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Buying or Building a PC for Beginners

Although PC building is fun, we at the AEA know that not everyone is knowledgeable about gaming or computers. Many gamers have no clue how to build a PC, as they either play on other platforms or buy pre-built computers. The purpose of this article is to help parents/guardians support their children’s passion for gaming.


This is meant to be an all-encompassing guide to buying and building gaming PCs. Some information may be redundant to you or not suit your needs, so please skip around to the sections that are most useful to you.



Why do they need a gaming PC?

Well, I am glad you asked! Gaming computers (PCs) are not at all a requirement for kids to get into gaming. Kids experience gaming from a young age as board games and card games use similar concepts as video games. Kids also experience gaming on devices such as phones or tablets. It is common for schools to utilize educational video games to help kids reach developmental milestones. Kids can get into gaming in a number of lower-cost ways than a full gaming PC setup, however, the need arises for a gaming PC as kids get more invested in gaming.


Say your child wants to try out for gymnastics, you wouldn’t go out and buy a ton of leotards, chalk, athletic tape, and everything else they would need for the sport. You would allow them to see if they like gymnastics first, then start upgrading their gear as they progress. A toddler in a gymnastics class won’t need show leotards for competitions or athletic tape for bars, they just need a few leotards from Walmart to get started.


Now that your kid has started their esports journey, they will need the proper gear to play competitively in esports.



But How or Where do I Start?

There are two ways to go about getting a gaming PC — building or buying. By buying a pre-built PC, you don’t have to go through all the work of finding all of the right parts, physically constructing, and problem-solving that comes with building a PC yourself. It is a great option, but it is generally more expensive than building one yourself.


This article will go in depth about building a PC, but that advice is still very applicable to those buying a pre-built PC. If you buy a PC, you need to know the range of specs (specifications) that the computer needs to run the games your child wants to play. To buy a pre-built PC you have to understand enough to know what is necessary and what is a luxury.


Building a PC yourself is a great way to save money as well as have the ability to customize the computer to your child’s needs and preferences. It does not require a computer whiz, but you will have to spend some time researching if you are not experienced with the topic.


I would also like to clarify that this article is covering building or buying a gaming PC desktop, not a laptop. Generally, gaming laptops are more expensive than gaming desktops as laptops need specialized components to be able to be condensed to a portable size. You are also limited to the screen and keyboard the laptop comes with, so it would have to be fixed rather than replaced. If your needs would be better met by a laptop rather than a PC, by all means go that route. Just know that it will be more expensive for the same quality if you choose a laptop.



Know Your Needs!

The first thing you need to find out in building/buying a PC is what it will be used for. Assuming you are trying to get your kid a gaming PC, it is important to know what games they like to play. Different games have different needs. It takes more power to run a game like Valorant or Overwatch because they are heavier on graphics, have many assets, and store and access larger amounts of data, among other aspects of the game. Minecraft is a great example of a game that can be run on much lower quality PCs due to its pixelated nature. It is not heavy on graphics because the graphics are simplified.


One great website that I use is PC Game Benchmark. This website allows you to look up specific games and see what the minimum and recommended requirements are for that game. If you are new to building PCs and you are comparing multiple games’ requirements, you may not be able to tell the difference between the components. For example, in the image below, I used PC Game Benchmark to look up the requirements to run League of Legends and Overwatch. The recommended graphics card you can use for League of Legends is the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 560, but for Overwatch, the recommended graphics card is the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660. You can always google the two cards (the 560 and the 660) to see which one is better. Since the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 is a better graphics card, you will need to at least get that one, since it can play both Overwatch and League, if your kid plays both of those games. The 560 graphics card would be able to run League but not be able to run Overwatch.


I personally recommend never going by the minimum requirements of the game when trying to build or buy a PC. The bare minimum components will technically be able to run the game, but the quality will be too poor to really enjoy the experience. If you go with the minimum specs, you will face issues of freezing, lag (the computer having a hard time catching up, like a series of small freezes), and the game crashing (closing down due to an error). I suggest you at least go by the recommended specs to run the games you need.



Necessary Components

For those building a PC, you do need more than just a GPU (Graphics or video card), CPU and memory. These are some of the most important, and expensive, parts within your computer, there are more parts needed to get it to run. Most sites like PC Game Benchmark that help you get an idea of what parts you need only cover the main components. The next step in building a PC is picking the rest of your parts. One great resource to help you with this process is PC Part Picker. Here, you can enter in the parts that you know you need, such as a GPU, and it will help you find compatible components. This is really important because not all motherboards for example can run all graphics cards. This website will help you take all of the guesswork out of part compatibility. You can also research the main components if you want to build a PC that is better than what would be required to run games. This is always a great option, if you can afford to do so, because a computer with better components will last longer. As technology improves, games do as well, requiring more advanced computers to run those games. Buying above requirements means that the computer will last several years. A good reference for current graphics cards is an article here. You can see a full list of GPUs to choose from. You don’t need to buy the newest, most expensive GPU, but you can find a card that fits your needs and then look at better options on the list.


Parts needed in all computers:

  • CPU

  • GPU

  • Motherboard

  • RAM (memory)

  • Storage (SSD or Hard drive)

  • Cooling (Liquid cooling or fan cooling)

  • Case

  • Power Supply


Other Necessities

  • Keyboard

  • Mouse

  • Mousepad

  • Headset (with mic if mic not purchased separately)

  • Monitor

  • OS (operating system software like Windows)


Optional

  • Webcam

  • External Mic (microphone not built into headset)

  • Speakers

  • LED Lights



Shopping

Now that you have a general understanding of your needs, you can begin the journey of shopping around. One of the most popular websites to buy pre-built PCs and PC components is NewEgg. PC Part Picker can help you find places to buy parts, but NewEgg has a large inventory listed on the site. Shopping all on NewEgg can make ordering easier as it can all be purchased from the same place.


Below is additional advice for buying specific components.


GPU - Most people figure out which graphics card they are buying first, as it is one of the most expensive components and has restricted compatibility.


CPU - Almost all come with cooling. If you get a higher power CPU, it can get fairly hot. Generally, CPUs i7 or higher recommend liquid cooling, rather than fan cooling.


RAM - RAM is fairly cheap, so it isn’t worth cutting costs on. Most people buy 16GB of RAM for low to moderate gaming PCs


Storage - This is a great place to save money. SSDs are the new hard drives. Without getting into the science, an SSD is basically a faster hard drive. I would however recommend getting 1TB of storage. That will be more than enough storage for years. You can get multiple drives or get one of each. For example, my gaming laptop has an SSD with 100GB (1/10th of a TB) but it also has a hard drive with 1TB of storage. This is common because high storage SSDs are pricey. 1TB SSD runs anywhere from $75-$130, but a 1TB hard drive costs anywhere from $20-$40. Storage is also something easily upgraded too, so you could save now, and upgrade it later.


Cooling - As mentioned previously, there are two ways to cool a computer – fans cooling via airflow, and liquid cooling. Don’t let the word liquid scare you, it is very easy to set-up and will come with everything you need. Whichever method you choose, you have to be strategic in placement so that everything that creates heat is cooled down. Fans are generally inexpensive, and work great for moderately strong PCs.


Case - The case is another great place to save money. As long as all of your components fit in the case, it will work just fine. There are many expensive cases out there that look cool and fit the gamer aesthetic, but you can just use a standard computer case to save money.


Power Supply - As long as the power supply gives you enough power to the specific components you pick out, you will be fine. Triple check with the above-mentioned PC Part Picker for what wattage you need. There is no need to get a higher wattage than recommended unless you plan to upgrade your PC in the near future.


Keyboard, Mouse & Headset - These peripherals are another place to save money. There are many reputable brands like Corsair, Razer, and Logitech to name a few, but you don’t have to go with them. Of the three mentioned, Corsair is generally the cheapest and very good quality. I would be careful buying the cheapest peripherals you can find as they can significantly reduce in quality. Be sure to check reviews before buying. I personally recommend finding a set pack that has the keyboard, mouse, and headset included in a bundle. Bundles are usually really cohesive in operation and design and are also usually discounted. If you can get a headset with a built-in microphone, that can save you money from buying a standalone mic.


Monitor - For a first computer setup, I would suggest getting a monitor with 60 FPS (frames per second). They are relatively inexpensive, and your child likely will not need anything more advanced for some time. At higher level esports, players typically play with a 144 or 240 FPS monitor, but those are much more expensive. FPS has to do with how fast each frame (image) appears on the monitor. So if you have 30 FPS and you play against someone with 144 FPS, the person with 144 FPS will actually see changes happen in the game before the 30 FPS. Keep this in mind when buying a monitor. You can also get a monitor with built-in speakers if your child intends on playing without a headset at times, but it is not necessary, as you can always buy external speakers later if needed.


OS - For your operating system, I would suggest buying the latest version of Windows. It will cost around $100 but every computer needs an OS. Most schools use Windows, so likely your child is, or will become familiar with Windows. It also is great for running all sorts of games.



Game Settings

Once you have your computer ready to go, and you have the necessary games downloaded, you are almost to the finish line! The last way to optimize your gameplay is to adjust the in-game settings of each game you have to work with your computer.


Each game has its own settings, just like any computer application. I would suggest looking up recommended settings for each game. It does help to have a general idea of your computer components as well. The only reason I recommend high settings on any game is if you bought a top-of-the-line computer. Otherwise, generally I would turn down all graphics-related settings. I would also adjust your frame rate to match your monitor. So if you have a 60 FPS monitor, you only need to allow your frame rate up to 60 FPS.



Game On!

Hopefully by now you understand why gaming PCs are important for youth in esports, how to go about buying or building one, and how you need to set up the software once you have the PC. It is important that your child has proper equipment to participate in the fast-growing world of esports. If you have any questions about building your PC, we at the AEA are happy to help.






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