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Gaming PC Buying Guide

by Staff Writer

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Advanced gaming PC with running lights and fans

Some of the most powerful and interactive video games are available exclusively to PC gamers with the powerful graphics and control of gaming PCs. When you're ready to build your own gaming computer, the computer hardware must be up to the task. This gaming PC buying guide will describe some of the options available and help you decide how to buy or build a gaming computer that will let you get in on the action.

Buying a Gaming PC:

  1. Get into the gaming culture. Along with the highly detailed graphics and virtual worlds, PC gamers develop interactive communities and cultures around their favorite games. This creativity spills over into the appearance of their gaming PCs as well. For fun, you can construct your machine with an elaborate PC case, exciting shapes, lights and decals. Get creative with your hardware.

  2. Start with a motherboard. Your gaming computer's motherboard will host your video card and processor, as well as connections to all the other components. When choosing the motherboard, consider the type of memory (RAM) you'll be using, as well as the type of expansion slots it has available. Your video card and sound card will require specific slots, such as PCI-Express, in order to connect to your computer. Check all of your components to make sure they're compatible.

  3. Add a fast processor. Your CPU, central processing unit, must match your motherboard's processor socket. The speed of the processor, or each individual processor core, will be measured in gigahertz (GHz). Check system requirements for games you want to play on your gaming PC, using the minimum processor speed as a buying guide.

  4. Pick the proper PC case. When building a gaming PC, the computer case can limit your other hardware choices. The case is really just a box to hold your motherboard and other components. The case may or may not include a power supply, fans or a liquid cooling-system. Cases are constructed to fit certain motherboards, so you may want to make sure they match before buying. Alternately, you can purchase a "barebones system" that has basic components already installed, like a processor, video controller network card and a hard drive. You can add additional hardware to a barebones system to create your ideal gaming PC. No matter what you choose, make sure to get a power supply that will amply support your hardware.

  5. Include a video card to handle graphics. For the ordinary user's computer monitor, the video processor on the motherboard is usually enough. Add-on video cards have their own processor and RAM, taking the load of your CPU. Games usually list the minimum video requirements your system will need:

  6. Memory: Most games require a minimum of 2 GB RAM, and 4 GB to 8 GB of RAM are usually preferred.

  7. Connectors: HDMI or DVI cables are needed for high-definition computer monitors and HDTVs. Some cards may include RBG, S-Video and other types of ports as well.

  8. View those graphics on a widescreen monitor. A widescreen, high-definition computer monitor gives your gaming PC a great display to show what it can do in great detail. Nearly any widescreen monitor will do. If your gaming PC can handle it, you can play your games on an even larger screens and higher resolutions. A frame rate of 60 fps is standard for most monitors.

  9. Get great sound with a sound card. Your headphones or speakers can deliver very realistic audio if you have a good sound card. Even the most basic sound card will give your gaming PC better sound than the integrated sound on you motherboard.

  10. Configure one or more large hard drives. The largest single hard drives have passed 3 TB, and get larger and larger every year. You'll probably be storing music, movies and photos on your gaming PC, too, so a large hard drive is essential. For gaming, a hard drive that spins at 7,200 rpm or faster is best. It's also worth considering buying a SSD (Solid State Drive) to put your operating system on; these cost more, but run much faster than traditional drives and can speed up the overall performance of your PC.

  11. Connect your gaming PC to your network. Interactive gaming on the Web requires a fast Internet connection. Connect your gaming PC to your home network router or directly to your modem. You can even go wireless with a USB wireless adapter and a wireless router.

  12. Get an edge with gaming mice and keyboards. Your keyboard and mouse are the main tools for interacting with your gaming PC and, therefore, your games. Gaming mice may include extra buttons, mouse wheels and even adjustable parts. Gaming keyboards may have a small LCD screen, programmable buttons and even glowing keys.

Tips from Overstock.com:

  1. Plug your gaming PC into your HDTV. Your TV probably has multiple inputs for connection cables from your video card. The resolution on your TV may not be as detailed as your gaming PC monitor, but it's still fun to play on a large screen.

  2. Great PC games, DVDs and software titles are available in the Overstock.com entertainment store at prices well below retail.

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