Want to build your own PC? We got in touch with Carmen Mondoñedo, a casual PC enthusiast, who shared a few tips that she learned when she was building her own PC. Aside from explaining everything in the simplest terms to make it easy for beginners and including features to look out for, she also wants to remind everyone that specific models of components may depend on one another, so always make sure to check for compatibility first and foremost.
The Different Parts of a PC
Central Processing Unit (CPU)
This is essentially the brain of the PC. Some CPUs offer discreet or integrated graphics, which a good option money-wise for those who just need a PC for work and very light gaming. You could save a lot by foregoing a dedicated graphics card, but this wouldn’t be practical if you intend on running heavier programs like video editing software and big games.
CPUs can also be “overclocked”, which basically redirects more power to the CPU in order to make it work harder and at faster speeds. Overclocking could definitely add a performance boost, but will also heat up your CPU a lot faster. It’s usually only used by long-time enthusiasts and those that want to get the maximum performance out of their stuff. As a beginner, you don’t really need to worry about this since the base performance of the CPU is more than enough.
Intel vs AMD – Intel was the dominating brand for a while, but AMD is proving to be a better option nowadays as they come out with newer chips. I personally prefer AMD units since I feel like they give more value for your money as they are generally a bit cheaper than Intel chips.
Cores and Threads – Simply put, more CPU cores mean more programs you can run at once, and threads make it possible for multiple processes in a program to run at the same time. Each core typically has two threads, and the standard nowadays is a CPU with 4 to 6 cores.
This is one of the components you should definitely invest in and allocate your budget for. Some good options are the Intel i5 10th Gen and AMD Ryzen 5 3600 models. Both are 6-core processors, but the AMD chips are usually cheaper.
Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) – This is responsible for what you see on your monitor. If you’re looking to get a new and beefy graphics card, you should go with an AMD Radeon 6000 series card. They’re more affordable and offer better performance than Nvidia RTX 3000 series cards. If you’re looking to get a casual and comfortable experience with more than enough power, a good middle ground would be an RTX 2060 or a Radeon RX 5600XT. For even cheaper alternatives, there’s the GTX 1650/1660 or the Radeon RX 5500/5600/5700.
IMPORTANT NOTE: As of June 2021, there is an ongoing GPU shortage as many people are building PCs and buying cards for bitcoin mining. What GPU you end up getting largely depends on what’s available. Even then, it will most probably be a lot more expensive usually. Keep this in mind when planning your PC build. You may opt to buy secondhand cards, pre-built systems, or CPUs with integrated graphics. I do not recommend the latter two choices unless you have absolutely had no choice, though.
This is where all your components connect and communicate with each other. Different models will have different features sets and prices, but a common feature you should look out for is WiFi. If you don’t have a LAN or wired connection to your router, then you should look for a board that already has built-in WiFi to connect to the internet. Some reputable brands include MSI, Gigabyte, and Asus.
Budget Boards – Good entry-level options for basic work and light gaming are the B360 (Intel) and A320 (AMD) chipset models.
Mid-Range Boards – Good flexibility and feature sets with upgrade paths in the future are offered by the H370 (Intel) and B450/B550 (AMD) chipset models. These boards offer a good middle ground between budget and performance. If you can, I recommend saving up a bit more to get any of these models for your system.
High-End Boards – For the newest and top-of-the-line boards with the most features, there are the Z370/Z390 (Intel) and X399/X570 (AMD) chipset models. These offer the most up-to-date features that can really improve your overall performance and experience with the system.
Random Access Memory (RAM) – This is basically a short-term storage module that allows your system to quickly access data and information for applications. The standard nowadays is 16GB of RAM. With that, you’ll be able to do pretty much anything comfortably, whether it’s gaming, streaming, or video editing. Some good RAM brands include Corsair, G.Skill, and Kingston. Some models also offer RGB lighting in case you want to add some spice to your system.
The number of RAM sticks you get depends on whether or not your motherboard supports Dual Channel Memory. This basically means that your system uses two separate RAM sticks to divide the workload to do things faster and more efficiently. If your board has this feature, you should get a RAM kit with two sticks (two 8GB sticks). Otherwise, you’re fine with getting a single 16GB stick. RAM kits are usually sold in pairs, so you don’t have to worry about picking two of the same model.
This is the actual storage module where your applications and programs are installed. There are three different form factors, each of which can affect how fast your system runs.
HDD – The Hard Disk Drive (HDD) is a 3.5-inch storage module that makes use of a spinning disk drive. This kind of module is the slowest of the three since the speed of data transfer is limited to the speed of the spinning disk. However, this is still a good option if you’re looking for big storage. Brands like Seagate and Western Digital offer modules with 14TB to more than 20TB of storage. This kind of module is also the cheapest of the three, but prices will expectedly increase if you opt to get the modules with more space.
SSD + M.2 SSD – The Solid State Drive (SSD) is a 2.5-inch storage module that makes use of chips and integrated circuits to provide faster data transfer. The M.2 form factor is a more advanced variation of SSD that provides even faster data transfer in the form of a small circuit board that plugs and connects directly onto the motherboard.
I recommend getting a 128GB M.2 SSD for your Windows OS since this will make boot-up times very quickly, and a large HDD for cheap and big storage. Your system will also start to slow down when your storage modules are close to full, so make sure to regularly declutter your files and programs or invest in more storage space.
This is the powerhouse of the PC, where all the needed power is supplied to the system. It’s important to get a unit from a reputable brand since a cheap, relatively unknown brand could damage the rest of your system. Some reputable brands include Corsair, EVGA, and SeaSonic. A 600 to 650-watt unit can give you enough power while still providing room for expansions or upgrades. However, the wattage you should get largely depends on your existing components. If you’re unsure how much to get, feel free to ask a friend or a store employee. Remember: it’s always better to have more than not enough!
Try to get a unit that has an 80+ Gold rating, too. This basically means that the unit is more power-efficient and will have a longer lifespan. A fully modular unit is also a good feature to look out for. This kind of unit will have detachable cables, so you’re free to just plug in the ones you need. This can help remove clutter and promote good airflow since there won’t be any unused cables lying around. A semi-modular unit would be a good option if you can’t afford a fully modular one yet. The only difference is that the big 24-pin power connector isn’t detachable while the rest of the cables are. This feature isn’t as important and comes down to personal preference, but I do recommend getting a modular one (fully- or semi-modular).
As the name suggests, this will keep your CPU cool. This is important because a hot CPU could break down. To prevent this, CPU coolers are used to bring the temperature down and keep it at an optimal range. The lower you keep your temperature, the better so your CPU can keep working without overheating. There are two types of coolers: air coolers and liquid coolers.
Air Coolers – If you want a reliable cooler that requires minimal maintenance, then check out the air coolers from Deepcool, be quiet!, and Noctua. Deepcool is a good budget option for those who want better temperatures but don’t necessarily have the budget for high-end coolers. On the other end of the spectrum, Noctua is known for its great performance and easy installation. Of course, you can expect a big price tag on these, but they’re definitely worth the investment if you can afford them. Lastly, be quiet! is a good middle ground between price and performance.
Liquid Coolers – Also referred to as AIOs, liquid coolers offer better temperatures than the average air cooler. However, the trade-off is more in-depth installation and a bigger price tag. Some good brands include Corsair, Cooler Master, and NZXT. Cooler Master is a good budget-friendly brand that you can opt for without breaking the bank. However, if you can afford to get one that provides solid performance, then Corsair and NZXT might be better. It would be important to note, however, that Corsair liquid coolers are usually a lot harder to install since they include more cables and modules.
This is where you house all your components. From toaster-sized cases to the typical full-sized towers, there is a range of different cases to suit your personal preferences and the sizes of your other parts.
Cosmetics vs Performance – Cosmetic cases have solid, glass front panels so you can showcase your components and fancy RGB. These cases are also good at keeping dust out since air will have trouble getting in. However, this also ties in with its cons: poor airflow.
Performance cases, on the other hand, have mesh-like front panels that allow for maximum air intake. This kind of case is better at keeping things cool by replacing the warm air compared to cases with solid front panels. Since it’s easier for air to get in, though, expect more dust to accumulate in your system. Personally, I don’t think this a huge deal-breaker. I don’t mind having to dust off my system more frequently if it means I’m getting good airflow and keeping my temperatures down.
Of course, this also comes down to personal preference. However, I do strongly suggest getting cases that are built for performance and good airflow. While some cases offer the best of both worlds, they usually cost more than the average case. Some brands that have good airflow cases include Phanteks, Lian Li, and Corsair.
And that’s it for the main components and for this guide. Start your journey into the PC world with the help of SM Cyberzone, where you can get everything you need for your PC-building needs. Also, don’t miss our PC exhibit in SM North Edsa!
Written by: Angeline Rodriguez
Angeline Rodriguez is the Managing Editor of WhenInManila.com and an Editor at Newsweek Amplify. She is a gamer and a geek with a mad love for anime and KDramas.