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I am 21 years of age and live in the beautiful state of Colorado. All my life, I’ve always been a bit of a nerd and have always loved technology. It never mattered what it was. Everything from gaming to cool cars, phones and computers, I have always had an interest in different forms of tech. My favorite YouTubers are JayzTwoCents, Linus Tech Tips, MKBHD, Jonathan Morrison, TechLinked, UnboxTherapy, Engineering Explained, Peter Mckinnon and Paul’s Hardware just to give you an idea.
I built my first PC only about a year ago but I have learned an incredible amount since then. When I was getting ready to order everything, I spent probably 100 hours researching different components, watching build videos, weighing pros and cons of certain components, etc. My only reason for taking the first step into the PC world was simple: I wanted better graphics than what Xbox/Playstation had to offer. I have a terrible tendency to want the best of the best and at the time, I was a console gamer of about 12 years. Of course, as a console gamer, it’s very difficult to understand the point of having a gaming PC when all you do is turn the Xbox on and call it good. That is until, you actually try gaming on a high end PC. That is when your opinion changes and a console is no longer good enough.
Now, I sell cars for a living. When a guest walks in and wants to compare between brands, I try to be unbiased towards one another. I’m a Ford guy at heart but I always tell those people: “No matter what manufacturer you go with, each one will have certain pros and cons. It’s up to you to decide what works best for you.” Pretty much everybody makes a great product - it just comes down to personal preference. I have the same mentality for computers. Especially when suggesting parts and builds here on PCPP. I am always going to tell you the differences of components and why you should go with A or B but just know, you’re the buyer. It’s up to you on what you want and what you end up going with. I’m just here to help you to make an educated decision.
Some Nerd Terms:
CPU - Central Processing Unit. The part of the computer that controls the entire system and does mathematical processing of data. This is considered to be “the brain” of all operations.
*GPU - Graphics Processing Unit. The part of the computer that controls all 3D function. This includes things such as lighting effects, object transformations and 3D motion. Because these types of calculations are rather taxing on the CPU, the GPU is designed for these functions and therefore can handle them efficiently.
PSU - Power Processing Unit. This part of the computer controls power delivery to all components within a computer.
SFF - Small Form Factor. Typically refers to a ‘SFF’ computer. One that is made or built to be more portable than usual. This isn’t necessarily just for portability but also for someone who just prefers to have a small computer rather than a massive behemoth under or on top of the desk.
HTPC - Home Theatre PC. Typically refers to a computer that is designed for living room use. HTPCs are typically built to replace a game console but with the added functionality of a computer. They also tend to be a small form factor.
SSD - Solid State Drive. A storage device containing non volatile flash memory, used in place of a hard disk because of its much greater speed. An SSD is also quieter due to no moving parts and typically, smaller in size. SSDs are the future but they tend to come at a higher cost.
HDD - Hard Disk Drive. A hard disk drive, hard disk, hard drive, or fixed disk, is an electromechanical data storage device that uses magnetic storage to store and retrieve digital information using one or more rigid rapidly rotating disks coated with magnetic material. This technology is a bit older and while it has the benefit of being really cheap in terms of gigabytes per dollar, it has the disadvantage of being loud, typically larger in size and has a higher potential to fail.
LAN - Local Area Network. A local area network is a computer network that interconnects computers within a limited area such as a residence, school, laboratory, university campus or office building.
RAM - Random Access Memory. Random-access memory is a form of computer data storage that stores data and machine code currently being used.
Ethernet - A type of network interface card that connects an individual computer to a network. I.E - a computer that is plugged into a modem rather than using WIFI.
G-Sync - G-Sync is a hardware-based technology that manipulates the display panel’s VBI (vertical blanking interval). VBI represents the interval between the time when a monitor finishes drawing the current frame, and the beginning of the next frame. It reduces screen tearing which in return, can provide a more fluent experience while gaming.
FreeSync - FreeSync is the brand name for an adaptive synchronization technology for LCD displays that support a dynamic refresh rate aimed at reducing tearing and stuttering caused by misalignment with content's frame rate. FreeSync is software based unlike G-Sync’s hardware based solution to screen tearing. This can provide a more fluent experience while gaming.
AMD or Intel?
This is of course, a touchy subject for some. I will state again that I try to be unbiased towards one or the other because I do believe that it will depend on your specific uses and why A or B would be best for you. I have personally used both platforms.
Intel - Intel is what you could consider your “mainstream” product. Intel is your Apple iPhone, your Toyota, your Levi jeans. Intel, as of now, has the lead when it comes to single core performance and clocks per instruction which results in more FPS while gaming. In some cases, there is a drastic difference in the FPS you get while gaming on an i7-8700K and say, a Ryzen 5 2600X. That will be your primary advantage when choosing to go with Intel. The disadvantage is that typically, you pay for it. Intel’s mainstream CPUs are considerably more expensive than the Ryzen counterpart. Plus, you can also factor in that a Z370 motherboard will be slightly more expensive than an X370 board. Not only that but also account for the fact that if you want hyperthreading, you must go with an i7 and if you want to overclock, you must pay even more for the unlocked K version of the CPU whereas every single Ryzen CPU is unlocked and if you’re looking at a Ryzen 5 or better, it has hyperthreading.
AMD - In the last few years, AMD was pretty far off the radar until the Ryzen launch. Ryzen, you could consider to be your new kid on the block. Ryzen is your Android phone, your Tesla, your Wrangler jeans. AMD has the advantage of multi-core performance over Intel. Again, it will depend on your uses but typically, AMD Ryzen will offer you a better CPU geared towards editing, 3D CAD software, rendering, running VMs and workloads like that. Of course, you may lose a few FPS when switching to Ryzen but as far as the performance-to-cost ratio, AMD will win all day long. If “bang for the buck” is what you’re looking for - consider Ryzen.
Intel Core i5-8400 / 8600K - I believe these two are the most straightforward choices that you can go with. I tend to recommend these options because I believe that these are the best overall. They are great for gaming, they are great for photo editing, they are beautiful for general use. I wouldn’t suggest these if you’re wanting to edit video or stream due to lack of hyperthreading and lower thread count. I don’t typically recommend the i5-8500 or i5-8600 just because the difference is so minimal.. The only time I ever suggest it is if they are within a few dollars of each other but I have seen them as far as $50 USD from each other and at that point, it’s not worth the extra cost.
Intel Core i7-8700 / 8700K - These are what I consider a higher end consumer-grade CPU. I tend to suggest these options if you’re wanting to squeeze the most FPS out of games or if you’re wanting to edit video and stream. If not all three. The i7s will provide the option of hyperthreading and they have a higher thread count so they are ideal for those kinds of consumers and provide more power for intensive programs or CPU intensive tasks.
Ryzen 5 1600 / Ryzen 5 2600 - A good (and cheaper than Intel) option for gaming but also streaming. Both CPUs have six cores and twelve threads so tasks such as streaming and even editing will be no sweat for these CPUs. I believe they are the best for the price.
Ryzen 3 2200G / Ryzen 5 2400G - These are fantastic options for those wanting to get into gaming on a strict budget or for those looking for a small form factor and portable PC. Whether or not that SFF computer is for gaming, these are great options. The 2200G paired with a 1050ti is a great combination for a simple, 1080p60 gaming PC and can be placed in a small and portable PC case.
Ryzen 7 1700 / Ryzen 7 2700 - I love suggesting these options for people looking for a workstation on a budget or for people who will be doing some hardcore editing work. You really cannot go wrong with eight cores and sixteen threads. I wouldn’t recommend these options for someone who is wanting to game on it just because of the low single-core performance because after all, multi-core performance is where these CPUs shine the most.
GPUs: What do you need?
Nvidia: Nvidia offers fantastic graphical performance for all of their cards. In recent years, they offer everything from the GTX 1050 all the way up to the praised 1080ti and they recently announced the new RTX lineup with RAYTRACING. Nvidia does offer the incredible G-Sync compatibility but G-Sync typically adds a lot to the cost of any monitor offering that capability so certainly keep that in mind while shopping.
GTX 1050 - For 720p60 medium to high quality settings. / 1080p30 low to medium quality settings. Great option for a bit extra oomph while photo editing.
GTX 1050ti - For 1080p60 on medium to high quality settings. Also, a great and cheaper option for someone wanting to edit and render 1080p video.
GTX 1060 3GB/6GB - For 1080p60 on high to max quality settings.
GTX 1070 - For 1080p144 gaming on medium to high quality settings / 1080p60 max quality settings.
GTX 1070ti - For 1440p60 gaming on medium to high quality settings / 1080p144 high to max quality settings.
GTX 1080 - For 1440p60 max quality settings / 1440p144 around medium quality settings.
GTX 1080ti - For 4K60 gaming on high to max quality settings / 1440p144 high to max quality settings.
AMD: AMD offers great cards ranging from the RX 550 all the way up to the RX Vega 64. AMD has the advantage when it comes to FreeSync. FreeSync is very similar to G-Sync however you can typically acquire a FreeSync monitor for far less money than a G-Sync monitor. However, AMD cards also tend to perform less than the Nvidia counterpart but that’s what overclocking is for, right?
Radeon RX 550 -
Radeon RX 560 -
Radeon RX 570 -
Radeon RX 580 -
Radeon RX Vega 56 -
Radeon RX Vega 64 -
RAM: What do you need?
8GB - 8GB is considered to be the standard in 2018. 8GB of RAM is just fine for a regular budget build. It will provide you a fluent experience for watching videos, browsing the web and having a few tabs open at the same time. 8GB is also just enough for gaming. If the budget allows, I always suggest 16GB but it certainly is not needed.
16GB - 16GB is definitely the sweet spot for most computers in 2018. It will give you enough for running more intensive programs such as Photoshop or even video editing software. With 16GB of RAM, you should have the ability to run several tabs at the same time and no game that currently exists (to my knowledge) would eat up 16GB of RAM or even come close to doing so. If you want some headroom or need to use more intensive programs, 16GB is the way to go.
32GB - Now we’re getting into the territory of what is called “diminishing returns”. 32GB is absolutely overkill for any computer that you aren’t using for editing 4K+ resolution video, running multiple virtual machines or processing a TON of data and stuff of that nature. There are actually a lot of uses for this amount of RAM, however, for the majority of consumers, it’s overkill. I won’t even bother covering 64GB or 128GB because chances are, if you need that much RAM, you know what you’re doing and have a VERY specific use for it.
Fractal Design Meshify C - The Meshify C is everything that I personally look for in a case. Great build quality, great cable management, mesh front panel for airflow and something that isn’t incredibly large in size. The Meshify C hits all of my personal requirements and that is exactly why I use one. For the price, it’s hard to find a case that does the job better than the Meshify C.
Fractal Design Define R6 - The Define R6 is a fantastic case! It offers a ton of room for building and is truly ideal if you’re looking to create a custom water cooling loop. Again, Fractal Designs crushes it in terms of build quality, cable management and even though it does not have an open-front panel, it still has pretty decent air flow for what it is. Once I do my first custom loop, this will probably be the case that I use.
Fractal Designs Focus G - Seems like there aren’t too many budget cases out that are half decent. Most of your “premium” cases will be in the range of $80+ USD but the Focus G hits most key points just without the premium materials and premium price tag. With the Focus G, you’ll have good build quality for the price, a good amount of room to work in and also some pretty decent cable management options as well. You won’t have a tempered glass side panel so make sure to use the appropriate materials to clean it. It will scratch very easily if you use something like a paper towel to clean the side panel.
NZXT S340 Elite - A mature, simple but aesthetically pleasing case at a fair price point. The S340 Elite hits a little of bit of every key point while shopping for a case. Glass side panel, decent airflow, subtle looks, good build quality and quiet operation. If this is within your budget range, it’s certainly a good candidate.
Lian-Li PC-011 - What a beautiful case! This case is pure show and tell. For a bit of a premium price, you truly have it all. USB Type C in the front I/O, good airflow, lots of tempered glass and fantastic cable management. Lian-Li, you really stepped it up with this one.
Cooler Master MasterCase H500P -
Thermaltake View - There are many variations of the View, most only differ in size. I think the View is a very pretty case and if you’re into RGB and aesthetics, you’ll probably really love this case. I have yet to actually put my hands on one but you can assure great build quality, a lot of glass and a ton of potential for RGB and pretty things.
Corsair Crystal -