In advance of our latest range of gaming PC's arriving in store this week, I asked our Netgear Gaming PC Guru's what their top four tips were when choosing a gaming PC. Here's what they said...
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The motherboard is one of the most important gaming PC components. The motherboard and its chipset determine what processors your computer will be able to use, and what features it will have, like the maximum number of USB ports you can have and whether there is on-board video. When building your own gaming PC, or buying one built to order, many people start with the motherboard.
Today, many gamers opt for the Intel Z170 chipset. This is one of the new chipsets that works with the Intel Skylake processors, but the Z170 chipset specifically allows for two sought-after features in a good gaming PC: overclocking and SLI. Overclocking allows you to manually speed up the processor, while SLI allows you to use multiple NVIDIA graphics cards. The x99 chipset is also a popular choice, but these motherboards only work with processors that don’t have onboard video processing so a graphics card is required.
The processor is also one of the most important components for a gaming PC. While games tend to be more GPU intensive, the CPU is still important for overall system performance.
The processor is one of the most difficult parts to upgrade, while others like storage, memory and graphics cards are easy. The general advice when you set out to buy a gaming PC is to get the best processor you can, so that your computer will last for many years as you upgrade the other components around it.
Top end gaming computers will often feature i5 or i7 processors with up to 8 cores, however for a cheap gaming PC a processor with 4 cores is all you will need. If your budget is on the lower end, you can opt for a dual core processor, however you will see a noticeable drop in gaming performance.
The Intel core i5 processor seems to sit right in the sweet spot of power and affordability for most types of gaming. Processors that have model numbers that end in K, like the Core i5-8600K and Core i7-8700K, are unlocked and are capable of being overclocked, provided you have the correct motherboard.
In order to have a PC run smoothly, it is important to have enough RAM, but it’s really not necessary to go overboard in this aspect. DDR4 ram is a fairly inexpensive upgrade, and a true gaming computer should have at least 8GB to run anything that’s thrown at it, but 16GB is also a good amount. While you can always opt for more, it won’t necessarily increase gaming performance. It’ll allow you to run more applications at the same time, but if your video game has to use system memory instead of the dedicated video memory (VRAM) on the graphics card, you’re already taking a performance hit. Gamers will typically opt for high speed memory, especially when overclocking, but the additional performance per pound spent just isn’t there.
Finally, the single most important aspect that sets gaming computers apart is a dedicated graphics card. This is where you are going to see the biggest boost in gaming performance. Stay away from low end cards.
We recommend that you allocate about 1/3 of your total budget to buying the best graphics card that you can afford. For a mid-range card, we recommend at least an Nvidia GTX 1050 for a good balance of price and performance. While you can play games on lower end cards, you will see a significant performance loss.
If you want to dabble in virtual reality, the minimum is a GTX 970, but these days we recommend at least a GTX 1070
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