The Perfect Gaming PC


18-02-2014 13:22:46

Greetings Friends,

So unfortunately this past weekend, I lost my laptop to a power surge. May Optimus Ultra rest in peace...

But this does give me a reason to go shopping for a new gaming computer. Last time I wanted mobile access but this time I may be interested in spending more on a desktop that will last (or be upgradeable). So considering the company I keep when gaming (ie. YOU GUYS) I thought I may ask your opinion on what I should consider this time around. Should I go desktop or laptop, does it matter anymore? What specs should I look at? any other features to keep in mind while I purse the perfect gaming computer?



19-02-2014 02:16:06

Desktop PC, all the way, especially with all the cool game streaming stuff on the way. e.g. from a Nvidia Shield you can play games running on your desktop, and a cheapish steam machine will allow you to do a similar thing with the TV in your lounge.

The upgradability of a desktop is also king. I regret buying a laptop when I turned 18, as three years it got thrown out because one thing broke and it had gotten really slow.

As for what to look for:


There was a time a short while ago that you would be laughed at (by me :P) if you went with an AMD cpu. It's not so bad now, but Intel still trumps AMD for gaming when you have a dedicated graphics card.

AMD do do very good "APUs" which are CPUs with on board Radeon graphics. These can do really well in low end gaming PCs and benefit a lot from faster memory (otherwise memory speed doesn't really matter.) But I'll assume you're going a little higher end and are going to want a dedicated graphics card.

Windos' recommendation:

Get an Intel "Haswell" i5 (say the i5-4670k, or the non-k varient if you don't want to tinker with overclocking), it's a fast quad core and overkill for gaming.

If you have money to burn, you could bump that up to an i7 (i7-4770k), it's a quad core as well, but with hyperthreading, so that Windows will see 8 cpus instead of 4. You wont really seen any benefit in gaming, but could do if you do video editing, etc (hell, I still run a dual core and am only just considering an upgrade.)

Graphics Card:

This comes down to a choice between AMD and Nvidia. Traditionally I have been on the AMD side of the fence (I currently have an AMD Radeon HD 6950), but to my eye, Nvidia is the better choice of the current generation. If I were to buy new today, it'd be trying to save for a 780 ti.)

Performance of the card itself isn't the only factor through. Some games support one manufacturer better than the other in some cases. It may pay to look up benchmarks on the specific games you're thinking of playing most.

Games tend to come bundled with cards, so this is something to consider.

Features also differ. Nvidia has the Shield streaming I mentioned earlier, shadow play for doing a lot of the work of streaming your gameplay on the card so it is easier on your system, and g-sync which is coming to monitors and is really compelling to me (this is a whole nother topic... check out this video if you're interested: AMD has Mantel, which is an API that is meant to be a lot better for gaming performance than Direct X. Both g-sync and Mantel may be cross platform at some stage and blah blah, but at this stage it's better to go for the card that you know will support what you want.)

Windos' recommendation:

I can't tell you what is best, only what I would get. Honestly, as it's the best current performance, I would try above all else to get the 780 ti.


Stick to one of the big names and you should be good, I'm thinking of ASUS, Gigabyte, MSI. You're looking for the Z87 chipset. Everything this generation is much of a muchness. As you go up the price brackets, you're just loading up with more features (thunderbolt, special network ports, overlocking niceties)

Windos' recommendation:

I shop by color :P I try and adhere to a colour scheme so might choose a board based on the fact that it is red and black, or just black, or has a little white on it.

Other things to look for:

Memory speed doesn't matter too much, get something that looks nice, is 1600 MHZ or more.

Haswell chips and the latest graphics cards are reasonably power friendly so you don't need a giant 1,000W beast. You should be good with something around the 650W mark, maybe look about 800W If you're thinking of going with two GPUs. Also the 80 PLUS ratings you'll see have become something of a marketing race... 80 Plus Bronze should be fine, but going for 80 Plus Gold won't hurt anything.

Solid State drives are so much faster than HDDs that just getting one of these can make an old system feel new again without any other upgrades. My preferred storage config these days is to get a SSD large enough for Windows, a few apps and your most played games (or even better, an SSD for windows and a separate one for games and apps) then a giant (3 or 4 TB mechanical HDD) for everything else.

Case, I prefer Corsair cases, also like Coolermaster and Fractal. Shop by looks :P

Everything else wont really make or break a gaming PC. If you want to open up a can of worms, consider looking into PC audio, soundcards, DACs and AMPs, etc. Also don't get me started on keyboards :P

Where'd a pluck all this stuff from?

I work in IT and also watch many hours of tech videos daily. I try and keep up on all the new releases, etc. Have built a few custom PCs for people around here in the last year and my work also got me to build 5 supped up "workstations" (fully of gaming equipment) for our GIS/Mapping department.

I also need a life :P

In saying that, if you need help deciding on something, or have a parts list or a couple of options for prebuilt machines, feel free to ask. I'm always happy to help out with this sort of stuff.


20-02-2014 08:40:18 <-- My record is building a machine that cost $24000 :D


21-02-2014 09:19:47

I'm not much of a computer building guy, but I have a few thoughts on the Laptop vs Desktop discussion. For the last 10 years I've been a laptop guy, work took me traveling alot and I wanted to be able to bring my games with me when I went. After the travel cooled down I had an odd shift schedule where my wife could be working from home, and I could be off at the same time. So the most recent computer I picked up was a Asus Laptop with a 17" screen. It really just moved from my office upstairs to the kitchen table downstairs if she had meetings going on. My tablet is what travels with me on trips to see family, since if I'm driving for 6-10 hours I'd rather not waste my time with the folks playing video games while I'm there. Sometimes not even the Tablet if I'm going to see family who doesn't have Wireless.

My schedule has changed once again (to a more normal routine), and I haven't had to move my Laptop downstairs in months. Except for rare occasions we work basically the same times. Since Laptops and Desktops seem to be pretty similar in performance now, my next choice is going to be based more around my "Gaming Workspace". I have my Laptop hooked up to a 23" monitor, and the laptop sits on my desk. That takes up a decent amount of it, which annoys me. So my next purchase will be a Desktop Gaming PC instead, probably a Tower which I can put under the desk someplace.

So, for me, the choice of Desktop vs Laptop is more about what fits better into my life at the time than the price of them. I tended to buy Gaming rigs that cost around $1k (and were discounted 200-300 bucks) that lasted me for 2 years or more. My current one is just over two years old, I bought it just before SWTOR came out. I'll probably delay my PC purchase until just before Star Citizen comes out to make sure I can run it.

For Laptops I like Asus alot (G74 is the current model I'm using)
For PCs I don't really know yet, I could go Dell/Alienware, but only because I'm familiar with the name. I haven't priced anything or researched what's in them yet.

Selika Roh

23-02-2014 11:44:56

On the laptop vs desktop question, another thing you want to look at is what your replacement time frame is going to be. If you're going to want to use this machine for a number of years, I'd advise against the laptop for gaming. The biggest single issue for computers is heat, and heat damage is cumulative. Higher end gaming components use more power and therefore generate more heat, and laptops have horrid heat dissipation. So that means you're going to be cooking your components every time you fire up your preferred game, and your rig isn't going to end up lasting you as long. Desktop PC's, on the other hand, do far better with heat dissipation in general, and there are a lot more options to go with to reduce heat. Honestly, given the affordability and ease of installation with bolt on liquid cooling systems like Corsair's Hydro Series, I can't imagine going with an air cooled CPU ever again (that, and the liquid cooler systems are soooo much quieter). So if product longevity is a concern, I'd recommend desktop over laptop.


24-02-2014 22:08:23

Great tips so far guys, thanks for all of that.

I'm gonna throw in a weird question, so fair warning this may potential unleash hell.

What are your thoughts on using a macbook as a gaming laptop?

In doing my research, I realized that there is a lot that a mac has to offer my situation (both interests and living situation as my girlfriend is slowly making our place into a shrine to Steve Jobs). Software aside for a sec, the hardware I can get really rivals any windows computer (admittedly at a couple hundred more at least) so the OS is really the only concern I ever had for not using a mac as a gaming computer. However, with more games offering OS X capable games at launch with windows, and the app bootcamp making it possible to run windows legally and dedicated from the macbook; this kinda shreds my past concerns for buying a mac.

Maybe I'm just a idealistic fanboy, but I'm curious what others here would argue.


25-02-2014 04:02:12

"app bootcamp"? Keep in mind, my only experience with OS X totals about 2 hours. I know of Boot Camp, but app bootcamp is a new term for me (and I can't find anything official by googling the term."

Boot Camp itself allows you to install Windows on the macbook and boot into, effectively using the Macbook as a Windows PC. This requires a copy of Windows and a Windows License (add what ever the cost of Windows is where you are on top of the cost of the Mac if that is what you want to do. The cheapest I can get Windows 7 here, without student discounts, is $159 NZD.)

Keep in mind, switching between Windows and OS X when doing this requires a full reboot. Theres little to no interplay between the two. You could be browsing the web in OS X decide you want to play a game and have to sit through a reboot before even being able to launch it.

Back to the term "app bootcamp," this to me implies running Windows Apps "within" OS X, which is possible. I'm not aware of anyway of doing this without some form of virtualization using a program like Parallels. The best virtualization programs (like Parallels, which I have heard good things about and actually used personally) cost. They also work by installing a virtual copy of Windows (queue licensing cost again), and run the games from within this virtual pc. There is a performance hit when doing this, as the macbook has to run OS X and (part or all depending on which program you use) Windows at the same time.

You can also try something called Wine, but the last time I used it under Linux I wasn't impressed. It's probably better by now.


I hope that actually made sense :P

When I was considering a new mobile computer last year it came down to two options. Buy the new Macbook Air and install Windows on it (completely removing OS X... it helped that I don't need to pay for Windows so it made it a cheaper option) or waiting for the release of the second gen Microsoft Surface.

In the end I went with the Surface (I have very specific use cases which made it make sense for me).

Basically what I'm trying to say is, know your usecases. If you're comfortable with the OS or are willing to put in a bit of time to learn it (or have someone to teach you), and are willing to jump through some hoops if the game you want to play doesn't work well, it's not a bad option. I can't deny that the hardware is sexy (though the macbook pros that came through my office last year had VERY loud cd drives which drove me nuts.)


25-02-2014 14:10:21

By "the app bootcamp"I meant "the application known as Boot Camp", which you seemed to have described. From the demonstration I got you can install both OSs on the laptop and when booting the computer you have an option to pick one or the other operating system, which would dedicate the entire hardware of the laptop to the chosen OS for that session. Need to change, just a simple reboot - and from what I've seen the flash drive thing they now have instead of a harddrive is super fast (I believe its the same as a Solid State drive but I could be mistaken). Thankfully this wouldn't be an added price for me, I have a windows 7 copy that hasn't been opened yet.


25-02-2014 15:39:05

Yeah they are just regular solid state drives (and if you want to save money, you can buy an HDD model and install your own SSD if you're so inclined, as I know they rape on the cost of higher capacity drives.) I'm not sure if this applies to the mac book air or not though...

Guy I follow on YouTube demonstrates this (ignore the... dramatization :P)

Just throwing it out there as an option if you want to try and save a little.

Boot Camp works great in my experience.


28-02-2014 22:47:33

If you're willing to go with that Boot Camp thing I guess it doesn't matter.

Without it I would never go Mac though. SOOOO many games are only available on PC.