Pc gaming may seem like an intimidating world. How do you start pc gaming in the first place? And what choices do you have when it comes to gaming PCs? Do you always have to assemble your own pc from scratch?
In this article, we give you a clear overview of your choices to have your own beast of a gaming PC. We go over each option’s pros and cons and give you some handy links.
If you’re keen to get into PC gaming but are unsure about the many technical details, simply buying a pre-built PC is not a bad idea. After all, all components are assembled and all the much-needed programmes and operating systems (think Windows) are also pre-installed immediately.
However, there are significant drawbacks to consider. Namely, the manufacturer has to consider its profit margin while making the PC look as impressive as possible on paper. As a result, components are often mismatched and parts that don’t appear on the ‘spec sheet’ are an ideal target for savings.
For example, you can see in the shop which CPU (processor) and GPU (graphics card) a PC has, but never which cooling elements or PSU (power supply unit). However, these components are essential to get the most out of your PC. What good is the latest CPU if it slows itself down to prevent overheating? And your GPU cannot run at full power if the PSU does not provide enough power. This is not to say that this is always a problem with pre-built PCs, but rather that you simply don’t know beforehand. And that is annoying to say the least for such an expensive purchase.
However, that is not the last downside. Pre-built PCs also often make it harder to swap or upgrade components in the future. As mentioned earlier, manufacturers are rarely generous in choosing parts. So chances are slim that they have chosen a motherboard with expansion options, such as additional M.2 and PCIe slots. And that’s not to mention the often unique ‘cases’ that look cool on shop shelves but frustrate when you find they are too narrow for the new generation of GPUs.
You can’t really blame the manufacturers. If they sell PCs, they obviously want to make some money from them. Consequently, they are aiming at an audience that will probably never take out the screwdriver to have a look at the electronic innards. Are you such a person and already know that you would rather choose to make a brand new PC in a few years’ time? Then this is the choice for you. ‘No fuzz’, just gaming!
Pros of a pre-built PC
- You don’t have to look up much and can focus on the power of the GPU and CPU
- Pre-built PCs often have a unique and cool look
Cons of a pre-built PC
- Components are sometimes of lower quality, which reduces performance
- Difficult to upgrade or swap parts
Harder path: build your own PC
A gaming pc consists of several parts that need to be compatible with each other
If you don’t mind doing some research and experimenting yourself, you might consider building your PC yourself. The big advantage to this, of course, is that you have absolute freedom. You know better than anyone else what you want from a PC and can sculpt it entirely to your liking.
Do you mainly play 4X strategy games on PC? Then you know you need to invest in a powerful CPU, but can save several hundred euros on your graphics card. Do you do content creation? Then double your RAM and invest in some extra fast SSDs. Do you want 4K gaming or will you stick to 1440p for the next few years? That too will affect your build.
The big downside is that you have to invest time in picking out all the components. Graphics cards and processors still somewhat speak for themselves, but less ‘sexy’ parts like motherboards and cases are also important because all your components need to fit on or in them – which is also important with a view to future upgrades. And be sure to read a bunch of reviews when looking around for coolers and power supplies. Fortunately, meanwhile, there are also handy sites you can use to check component compatibility.
A good graphics card is essential for a gaming PC
To give you an example, choosing which motherboard to go for is a hugely important issue. Will you go for ATX or the Mini-ATX format? Will that fit in your PC case? Does the motherboard have the correct socket for the CPU you want to buy? Is there still physical space for the ever-expanding graphics cards? How many NVMe slots are there, and are they fast enough for the SSDs that are in your shopping basket?
So you have to invest some time in informing yourself. And once you have all the parts, you also have to assemble the PC. While this is certainly not an insurmountable step, it can be nerve-wracking. Will your PC turn on when you activate the ‘power’ button, or will one of the components burn out immediately? And have you provided adequate ventilation to ensure your PC doesn’t overheat? Oh, and don’t forget that Windows installation. Exciting!
Pros of building a gaming PC yourself
- You have absolute freedom to build your PC entirely according to your taste
- You save costs because you take care of the assembly yourself
Cons of building a gaming pc yourself
- You need to invest a lot of time in choosing high-quality and compatible components
- Self-assembly can go wrong, causing your parts to break
However, there is also a golden mean. Services, like Powered by MSI, put together ‘custom build’ systems in advance with selected expert partners, so consumers don’t have to spend time comparing all the specs. As a result, you get the performance of a custom build PC and the benefits of getting a gaming PC that works.
Powered by MSI specifically has three levels, with different features. If you go for ‘Essential’, your pc will include an MSI motherboard and video card anyway. With ‘Advanced’, your PC will contain four MSI components with an MSI motherboard, video card and SSD anyway. And the ‘Ultimate’ level means it includes at least six MSI components. Other services work with different systems, so mainly check what suits you best.
Of course, you still need to do your own research on certain things. Are you willing to pay extra for a motherboard that is ‘future proof’? What graphics card and processor do you want? You also end up paying more than if you were to build your PC yourself, because the assembly work now has to be paid for.
But in the end, there are significant advantages. You avoid substandard parts and go for the best performance, while also avoiding all the headaches of researching. Moreover, a team of specialists ensures that all parts are compatible AND that your PC will not break down due to faulty assembly. And as an end result, you immediately have a ‘basic’ PC that you can easily change in the future. After all, changing a GPU is easier than getting lost in the maze of technical terms when building a PC.
Pros of a gaming pc build service
- You choose quality components and experts make sure they are compatible
- Experts make sure assembly goes smoothly
- You can design your PC so that it is upgradeable in the future
Cons of a gaming pc build service
· You pay more because someone else does the assembly
Conclusion: choose what you feel comfortable with
On one hand, a pre-built PC is a low-threshold way to enter the PC gaming world, but then you have a limited choice in terms of components – which can also make future upgrades difficult. On the other hand, you have the ultimate freedom of decision when you build your own PC, but this requires investing your time and energy. In that respect, selecting components and having them assembled is the golden mean where you can find the best of both worlds, although you must also pay a bit more for that convenience.
We’ve said it before (namely in our article on pc gaming vs console gaming), but ultimately, there is no ‘right’ answer. If you want to get into PC gaming, you should mainly choose the approach you feel most comfortable with. And say it yourself: gaming should ultimately be about fun, right? Whether you need a pc or a good gaming chair, always check for product reviews.
Let us know what your pc gaming set-up looks like, and good luck if you take your first steps into the beautiful world of pc gaming!