Gaming is an incredible cultural phenomenon that spans all ages, genders, and cultures. People have incredible ways of expressing their ingenuity and creativity through their passions and hobbies, and gaming is certainly no different. If you have been a fan of Catalyst Mints for some time, you may know that we were at QuakeCon 2016 to share our product with the staff and attendees there. While we were there, some of our staff members who have previously dabbled in PC building and customization were absolutely blown away by some of the incredible gaming rigs present and we thought we would do an article about the PC building community and the basics on how to get started.
Custom-building PCs has been around almost as long as PC gaming itself has, with performance focused gamers hand-selecting parts they know will meet their exact needs while trimming the fat of extraneous hardware. Selecting the fastest GPUs, CPUs, motherboards, and RAM, these high-tech gearheads create the pinnacle of performance in the PC gaming world. Actor and online personality Terry Crews recently became a part of this community when he built a brand new PC with his son with the assistance of the Reddit community /r/pcmasterrace, reaching a wide audience with this amazing hobby.
There are a couple of core components you need to start with when building your new powerhouse gaming rig. All computers will need a CPU, a motherboard, RAM, storage, power supply and a case or enclosure. Since you're probably building this for gaming, you're probably going to want a graphics card for a dedicated GPU for gaming. Each one of these components has several options and there are decisions to make at every step of the way. While this article isn't going to make you into the expert that only years of building can do, we hope to shed some light on this fun and rewarding process that has become a major part of the gaming community at large. Your first decision is going to affect two components: your CPU and your motherboard. Most PC CPUs are manufactured by either AMD or Intel. Each company offers several models and lines of chips, and you will need to research these to determine what is best for you. Personally, I recently went with an Intel i5 series chip, and many gamers will agree that currently Intel has a slight edge on AMD hardware. This slight edge does alternates regularly however and both offer great choices for gaming machines. Once you have decided on your CPU manufacturer and model, you will need a motherboard that matches this. This is important as motherboards are made with specific sockets that will only match specific chips. If you get an Intel chip and a motherboard designed for AMD, it won't work. Here's why:
Above is an AMD manufactured chip. This chip is photographed upside down so that you can see it has hundreds of little pins extruding from its base. These pins contact the receiving pads in the CPU socket made for this chip on the motherboard and this is how the chip works.You might also notice that some of these are bent; AMD chips are extremely fragile, as each of these hundreds of pins must be intact for the CPU to work.
This is an Intel chip. Notice that it does not have any pins on its base, this is because the receiving pins are on the motherboard socket itself. So while Intel chips might not be as fragile as the AMD ones with the pins, the motherboards designed for Intel hardware are extremely delicate. This variation on the pin location is why you can only use chips with motherboards designed for that manufacturer and architecture.
Choosing the right processor is important for gaming as this is one of the elements that will affect the performance of many games. While overall not as important as your graphics card or RAM selection, you will still want to get something that is up-to-date and will not be a performance bottleneck down the line. While upgrading your CPU is possible, it is often one of the more difficult components to change out due to the motherboard being specific to your chip as well as your cooling method making it difficult to remove. Which leads to the next section: Cooling.
Most chips come with their own heat sink that will suffice for normal usage. This heat sink is usually a large metal piece with an attached fan that will connect to your motherboard and use the power supplied by your PSU. This standard heat sink will usually come with thermal paste applied, making for an easy installation. Avid PC builders will recommend a third party or customized cooling solution however, and there are tons of these available. Water cooling, custom fans, and other thermal paste compounds are some of the options that make this one of the most complicated and technically difficult elements of PC building. We recommend lots of research and discussion with pros before undertaking this endeavor. This has its own reward, though. Custom PCs with their own unique cooling design will run at the lowest temperatures, offer the best performance, and look the best when the finished product is ready for boot.
Even just the basics of each component and how to build your new PC is too much for one article, and we'll have even more coming in the future. Stay tuned for information on graphics cards, power supplies, RAM selections, and the software part of getting your new rig up and running. If you're hungry for more info, be sure to check out the great communities over at /r/pcmasterrace and /r/buildapc. Keep powered through your build sessions and subsequest gaming with some Catalyst Mints, and thanks for reading!