Selecting PC components9 March 2023
Latest modification: 9 March 2023
Many people often face a choice on their way of dealing with computer hardware: buy ready-made hardware and not worry about assembly, or save some money and assemble the rig themselves. Sometimes the choice falls on the former option, because users are afraid of damaging components or not mastering the various stages of computer assembly. In this short guide, we will try to explain the most basic aspects when selecting PC components, in order to make the process of assembling a computer a little more familiar.
It will take you about 10 minutes to read all the material.
Ready-made rigs, or so-called “off-the-shelf” builds that can be found in markets, are often composed of older components or those that do not meet key requirements or certifications. The most dangerous component is power supplies, because it is precisely a poor-quality power supply that can damage other components, even when the others are of good quality and performance.
Another problem that affects off-the-shelf kits is products with inferior or mismatched specifications. It is possible to find kits with installed modules characterized by speeds or latencies that are weaker than what is optimal for the installed processor or higher than the motherboard can handle.
The biggest problem is the mismatch of components in relation to each other or in relation to the user’s needs. In the case when we personally assemble a computer we have the opportunity beforehand to think carefully about almost every component we want to put in our future computer. It is also possible to have full control over the budget that is planned for a particular set, but most importantly, assembling the computer ourselves is an ideal opportunity to learn more about each component and understand more thoroughly how the whole computer works.
We will describe the assembly of the computer in a separate material, but before we start assembling it, we need to seriously consider the selection of individual components.
To build a computer, we will need the right components.
Most often we are guided by aesthetic considerations (color, shape, size). It is worth paying special attention to the size of the case, as its width has a big impact on the size of the CPU cooler we will be able to fit inside. If you are planning to install an All-In-One (AiO) or hand-assembled water cooler (LC), it is worth paying attention to the size of the mounting space for the cooler itself. In addition to ensuring that our computer is well cooled, the internal length of the case is now an important aspect, as the size of graphics cards (GPUs) reaches up to 40 cm, and you have to fit it somewhere. The next and final point you need to pay attention to is the maximum size of the motherboard, as this will determine which motherboard you can decide on.
It is the backbone of the computer. It rarely pays to save money on this component, because it is the most difficult to upgrade in the future. Replacing the motherboard with a newer one will involve replacing the processor and RAM modules when we do it at the turn of a new generation. A weak board may not allow you to fully utilize the potential of the processor and modules during possible overclocking or tuning. When it comes to the motherboard, you should pay attention to the processor socket, the number of RAM banks, the supported RAM speed, and the presence of auxiliary connectors (M.2, SATA, USB-C, etc.) and other aspects that are necessary, as it may be different for everyone. It is useful to know what size the motherboard of choice is. We distinguish between such sizes as mini-ITX, micro-ATX, ATX, EATX. The size of the motherboard must not be larger than the maximum size that the selected case can accommodate.
The brain of the entire computer, and the choice of this component is closely related to the choice of motherboard made earlier. We can’t choose a motherboard that supports a newer-generation processor with a specific socket (e.g. LGA 1700) and match it with an older-generation processor that fits under a different socket (e.g. LGA 1200). In this case, we will not even be able to put the processor in the socket (socket). A similar situation applies to a newer generation processor under an older motherboard chipset, but with the same socket – in this situation, the BIOS update will most often help, which is sometimes complicated, but can often be realized for the buyer by the store (sometimes for an additional fee).
Today’s processors are divided into two camps: Intel and AMD. Each of these two manufacturers has its own nomenclature for individual models.
For the blue, or Intel, we have models such as Celeron, Pentium, i3, i5, i7 and i9. You’ll find the following sockets: LGA1155, LGA1150, LGA1151, LGA12oo, LGA1700 (the latest). You can also meet sockets for HEDT (High-End Desktop) processors, such as LGA2011, LGA2011v3, LGA2066. For each socket there is a certain number of available processors. There are many more sockets to be found, but we have only listed the ones we believe to be the most common among new and used hardware.
In the case of the red camp, or AMD, there are models divided into series: 3, 5, 7, 9 and Threadripper. Here you can meet such sockets as AM3, AM3+, AM4, AM5 and sTRX4 and sWRX8 (Intel’s HEDT counterparts).
The reds have their processor socket nomenclature, which differs not only in name, but also in construction. AMD uses contact “feet” on the processors, while INTEL has the aforementioned contact “feet” hidden in the sockets. It is worth mentioning that all AMD processors come with an unlocked multiplier, that is, with the possibility of manual overclocking. In the case of INTEL, this is not so obvious because if you want to manually overclock a blue processor, you have to choose a model with a K, KF or KS notation. In addition, it is worth knowing that Intel processors with the letter F in the model name (e.g. 13900KF) do not have integrated graphics, so the presence of a dedicated graphics card is necessary.
Memory modules (RAM)
They are crucial for efficient operation when using the computer for gaming as well as professional applications. When choosing modules, you need to pay attention to 3 basic parameters: capacity (GB), which corresponds to the amount of temporary memory that the pre-selected processor will have (more = better); speed (MHz), which is responsible for fast data transfer between the memory controller and the modules (more = better); latency (CL), which informs about the number of clock cycles that must pass for the controller to access the expected data (less = better).
The most sensible choice for DDR4 is to bet on IRDM PRO DEEP BLACK or CRIMSON WHITE modules, which feature 3600 MHz speeds and CL18 latencies. These are relatively high speeds and low latencies that the vast majority of motherboards available on the market can certainly handle.
In terms of capacity, it is accepted that for basic applications, between 8 and 16 GB will suffice. On the other hand, for gaming and more professional applications, it is worth arming yourself with modules with a total capacity of 16 GB and more. Each motherboard in the specifications has written the maximum capacity it is able to support, so knowing how many memory banks there are and the number of GB it supports, then you are able to calculate the most optimal capacity of a single module. Just divide the maximum supported capacity by the number of banks, e.g. 64 GB / 4 banks of RAM = 16 GB. The optimal solution is a single 16 GB module when you plan to fill all the RAM banks.
Many currently available motherboards have at least one M.2 connector, which is worth using for an SSD, the purpose of which should be the system and basic system programs and drivers. If you buy a larger-capacity media, it will also accommodate games and additional utility programs.
An interesting “entry level” solution is the PX500 drive, which features high data write and read speeds, and its price does not differ significantly from 2.5″ SSDs. However, if you are looking for something more efficient, we encourage you to look at the IRDM offer, where you can find IRDM PRO M.2 with a very efficient heatsink.
If you have more M.2 slots, you can install more drives on them for gaming, applications as well as other data. A slightly cheaper and still very efficient solution are 2.5″ SATA drives, for which connectors can be found in any motherboard, in quantities from 2 to even 10 or more.
Until recently, HDDs have been the standard, with their large capacity, but it is worth noting that the responsiveness of the entire system will suffer if you choose an HDD, since the speeds experienced by basic HDDs are at least several times slower than basic SATA SSDs. Drives on the M.2 connector deserve a mention, as they do not require any additional cabling to work properly. This fact has a positive effect on cable management, which is nothing more than order in wiring, which can often be the biggest challenge when putting together your own computer.
Power supply (PSU)
A key, but often underestimated component. It is worth choosing a power supply whose efficiency is confirmed by numerous certificates (Bronze, Silver, Gold, etc.) and tests.
Selecting a power supply equal to the calculated power consumption of the entire set without taking into account the efficiency of the power supply can, at best, cause performance drops or random reboots of the entire system, while at worst lead to damage to one of the components of our computer.
There is also a so-called “black list” of power supplies that you should look for, and manufacturers or models on the said list should beware like fire and never buy. On such a list you may end up with failed power supply models even from reputable manufacturers. Using a power supply present on the blacklist is bound to lead sooner or later to damage or complete burning of some components, as such power supplies have major problems with maintaining constant voltages often for design reasons that we are unable to remedy as a user.
The higher the certificate, the higher the price of the power supply. The table below shows the approximate efficiency of power supplies as declared by manufacturers.
|Certyficate||20% load||50% load||100% load|
Graphic card (GPU)
A favorite component of gamers. For some time now it has become one of the most expensive components of almost every kit. For several years, the prices of graphics cards have reached sky-high heights, and a major influence on this difficult market situation is the popularity of cryptocurrencies.
The graphics card is the main component that affects the performance of the computer in games. When choosing one, it is worth paying attention to the performance of the previously mentioned processor and memory modules, as these two components have a key impact on the performance and use of the graphics card.
If you choose a graphics card that is too powerful for the other components, you may condemn yourself to the occurrence of a phenomenon called “bottleneck,” otherwise known as bottlenecking. Then the vast majority of the capabilities of the graphics card will simply not be used. In addition, it is worth knowing that having a far more powerful graphics card against a weak processor can lead to unusual anomalies displayed on the monitor screen, which are known as stuttering. Stuttering from English means “stuttering” and can be directly referred to as the phenomenon of “stuttering screen”, i.e. small and short jerks of the screen, which can sometimes be very frustrating and distracting during prolonged use.
Bottleneck calculators are available on the web, and it’s worth taking a look at them to estimate what components you can afford in your budget. When selecting this component, it is crucial to balance the budget between the processor, memory modules and just the graphics card so that the whole unit makes more sense.
Selecting the right components is key to making good use of the set budget for a computer set and to fully exploit its future potential. The trick is not to spend a very large amount of money on the most efficient graphics card, which will literally be bored with a poorly performing processor. The trick is to select components in relation to each other so that the potential of each component is maximized.