Computing

Building a New PC: My Journey and Component Selection

Building a new PC is an exhilarating experience for any gaming enthusiast. It becomes even more exciting when you’ve been using outdated hardware for a while. However, if you’re new to the process, it can be a bit intimidating. Choosing the right components for your PC is crucial because they will affect your gaming experience for years to come. As someone who recently went through the process myself, I understand the challenges involved. In this article, I’ll walk you through the important considerations and explain why I chose the components I did.

Budget and Use Case

Your first major decision when building a PC is determining your budget and use case. How much are you willing to spend, and what do you primarily need the PC for? Personally, I use my computer for both gaming and work, although my work doesn’t put much strain on the PC (except for those days when I end up with an overwhelming number of open tabs). Therefore, I focused on optimizing my PC for gaming.

Fortunately, building a PC for gaming is relatively straightforward compared to using it for other purposes like AI workloads or content creation. Some component choices may seem obvious, but you still need to make informed decisions, such as selecting the right power supply unit (PSU) and motherboard.

Your budget is the main constraint here. Building a $1,000 PC is vastly different from building one that costs $3,000. While both can handle demanding games, the higher-budget build will excel at running games at maximum settings.

I must admit that I fell into the common trap of spending a little more here and there to get better components, like opting for a slightly superior GPU model with improved cooling. Individually, these choices didn’t add much to the cost, but they did accumulate. In the end, I exceeded my initial budget. If you want to avoid this mistake, keep in mind that minor upgrades often don’t significantly impact your PC’s performance. For example, a GPU with a higher frequency may cost $50-$100 more, but the performance gains are negligible.

Without further ado, let’s delve into some of the key components.

Processor

Choosing the CPU was a no-brainer for me this time. It was actually the first component I settled on. I decided to move away from Intel (which I used in my previous build) and opted for AMD’s top processor for gaming: the Ryzen 7 7800X3D.

The Ryzen 7 7800X3D is currently the fastest gaming CPU, thanks largely to the 3D V-Cache technology. However, if you’re looking for a PC that balances gaming and productivity, you might want to consider shifting back to Intel and sacrificing a few frames per second (fps) to gain extra cores. The Ryzen 7 7800X3D only has eight cores.

I also considered the last-gen Ryzen 7 5800X3D and Intel’s Core i5-13600K. Ultimately, even though the Core i5-13600K is around $130 cheaper, the 7800X3D outperforms even Intel’s flagship Core i9-13900K in gaming performance. Therefore, I chose the processor that suited my build better.

I did spend some time considering the 5800X3D. It is still a solid option, and currently, it’s extremely affordable. However, buying a last-gen AMD CPU would tie me to the now-obsolete AM4 platform since AMD has shifted to the AM5 socket with Zen 4 processors. By choosing a Zen 4 processor, I can be confident that I’ll be able to upgrade it in a few years.

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Another reason I opted for AMD this time is that Intel’s current-gen Raptor Lake CPUs are likely the last ones to use the LGA1700 socket. This means that any future upgrades will be limited to the rumored Raptor Lake refresh.

Choosing the AM5 socket offers upgradeability in the future, making it a solid choice. However, if you’re on a tighter budget, the 5800X3D is still the best processor for gaming from the previous generation. It also has the advantage of cheaper motherboards and DDR4 RAM. At present, I would recommend AMD over Intel for gaming purposes in most cases.

Graphics Card

Choosing a graphics card was the most time-consuming part of my PC build. The current GPU prices and the performance gains offered by top-tier cards make it difficult to decide without feeling like you’re settling for less.

The GPU sets the tone for your entire build, and you can spend anywhere from $200 to $1,600 to get the graphics card of your dreams. Ultimately, your choice should align with what you want to achieve with your PC. As I explored different builds, I set the bar pretty high because I aimed for a 1440p gaming build. This means that cards like the RTX 4060 and RX 7600 were not even on my radar.

Initially, I hoped to choose an AMD GPU for this build, but it proved to be a challenging decision. Currently, two options from AMD make sense for a high-end build: the RX 7900 XTX and last-gen RX 6950 XT.

I knew I wanted a current-gen graphics card, so I ruled out the RX 6950 XT, even though it’s a great deal at $650. However, for many gamers, it’s still a solid option. You could even consider the RX 6800 XT if you want to save money.

Choosing between the RX 7900 XTX and the rivaling RTX 4080 took me a long time. I even considered getting the RTX 4070 Ti since the RTX 4080 is overkill for my current 1440p needs. Ultimately, considering the price and the fact that I plan on upgrading to a 4K display soon, I decided to go with Nvidia once again.

If you’re facing the same dilemma, I recommend checking out unbiased benchmarks of the RX 7900 XTX and the RTX 4080 to see which card suits your needs better. While the RX 7900 XTX performs well in raw performance compared to the RTX 4080, it falls behind significantly in ray tracing. The Nvidia option also offers Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS 3), which, despite not being perfect, is a great feature to have.

At this price point, I found the RTX 4080 to be the more logical choice. Only time will tell if I have any regrets about this decision. Nevertheless, both the RX 6950 XT and the RX 7900 XTX are solid options, and it’s worth checking out our GPU buying guide if you’re unsure about which one to pick.

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Cooling

Cooling a powerful PC is no easy task. You want to ensure that all your components stay cool regardless of the workload. At a certain point, it becomes sensible to ditch standard CPU fans and opt for liquid cooling. That’s exactly what I did in this build. I would recommend most people do the same, especially if they’re using the 7800X3D, as it can run hot, and the GPU only adds to the heat.

Liquid coolers are generally more efficient at dissipating heat than air coolers, making them necessary for builds that generate a lot of heat, particularly if you plan to overclock your components. Of course, you still need case fans to optimize airflow within your PC. Neglecting proper cooling leads to subpar performance and, in extreme cases, component failure.

There are two types of liquid coolers: all-in-one (AIO) coolers and custom loop coolers. AIO coolers are sealed systems that come pre-assembled and filled with coolant. They cannot be modified, but they are easier to install and manage. On the other hand, custom loop coolers involve buying each component separately, such as the pump, reservoir, and radiators, and customizing them to your liking. However, they are more expensive and require additional effort.

Out of these options, I went for an AIO cooler, specifically the Fractal Design Lumen S36. However, if your budget falls within the $500 to $1,500 range, it’s better to skip liquid cooling and opt for a CPU fan alongside a few case fans.

Everything Else

Once you’ve made those three crucial decisions, the rest of your build is like fitting various puzzle pieces together. The remaining components should be compatible with your CPU, GPU, and cooler. However, many people choose components in a different order, such as picking the PC case first, and that’s perfectly fine too. For me, performance took precedence over aesthetics.

Motherboard

Choosing the motherboard at this point is a logical step. Fortunately, for gamers, there’s usually no need to splurge on more expensive models like the Z790 or X670 unless you have specific requirements, such as additional slots or ports. It may be worth paying a little extra for Wi-Fi, just in case, but you can opt for a cheaper model that meets your needs. However, ensure that it fits your PC case and matches all your other components, including the graphics card. In my build, I chose a B650 board from Gigabyte.

PC Case

Once you’ve decided on the form factor of your motherboard, you’ll know what kind of PC case is compatible. Keep in mind that the case should accommodate both your motherboard and GPU. Although I’ve seen small form factor builds with an RTX 4090 or RTX 4080, I personally wouldn’t risk putting such behemoth graphics cards inside a cramped case with limited airflow.

If, like me, you’ve chosen a liquid cooler, make sure the case has enough space to accommodate it. AIO coolers typically come in 240mm, 280mm, or 360mm sizes. Read the specifications when shopping for a case to ensure it provides enough room. Additionally, consider the case’s aesthetics.

I personally appreciate RGB builds, although they may not suit everyone’s preferences. Nevertheless, I wanted a touch of sparkle in my new PC. The Fractal Design Meshify 2 Lite RGB case caught my attention. It strikes a balance between subtle elegance and shimmering beauty. Moreover, it offers excellent airflow with its four included fans, and you can add even more if desired.

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Power Supply

I left the power supply nearly for last, but it shouldn’t be an afterthought. It needs to fit your case (which is usually the case, but double-checking never hurts), and it should have sufficient power to handle all your components running at their maximum consumption and beyond.

Rather than manually calculating power requirements, I utilized Newegg’s PSU calculator. The MSI 850-watt PSU I finally selected is more than enough for my build. However, if you anticipate future upgrades, consider a slightly more powerful PSU, such as a 1000W option. This way, you’ll have some headroom. Additionally, look out for the 80 Plus rating when choosing a PSU. This certification ensures efficiency and indicates that you’re purchasing a power supply that won’t fail you in a few months.

RAM

Choosing memory these days is tied to your motherboard and processor selection. These components determine whether you’ll be using DDR4 or DDR5 RAM. DDR5 RAM was expensive when it first released, but current prices make it a worthwhile option if your platform supports it. The cost difference is usually small but often worth it. However, if DDR4 prices are significantly lower, sticking with DDR4 for now won’t hinder your experience. In any case, I recommend 16 to 32GB of RAM for a gaming build.

If you happen to choose an AMD Ryzen 7000 processor, DDR5 RAM is a must. The AM5 socket doesn’t support DDR4 memory.

Any PC is a Good PC

As someone who constantly experiments with different PC builds and actively participates in PC building communities, I know how easy it is to go over budget. There will always be someone suggesting that you spend a little more to get something slightly better.

Ultimately, as you embark on building your own PC, remember that these minor choices rarely dictate the overall outcome. The most important factors are ensuring compatibility among the components and selecting the right components for your budget. It’s best to maintain a balance among the components. For instance, there’s no point in saving $1,600 to buy an RTX 4090 and pairing it with a Core i5-11600K CPU.

The ultimate goal is to enjoy the PC you’ve built, rather than creating a monster that outperforms every game on the market. I may have gotten a bit carried away with my own build, but a high-end PC is not necessary to enjoy gaming at high settings.

Editors’ Recommendations:

  • Starfield PC Performance: Best Settings, FSR 2, Benchmarks, and More
  • AMD’s New Laptop CPU Is the Fastest I’ve Seen, but You Shouldn’t Buy It Yet
  • How Immortals of Aveum Wants to Rethink PC Optimization with Unreal Engine 5
  • I’m a Gaming Laptop Reviewer, and These Are the Only Ones I Recommend for College
  • Refurbished Steam Decks Are Now Official — Here’s How to Buy One

OnSpec Electronic, Inc.

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