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Gamer’s Thoughts: Advice to buy a gaming desktop/laptop

HP OmenAs the techy in my family, I’m often asked for advice when somebody wants to buy a new laptop or desktop. So, in this article, I’m going to share the advice I often provide to my friends and family when they are looking for a new computer. An interesting place to start is the new HP Omen laptops. Here is a good link to find more information about that. Also, I invite other techies to provide their tips in the comment section. Since, I don’t know everything that there is to know about computers, sharing information is so important. It’s better than starting a discussion about who is right or wrong. I’ll do my best to reply to every question to have to the best of my abilities, so feel free to ask that too in the comments. Enough introduction, so lets’s get into it.

Before you start.

Before I start looking for a good laptop or desktop to suggest to the person looking for a new computer, you need an answer on a few things.

First of all, pin down what your computer should be capable to do. How much horse power do you actually need? Take a look at what you do on the computer and try to decide if your current computer is strong enough or not. When you are deciding this, also take a look at the future. Especially when you play a lot of games on your computer, keeping in mind that games will require more demanding hardware in the future.

Secondly, decide if you want to go with a brand or build your own device. In my opinion, I think it’s best to go for a desktop if you don’t travel a lot. If you play a lot of games, I wouldn’t recommend an Apple computer then. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Apple computers are bad for gaming. The thing is that you can’t easily upgrade an existing Mac computer to have newer components compared to non-Apple products.

I’m convinced that a lot of techies will say that you need to build your own computer if you want to play games on it. While you can certainly consider this option, I would only recommend that to more experienced computer users. The big difference is that you have better support when you buy a branded computer. Since then you can return it to a shop. Thankfully, there are some computer shops out there that help a customer build their own computer and have a warranty on it.

And the 3rd thing is something I already touched on earlier, which brand should you take. While I have put my own gaming desktop together now, I have some experiences with some brands in the past. I have good experiences with Asus, Lenovo and HP devices. I didn’t have the best experiences with Dell laptops. But, do your own research. Look up reviews for various devices from that brand before you make a decision.

Before we continue, the advice I’m going to give in the remainder of this article are things that I say out of my personal experience. If you are looking for a new computer, ask for a 2nd opinion when possible. Having two or more opinions can be helpful to make a wise decision.

Personally, I think it’s not always the best idea to buy the latest of the latest computer that is out on the market. My reason for that is because there isn’t always support out there. When a product has been on the market for a few months, the most common problems have been fixed and various troubleshooting steps can be found on tech forums and various other sources.

Before we start talking about the parts, I have one more general thing to say. Always make your computer somewhat future proof. If you have the budget, don’t settle with just strong enough specs. Take a bit higher specs than you need. This makes your computer future proof and this way you don’t need to upgrade or replace your computer after a while when it’s not strong enough for the latest games you want to play.

Paying attention to the parts

Let’s talk about parts. In the section, I tried to make the advice as general as possible, but some things will only apply to people who decide to build their own computer.

Which is the most important part in the computer? In my opinion, I think that the CPU is one of the most important parts of your computer. The faster and the more cores a CPU has, the better in my opinion. If you play games, I would recommend an i7-processor at least. The reason why you need to invest in a good processor is simple. You can have a powerful graphics card or really fast RAM if the CPU can’t process your requests fast enough, the bottleneck is real. If you can overspend on a part, do it for your CPU.

When you decide on which motherboard to take, check if it has enough features to power all the ports you want. Do it have enough expansion slots? Since you might need it when you want to put in more graphics cards or a high-end audio card. Personally, I’m a fan of ASRock and ASUS motherboards.

I want to talk about power supplies. When you are building your own computer, make sure that your power supply is beefy enough. One time, my own computer had issues where it shut down on its own when running high demanding programs. After a lot of troubleshooting and research, I discovered that my power supply didn’t provide enough power to my devices to run properly. Make sure that your power supply has provided enough Watt. Personally, I recommend 100W more than what’s needed to power your computer. There are various tools that you can use to calculate how much power your computer needs. One I used is the one of CoolerMaster.

How much RAM do you need? That’s an interesting question. At the moment of writing this article, I think that a minimum of 8GB of DDR4 RAM should do the trick. Personally, I have more RAM on my main desktop because I use my desktop for virtualization and that requires a strong CPU and a lot of RAM.

In terms of graphics cards, I have experience with both AMD and NVidia cards. While talking about this could be a whole article on its own, but I think that this article from TechRadar is a great resource. Personally, I have a NVidia GeForce 660 in my main desktop. I have chosen for a weaker graphics card since I don’t mind lowering the graphics settings to play a game. I also play a lot of retro games, so I don’t need a strong graphics card for that.

If it’s possible, I think it’s a really wise idea to have an SSD and an HDD for storage. Install your operating system on the SSD and install your programs and store your data on the HDD. In my main desktop, I have a 256GB SSD and a 3TB HDD. I know that there are 1TB and higher out there. But, I was a bit on a budget and decided to save a bit of money on storage.  I installed my operating system, drivers and frequently used programs on my SSD. I can assure you that this runs quite fast. I barely have time to open my water bottle and take a drink before Windows loads.

Also, I have another reason why you should store your important data on an HDD. At this moment in time, data recovery from an SSD is very difficult. I have read some sources saying that it’s nearly impossible to do. So, keep that in mind when you decide to buy that 1TB SSD. An SSD is a fast hard drive, but if it goes bad, you might not be able to recover your data. Unless you pay a lot of money for it to let it be recovered at a professional data recovery center. If you want a comparison, here is another interesting article written by the people over at VersionDaily.

Another quite important thing to decide is the cooling. Do you choose for water cooling or not. So far, I don’t have experience with water cooling. I’m also somewhat paranoid with liquids close to my electronic devices. While I have heard a lot of great things about water cooling, I’m not really convinced about it. PCWorld wrote a good article about this.

Personally, I don’t know enough to give advice on sound cards. So, that’s why I provide a link to Lifewire to their article about sound cards.

The final part I want to talk about is the case. If you built a computer, deciding on the case is important. Since that is the thing you will look at the most when you buy/build your computer. Personally, I have only used cases from Corsair and I’m quite happy with them. Something I really like is that they provide parts like hard disk trays on their web shop for decent prices.

When you decide on parts, always read reviews about it. What are the most common problems and are the fixes for it! Always inform yourself, but don’t over-inform yourself. Having too much information isn’t good either. Another good resource is PCPartPicker.com. This is an amazing website that will help you when you are going to build your computer. There you also find various builds that can provide as an example.

Final thoughts

So, I think I said everything I wanted to say. When you are picking a new computer to play games on, first educate yourself and decide what you need before you go looking at computers. When you have a good idea of what you want, you can make better decisions.

If you have the technical know-how or know somebody (or some shop) that can help you build your own computer, I recommend that for playing games. But, keep in mind that repairing it will more troublesome compared to a computer you buy from a brand.

If you want to know more, watch some build videos from good tech channels. Personally, I can recommend Carey Holzman, Linus Tech Tips, JayzTwoCents, Bitwit and Austin Evans.

I want to thank you so much for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article on my blog but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

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