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Hardware Buying Guide Blog

Hardware Buying Guide

When purchasing a new gaming PC, it's important to consider the components that go into it. Most modern PCs will play the latest games, but that doesn't mean they'll do it well. Here's our guide on what hardware and PC Upgrades to look for when purchasing your new gaming PC.

Processor

The brain of your computer, often called the CPU. This is the actual component that will be performing calculations - every single thing you do on a computer will use the processor. A processor's performance is measured in gigahertz (GHz), which refers to the speed. Though with modern computers there are other factors which affect the performance - e.g. processors are starting to come with built in graphics 'cards'. Intel processors are generally regarded as 'faster', but AMD has been shown to perform better in some cases. AMD also tends to be cheaper, so it's worth doing a bit of extra research into this before you buy, or get in touch with us on live chat who are here to answer any questions you may have.
Other terms: CPU, APU

Memory

If a processor is the brain in a computer, the memory (or RAM), is short-term memory. Every app you use will use memory, storing itself and anything you are working on so you can quickly access it. The processor will use the memory to store information until it's needed. Memory is measured in gigabytes (GB) - storage - and megahertz (MHz) - speed. As ever, more is better. More GB means more information can be stored in the computers memory at any one time. Generally, 4GB is the baseline in most modern PC builds. More MHz means the processor can access the information stored in the memory faster. If the memory can't be accessed fast enough, the super-fast processor you've bought won't be able to work to it's potential. Our gaming PCs come with at least 1600MHz.
Other terms: RAM, DIMM

Motherboard

A motherboard is the center of your PC. Every component plugs into the motherboard and it is here where you need to focus on compatibility. All our PCs can be customised with confidence over compatibility, but there are a few things to look out for. Form-factor/size determines the size of case you need and the amount of expansion ports. Mini ITX, as used in our Prodigy systems is small, but has less expansion ports. There are also ITX, mATX, ATX and even bigger. You should also look at extra features, such as on-board sound, network cards and expansion slots. Be sure to view our PC Motherboard Bundles we have to offer.
Other terms: Mainboard, Mobo

Power Supply

A very important, but often underrated component. This connects mains power to the various components in your PC. It simple terms it is measured in wattage (W) - a higher wattage means you can have more powerful components. Choosing the wrong power supply can have big effects on your PC, such as no display. Whilst cheaper power supplies are probably fine for a low-power desktop PC, they generally don’t supply a constant flow of power which can cause stability issues, especially with mid to high end graphics cards. Finally, look at the components you have now, but also bear in mind that you may want to add more in the future.
Other terms: PSU, Power Pack, Power Brick

Case

The case is the only component that will always be on show, so at the end of the day the most important factor on your mind is probably how it looks. With this in mind there are some very good looking cases on the market with good features that won't break the bank. However, other important things to look out for are cooling options, space for all your components and the amount/type of external connections. A Gaming PC will include components that will pump out a lot of heat so good cooling in a case is essential. We recommend that you look for a case that has at least one front fan and one rear fan to create a flow of cool air. Also consider how easy it would be to build inside. Will it fit all your components? Are parts (e.g. hard drive bays) removable? Is there room for cable management?
Other terms: Tower, Chassis

Hard Drive

If RAM is short-term memory, a computers hard drive is long-term memory. This is where the data is stored for your operating system, programs, data, documents, music and games. Hard drives are measured in gigabytes (GB) and terabytes (TB), equal to 1000GB. More is better but generally people don't need more than 1TB. However, if you buy a 1TB drive don’t expect to see 1000GB of space on the drive. There is a difference in how hard drive capacities are stated by manufacturers compared to how operating systems calculate them. As a rule of thumb:

1GB=1,000,000,000 Bytes. In Operating System, it would be displayed as 1,000,000,000 Bytes/1024/1024/1024 = 0.93GB.

You can find a more detailed explanation of hard drive capacities in our FAQ. It's also worth looking at factors such as seek time, spindle speed, cache size and data transfer rate.
Other terms: HDD, Hard Disk, Disk

Solid State Drive

Solid State Drive's are like Hard Drives. But much faster. A Windows 8 system with a solid state drive can boot in around 10 seconds. They're still quite expensive compared to 'tradional' hard drives, but are quickly becoming a standard component for new PCs. A popular option is to pair a traditional hard disk with a solid state drive. The solid state drive is used for the operating system and applications, whilst the larger capacity hard drive is used for storing data, documents, music and video.
Other terms: SSD

Graphics Card

If you want to play games, do video/photo editing or watch high definition films, this is something you'll need to look at. A lot of modern PCs come with on-board graphics, either through the motherboard, or built into the CPU. However for any serious graphics use, you should be looking at a separate, discrete graphics card. Graphics cards are measured using a few different factors, including clock speed (MHz), stream processors and on-board memory (GB). Different graphics cards perform better at different tasks, for example a top-end £500+ gaming graphics card may not perform as well in video/photo editing as a dedicated video-editing card. Even staying in the realm of gaming, some manufacturers cards make sacrifices in one area for gains in another. It's definitely worth spending a little extra time looking into this.
Other terms: Graphics Adapter, VGA Card, Video Card

Optical Drive

This is the drive in your computer where you put discs such as CDs. All you need to consider is what you will be using it with? If you will be watching Blu-Ray films, you will need a Blu-Ray drive. If not, a DVD drive is probably fine. Also consider whether you will be making (writing) your own discs.
Other terms: DVD drive, Blu-Ray Drive

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