My PC Building Adventure, Part One: Picking The Components

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

I'm terrified

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:

THE COMPONENTS

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.

CPU

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.

Price: Free

CPU Cooler

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)

Motherboard

Alex gave me one of these, too! It's an Asus PRIME Z270. The CPU is already installed. I hope it works.

Price: Free

Memory

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)

Storage

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)

Video card

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.

Price: Free

Case

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)

Power Supply

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)

Operating system

Why is Windows 10 so expensive? Jesus.

Price: $US119.75 ($153)

Monitor

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)

Mouse

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)

Keyboard

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)

Bonus

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.


Comments

    Worries about complicated set up. Gets gifted a motherboard with a CPU already attached.
    Decides to go with 'midrange' option. Gets gifted a 1080.
    So relatable...

    Also yeah, if you don't end up getting at least a 1440p monitor you're kind of wasting that GPU.

      not always, might want better refresh over pixel real estate. (those 2x together are not cheap)
      I opted to keep my 'stone age' 1080 monitor and got a Vive instead, no regrets

    You don't have the ST3000DM001 3TB Seagate HD do you? They have a pretty high failure rate... If you do, don't keep anything valuable on there.

    wtf?

    you are being gifted cpu, mobo, and gtx1080 and you get a refurbished hdd?

    then you want to play your games via steam link, that tops out at 1080p 60fps

    dont want to spend alot on perpherials, then buys a gaming mouse with RGB light are you rip on cases that have rgb lighting, then your going to use a controller on the tv anyways???

    are you sure you wanted a pc? and not an xbox one x or ps4 pro?

    unless you've done this before, it's impossible to know what type of power supply or cooling unit you should buy. 

    For the power supply, a lot of gpu manufacturers have recommendations. Or you could just see how much power it and the other components will consume, but you know math and all.

    Nawww... Butt-hurt PC master race flames incoming.

    Did i read it correctly?

    GTX 1080 with a 144hz freesync monitor?

      Yeah, although the monitor wasn't really expensive so not a big loss. 144Hz with vsync is fine anyway.

    "as my crafting ability is typically limited to LEGO sets"

    Honestly i've had lego sets that were harder to build (and i dont just mean time wise) than a PC.

    I actually tell people who ask about building PCs that its a lot like expensive lego, there's not much you can do wrong unless you drop a part from a high height (i actually build on tiled floor as i find it easier and less drop distance)

    if you're gonna plug it into a TV I have two suggestions;

    1. network card (didn't see it mentioned - you'll need it for wifi)
    2. wireless keyboard - can't navigate a pc with a controller

    Don't pair all that expensive hardware with that shoddy power supply. Or buy a Freesync monitor to go with an Nvidia graphics card.

    The most complicated parts of setting up a new PC are the motherboard and the processor. And you got them for free with a gtx 1080 to top it off. Come on - you can do this setup blindfolded and upside down with one arm tied. You can surely add another monitor in this setup - that gfx card screams to perform

    Great decision Kirk! Those are an awesome collection of parts you got there. Have fun and welcome to a whole new world of gaming.

    My only big flag would be that screen...

    I know you say whatever now... But is there any possibility to change it for a Gsync model?

    Gsync = nvidia GPUs
    Freesync = AMD GPUs

    The gtx 1080 is no slouch, but as you turn the details up, your frame rate will fluctuate up and down more, which is where Gsync is worth every cent for a smooth gaming experience.

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