Towards the end of 2020 I decided to start building my own PC. For somebody like me, who spends most of his waking hours behind a pc, either working, gaming or just browsing, having a good pc is vital. But I had saved up quite a lot of money and decided to go all out. I never had a good pc before, and I planned to go 0 to 100 on this one. As any pc builder can tell you, building a pc is actually 95% picking the parts and 5% actually building the thing. Once you have all your parts, you only need to plug them in, and cable manage them. But selecting these parts such that they are all compatible, and none are bottlenecking your setup can be quite difficult. For that exact reason, the majority of this page is going to be about which parts I choose and why.
For reference, any pc needs the following parts:
Since I was upgrading from absolutely nowhere, I also needed new peripherals, to match the performance of my pc. Here's a list of the peripherals I needed:
A CPU is generally the most important component of a PC and has the most influence amongst the widest array of tasks. For a CPU, I choose the AMD Ryzen 5900X. This CPU came out only recently (5 Nov. 2020) and was the one that completely turned the tides for the AMD vs Intel race. Previously, AMD was good at multi-core performance and putting a lot of threads and cores in a CPU, but Intel had a performance per clock, which is famously important for video games, as well as higher boost clocks. This CPU not only has 12 cores and 24 threads, ensuring an easy win in multicore performance, but it also surpasses the best Intel CPUs in per-clock performance. Its base clock is 3.7 GHz, and its boost clock is 4.8GHz. It has 70 MBs of cache memory. It comes in at about 570 euro.
The motherboard is what holds all your components together. It may seem like a very complex and important component, but it's far less complex than it might initially seem. My requirements for a motherboard were mostly very basic (e.g. ATX form factor, DDR4 compatibility, M.2 PCI 4.0 compatibility, B550 / X570 chipset). A number of motherboards met these requirements, but I eventually went with the Gigabyte Vision-D, because if best fit the style I was going for. It doesn't have tons of unnecessary RGB lighting and cool angular design, but instead has a very clean, straight, black/white design which suits my other components very well. It comes in at about 270 euros.
Generally, the CPU and GPU are the most expensive components in your pc, and take up about half the total budget together. For a gaming PC, the GPU is especially important. Most of my use cases are heavily GPU dependent. Building games is a very similar workload as playing games, but stuff like 3D modelling or rendering is also very GPU-heavy. I initially designed my PC to use an NVIDIA RTX 3080 or a AMD Radeon 6800XT, but none of those were available. The GPU market was crazy in the second half of 2020 and still is well into 2021. GPUs sold out in mere seconds and supplies were spread thin. Combine that with the low priority of non-US countries, scandals with Nvidia selling cards to miners to keep the price high, and tons of scalpers using bots, it is dam near impossible to get your hands on a new GPU.
But I got lucky, and managed to get my hands on a Gigabyte Vision GeForce RTX 3070; a card that seamlessly fits in my build. It is admittedly a downgrade compared to the 3080 I was hoping for, but it has handled everything I throw at it with ease. When prices and stock normalize, I might upgrade to a 3080 (definitely the Gigabyte vision version that suits my build so nicely), since my components were selected to work with a GPU of that caliber.
RAM is the component that stores information about the tasks your computer is currently doing. It is very fast, much faster than regular storage. The more RAM you have, the more tasks your computer can handle at once without slowing down. But sheer amount of RAM isn't everything, the speed with which it can write and retrieve data is also important. I choose for a configuration of 4x8Gb Corsair DDR4 Vengeance RAM with a speed of 3600MHz. This total of 32 RAM is plenty for my PC and will be for a long time to come. It costs a total of 136.90 euro.
The case is generally the most important factor in determining the general look / aesthetic of a pc build. As discussed in the motherboard section, I aim for a very slick, clean, black/white build with no unnecessary RGB or angular designs. I went for the NZXT H510 white edition. This is a very popular case due to an awesome combination of a relatively low price, an undeniably clean look, sufficient options for cable management, great airflow, and reputable manufacturer. It suits the style that I'm going for very nicely as well and comes in at about 75 euros.
Storage is something you just don't want to have to think about; there should always be enough storage. That being said, this doesn't have to get crazy expensive. I choose for a combination of a high-end SSD and a more traditional HDD. The SSD is much faster but has less storage and is more expensive. The HDD is slower but, in turn, has a lot more storage for a lower price. For my SSD I choose the Samsung 970 EVO 1TB. This SSD connects directly to the motherboard using M.2 and its PCIE 3.0 Interface allows for insanely quick speeds of up to 3400 MB/s for reading and 2500 MB/s for writing. The 1 TB of storage will be used for frequently used programs like my operating system, Google Chrome, Office, Unity, Steam, and some memory intensive games. It cost about 125 euros. For storage that does not require tons of speed, I also have a 2 TB HDD: the Seagate ST2000DM008. Although much slower than the SSD, it is much cheaper at only 55 euros, and the 7200 rpm still allows for speeds up to 220 MB/s for reading and 180 MB/s for writing.
Another component that is often mentioned when discussing aesthetics is the CPU cooler. The CPU produces a lot of heat and this needs to be dissipated somehow. The first choice for anybody here is air- or water cooling. I choose the latter. I have to admit that this is one of the rare occasions where I overspend a bit. Watercooling has a few advantages and disadvantages compared to air cooling, the most prominent disadvantage is that it is generally more expensive. Advantages are that they can be more silent, handle temperature spikes a bit better due to the water buffer and look better since they don't take up a lot of space on your motherboard.
I'm not overclocking my CPU, so the temperature spike argument is irrelevant for me. And for the price I pay, I also could've brought a high-end aircooler which would produce similar noise levels. No, I choose watercooling solely for the aesthetics. A project such as this should have a great looking end result. I choose for the NZXT Kraken X63. This beautiful cooler has a very minimalistic design, except for the CPU head, which has the NZXT logo on it, together with some RGB LEDs configured in an infinity mirror-like setup. Although a little more expensive that it needed be, the approx. 135 euros spend on this cooler were well worth it.
Of course, every pc needs to be powered somehow. Mine is powered by the Corsair RM750. Generally, choosing a power supply isn't very complicated, especially compared to some of the other components. You simply calculate the power draw from your components and then pick a power supply from a reputable manufacturer that can supply that, with a certain margin. The PSU cost me about 110 euros.
Having a beast pc that can spit out hundreds of frames per second on ultra settings in almost every game isn't very useful if you have a low-res 60 Hz monitor. My Philips 226V4LSB with its 1080p resolution, 5 ms latency, and 60 Hz framerate wasn't going to cut it. So, I replaced it with a 27'' 1440p Acer Nitro VG271UP monitor, which only has up to 1 ms latency, 144 Hz update rates, and an IPS panel that allows for much better colors and viewing angles. I didn't get rid of my old monitor, however. I kept it, and am currently rocking a dual-monitor setup. In order to keep my relatively small desk as free as possible, I use a desk-mounted monitor arm to hold both monitors in place: the: Newstar FPMA-D550D BLACK. This monitor arm also allows me to flip my main screen the other way, which is nice because my desk is placed against the foot of my bed, so I can flip the screen and watch movies or game from in bed. This whole setup cost me about 435 euros (45 for the monitor arm and 390 for the screen).
As mentioned above already, my desk is rather small. But so is the rest of my room. And taking into consideration airflow, dust, aesthetics, and cable length, you'll come to the conclusion that there's no real other place to place my pc than on my desk. However, this means that a part of the PC is now where I'd like my mouse to be. I solved this by placing the pc on a custom made stand, which I designed, modelled, assembled, and painted myself. It is designed with a couple of factors in mind. It has a overhang on one of the corners, so it isn’t in the way of the mouse. It has a small cabinet where I can keep stuff, special holes and edges that help with cable management, holes to accommodate the airflow of the PSU (typically a hard, flat surface is already sufficient though), and it also houses a USB 3.0 Hub from TFU-Media BV. Since the case only has a single USB 3.0 port and one USB-C port on the front, connecting this hub to the back of the case gives me more ports to work with, whilst keeping a clean, slick design.
Lastly, a high-end gaming pc is deserving of an equally high-end, ergonomic mouse and keyboard. Luckily, I already have such a mouse: the Mad Catz R.A.T. 3, which I used for my laptop at the time. I replaced that one with a cheap one from the Action, so that I could use it for my desktop. I did need to buy a new keyboard though. My main requirements were that it should have a QUERTY layout, Cherry MX Brown mechanical key switches, Controllable backlight, and a volume wheel. Other than that durability was a concern here, since chances are that I will spill some stuff on it. I choose for the Corsair Gaming K95 RGB Platinum. This keyboard is well-reviewed and met all my requirements and more. It was a bit costly at about 150 euros, however.