Desktop Gaming Computer Guidance

Hey Waypointers,

After 7 years of gaming on a hefty gaming laptop, I’m looking to (finally) transition to a gaming desktop. I don’t think I have the energy or wherewithal to build my own PC so I’m currently looking at prebuilts (but I could be convinced otherwise…).

I’ll primarily use my PC for gaming and music production. I’ve also been thinking of picking up a VR headset so I’d like it to be compatible with that as well.

I’ll admit, I don’t know much about computer specs. What are some things I should keep in mind as I shop around? What are your favorite guides and resources on buying a desktop? What’s the deal with monitors? What are some things you wished you had known before purchasing your current desktop?

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Sounds like you’re going to want a big ol’ pile of RAM. And whatever good graphics card(s) you can afford.

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I can second this, most Vr says 8gb minimum, but you really need at least 16gb.

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Hm, I’m not too familiar with the prebuilt market, which could vary a lot depending on where you are. Common options I see for gaming are NZXT and Alienware, but I can’t speak to their quality*. I would avoid non-gaming oriented PCs since their parts are likely not going to be great.

(* You can use builds from PCPartPicker as a baseline for your own search. It’s a great resource! Some stores offer to put together the computer for you for a low price, which is likely cheaper than a prebuilt. However! You’ll likely be on your own for troubleshooting if something goes wrong, which isn’t uncommon at some point for PCs. With prebuilts you can at least call somebody while the warranty lasts instead of having to work out which part is giving you trouble.)

A solid start would be deciding on a budget (and, well, how far beyond that you could be willing to stretch to get something suitable). If you want to do VR, check the recommended minimum specs for a graphics card and keep that in mind when looking about. I think something around a Geforce GTX 1060 would be a minimum viable card, or at least it was a few years ago? Things change fast, though.

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When I am looking for some guidance on what parts to get I like to use the system requirements for a recent or upcoming AAA game as sort of a roadmap. F1 2022 for example: F1® 22 PC System Requirements - Electronic Arts

For monitors I am still quite happy with a 1440p 144hz display, 4k is a bit of overkill imo and its a lot more expensive to buy a video card capable of driving a 4k display at high refresh rates.

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I have an Alienware. Some friends of mine who spent some time with Best Buy compared Alienware to a Ferrari: they make really, really nice stuff but it’s hyperspecialized. You might not be able to find an off-the-shelf motherboard for a thing that looks like the Monolith from 2001. You also are going to pay a premium for the name and the pre-assembly.

Gamers Nexus on Youtube has been testing prebuilts and has found some actually good ones, so that’s worth a look :slight_smile:

It might be worth looking into system-builders too, so that you can configure your PC from available parts. NZXT BLD is apparently decent for this. If you want an idea of what parts to aim for, check out Logical Increments.

Given the price of RAM I think it’s safe to go with 32Gb now, I’m seeing a lot of games come close to filling up 16.

The deal with monitors is uuuuuuuuuuuuh. Depends on what you want I guess.

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Oh, yeah, I can imagine. Maybe they’re all fancy looks with standard parts inside (?) but I’d personally be more comfortable with, of the two, NZXTs builds which seem to use regular parts that are on the market. If in four years OP wants to update some parts that seems like a reasonably simple process.

I took a look at NZXTs offerings, and they don’t seem bad. Their starter PC line comes with an alright CPU (a couple of generations old, but CPU requirements typically aren’t that heavy for games) and a Geforce RTX 3050. Step up to their streaming line and you get a really good CPU (Ryzen 5600X, same as I have and certainly not with “Light processing power” as the page describes it) and start out with a 3060, which I understand is a great graphics card of its own. Plus 1TB of storage (SSD) and 32GB of RAM, plenty for the foreseeable future.

NB if you’re not in a hurry, AMD will be launching their new CPU line this fall and these builds might update with them once that happens? I wouldn’t sweat it, there’s always going to be something better a few months off but worth mentioning.

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The parts are certainly standard (I have some manner of nVidia) but if you want to be able to make standard case repairs or anything motherboard-related, you’re probably going to want something off-the-shelf.

And to the RAM discussion from earlier, I have 64 gig and I feel like that’s probably where you want to be.

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IDK I think for most people it would be excessive. 64 GB puts you in the top 1.2% of Steam users. It would be future proofing to an extreme degree, I think it’d be better to replace the memory if and when it becomes an issue.

(But, I can’t lie, I considered it when I upgraded last fall. Just decided against it because prices were a bit high at the time :slight_smile: )

I come at it from the perspective of “thinking bad” - if I have to think about my RAM, I need more

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Thanks everyone who has responded so far!

I’m making a note to double down on RAM and I appreciate the links. The comment about Alienware being like Ferrari is a good point. I’d like to be able to upgrade my build with off-the-shelf parts down the line so that’s something to consider.

I’m going to save up for something in the $1,000 to $2,500 USD range. I don’t have a ton of desk space. 4K or ultrawide seems excessive so I’ll be looking at more modest monitor setups.

I feel really out of touch with discussion around graphics cards. Last time I did research (years ago), NVIDIA GeForce was the way to go for reasons I don’t recall. Is there anything to consider between Nvidia vs AMD? Or should I not sweat brand differences?

I for one think when it comes to GPUs Nvidia is the way to go. AMD is a step or two behind with the AI deep learning stuff. Nvidia’s DLSS and AMD’s FSR are fairly comparable in a lot of games but in a decent number of games I have found the DLSS looked better. DLSS only works on Nvidia RTX cards where AMDs FSR actually works on both AMD and Nvidia cards which makes an Nvidia card a no-brainer in terms of options.

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Right now NVidia should probably be your pick. Could change when AMD’s next GPUs are announced later this year though, especially in price/power/performance terms.

If you don’t want to worry about desk space, I’d recommend a monitor arm or a wall mount. Then you can get whatever size you want without any footprint on your desk.

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I think 2K is a pretty good spot both in terms of price and fidelity. The price has come down a LOT on 2K monitors in the past 4 years.

This ASUS for example is $280 and is 2K, 27", 165hz, G-Sync, and you can VESA mount it.

Because it sounds like you are limited on desk space you might not even want a second monitor but if you do take a look at something that’s 1080p 24". You can get one for about $100 these days new or if you don’t care about it being used I would check out a resale shop in your area as they probably have some old office ones for $10-25. IMO I go for Dell on extra monitors because I know they use the standard power cable and not a proprietary one that will be a pain to find a cable for. Just keep track of what ports you actually have available on your GPU.


Don’t think I’ve seen anyone mention this yet but NVME drives are the hot thing right now for storage. Your motherboard will probably have a slot or two for them and I would advise just going ahead and filling both up now instead of later. Some of them are in spots where you would have to take a lot off your build (GPU, CPU fan sometimes, etc). So better to skip on SSD’s and just do NVME’s because you can always put another SSD in later fairly easily.


Don’t cheap out on your power supply! I would aim for at least a Gold rating from a well established brand. Definitely check reviews and such before hand. They come as either modular, semi modular, or non-modular and all this really means is can you remove or add cables to your PSU. You’re probably going to want either semi-modular or modular.

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I’m gonna second the NVME recommendation. SSDs are already so fast that I figured there wouldn’t be much performance difference, but it’s definitely noticeable, particularly for system startup. It’s not as transformative as the jump from HDD to SSD was, but it’s still a difference I felt immediately. And as a bonus, it removes a lot of cabling from your case, which is great for airflow.

This is all great advice, but I wanted to second this:

I built my current PC in 2017 on a super limited budget, and one of the ways I saved money is by skimping on the power supply. Cut to last year, after I had replaced basically every other part in the build with upgrades (including the mobo actually! It’s a real ship of Theseus situation.) when my computer suddenly shut down and wouldn’t turn back on. Within a few minutes I had figured out the power supply had fried, which was extra scary because there was no way to know if it had taken any of the other (much more expensive) components with it as I didn’t have a spare to test with. After a week or so I got a new power supply, and luckily the only thing it took with it was the power button (another scary problem to troubleshoot!)

The point is I had weeks worth of stress that I could have avoided if I had just gotten a gold power supply to begin with! The difference between a bronze and gold power supply is only like 50 USD, which is a small price to pay for more peace of mind. I’d also advise getting a power supply rated for more power than you plan on using. After the mobo, it’s the part that is the most hassle to replace, so it’s good to have a little extra power in case the graphics card you want to upgrade to a few years down the line is especially power hungry.

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Quick note on this, if OP does want to pick their own components I agree about not skimping on the power supply quality, but [80 Plus] Bronze/Silver/Gold etc. ratings refer only to energy efficiency. There’s some correlation to quality (since higher efficiency requires better components) but it’s not what the system is for. Maybe some tech journalist has investigated this, though?

Best I think is to go for a reliable manufacturer. I hear Seasonic is still best in class and I had one of their Bronze models for years upon years (8 or 9 total?), switching only when I needed a more powerful one. Corsair also often comes recommended. But yeah, starting from a good manufacturer make sure that you’re getting a PSU with long warranty (5, 7 or even 10 years) and with Gold certification at the very least – that’s almost a baseline for reputable manufacturers these days.

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This is true, but also PSUs (like memory and storage) are one of those components where there are two manufacturers that you’ve never heard of that all the other brands just rebadge and customise for end-user sale. So it’s particularly important to find reviews of PSUs because even the good brands sometimes rebadge a mediocre PSU, but on the flip side hardly anybody reviews PSUs because they’re not a sexy component that lets you show of huge numbers on benchmarks.

Last time I went shopping, I consulted this Tier List, which I like mainly because they do a pretty thorough job of defining the tiers and justifying their ratings.

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If you decide to build it yourself it’s still worth checking out similar prebuilts for a price comparison. The idea that they are more expensive isn’t necessarily true right now because of how weird the market is. When I bought my computer about six months ago it was significantly cheaper to get a prebuilt that had almost everything I wanted (the gpu was even the TI version, so half a step up!) and then buy a few replacements than it was getting everything individually. The warranty and knowing that it’ll just work out the box is also a nice peace of mind after spending $2k.

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