If you are in the market for a nice Prebuilt or a Custom desktop PC for gaming or work but are not sure where to start, we are here to your help. There is plenty of content available online about how to build a desktop computer DIY however, the more important question of choosing the best PC parts for a specific budget is often ignored. Whether you are building your own or going a risk-free route of buying a prebuilt or custom PC from a professional company like UMKLOGIX Australia, we'll give you some guidance about selecting the right configuration for your next computer purchase. We'll touch upon topics like budget, performance expectations, quality, aesthetics, and parts compatibility.
The first question that needs to be asked is what the primary use of your new computer is going to be now and in the future. Will it mainly be used for gaming, professional work (CAD designing, video processing, etc.), or casual home needs (like internet browsing, video streaming, word processing, etc.)?
For those who have absolutely no idea about the basics of a PC and where to start, the bare minimum components that make up a computer are:
- Graphics card (GPU) for graphics-intensive tasks like gaming
- Storage drive (SSD or HDD)
- Power supply (PSU) to power up the above components
- PC tower or case to house all the above parts
Then we have optional extras like:
- Better CPU coolers (liquid and high-performance air coolers)
- Case fans
- RGB lighting for better looks
- Wi-Fi/Bluetooth connectivity
- Sound Cards
Desktop vs Laptop - a quick comparison
One of the biggest advantages of desktop computers is flexibility in that you can add/upgrade/remove various components over time when needed whereas laptops and all-in-ones (AIOs) are limited in scope in this area. It's easier to upgrade the graphics card in a desktop computer in the future when you need a boost in graphical performance. It's quite common for shoppers with a limited budget to get started with what they can afford at the time of their PC purchase and then upgrade as needed when the budget allows in the future. (WINNER: Desktop PC)
Another advantage of desktop PCs is higher cooling capacity and better performance. In case you are wondering what the cooling has to do with a computer performance then you need to understand the concept of a term called 'thermal throttling'. Computer chips (CPUs, GPUs, etc.) generate heat under operation and when they come under heavy workload due to gaming and video editing like stuff, they run at high clock speed (frequency) which in turn generates more heat. If the cooling system in the computer is not good enough, the modern chips automatically reduce their operating frequency to avoid overheating and possible damage.
Since there is far more space available in desktop computers than laptops it allows bigger size coolers and fans to be installed in them for higher thermal efficiency which provides more headroom for the processing chips to run at faster frequencies as the generated heat is dissipated faster by these bigger sized cooling systems. (WINNER: Desktop PC)
This one is quite obvious, laptops are smaller in size with built-in screens, keyboards and trackpads, and are designed primarily to be carried with you quite easily. (WINNER: Laptop)
Desktop computers need a dedicated desk to reside on. It needs a separate monitor and peripherals like a keyboard, mouse, etc. (WINNER: Laptop)
Laptops are limited in screen size and with the larger models, you can generally get a 17" screen. With desktop computers, you can enjoy larger monitors that could be 30+ inches in their size (WINNER: Desktop PC)
Casual Home Use PC
If you are looking for a computer for casual home use, then we recommend going with a decent laptop or an all-in-one (AIO) computer. You don't need to spend a big amount on a graphics card (which is generally the most expensive PC component) or an extreme amount of RAM. However, if you think there might be some occasional gaming in the future then it'll be good to plan and get yourself a desktop PC equipped with a graphics card or one that could be upgraded into a decent gaming PC in the future.
Gaming Desktop PC
The biggest use case of a desktop PC these days is gaming! In our view, the biggest driver that has kept the desktop computer industry alive is PC gaming and this is what we specialize in pretty well here in Australia.
While planning to buy a gaming PC, think about the following:
This is kind of a fixed range that the shoppers know in advance how much they are willing to spend. The more you invest, the better gaming experience you get if spent in the right way. Getting a powerful machine in the first go allows enjoying a good performance and may go a long way before the need for an upgrade might be felt.
If you are tight on budget then it may be a good idea to get a PC that could be easily upgraded in the future.
Graphics Quality & Performance
This is the most important and relatively tricky part discussed in detail below. Mostly, the gaming performance is dependent on the graphics card and CPU with the assumption that the minimum RAM requirement is met (more on these individual topics later).
Tip: You should check 'recommended hardware requirements' for the heaviest game you intend to play and try to get a gaming PC with specifications better than the listed 'recommended hardware requirements'.
Relation between FPS, Graphics Quality, and Monitor resolution
Think of this as a triangle with a fixed area where one leg represents frames per second (fps) which is graphics smoothness, the second leg represents graphics quality and the third leg represents monitor resolution (number of pixels). For a specific gaming PC hardware (total triangle area), if we keep the game quality settings fixed (let's say, ultra) and upgrade the monitor from an HD (1920x1080) to a UWHD (2560x1080) or 4K model, there will be a decline in FPS as in the example figure below.
There is always a trade-off between FPS, Resolution, and Graphics Quality. One of them gets compromised at the expense of the other. The only way to improve all three variables is to increase the total area of the triangle which is PC hardware in this case!
Tip: If the budget is limited, we recommend going with a relatively lower resolution monitor instead of compromising on FPS or graphics quality for gaming.
What CPU should I get for my gaming PC?
For gaming performance, the processor is the second most important component in a gaming PC setup (the first one being the graphics card). There are entry-level i3, mid-level i5, and high-performance i7 & i9 chips available from Intel. AMD rivals these with their own Ryzen 3, 5, 7, and 9 offerings. The trend is that both companies release newer sets of CPUs each year with more efficient architectures. At the time of this writing (mid-2022), we have got Intel's 12th generation processors and AMD's 5000-series CPUs rocking the market.
The most important CPU specs highlighted are their frequencies (clock speeds) and core counts. For gaming, generally higher frequency helps more with performance than higher core count. In most cases, 4~6 cores are enough for gaming needs.
However, for tasks like video rendering, higher core CPUs help a lot and get the job done in a shorter time.
Another area where higher core CPUs are recommended for gamers is streaming because during streaming different cores can process various tasks simultaneously like gaming software computations, user's video, audio processing, etc.
Some of the games perform better on one platform than the other. We recommend shortlisting a couple of CPUs at the same price points from both Intel and AMD and looking at YouTube video comparisons like 'i7-12700 vs Ryzen 7 5800X' for specific games to get a better expectation from your purchase.
What Graphics Card (GPU) should I get for my gaming PC?
A graphics card is where most of the budget should be spent when shopping or building your gaming PC. Make sure the graphics card is paired with a similar class CPU and the combination is not skewed in favor of one or the other to avoid any potential bottleneck issues. If the CPU is too weak and unable to keep up with the GPU's pace, the graphics card will have to slow itself down to stay in sync with the CPU in which case you won't get the full performance out of the graphics card. The same will be the case if the CPU is too strong and paired with an entry-level graphics card.
For example, instead of pairing an RTX 3080 graphics card with an Intel i3-12100 CPU, we suggest going with RTX 3070 paired with an i5 or i7 processor.
Also, think about your monitor resolution, refresh rate, and the games you play. If the games are light on graphics and your monitor supports only HD resolution @ 75Hz refresh rate then investment in a powerful CPU/GPU combo would be a waste of money. Your specced up PC might be able to pump out graphics @150fps but what's the point if your monitor can show only 75 frames out of those 150 in a second?
Again we have the same advice for graphics cards selection as CPUs that it'll be a good idea to shortlist a few GPU models within the same price range and look at YouTube video comparisons like 'RTX 2060 vs 3050' for specific games to get a better expectation of your purchase.
How much Memory (RAM) do I need?
There is a bit of misconception among new PC gamers that a higher amount of RAM makes a PC run faster. That is not entirely true. While deciding how much RAM to be installed in a computer, you first need to find out how much RAM is actually needed by the software/games you run. If the games you play require only 32GB of RAM, having 64GB of memory installed inside the computer won't make any difference unless you run software that requires memory between 32GB~64GB. So, it's best to check 'recommended hardware requirements' of software/games you intend to run on your computer.
As a general rule of thumb, these days 16GB of RAM for entry and mid-level computers, 32GB for high-end, and 32GB~64GB for extreme performance gaming computers are quite adequate. For heavy multitasking and video editing/rendering work, it's best to get a higher amount of RAM than usual.
For heavy multi-tasking and video editing/rendering work, it's best to get higher amount of RAM than usual.
How much Storage do I need?
To get a quick idea about how much storage would be needed for your computer, the below list can help you figure out:
- Windows operating system requires roughly 40GB to 60GB of space
- Light game example - Fortnite can take around 30GB (used to be about 90GB in the past)
- Blockbuster game example - MS Flight Simulator 2020 takes around 90GB (used to be around 170GB before optimization)
- Keeping in mind the above approximate storage spaces taken by various games, you can get a rough idea by knowing how many and what type of games you will be installing on your PC at the same time
- Also, think about your personal photos/videos library and educational/work content, if any
Common storage scenarios:
- For most users, these days 1TB of primary SSD is enough
- If you want to play safe, then maybe get a 2TB primary SSD
- If you are tight on budget or storage requirements are too high, then get either a 500GB or 1TB SSD as the primary drive and add a cheaper (slower) HDD that comes in 1TB, 2TB, 3TB, 4TB, 6TB, and 8TB capacities
Wired and Wireless Network Connectivity
Almost all the motherboards in desktop computers come pre-installed with an RJ45 ethernet port for wired connection with the router or a switch. Most laptops and mobile devices come pre-installed with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth modules for wireless connectivity. A few Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth options are available to be added to desktop computers too. Some motherboards come with built-in integrated WiFI/BT modules. For motherboards that don't have these modules built into them, the same functionality could be achieved by adding add-on PCI-E cards. The last option that could be considered to add wireless connectivity is by using an external USB dongle.
If you are adding Wi-Fi to the desktop PC, we recommend having Bluetooth functionality added as well as you might end up needing one in the future for your wireless headphones, etc.
There are generally two types of lags. One could be due to a poor online connection between your PC and the server and the other could be due to local hardware or software problems. offline mode (could be stuttering, slow mouse/keyboard response, etc.).
TIf you experience lagging issues, then it's most likely due to a poor internet connection between your PC and the gaming server. To troubleshoot this type of lag, we recommend doing a simple speed check through Google/Ookla and looking at ping (aka latency or reaction time) and download/upload speeds. You can also look if there are any in-game options available to check these parameters. Online games don't require a massive amount of download and upload speeds and are usually not a problem these days. If the game allows manual selection of servers, make sure you are connected to the closest one geographically.
You can also try playing the games in offline mode and see if the lag persists. Try to dial down graphics settings and see if that makes any difference.
When getting a desktop PC, it's good to plan and think about the space available on or around your desk where the PC is going to be sitting. Don't put the gaming desktop in closed desk environments. Make sure some space is available around the computer for efficient dissipation of heat. Also, check the dimensions of the PC case to make sure it fits within the space available.
There are several CPU and case cooling options available. CPU coolers come in the form of air and liquid coolers.
Air coolers sit right on top of the CPUs to cool down heat sinks that are in direct contact with the processor chips.
Liquid coolers, on the other hand, comprise pumps integrated into the water block with tubes connecting to the radiators. Radiators are cooled down through one to three fans, usually. Liquid coolers look great aesthetically and are more efficient and silent in operation than their air counterparts.
AIO liquid coolers have gone a long way in durability and most of the models these days come with leak-free technology. We always use leak-free water coolers in our PC builds!
For the PC case, make sure enough ventilation is available through the front intake and rear exhaust fans. More powerful CPUs and GPUs generate more heat when operating under load. Usually, for budget and mid-range class desktop computers, two to four 120mm size fans are enough and for high-performance computers three to six 120mm size fans are enough. While working out the total number of fans, bear in mind that CPU liquid coolers also come with one to three radiator fans, if you are going to use a liquid cooler for your CPU.
It's good to plan and keep future upgradability options in mind while shopping for a gaming PC. This is especially helpful if you are getting a budget or a mid-range PC as these computers have more likelihood of getting speed upgrades in the future. Here are some tips that may help you:
- RAM is the easiest component that could be upgraded later. You can start with, for example, 16GB of RAM (2x sticks of 8GB) and if needed add another 16GB of an identical model in the future when the budget allows. Make sure the motherboard in your Gaming PC you are purchasing has got 4x memory slots which are available in most of the models, especially the Gaming grade ones
- If the budget is limited then go with the GPU that you can afford at the time of purchase and later on replace it with a more powerful model in the future when possible. Again, it's good to have a gaming-grade motherboard at the time of PC purchase and more importantly get a higher wattage Power Supply (PSU) installed in the computer. In the future, the upgraded GPU might have higher power requirements and if the power supply is strong enough, it will save you a hassle
- Extra storage could be added later as needed. For a limited budget, you can probably start with 500GB or 1TB of faster primary M.2 SSD and later on add more SATA SSDs or HDDs as needed
- CPUs could also be upgraded but it's not as hassle-free experience as the above components, especially when liquid coolers are installed
- Upgrading the motherboard is essentially rebuilding the whole desktop PC and the most cumbersome of all especially if you are not experienced in building computers
We prefer tier 1 PC parts manufacturers like MSI, Asus, Gigabyte, EVGA and Sapphire.
For storage, Samsung, Corsair, Kingston, Crucial, Gigabyte, and WD are good brands.
There are a few more good brands also available. It's good to check their reviews online or you can contact us for any advice at [email protected]
Looks are subjective and the preference varies from person to person. That's why custom-built PC options are so popular as they allow selection from a vast assortment of components and PC cases with different looks. You can add RGB strips, RGB fans and change themes as per your liking. Many PC cases come pre-installed with RGB features even in budget models.
If aesthetics are important to you then it's good to invest in a nice case for your PC build in the first go. Upgrading a case at a later stage will be a time-consuming process.
However if you are not too fussed about the looks and ask for our advice then for limited budget PC builds, we recommend spending more on the core performance components like CPU, and GPU.
A couple of features that we very highly recommend in a gaming monitor to pair with your PC are adaptive sync and a high refresh rate for a smooth graphics experience.
If the graphics card inside your computer is from AMD and supports FreeSync, then we recommend getting a monitor that also supports FreeSync. Likewise, if the graphics card inside your computer is Nvidia and supports G-Sync, then we recommend getting a monitor that also supports G-Sync. You will be amazed by the experience.
Regarding refresh rates, get any monitor that supports 100+ frames per second. 144Hz to 165Hz monitors are widely popular these days.
For simulation games like MS Flight Simulator and X-Plane, etc. we like curved wide-screen monitors for more immersive experience.
PC Configuration Summary
In short, we recommend spending your budget on various PC parts for a gaming PC in the following descending order:
- Graphics card (the more, the better)
- CPU (the more, the better)
- RAM (as needed)
- Motherboard (Gaming grade)
- CPU cooler (the more, the better)
- Storage (as needed)
- Wireless connectivity (as needed)
- Power Supply (as needed)
Business Service and Reviews
No matter what business you are going to make your next purchase from whether online or from a traditional physical store, make sure you read on-site and third-party reviews like Google. Apart from just the star ratings, it's good to read what the past customers are actually saying about the business service and quality.
If the user reviews are available on various multiple platforms, the overall review ratings should match. If it's average 4.5-star at one place then it should not differ by a big margin at another.
If you have any feedback to improve this article, please share your thoughts with us at [email protected]