Hi there Internet!
Dan here with episode 6 of the NexiPC Blog: The Blogening Continues. (lol) This chapter of the Blog was originally going to be about hard drive RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) setups, but we are going to take a left turn instead and talk about gaming computers and how to choose the best one for your needs. As I was going through my material for the RAID discussion I realized that this topic is pretty technical, and simply is not something that the majority of people will need to be familiar with, in the short term at least. The nutshell explanation of this technology is that it splits your data on your hard drives across multiple different drives to allow it to access data faster ideally. There are multiple different types of RAID setups though, many different considerations to factor in, and some extremely serious consequences for failure so this is a topic I am simply going to point you to the experts for more information about this if you are so inclined. A good quick video explanation of the basics of this technology is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eE7Bfw9lFfs, and for a more in depth understanding of the technology, check out this article at https://blog.storagecraft.com/raid-performance/.
So with all of that said lets go ahead and jump into our topic for today, gaming computers. These recommendations will be based around desktop gaming systems but we may do a laptop edition as well here soon. With the holidays approaching, the odds are very good that many of you will be looking for a gaming computer either for yourself or for someone you love. But how can you find the one that you really need, without spending more than you really need to? This can be a major issue, and it is something the manufacturers do not explain well at all. You can go onto any computer shopping site and you will see a wide range of different systems that are categorized as being gaming systems, but surely these systems can’t all be the same, right? And that would be correct, the short answer is that in most cases they are all wildly different from each other and have almost nothing in common other than that they are both computers. So let's talk about this a bit so you can avoid these traps and find the best gaming computer for you.
So theoretically, let's say you are on Amazon looking for a gaming computer for the holidays, there are currently systems priced from $199.00 all the way up to over $9000.00 that are listed as “Gaming Computers” in the search. With such a wide range of different systems listed as gaming systems how do you find the one that will play the games you want? This is the clue though, and the most important question to consider when buying a gaming computer; what will the system actually be used for? This seems like a pretty basic question, but it is something that may people will forget when presented with all of the flashing lights and appealing designs of modern gaming systems. You do not want to spend too little and wind up with a system that will not do what you want to do, but it is very easy to spend too much in this market. If you can come up with one or two core titles that will be played on the system though you can start to balance the factors and determine exactly what the needs for the computer will be, which will allow you to find one that is priced low but still has the feature or features you need.
Now unfortunately while I am not able to cover every game ever made to provide an individual recommendation for the needs of each I can break this down into categories a bit, though additional research may be needed. So in a very oversimplified sense the possible reasons someone might want a gaming computer are in no particular order: not gaming, streaming, web based gaming, older games, light modern games, and heavy modern games. So what are the needs for each of these groups?
Not gaming is exactly what it sounds like, many different professions require a computer with the same requirements as gamers so they will often times just buy gaming computers to make it easier to find a system. If you need to purchase a system for someone for this use case I cannot provide you with an easy answer for what to buy, unfortunately. The particular needs they will likely have are far to specific and would need to be met fairly exactly in some cases, so in this case you will need to ask them exactly what they would want, or risk buying the wrong system entirely.
Streaming is another area where an easy answer may be more difficult, though we will give it a go. The issue with this category is that streamers may have very different uses for their computers which would require different setups. For instance some streamers stream content from a video game console using their computer, and in this case the system hardware does not need to be excessively powerful, but others may use a single computer to both play a modern video game and stream that game onto the internet which requires some of the most powerful hardware available. As such I highly recommend asking the person for this system what they plan to stream before buying anything, but as a general rule a streaming system should have a more powerful graphics card and a decent or better processor, so an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 or higher graphics card would work, and an Intel i5-8400 or an AMD Ryzen 5 1600 or newer processor would likely work well. Also 16 GB of RAM or higher would also prove helpful for this usage, but other components are not as important with this use case, or can be easily upgraded.
Web-based gaming is basically the least intensive use case for a gaming computer, and unless the “Gaming Computer” design is the primary attribute needed it would be cheaper to buy a non-gaming computer for someone who wants to play this type of game. This is because of the way these games are played. Playing a game on a browser window on the internet bases the information stream solely on your internet connection, and this simply is not as fast as the system can work when it is supplying the information. As such, these games are more simple, as a complex game would not be playable, so these games can be played on basically any hardware that will run the internet well. This category includes games like Angry Birds, Bejeweled, and Solitaire. My recommendation for someone who plays these games would be a system with a nice fast modern processor like a Ryzen 5 2600 as they are cheap and I would skip the graphics card entirely as this is not needed for these games.
Older games only require a bit more power than the web based games, but they are a bit different so I had to make a separate category for them. The reason they are different is that older games are a huge category. I consider an older game a game produced on or before 2010 as these games will run on basically any current hardware, but they will work better with better hardware. As such for these games you can go with a lower end processor like an i3 or i5 or Ryzen 3 or 5, but it is best to also have a graphics card as these games may run better with this hardware if they were designed to work with it when the game was created. This category includes games like The Sims, Grand Theft Auto 3 and 4, and Fallout: New Vegas.
Light modern games are games like: League of Legends, World of Warcraft, or Minecraft. These games are games that are still very popular though they may be a bit older, and they do not have intensive system requirements though you will likely still need somewhat more modern hardware as the system requirements for these games tend to get updated regularly. For someone who plans to play these games a system with a current generation processor like an Intel i5-9600k or a Ryzen 5 3600 would work well, it would also need a modern graphics card like an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 or higher, and at least 8 GB of RAM would be best. An SSD is always best but modern games tend to take up space, so the 128 GB and 256 GB SSD tend not to be as useful and you will want to stick with 512 GB or higher.
Heavy modern games are games like: Rainbow 6 Siege, Grand Theft Auto 5, and Shadow of the Tomb Raider. These games will push your system to its limits if it is not the best that money can buy, and sometimes even then. As such, the sky really is the limit with these systems. If you are in a bracket where you can afford the $10,000.00 gaming computer, but it. I am sure it will have some wonderful designs and some cool features you cannot get in normal systems, and will also be able to play these games. If not any system with as powerful a modern processor, and graphics card will work, and make sure to put in as much RAM or drives as is possible. A kind of base line for these systems is an Intel i7-8700k or higher, an Nvidia Geforce GTX 1080 or higher, 16 GB of RAM or higher, and a 512 GB SSD or higher. With these specifications you should be able to get at least comfortable settings in any modern game.
This is by no means an exhaustive listing of possible uses for a gaming system, but it gives you a place to start if you are doing holiday shopping so you do not have to let the cat out of the bag. Next week the blog will be a different one, we are going to do a special episode where we answer your questions. We will be taking a number of different questions from our website that people have asked about computers, and we will answer them here as well so everyone can benefit from these amazing inquiries. If you have a pressing question you need answered and you would like to get it on the blog just send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and maybe it will get on that episode!
Anyways, till next time folks, have fun. I will talk to you then.