Not all of you gamers need advice on improving your current PC setup, so those adults are excused from the room to go play Skyrim until I’m done talking to the gaming greenhorns. But some of you are still playing on substandard systems that are severely impairing ability to enjoy your games, including your ability to get into competitive gameplay. Get ready for some tough love regarding your current gaming rig.
Honestly, if your computer were a little bit newer, you could probably eliminate some performance bottlenecks by increasing your RAM or the graphics card. But once your PC is older than say four years or so, you’re probably looking at replacing the whole motherboard and CPU, at which point you’re really just building from scratch. Putting a high-end graphics card into a really old computer (if it’s even compatible) is like putting monster truck tires on a Smart Car. It’s a nice novelty, but you can’t take it out on the road.
You’d be surprised how often PC memory is the bottleneck on a gaming machine. And if you’re trying to make an upgrade on a gaming laptop, RAM is one of the only performance upgrades available to you. Let’s put it this way: If you only have 2 GB of RAM, it won’t matter what other upgrades you make to your rig. Without more memory, you’ll be seeing slow response from your games and may not even be able to play other games adequately.
I know it’s tempting to save some dough by simply keeping your old monitor, and if you had a beautiful 27-inch screen with heavenly response time and blacks deeper than the Marianas Trench I’d say you can stick with it. But if you’re still playing on that tiny LCD stock monitor that came with your factory standard PC, it’s time to put it out to pasture. Playing on a crumby monitor is like watching the Avengers through dirty glasses; you’re marring a thing of beauty, and tragically it’s for no good reason.
Unless you’ve upgraded recently, chances are that your current graphics card is holding back you PC. You can try to get more power for less money through a dual-card setup if your motherboard supports Crossfire or SLI, but the point at which your price-to-performance calculations balance out in favor of a single, powerful card instead. Newer cards are pushing the performance bottleneck so hard, that even a card that’s just two or three years old is considered ancient gaming technology. Do your homework; make sure your PC has no other bottlenecks. And then bite the bullet on a decent card.
Okay, lecture complete. You either feel really pleased with your current setup, or you’re wondering exactly how few components you can get away with upgrading to get to run BF3 (Hint: It’s not just the RAM.). But don’t despair. We’re currently in a golden age of gaming, and even if you can’t afford the latest screaming components, you can still build or buy a pretty decent gaming PC without emptying your bank account. It’s just a matter of being smart about recognizing quality upgrades when you see them.