Processors, graphics cards set the pace for the perfect gaming PC

As Microsoft and Sony prepare to upgrade their Playstation and XBox gaming platforms, computer gamers can expect to see a lot of PC versions of those systems’ games flooding stores.

Whether they’ll be able to play them is a completely different matter.

As computer games become more complex, they consume more power. If you’re going to enjoy the most recent games, that means you need to get the fastest gaming PC out there, or find a way to soup up your old machine.

The trick is getting the hardware up to speed. The processor sets the tone for how much power a computer has behind it.

”A gaming PC needs at least a quad-core CPU with 3-gigahertz speed,” says Ingolf Leschke, an editor for hardware topics with German computer magazine Computerbild Spiele. Expect to pay about 170 euros (226 dollars) for a good one.

The graphics processor (GPU) is another key component.

”You can get decent gaming graphics cards with DirectX 11.1 support starting at 200 euros,” says Leschke.

Direct X support is vital for newer games. When shopping for one, gamers need to pay close attention to the processing power, he says.

”Make sure it has faster GDDR5 memory blocks, not the older GDDR3 version.”

There’s a large selection of GPUs with chips from Nvidia and AMD.

”AMD graphics cards are a little slower than the same class of the Nvidia models,” says Leschke. But that also means they’re a little more affordable.

Memory plays an important role, but there’s no point in bulking it up to astronomically high levels, says Leschke.

”Four gigabytes of RAM are perfectly fine for a gaming PC. If you double the memory, then you only usually see a performance increase of about 5 to 7 per cent.”

Most people can swap out memory or a graphics card. Switching out a processor is a bit more challenging.

”If there’s any doubt, the upgrade should be done by an expert,” warns Leschke.

It makes sense to upgrade individual items if only some of the components are old. If the whole system is shaky, then it’s time to look into a new computer. But it doesn’t pay to pinch pennies.

”You have to get a computer for at least 700 to 1,000 euros to meet the needs of most gamers,” says Leschke.

Those who want to play modern games with the highest resolution so they can see every detail, will have to be prepared to pay out a bit more. Upper level gaming PCs can run between 1,500 and 2,000 euros.

But Leschke says that should be the upper limit. ”Boosts in performance at this level are measurable, but not really noticeable.”

If you’re a player who prefers notebooks, prices will start at around 1,000 euros, says Leschke, though Stiftung Warentest, a consumer goods reviewer, says some starting at 600 euros can handle games well enough, even if they don’t display every detail. (dpa)