I think it is safe to say my kids’ favorite family engineering project we have done so far is Building a Gaming PC for Beginners.
This all started when my 12 year old got some birthday money from his grandparents and I found out he was planning to spend it on Funko Pop figures. I can appreciate the hobby of action figure collecting, but I can’t help feeling that buying toys that just sit on his shelf still in the box are not a good investment of his money. So I asked him if he ever thought about buying a gaming PC since he is very passionate about video games.
We try to cover the expenses of running this blog with affiliate links, and we receive small commissions through items that are purchased through our Amazon.com links. With that said, here is the link to Amazon’s Funko Pop figures (a bad investment in my opinion, but my son would disagree): Funko Pop Figures
Why Building a Gaming PC?
My 4 kids love video games, and a constant complaint I have been hearing in our house is how slow and glitchy our home PC is. “Dad, it’s taking forever to load!” “Minecraft is glitching so bad. I keep getting killed!” These are complaints I used to hear often especially if they play anything in online multi-player mode.
So I made the suggestion to my 2 boys who both had saved up a bit of cash, why not buy a gaming computer. After they did a little research and balked at the prices, I asked them if they would like to build their own – something within their price range. Inwardly, I was excited at what we would learn together with the project.
I gave them a list of questions to research to help them decide whether building was a good idea and what type of parts they would need:
- What PC games are you interested in? What are the system requirements for each game?
- How much do gaming PCs cost pre-built that meet all of these requirements?
- What parts are needed to build a gaming PC ourselves? How much does each part cost?
Building a gaming PC does take some research and a bit of work, but it is easier than most people imagine and the learning experience is invaluable.
In the end, they talked their older sister into pitching in and I decided to pitch in too so that I could use the better machine for video editing.
Where to Buy Parts for a Gaming PC
If you are purchasing the individual components online like we did, it is good to do price comparisons between Amazon, Newegg, and SuperBiiz. Prices on PC parts change prices surprisingly quickly from day to day, so it is good to watch prices for a few days once you’ve decided on the parts list.
Microcenter and Fry’s are both good options if you prefer to purchase directly from a store. Both stores offer price matching in some cases and have decent selections. Expect to pay a little markup at the store, but Microcenter also offers decent deals on bundles.
The Parts that Make Up a Gaming PC
The Processor (CPU)
The CPU is the brain of the computer. This is one of the most expensive components and there are a few things to consider such as speed, number of cores (more cores allows more parallel processing).
The motherboard is the base of the computer. All of your components are connected through it and it determines the machines core features (number of USB ports and expansion slots for graphics, audio and Wi-fi). It also partially determines the size of the PC and what type of case you will need.
RAM is the short-term memory of the PC and stores the data the PC needs for quick access. PC games have a minimum system RAM requirement – we found many games have a minimum requirement of 8GB. Plenty of RAM is also very helpful to keep the PC running fast while you are running several programs at the same time.
The hard drive or SSD (solid state drive) store all of the files on the PC. Hard drives are the lower cost option per GB, but SSDs offer the advantage of faster load times. For our PC, we decided to build with both using the SSD to store the operating system and programs and using the hard drive to store files.
The Graphics Card
The graphics card has a dedicated processor for the PC’s graphics (GPU) and is a key component to a gaming computer. Many motherboards have integrated graphics, but a dedicated graphics card is essential for demanding 3D games.
The case is nothing fancy and does not affect how the computer operates. The important things to consider is compatibility with your motherboard, the amount of room to route cables and install fans, and how it looks since this is the only part of the PC you will see.
The Power Supply
The power supply supplies electricity to all of the components of the PC. It is a good idea to select the power supply after all of the other components are selected and you know how much power each will require.
Once you have selected all of your parts, it’s a good idea to run the parts list through an online compatibility checker just to make sure there is no issue using the parts together.
Our $600 Gaming PC Build
For our build, we were dealing with a budget of about $600. There are items this did not include that are important to factor in if you do not already have these: the monitor, keyboard, mouse, and Windows operating system.
We selected an AMD Ryzen 5 3.2GHz Quad-core processor. Price paid – $145
We selected the AS Rock AB350 Pro4. Price paid – $55
One thing we didn’t notice about the motherboard is that it did not have integrated Wi-fi. We quickly solved this with a trip to Microcenter and are very happy with the performance of our TP-Link N900 NIC card. Price paid: $30
We selected 8GB of DDR4-2133 RAM from G.Skill Ripjaws V Series. Price paid – $70
For storage, we selected both a 250DB SSD from SK Hynix and a 1TB Hard Drive from WD. We keep the operating system and all of the programs on the SSD for fast loading, and we use the hard drive for storing files.
Price paid: $67 (SSD) + $42 (HD)
For the graphics card, we selected the MSI GTX 1050 2GT. Price paid: $125
For the case, we selected the Corsair Carbide 200R Compact ATX Case. Price paid: $40
For the power supply, we selected the SeaSonic M12II 520 Bronze. Price paid: $35
Total Price Paid: $609
Where to Learn More about PC Building
There are several great resources to learn more about building your first gaming PC. And I recommend reading from several sources and watching videos on this topic.
How to Build a PC (Youtube)
Overall, this was a fantastic project and learning experience. My kids have claimed the new PC works flawlessly for all of their games and they are very happy with the investment.
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