Personal Computers (PCs) are the alpha of all gaming platforms. Ever since its inception in1974, PC gaming has defined a lot in the video games dominion. There are two types of gaming PCs. These include desktop computers and laptop computers. While laptops are known for their portability, desktop computers are known for their extensive freedom of customization. Although modifying a pre-built desktop PC can void its warranty, the DIY PC building community is huge! The extensive customization introduces so much variety that it is hard to find two desktop PCs with the same specs.
PCs are the most powerful gaming platform, however, there is a catch. The extensive freedom of customization does not ensure a definite bottom line for power. However, there is no competition to top-of-the-line PC hardware. PC gamers largely refer to themselves as members of the “Master Race”.
Architecture and Components
The architecture of the gaming PC is universal. It includes:
1. Central Processing Unit
A Central Processing Unit (CPU), is responsible for all calculating and executing commands. It is also responsible for carrying out some heavy workloads in games like computing the AI’s next moves, measuring the projectile of a gunshot, etc. The CPU is an aggregate of several smaller processing units and components. These include:
- The Floating Point Unit (FPU), which is responsible for floating-point calculations
- The Arithmetic Logic Unit (ALU), which carries out all arithmetic calculations
- The Control Unit (CU), which executes instructions
- Registers, which are high-speed RAM that the processor uses to store small chunks of data during computation
- Cache, which is a small amount of high-speed RAM that is used to store data that the processor might reuse
- Buses, which are internal connections used to connect between the several internal parts
- A Clock, which is used to coordinate and synchronize all of the computer’s components
- A Graphics Processing Unit (GPU), which is responsible for rendering the final output on a display. Some processors don’t have an integrated GPU.
2. Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)
The other most important part of a gaming computer is the GPU. Games involve rendering millions of objects within fractions of seconds. This requires a discrete and beefy GPU. A GPU is tasked with rendering and displaying the final output on a screen. It is undoubtedly the most important part of a gaming computer.
Laptop GPUs mostly sit on a Printed Circuit Board (PCB). A laptop PCB includes the CPU, the GPU, the memory, and other expansion cards on a single board. Desktop GPUs are modified to a graphics card before they hit the market. A graphics card includes the GPU, the VRAM modules, power stages, Voltage Regulator Modules (VRMs), heatsinks, circulation fans, output interfaces (VGA, HDMI, Display Port, DVI, etc.), and a motherboard interface (mostly PCIe x16).
The next most important part of any computer is memory. Memory is tasked with storing large chunks of data on the go. It transfers the data to the CPU on-demand. Memory clocks have evolved over the years with successive generations. From Single Data Rate (SDR) memory in the 1990s, we have reached the fifth iteration of Double Data Rate (DDR5) memory in 2021.
Other important parts of a PC include storage. Storage can be old-school hard drives, faster SATA SSDs, or ultra-fast NVMe SSDs.
The old-school mechanical hard drives use moving discs and a magnetic head that reads all the data. The read and write speeds of these drives are pretty slow as compared to 2021 standards. Their read and write speeds range between 50-60 Mbps, which is not ideal. Also, they consume more power, consume more space, and are cheaper compared to newer technologies.
SATA Solid State Drives (SSDs) exploit the limit of Serial ATA ports. They are based on newer 3D-NAND technology, and have no moving parts: thus the name ‘Solid’. SATA SSDs are great budget options. They are a lot cheaper than their NVMe counterparts, and offer read and write speeds of up to 550-600 Mbps.
NVMe SSDs are the latest innovation in the market. They use the PCIe bus instead of the SATA ports. NVMe SSDs are blazing fast, up to 8000 Mbps, and the number is expected to go higher with future PCIe revisions. NVMe SSDs cost a lot and are the smallest of the pack. They sit on the motherboard, and you don’t need a separate power or data cable to use these SSDs. This makes installation a lot convenient.
The latest generation of consoles, the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X|S, use ultra-fast NVMe SSDs as well.
Desktop computers also have fans for air movement. Fans are required for moving air in and out of the computer case. This air movement enables efficient cooling of the components and prevents them from overheating. Fans come in several sizes, starting from 80mm diameters up to 200mm diameters. 80mm and 90mm fans are pretty rare these days. 120mm and 140mm are the most common.
The larger the diameter of the fan, the lesser the rotation speed per unit time, and the lesser the static pressure generated. However, a larger diameter ensures the movement of a larger volume of air. So, as you go up the diameter route, you get a slower but larger current of air flowing.
Fans are mostly optimized for consistent airflow, or for generating a higher static pressure.
- Air flow optimized fans are better for use as case fans.
- Static pressure optimized fans are better for overcoming some barrier, like say a thick radiator, a dense mesh, etc.
However, some modern high-end fans are designed for both of the above scenarios, and they perform well in both.
A dedicated motherboard is required to sit all of the components. Motherboards have a CPU socket, Voltage Regulator Modules (VRMs) to control the amount of voltage applied to any particular component, the Southbridge chip, memory sockets, PCIe x16, x4, x1 slots, a BIOS chip, audio capacitors, an I/O hub, SATA ports, power ports, USB and audio ports. Modern high-end motherboards also have some hefty heatsinks to cool the Southbridge chip, the VRMs, and the M.2 expansions.
Motherboards are available in five form factors: ATX, Micro-ATX, Mini-ITX, XL ATX, and E-ATX.
- ATX is the most common and standard-sized motherboard. They are 244mm x 305mm in size.
- Micro-ATX is significantly smaller and cheaper than ATX boards. They are in the shape of a perfect square, and are vertically shorter than the ATX boards. They are 244mm x 244mm in size.
- Mini-ITX is a super-small-sized board standard. It costs a premium over their ATX counterparts. Like Micro-ATX boards, they are a perfect square too, measuring at 170mm x 170mm.
- The E-ATX motherboards are found in high-end server chips’ boards, especially Intel’s Xeon and AMD’s Threadrippers. They come at 305mm x 330mm for the standard size. Common E-ATX sizes are all over the place, from 305mm x 257mm up to 305mm x 272mm.
- The XL-ATX motherboards originated between 2009 and 2010 among EVGA, Gigabyte, and MSI. They are 343mm x 262mm, 345mm x 262mm, or 345mm x 264mm.
Other motherboard sizes are also available, although very rare. These include the already discontinued WTX standard, and the SSI CEB, MEB, EEB, and TEB standards.
Modern-day motherboards also come with addressable RGB effects and white and black PCBs. Some motherboards also push special finishes on the motherboards to let them aesthetically stand out. An example is the ASRock B450 Steel Legend ATX motherboard.
7. Power Supply Unit (PSU)
A Power Supply Unit (PSU) supplies power to the entire computer. It generally receives AC from the wall socket, converts it to 12V DC that the computer can use, and supplies it to the motherboard via the 24-pin ATX cable and the CPU via the 4-pin or 8-pin EPS cable.
Power supplies are classified based on their efficiency. 80 Plus is a standard efficiency, which rates PSUs from 80% power delivery and above. All of the 80 Plus tiers and their efficiencies are listed below.
|80 Plus efficiency rating|
(% of rated load)
|Percentage efficiency |
(20% of 115V internal non-redundant)
|80 Plus White||80%|
|80 Plus Bronze||82%|
|80 Plus Silver||85%|
|80 Plus Gold||87%|
|80 Plus Platinum||90%|
|80 Plus Titanium||92%|
Efficiencies of supplies that qualify under the 80 Plus rating can be calculated by calculating the percentage efficiency of the advertised load. This means, for a power supply that is rated 600W 80 Plus Gold, the efficient load will be 87% of 600W or 522W.
At times, some supplies advertise that they are 80 Plus certified, although they have not received their certification, or do not meet the requirements to get the certificate.
A case is required to house the entire computer. Case designs have undergone a renaissance over the last two decades. We have gone from having cases that looked like lifeless boxes to shiny, LED-lit, transparent pieces of technology.
The case defines the looks of a modern-day gaming computer, and the number of options to customize it has exceeded infinity (exaggerated).
9. RGB LED Lighting
Also, RGB LED lighting is a hallmark of gaming PCs. No modern-day gaming system is complete with RGB. We have gone from slight RGB streaks on our cases to having RGB LEDs on case fans, to even RAM modules. RGB has made its way to 24-pin ATX strimmer cables, and some people walk the extra mile and get LED RGB lit gaming desks as well.
RGB LED lighting truly defines 2020s gaming and increases immersion. Addressable RGB controller puts the user in control. Some games like Fortnite, Life is Strange: True Colors support full RGB control to enhance your experience in the game. This is truly next-gen.