Group Test: Best PCs for games

PC Advisor - - CONTENTS -

In March, AMD launched its muchan­tic­i­pated Ryzen pro­ces­sors. We’ve writ­ten plenty about them over the past cou­ple of is­sues, but now we’re in a po­si­tion to see how they fare when viewed as part of a whole PC.

For this group test, we asked some PC builders to send us their best sys­tem based around a Ryzen chip and oth­ers to use some­thing from In­tel’s sev­enth gen­er­a­tion Kaby Lake range.

It’s no secret that games run bet­ter on In­tel pro­ces­sors at the mo­ment, de­spite Ryzen’s bet­ter per­for­mance in many CPUbased tests. The fact is that al­though you get more cores for your money, most game de­vel­op­ers have not yet op­ti­mised their ti­tles to work well on Ryzen. Be­cause of the lack of com­pe­ti­tion from AMD in re­cent years, stu­dios have tended to op­ti­mise for In­tel pro­ces­sors, and there’s no guar­an­tee that your favourite games will ever be up­dated so they run faster if you have a Ryzen chip.

But as we ex­plain on page 77, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy a gam­ing sys­tem with a Ryzen pro­ces­sor.

As Over­clock­ers UK demon­strates, you don’t have to spend top dol­lar to get a PC that will han­dle the lat­est games. And it will be plenty quick enough for all the other stuff you need to do be­sides gam­ing.

Buy­ing ad­vice

The re­views will tell you all you need to know about each PC, but here’s some ex­tra ad­vice to help you choose the best PC for you.

Pro­ces­sor

Dif­fer­ent games place dif­fer­ent de­mands on your com­puter hard­ware, but choos­ing a gam­ing rig will in­volve a bal­anc­ing act be­tween CPU and graph­ics per­for­mance.

For gam­ing PC’s we’re happy to al­low over­clocked pro­ces­sors, which will sig­nif­i­cantly in­crease your over­all pro­cess­ing power with­out hav­ing to stump up for the most ex­pen­sive chips.

To keep the over­clocked pro­ces­sors cool, most PC builders fit third-party cool­ers, some us­ing the tra­di­tional heatsink and fan de­sign, while oth­ers opt for a liq­uid coolant pumped through a ra­di­a­tor. This is known as a closed-loop cooler or CLC for short.

Over­clocked pro­ces­sors place ad­di­tional de­mands on the sys­tem’s power sup­ply and also re­quire bet­ter cool­ing, so ex­pect

to pay more for PCs with more ex­treme over­clock­ing. You can over­clock the pro­ces­sor your­self if you wish, but it can be a good idea to buy a pre-over­clocked sys­tem such as the ones re­viewed here, which are cov­ered by the man­u­fac­turer’s war­ranty when run­ning at the higher speed.

Moth­er­board

There are sev­eral points to con­sider when choos­ing the right moth­er­board for your PC, if you’re not into tech­ni­cal de­tails you may be tempted to over­look the moth­er­board and con­cen­trate on the pro­ces­sor and graph­ics, but the moth­er­board is ex­tremely im­por­tant.

All AMD Ryzen pro­ces­sors are over­clock­able, but only moth­er­boards with the X370 and B350 chipsets sup­port this.

You should also try and get a board that sup­ports the lat­est USB 3.1 gen 2 sock­ets (which run at 10GB/s) and has a high­per­for­mance PCI-Ex­press M.2 SSD slot.

Premium moth­er­boards such as th­ese may of­fer ad­di­tional fea­tures such as the higher-qual­ity built-in au­dio and faster net­work cards de­signed to re­duce lag along­side nice, but un­nec­es­sary, things like bet­ter looks and even colour-chang­ing LEDs,

Graph­ics card

It’s usu­ally the graph­ics card that de­ter­mines the over­all qual­ity of your gam­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Once your pro­ces­sor is fast enough, it’s down to the card to de­liver the game to your screen. This is why we sug­gest gamers go for a Core i5 or Ryzen 5 pro­ces­sor rather than the more ex­pen­sive Core i7 as the dif­fer­ence in price will al­most cer­tainly serve you bet­ter spent on the graph­ics card rather than on the CPU.

To en­sure the smoothest pos­si­ble game­play, you gen­er­ally want to achieve a min­i­mum of 60 frames per sec­ond (fps) in your game. This is the lim­it­ing speed of most PC dis­plays, so you won’t re­ally need to go faster than this un­less you have a high-speed gam­ing mon­i­tor that al­lows for faster re­fresh rates. Any ex­tra per­for­mance will then al­low you to in­crease the qual­ity set­tings in your game, mak­ing char­ac­ters sharper, tex­tures more re­al­is­tic and graph­i­cal ef­fects more im­mer­sive.

Right now, Nvidia of­fers the fastest cards (at high prices), but AMD also has some great-value of­fer­ings such as the RX 480. That’s just been su­per­seded by the RX 580, which is a bit quicker for sim­i­lar money, so ask to up­grade to this if you or­der the Over­clock­ers UK ma­chine.

Mon­i­tor

The PCs here don’t come with mon­i­tors. If you don’t have a good one al­ready, then, for more im­mer­sive game­play, opt for the largest dis­play you can find and one with a good con­trast ra­tio. A fast re­sponse time will en­sure that fast, fre­netic game­play re­mains free of blur, al­though not all game play­ers will no­tice any dif­fer­ence.

TN-based mon­i­tors will cost less and pro­vide most of th­ese fea­tures, but IPS-based dis­plays will give you bet­ter over­all colour re­pro­duc­tion and wider view­ing an­gles, al­though re­sponse times tend to be slower. For a more re­spon­sive dis­play, go for a gam­ing mon­i­tor with a high re­fresh rate of 120- or 144Hz, al­though you’ll need pow­er­ful graph­ics to sup­ply frames at this speed. For the very smoothest game­play from an Nvidia graph­ics card, look for a mon­i­tor that sup­ports Nvidia G-sync. With G-sync, the mon­i­tor stays in step with the graph­ics card rather than the other way around.

This means less blur­ring or im­age tear­ing even at lower frame rates and will be of great ben­e­fit to mid-range graph­ics cards such as the ones found in th­ese PCs. AMD of­fers a com­pet­ing tech­nol­ogy called ‘FreeSync’ and th­ese mon­i­tors are gen­er­ally a lot cheaper than G-sync ones.

Pe­riph­er­als

If you’re us­ing your PC on a desk with a mon­i­tor, you’ll ben­e­fit from the im­proved re­spon­sive­ness of wired rather than wire­less de­vices. Look for high-res­o­lu­tion mice, and key­boards with pro­gram­mable keys and back­light­ing.

High-grade me­chan­i­cal switches in key­boards have a bet­ter ‘feel’ and pro­vide longer life than cheap mem­brane switches. Some draw at­ten­tion to the W,A, S, D keys with a dif­fer­ent colour or tex­ture. A gam­ing sound card can pro­vide a more im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ence by adding mul­ti­ple sound ef­fects, with im­proved au­dio fidelity. Also con­sider a gam­ing head­set with a built-in mic.

How­ever, if you’re plan­ning on play­ing from the sofa, you’ll want wire­less con­trollers. For key­board in­put, we would rec­om­mend a wire­less model that comes with an in­te­grated point­ing de­vice, such as a track­ball or track­pad.

We’re not used to see­ing many gam­ing PCs com­ing with op­ti­cal drives th­ese days, and none of this month’s PCs have one. If you’re still play­ing games de­liv­ered on disc, you may need a USB op­ti­cal drive – some of the lat­est cases don’t even have a bay for an in­ter­nal drive.

Power con­sump­tion and noise

If you’re us­ing the PC as a home en­ter­tain­ment hub, you’ll want to con­sider idle power con­sump­tion and noise. The more you over­clock your PC, the more power it will con­sume and the louder it will get.

War­ranty

War­ranty terms are cru­cial when it comes to gam­ing PCs and a key ad­van­tage of buy­ing a pre-built over­clocked PC is that all of the over­clock­ing will be tested and cov­ered by the ven­dor’s war­ranty. The longer the bet­ter, but also look for a col­lect-and-re­turn rather than re­turn-to-base op­tion. Also pay at­ten­tion to whether parts and labour are both cov­ered and for how long.

To en­sure the smoothest pos­si­ble game­play, you gen­er­ally want to achieve a min­i­mum of 60 frames per sec­ond (fps) in your game, which is the lim­it­ing speed of most PC dis­plays

For the ul­ti­mate gam­ing ex­pe­ri­ence you need a pow­er­ful PC. Paul Mon­ck­ton tests out five of the lat­est and best

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