Building a PC is not for everyone. Even if you know how. It requires planning, a budget and a specific knowledge of what you want to do with it and what kind of parts you need to buy. It can be a painstaking process that requires research and for that reason, most people will opt to buy a ready-made, pre-built PC from their favorite manufacturer (Mac excluded).
It’s not such a bad idea to buy a pre-built ready made computer. You just pay for it, they send it and you hook it up. Simple. All parts included. This is how I’ve always gone about buying a PC. Not because I didn’t know how to build a PC, I did it a few times a couple of years back but because I really just didn’t want to deal with the hassle of building one. This year that all changed.
I finally decided to not be lazy this year and build myself a new machine. Since I’ve become more intimately involved with gaming, it’s a kind of must, a co-requisite. Can you really consider yourself a gamer and not have a serious or at the very least decent gaming PC? Nope. You can’t. You’d be a poser and a poser I am not. So I did it. I saved up a few bucks, I partnered up with a few of my favorite companies that make parts for PC’s and build myself a really cool gaming rig. Not a killer one but one that my friends in the PC master race could respect. I did this earlier in the year. How has it held up so far? Great, gaming on it is still cool but there are caveats. It’s been 6 months or so, give or take. I’ll go through the process, parts, and then end with how it’s still holding up.
Building a PC was a process and just having enough money to do it isn’t enough (Which I learned). I’m going to detail my process and what I bought at that time and I’ll try to explain why I made my choice. I don’t pretend to be an expert in PC building. I’m probably an intermediate level builder. There are intricacies that come with building a PC during and post-process some of which I understand and some of which I don’t. This is for the people who are being lazy and the novice builder. Expert builders need not follow this because your critique may be too critical. We know you know what you’re doing already and probably do it often. I’m not trying to impress you guys. Everyone else? Bear with me and go through the process.
How much was I trying to spend?
The first thing that you have to know right away if you’re building a PC is how much are you trying to spend. What’s your budget? EVERYTHING depends on this. PC builds are like restoring an old car. You can spend limitless resources to build your perfect computer and it can get expensive very easily. That’s not to say that you can’t have a quality PC for not a lot of money but its good knowing that anywhere you can save and maybe get better stuff for less is always good. My budget for this build was $1500.
I want this PC to be for gaming mostly. I wouldn’t classify myself as a hardcore gamer but I’m definitely a gamer that plays games like Battlefield, The Witcher, and Destiny 2 which is now to PC and other titles that require some power. By knowing what types of games I intend to play I can get an idea of what kind of CPU, motherboard, and GPU I need to buy. This is where the bulk of your budget is going. For me, I didn’t want to spend too much on my CPU when I felt that the GPU would be more important and probably cost me way more. After I picked those parts out. I built around that.
CPU, Motherboard and GPU
This was probably the most difficult part of the build to sort out. More so on the motherboard side but picking a CPU took some thought for sure. I had a budget that I was trying to adhere to and since I was doing gaming primarily I felt that the Intel Core i5 7600K (Kaby Lake) Unlocked CPU was the best choice. I would be able to get that i7 like performance and save $100 in the process. I may regret the decision later if I want to do some video editing and the lack of hyperthreading that the i7 provides will be missed. For now, I have my Macbook Pro retina which has an i7 and Final Cut Pro so in the event that I want to edit some video I should be more than ok. That 7600k CPU cost me $249 on Amazon. For gaming, the 7600k is just fine.
Motherboard choices after picking out my processor was the point of my build when things got tricky, so early into it too. There were so many options. I didn’t know what to pick and I’ll admit to being very confused by the sheer amount of motherboards to choose from. I needed help. I went over to pcpartpicker.com and I simulated a build and the website gave me a list of choices based on what I intended to spend and the type of CPU I had. After I entered the CPU info I found a board that was compatible with my CPU and offered me overclocking, VR, HDMI, Type-C, USB 3.0, SLI support and M.2 capability. All things I was looking for that meet today’s standards. I picked up the MSI z270 Gaming Pro. It’s was reasonably priced at $149 (As of this writing it’s now $140). Perfect. It showed no compatibility issues and the major thing about the board? It was black and red which you’ll understand as I continue.
Picking a GPU is where I probably had the easiest choice because I knew I didn’t have much budget room to go crazy. I only had about $400 to dedicate to my video card and I couldn’t deviate so that leaves my choices very limited but it didn’t mean I would be able to get a more than capable GPU. Ideally, I would like to have an Nvidia 1080Ti or a Titan X but I don’t live in that world, yet. That’s ok. I settled on the MSI 1070 Gaming X GPU. I scored getting it at $396 which falls right in line with my budget. This GPU is more than sufficient in terms of giving me the ability to play the games I want without too much hiccup and frame rate drop offs. Best part? It’s in black and red. This is my GPU for now. Later on down the line maybe in a few months I’ll upgrade but for now? I’m more than satisfied.
TOTAL so far: $794
RAM, Hard Drive, Cooler, PSU
RAM wasn’t too difficult a choice either. I figure for now all I really need is 16GB RAM at DDR4 and somewhere between 2100 and 3000Mhz. I ultimately went with the Kingston’s Hyper X Savage 16gb RAM kit (2x8GB). It was a perfect selection. All black, 3000Mhz and 16GB. Perfect. I reached out to Kingston and I told them my plans for the build and they were more than happy to help me with my RAM needs. They hooked me up no problem. It saved me what would have cost me $184. Even if I did end up having to spend that money, $184 ain’t bad at all. Shoutout to Kingston.
I have to run my OS so, I need a hard drive. Pretty important right? For shizzle. I had some things to think about in terms of picking a hard drive. Cost, storage, reliability and speed. I could save on cost by picking a standard SATA HDD which will give me plenty of storage but I’ll lose out in speed read/write wise and HDD’s become unreliable as time goes on especially if I turn my PC on and off frequently. I’ll save money but I’d rather have speed and reliability even at the risk of losing storage. Now, my decision gets harder. I’ve accepted that I won’t be getting much storage since my remaining options are the SSD and the smaller M.2 style drives. Both options at 512 GB would have cost me between $149 and $200 or more if I went on the higher end of the scale. I’m on a budget so the higher end of the scale is a no go. Oddly though, I was torn because I didn’t really want an SSD I wanted to go M.2 just to be more in line with current technology even though opting for an SSD isn’t exactly old technology. For this, I reached out to Western Digital and told them about my build and they were more than willing to hook a bro up. When I say they hooked me up they weren’t messing around.
I told them I was looking to go M.2 and they said they had an option for me. It was their WD Blue 1TB M.2 drive. It was much more storage than I needed and in the form factor that I wanted. Mind you, M.2 SSD’s are not cheap and what Western Digital hooked me up was big for me. If I ended up having to buy their M.2 SSD it would have set me back about $300 ($299 to be exact). It’s expensive now but just like the SSD when it first became available it was expensive and gradually the cost declined and this will be the case here. I wanted to use all of my motherboard’s available ports and save the hard drive slots for massive storage capacity later. This is why I chose the M.2. Shoutout to Western Digital for the hookup. It’s a great drive and boy is it fast. They also have a black version of this SSD drive in NVMe format which is more dedicated to performance by giving you higher read/write speeds but for me this wasn’t necessary so the WD Blue was more than sufficient but if you’re interested, you can pick up that WD Black NVMe drive HERE
Buying a cooler for my CPU was next on my list and this was a component that I came to a decision about just by asking around and doing some research of my own. I talked to a few friends of mine that have built PC’s recently and the general consensus was to keep it simple and get an AIO (All-in-One) Cooler as opposed to a heat sink and call it a day. For that, I went out and found what was widely considered the best AIO cooler or at least one of the top five AIO coolers. I bought the NZXT Kraken X62 AIO cooler. It was a quick and easy setup, attach the back plate, board mounts and thumb screws. Make a few connections to the board and your CPU will get some of the best cooling available that isn’t custom water-cooled. The CAM software that comes with the Kraken allows you to control the RGB display on the front of the cooler, fan speed, LED color as well a full overview of your build, system processes, the works. Having an AIO cooler like the Kraken does make the build look really good but it isn’t necessarily a better option to a heat sink just to put that out there.
I need power for all these components and the PSU was probably the easiest part to pick out and cheapest part of the whole build. I picked my PSU based on my needs and the confines of my budget. I went back to pcpartpicker.com and based on my overall build it suggested that I pick up the Corsair CX750M amongst others. It’s 80 Plus bronze certified PSU (It’s a complicated explanation about the Plus certification so I won’t get into it). It’s not necessarily the best PSU like I said but for now, it’ll supply more than enough power for my PC overall. I paid about $80 for it and it’s semi-modular which means that only the essential cables are pre-attached and in the box you get the 24Pin ATX, a single PCIe, 8Pin CPU, and maybe one or two peripheral power cables (SATA/Molex) included and you can install them as you need them which is great. It’s also good for cable management later.
Case, the finished build and how its been 6 months later
The most important of the PC build is the one you’re going to have to live with daily because it speaks to your personality. That’s the case. Some of us like mini cases, mid-tower or full towers. No matter your choice you have so much to choose from colorizing, finish wise, etc.
My choice in case was the NZXT s340 Elite with the matte black and red finish. I love this case because it’s the right size and color plus it has the tempered glass side panel so I can show off my RGB lighting whenever I get it. I’m not into RGB lighting, truth be told. The other side panel opens up to reveal easy cable management capability and enough space for my power supply and extra hard drives. The s340 is sleek and has the minimalist look that I like.
All of my internal components are attached to the inside of the case and after a quick power up test. POST successful. I installed Windows 10 and I can safely say job complete. That was the complete build. Six months later? It’s been great. My PC is still super fast and snappy, My GTX 1070 is still an incredible GPU. I’ve gotten a few more games, I’m in the market for a bigger monitor like an LG 34″ Ultrawide or that Samsung 49″ QLED.
My only fear is that now my PC for all it’s “up to date” parts is facing being almost obsolete in a year. The PC market changes so rapidly now and it’s almost kind of pointless to build a gaming machine. It’s almost sadomasochistic. You build a PC and spend all this money and then, BOOM! Intel releases a newer, faster CPU and you’re feeling like shit. Or, BOOM!, AMD comes out with a cheaper and competitively priced set of CPU’s and you have a whole set of options that you couldn’t consider because you already bought and built your PC. It’s getting more complex and more expensive in certain respects and none of it really leads to a futureproof gaming PC that will hold up for at least 3 years, IMO. Either way, I still love it. I’m happy about it. I’m gaming a lot more and I totally understand the PC Master Race and their arrogance but I don’t wanna be down with them per se. I’ll build another one next year and maybe spend $1000 more and see what I can do. Anyone who decides to build a PC will love it because it’s so much easier and the degree of difficulty is much lower than in previous years so have fun, do your research and find the best parts for what you want to do. All in all, I spent about $1200 of my own money on parts and great companies like Kingston and Western Digital helped me out with the RAM and SSD and without that, it would’ve pushed my total cost to well over $1500, close to $1600. I still love my machine and I look forward to making some part upgrades later on this year. So don’t be afraid to get your build on.