Adding a personal touch

Daniel Lim

Buying a pre-built and fully-assembled personal computer (PC) off the shelf from a store seems like a no frills alternative to spending the time and money to build a personalised machine.

But in this era of digitalisation, the whole “building a computer is for the experienced” can’t be further from the truth.

Making the effort to build your own PC also provides you with a better of how a computer works – with all the nuts and bolts that go into building one – but also the knowledge to troubleshoot in the future.

With a myriad of tutorials online to be had, the initial hurdle for a new PC builder is the lingo used in these beginner’s guides. Let’s look at some of the more common terms:

CPU

Also known as central processing unit, it is an essential part of a PC. Reputable brands include Intel and AMD, with an array of performances to suit the novice to the expert.

With names such as Core i5-12600K or Ryzen 5 Pro 5950G, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the choices around. But to choose a CPU really boils downs to two things: core counts and clock speeds.

Core counts can range from six to 64, while clock speeds can go up to 4.3Ghz. While it is easy to get sucked into “the faster, the better” mentality, high performance often burns a hole in the pocket.

For a novice, it is best to balance the cost and performance, to assess how the computer will be used. Questions, such as “Am I a light user, who only browse the web?” or “I would like to be a top-tier gamer in the world”, need to be answer honestly to ensure no unnecessary expenditure is made.

Making the effort to build your own PC also provides you with a better of how a computer works. PHOTO: AFP
Photo shows a smaller form factor PC that is still capable of meeting the demand of everyday use. PHOTO: DANIEL LIM

MOTHERBOARD

As the core component that ties all other parts together, the motherboard forms an integral part of the system. Due to the various socket types found in the CPU, it is common to find a motherboard having two variants to cater to two types of CPU socket.

Despite Intel and AMD being the two sole CPU manufacturers, choosing the right motherboard remains a challenging pursuit, not only due to the CPU socket but also the assortment of motherboards on the market to leave a person feeling torn.

The variety is there to cater to the range of sizes of PCs, with Micro-ATX or Mini-ITX to larger Standard ATX.

While some larger motherboards have additional features not found in smaller counterparts, unless you are an enthusiast who wants the best of the best, settling for a mid-tier motherboard with decent selection of ports can go a long way to making a PC a companion for daily use.

MEMORY/RAM

Another important component that should not be skimped on is memory, as with the advancement of both software and hardware, many applications – even those that are basic and used every day, rely heavily on large pools of memory.

A few years back, many PCs and laptops would be equipped with around four to eight gigabytes of memory, but those sizes are woefully low in today’s standard. Now, the minimum recommended starting memory is at 16 gigabytes, going up to 64 for more power and multi-taskers.

Other general traits to look out for when scouting decent memory is the use of fast clock rate, which is akin to speed limits imposed on how fast the memory can write the temporary data for the system to use, as well as looking out for DDR4 or DDR5 memory, depending on the motherboard choice.

POWER SUPPLY

One aspect of the PC that should absolutely not cheap out on is the power supply unit (PSU). This component helps to control the power received from the wall outlet and ensures that all the components of the computer are receiving the right amount of power.

An investigation carried out by GamersNexus and other reputable groups found that having a cheap power supply can lead to disastrous results, with the worst case scenario being a fire or broken components. Another point to look out for when purchasing a PSU is the wattage that it is able to supply, as inadequate wattage can lead to the PC not functioning properly.

Generally, a well-equipped PC will use around 480 watts, with higher-end builds rocking more power hungry components using over 700 watts.

GPU

While not strictly necessary as many computers are fully operational without it, having a graphic processing unit (GPU) will greatly expedite many tasks that rely on it, which include video or photo rendering in games.

For those looking for a GPU, it is wise to remember that each brand has its own generation of GPUs, with each generation having a series that has a range of performances to suit various workloads.

CASE & COOLING

Technically two separate components but both cooling and case choices can heavily affect the performance of a computer, with larger case and coolers equating to better thermal performance overall.

Furthermore, coolers generally have two varieties, which include air cooling, water cooling and the harder-to-acquire passive cooling.

As such, either air cooling or water cooling will be a safer and easier option, with air cooling providing more ease of mind, as water cooling has a variety of parts that are prone to break due to wear and tear.

One should note that many CPUs come bundled with a stock air cooler, which might not seem like much but can be just enough to work if one is looking to save a buck or two.

ACCESSORIES

Just like components that are likely to see years of service, a decent and thought-out accessory list can also accompany users for eons; some of which include keyboard, mouse and monitor.

With an array of keyboards and mice, choosing a set is purely down to personal preference.

Some may want silent and low-profile keyboards, while others enjoy the tactile feedback and click of a mechanical keyboard.

Similarly, a good monitor display set will go a long way, with more expensive displays being able to show more accurate colours and faster refresh rate, the latter being key to enjoying any media as movements shown will be smoother.