PC GAMING WEEK:We members of the master race like to point out that we've been playing proper next-gen games for years.
In late 2012 I made the decision to abandon consoles and make the jump to the world of PC gaming. The pros and cons are well documented. The pros? You'll enjoy graphics and performance already well in excess of what you're ever likely to see on PS4 or Xbox One. The cons? You've got to build the sodding thing.
I shan't lie – my first PC build was a lengthy, stressful experience that aged me and caused tensions at home due to its impact on my mental well being. Now, three PC builds down the line, I'm at the stage where it's a quick process and I have a vague idea of where I probably mucked up if something goes wrong.
Undoubtedly the biggest plus of PC gaming is the flexibility it offers. You can chose your priorities. Are highly detailed 1080p, 1440p or even 4K visuals your main goal? Or are you fixated on rock-solid 60 frames per second from games that struggle to maintain 30fps on consoles? If you've got the money you can have both.
You can also forget the myths about it all being a pain in the arse. The truth is it's largely effortless nowadays, at least when you've tuned your setup. Yes, there will always be problems and yes, there will be times when a bit of Googling and tinkering will be required. A bit like modern console gaming, really.
And once you're up and running you'll not only find yourself enjoying silky smooth HD?games, you'll also find there are LOTS more of them. The breadth of choice is astonishing – it truly is the home of gaming innovation. And multiformat games are cheaper than on consoles, too.
Titles like Crysis 3 and Metro: Last Light (both came out early 2013) both put next-gen visuals to shame. It's also effortless to hook your PC up to a TV and use an Xbox 360 pad meaning the only downside you're likely to endure is pondering why on earth you didn't do this earlier.
BUILDING A PC – WHERE ON EARTH TO BEGIN?
There are a plethora of online guides out there that suggest building a PC is a swift, painless process akin to making a LEGO car. These are all brutal lies.
The truth is that building a PC for the first time is stressful, laced with peril and overshadowed by the constant threat of failure.
But once your first build is complete it gets easier and every subsequent part swap and re-build increases both your knowledge and confidence. After a while it genuinely does become simplistic. You're looking at 500 for an entry-level next-gen build at around 1,000-1,500 for a monster machine.
But how do you get started? Here's a simple step-by-step:
PART?1:?CHOOSING YOUR COMPONENTS
1. Choose a CPU
AMD's six-core FX 6300 or eight-core FX 8350 are your budget choices and should in theory suit multiplatform games being developed for PS4 and Xbox One. However, most PC gamers will favour Intel's more powerful i7 range. The 450 i7 3930k is the popularist choice, but the 250 i7 3770k is an excellent discount alternative.
2. Pick a motherboard
With your CPU chosen you can now select a motherboard. There are a million things you could take into account but your main decision is whether you want to dabble in overclocking (running your CPU at higher specs than offered out of the box). Considering the ease of it nowadays there's no reason not to. ASRock's Extreme or Formula series are great choices, as is the Asus Sabertooth.
3.Now for the graphics
Now you're onto your graphics card, where a vast array of options await. This really comes down to budget. For a modern build that can compete with next-gen consoles you want to start with either a GeForce GTX 760 or a Radeon R9 270. At the other end of the spectrum the GeForce 780Ti or Radeon R9 290X are the performance kings.
4. Remaining Parts
A case is essential, of course – use uk.pcpartpicker.com to ensure you choose compatible parts. You'll also need some RAM (8GB will do), a HDD (1TB+), a power supply (600w is OK) and possibly a DVD drive. If you're overclocking you'll also need a third party CPU cooler (the Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus is a good choice) and possibly some extra case fans if you're using a high-end GPU.
PART?2:?BUILDING THE THING
We're not going to try and walk you through the process here. Your best bet is to watch a couple of builds on YouTube (there are thousands to choose from) and simply give it a go.
On a basic level your first job is to attach your motherboard to your case and then build up from there – install your CPU and fan, get your PSU secure, plug in your GPU and RAM and slot in your disc drive and hard drive. Wiring the thing up is the biggest challenge. Essentially if the machine doesn't turn on, or turns on but outputs no signal, or turns on and then off again, unplug everything and try again. Good luck!