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Pre-Built Gaming PC Buying Guide

Considering investing in a pre-built gaming PC? Whether you're a born and bred player or are just starting to experiment with indie titles, there's one thing to know before you take a machine home: they're not all the same. Discover the ins and outs of these machines so you can find the right one for your budget and playstyle. Before we dive into what makes these computers a strong contender for any player (or whether a gaming PC laptop might be a better pick for you) we'll cover some of the core tech you'll find in any model.

What is a Pre-Built Gaming PC, and How Are They Different From Classic Computers?

Gaming PCs are computers that are designed specifically for heavy-hitting programs, from AAA games to fighting games that host multiple online players at once. These are some of the most powerful computers you'll find on the market, period.

Gaming PCs: Amped Performace for Amped-Up Playstyles

Pre-built gaming PCs are ready-to-go computers that are designed to stand up to hours of playing heavy-hitting games, whether you're fighting off friends in online multiplayer battles or making your way through an action-infused horror series. These computers come ready to go out of the box and are designed to do everything a high-powered desktop can do—and more. That means that if you choose a pre-built and decide you're more passionate about sound and video editing, your machine will still be powerful enough to manage those tasks, too.

Why Buy Pre-Built Gaming PCs Instead of Making Your Own?

This is a question that players have been arguing about for decades. Popular knowledge states that it's much better to create your own computer using separate parts for a few reasons; you'll get to know your machine better, can customize to meet your needs and can sometimes even save money. But that "sometimes" is very conditional. And if you manage to do it well, you'll have a very high-performance machine that can play all kinds of titles. But the problem comes in when there's just no way to create a PC from scratch on your own. Whether you can't get a hand on the right parts or are unsure that you'll be able to make it to your preferences, pre-built models are always a great option—and they're nearly always available. But one of the biggest reasons to choose these put-together computers is that it already has one of the hardest parts to find: a graphics card. We'll dive into all the parts inside these computers below.

What's Inside: The Motherboard

The motherboard is just as important as it sounds. That's because other hardware components attach to this circuit board, making this one of the most integral parts of any PC. Even on pre-built gaming PCs, you'll find easy ways to modify your machine thanks to the motherboard's adjustable slots, sockets and cables—it's perfect for swapping materials in and out.

What's Not in a Pre-Built: Separate CPUs and GPUs

A CPU (central processing unit) is the processor in any machine, like laptops, phones, smartwatches and more, and each one makes sure that each device works. In simple terms, it's the "brain" of your computer, with neurons firing and telling other parts of the device to complete tasks. Type messages, shoot bad guys and even select which program to run. Without the CPU, nothing can happen. A faster CPU leads to a faster compter.
Meanwhile, dedicated GPUs (graphics processing units) are graphics cards that can connect your CPU and motherboard to the computer's monitor. GPUs create images—quickly. When it comes to graphics cards, things can get a bit messy. Graphics cards are one of the most important and sought-after parts of any computer, and there are many different types. Modern users choose between the separated CPU/dedicated GPU system or the integrated graphics card that combines them both. Dedicated graphics cards (as a general rule) are popular among gamers trying to build their own rigs or upgrade a pre-built gaming computer. That's because these GPUs are more powerful than their competitors: the integrated models.

What Is In A Pre-Built: Integrated Graphics Card

Integrated graphics cards are a combined CPU/GPU system. Many pre-built gaming computers come with integrated graphics cards, which feature a few benefits over their high-powered siblings. Integrated graphics cards have a much better battery life than separated CPU/GPU systems. Creating an image is a demanding task, and creating a moving, interactive 3D image is even more so. That's one of the reasons that easy-to-manage graphics cards are some of the most in-demand parts on the market, and almost every pre-built gaming computer has these integrated systems inside. And that's why many choose integrated graphics cards over dedicated GPUs: all for easy-to-manage, built-in performance.

What's Inside: RAM & Storage

This is where all the storage happens—RAM (random access memory) is powered data storage that your CPU is using actively in the moment, and many computers have adjustable slots that allow you to add more slots of upgraded RAM. Once your computer turns off, whatever was being stored in the RAM cannot be retained. That's why some fill their computers with as much RAM as their motherboard allows. Meanwhile, true storage happens within the mass storage mediums your device is equipped with, like a hard disc drive (HDD) or solid-state drive (SSD). Both work well, but SSDs excel in speed, blasting through load times and keeping your machine firing quickly.

The Benefits of Pre-Built Gaming PCs

When it comes to the argument of "should I make my own or should I buy one," folks have been arguing for years. Learn more about the pros and cons of each decision, as well as the newer option of choosing a portable version: the gaming laptop.

Making Your Own Model vs Buying a Pre-Built Gaming PC

We covered the most important internal components, from the storage to the motherboard to the graphics cards. So building one should be easy right? Not exactly. While creating your own PC can be a fulfilling experience for many, it can be very difficult, time-consuming and costly. Plus, you'll need to find all of those parts including a, which are not easy to find and can drive up the cost of your rig. There's no need to wait for parts that there may be a shortage of, or pay thousands of dollars just for a high-quality GPU. That's why instead, many purchase a pre-built version from a trusted name like CyberPowerPC or MSI. When you make that choice, you'll be going home with a model that you can take right out of the box, plug it in and start playing. No hunting for parts and no effort in building.

Gaming Laptops vs Desktops: Which are Better?

If you asked this question ten years ago, you would have been laughed out of online gaming forums. Back then, laptops for players were always considered underpowered and made cheaply, but computer companies have caught on to the knowledge that lots of people want to play on the go. It's the same thing that inspires some console creators like Nintendo to always invest in games that can go anywhere. Of course, there are pros and cons to choosing either option. Desktops still have an edge over gaming laptops in a few key ways, in that they tend to be a smidge more powerful and can be taken apart and redesigned with new, faster parts. Even pre-built gaming computers can be upgraded (make sure to check your warranty; for some, a warranty expires the moment you tinker with a pre-built model like the ones we sell at Abt.) Their main disadvantage is that it's difficult to take them anywhere, even when it's time to move from one home to another.
However, gaming laptops are far more portable. They require no external monitor, no additional mouse, no keyboard—it's all packed into one little computer (though they're often heavier than your classic notebook or laptop). That means you can game on the go, as well as accomplish other tasks like writing essays, taking video calls, doing homework and more. And you can do it all from anywhere thanks to high-powered equipment inside. When you do come home, you have the option of plugging into a system of fully-outfitted accessories: a 4K monitor, a mouse with tons of buttons, a separate keyboard and more. Or you can just game with it as a laptop. The choice is yours since these machines can handle AAA titles and multiplayer experiences, all on a battery.

Accessories and Peripherals You'll Need

Whether you choose a desktop or a laptop, you're likely going to need more than just the computer. Learn more about everything you need, from screens to headsets and beyond.

What Are You Connecting To?

Monitor: These screens are necessary no matter what kind of pre-built gaming computer you pick up (unless you're exclusively using a laptop's screen). There are tons of different models and types, from curved variations to 4K and even 8K versions, but many gamers even use multiple monitors at once. Not sure which choice is best for you? Think about what kind of games you play the most and go from there. Ask folks who play your games; scour forums and discuss with friends. Dedicating one monitor to chat and another to play is one popular idea, too. No matter what you pick, look for stats that can keep up with your machine: high resolution of at least 1440p, a decent size that's not overwhelming (between 26-32 inches) and an HDR (high dynamic range) monitor.
Keyboard: While they might seem like a simple choice, there are a few key factors when it comes to choosing these peripherals that can make or break a gaming experience. Some factors to consider? You'll probably want anti-ghosting capabilities, which means only one key gets pressed at once. That makes for proper movement, selection and fighting no matter what you play. Another key factor is choosing between a mechanical or membrane keyboard. Many prefer mechanical, as they tend to keep ghosting to a minimum and offer a tough "click"ing feel that lets you know exactly when you've hit the button. Other fun features include exciting lighting and flashy aesthetics—these are all up to your user preference.
Mouse & Controllers: When it comes to the ever-present computer mouse, things can get a little wild. Some gaming mice have only two buttons (a left-click and a right-click) while others have built-in number pads, extra buttons everywhere, and different ways to read the surface below them. Any gaming mouse doesn't need to have dozens of buttons or a wild shape. Instead, it should have an advanced sensor (either optical or laser) and should be customized to best fit your grip. Some styles to choose between include the palm grip, where your hand and fingers lay flat against the device, while still other players prefer the tip grip, where only the tips of your fingers rest on the mouse. There's even a claw-style grip, where your hand forms a claw and angles your fingers down towards the clickable buttons. Look for a reactive mouse that fits your grip style best, and you can't go wrong. Some users prefer to use a console controller depending on the game, too—it's all about personal preferences. Look for one that you can either plug into your computer or connect to via Bluetooth.
Gaming Headsets: When it's time to sink into a world far away from your own, you'll need more than just a mouse and a keyboard. Let your senses get into the program with a prime gaming headset that allows you to hear the best of your game, from each explosion to the emotional, acoustic music. And if you're playing among friends (or foes), a gaming headset is a must-have. That's because the highly-sensitive microphone will pick up everything you say, from whispers to shouts of victory. Not sure how to choose the right one for you? Consider whether you'd prefer a wired or wireless model, padding and comfort level, console compatibility and more.
Gaming Chairs: The last and certainly not least accessory of all is a gaming chair. Whether you choose to craft your rig from scracth, pick an easy-to-use and efficient pre-built gaming PC or opt for a gaming laptop, you'll want to be comfortable while you play. That's why furniture designers invested in an entirely new genre of crafted comfort: the gaming chair. These seats are designed with comfort at every curve to help players go for hours on end with little aches or pain (something few office chairs can claim). Consider one that looks great with your room but more importantly, features all the support you need. If you have low back issues, search for a model with adjustable low back pillows and support that can be customized to meet your needs. Neck pillows help to cushion and cradle your head as you play, too. Adjustability is the primary focus of these accessories, so make sure you find one that can be customized to fit your body perfectly.

Once You've Made Your Choice

When you've finally picked out your pre-built gaming PC, laptop, or built your own rig, hook up all of your peripherals. What you'll finish with is a place dedicated to playing your favorite games—a space like no other. It'll be customized to meet your preferences, whether you play on your own or have a multiplayer experience. Settle into your seat, pick up your headset and settle in for a session of playing your new favorite game. Not sure where you can buy them? Most players buy games on Steam's web store, though other companies are building their own online storefronts. Do a little bit of research and you're sure to find the right spot to download your games. One last thing we'll recomment is a fast internet connection, especially if you're playing online with friends. You won't want poor internet to slow you down or disconnect you. Look for a download connection of at least 3 Mbps and an upload connection of around 1-2 Mbps. Once you're set up with fast internet and a high-powered computer, it's time to set your hand on the mouse and go to work.

Q&A Summary

Check out some of the most common questions everyone asks, whether they're just starting out or have been playing their favorite titles for years.

What Are The Best Budget Gaming PCs?

It can be most affordable to buy a pre-built gaming PC, like the ones we sell in our Connect Store. That all depends on the market for RAM and graphics cards. If you already own these parts, you might be better off creating your own from scratch. But in general, either a pre-built desktop or laptop are probably your best bets for the immediate future. If you're not sure, you can always graph out your budget and see what makes the most sense.

What Are The Best Pre-Built Gaming PCs?

The best pre-built gaming PC is the one that fits your budget and needs best. If you aren't interested in taking yours apart (and like the idea of taking yours on the go), choose a laptop. But if you're a hardcore gamer and want to dedicate a full space in your home to playing your favorite programs, look for a desktop and all the peripherals that can back it up. Some things to look for in a top-tier machine inclue over 16 GB of RAM, a SSD with lots of storage, and a powerful processor.

Are Pre-Built Gaming PCs Worth It?

In a word, yes. In truth, it depends on how advanced you are as a builder and player. They're all-in-one solutions you can slide out of the box and start playing right away without needing to hunt for different tech or learning to install different parts. But for more advanced users, building the machine is where the fun lies. That's why so many of our models can be taken apart and adjusted to meet your needs. Keep in mind that once you take apart a pre-built computer from Abt, you may void your warranty. Contact us for more details and with any questions at 847-954-4140.

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