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Pre-Built Gaming PC Buying Guide

If you want to get into PC gaming quickly and with minimal fuss, then buying a pre-built gaming PC is often the best option. But before you hit the buy button, here are some things you need to think about...


Contents


Define your PC gaming goals

Why are you buying a gaming PC? That may seem like an unusual question to ask yourself, but doing so will make your buying journey easier.

Here are some other questions to think about:

• Are you buying your PC to play a particular game?
• Will you mainly just be playing this one game? Or are there other games that you’ll be playing regularly?
• Are these games graphically demanding e.g. Cyberpunk 2077?
• Do you want your pre-built gaming PC to be future proof?
• Will you be using your PC for other things like streaming, video editing etc?

How you answer these questions will influence the type, cost and make of your pre-built gaming PC.

For example, if you’re mainly going to be playing AAA titles on high settings, you’re going to have to get a top-spec pre-built with a high-end GPU. On the other hand, if you’re an aficionado of indie games with low-graphics requirements, you can opt for a more budget friendly pre-built PC.


How much are you willing to spend?

Determining your budget is crucial in getting the right pre-built gaming PC for your needs.

Depending on how you answered those questions above will determine how much you need to spend - there will be areas where you can cut back, and others where you can’t.

For example, if you’re intending to play graphically intensive games then you should be looking for a pre-built system with the best graphics card you can afford.

The fact of the matter is that a great GPU is what makes a great gaming PC.

But, you don’t have to break the bank. At CCL our range of Horizon PCs are designed to accommodate gaming at a reasonable price. Our Horizon 3 PC is designed to handle 1080p gaming at medium settings and features an Intel Core i3 processor, 8GB RAM and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650, all at a great price.


Performance

After price, performance is probably the most important thing to consider in a gaming PC.

After all, buy the wrong spec PC and you might find you can’t play your favourite games (or at least not play as well as you could).

Graphics card

When looking for a pre-built PC primarily for gaming, look at what sort of graphics card it has. Your choice will likely be confined to AMD versus NVIDIA. At the moment the market leader is NVIDIA and is the preferred option of many experienced gamers.

With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at NVIDIA graphics cards.

NVIDIA GeForce RTX Graphics Cards

A large number of pre-built gaming PCs contain one of NVIDIA’s GeForce RTX graphics cards, and for good reason - they’re brilliant!

NVIDIA’s GeForce RTX graphics card range spans mid-range models costing hundreds of pounds through to top-end models costing thousands.

At present, the most powerful and advanced NVIDIA graphics cards are the GeForce RTX 30 series (RTX 3090, RTX 3080 Ti, RTX 3080, RTX 3070 etc). The majority of CCL’s higher-end pre-built gaming PCs contain a 30-series GPU (bear in mind however, that you can still get hold of powerful gaming PCs that have the previous generation RTX 20 series cards).

However, if you’re looking for a pre-built PC that’s a bit more wallet friendly but still capable of gaming, then it’s worth looking out for systems that include NVIDIA’s other range of graphics cards - GTX.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX Graphics Cards

NVIDIA’s GTX graphics cards are the next rung down from their RTX cards. The GTX range covers several different cards - GTX 1650, GTX 1650 Ti, GTX 1660, GTX 1660 SUPER, and GTX 1660 Ti.

GTX cards don’t support some of the advanced features that RTX cards do such as DXR ray tracing or some of their AI-powered features, however if you’re looking for a gaming system on a budget, GTX cards aren’t to be sniffed at - just don’t expect super high level gaming performance.

Whilst a graphics card is super important for your pre-built gaming PC, there are a few other things to look for when assessing performance.

Memory

One of the things that you might hear when shopping for a pre-built gaming PC, is that you should get as much memory as you can.

Only do that if you have money to burn!

A solid baseline for modern gaming is 16GB. This will future proof your system to an extent and will provide enough performance to handle top games at decent framerates.

It is possible to get up to huge numbers like 64GB of RAM, but as we say, it really isn’t necessary if you’re an average gamer.

To put all these numbers into context, we’ve set out some of the most popular games below along with their minimum and recommended memory requirements:

 

Game Minimum Memory Requirement Recommended Memory Requirement
Doom Eternal 8GB 16GB
Fortnite 8GB 16GB
Overwatch 4GB 6GB
Cyberpunk 2077 8GB 16GB

 

As you can see, you don’t need to go overkill on RAM, but it’s certainly worth stretching to a system that has 16GB of RAM if you can afford it.

Tip - many experienced gamers also recommend that you buy a system that uses dual-channel RAM (basically two ‘sticks’ of RAM rather than one). This is because when you’re using memory intensive applications, dual-channel RAM has been proven in tests to improve computer performance.

Processor

Finally, you’ve got the CPU. The processor is an important part of your pre-built PC; it acts as the ‘brain’ of your computer.

When you’re looking for a PC for mostly gaming purposes, you want to pay special attention to the core count of the CPU. The more cores, the better performance you’re going to get.

At present, you can buy pre-built PCs that have two cores all the way up to systems with 16 cores.

Tip - for gaming we’d recommend you get a system with at least a four-core CPU as a minimum.

However, six core CPUs are not hugely more expensive and will provide you with a bit more confidence in your system. Six-core CPUs such as AMD’s Ryzen 5 5600X and Intel’s Core i5-10600k are great options.


Storage

Are you going to be storing entire games, large video files etc on your computer? If the answer is yes, then you should be looking for a pre-built system that includes a large volume of storage.

There are two main types of storage that you’ll find in pre-built PCs - SSD and HDD.

Solid State Drive (SSD)

Solid State Drives a form of storage that use non-volatile flash memory to store data. That means that SSDs are able to offer much higher read and write speeds than Hard Disk Drives (HDDs).

Hard Disk Drive (HDD)

Hard Disk Drives are a much older form of storage. They use an optical disk which is read by an arm. HDDs have traditionally been cheaper than SSDs. They tend to be slower than SSDs, but if you’re looking for truly massive amounts of storage, you’ll want a HDD.

The good news though, is that you don’t have to compromise. If you want, you can have both in your system.

At computer retailers such as CCL, many of the pre-built PCs are built to order, so you can request that your system has both a HDD and an SSD if you want.

 

Arrow pointing to the Customise tab on the Horizon 5 Vega Gaming PC listing

 

Simply click on the ‘Customise this PC’ tab when viewing a pre-built gaming PC system and you’ll be able to add a HDD.

 

Arrow pointing to the 1TB Hard Drive selection on the Customisation page of a Horizon PC

 

You could use the HDD to store games, movies and other massive files, whilst you could install your operating system on the SSD.

With all of these things in mind, you’ve basically covered all of the ‘internals’ that you really need to think about for a pre-built gaming PC. Sure, there are other components such as the power supply, motherboard, cooling system etc, but if you want to start speccing all those yourself, you’ll be getting into ‘build it yourself’ territory.


Case design

For many people this is one of the funnest parts of the buying process. Sure, you want to make sure that your PC is going to be able to play the games you want and run those essential applications, but you want it to look cool as well right?!

In that case you’re spoilt for choice!

The majority of pre-built gaming PCs use a mid-tower case. Like other parts of CCL’s computers you can choose a different case for your system - simply go to the ‘Customise this PC’ tab and then select your desired case (there are usually a number of different cases to choose from).

 

Arrow pointing to Case selections on the Customisation page of a Horizon PC

 

But aside from picking a case that looks cool, what else should you look for in a pre-built gaming PC case?

Connectivity

What does the case allow you to plug into the computer? You should make sure the front panel of the case has enough quick-access USB ports as well as an audio port or two for headphones.

Likewise, the back panel of the case should have enough ports to accommodate plugging in monitors, keyboard, mouse etc. You’ll probably also want at least one ethernet connection too.

Access

At some point in the future you may want to upgrade your computer’s RAM or install a new graphics card. In which case, you should check whether or not the case has an access panel. Many cases will let you easily take off the side panels.


Warranties and additional benefits

Which brings us to our final point! For many people the reason they buy a pre-built gaming PC is because they don’t have the knowledge to build a PC, they don’t have the time to build one, or they want the reassurance of buying a PC that’s built by experienced professionals.

By buying your pre-built PC from a dedicated PC builder you can be assured that you’ll be getting a system that’s balanced, designed and built with compatible components and thoroughly tested.

However, for added peace of mind, you should see what warranty options are available with the PC of your choice. For example, here at CCL all of our pre-built gaming PCs come with a 3 year on-site parts and labour warranty as standard. Oh, and you’ll also get 5% off all gaming monitors, keyboards, and mice when you buy one of our gaming PCs.


Ask for advice

Reading a buying guide is one thing; but talking to an experienced, qualified expert is another thing altogether!

If you are looking for a pre-built gaming PC and find that you still have some unanswered questions after reading this guide, please feel free to contact our team who will be more than happy to help. You can contact us by email at pcsales@cclonline.com or on the phone on 01274 471210.