How I built my first gaming PC – Reader’s Feature

A reader explains how Overwatch inspired him to get his own gaming PC and how he was able to build it himself on a very reasonable budget.

I’ve been a console gamer from about seven-years-old, well into my adult life. However, over the last few months, I’ve made the transition to PC gaming. What made me make this change? Overwatch and specifically the support hero Ana.

I had Overwatch on Xbox One since launch and became quite good at it and enjoyed the competitive scene a lot. But as much as I liked to play as Ana I never selected her in competitive matches as I knew my aim with her wasn’t good enough to pull off those clutch heals when absolutely needed.

Blizzard did a smart thing offering the Overwatch free play weekends, as I dabbled in a few with my underpowered laptop (an Asus with an i7-5500U processor but no graphics card). My first try was awful as I wasn’t used to mouse and keyboard but while waiting for more free play weekends I practiced with some free-to-play games that my laptop could run: Dirty Bomb (If you like the Battlefield series’ Rush mode, you’ll probably enjoy this) and Ironsight (Call Of Duty style multiplayer).

When the next Overwatch free play weekend arrived, I was amazed at how accurate I was with Ana. I was able to keep my constantly leaping about Genji alive and consistently land shots on enemy Pharahs.

With this, I immediately started to put plans together for my ultimate gaming PC. Not knowing a whole heap about PC builds and components, I did a lot of research and my budget kept rising till it was around £1,700(!). I wanted to build a PC that could run Overwatch at a high frame rate of 144 frames per second (fps) and play any other game well.

However, reality kicked in and with other things in life that had to take priority, I couldn’t spend that sort of money on a PC set-up at this point in time. So, while saving up for my ultimate build I questioned what was the lowest price I could put together a PC that could run Overwatch at 60fps and other games at 1080p with decent settings?

This meant looking at what I already had. Apart from the aforementioned laptop, which wasn’t upgradable, I had a Zoostorm workstation PC which I bought six years ago. It had a Gigabyte H61M-DS2 motherboard, an Intel Celeron G1610 processor (CPU), and originally 4GB of RAM which I had since upgraded to 8GB a while ago.

Since Overwatch is a very well optimised game it, doesn’t take a whole lot to run it so to get a good target of what I wanted to upgrade to I started with the minimum specifications for a more recent and demanding game such as Call Of Duty: Black Ops 4. The minimum specs for this were an Intel Core i3-4340 processor, 8GB RAM and a graphics card equivalent to a GTX 660 or Radeon 7950 (both are 2GB cards and were released in 2012). My RAM was fine but I needed to upgrade my CPU and obviously get a graphics card (GPU).

Looking up my motherboard on Gigabyte’s website I was pleased to see it could take any second or third generation Intel Core processor (which were better than Intel’s Celeron line) and thanks to a voucher, I got a cracking deal on eBay for an i5-3470 for £25. Going from the original Celeron G1610 (two cores, two threads) to the new one (four cores, four threads) was a big improvement.

My first real hurdle came while researching the graphics card, as I discovered they have a recommended minimum power supply wattage rating and I didn’t even know what my power supply unit (PSU) was. Contacting Zoostorm, I was disappointed to find out that it was a lowly 300 watts. To put that in perspective the recommend power supply wattage of the medium-budgeted graphics card, the GTX 1060, is 400W. On top of this the Zoostorm workstation wasn’t built by them with gaming in mind. The power supply didn’t have any six or eight pin connectors to power graphics cards.

I had only budgeted for a CPU and GPU and didn’t want to spend more on a new power supply, especially when the general consensus is that the one component you should never cheap out on is the PSU – as not only are the cheap ones prone to failing but if they do they can easily take the rest of the system with it and in worst case scenarios, take your house too if they catch fire!

I found out however, there are some modern-ish GPUs that don’t require connectors from the PSU and are powered solely by the PCIE slot they fit into. They’re not as powerful as the others but would do for now. These turned out to be the AMD Radeon RX 460, RX 560, and the Nvidia GTX 1050 and 1050Ti. The 1050Ti was the best but the most expensive, with used prices at second-hand stores being around £135 with the other GPUs being about £80. But turning to eBay once again, and after a lot of scouring, I managed to nab a 1050Ti that was still under warranty for £105.

It’s made an incredible difference going from playing Overwatch on that laptop with the lowest settings at 720p resolution and 33% render scale and getting around 30fps, to playing at 1080p, 100% render scale, high, epic, and even ultra settings. As mentioned, with Overwatch being so well optimised I can still get well over 100fps with decent settings on the 1050Ti and with other games like Mass Effect: Andromeda and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus staying above 60fps with decent settings also.

PC gaming is where I’ll stay for now but there are some things I miss and took for granted about console gaming, such as I didn’t realise just how great a system Xbox Live was with everything integrated in one place: all your ‘friends’ no matter what game you play, how easy it is to message people or capture a clip of hilarious gameplay and send it to someone you were just in a match with, and, of course, as long as a game doesn’t need updating it will just work. PC gaming on the other hand can test troubleshooting skills you never knew you had, but that’s a feature for another day.

By reader PsillyPseudonym

The reader’s feature does not necessarily represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.

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