- Two 16 gigabyte bars
The graphics card
What is blue versus red for processors is the battle between red and green for graphics cards. AMD and chip manufacturer Nvidia are duelling for the favor of the players who build their own gaming PC. Unfortunately, scalpers are up to mischief here too. It is currently difficult to get the latest cards from both manufacturers.
In the gaming PC, the graphics card marks the heart. It is mainly responsible for a high frame rate. And that’s exactly why it’s all the more annoying that the cards are currently being traded at absurd moon prices. In some cases, dealers sell them up to $500, more expensive than the manufacturer’s recommended retail price (RRP).
Anyone who buys a Ryzen 5000 series processor in conjunction with a 500 chipset motherboard also wants a Radeon 6000 graphics card in their system. Why? AMD has introduced “Smart Access Memory”. This is a function that allows the processor to access the graphics card’s RAM. The RTX 3070 may individually be faster than the Radeon RX 6800. In connection with a Ryzen 9 5900X, however, the Radeon RX 6800 overtakes the Nvidia card. Nvidia has already stated that it will deliver the feature on the software side.
By the way: When Nvidia and AMD will deliver new graphics cards is still in the stars. AMD announced that it would bring more chips to gamers in the first quarter of 2021, while Nvidia will probably take it until the end of the first quarter. If you have an older graphics card, you should be patient. Otherwise, the price decides when choosing the graphics card.
- Graphics memory: 8 gigabytes
- Memory clock: 1,750 megahertz
- Chip clock: 1,500 megahertz
- TDP: 220 watts
SSD or HDD
When choosing memory, gamers want the highest possible read and write speed. This reduces annoying loading times. As the games keep getting bigger, lots of memory is welcome too. In terms of speed, SSD storage is clearly ahead of HDD hard drives. Within the SSD families, M.2 bars with PCIe 4.0 beat those storage devices that you connect to the mainboard via the SATA interface. The MSI MPG B550 Gaming Plus motherboard holds two M.2 SSDs and has six SATA ports.
We opt for an M.2 SSD and make sure that the memory bar comes with PCIe 4.0. Compared to PCIe 3.0, the newer standard offers a higher data throughput, which benefits the speed of the memory.
The Corsair Force Series MP600 SSD 1TB M.2 2280 PCIe 4.0 offers space for one terabyte of games, photos or videos. That’s enough for now. If you need more space, you can retrofit a second bolt. The installation succeeds via one of the two interfaces on the mainboard. You don’t have to worry about annoying cables. You also install your operating system on the SSD.
- Capacity: 1 terabyte
- Form factor: M.2
- Interface: PCIe 4.0
- Read speed: 4,950 megabytes per second
- Write speed: 4,250 megabytes per second
Build your own gaming PC: The power supply
If there’s one component you don’t want to skip, it’s the power supply. A classic beginner’s mistake is to only pay attention to the manufacturer’s wattage. In this way, cheap manufacturers lure ignorant customers with power supplies that supposedly offer 1,000 watts of power – without over-voltage protection, of course. If the power supply blows, the whole computer is usually gone.
Super Flower, Thermaltake, BeQuiet, and Seasonic are all premium manufacturers that gamers typically get along well with. They offer power supply calculators on their websites. There you enter the components that you intend to install. Keep future upgrades in mind.
The power supply calculator recommends a BeQuiet Straight Power 11 Platinum with 850 watts. This may be a bit oversized but leaves enough room for upgrades. It’s a modular power supply. This means that you only connect the cables to the power supply that you really need. That avoids annoying cable clutter.
By the way: The platinum certification indicates how efficiently the power supply works under different loads. Logical: platinum is better than gold, gold is more efficient than silver and silver than bronze.
When choosing the housing, the taste decides – almost in any case: Make sure that you buy a housing in which the power supply is installed at the bottom. It forms its own cooling circuit because you install the power supply unit with the fan pointing downwards in the housing. The fan draws fresh air from the floor, which cools the capacitors before the warm air leaves the power supply unit.
You should also pay attention to the correct airflow in the housing because the graphics card and processor generate heat that needs to be blown out of the housing. The general rule is cold in at the front, warm out at the back. Because warm air rises, there is usually a fan in the upper rear corner. Fans on the front of the housing provide cold fresh air.
The air has room to flow. It is an advantage if the housing offers ducts for cable management. If you want to refresh your processor with an all-in-one water cooling, you also have to make sure that it fits into the case. Usually, she makes herself comfortable under the blanket.
In terms of size, there are big, midi and mini towers as well as ITX housings. In mini towers, there is usually only space for micro ATX boards. They fall out for us just like ITX cases. Midi towers correspond to the size of an office computer, and big towers are correspondingly larger. We opt for a simple big tower. It is up to you whether you want to admire your work through a Plexiglas pane or not.
The Fractal Design Define 7 XL Black meets all of our needs. It has two 140 millimeter fans preinstalled at the front and one at the rear. Depending on your taste, you can install six additional 140 millimeter fans. The dust filter is located on the front and bottom of the housing. There is space for air coolers with a height of 185 millimeters and graphics cards with a length of up to 359 millimeters. If you remove the HDD hard drive bracket from the housing, the cards can be up to 524 millimeters long. The housing is also soundproofed, offers fan control and cable management. There are USB ports on the front. The housing even offers a USB-C interface.
- Cable management
- dust filter
- Fan control
If you build a gaming PC yourself, opinions are again divided when it comes to cooling: one side relies on water cooling, the other on-air cooling. If you plan to overclock the processor, let it be said that Ryzen processors will do little to improve the performance. Only if the boxed cooler is too loud for you does it make sense to buy an alternative.
There are two types of air cooling: top blow, i.e. from above down, and tower coolers, whose fans point to the front of the case and which direct the air to the rear. The boxed cooler of the Ryzen 5 5600X is a top-blow cooler. The advantage of this design is that it cools the surrounding electronics of the mainboard somewhat.
Tower coolers usually offer better processor cooling performance. However, you have to consider the amount of RAM. Some tower coolers protrude over the RAM slots. If you want to retrofit RAM, you may first have to remove the cooler to access the slots.
Because we don’t feel like quarrels and the case offers enough space, we opt for an all-in-one water cooling. Again, it is important to ensure that the cooler fits on the base. As a reminder: We had the AM4.
For us, the Be Quiet Pure Loop 280 millimeter water cooling is suitable. It cools the processor thanks to a 280 millimeter radiator and two 140 millimeter fans. The radiator is located at the top of the case and does not interfere with the RAM slots.
We now have all the essential parts together. Of course, not all slots on the mainboard are occupied in the configuration. The MSI MPG B550 Gaming Plus offers 7.1 sound. But that might not be enough for the needs of musicians. You want to have a professional sound card onboard. Hobby photographers could use an integrated card reader.
If you want to have Bluetooth or WLAN on your gaming PC, you can also retrofit it with corresponding PCIe cards. And if you want a DVD or BluRay burner on your computer, you can also install it. You can also install windows or Linux via a USB interface. All you need is a bootable USB stick.
The right tool
Doing it yourself is no fun without the right tools. In general, you want to lend a hand yourself. Cordless screwdrivers are taboo! When installing the M.2 SSDs, you will also need a precision screwdriver. With this set, you are well armed.
Not a must, but safe is safe: an antistatic mat helps that the new components remain intact during installation. Before you start working, you should discharge yourself. All you have to do is touch the heater.
Who doesn’t use zip ties have in the house, also wants to order? They help keep the inside of the computer tidy.
If you decide to use a different cooler, it is useful to have some thermal paste in the house if the first attempt goes wrong.
By the way, you can free the processor with isopropanol from the greasy paste.
And with compressed air spray, remove the dust from the most remote corners.
Hope this article will help you to make your decision and to build your own gaming PC.
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