Digital Media Concepts/Custom Built Gaming Computers

Custom built computers are an alternative option for consumers to buy a personal computer (PC) for gaming. Having the ability to build a computer from compatible parts gives consumers a greater variety when purchasing a computer. Consumers can choose from many different parts to build a computer that is suited to their needs and uses. [1] Below are the things to consider when planning to buy a custom gaming computer.

Components edit

Central Processing Unit edit

Intel CPU Core i7 6700K

The central processing unit or core processing unit or CPU is often referred to as the brain of the computer. The central processing unit is responsible for performing calculations, running programs and actions. The processor works with instructional inputs from the RAM, which it then decodes, processes then outputs the data. The processor is usually known as the most important part of the computer. [2] There are two major players in the CPU market for gaming computers, Intel and AMD. Both companies have released processors at different price and performance levels. There are many articles available that look into Which Processors Are The Best for Gaming at a specific budget. [3]

Motherboard edit

The motherboard is another essential component in a custom built gaming computer. The motherboard connects all the components together, the motherboard acts like an air traffic controller and directs processes to where they should go as well as routing power to the necessary places in the correct amounts. The motherboard also connects all of the external devices like keyboards, mice and USB drives. The processor determines which motherboards can be chosen because it works on a compatibility basis. [4] Choosing a motherboard can be difficult because of compatibility issues, however there are many websites that can help with the decision making. PCPartPicker is a great place to put components and it will suggest compatible motherboards with a specific processor as well as the How to Choose the Best Motherboard for Gaming article on [5]

Random Access Memory edit

Random Access Memory or RAM refers to the short term data storage in a system and can be accessed quickly by the other components, especially the processor. RAM is important in a gaming computer because the more programs that are simultaneously running the more memory is needed to be able to processes all the actions. Video Games tend to use more RAM in order for all the computations to be processed and outputted. The more RAM a computer has, the more programs can be running simultaneously; therefore, the more RAM the better. [6]

Graphics Processing Unit edit

The founders edition Nvidia GTX 1070

The Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) is responsible for rendering images, animations and video for the computers screen. The GPU is located on a plug-in card, in a chipset built into the motherboard or in the same chip as the CPU. A GPU on a standalone card will have its on RAM to process and render images, while built in GPUs will most likely share RAM with the CPU. GPUs are used for 2D data as well as decoding and rendering 3D animations and video. More sophisticated GPUs will be able to produce higher resolution images with faster and smoother motions in games and videos. [7]

Power Supply Unit edit

The Power Supply Unit (PSU) is responsible for converting Alternating Current (AV) from a wall socket to Direct Current (DC) for the individual components inside the computer to use. The PSU also regulates overheating by controlling voltage. The PSU is an essential component in a computer build because without it, the rest of the components will not be able to run. [8] Choosing a power supply unit can be difficult but there are many resources available to aid decision making such as the tech guide article How to choose a power supply

Case edit

The Computer Case is used to house and mount all the components into one place. The case protects the components from dust, liquids and any other hazards from outside of the case. The case also provides airflow through the mounted fans to provide adequate cooling for the components inside the case. [9]

Storage edit

There are two main types of storage that can be used in a custom built gaming computer, a Hard Disk Drive or Solid State Drive. A Hard Disk Drive (HDD) is an older form of data storage, which uses magnetism to read and write data on a spinning platter. HDD's are cheaper and can hold more storage than a Solid State Drive. A Solid State Drive (SSD) stores data in microchips and provides faster read and write speeds when compared to the traditional HDD. [10]

Cooling edit

All computers need cooling to make sure the CPU is running at a good temperature for optimal performance. If the CPU is too hot it will thermal throttle, which in turn reduces the performance and sometimes will shut itself off to prevent damage. Having a good cooling for the CPU can also improve the durability and lifespan of the processor. Most CPUs come with a stock cooler which comes free with the processor and provides a standard level of cooling but there are several options below that can help improve the thermals of a CPU in a custom built gaming computer. [11]

Thermal Paste edit

Thermal Paste is a very high heat conductive material that goes between two surfaces, usually a CPU or GPU and a heatsink, to improve heat conduction. Thermal paste improves the contact between the two surfaces by smoothing the surfaces; therefore improving the surface area that is in contact between the two surfaces. There are three main types of thermal paste, Metal-Based, Ceramic-Based, and Silicon-Based. [12] Since each thermal paste has its own pros and cons, choosing may be difficult but there are guides available to make the thermal paste choosing process easier Best Thermal Pastes

Air Cooling edit

An example of an Air Cooler without the fan

There are Air Coolers that offer more performance than the stock CPU cooler that comes in the CPU box. Air Coolers are one of the cheaper options and can offer better cooling for the CPU while maintaining the durability and can last longer than the other options listed below. Upgrading to an aftermarket air cooler can improve the CPU temperatures by 20°C to 30°C. Air Coolers may be chosen over water cooling options because there is less that can go wrong, only the fans could stop working; whereas water coolers have many more parts that could break down. [13]

All-in-One Liquid Coolers edit

All-in-One Liquid Coolers are easy to install and are maintenance free, they consist of a closed loop with a radiator and pump/water block. A good dual-fan liquid cooling system would be in a similar price range as a high-end air cooler. Liquid coolers are not compatible with every case and can cause issues with all of the different parts inside the loop. Liquid coolers can possibly leak and fail, which can cause damage to the rest of the components. Most All-in-One Liquid Coolers only cool the CPU and are pre-filled and pre-sealed out of the box. [14]

Fully Custom Water Cooling Loop edit

Fully Custom Water Cooling Loops have the highest cooling potential and can cool more than just the CPU. Custom loops are the best cooling solution that custom gaming computers can have. Custom Loops can cool the CPU, GPU, RAM, Voltage Regulators, and much more. Custom loops are very expensive to set up and can be very difficult to configure and install into the computer. Custom Loops also have the most room for error due to the number of different individual parts that have to be put together and installed properly to prevent leaks. Custom water cooling loops are overkill for most systems and most consumers are better off with an All-In-One liquid or air cooler. There are beginner guides like A beginners guide to water cooling your computer that serves as a guide to custom water cooling loops. [15]

Cost edit

Alienware is a reliable gaming desktop retailer who sells gaming desktops at competitive prices. When comparing a custom built gaming computer with similar components, the prices can be compared to show that custom built gaming computers are a cheaper way to buy a gaming computer. The Alienware Area-51 with a Core i7 7820x and a Nvidia RTX 2080 retails for $2999.99 [16]; whereas a Custom Built Computer with Almost Identical Components would cost around $2105.80 which is about 30% cheaper[17]. The prices of components and pre-built system fluctuates and may not be the same price in the future. The price comparison can be seen in the table below.

Components Custom Built Computer Alienware Area 51
CPU $765 -
CPU Cooler $64.29 -
Motherboard $190.98 -
RAM $77.99 -
Storage $69.19 -
GPU $704.99 -
CASE $53.98 -
PSU $79.99 -
OS $99.39 -
Price of System $2105.80 $2999.99

External Links edit

References edit

  1. Kyrnin, M. (2019, January 02). Why Building Your Own Desktop Can Save You Money. Retrieved from
  2. Frew, J. (2017, June 29). What Is A CPU and What Does It Do? Retrieved from
  3. James, D. (n.d.). Best CPU for gaming 2019 (February). Retrieved February 25, 2019, from
  4. Lacoma, T. (2018, March 31). It's the air traffic controller of the computer. The motherboard: Explained! Retrieved from
  5. J. (n.d.). How to Choose the Best Motherboard for a Gaming Computer (2018 Guide). Retrieved February 25, 2019, from
  6. What Does Computer Memory (RAM) Do? (n.d.). Retrieved February 25, 2019, from
  7. Encyclopedia. (n.d.). Retrieved February 25, 2019, from
  8. Fisher, T. (2018, September 11). All About the Power Supply Unit (PSU). Retrieved February 25, 2019, from
  9. Fisher, T. (2018, December 17). What Is a Computer Case? (Tower, Chassis, Housing). Retrieved February 25, 2019, from
  10. Baxter, A. (2011, December 02). SSD vs HDD. Retrieved February 25, 2019, from
  11. Edwards, N. (2013, April 05). How to Best Cool a PC: Your Air and Water Cooling Options Explained. Retrieved March 03, 2019, from
  12. D. (2006, January 08). Thermal Paste and How To Use It. Retrieved from
  13. Edwards, N. (2013, April 05). How to Best Cool a PC: Your Air and Water Cooling Options Explained. Retrieved March 03, 2019, from
  14. All-in-One Liquid Coolers
  15. Edwards, N. (2013, April 05). How to Best Cool a PC: Your Air and Water Cooling Options Explained. Retrieved March 03, 2019, from
  16. Alienware Area-51 Gaming Desktop | Dell United States. (n.d.). Retrieved February 28, 2019, from
  17. Alienware Area-51 Comparable. (n.d.). Retrieved February 28, 2019, from