Big TVs and console gaming go hand-in-hand, but have you ever wondered what kind of hardcore setup you could do for PC gaming that would rival all those home theaters with Xboxes and PlayStations hooked up to them? You might need a few extra cables, but otherwise, we’ve got you covered. Before we start, though, let’s get into some real talk.
What games are you playing?
If you’re just looking to play some retro games on emulator or play browser games (except “Happy Wheels,” that game is just unnecessarily intense), you won’t need a hardcore setup to handle your gaming habits. But if you want to run “Fallout 4” on Ultra with mods? Go big or go home.
What else do you need it to do?
If you’re streaming, recording or otherwise augmenting your gaming experience with another, sometimes simultaneous, task, you’ll need more power than an i3 can offer. You’ll need a decent amount of memory as well if you’re running multiple programs at once. A good video card is also essential for this, as it’ll pick up the slack from the processor and your regular memory and provide a great graphical experience. If you’re just happy to have one window open at a time, regularly close all unused processes and don’t like widget or feed clutter on your desktop, a low-powered CPU will suit you just fine.
What kind of experience do you want?
Do you care how fast your game runs? How often it chugs? How long loading screens are? If you do, you’re going to need a mid-to-high price range setup. Do you want the water of Lake Calenhad to sparkle or the individual hairs on Geralt’s head to rustle in the wind? Be ready to shell out a good chunk of change.
The PC Setups
We spoke to some awesome experts on what they’d put together on a budget, and we got some excellent responses. Keep in mind, to get these rigs, you’ll have to be comfortable building your own PC, which is not as daunting as you might expect. I went from having no experience with the innards of a computer to building two separate rigs on my own out of necessity (when there are no experts around to help you, you figure shit out real quick). If you don’t have anyone around to help you, there are plenty of online tips and tutorials to give you the confidence you need to put all the parts together.
From Brent Hale of Elite Gaming Computers:
Right now, the following part list will come in at right about $400…and will allow you to max out most games on a 1920 x 1080 monitor. However, you can save a decent amount of money if you shop around and don’t mind waiting for all of your parts to arrive on separate days. This is especially big for anyone who is working with a tight budget, as it allows them to get more bang for their buck.
- CPU: AMD FX-6300 ($99.99)
- MOBO: Gigabyte GA-78LMT-USB3 ($49.99)
- GPU: Gigabyte GTX 950 ($149.99)
- RAM: Crucial Ballistix Sport 4GB ($19.99)
- HDD: Seagate 250 GB ($42.65)
- CASE: Rosewill Dual Fans ($34.99)
- PSU: Antec VP-450W ($41.87)
While the RAM and HDD are a little low in terms of capacity, the way I look at it is these are things that can easily be upgraded in the future. You can simply add more RAM or a bigger hard drive/SSD when you get some extra money. However, if you put money into more RAM now, or a bigger hard drive now, that’s money you can’t spend on your video card, which ultimately will have the biggest impact on your in-game experience.
While Brent gave us an awesome, low budget setup, if you’re really looking to splurge, we’ve got you covered. This next setup will cover the aspiring YouTuber or seriously hardcore gamer who needs the big guns.
To give you an idea of what kind of rig I run at home for my gaming, video editing, recording and streaming needs, I put together a slightly stronger beast than my personal budget allowed. This is my wishlist computer, and if you’ve got the money, I say, go for it.
- CPU: Intel i7-6700k ($379.99)
- MOBO: Asus Z170-Deluxe ATX LGA1151 ($299.99)
- GPU: MSI GeForce GTX 980 Ti ($649.99)
- RAM: Corsair Vengeance LPX 32GB ($164.99)
- HDD: Seagate Constellation 1TB ($79.99)
- SSD: Samsung 950 Pro 256GB ($181.99)
- CASE: Corsair 750D Airflow Edition ATX Full Tower ($149.99)
- PSU: EVGA SuperNOVA P2 650W ($102.38)
This baby’ll run you a little over $2,000 with sales and rebates, so shop while the discounts are hot. You can also downgrade the GPU to the GTX 960, which’ll save you about $400, if you’re not in need of that much graphical power. My personal setup cost about $1,500, so this isn’t much different except for that beast of a GPU.
Pro-tip: run your operating system and your most high-powered games off the solid-state drive; they’ll start up almost instantly, and your load screens will be virtually nonexistent. Neither of these setups included any kind of peripherals, so if you’re planning to turn your gaming PC into your home’s media center as well, keep this info in mind when you’re budgeting.
Adding that home theater touch
Now that we’ve got the actual computer unit out of the way, let’s talk home theater. Using a TV as a monitor is the first thing that comes to mind when you combine the idea of PC gaming with home theater, and you’re not wrong. A great TV for gaming can really enhance your immersion, especially when you’re playing in the dark wearing a headset. You’ll also want to augment your experience with a surround sound system, or at the very least, a quality soundbar. Here’s a quick rundown of what you’ll need to get the most out of your PC as a home entertainment system:
How Do You Want to Experience Your Visuals?
First, you need something to look at, be it a monitor, TV or projector screen. My personal recommendation is a projector, mostly for the cool factor, but also for the adjustability and high quality images they reliably produce. No dead pixels, no distortion, no burn-in and some of them come with built-in speakers (which isn’t ideal for a super duper home theater setup, but it is convenient). ViewSonic gave us some recommendations from their newest line of projectors to help you build a spectacular entertainment experience.
On the lower price end, there’s the PJD7828HDL (a mouthful, I know), and the Pro9000 on the high end. The biggest difference between them is that the Pro9000 is lamp-free, producing images as a laser LED hybrid, which is some seriously cutting edge technology that’ll give you some of the smoothest, crispest images you’ll ever seen on an artificial screen. Projectors are, however, the most expensive option for viewing video and images, so you may want to save your dollars for a nice TV instead.
How High Quality Do You Want the Sound to Be?
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, you’ll need great sound. To truly be immersed in a game, it’s essential to have high quality audio to really bring the world to life (and hear that monster’s whisper cue before it bursts out of the shadows). Headphones are great for a desktop setup, but when you’re on the couch, you don’t really wanna have to worry about another cord or a wireless signal’s touchy feelings. Below I’ve got a couple recommendations for hardware pairings based on price range:
This setup will run you either around $800 or a little less than $600, depending on which screen you go with, and that mostly depends on your personal preferences.
- PJD7828HDL Projector ($599.99)
- Epson Duet 80-inch Screen ($115.50) OR 40-inch Samsung 1080p LED ($277.99)
- Samsung HW0J55 Soundbar ($147.99)
High end budget
Not for the financially faint-of-heart, this setup will cost you $2,300 or around $1,800, again, depending on your personal preference of projector vs. television.
- Pro9000 Projector ($1799.99)
- Elite Screens Tripod and 99-inch Screen ($128.79) OR Sony 65-inch 4K UHD Smart LED ($1498)
- Samsung HT-J5500W Surround Sound System ($347.99)
These suggestions and recommendations are by no means the end-all-be-all of home theater/gaming combinations, but they’re a great place to start if you’re looking to build yourself a sweet setup from the ground up.