PC Build Update

In case you missed it, here are the links to a few of my previous articles on this topic:

Last year, I wrote about my experience with building a PC and the various triumphs I had along the way. It’s been quite some time now since those articles came out and quite a bit has changed. Let’s jump right in.

Where to start? Well, I guess you could say my first big upgrade was my graphics card. Previously, I had been using a GT 740, which, at the time of my first build, fit my budget. But when I started playing Overwatch, it wasn’t the best. This purchase was quite an adventure. At the time (and even right now), graphics cards are really a pain to get for a fair price. This is mostly due to the rise in cryptocurrency mining, specifically Etherium. Unlike Bitcoin, this currency could be profitably mined using consumer-grade cards. As you might have guessed, this caused the cards to come flying off the shelves. People were building mining rigs using several cards, such as this one here.

So what did this mean for us PC gamers? Well, since the producers of cards in the mid-to-high range of graphics cards were unable to keep up with this insanely high demand, people started reselling cards for ridiculously inflated prices. Even the companies themselves were forced to sell their cards at a price quite a bit higher than MSRP. The problem here was twofold: 1) nobody wants to spend double the price of a card, and 2) some of these used cards that were being resold were used in mining rigs in the past, meaning that they were pretty much running at 100% load 24/7, which is really hard on cards. This means that if you’re buying a used card from a miner, you can’t be sure how much longer it’s going to last.

You might be wondering how I got around this whole mess. Once I had decided on getting a GTX 1060 3GB, it was just a waiting game. I checked Amazon quite often, and used a site called camelcamelcamel, which notifies you when prices drop to a more reasonable level. I can proudly say that I was able to snipe a GTX 1060 3GB off of Amazon for $209 + some tax.

The graphics card is one of the easier parts of a system to upgrade. Just make sure you install new drivers for whatever card you get in order to use its full power.

I’ve been very pleased by the performance of this card. I’m not playing huge triple-A games like Witcher 3 or Horizon Zero Dawn right now; I’m pretty much just playing Overwatch and Minecraft, with the occasional random Steam game, such as Rocket League. This card absolutely destroys Minecraft as you would expect. I’m able to run shaders with 60-80 FPS. In Overwatch, a game where high FPS is a little more important, I turned the settings down to low so that I could get around 100 or so FPS.

Hold on a second, is this card only able to get 100 FPS on low? No, it can do much better, and that’s where my second big upgrade comes in. The old FX 4300 was a nice budget CPU (about $100 when I got it, I think) that paired nicely with a GT 740. But when I upgraded my GPU, this CPU was a HUGE bottleneck. How big? Well, take this picture here.

As you can see, the 1060 isn’t performing to its full potential because the FX 4300 is severely holding it back.

A lot of us PC gamers are enjoy constantly tinkering and upgrading our systems, which is just what I did. Why even bother having a card as powerful as the 1060 if I’m not even really using it all? Go big or go home, right?1

Literally yesterday (as of the day I’m writing this), I did a huge overhaul to my PC. I purchased a Ryzen 5 1600 along with an ASRock AB350 Pro4 motherboard and 8GB of 3000MHZ ddr4 RAM.

So why these specific parts?

To start with the CPU, I chose AMD over Intel for several reasons. Firstly, it seems as though the AM4 socket type, which the Ryzen CPUs currently use, will be supported longer than the current Intel socket type (LGA 1151). Second, although Intel CPUs are technically slightly better at gaming because of their better single-core performance, the Ryzen series really shines in its multi-core capabilities. Streaming and editing are a breeze with this CPU, which means that this PC will be nice and quick in areas other than pure gaming.

Motherboard? Honestly, it was mainly because at the time, there was a great sale going on. With a mail-in rebate, I got this normally $90 board for $55. It was also ATX size, which I preferred since I have an ATX case.

Finally, the RAM. If you search online about Ryzen CPUs and RAM, you’ll quickly find out that these guys love faster RAM. Unfortunately, at the time this article was written, RAM prices have been kinda ridiculous. Luckily, the kit I got was a nice speed (3000MHZ) and was on sale, making it about $10 cheaper. Every little bit helps! There were a few kinks to work out with this kit of RAM however. Since my motherboard doesn’t support specifically 3000MHZ ram, I had to go into BIOS to make it run faster than what it defaulted to (2133MHZ, I think). Now, you may be thinking this is just a small change that’s not too important, but it actually made a huge improvement in game performance. I don’t have exact numbers, but I’m pretty sure this small change boosted my FPS in Overwatch by 10-15. Crazy!

After just a few days, I’m loving this upgrade. It was 100% worth taking the big platform leap, and I’m sure it will last me for quite some time. For some quick benchmarks:

  • Overwatch now runs on Epic over 100 FPS
  • With shaders and high settings, Minecraft can hit a solid 80 FPS (the game isn’t optimized the best)
  • While streaming Overwatch, the CPU isn’t even hitting 100% usage doing 720p 60 FPS and a bitrate of 4000

That’s the bulk of my main PC upgrades within the past few months. However, there’s a few more things that I changed.

For Christmas, I got a 144Hz monitor. This thing is ABSOLUTELY AMAZING! You really just have to experience it to see how good it is. I’ve gotten used to it now, but I remember feeling just how smooth it felt even when moving the mouse on the desktop. I’m really hoping that in the future, this technology makes its way to the mainstream market and becomes a standard. With this new monitor, I now have a triple monitor setup which is super great for productivity or gaming (Pandora on one screen, game/work on middle screen, and Discord or reading open on the third).

I also replaced my old wireless blue mouse with a wired mouse that can change colors. It’s a very similar shape (advantage of buying cheap Chinese mice: there are so many copies!), but a lot more reliable thanks to the actual USB wired connection.

Whew, the more I think about it, the more I remember things that I added. I actually hooked up my desk’s RGB lights to a sound sensor, so now they can change color to the music I listen to. It’s a flashy (pun intended) feature without much use, and there’s not a ton of ways to customize how the lights react to sound, but it’s still a cool upgrade.

Okay, I think that’s it for now. Thanks for reading! Let me know if you have any questions about my build in the comment section.

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