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PC Advice

    • 230 posts
    February 11, 2015 6:23 PM EST

    For the past few years I've been considering trying to get a PC for gaming. I plan on using it for Fallout and Skyrim, and downloading mods for them so I can enjoy the game more. While I like the games like Skyrim now, getting a PC could make the experience even better. You can fix or change basically whatever you want, including glitches and bugs. However, I'm not experienced with PCs as I have only used them in a school setting, so I honestly don't know what computer to design or buy that would fulfill my needs without costing an insane amount of money because I don't know what I need.

    • 189 posts
    February 11, 2015 6:38 PM EST

    Can you give us a budget? Do you have any components or peripherals already (mouse, keyboard, monitor, speakers, case, operating system, storage, etc.)? Do you want to be able to run the game on Ultra with a lot of graphics mods, or just on something like High without too many performance-intensive mods? Do you want to play in 1080p at 60 FPS?

    Are you open to building the computer yourself? This would be wise, as it would allow you to customize your rig and get the best possible performance for your money.

    • 230 posts
    February 11, 2015 7:03 PM EST

    I have a mouse and keyboard from my mac, but I can probably just get new ones for my PC, and those are expensive, unless you have recommendations. As for settings, I really don't know, I definitely want it to look realistic and work well, but I'm open to the occasional crash. I've looked at mods, while I'd like to maybe run some nice graphics mods, I guess I wouldn't mind having to sacrifice them. As for budget, I plan on getting a job soon and considering that at the moment that's all I really want I don't think money will be too hard to come by then. So at the moment, I really don't have a budget, and as for building a computer, I would mind at all, although I'm confused as to whether people mean building it online, or with the parts after you get them.

    • 189 posts
    February 11, 2015 8:37 PM EST

    Well, there are some services that will essentially build a custom PC for you based on your specifications. I don't really recommend that though, as they'll charge you for labor, and probably surplus fees for shipping, tax, warranties, etc. I recommend literally building it yourself if you want to get the best bang for your buck.

    It's honestly not difficult to build a PC, and there are a lot of step-by-step, easy-to-follow guides online for how to do it. I highly encourage you to check out /r/buildapc on reddit. Their wiki and sidebar contain a lot of useful tutorials and resources for learning how to assemble parts and put together a build. There's a site called PC Part Picker that basically lets you compare hardware components against each other for ratings, price, specs, etc. and put together a mock build. It'll analyze the components for any potential incompatibilities, and direct you to online stores to get the best prices possible for your chosen components.

    To build a PC, you basically need the following (at a minimum):

    • CPU
    • Motherboard
    • GPU
    • Memory (RAM)
    • Storage
    • Power Supply

    You'll also need a case, an operating system, and peripherals (monitor, mouse, keyboard, etc.). You can tack on more stuff like a CPU Cooler, Optical Drive, additional storage, speakers, wireless/bluetooth adapters, etc. but these can potentially be avoided if you need to save a bit of money.

    To play Skyrim and Fallout 3/NV, you'll probably want an Intel i5 processor and 8GB of system memory. Anything more than that is superfluous, and anything less could detract from performance. You could also build an AMD rig instead of Intel, but I find Intel to be more noobie-friendly....

    In the /r/buildapc sidebar, there's a link called "Logical Increments Guide" which has some information on each component. If you scroll down, you can expand the section for each component and see what manufacturers they recommend.

    By far the most important option to consider for a Skyrim/Fallout build is your GPU. This is what will determine how well your game will perform. The current GPU kings are NVIDIA and AMD. NVIDIA's best GPUs right now are their 900 series (960, 970, 980) and AMD's are the 200 series (270, 280, 290). AMD has also announced that their 300 series will come out this year. You could settle for something a bit less than the top end, like a NVIDIA 760 or AMD 270. However, a lot of these may not actually save you a whole lot of money.

    You can find very good sales on AMD 280s and 290s these days; I've seen the 290 down around $220 or so, and the 290X as low as $260, depending on the manufacturer and how lucky you are with finding sales. For reference I think I paid $250 for my NVIDIA 760 less than a year ago, and it's significantly worse than either of those cards. You can get a 280 for as low as $160 these days, and even that's better than my 760. It has more VRAM, which means you can run higher res textures and more script-intensive mods with it. Though, to be fair, NVIDIA's cards tend to run cooler and consume less power, and their drivers and software are better than AMDs too.... Still probably not worth the extra money though, as of current prices/performance.

    If you want to be able to play 1080p, 60FPS, with ENB and other graphics mods, you'll probably need at least a 280, preferably a 290 or 290X if you can afford it. Again, these are all AMD cards; I wouldn't get an NVIDIA card right now because the 700 series are outdated and overpriced, and the 900 series have other issues (and are also pretty pricey anyway).

    Here's a quick sample build I threw together that should work pretty nicely: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/BBgpMp

    Note that it's missing peripherals and OS, this is just the rig itself. If that's too pricey for you, you could save maybe $40 by dropping to a 280X, and perhaps another $20-30 by dropping to a 280. I chose a pretty cheap motherboard and case, and if you go any lower on the CPU or RAM then you'll likely have performance issues from those parts. You "could" go for a smaller case, an older CPU, or a weaker PSU, but honestly that might not save you any money at all, and it would make your build way less efficient and likely to cause problems earlier in its life, so I don't recommend trying it.

    If you can afford more than the build I just listed -- keeping in mind that peripherals may run you another $300 or more -- I'd consider getting a SSD instead of an HDD. Also consider going for a 290X instead of a 290, and maybe getting a normal ATX Motherboard instead of Micro ATX.

    If all this is too overwhelming for you, I really encourage you to just take a few days reading the resources at /r/buildapc, maybe asking some questions there if you have a reddit account. They're very knowledgeable and friendly folks. If it's still too overwhelming after a few days of research and rumination, you could of course buy a pre-built rig ... It just wouldn't play the game as well, and you might have to spend more money to get it.

    Lastly, I'm not an expert at building. If you do decide to consider building your own rig, maybe try making a post at /r/buildapcforme and specify that you want to be able to play modded Skyrim/Fallout at 1080/60, and have a budget of whatever. They may be able to propose something more efficient and/or cheaper than my mockup.