Getting a PC for fighting games

Martin

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Hi, I’m currently considering getting a PC so that I can play in Tekken TNT tournaments, but due to my generally totally lacking background in PC gaming I don’t have any clue about where to start when purchasing or otherwise building one.

Due to preferring couch and handheld gaming, I only plan on using it for fighting games and maybe stuff like Super Meat Boy, Halo, TF2, Minecraft, Showdown etc., so it wouldn’t need to be able to run big, taxing open world games smoothly, but as a minimum I would need something that can run games like Tekken/Soul Calibur at 60 FPS (ideally at not-potato graphics settings), and I would also need a low lag monitor to use with it.

My key questions are as follows:

- Is it worth it to build a PC, or would I be fine getting a pre-fab (namely, what kind of price difference would there be, and if it’s not too much more expensive what would be the best pre-fab to get for my purposes?)

- What is the main trade-off of using a powerful laptop, and is doing so likely to make more than a meagre saving?

- I don’t know anything about computer parts and don’t really know what the terminology I’d need to do any independent research, so if I’d be substantially better off building where would you recommend getting information about them?

- If any of you know what parts I should be aiming to buy, what would you recommend? Same goes for monitors.

- Where is the best place to look to get everything I need for the lowest possible price. (I’m in London UK if that makes a difference)

- Given that I know jack shit about computers, how would I go about getting it assembled?

- How much can I expect something with the specs I need to set me back?

I’m not sure if I’ve asked all the questions I need to, so if anyone has any other advice on top of this I’d be very grateful. Thank you in advance!
 

Kalalokki

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I'd recommend getting it pre-built at a site online that usually sells computers tailored for gaming, I can't give you any specific one as I bought mine at a swedish site, but the price difference isn't that huge and you'll save yourself a lot of time and effort by not having to research parts to buy and how to assemble it. A gaming laptop is less bang for your buck and I personally prefer laptops to be small and handy, so I just have a big PC for gaming and photo/video editing and a small laptop for mostly casual browsing and lighter photo editing. Monitors made for gaming shouldn't be that expensive either if you don't get a really big one. I think a mid-level PC would set you back around 1000 bucks or so, not sure on regional prices but.
 

Nayrz

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The first two questions for everyone starting PC builds is: what is your maximum budget, and what do you wanna do with the computer? The latter is already answered (will go over it in a sec), but generally you say

"i have x money, and wanna play y at z settings/resolution/refresh rate, what do"

and builds come along from there, especially if you are going completely from scratch and need all the peripherals like decent monitor, keyboard, mouse, controller, etc. Depending on budget and need from the pc you have to lose out in one area and favor the other - people using it as a workstation have different builds than those playing AAA games at high resolutions / framerates. There's also the future to consider but there's basically never a perfect time to build because new stuff comes out so often. I wouldn't worry about that part at least unless you are chasing top end stuff and that's not what im gathering here.

If competitive gaming is your want then most go for 144Hz+ 1080p builds. I'm not fluent in esports fighter titles but I doubt its any different to the wants an FPS title has which is high refresh rates - it makes the game look / feel much smoother and is basically a competitive advantage everyone goes for in the typical esports titles.

Super Meat Boy / TF2 - any modern PC can run this
Halo - I assume this means the upcoming MCC port to PC. this might require at least a mid range build. Infinite will probably be demanding if you decide to get that on PC.
Minecraft - this is a can of worms to open if you ever wanna use mods and will skyrocket the requirements compared to vanilla minecraft. the big modpacks take like 11 GB of RAM these days and want a half decent CPU to not choke. completely depends what you wanna play.

- Is it worth it to build a PC, or would I be fine getting a pre-fab (namely, what kind of price difference would there be, and if it’s not too much more expensive what would be the best pre-fab to get for my purposes?)
If this was 3-4 years ago I'd have said prebuilts is throwing money away but the gap got closer during the whole bitcoin craze which sent PC parts way up in price. It's essentially over now and I think prices are sane again.

The thing about pre-built PCs is they advertise by saying "we have this high end part in a full build for <somewhat low overall price>" but if you look at the parts list its surrounded by unequal parts like a low tier CPU or small amounts of RAM and that's how they get you - put a decent graphics card with enough parts around it to not immediately bottleneck and see who bites. It kinda banks on you not researching or knowing whats going on.

Nowdays I think its up to you. If you want higher end parts I'd say build it because prebuilt top PCs is stuffed with unnecessary things to sell it for way more than the parts inside are worth. A low or mid range PC is an alright choice because the gap between the parts and the overall prebuilt price isn't big enough to be more than a "pay for convenience" tax and not spending the typical hours troubleshooting a new build (everyone's first has an issue). I'd still research whats in any prebuilt before buying 100% though - the model of the part might be correct but made by a mostly unknown manufacturer - quality issues can come from that.

- What is the main trade-off of using a powerful laptop, and is doing so likely to make more than a meagre saving?
hell no. if you take any decent PC and find a laptop with the same parts expect like 1k extra on its price. unless you REALLY value the mobility of a laptop (travel a lot, long commutes, live at a uni campus, etc) or have money to blow i would never recommend someone buys a powerful one. battery life and overheating is a problem with them that never goes away.
- I don’t know anything about computer parts and don’t really know what the terminology I’d need to do any independent research, so if I’d be substantially better off building where would you recommend getting information about them?
The main parts would be the CPU / GPU. RAM and motherboard are important because they all need to be compatible. This is a pretty useful site for figuring out your own builds once you have a rough idea, but there are guides for builds too. In the system builder it will flag if the parts wouldn't work together in a finished build. This was another decent area when I first started out with no clues.
- If any of you know what parts I should be aiming to buy, what would you recommend? Same goes for monitors.
Budget builds favor AMD stuff - Ryzen 2 CPUs, Vega / VII GPUs. Nvidia make all the top end GPUs atm. Intel CPUs are the dominant sights to see. Monitors vary a lot based on resolution and refresh rate, so that mostly comes down to what you wanna play + what parts you have. No point in a 4k monitor when the computer can't output that resolution.
- Where is the best place to look to get everything I need for the lowest possible price. (I’m in London UK if that makes a difference)
I'm also in the UK and i just went with Amazon for most parts. The hassle of making accounts on other sites and dealing with multiple things didn't warrant the small (if even applicable) price saving. Stick to reputable sellers. Folks who don't really know what they are buying are prone to being scammed.

A friend of mine bought a 7700k and it turned out to be a much worse CPU because someone took the original "lid" (silver bit at the top) off and swapped it to a bad CPU and then returned it. Evidently nobody noticed because amazon sold it on as normal and it didnt work in my friend's PC. Hard to prove it wasn't you that did the same thing when trying to refund it.
- Given that I know jack shit about computers, how would I go about getting it assembled?
It isn't as difficult as it sounds to build one yourself but its still a project you might not wanna do. There's many videos around showing the process and the manuals that come with all parts are pretty indepth.
- How much can I expect something with the specs I need to set me back?
If i was to put any number assuming you are starting completely from scratch probably 1000-1500. hope you enjoyed the wall of text.
 
Building them is a lot less complicated than you would think, very much like building kinda fragile lego. Every single part is keyed so you can’t put them together wrong, and there are tons of guides all over the internet. I’d recommend something like a RX 580 and a ryzen 5 3600, with 8 gigs of ram. Kinda overkill, but that way you can crank tf2 to the max and still get like 150 FPS. You could get away with right down to a RX 560 though.

HIGHLY recommended is a solid state drive, especially if you use something like windows 10. Steam, discord, etc all pile up and bog down everything, and an SSD can alleviate that.

install gentoo
 

Mr.E

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Building them is a lot less complicated than you would think, very much like building kinda fragile lego. Every single part is keyed so you can’t put them together wrong, and there are tons of guides all over the internet.
This right here, and honestly they're actually pretty hardy to boot. Like yeah, try to be careful but you do sometimes have to apply a good amount of force to fit things together and it's important to know (to avoid anguish) that you're not going to just accidentally break things. Read your manuals and follow directions, you'll be fine.

I'll go over the basics of PC building, since it's fun to get to talk about this shit, which I really learned a couple years back when I was doing my own research to build anew and finally put into practice last Thanksgiving (Black Friday) weekend. This Bitwit video more or less covers the basics similarly, but there are eight essential components:
  • Processor (CPU)
  • CPU Cooler
  • Motherboard (mobo)
  • Memory (RAM)
  • Storage (HDD and SSD)
  • GPU (video card)
  • Power supply (PSU)
  • Case
Choosing CPU
Refer to whatever benchmark or tier list you wanna G*ogle and compare prices, then buy what you want based off desired performance and budget. (I like using UserBenchmark but it's not technically accurate for reasons.)

Overall CPU performance is based off three primary attributes: core count, clock speed, and instructions per clock cycle (IPC). Thing is, IPC isn't advertised, so there's no way to just window shop CPUs and rank them based off their advertised # of cores + speed. Generally speaking, more cores means better work/production performance and faster cores means better gaming performance, but it's fuzzy and really dependent on the specific programs being used.

At any rate, CPUs are made by either Intel or AMD. Intel tends to have very slightly better gaming performance, but AMD's Ryzen series are usually the better value for your money and better at workstation-type tasks and heavy multitasking. Mind I haven't done any research on the latest chips, the Ryzen 3000 series and Intel's 9th/10th gen processors, so I can't recommend specific CPUs but the best balance between performance and price will probably be the midrange Ryzen 5 or Intel i5 CPUs.
Choosing CPU Cooler
Reviews are your friend but generally speaking, the larger and more expensive a cooler is, the more effective it will be. Also, your average all-in-one liquid cooler actually offers no significant performance advantage over an air cooler. (Expensive and complicated custom loops are another matter.) Liquid coolers are gaining popularity... mostly because they look cool. Big air coolers are ginormo towers of metal that take up a lot of space, stress your CPU socket and sometimes get in the way of installing RAM, but they're also cheaper, quieter and can't leak.

*ahem* Anyway, most CPUs include a stock cooler with thermal paste already stuck on it. You can buy an aftermarket cooler (plus paste) if you want better thermal performance, but it's often not necessary if you're not heavily overclocking (which is also less complicated than it appears but I digress).
Choosing a Mobo
They're all functional. The only major difference you can't easily glean by looking at the advertised specs is the VRMs (voltage regulator modules), which affects how clean and efficiently the mobo delivers power to your components. Unfortunately, info on that subject is sparse, dude named Buildzoid does some nice YT vids but that's about it. It's easiest to say you get what you pay for... and it won't even matter except for heavy overclocks on the top-end chips, below that they're all "good enough."

Just make sure you buy the right chipset, which a quick web search or PCPartPicker will help ensure you do. Past that, the only super-important thing to look at are the USB ports if you have certain needs there: some mobos have Type-C ports, some have more ports total. On-board WiFi can be a boon if you require wireless connectivity, so you don't have to buy a separate wireless card or dongle, and you can look for some specific other features (I looked for the better audio codec) if you desire but they're all pretty similar.
Choosing a GPU
Look at the tier list and benchmarks. Your best value will be something midrange like AMD's RX 570/580/590 (or a used 470/480) or Nvidia's GTX 1650/1060-6GB/1660. Performance drops heavily below that, don't torture yourself with a 560 or 1050-Ti.

Make sure the card you buy has the correct display output for your monitor(s), mostly relevant only if you have older monitors though. Open-air coolers are generally better than blower-style coolers (enclosed shroud and turbine fan) unless you're building in a tiny case, but it doesn't matter much. Paying up for factory-overclocked models is also usually not worth it. Overclocking a GPU is literally just downloading a program and pressing a couple buttons, you can't fuck it up (unlike toying around in the BIOS to overclock your CPU or RAM).

It's also worth mentioning here that your monitor should match your GPU. For example, if you're using a standard 1080p resolution, 60Hz (FPS) monitor, you don't get much out of something more powerful than a 590 or 1660. Don't waste money spending the extra $100 on a 2060 or whatever. Your GPU should also match your CPU, so one isn't heavily bottlenecking the other because you bought a top-of-the-line one and a budget other, but for gaming you'll almost always be bottlenecked at the GPU.

All Intel CPUs and some AMD CPUs also have integrated graphics. None of them are suitable for gaming, but they're fine for basic PC tasks and maybe a decent backup if you're paranoid of your video card getting fried and your PC being out of commission for a few days while you wait for a new card to arrive. Also, please ensure your monitor is plugged into the video card and NOT the mobo!
Choosing RAM
8GB is fine on a budget, 16GB is preferred. For the most part, any DDR4 RAM kit will work, so get the cheapest. I suggest 3000-3200 speed myself, as most games see slight performance gains from it and it's priced similarly to the slower stuff anyway. If you want to be extra careful, look up your mobo's Qualified Vendor List and buy RAM listed on it.
Choosing a PSU
PCPartPicker and other wattage calculators already give a very conservative estimate of your max load. Generally, a budget rig with low-end GPU can suffice with pretty much anything on the market (400-500W) and any midrange, single-GPU setup will do best on 500-700W. Common brand suggestions include most things EVGA, Corsair, or SeaSonic.

Unfortunately, there's no real way to tell a good PSU from a lemon based solely on marketing, if you venture out of the recommended bubble. I suggest websites like HardOCP and JonnyGuru reviews on individual units, and to a lesser extent Tom's Hardware, as they actually teardown and test the hardware for quality. JohnnyLucky.org maintains good recommended + lemon lists with reviews cited, and the tier lists on LinusTechTips' forums and GamingScan are decent quick references.

Also, ABSOLUTELY DO NOT USE ANY CORDS THAT DID NOT COME WITH YOUR UNIT TO CONNECT TO YOUR OTHER COMPONENTS.
Choosing Storage
Solid State Drives (SSDs) are smaller, faster, quieter, and more reliable because there are no physically moving parts inside like a Hard Disk Drive (HDD). They vastly improve boot times, if you regularly shut down, and loading times for all games/programs. HDDs are much cheaper for mass photo/video storage.

HDDs are... whatever. Buy the size you need. SSD performance isn't that important unless you routinely transfer large amounts of data on the regular, as the gap between even the worst SSD and an HDD is orders of magnitude larger than the gap between the best and worst SSDs. That said, I'd prioritize size and manufacturer warranty for whatever you're willing to pay. Check reviews if you want, but suffice to say most every SSD (if not defective) vastly outlives its manufacturer-rated endurance and likely its useful life in your device.

Most people suggest a separate SSD + HDD setup, an SSD for boot speeds and loading up your favorite games/programs and an HDD for the rest because they're just much cheaper storage. SSDs are getting a lot cheaper recently, though. Hybrid drives also exist -- they're basically HDDs with a small built-in SSD -- but aren't generally worthwhile. The built-in SSD is tiny and space management is done automatically by the drive, based on how often you access specific data, so the only thing it might reliably speed up is boot times.
Choosing a Case
Case is mostly a personal choice. What can you afford? Which one looks best aesthetically? What can you physically fit in your living space? Mid towers are most popular for their balance of price, performance and functionality: they have plenty of internal space for extra components, airflow, and cable management while costing less and taking up less external space than full towers.

Your case impacts what components will fit. In decreasing order of size are ATX full/mid towers, Micro-ATX mid/midi/mini towers, and mini-ITX. This describes the max size of compatible mobos. Additionally, for some ITX and smaller mATX cases, physical clearance for your CPU cooler, video card (GPU), and PSU become important factors to look at when shopping those components.

You can be very picky if you want. Since nothing is required, it's all up to you what features to prioritize. Side panel window? (Acrylic or tempered glass?) How many front USB ports, 2.0/3.0/3.1, what direction are they oriented? Removable air filters? Need 5.25" drive bays? Reviews are handy for the finer details, like how easy are those filters to remove, what's the cable management like, general build quality, etc.

Performance-wise, very generally thermals and acoustics are inversely proportional: The more open a case is, the cooler but louder it will run. 1-2 intake fans + 1 exhaust fan is recommended, but more can provide incremental thermal gains and airflow control. (e.g. More intakes promote a positive pressure environment, where excess air leaks out of the small cracks and vents around your case, so dust isn't sucked in and accumulates slower.) Most cases come with 2-3 stock fans, but some come with 5+ and some have zero! If you're inclined to add any case fans, remember to factor that into the total cost of the case.

Case fans are pretty trivial to install, BTW, in case you were curious. You just line up the holes and screw them in. Some even come with rubber mounting screws that you just have to pull through. Just remember to plug them into the mobo while you're putting things together.

Plus peripherals of course: keyboard, mouse, monitor. Of course, speakers are also recommended and get controllers for gaming if you want. The CPU and GPU are the important components as far as performance is concerned and is mostly what you'll be looking at with regard to anything prebuilt if you go that route. Basically, you want to choose a CPU and GPU based on your needs and budget, then you pick the rest of your components to fit them. PCPartPicker is an extremely valuable resource that will help make sure all your stuff is compatible, and maybe help you shop to boot. I suggest buying only new products currently on the market.

Once you're ready to build, if you want reassurance I suggest finding a YT vid for your specific case and/or CPU and following along.

Prebuilds on a good deal can compete and even beat custom builds on price, due to a combination of economies of scale but also sometimes cheaping out on the non-performance components (e.g. barebones mobo, PSU of questionable quality, slowest speed RAM which does affect performance but only a little). I custom built because I wanted a 1TB SSD and no HDD, which you'll never see in a prebuild. Heck, you can get a cheap prebuilt office PC and just buy a separate GPU to throw in.

I spent about $1000 for my setup (peripherals excluded) which includes some performance upgrades over a baseline "midrange" PC build of last year. (My specs: Ryzen 5 2600X w/stock cooler, X470 GigaByte Gaming 5 WiFi, 16GB Ripjaws 3200 RAM, 1TB 860 Evo SSD with no HDD, GTX 1070, Fractal Design Focus G, Thermaltake Toughpower Grand RGB 650W.) Being more budget-minded -- save $100 dropping down to an RX 580 and shave a few dollars here and there -- you can get it under $800 if not under $700 (USD, mind as a Brit). Add $100 for a basic 1080p/60Hz monitor, $20 for cheap speakers, and a basic KB/M for virtually free. Add another $100 if you insist on legally purchasing a Windows 10 product key directly from Microsoft. :P (Even if you've that much a distaste for piracy, there are many legal ways to obtain a free key and you can still legally use it unactivated for free with the watermarks.)

To answer any of the specifically asked questions if they weren't already addressed above:

What is the main trade-off of using a powerful laptop, and is doing so likely to make more than a meagre saving?
Laptops definitely won't save you money. You spend more for the portability, and the other major downside is lack of upgradability. Some can be upgraded, but since the size of laptops presents a thermal challenge for the product developers, most have components that are sized/shaped for their specific product not to mention they're arranged inside the case like a complicated puzzle. You can always hook up a separate monitor and KB/M to basically treat it like a standard desktop PC and just use the built-in keyboard + monitor as a convenience when needed, though you might have trouble managing USB ports.

If any of you know what parts I should be aiming to buy, what would you recommend? Same goes for monitors.
As for monitors specifically, honestly 1080p/60Hz is a baseline that literally everyone does and they'll all more or less work fine. It's only once you start moving to higher resolutions and refresh rates that you need to start questioning specs and looking at reviews. I've a 1440p, 165Hz, G-Sync monitor... of which there are only four models out there and reviews make them all out to be basically the same anyway. *shrug* Dell monitors are often recommended from what I can tell.

If you move beyond the basic 1080p/60Hz space, you can start comparing TN vs IPS monitors and looking for variable refresh rate technology (FreeSync and G-Sync), but I'm not gonna get too into that stuff. Basically, TN monitors are cheaper and boast faster pixel response rates, but that's mostly silly marketing you shouldn't buy into, while IPS monitors (similar technologies like VA, AHVA, PLS usually get lumped in with the IPS moniker) have better color accuracy and viewing angles but are more expensive. Variable refresh rate allows your monitor to refresh at the same rate your GPU sends it a new frame, eliminating screen tearing and mitigating stuttering as your frame rate fluctuates. FreeSync basically comes built into most nicer monitors for free, as it's a standard created by the industry as a whole, while the Nvidia-exclusive G-Sync tends to have a price premium. Nvidia has recently given up on pushing G-Sync and hopped aboard the FreeSync train, though, so moving forward you probably won't have to worry about buying specifically G-Sync monitors if you have an Nvidia GPU.

You'll have to poke around the web to find out input lag for any given monitor, but there's not much out there that's terribly bad. Monitors are pretty universally built to be snappy and responsive, unlike many televisions.

Where is the best place to look to get everything I need for the lowest possible price. (I’m in London UK if that makes a difference)
You can mostly shop online, and PCPartPicker usually gives you vendors too with prices, or any physical electronics/computer shop. I don't know if UK has an equivalent to Murica's Micro Center, a highly regarded computer retailer. Prices are always fluctuating in the short term, trending downward in the long run, and new stuff is always coming out, so don't get too caught up in trying to save every possible penny. It's suggested you buy everything at roughly the same time and not try to piecemeal a build together over the course of months, because it isn't worth saving $10 to wait four months to actually start using your PC and wasting your product warranties away on your components sitting in a box.

Late edit for TL;DR:

CPU and GPU are what matter for performance. Benchmarks are everywhere on the web, utilize them and decide based on your needs and budget.
Choose your other components around the CPU/GPU and use PCPartPicker to help you ensure all parts are compatible.
Buy all your stuff around the same timeframe, not piecemeal scrounging for deals.
Follow along with a YouTube video using the same CPU, plus case if possible. It's easier than you think, though.
Don't forget your peripherals: monitor, speakers, keyboard and mouse will tack on another $100 or so at bare minimum.

"Adult Legos" is a pretty accurate descriptor often used by PC building communities. It's hard to unintentionally fuck up, so long as you practice common sense basic precautions with your shit.
 
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