HOW I WORK

  • WHAT KIND OF GAMES I WANT TO PLAY?
  • HOW MUCH MONEY DO I HAVE TO SPEND?
  • RESEARCH MY GEAR
  • BUY MY GEAR
  • BUILD!
  • PLAY!

If you are new to building your own game PC or you have built your own game PC and are having problems, take a look through my site, you may find your answer. You can also post your question in Tech Talk or open a ticket. You are not alone, do your homework, research or ask - let us help.

Motherboard

The foundation!

At the heart of your PC sits the motherboard. The best gaming motherboards provide much more than just a physical place to plug in all the parts. The chipsets govern the speed of the sockets and slots for each piece of added hardware along with determining crucial features like overclocking ability, port count, SSD support, DDR compatibility, networking capability and high-end graphics card performance. Add in the flashy style differences between models and you have a component that effects every aspect of your gaming PC. So it pays to pick carefully. If you think of your CPU as the brains of your computer, then the motherboard is the heart and central nervous system.

Learn everything you need to know about choosing the best motherboard for gaming. The motherboard can be one of the trickier components to pick when building your own PC. It’s easy to get lost in motherboard research due to the many models out there.

The Z390-based motherboard with Intel’s newest Coffee Lake CPU in the saddle is still the fastest horse in town. If you are looking to create a budget PC build, go with AMD’s Ryzen 2nd Gen processor paired with an X470 motherboard.  Are you going to overclock your CPU or DRAM? Using multiple graphics cards? Need wireless networking? When it comes to choosing the best motherboard for gaming, you definitely want to stick to trusted motherboard manufacturers such as Asus, Gigabyte, MSI or AsRock.

OK so lets start with the tech, Motherboards 101… school is in!

Most of the high end boards these days have solid capacitors that should technically last forever. Solid capacitors have better power efficiency than old style electrolytic capacitors. With an average lifespan of 50,000 hours, these solid capacitors provide the stability, reliability and longevity essential to meet the power needs of high-end processors and other high-end components (graphics cards and ram) running today’s most demanding applications and games. – we will talk more on this later.

Hopefully after reading this you should be able to buy and carry on a conversation with the dealer with confidence and not get sold something you don’t need or want.

We will start with FORM FACTORS

“Form factor” is shorthand for the dimensions and layout of a given motherboard. To be sure that a motherboard will fit into a PC case, you need to know which of the standard motherboard form factors the case supports.

The ones that matter most to you are ATX, MicroATX, and Mini-ITX. ATX is sometimes referred to as “standard ATX,” and ATX motherboards (usually, but not exclusively) measure 9.6×12 inches. They’re what you’ll see in most midtower or larger PC cases—what most of us think of as traditional tower PCs. A few multi-CPU motherboards, intended for servers and workstations, support larger ATX “standards” such as Extended ATX and XL-ATX, but these won’t be of interest to you. The key thing to know apart from the size factor: ATX motherboards will have more expansion slots than MicroATX or Mini-ITX ones.

Smaller towers (“minitowers”), flat-style “desktop” cases, and home theater PC (HTPC) chassis tend to support motherboards of the MicroATX or Mini-ITX kind. MicroATX motherboards measure up to 9.6 inches square (some are smaller) and have fewer slots than an equivalent ATX motherboard, usually enough to install a video card and a supplementary card or two. The 6.7-inch-square Mini-ITX standard, meanwhile, defines boards even more compact, intended for tight builds in small-form-factor (SFF) PCs. With Mini-ITX, you’re usually limited to just one expansion slot. Note that most PC cases that support a particular form factor also support boards of the form factors smaller than it—but always check the specs for confirmation of that before buying a new board or case.

BIOS AND UEFI BIOS

The basic input/output system (BIOS) is the long-standard firmware that manages your PC outside the operating-system environment—that is, before you boot up. Accessed during the startup sequence, the BIOS lives in a dedicated chip on the motherboard (on some motherboards, the chip is actually removable/swappable) and governs crucial system settings such as the boot-device order, as well as parameters for integrated components. Overclockers can also tweak system fundamentals in here, though it’s possible with the right board and software to overclock from within Windows, too.
UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) is a 21st-century refinement of the old-school BIOS, which was long past its expiration date due to a variety of inherent limitations. The product of an Intel initiative to update the legacy BIOS environment, UEFI is now managed by a consortium of hardware and software vendors. The UEFI BIOS outlines something closer to a mini operating system, with more modular programmability and much greater customization possibilities for board makers. Depending on the design, a UEFI BIOS may also be mouse-navigable. For motherboard buyers, the presence of a UEFI BIOS was, for a time, a definite plus to look out for. Now, it’s the standard.

I/O SHIELD

The I/O shield is a rectangular metal plate (the edges can be sharp) that snaps into a gap on the back of your PC case. Just about every motherboard includes one. The shield will have cutouts for the specific ports on the motherboard, and it protects the rest of the board during everyday use when you insert cables into the ports. Most I/O shields are not interchangeable between different models of motherboard. (The only things standard about them are their overall dimensions, roughly 1.75×6.5 inches, which ensure that they’ll fit in a typical PC case.) So you’ll want to be sure, if you’re buying a secondhand motherboard, that the seller includes the I/O shield in the box. They tend to get misplaced during upgrades, and it can be tricky getting a replacement that fits, since they are board-specific.

CHIPSET

“Chipset” is the other large chips or ICs (integrated circuit or monolithic integrated circuit also referred to as a microchip) on a motherboard that provides the pathways between (and the controllers for) the various subsystems within a computer. The chipset, usually from Intel or AMD, and SIS defines the board family, the specific AMD or Intel processor lines that the board supports, and many of the possible features that the motherboard maker could implement. A motherboard maker will typically offer a whole host of boards based on a single chipset. When a new processor line comes out, a new high-end chipset will come out with it, also a cheaper chipsets for the same processor family will come out at the same time or a bit later. These “step-down” chipsets allow for more budget-minded motherboards for different usage cases. Knowing which chipset your board runs on is important. AMD B350-based boards tend to be more budget-minded models than the Intels X370s,. Bottom line is make sure you pick the right chipset to match your CPU, read your CPU specs and see what chipset they recommend!

CPU SOCKET

This is the square receptacle into which the processor chip that you purchase fits. The processor’s specific socket type needs to match the socket type used by the motherboard. Not all processors of a given socket type will work in every board that has that socket. You’ll want to check the motherboard maker’s CPU-compatibility list for details. For some time now, Intel’s processors have used a design in which the interface pins are part of the socket, with dot-like contacts on the bottom of the processor chip. AMD’s consumer chips, meanwhile, with the exception of the Ryzen Threadrippers, still use sockets with holes for pins on the chip. Again be sure the socket matches the CPU!

DIMM SLOTS

“dual in-line memory module.” These are the slots on the motherboard (typically two or four, but sometimes eight) that accept the system’s RAM. Levers on one or both sides lock the memory sticks into place. In the new motherboards, this will be dual data rate 4 (DDR4) memory. (DDR3 slots are still around in some last-generation motherboards, notably for AMD’s pre-Ryzen CPUs.) Where the “DDR” comes in: You’ll generally see a performance benefit if RAM sticks are used in identical pairs and inserted in designated “paired” slots on the motherboard for dual-channel throughput. Quad-channel memory (using four or eight sticks per set) is supported by a few high-end platforms, such as Intel’s X299 for the Core X-Series CPUs. It works under the same general principles as dual-channel. RAM is often sold packaged to facilitate dual- or quad-channel operation (as a set of two or four modules with the same specs), and the motherboard’s paired slots are sometimes color-coded. With paired memory, you’d put the two (dual-channel) or four (quad-channel) modules in slots with matching colors, or arranged according to the motherboard manual’s instructions.
Also remember When shopping for RAM, know that two sticks of DDR memory adding up to a certain capacity can deliver better performance than just one stick of that capacity, all else being equal, thanks to dual-channel throughput. Also four sticks versus two or just one, if the board supports quad-channel.

PCI EXPRESS x16, x8, x4 and x1 SLOTS

“PCIe slots,” (peripheral component interconnect express) these are the expansion slots on the motherboard that accept video cards, TV tuners, and other board-based components. The “x” designation describes two things, the physical size of the slot, and the bandwidth of the slot itself. And these two numbers can be different for a single given slot. In terms of the slot size, the higher the “x” number, the longer the slot, and you’ll ideally want to match a card with the same kind of slot. In practice, you’ll see these days only x16 (long) and x1 (short) physical slots on new motherboards. A card with a lower “x” designation can be used in a higher-numbered slot, but not vice versa. (So, for example, you can install a PCIe x1 card in a PCIe x16 slot, but not the other way around.)

Where things get complicated is with PCI slot bandwidth, though it’s mostly relevant only when installing dedicated graphics cards. Modern video cards all slot into PCI Express x16 slots, and a motherboard may have several of these. It’s possible, however, that not all of the x16 slots on a board (and perhaps, just one of them) supports full PCI Express x16 bandwidth or lanes, despite being capable of fitting an x16-length card. (Simply put, the lanes are electrical pathways that enable throughput; more is better.) If you’re installing just one video card, it’s important to put it in an x16 slot that supports full x16 bandwidth, as opposed one with x8 or x4 lanes only.

Boards that support Nvidia SLI and/or AMD CrossFireX multiple-video-card setups (see below) will also have different possible lane/bandwidth configurations that you should be aware of, if you intend to install multiple video cards. Using one card in one slot might give you x16 bandwidth with that card, but adding a second card might bump both cards down to x8, or one might run at x16 with the other at x8 or x4. Examine the bandwidth specs before buying if multicard gaming is your aim to make sure you’ll get the most performance possible from your card investment.

SLI AND CROSSFIREX

These terms refer to the ability of a motherboard to accept more than one graphics card and have the cards work additively to increase graphics performance. Scalable Link Interface (SLI) is the standard that works with Nvidia GeForce graphics cards, while CrossFireX works with AMD’s Radeon cards. The cards need to employ the same graphics processor. A physical bridging connector between cards, often supplied with SLI- or CrossFire-compatible motherboards, may be required for adequate bandwidth for communication between the cards.

With SLI, a board may support Two-Way, Three-Way, or Four-Way SLI, which indicates the maximum number of cards supported, but with the Nvidia “Pascal” video cards in its GTX 1000 series, Nvidia’s new limit is just two cards officially supported in SLI, and some Pascal cards in the line don’t work in SLI at all. CrossFireX can be two to four cards; check the board specs for how many are supported.

On some AMD-based boards from the generations before the Ryzen CPUs, don’t confuse SLI or CrossFireX with “AMD Dual Graphics,” which is a different feature altogether. With Dual Graphics, you can pair certain AMD Radeon cards with the CPU’s onboard graphics in a CrossFire-like performance-boosting arrangement. It’s a modest boost at best, though. Also, know that a given game needs to have specific support for SLI or CrossFireX to see much of a benefit, and that this support is being de-emphasized by many game developers these days. For most users, a single powerful video card will more than suffice.

USB 2.0, 3.0 AND 3.1 GEN2 HEADERS

The light blue one is USB 3.0 and the darker blue ones are USB 2.0.

USB headers nowadays come in three types: USB 2.0, USB 3.0, and USB 3.1. These connect to matching wires in your PC’s chassis that lead to “front panel” USB connectors situated on the case’s exterior. A USB 2.0 header will have two rows of five pins, with one pin missing out of the 10 as a “key” for proper orientation of the connector. The matching cable connector on your PC’s case will have 10 pinholes (powering two ports) or five (powering one port). USB 3.0 headers, meanwhile, are more straightforward: They are a 20-pin rectangular grid that accepts a cable powering one or two USB 3.0 ports. You’ll want to make sure any board you’re buying has connectors that match what’s on your PC case—and vice versa. Some of the very latest boards may have a third kind of USB header, for USB 3.1 Gen2, which is meant for new, faster USB ports. Only a few PC cases, however, so far have a cable that works with this header. The header on the board looks like a cross between a regular USB Type-A port (it’s rectangular) and an HDMI port (in that it has a protruding set of contacts in the middle).

FRONT-PANEL HEADER

The front-panel header is a grid of pins on the motherboard, often with some color coding or other on-board labeling, that accepts wires from your PC case. To this set of pins, you’ll connect the thin cables for the case’s power and reset switches, as well as the hard drive activity and power-on LEDs and  an onboard speaker. Most of the time, the pins for each connector are in pairs; know that the polarity of the pairs doesn’t matter for the switch cables, but it does for the LEDs. The motherboard manual will contain a schematic that shows where the header is and which pins power what. Asus with its “Q-Connector,” provide a small block that plugs into the front-panel pin header.

AAFP/HD AUDIO (FRONT AUDIO HEADER)

Just about all PC cases have a headphone and microphone jack that terminates, inside the case, in a cable with a 10-pin header connector. This plugs into a pin grid on the motherboard called an “HD Audio” header. HD Audio brings auto-detection functionality to the ports, allowing the system to sense the presence of devices plugged into the ports and behave accordingly. The pin header is sometimes labeled on the motherboard as “AAFP,” for the “analog audio front panel” cable.

SERIAL ATA

Serial ATA, often abbreviated to SATA, is the standard interface for drives inside consumer and business PCs. It’s employed by hard drives, SSDs, and optical drives alike. Drives with a SATA interface will have both a SATA data connector (which connects, in a desktop PC, to one of the SATA ports on the motherboard) and a wider, blade-like “SATA-style” power connector (which connects to a SATA power lead coming from the power supply).
The SATA interface itself has speed grades, notably SATA 2 and SATA 3, variously called “SATA II”/”SATA 3Gbps” or “SATA III”/”SATA 6Gbps,” respectively. These indicate the maximum data transfer rate possible with an attached drive. To gain the maximum throughput benefit, both drive and motherboard must support the same SATA spec, but any new motherboard and drive you’ll be considering these days will support SATA 3 exclusively. SATA 2 will come into play nowadays only in legacy gear. Note that on a given motherboard, some of the SATA ports may be handled by different controller chips, possibly meaning different capabilities. (For example, some of the SATA ports may support RAID, and others not.) The manual should explain any nuances among the ports.

24-PIN ATX POWER CONNECTOR

If you’ve ever built a PC, torn down a PC, or upgraded a motherboard, you’ve tugged at the large power-supply cable plugged into this connector. A bulky receptacle with two rows of 12 pins, this connector is the main power source for your system, the biggest power cable coming off a desktop PC’s power supply. The 24-pin ATX is now a standard connector at the motherboard end. At a transition time in the mid-2000s, many power supplies started showing up with ATX power connectors that were split into 20-pin and four-pin portions that could snap together. (That’s because older boards required just the 20-pin connection; the additional four pins added extra circuits at different voltage levels.) Many modern power supplies still split the 24-pin connector into these two pieces as a backward compatibility to these older board designs.

+12V CPU POWER CONNECTOR

On modern motherboards, the CPU power connector is a dedicated four-pin (two by two) or eight-pin (two by four) power connection, usually positioned near the actual CPU socket. A matching cable from any recent-model PC power supply will fit in here—the cable will often be labeled “CPU power.” The connector provides a power source separate from the main 24-pin connection, and is at times referred to as a “+12V” connection. This and the 24-pin ATX connector aren’t really shopping concerns on the motherboard end if you’re looking at new boards (pretty much any modern motherboard will have these), but they are connections to account for on your PC’s power supply if you’re transplanting or reusing a power supply that’s older.

PWM FAN HEADER

A cluster of four pins to which you connect a chassis fan. Motherboards typically come studded with these, the more the larger the board. The PWM header allows for fine control over fan speeds based on temperature guidelines that are set at a system level. The header sends a 12-volt current through one pin to power the fan, while a control signal on another pin tells the fan the amount of current to draw, regulating the speed (thus PWM, for “pulse width modulation”). You’ll want to be sure that a motherboard you’re choosing has enough of these headers to accommodate the fans in your chassis. Some case fans will have only a three-pin connector; you can plug these into a four-pin header, but you won’t get the speed control.

M.2 SLOTS AND U.2 PORTS

Many motherboards from the last couple of years have adopted a new type of slot, dubbed M.2, used with an emerging form factor of solid-state drives and certain other components. M.2 drives are much smaller than traditional SSDs. They are shaped like gum sticks and come in a variety of lengths, indicated by a numeric code in their names. (M.2 Types 2242, 2260, and 2280 are 42mm, 60mm, and 80mm long, respectively.) Most of the M.2 devices of interest to PC builders and up-graders will be SSDs, but it’s also possible to find wireless (Wi-Fi) cards in the M.2 format. You’ll want to know what lengths of M.2 device a board supports if you’re looking to outfit your PC with such a drive. Most new boards have at least one M.2 slot, with some offering two. Compact or space-constrained boards may have an M.2 slot on the back of the board. Also, some boards provide thermal solutions that screw down or snap over the M.2 drive(s) to keep them running cool.Much less common than M.2 is the U.2 port, which resembles a bulky SATA port and is used by a select few enterprise-grade storage devices, such as the Intel 750 Series SSD. You’ll see it here and there on high-end motherboards. It isn’t a must-have feature, by any means, but it’s good to know why it’s there.

RGB AND RGBW HEADERS

Dedicated on-motherboard RGB headers have emerged in the last couple of years, as RGB mood lighting has invaded the motherboard itself and now extends to light strips that you can snake around your PC case’s interior. These headers use a four- or five-pin connection, much like a case-fan header, to which you can connect discrete LED strips. Ordinary RGB headers have four pins, while their RGBW variant uses five pins. The RGBW headers provide for purer whites in the lighting and work with specific RGBW strips; these headers should also accept the four-pin strips if that is what you have, but check the manual for details. To control the patterns and colors, RGB headers (and any RGB lighting built into the boards themselves) work with software solutions provided by the motherboard maker. Each major maker has its own, including Asus (Aura Sync), Gigabyte (RGB Fusion), and MSI (Mystic Light).

CMOS AND CMOS BATTERY

CMOS stands for “complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor.” It’s a chunk of memory on a system motherboard that holds the BIOS and its settings, as well as maintaining the system clock settings. To retain its settings with the system powered off or unplugged for long periods, an onboard battery keeps the CMOS juiced up. In modern motherboards this battery is almost always a CR2032 coin cell.

LAST BUT NOT LEAST THE DEBUG LED

Common on premium motherboards, the debug LED is an exceptionally handy feature for nonveteran PC builders and pros alike. A (usually two-digit) readout, it shows off error codes if the PC fails to boot. The codes, outlined in the board manual, can help you pinpoint the reason for a failed boot sequence, such as RAM that is installed improperly or a video-card error.

 

So there you have it, the Motherboard! but one more thing I would like to tell you and I had mentioned it earlier was Solid-State capacitors and MOSFETs.

A MOSFET (for “metal oxide semiconductor field effect transistor”) is a type of transistor, that, in the context of computer motherboards, is used for voltage regulation.From a nontechnical buyer’s point of view, MOSFETs are not differentiating features, beyond a motherboard maker’s claims of premium components. The actual components are often hidden beneath a passive heatsink to keep them cool during operation. The most frequently bandied set-apart feature among MOSFETs is a “low-resistance” design, sometimes denoted as RDS(on), which purportedly means less heat is generated.
As for capacitors, you’ll see these electronic components scattered across a typical motherboard performing in a variety of subsystems, but their base function is to act as “holding pens” for electrical charge. Depending on where they are used, they can take on different shapes (though usually, little drums), sizes, and colors. As a buying consideration, they are relevant only insofar as the type of capacitor is sometimes heralded as a premium feature.
Run-of-the-mill capacitors are electrolytic, containing a small volume of material soaked with a liquid. Depending on the quality of manufacture and the expected lifespan, these kinds of capacitors can swell and leak over time, leading to board failure. The PC-enthusiast community generally rallies around Japanese-made electrolytic capacitors as a better bet for longevity, and motherboard makers tend to trumpet “Japanese capacitors” if they are present. (We can’t verify how accurate this longtime claim is, however.) Solid-state capacitors, on the other hand, are immune to leakage and thus preferred.

Well that’s as techie as I will get on that topic, just check your motherboard specs to be sure they are using the best CAPs and MOSFETs.

Here are some ideas, you know I have noticed that most of the picks seem to be leaning more towards the Intel type them the AMD, but don’t let that stop you. If you favor the AMD family then go for it!

Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Ultra The best gaming motherboard in 2019 on a budget.

ASUS ROG Maximus XI Hero Wi-Fi Superior Core i7 overclocking for enthusiasts.

ASUS ROG Strix Z390-I Gaming Best for small form-factor builds.

ASUS TUF H370-Pro Gaming Wi-Fi A budget option with excellent Wi-Fi for the non-overclocking CPUs.

Gigabyte X470 Aorus Gaming 5 Wi-Fi The best gaming motherboard for multi-core Ryzen 7 users.

Gigabyte Aorus AX370 Gaming 5 Great compatibility and performance, at a lower price.

MSI X299 Gaming Pro Carbon AC Built for multi-core Intel CPUs, without sacrificing gaming performance.

ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming ITX Best Mini-ITX Z390 Motherboard.

MSI X470 Gaming Plus Game in style on a budget.

Ryzen Threadripper motherboard: ASRock X399 Professional Gaming s TR4 This is the motherboard AMD dreams are made of.

 

Case

The case, style and cooling!

Video Card

ATI or Nvidia?

This topic can get very interesting. For the most part, we are lucky to say that we only have two types to deal with which is a good thing. It’s hard enough to decide which one to use; can you imagine if there was 3 types or 15 types???

OK, so let’s start. First things first. AMD formerly ATI, but they still kept their name, was bought by AMD back in 2006 for $5.4 billion from a company in Markham, Ont. Canada. AMD is better when it comes to budget and mid-range cards. Nvidia is the only way to go for high-end graphics cards. One is not necessarily better than the other as both have areas where they work well and areas not so much.

Nvidia uses technology that is more advanced overall. Their GPUs tend to perform better at computing tasks. They generate less heat and they consume less power. AMD cards, on the other hand, make up for what they lack in the processing department by increasing the memory bandwidth on their lower-priced models. Still, they use more power and generate lots of heat. But they are getting closer and closer in their tech.

Then there is CUDA and STREAM tech. They are essentially the same thing. Neither is better than the other and no concrete performance estimates can be drawn from comparing the number of CUDA cores with the number of Stream processors in two GPUs. Stream or CUDA. Each CUDA cores or Stream processors contributes to the overall power of the video card, so by adding more the overall power of the GPU increases. Due to how they work on video cards, there is pretty much no downside to having more.

One very important thing to note is that you cannot compare the number of cores across manufactures. For example, an AMD Radeon HD 7970 3GB has 2048 stream processors, while a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670 2GB only has 1344 CUDA cores. But in terms of gaming performance, these two cards are very similar.

So what about memory?

Well here we have amount, type, speed, bus width and bandwidth.

OK then let’s look at amount, how much do you really need? Video Memory is much like your system’s RAM in that it acts as a temporary storage area for data. Typically, the video card manufacture will use the amount of video RAM that is appropriate for the power of the card not your game, but sometimes multiple versions are available. While more RAM is better, having more RAM than the software or your game can use does not yield much (if any) performance advantages. So depending on the software or game, cards with more RAM may not always have a performance advantage over cards with less RAM.

Today, 4GB of VRAM is more than enough for 1080p gaming. However, if you’re planning on gaming in QHD and UHD resolutions any time soon, going with 8GB is the safer bet. While nearly every setting will take up a certain amount of RAM, the most demanding ones are: Rendering resolution, Texture quality, LOD distance and certain types of anti-aliasing such as TXAA or MSAA. The rendering resolution is the most important thing to consider. Textures and LOD distances used to be a rather big deal, but they aren’t something that you need to worry about when getting a graphics card today. The same could be said for anti-aliasing, as it is slowly becoming less relevant due to the increasingly higher resolutions of gaming monitors. This is what you should generally go by: 720p – 2GB, 1080p – 4GB, 1440p – 6-8GB, 2160p – 8-12GB. Of course, this is assuming that you want to run the latest games with relatively high settings. In truth, you can manage even 4K with just 4GB of VRAM, but keep in mind: what’s “just enough” today will definitely not be enough tomorrow, so plan for the future.

Type, video RAM is the same as the RAM that your PC uses. It is built directly into your graphics card, and it uses faster types of RAM such as GDDR5, GDDR5X, HBM2, and GDDR6. The function is pretty much identical: it stores relevant data (in this case, graphics data) so that the graphics processor (GPU) can access it more quickly when it needs to.

Now Speed, the speed of the video card’s RAM is typically reported in MHz and is basically how fast the video card can access the data that is stored on the RAM. Obviously, the faster the card can access the data, the less time it has to wait. So in pretty much all instances, faster memory speed is better. So the type of ram will dictate your speed.

Memory Bus Width, while fast memory is important, the video card needs to actually be able to process the data from the memory quickly. Technically speaking, the bus width is the amount of data the video card can access from the memory each clock cycle. So if you are doing something that uses a lot of video memory, you want to have a large bus width in order to efficiently transfer data to and from the video card’s memory. Just like the size of the RAM, more is better but you will see diminishing returns after a certain point.

Bandwidth, Memory bandwidth is actually a calculation of several other memory specifications and can be used as an overall indication of how fast the video card’s memory is. The higher the memory bandwidth, the better the video card’s memory performance should be.

FREESYNC and G-SYNC…. what?

Oh! And then there is FREESYNC and G-SYNC. I’m starting to get a headache! One clear difference between Nvidia G-Sync and AMD FreeSync is how they handle graphics cards that produce higher frame rates than a monitor can handle. G-Sync locks frame rates to the upper limit of the monitor while FreeSync (with in-game Vsync turned off) will allow the graphics card to produce a higher frame rate.

But there is more. First of all, FreeSync is only compatible with AMD graphics cards and G-Sync is only compatible with Nvidia graphics cards. However, these two technologies aren’t reliant solely on the GPU but also on the monitor. In my monitor section we’ll look at mixing the two technologies and how to use G-sync with AMD video cards and FREESYNC with Nvidia cards.

While V-Sync is great for 60Hz monitors, it simply won’t do once the refresh rates get higher. Namely, V-Sync prevents screen tearing by imposing a cap on the number of frames that the GPU dishes out, certain problems arise when we go beyond 60 Hz. For one, there is the FPS cap itself, but stuttering and input lag are big problems that you definitely don’t want to deal with if you are investing in a 144Hz or a 240Hz monitor.

Now, Nvidia and AMD have both come up with their own hardware-reliant adaptive sync alternatives. With adaptive sync, the refresh rate of the monitor is adapted to the frame rate, so the two are always in sync, there is no screen tearing, and there is no input lag. However, there’s a downside to everything, and FreeSync and G-Sync are no exception.

Now, in order to be compatible with either of these technologies, a monitor needs a built-in scaler module. When it comes to G-Sync, these are proprietary Nvidia modules, so because the OEMS have to pay licensing fees to Nvidia in order to implement this technology, G-Sync monitors tend to be on the pricey side. AMD takes a more liberal approach, as FreeSync can work with any third-party scaler module. As such, it can be found in monitors at virtually any price point.

But of course, Nvidia’s strict control ensures that G-Sync is properly implemented in every G-Sync monitor, and it goes beyond mere adaptive sync – it adds other handy features such as motion blur reduction, the elimination of ghosting, etc. In contrast, the implementation of FreeSync isn’t always flawless, and many FreeSync monitors only support this technology in a frame rate range that’s specified by the manufacturer.

With all of that in mind, FreeSync is obviously the better choice for those on a tighter budget, although G-Sync is objectively superior, if we take the pricing out of the equation.

Software? oh come on!

Now software… Good, well-optimized software can spell a world of difference for any piece of hardware, for the graphics card, there are the drivers and the control panel to consider. There is not much to say about the drivers themselves, as both Nvidia and AMD release new and stable drivers frequently.

As for the control panels, I have looked through both Nvidia Control Panel and the AMD Control Center. I noticed that the Nvidia Control Panel looks quite dated – as a matter of fact, it still looks like it’s running on the long-discontinued Windows XP. AMD’s Control Center, on the other hand, looks a whole lot better, boasting a clean and modern design, complete with some eye candy in the form of background blur effects.

So, with all things considered, which is better, Nvidia or AMD?

The answer is – neither. In truth, it all comes down to your requirements and your budget, as both the Nvidia and the AMD graphics cards are great at what they do. The bottom line is, AMD is still a better choice for low-end and mid-range gaming setups, as it has been for a while now. Radeon cards simply present much better value for your money in this range. On the other hand, if you are aiming for high frame rates in QHD or even 4K, then Nvidia is the only way to go. But as you know things can change in the near future.

But before we move in to another part of your system I want to show you a few more things I find interesting about video cards and some of their possible connection types, which should help you in buying a good monitor and one that works well with your rig.

Motherboard Connection

We have looked at the PCI motherboard connections in my motherboard section of my site but here we look at it from a video card point of view. Most cards will be either PCI Express 2.0 x16 or PCI Express 3.0 x16. While you want to match the PCI Express revision (2.0 versus 3.0) of the card to the motherboard slot if possible, you can use a PCI Express 2.0 card in a 3.0 slot or a PCI Express 3.0 card in a 2.0 slot. You may have a very slight performance decrease, but several benchmarks have shown that even the fastest video cards available today are not capable of using all the bandwidth available from PCI Express 2.0, let alone PCI Express 3.0. The x16 refers to the number of PCI lanes the card requires. This gets a little confusing as there are often slots on a motherboard that are the same size as x16 slots, but actually operate at x8 speeds. In addition to this, on some boards if you use multiple slots (for SLI or Crossfire for example) at once, even if the two slots you are using are rated for x16 speeds, they will actually only run at x8 speeds. Unlike the PCI Express revision, you will likely see a small loss in performance when using mid to high-end video cards in an x8 slot, so be sure to check the manufacturer’s documentation to determine which slots actually operate at x16 speeds. To reach the maximum performance possible, both the expansion card and the PCI Express controller (available inside the CPU or inside the motherboard chipset, depending on your system) have to be of the same revision. If you have a PCI Express 2.0 video card and install it on a system with a PCI Express 3.0 controller, you will be limited to the PCI Express 2.0 bandwidth. The same video card installed on an old system with a PCI Express 1.0 controller will be limited to the PCI Express 1.0 bandwidth.

If documentation is not available, you can usually tell the actual speed of the slot by the number of pins in the slot itself. In the blue slot, the pins go all the way across the slot, so it is a full-speed X16 slot. On the black slot, the pins stop about half-way, so this slot is actually an X8 slot in an X16 size.

Alright last thing to talk about is PORTS and we have a bunch. so lets start with…

VGA (Video Graphics Array) is one of the oldest types of video connector still in use and is most commonly found in servers and low to mid-range video cards. The connector itself consists of fifteen pins in three rows of five. This is one of the last analog connectors still in use, and as such has the lowest maximum resolution of any modern video port. VGA ports on modern hardware have a maximum resolution 2048×1536 at 85 Hz, but in reality most monitors that utilize VGA max out at much lower resolutions so it is rare to actually run VGA at this high of a resolution.

DVI (Digital Visual Interface) is one of the most common video connectors used today and comes in many different flavors. DVI-A is an analog only version of DVI, but is nowhere near as common as DVI-D and DVI-I. The main difference between DVI-D and DVI-I is that DVI-D transmits digital signals only while DVI-I can transmit both analog and digital signals. DVI-I is really only useful if you want to use a DVI to VGA adapter to connect to an older VGA displays. Otherwise, DVI-I and DVI-D are exactly the same. You can tell the difference between DVI-D and DVI-I by the two pairs of additional pins above and below the horizontal tab. In addition to the types of DVI, there is also single and dual link versions of the DVI-D and DVI-I connectors. Dual Link simply allows for more data to be transmitted at once, so it allows for higher resolutions. Almost all modern video cards and motherboards will be dual link.

HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) is similar to DVI except that it allows for the transmission of audio as well as video. Currently, this is the preferred method for connecting devices to televisions or monitors with integrated speakers. HDMI is most commonly found as a full-sized port, but on some cards where space is at a premium, a mini-HDMI port is used instead. There are a number of versions of HDMI, but most modern hardware will use a reversion of 1.4. The base 1.4 revision supports resolutions up to 4096×2160 @ 24 Hz, support for some 3D formats, and the rarely used HDMI Ethernet channel. The 1.4a revision adds increased 3D support, while the 1.4b revision added support for 1920×1080 video at 120 Hz. Currently, HDMI 1.4a is the most common revision found on video cards.

The difficult part with HDMI is the supported resolutions. While 1.4 goes all the way up to 4096×2160 (otherwise known as 4K), it can only do so with a refresh rate of 24Hz. If you want to use the more standard 60Hz refresh rate, you are actually limited to 2560×1440. As is true with any display output, both your video card and display need to support the resolution, refresh rate, and color depth that you want to use. Even though the port might be an HDMI 1.4 port, some video cards may have a maximum resolution that is limited by other factors. For example, the onboard video on modern Intel-based systems is limited to 1920×1200 @ 60Hz over HDMI even though the HDMI is a 1.4a port. Likewise, the onboard video on AMD-based systems is limited to 1920×1080 @ 60Hz. In those cases, the motherboard manufacturer should have a separate specification listing the maximum resolution over HDMI. If no such spec is listed, then the above chart should be accurate for a HDMI 1.4 port.

DisplayPort is a newer video port than HDMI, but has not had a revision since version 1.2 in December of 2009. As such, almost every DisplayPort on modern hardware is the latest 1.2 version. The difference between DisplayPort and HDMI/DVI is that it uses packetized data transmission much like USB, SATA, or ethernet. The main advantage of this is that it can use a fewer number of pins to achieve higher resolution. A secondary advantage is that since the information is in packet form, features can be added to DisplayPort without any changes to the physical port. DisplayPorts are typically found in two sizes: a full-sized port and a mini port. One little-known feature of DisplayPort is that you can daisy-chain supported DisplayPort monitors together so that a single DisplayPort is powering multiple monitors at once. To do this you either need monitors that support daisy-chaining or get a DisplayPort hub. Unfortunately, there are very few released products that can take advantage of this feature. The biggest problem we have found with DisplayPort is when it comes to adapting from DisplayPort to either DVI or HDMI. There is such a thing as Dual-Mode DisplayPorts that can be adapter to either single-link DVI or HDMI with the use of a passive adapter, but we have never seen a port officially listed as being Dual-Mode. So if you need to adapt to DVI/HDMI, we strongly recommend using either an active adapter or an adapter that is specifically qualified for your video card. As is true with any display output, both your video card and display need to support the resolution, refresh rate, and color depth that you want to use. Even though the port might be a DisplayPort 1.2 port, some video cards may have a maximum resolution that is limited by other factors. For example, the onboard video on some Intel-based systems is limited to 2560×1600 @ 60Hz over DisplayPort. If this is the case, the motherboard manufacturer should have a separate specification listing the maximum resolution over DisplayPort. If no such spec is listed, then the port should be able to power one monitor at 2560×1600 or multiple monitors at 4096×2160.

So there you have it, so much info… but hey you can still post in my blog if you have a question about your rig.

Here are a few picks…

Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Best Overall (When Price is No Object) the fastest graphics card for 4K, ray tracing, and everything else.

Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Second fastest GPU at a more reasonable price.

Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Best for Virtual Reality Gaming Fast and more affordable than the other RTX models.

Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Perfect for 1440p and 144Hz displays.

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti Best for 2K gaming the best card for mainstream gaming right now.

AMD Radeon VII The fastest AMD graphics card, the first 7nm GPU, and an excellent choice for content creation.

AMD Radeon RX 580 Best for 1080p Gaming A powerful and impressively priced mainstream card.

AMD Radeon RX Vega 56 Powerful and packing HBM2, the Vega 56 now has a mainstream price.

AMD Radeon RX 570 Best Budget GPU.

CPU

INTEL or AMD?

When choosing a CPU, first ask yourself what you’re going to do with it, then see how much you can budget for it after you’ve figured out how much you’re spending on other components like your SSD, GPU, PSU, motherboard and RAM. While processors are important, there’s no point in pairing a high-speed chip with weak graphics (unless you aren’t a gamer) or a slow, spinning mechanical hard drive. While reading about specs like clock speed and thread count is helpful, the best measure of a processor’s performance comes from objective reviews.

Like the video cards, we are lucky we only have 2 types to deal with. I can remember more at one time besides the two today Intel and AMD.  We had Cyrix, ARM2, MOS, AIM PowerPC and Motorola just to name a few. But the question today is how to pick the right CPU for my gaming rig?

We hear about cores counts, clock speeds and generation. So what does that all mean to me and my rig? Well the good news is that you can’t go wrong with Intel or AMD because more of the punch is your video card. However, matching your CPU is important if you are using a very high end video card so as to get the most out of your GPU; you need the right CPU.

Intel does a bit better on gaming and browsing and AMD handles tasks like video editing faster. That said, many Intel CPUs are currently selling for higher than MSRP (manufactures suggested retail price) due to ongoing production shortages. So you may find better deals on an AMD Ryzen CPU, until the production issues get better, which Intel expects to happen later in 2019. Clock speed is more important than core number: Higher CPU clock speeds translate to snappier performance in simple, common tasks such as gaming, while more cores will help you get through time-consuming workloads faster.

If you’re looking for rock-solid single core performance, Intel processors are probably your best bet. However, AMD Ryzen processors deliver excellent bang for the buck and high-end multi-core performance that’s great for streaming. If you’re looking for the flat out best processor on the market right now, you’ll likely be looking at the Intel Core i9-9900K, but that’ll set you back hundreds of dollars. If you’re trying to save a few bucks, but still want fantastic gaming performance, the AMD Ryzen 5 2600X is the one to get. Even if you have a tiny budget, something like the Intel Pentium G4560 can go a long way.

 

Here are a few ideas…

Intel Core i7-9700K Excellent gaming performance at a lower price. Best over all

Intel Core i7-8700K the previous gen king is still a great choice.

Intel Core i5-8400 the best mainstream CPU: great performance and a great price. Best value

AMD Ryzen 5 2600X this is the favorite AMD CPU, with six cores and great performance at a bargain price. Budget pick

AMD Ryzen 7 2700 All the cores, overclocking, and excellent performance but slow for gaming with top end GPUs.

AMD Ryzen 3 2200G Vega 8 Graphics make this the best budget CPU you can buy For those on a budget who just want something that can play games and won’t break the bank look no further than AMD’s Ryzen 3 2200G. It’s the lowest priced processor I can still recommend. Entry level pick

The Big Guns…

AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX an absolute monster of a CPU, with 32 cores and 64 threads, built for professionals but not that good for gaming.

Intel Core i9-9900K The fastest processor ever, good for games, streaming, and more and good match for high end GPUs.

Monitor

FreeSync or G-Sync?

 

RAM

How much, how fast?

Power Supply

How much power?

Input and output/Sound

It’s a matter of taste!

Furniture

Comfort!

PROJECTS

PROJECT NAME

Lorem Ipsum has been the industrys standard dummy text ever since the 1500 when an unknown printer took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book Lorem Ipsum has been the industrys standard dummy text ever since the 1500 when an unknown printer took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book.

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Howdy All

Just want to say hi and welcome to my site. I hope it helps you in your quest for that game box you have always wanted.

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