Friday, January 8, 2010

Quick Tips for Building a Gaming Computer

How to Build a Performance Computer for Gaming

Gaming computers, also known as Gaming Rigs or Gaming PCs have become increasingly popular in the last few years as a niche market for them has developed.
Many "hardcore" gamers will either build their own computer systems or use a specialized company such as Doghouse or Falcon Northwest which caters to gamers and their needs. Whichever route is chosen, however, there are few important factors to bear in mind when designing or buying any new computer system which will help make the most of the purchase and get the best performance.

First - The Basic Speed of the Machine

The core of any computer system will be the Central Processing Unit or CPU. The CPU is what all of the other parts of the system depend on in order to be able to function properly. The CPU essentially acts as the brain of the computer and the faster the CPU can operate, the better the entire system will run.
The speed of a CPU is now typically measured in Gigahertz (abbreviated GHz), and one GHz is equivalent to one billion "cycles" per second. The higher the number of GHz the CPU has, the faster the computer will be in general, and the quicker everything on the computer will be to load. Most computers will range from 2 GHz to 3 GHz in speed. The higher the main CPU speed, the better any game will run.

Second - The RAM

A computer's RAM or "Random Access Memory" is also an important component in it's speed. The amount of RAM in a computer can vary substantially, from 1 Gigabyte worth to up to 4 or 6. However, large amounts of RAM can be extremely expensive, depending on the type purchased and the amount.
RAM essentially functions as the capacity of the computer to multi-task, and the more RAM a computer has, the more single programs it can run at one time without slowing down. As well, more RAM will allow a more complex game to be played without suffering any slowdown. As a general rule, a gaming computer will want to have at least two GB worth of RAM, depending on what is allowed by the physical computer space.
RAM typically comes in small, straight sets of chips which are placed inside the computer chasis. While relatively easy to swap out, RAM is an ever-changing technology, with types such as RDRAM and SDRAM available, some with DDR (double data rate) technology.
Do some investigation into which type is the most cost-efficient, as well as how much RAM a computer will support before committing to any purchase. DDR RDRAM is currently the most efficient RAM on the market, but technology changes quickly.

Third - The Video Card

This is where many gamers sink a great deal of the their time and effort. There are two major video card companies, NVIDIA and ATI. NVIDIA makes a series of cards called the "GeForce", while ATI produces the "Radeon". Both have things to recommend them, and are usually neck in neck in terms of performance. There are many websites which will compare the performance of various cards, which can be of great benefit as the price of the cards often varies wildly, and some lower-priced cards perform quite well against higher-priced competition.
These cards are very high-powered and any serious gaming computer will not function properly without one. Many carry their own onboard memory of up to 1 gigabyte and now typically come with a fan and/or heat sink to deal with the massive amount of heat they will generate.
Another option many gamers are choosing is to use two interlinked video cards at the same time. According to the NVIDIA SLI zone website, using dual video cards can result in a performance increase of up to 2.8 times over a single video card. Many specialty computer builders are now offering this as a standard option.

Fourth - The Monitor

All of the internal hardware in the world is useless if the results cannot be seen properly, and for that reason an excellent monitor is essential. Just as with televisions, computer monitors have made the switch from CRT to LCD technology, with generally positive results.
The biggest problem facing LCD displays is the issue of response time. Response time is the amount of time, measured in milliseconds, that it takes the liquid crystals to change color. The lower the response time, the better. If the response time is too high, the user will see "ghosting" and the game will not look right. A good response time for an LCD monitor is anything under 12 ms. 12 to 15 ms can be acceptable, but anything higher than that will not be useable for gaming.

Fifth - The Measurement

All of the components mentioned above contribute to an excellent gaming experience, and the typical way to measure the overall performance of the computer in a game setting is to use the standard of frames per second. This is a measure of how many still frames are displayed to the user in one second, granting the illusion of motion. The higher the fps, the smoother the game will look.
Fps will change during the course of a game, as the player moves into more graphically intense areas. The general rule of thumb is that anything over 30 fps is playable, but the ideal is to aim for 60 fps or higher.
While purchasing or building the right computer for gaming takes time and research, the end benefits will be well worth it.

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