I am building a computer. I never thought I'd write those words, as my crafting ability is typically limited to LEGO sets and coffee tables, but peer pressure from Kirk Hamilton and the Kotaku commentariat has convinced me to take on this lofty, ambitious quest.
I will, of course, be documenting the process on Kotaku. This is part one of what will hopefully be a three-part series, unless something goes horribly wrong. Because that's been my fear this whole time — that something will go horribly wrong. Building a computer means playing around with expensive, fiddly components, and the sheer number of variables means that I'll have to spend a lot more time troubleshooting than I would if I'd just bought a PC. I spent a long time weighing over whether I actually wanted to go through with this. After all, I wouldn't mind spending a few extra bucks for the convenience of a machine I could just plug in and play.
But building it will be so much more satisfying than buying it ever could be. I'm stoked to spend an afternoon this weekend assembling parts, and I'm even more stoked to turn it on for the first time, knowing that I made it myself. Then, I will call it Intense Hardcore Gamer FTW ExTrAvAgAnZa 2000.
During this process, I reached out to my buddy Dan Ryckert, best known for doing dumb things on the internet over at the video game website and wrestling fan club GiantBomb. Here's the conversation we had on Gchat:
Jason: Have you ever built a PC?
Dan: Just one, and it was with the supervision and instruction of someone that super knew their shit. I very much do not know my shit about that.
Jason: oh man
I'm about to do it
Dan: Seems like you should be!
A lot can go wrong.
Thank you, Dan.
Ultimately, it was Kotaku jazz expert Kirk Hamilton who convinced me that this would be worth it, although I did have a lot of questions for him first:
Before you build a PC for the first time, it's important to stay informed pic.twitter.com/TQJFfECkDb
— Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) December 26, 2017
The first thing you must do before building a personal computer is identify your parts and purchase them, which can be an overwhelming process. Sites like PCPartsPicker contain intimidating lists full of names like "MSI B250 PC MATE" and unless you've done this before, it's impossible to know what type of power supply or cooling unit you should buy. Fortunately, the internet has plenty of guides that will tell you exactly what to do.
I went with PC Gamer's "midrange" guide as a starting point, although I had to make some modifications.
The CPU, or Central Processing Unit, or processor, is sort of like the brain of your computer, if brains could be fried by trace amounts of static electricity. PC Gamer recommended the Intel Core i5-8400, which I ordered on Amazon, only to be told by the third-party seller that it was out of stock and I should probably cancel my order. I have never before been told by an Amazon seller that I should cancel my order, so this was a fun complication.
Fortunately, Gizmodo's Alex Cranz told me she had an extra processor and motherboard she was trying to get rid of. The nice thing about building a PC, I've learned, is that you can take parts from your friends. Now I have an Intel Core i7-7700K.
Turns out CPUs get really, really hot, which means they need their own air conditioning units. To go with that i7, I bought a Corsair H100i v2 liquid cooler, which looks ridiculous.
Price: $US92.53 ($118)
Alex gave me one of these, too! It's an Asus PRIME Z270. The CPU is already installed. I hope it works.
I remember the first time I upgraded a computer's memory. Back in like 2005 or 2006, when I was playing a lot of World of Warcraft, I bought a new stick and doubled my RAM from 1 GB to 2 GB. Suddenly my computer was blazing fast. I can only assume that with this G.Skill - Ripjaws V Series 16GB (2 x 8GB), my computer will become Usain Bolt.
Price: $US198.99 ($254)
To store games and files, most PC users go with a combo of a Solid State Drive (SSD) for speed and a regular hard drive for space. Who am I to argue with most PC users? I bought a Samsung 960 EVO 500 GB SSD and a refurbished Seagate 3 terabyte 7200RPM hard drive. Hopefully going refurbished doesn't get me in trouble later.
Price: $US245 ($313) and $US70 ($89)
Kotaku editor Stephen Totilo had some extra budget and wound up buying me a MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Gaming X, because he is a generous and wonderful boss.
I went with PC Gamer's recommendation on this one and got the black Phanteks Eclipse Series P400S, because I want my computer to look like a machine for adults and not a pulsating neon alien artifact.
Price: $US71.22 ($91)
When you build a PC, you have to become the type of person who knows about things like watts and amps. I'm still not that person. But I did buy a Corsair CS Series CS650M 650 Watt Semi Modular Power Supply, whatever that means.
Price: $US97.98 ($125)
Why is Windows 10 so expensive? Jesus.
Price: $US119.75 ($153)
I expect that I'll be doing most of my PC gaming on my television, so I didn't want to drop $US750 ($957) on a fancy monitor that I might not use. Instead I went with an ASUS 61cm 144Hz Full HD FreeSync Gaming 3D Monitor. Yes, it's 1080p. Whatever, man.
Price: $US265.00 ($338)
Kirk recommended the insane-looking Logitech G502 Proteus Spectrum RGB Tunable Gaming Mouse, and I can't say no to Kirk.
Price: $US54.43 ($69)
Since I expect to play mostly on my TV with a controller, there was no need to get fancy here. I went with Amazon's well-reviewed AmazonBasics Wired Keyboard.
Price: $US14.14 ($18)
To play on my TV, I got myself a Steam Link, which lets you stream PC games from one place to another. I hope it's as magical as it seems.
Price: $US30.95 ($39)
Final specs: https://pcpartpicker.com/list/J9LLWX
Final price: $US1259.99 ($1,607), and that's with a free CPU, graphics card, and motherboard. This is an expensive hobby, huh?
This weekend, I will build this thing. Stay tuned.