The year 2020 leading into 2021 has definitely proven difficult amongst all gamers across the globe. Newly released computer parts have in addition to last-gen have become either scarce or overpriced due to the increased demand and of course scalpers. Even new generation consoles are being picked off by them. However, though it may be a rough time to build, that does not make it impossible. Here I will go over available parts, good budgets, and overall what to look for when trying to build a PC during the pandemic.
When building a PC it can seem overwhelming, but with a guide or help you will come to realize it’s not all too hard at all. We just need to start with the CPU for the computer. A CPU, otherwise known as the Central Processing Unit or Processor, is the part of the computer that executes instructions that make up the computer program. This part of the computer can pretty much be compared to the human brain. It delegates and executes tasks just as our brains tell us what to do, think, and say. There are two major brands which are known as Ryzen and Intel. I won’t go into the major differences between the processors, more so give you a comparison when necessary because debating processors would be opening a whole new can of worms per se. Intel Processors come in the i3, i5, i7, and i9; but Ryzen will come in the Ryzen 3, Ryzen 5, Ryzen 7, and Ryzen 9. You base your choice in the processor on what you would be using the computer for, and how demanding you need your specs to be. Whether you’re a hard-core gamer, or just an anime binger these all tie into your choice for your parts. As far as availability though in my honest opinion performance-wise during this pandemic, the Ryzen 5 3600x is the best for not only your wallet but mid-ranged performance. This processor can hold over the average gamer and be consistent in your day-to-day tasks. This processor has 6 cores, 12 threads, runs at 95 Celsius, and maxes clock speeds of 4.4GHz. Another great bonus with Ryzen Processors is that they come with a fantastic CPU cooler known as the Wraith Cooler, saving you the time and energy to find a decent cooler for your CPU. This can be bought online or in stores such as Amazon, Newegg, Best Buy, Microcenter, and other various stores for on average $250 give or take depending on store choice.
From here we can go into your CPU cooler quick, and I say quick because from this particular build I’m recommending during the pandemic we would use the cooler that came with the Ryzen 3600x. CPU coolers are important, and the name says exactly why. Your cooler is what keeps your CPU from overheating and damaging your system or just plain not turning on. Your computer will in fact shut off if temperatures skyrocket to hopefully prevent any permanent damage. These coolers come as fans, AOIs, or water pumps. For the sake of budget during the pandemic, I encourage fans. Fans are very efficient and extremely low maintenance and cost anywhere from $10-100 on average unless you use the CPU fan that comes with. However, for those that want another good option and have some more money at their disposal AOIs (All In One) are another good option. They are an all-in-one water cooling system that combines the water block, radiator, tubes, fans, fittings, and pump into a small package. Not only do they look cool, but they are also low maintenance. The only downside is that they will need to be replaced with a completely new AOI every 6 months. Water cooling, on the other hand, can be extremely expensive and high maintenance but can be the best method of cooling your computer. Depending on the liquid you use you will be cleaning it every 3 to 6 months. AOIs are generally more budget-friendly averaging around $200, while full Water Cooling systems can average around $600. For this article’s purpose, however, I will stick with the Wraith cooler as recommended.
Your next step is to choose a compatible motherboard, which is why we start with the CPU because other parts will only be compatible with certain CPUs. Your motherboard is a printed circuit board that allows communication between crucial components such as your CPU and RAM. This part can be compared to the nervous system of the human body. It is important when considering a good motherboard that you keep in mind available slots for your m.2 drives, transfer speeds, whether or not you want LAN or wifi, and any other additions such as RGB, available ports, the cooling on your chipset, and more. Good motherboards can be tricky to find due to pricing and wanting all the bells and whistles, but I found that the ASUS ROG Strix X570-E is absolutely great for middle ground. It comes with PCIe 4.0, WiFi 6 and gigabyte LAN, active cooling for your chipset, Gen 4 M.2 slots with 64 GB transfer speeds, both USB type A and C with HDMI, Display, and more. Also, a good plus is the RGB so for buyers such as myself, you’ll be filled with endless color. This particular motherboard is also decently priced at $300 USD. You can find it at similar stores previously mentioned when we covered the CPU.
Following the motherboard, we can pretty much dive into anything else such as your random access memory (RAM), GPU, hard drives, case, and PSU. I will continue with RAM next because RAM is extremely important for any PC build. Your RAM is your extremely fast and temporary storage space that your computer will need at the moment or in the next few seconds. This is what allows multitasking functions such as the number of windows that you can keep open and running high-demand games. As an example, I am sure everyone here has experienced windows randomly closing out on them, and that is because your computer does not have enough RAM to keep your multiple tasks at hand. RAM features generally come in different sizes such as 4 GB, 8 GB, 16 GB, and so on. My recommendation for the average gamer would be to go with 16 GB RAM and for the average user per social media and streamer at least 8 GB RAM. There are a variety of great brands, such as Corsair, Trident, Kingston, and HyperX, but my recommendation is the Corsair Vengeance LED. The specifications for this set are great for the price with DDR 4 and speeds of 3200 MHz. The price point is a bit more than your average RAM, but Corsair is always very sturdy, has great performance, and is overall just reliable. You will need a BIOS update to his the speeds for 3200, but the quality makes up for it. Corsair also tends to always run great sales depending on where you buy. Right now you can find them on sale for $229.99 on Corsair’s website.
Proceeding onward, I will briefly cover the PSU and hard drives. Your PSU is honestly an easier choice to make because this is your Power Supply Unit. Not as much thought is needed to go into this particular part. You just need to make sure you find a good wattage that will power all of your components without the risk of damage. I recommend the one I use personally which is the Corsair CX750M because it’s quiet, fairly powerful, and reasonably priced. It runs on average around $100 and can be found at your normal retails as previously mentioned above. There are other good brands such as Asus and Thermaltake, but I found that this particular model is solid in price, wattage, and overall performance. You won’t break the bank and overkill your needs, but you also aren’t sacrificing crucial performance either. In addition to the PSU, we will need to look at hard drives. I always recommend a solid-state drive (SSD) for any computer.
An SSD is a solid part rather than your standard HDD which is a spinning disk. They have low failure rates and increase loading speeds exponentially. That being said they are a lot more expensive than your standard HDD so I generally go by the rule of thumb of getting at least 1 to load your operating system on and any important documents or games that you want better loading times on. Then get an HDD for extra storage since they run extremely cheaper. For this, my recommendations are to get a Samsung 860 Evo 500 GB. This gives you enough room for your OS like Windows 10 (which eats up space) and maybe some important games that you revisit often. This model not only gives you great performance and reliability but also is greatly priced around $75 to $100 depending on the vendor of your choice. For your HDD I generally recommend Western Digital. They are more reliable than your standard Seagate and you can grab 1TB storage for around $50.
We (unfortunately) have no arrived at the barren wastelands of graphics cards (GPUs), which have been completely raided by scalpers for both the new generation and last generation. Your GPU is one of the most important parts of your computer. This is what will allow your computer to play in 1080, 2K, 4K, and so on. Usually, I would say base your graphics card on what you prioritize, but with the scarce availability, beggars can not be choosers. Your top brands are usually Asus, MSI, Gigabyte, and so on, so for what is available I generally say attempt to look for the best brands you can. So with this in mind, I would bite the bullet and get the GTX 1660 if you are not able to wait. This will be the cheapest option that will last you long enough to hopefully get your hands on a 30 series. It will cost the same as a 3060, which is around $599.99, but you can always try to sell it to someone for some money back when the 30 series roles around. The only other option I can say is to wait for the 30 series. Any other GPU will be outrageously priced, while the GPU is only around $200 over the normal price. You could step it down, however then you will be on minimum requirements for most new releases.
Your last choice will be a case for your computer. You’ll be basing this on size, color, and fans. Generally, you want to pick between a mini, mid, and full tower. There are other sizes but they are mostly for business purposes and pre-built. I personally had no recommendation on your case because that is a pure preference for how you want it to look, and most cases allow you to add more fans or change them if you want different colors like platinum or RGB. I love Corsair and Fractal Design personally, however, my case is actually the NZXT 510 Elite which I was not a huge fan of. I say do research and see what you want in your case for this, then go from there. You will also get to pick out monitors and peripherals which are also usually a personal preference unless you like competitive gaming. Usually, for a monitor, I like to go with MSI, Asus, and BenQ. MSI and Asus are usually better for your wallet, but if you have the extra money BenQ is a fantastic brand to go with. Your peripherals include a headset, mouse, and keyboard. I love Razer personally as far as grip, customization, and performance. The Applications to customize performance are very user-friendly and easy to navigate. Corsair and Kraken are also great go-to go to as far as customization and performance.
Building a PC can be an exciting experience, even during the pandemic. Though the prices are high and availability for certain parts is at an all-time low, this is a way to make the most of an incredible experience. PC gaming opens a whole new world for any gamer, and ultimately is a teaching experience for players around the world for what performance really means. Just like this guide, a good budget for a decent PC during COVID and scalpers will probably run you around $1500 for all the parts before the monitor and other peripherals. For those looking to build, I hope this guide can serve you during these hard and stressful times.
Veteran gamer, tech nerd, comic addict, anime lover, and just your average introverted weeb.