So right now I’m using a laptop that’s a couple of years old. It runs WoW and The Sims and that’s about it. I want to be able to play some other PC games, but I don’t want the bells and whistles new gaming PC. I don’t need spanky awesome graphics and I don’t need to run a game in Ultra. I also want to avoid building my own PC because I have no idea what parts to buy or how to maintain each part. I just want to be able Dragon Age II and Skyrim without having it lag while still looking like a PS1 game. Think along the lines of buying the PC equivalent of the previous cycle of consoles.
I feel like a prebuilt gaming PC is way too overkill for me, both hardware-wise and price-wise. What about buying a midrange desktop and throwing in a better video card? Or is that a stupid idea?
You could buy a mid-range PC and just upgrade the card although then you’re (a) possibly paying for two video cards, one of which you never wanted and (b) potentially buying some weak components elsewhere. For instance, a prebuilt Dell might have a weak power supply that meets the minimum for its prebuilt configuration.
I would consider either building to spec via a place like iBuyPower where you can pick your components or shopping through New Egg where some of the systems are a little better built.
I would personally go for 4GB minimum RAM (8 is better, 12+ is overkill), an i5 processor (i7 is probably overkill) and check out Tom’s Hardware for video cards in your budget. I’d go with their mid-range cards which will be plenty good for Skyrim & DA2 and somewhat future proof for the near term.
You can probably get a lot of help here selecting components if you wanted to built to order or build it yourself but I’m not one to push “Build your own!” on people who don’t want to. I think it’s worthwhile for the experience if nothing else but getting a system built for you has real benefits such as a single warranty and a machine that’s (in theory) already been tested and is ready to go.
If you give a total price range you’re looking to spend (and mention if you already have mouse/keyboard/monitor, etc handled) I’m sure you can get some good recommendations.
Medium CPU performance (Intel recommended in this era), moderate RAM, and moderate HDD speed are all you need in the base. Then stuff in the most powerful video card you can afford, that will fit, and that the power supply can handle. Voila.
I’ll be glad in a year when I can direct people liek you to: GEt this $400 Steambox, enjoy the glorious PC gaming space
In the meantime, this is definitely a decent time to get deals on gaming PC’s. I would say you are looking for an Intel i5 CPU (or a high end AMD CPU), 8 gigs of RAM, a 600 Watt brand name PSU, a hybrid hard drive, and the best GPU you can afford.
Nvidia tends to have a lot of really cool bundles. A 770 GTX nets you 3 games and a $100 off an Nvidia Shield if you want to try something like that. But a 760 will do very nice as well.
Building a PC is dead simple, but you won’t get the volume discount on your Windows license like Dell and HP do. Really, your best bet is to find a local PC builder and get them to build the PC for you. Someone like drachillix.
Basic specs you should use are 8 GB RAM, Intel i3 or better CPU (i5 definitely preferred), 450+ Watt PSU (power supply unit), AMD Radeon HD 7950 or better. You’ll also need a monitor, keyboard, mouse, headphones or speakers, HDD, optical drive, and a Windows license.
Absolutely insist that your builder does not skimp on the monitor, keyboard, mouse, or PSU. The first three should be obvious - they’re how you interact with the computer - but the PSU is critical in that a poor PSU can destroy the other components inside your PC.
There’s a local place that has some gaming prebuilds already, but I was hoping to go a little cheaper - they start at $680 USD (I’m Canadian, so I pay a premium with the currency conversion) with these specs:
Intel Pentium G3220 2 x 3.0 GHz
8GB Dual Channel DDR3 RAM 1600MHz (2x4GB)
NVIDIA GeForce GT 650 1GB Video
They don’t list details of the PSU and other parts.
It kinda peeves me off that I can walk into any store and buy a current gen console for $300 (well, not the Xbox One and PS4 yet ha ha) but a gaming PC is $600+.
I went with this last month when it was on sale for $429, no tax and free shipping. Pretty happy with it. All I wanted was a low-end, bargain-basement gaming system that was modern, and this is that exactly. Oh yeah, and I wanted Windows 7, not 8, and preferably Intel instead of AMD.
The black friday special they offer is this one, which I’m happy I didn’t wait for because it would only have saved me $30 and I would have ended up with Windows 8 instead of 7, AMD instead of Intel, and only 4GB of RAM instead of 8.
What I did was pretty simple. For a couple months I just kept checking Newegg for iBuypower desktops, sorted by lowest price, and waited until the one I wanted was as cheap as it seemed likely to go. Here’s the link I used:
I bought what I would consider a mid-range or a bit lower PC last year, and wasn’t even considering its gaming potential when I bought it, but in fact it runs Skyrim, at its max graphic setting, fine. (I can’t say about Dragon Age II or anything newer. Skyrim is by far the most demanding thing I have attempted to run.) There was another one I considered at the time at the same price, that had a faster CPU but crappier graphics, and that, I think would not have handled the Skyrim graphics so well (although that was not the reason why I didn’t choose it), so you do need to pay some attention to the graphics card you are getting. However, I do not think you necessarily need to specifically upgrade from what you might get anyway at a mid-range price, just don’t trade down too much on graphics for other aspects of performance.
You’re already looking at what is likely your best option. I’ve had pretty good luck with OTV up here, outside of it being impossible to get the attention of any of the sales staff at times. Go in and ask about putting a reasonable video card into one of their Home & Office Value builds, or even compiling a budget gaming box from parts. They don’t charge very much at all to put things together.
This is a small local shop that puts boxes together from component parts. They should be able to tweak one of their standard builds to produce a budget gaming machine. It’s likely to be the OP’s best option for performance/$.
Desktop hardware performance has stagnated since tablets started taking over and low power became a bigger priority (the current generation Macbooks are notable for being the first to actually introduce performance regressions in aid of lower power).
I’d say your best bet is to buy a 2 - 3 year old high end gaming machine second hand. If you buy one from an enthusiast, you can get carefully curated, higher quality components that are battle tested and will perform better than a modern mid-range machine.
A card with only 1 GB VRAM is not a good idea. Modern games make heavy use of VRAM for storing textures, and having to access main memory - or worse, disk - to get a texture causes frame rates to drop significantly. Go for at least 2 GB.
“If you build it, [del]they will come[/del] it will be best.”
CPU: i5, i7 if you can swing it.
Video card: Tom’s Hardware listed above, or if you do it later, google "toms hardware [current month and year]. The Hierarchy chart link is good to check out since ATI and Nvidia don’t necessarily have it so a model 5610 is better than a 5590. ETA: I should a a link so here it is. It roughly tells you which Nvidia = which ATI, or models that are close enough to be considered basically the same.
HD: solid state is faster, but more expensive, so you might want to use one of those for your games and a traditional or hybrid for all your crap.
RAM: as much as you can afford, latency and such should be considered.
I buy off Newegg. If you do, I recommend looking at bundle deals. I think I saved $80 just buy buying two things together, and only 1 or 2 weren’t bundled.
For the record, I have (the earliest?) i5, 2x4Gb RAM, and a Radeon HD 5770, and Skyrim runs mostly fine. Installing the official texture packs seems to add a bit of weight, and hectic areas may for a second, but nothing I’d consider bad.
I was like, HOW DID YOU KNOW?! And then I saw you were the poster ha ha ha. Yeah, to be honest, I sort of feel like I’d have to drag one of my guy friends along. I’ve been there a couple of times for cheap cables and stuff, but it never seemed like a welcoming place.
Never been in the Regina one, but the one here definitely doesn’t do welcoming. But their prices are close to competitive with the online order places, and they don’t charge much to assemble. It’s probably a better option than buying a cheap box at Staples and hoping to be able to put a video card into chassis.
The other option is going to newegg.ca and looking for cyber monday deals. They do sell complete systems, and you don’t have to worry about being blindsided by brokerage fees and such like you do with American online retailers.
So my laptop started overheating and then my Windows 7 install crapped on itself and Santa…uh, parents…were very generous this year, so I went ahead and picked up a new PC. This one, to be exact, but with a Boxing Day price of $499. Getting used to Windows 8 is taking time, but I’m writing this post while taking a break from Dragon Age II, so I’m happy! I also picked up Skyrim on a Steam sale, but I need to prioritize my new shinies.