Building computers are fun. We love helping people build custom systems and especially at a price that they can afford. In fact, we also like to teach people to build their own systems. This is a very simple guide in breaking down that learning curve and barrier to better understanding the difference between gaming and working computers.
When it comes to computers built for gaming, there is one very important factor to consider. The GPU. Linear computational power. What does this mean?
In the past, a CPU would have been considered the more important item between whether to consider spending more money on CPU or GPU.
All consumer computers calculate tasks through multi-threading. This is achieved even more greatly with multi-core CPU and GPU.
First off, the CPU. Go with Intel – even their cheap lines.
The age old question of Intel vs AMD – value vs performance, multi vs linear.
Although Intel is recommended, it comes without argument or debate that AMD provides the better value for the majority of consumers on the market due to its performance benchmark and versatility when we factor in cost. Intel is fast, super fast especially in linear computing tasks but also very pricey. Essentially, Intel CPU are specialists. Give them a specific task and they will perform it without equals. Video gaming is a special hobby indeed.
A gaming rig and video games in general, are pre-programmed tasks, that run on pre-generated procedural codes, once executed by the user, only requires a linear approach. Choose A, and you get either B, C, D, or E as consequences that are already programmed into the software. There are no or very little probability or ‘If’s to calculate – other than the actual game experience itself between user interactions but those are not truly controlled by the codes. The game mechanic itself is mostly fixed henceforth a straight forward calculation through superior linear task oriented CPU are the best for gaming rigs.
Even when we talk about video game engines, physics generated inside video game engines are more dependant on GPU power today than CPU. This is due to live graphics rendering rather than numerical calculations that give a result at the delayed end rather than immediately (Hence the frame rate issue that also comes into play).
So for those gamers of today, a powerful graphics card is much more critical than a powerful CPU. In fact, combining multiple GPU of the same model is recommended if you want the best performance setting in heavy graphics oriented games.
What about RAM, power supply, motherboard and hard drive?
No game on the market today will require a SSD hard drive for it to reach max performance. So a regular hard drive will suffice.
A motherboard with a fast bus channel is important. Imagine it, literally speaking, as the bus that transfers data across the motherboard from various components – Hard Drive, CPU, RAM. So a fast bus speed on the mother board is just as important, if not probably second only to a powerful GPU.
Memory (RAM) is broken down into 2 parts. Size and speed. RAM means random access memory and it is the data just processed by the CPU that is temporarily stored inside the RAM, to be released later to interact with an event.
For video games, a fast RAM is much more important than a large RAM. This is because data needs to be translated, stored and released quickly. So RAM speed is more important here.
Some simply call it the clock speed – hence O.C. – over clocking your RAM, CPU and GPU voltage to increase performance, which we personally only recommend for experienced computer users.
Power Supply Unit (PSU), make sure you get a power supply that will feed enough power to your hard ware. You do not want to starve the computer from power during a fire fight when the FPS (Frame Rate Per Second) suddenly ramps up and you receive a blue screen due to insufficient power. Performance PSU vs Value PSU is really just a marketing gimmick. Regulating noise can be done with a simple surge protector outlet. A strong, value PSU is enough for gaming rig. Most important is the Watts limit. If your computer requires 1000 Watts, make sure you get a PSU that can go at least 50% above that limit – 1500 Watts.
Work Station Rig
When people talk about work station rigs, they usually talk about computers built for media or real life events. Animation, Graphic Arts, Multi-tasking Computers for Science.
There is no question that when it comes to work station rigs, multi-tasking is king. This is because many of the realities in work station are full of probability. Physics generation in 3D particle engines, constant recalculations of data in Photoshop when somebody smudges, blurs or does random dashes of colors here and there or entire 1000 year generations of mathematical theories in quantum universal nuclear super nova whatever.
Not trying to endorse AMD CPU, but truly, in some instances, AMD’s multi-tasking capabilities meet or exceed Intel especially in this area – pound for pound.
In work station rigs, you do not necessarily want the fastest CPU but you definitely want the strongest multi-tasking CPU that fully utilises all of its cores in the best possible way. Not only do you want a strong multi-tasking CPU, you also want a fast read / write hard drive to quickly store all those calculated datas. This is why sometimes, when people can not afford nice big RAM’s (RAM’s are pricey!) we tell them to buy lots of big, used hard drives to act as scratch disks – the poor man’s RAM for work stations. This, however, is only feasible if the program has such an option to utilise hard drive as scratch disks. Most graphics software have that capability.
For CPU, go with AMD line and use the money saved to get a very nice SSD, which we will talk more later about.
For Hard Drives, go with SSD as your PRIMARY system drive. This insures that all data calculations are not bottle necked when it comes to the Hard Drive. In fact, 1 super fast SSD as primary master drive and a couple used ultra fast SCSI drives to act as scratch disks and you will be set.
RAM, you want very large RAMs to store all those calculated temporary datas. Working Rigs, the biggest difference is that they spit out data, lots of data, but at a delayed instance. Even if they delayed instance is only micro-second differences compared to gaming rigs, but when you have thousands or tens of thousands of events happening simultaneously due to multitasking, it adds up quickly to seconds and minutes of delay as a whole.
Brand in RAMs for work station are not too critically important. Size is most important because the way data works is like a domino, delayed events. In a video game, the events must happen instantly or else you get horrible frame rate because data is just not coming to the screen fast enough. Imagine trying to play a first person shooting game where life and death are only a second away. We do not have to deal with that inside Photoshop.
Motherboard is important, but it does not have to be the fastest motherboard around. You want stability over speed. Get the most well built, best quality motherboard.
For GPU, surprisingly, you do not need the best GPU for work stations – even if you are doing graphics. Again, a strong – multitasking GPU is best. combining multiple strong multi-tasking GPU are even better if budget allows.
Power Supply Units (PSU) for work station rig should be, again, in terms of performance vs value – to always go with performance. Stability is most important and during long renders or usages, you do not want a sudden blue screen of death to occur. Video game rigs are just gaming rigs. They can always reinstall their software or reboot. Losing that 6 month animation work file due to file corruption from a sudden dead computer is a big nono for working computers.