Since I’m now in the market for a new gaming computer, I’ve been pricing models from all over–but more importantly, I’ve been looking for the functionality I need. I want a computer that can play City of Heroes without any graphic hiccups or performance slowdown; I also want one that handles longer sessions of gaming without harm. I know that if it can handle gaming, it can handle everything else I want to do with ease.
Knowing the number of people daily who are in the market for such a computer as I am, I thought I’d share some of my search tips and discoveries.
Beginning Your Search: Learning System Requirements
First, find the website(s) for the particular game(s) you’d like to play on your new computer. You’re looking for a page called “System Requirements” or something similar, something that tells you what kind of graphics card, hard drive, and processor are recommended to play your game. (You can also do a search for “[your game] system requirements” if the game website doesn’t have that info readily available.
Make a note of each game’s mininum, recommended, and maximum requirements, and then compare requirements across all the games you want to play. (Some games may require you to have a stronger processor than others, and some may need a better graphics/video card than others.)
Figuring Out Which Components are Strictly “Better” Than Others
If you’re like me and not exactly up on which model numbers mean better quality, you’re going to have to do some internet research to find out which version of each component is the best.
For instance, City of Heroes lists a couple of graphics cards on its system requirements list. Since I don’t know how those compare to any of the computers on the market, all I can do is compare the model numbers to that listed for any computer I’m looking at. Then, I have to find out from the various companies’ product lists whether the computer’s onboard graphics card is the same as or better than the one listed in the system requirements, or vice versa.
What to Look For/What to Skimp On
When you’re looking for a gaming computer, I have found that you should search for excellent quality in the following areas:
- RAM: The more gigabytes of RAM you have, the faster your gaming will perform. Having a good quantity of RAM is more important to gaming than hard drive speed.
- Hard drive speed: The faster your hard drive is, the faster your game will load initially, but this is not quite as important. (It is important, however, if you plan to do other things with your computer besides game.)
- Dedicated graphics card RAM: For gaming performance, it’s recommended that the graphics card have its own store of RAM to work with, as well as the computer’s general RAM. Having had a computer with dedicated graphics RAM, I can tell you that it makes a wonderful difference in how the game looks and performs. Integrated graphics cards…just don’t. My second laptop’s motherboard was MELTED by an integrated graphics card–I gamed with it too much and too long.
- Cooling vents: A gaming computer’s internal parts will generate lots of heat while providing you with the most awesome experience it can muster. It needs a lot of vents to get rid of that heat, otherwise it will overheat and even melt some of the components!
- Processor: Having a processor that can run multiple things at once is a must for gaming. You don’t want to go for lots of RAM and cheap out on the processor–the processor is the computer’s true brain, its hardest worker.
- Visual display: You don’t want to have a dingy or colorless display after you’ve spent all this money getting great components elsewhere. Make sure your monitor is up to the task of displaying all this gaming awesomeness.
However, there are some computer features that don’t have to be super-upgraded for gaming performance. You can quite feasibly skimp on the following:
- Laptop battery life: If you’re gaming with your laptop, you likely won’t let it run without plugging it into the wall, so you don’t need to worry quite so much about battery life.
- CD/DVD/Blu-ray drive: Unless you plan to install a lot of older CD-driven games, you probably won’t need a high-powered optical drive.
- Number of USB ports: Especially for online gamers, the number of USB ports is not as important. Take this into consideration only if you use a lot of flash drives or external hard drives at one time.
- Appearance of computer: The glossy finish or bright color won’t matter as much as performance will!
But Wait, You Haven’t Told Us Brand Names to Buy!
Nope, because each brand has seemingly an equal amount of fans and haters. Choosing a “brand” of graphics card or processor, etc., doesn’t seem to be the most important–it’s choosing the type of functionality you want first, and then finding the brand that most people seem to get good results from (and which fits in your budget).
Lastly: Read Reviews and Talk to People
Before you up and buy a computer, make sure you read all the online reviews, positive and negative, and also talk to people who own either the exact model you’re looking at, or a similar one from the same company. Listening to the opinions and experiences of others will help ensure that you’re buying a reliable and well-made computer for your gaming pleasure.