Guru3D PC Buyers Guide Autumn 2018

PC Buyers Guide 38 Page 1 of 7 Published by



PC Buyers Guide Autumn 2018

Come all, come all, it's that time of year again! I think I said the same thing last time, but I digress. As usual, we are making this guide to show you what can be done at various price points in the PC gaming hardware space. As always, please note that the following guides are 'templates' only, and that availability in your local area, as well as pricing, could drastically affect what you are able to go for.

Since the summer version of this guide, there has been just one big launch, and that being Nvidia's new Turing graphics cards, i.e. the RTX 2000 series. Right now, the only options available are the RTX 2080Ti, and RTX 2080. However, their release (as you will soon see, or may have already seen) does not render the older Pascal line entirely null and void. There is nothing new in the AMD GPU space, however, meaning that the somewhat embattled RX Vega will be going up against RTX Turing as a fairly major underdog. Still, let's see, shall we?

It might be that some people here can see exactly where this builds guide is going, but I urge you to read on and look at what happens, especially at the higher end of things. Pure performance isn't everything, and neither is new technology. If older GPUs offer, in our minds, far superior price to performance, then it would make sense to go for them. Bear that in mind.

The price of RAM, oddly, has seen a minor drop since the summer, which is definitely welcome. However, perhaps the most notable difference is the cost of SSDs, which has - seemingly - plummeted through the floor and into the Earth's core. 240GB drives are regularly available for the sub 50 USD mark. A price that would be have been a bit dream-worthy even a year ago. Anyway, with that said, let's move onto the required preamble.

As always, we will only cover the innards of the PC. Choices such as case, monitor, and other peripherals are somewhat more subjective (sometimes entirely so), hence we focus purely on the parts of the PC that have undeniable and objective numbers to fall behind. Also, only traditionally 'formed' systems will be covered here, meaning that more specialized ITX and 'niche' cases are not taken into account. I feel like this covers both ATX Mid-Towers, as well as the slightly smaller mATX form factor.

Since this site is called "Guru3D", we will target a system primarily intended for gaming, all whilst - we hope - not depriving you various valuables/limbs or other items with which to pay for it. It's also worth mentioning that a system primarily aimed at gaming does not in any way mean it can only do that, and even lower-end gaming systems with solid quad core CPUs and capable graphics can make very decent entry-level workstations for the purposes of photo, video, or audio work. Naturally, if you want to start cutting together or editing videos or photos that are multiple gigabytes in size, you'll need more.

In 2018, 1080p Full HD performance from even budget GPUs like a GTX 1050 is highly respectable, and their performance in 'E-Sports' titles in exceptional. In fact, E-Sports is what these GPUs are primarily aimed at. There are also AMD's now fairly established 'Raven Ridge' based APUs, which are CPUs with onboard Vega 8/11 graphics.


In 2018, 1080p Full HD performance from even budget GPUs like a GTX 1050 is fairly reasonable, and their performance in 'E-Sports' titles in exceptional. In fact, E-Sports is what these GPUs are primarily aimed at. However, another new kid on the block are AMD's recently released 'Raven Ridge' based APUs, which are CPUs with onboard Vega 8/11 graphics. Yes, the same 'Vega' that powers the much higher end Vega 56 and Vega 64 graphics cards. Make no mistake, you'll be seeing these little powerhouses again shortly...

The following are the main criteria we use when assembling PCs, or at least recommending lists for those to follow!

  • Price & PerformanceThis is fairly simple. At a 'given' price point, what list of parts give you - the reader - the best bang for your buck (or pound/euro) in terms of pure gaming performance? By this, we mean solid, consistent, and reliable performance at an ideal frame rate of 60 FPS.
  • Reliability: Arguably as important as the price/performance concern! At the end of the day, what use is a PC that runs exceptionally well... for all of one day? We consider the reputation of the manufacturer. Are they known to make good products? What have others said about their products in the long run?
  • Overclocking: Overclocking can help squeeze out that extra performance for free out of a system and can make a big impact on price versus performance. Overclocking on more 'budget' systems has also gotten a lot easier with this, with the advent of AMD's new AM4 CPUs! It is safe to say that this factor may swing our decision, depending on potential 'ease' of overclocking, and performance gained from it.
  • Heat & Power: These two factors are inherently tied to one another, and heat is the absolute enemy of any modern computer. Heat means your PC makes more noise, usually means it is consuming more power, and can even lead to the premature death of your parts!

We serve a global audience, we won't be directly linking to the price as that site may not be available in that country. Instead, we will list the component and its price in EURO so you can have a good starting point to tweak these recommendations to your specific needs. So, without further delay, our system recommendations are broken down into:

Computer Jargon

If you are new to PC parts, then definitely take the time to read this section. It'll give you a brief introduction to PC parts, their use, and what they ultimately mean for your new computer. From here on, I will use these abbreviations to describe various components. Some may call it laziness, I call it efficiency. It is fairly remarkable, when you think about it, how well the interior of a PC mirrors the functionality of the human body!

  • CPUThe central processing unit is, essentially, your PC's brain. It is responsible for giving instructions to your entire PC, including your GPU when playing games.
  • GPU: The graphics processing unit is responsible for displaying all the content that you see. It renders the game's graphics, and - where needed - can also help with the rendering of high-quality images/videos in professional applications from the likes of - for example - Adobe.
  • RAM: The random access memory is where temporary data is stored which is being worked upon by the applications. Think of this as your PC's short-term memory storage. When the PC is powered down, any data held in RAM is lost!
  • Motherboard: This is your PC's electrical skeleton, and all components of your build will be connected to this central hub in some way. Overclocking ability aside, motherboards never affect PC performance (e.g. for a graphics card), so a high-end GPU in a low-end motherboard, often, will make next to no difference.
  • SSD: A Solid state drive is where you generally install the operating system and possibly other applications too. You store data that you frequently access on this unit, as read/write (the speed at which the PC can access or write data to the drive) is significantly faster on an SSD than a traditional...
  • HDD: Hard disk drives are essentially your cheap 'bulk' storage. Here, you store data that has less priority, is accessed less frequently, or is simply 'big' on this unit.
  • ODD: The Optical disk drive is what you use to read the contents of CD/DVD/Blu-ray. In 2018, we would argue that one is somewhat unnecessary, given the advent of faster/readily accessible internet, and software downloads/digital content.
  • PSU: The power supply unit is what provides power to all the components present inside the PC. Getting a quality PSU is very important, so please do not skimp or save money on this part. PSUs come in many flavors, and you will a lot about 'efficiency' (in terms of their 80+ rating) and whether they are modular or non-modular. I don't wish this section to be any longer than it already is, so trust me/us in the choice of PSUs at given price points.
  • OS: The Operating System (e.g. Windows, MacOS, Linux) is what allows you to interact with the PC's internal components. As these are gaming PCs, Windows is a given here, and we will be recommending the use of Windows 10, given the end of support for Windows 7.
  • AIO: All-In-One Liquid Cooling System which is used to cool the CPU/GPU and is pre-filled that makes installation and maintenance easy.

Computer 'Bottlenecking'

You may have seen this term floating around the web, and wondered what on earth it referred to. Well, put very simply, the term relies on the image of a narrow-necked bottle. The data flow or 'work rate' from the fat part is inevitably held up significantly by the narrow neck, reducing the flow rate of the liquid inside (or, in our case, data).

If we take a second and think about it, there will be a bottleneck anywhere in a system. One component will naturally be holding up or slowing down the rest, but the extent to which it does this can often vary wildly. That said, the term is most often used in relation to CPUs and GPUs, and - even then - is almost always relating to a CPU bottleneck. Curiously, the most common bottleneck is actually a GPU induced one (i.e. your GPU is sat at 100% usage, utterly maxed out and working hard).

Your CPU has to provide instructions for your system to actually do anything. In gaming, this means telling your GPU what to draw. Here, in a CPU bottleneck, your GPU is the fat part of the bottle, and your CPU is the neck. It's a somewhat reverse example, but - in essence - you CPU simply cannot provide instructions to the GPU fast enough.

Eye Candy, FPS, and Frame Times.

Obviously, Guru3D tends to think that all games should be played at the best IQ (Image Quality) possible. However, the dilemma here is that increasing image quality settings have a direct result on the FPS you are able to play at. This is a problem, as whilst we all strive for at least 60fps, there are times where that might not be possible at the often coveted 'Ultra' settings! Also remember that some graphical settings have a much bigger impact on framerate than others, e.g. shadows, ambient occlusion, anti-aliasing, etc. Below is a rough guide on what to expect from various frame rates.

Type Of PC Build
The Bit As said earlier, Full HD 1080p PC gaming is realistic even to smaller budgets nowadays. With that, this build is aimed at those wanting to get into PC gaming on a strict budget. Occasional resolution or graphical settings sacrifices may be needed here!
The Nibble We're going higher on the budget scale now, this system is aimed at those targeting near maxed out 1080p gaming, or even some QHD (1440p) gaming in lighter or less demanding titles! By no means, however, should this system be out of budgetary reach!
The Byte We are targeting 1440p gaming here at a smooth 60 FPS, or even - if you are so inclined - 1080p gaming at high refresh rates beyond 60Hz. GPUs like Nvidia's 1070 or AMD's RX Vega 56 are the aim here.
The Megabyte High refresh 1440p gaming or even the start of a 4K (2160p) adventure! Here, budget somewhat goes out of the window, once you consider peripherals, and GPUs such as Nvidia's GTX 1080 Ti are - realistically - the only choice.

Do note that if your FPS are low and you would like to increase them, here are two common methods at you can use:

  1. The 'cheap' way: Simply turn down the settings until the FPS is acceptable to you.
  2. The 'Not-So-Cheap' method: Find and eliminate the bottleneck in the system. As stated before, it is usually the CPU or the GPU which needs to be upgraded.

If you are lucky, then your upgrade will be a simple swap of your old graphics card. Simply pop-out the old GPU, pop-in the new GPU, and you're good to go. Of course, make sure that your PSU can handle the new GPU. Modern cards are getting ever more power efficient, so this really shouldn't be a huge concern unless you have a very low power unit, or a very old one.

Somewhat more complicated will be a CPU upgrade. If you're lucky, the new CPU will use the existing socket (e.g. replacing an i5 8600k with an i7 8700k). In that case, all that'll likely happen is your PC will detect the new CPU, and then simply carry on booting. However, in most cases, changing the CPU means new motherboard and/or changing RAM. This is somewhat more involved, and will likely run you some reasonable dollars.

Frame Times

The understanding of FPS isn't difficult one to get your head around. More FPS = Better. It's that simple. However, what about 'Frame Time'? In a nutshell, the frame time is how long (in milliseconds) it takes for a rendered frame to be displayed on your monitor. For example, a game played at 30fps (consistently) will be spitting out a new frame to the display every 3.3ms. If this is consistently achieved, and with good optimisation and blur, the game will still feel reasonably smooth to play, despite halved frame rate from our golden target of 60.

However, what happens when the frame time is inconsistent? Well, in one word, stutter. If your frame rate is bouncing all over the place (e.g. from 40-60), then the frame time will be varying from as low as 1.6ms (60fps) to 2.5ms. This might seem very minor, but it is very easily perceived by the player. In this scenario, someone should either lower in game graphical settings to help maintain a higher frame rate closer to 60, or even use a 3rd party program to artificially limit the frame rate to, say, 45. This will, counterintuitively, result in a more consistent gameplay experience.

Sub 30 FPS
Potentially 'unplayable.' Stuttery, higher input lag, jittery gameplay.
30 - 40 FPS Slightly smoother, but not ideal for mouse/keyboard. Less stutter and lag, but still a sub-optimal experience.
40 - 60 FPS Depending on how close/far you are to 40 or 60, your experience in this region is smoother, less laggy, and significantly more 'playable.'
60 FPS (Locked) This is the PC gaming 'starting point', for lack of a better word. 60 FPS gameplay is the main attraction of PC gaming, and gameplay here is smooth, plus has notably less input lag than 30 FPS.
High refresh rate (75 FPS+) High refresh rate gaming (in my mind, anything beyond 75 FPS) is describable as 'butter smooth.' Input latency is reduced the higher you go, and gaming at these high frames rates is a true benefit of higher end PC gaming.

Well, everyone. Lengthy explanation and introduction over, waiting for you on the next page is the affordable PC. The Lesser Bit.

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