One of the most common comments I get (especially on Twitter) is "help! I want to build a PC but I have no idea where to start!" My original thought was to do one post documenting the build process, but I believe that more value will be had if I break the post into a series of posts. This way, I can go over more things in much more detail. So, that said, I will start to post individual articles under the title "So You Want to Build a PC" or SYWTBAPC for short. Let's get started!
The first thing you want to consider when planning a PC build is your use case. Do you want a high-end gaming PC, smooth VR experiences, quick compile times, or heavy rendering capabilities? I tend to build high-end gaming PCs, so the majority of the discussion in my posts will be around gaming PCs of any budget. Higher end gaming PCs also lend well to better VR experiences, but if you're looking for a different use case, you may want to do some additional research on your own!
In addition, you also want to consider what you really need. Not everyone needs top-of-the line hardware to get the experience they want! With gaming in particular, you want to consider the kinds of games you're playing – pixel games and older games won't need a top of the line graphics card, for example. Most new games won't even need the best graphics card out there to get a good experience. In my own build, I love to play new games on ultra graphics (the highest setting) on an ultrawide monitor. This requires a lot better hardware than if I was playing on a lower setting, or on a smaller monitor, or both! My 1080ti was still holding it's own, and I really didn't have to upgrade to the 2080ti – but I wanted to, because, shiny! That's totally okay – if you have the budget and make the informed choice to do so.
While considering your use case and what's reasonable for what you need, you also want to consider aesthetics during the planning stage. Building for aesthetics is slightly different (and often more expensive) than doing a basic black-box build. If your PC won't be displayed on your desk, then you can probably ignore color-coding components and all the design decisions that go into an aesthetic build. If you do want to do an aesthetic build, decide on a color scheme first. Some colors are more difficult than others to get into a PC build (for example, pink is difficult to find), so consider that you may have to source custom parts to get the effect you want. My build is mainly white and black, with a few custom-made pink components, for example. Some other things to consider when building for aesthetics are: tempered glass panels versus acrylic on your case (tempered glass will be more expensive, but usually looks cleaner), a modular power supply (this will enable you to only use the cables you need – easier cable management and you can swap them for aftermarket cables, too!), and if you want RGB lighting or not. For aesthetic builds, I usually have some RGB lighting so I can see all my hard work – but I set it to white for a cleaner final effect. I recommend checking out build videos on YouTube to get some inspiration, and I'll link to a few channels at the end of this post!
All of these planning considerations will need to have one common thing guiding them: your budget. You may need to make concessions and tradeoffs if your budget is not unlimited (as many of them are not!). If you're on a tighter budget, I recommend not spending money on aesthetics. At the end of the day, you're building this computer to use it – looking pretty is just a side benefit. If you have the extra budget and want to do an aesthetic build, go for it! But, as I mentioned before, informed decisions are the best ones. If you've completely ruled out an aesthetic build and still have a tight budget, it's possible to get good parts that will run most games well, so don't worry!
The rest of my So You Want to Build a PC series will include articles on:
- Choosing Your Components
- Basics on every component and what it does
- Deeper dive on compatibility and tradeoffs
- Assembling a PC
- Advanced Topics:
- Mechanical Keyboards and Custom Keysets
- Small form factor PCs