Hardware Guides

With all of the builds that we pump out here at GN, like our excellent $558 build i3-2120 gaming build, we've had a lot of you ask how we manage to consistently pick out unique deals. As part of our "How to Build a Gaming PC" guide, this article covers the "cutting corners" aspect of PC building. As much as we'd like to lay claim to some sort of book of secrets about hardware, it's truly as simple as knowing our way around websites, knowing what old hardware can be recycle/salvaged/cannibalized from an old PC, and finding creative methods to hack the price.

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Building a gaming computer is exceedingly easy: If you can use a screwdriver, have at least one thumb and a couple of bucks, and can read, you're already off to a great start. It can be intimidating when looking at all the options for gaming PCs and figuring out if X is compatible with Y, if you should get an SSD, the differences between a 7950 and 7970, NVIDIA vs. AMD/ATI, and so forth, but it's actually quite simple once we define our requirements in this first part of our multi-part First PC Build Guide for Noobs.

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Future installments of this guide will look at "where to start" when shopping, if you'd like to build budget PCs in the manner that we do, how to pick a CPU, video card differences, and anything else that gets asked of us. Write a comment below or post on our hardware forums if you have questions!

When you really start getting elbow-deep into PC building and specs -- much deeper than our recent budget PC builds have gone -- it's easy to get overwhelmed by all the acronyms and terminology used by white papers and specification sheets. Our previous video card guide looked at the pros and cons of AMD vs. NVIDIA for gaming, but this one is (relatively) universal and can be applied to almost all aspects of graphics processing technology. This "GPU Dictionary" explains the difference between memory clocks and core clocks, shader specs, what a ROP is, and some other basic (and fun) GPU phrases.

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Similar to our surprisingly in-depth case fan guide, this GPU dictionary is outlined in such a way that it will retain relevance through time, so - for the most part - you won't have to worry about re-learning anything.

Graphics Wars: AMD vs NVIDIA for Gaming

By Published January 20, 2012 at 4:33 pm

I recently spoke with someone who claimed he'd never divert from AMD, despite what Intel or nVidia have available. For innumerable reasons, brand loyalty and fanboyism leads to ignorance and decreased performance. None of these brands are immaculate and all of them are prone to failures and shortcomings -- in this nVidia vs. AMD for gaming piece, we'll focus on the advantages of each and how you can make informed decisions about video / graphics cards selections for your gaming rigs.

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If our in-depth case fan tweaks - a topic which only very, ah, special people find interesting - is any indicator, we love hardware. Especially gaming hardware -- it's customizable, it's tweak-able, and it is effectively an expensive toy, albeit one that you really don't want to break. Or share. Get away, it's all mine!

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The hardware release schedule for CPUs, video cards, chipsets, and other important gaming equipment isn't firm yet, but this article collates all the data we have accumulated over the past months to combine a 'hardware release timeline' for 2012. We'll be pinpointing the upcoming Intel Ivybridge release date as well as AMD's second iteration of Bulldozer-esque CPUs, the hard drive market, the new 79XX AMD/ATi video card series, and some cool nVidia gear as well. This guide will give you a solid idea of whether or not you should wait to upgrade or act now. We've made a convenient chart of the pending releases below...

With the myriad of fan sizes available today it can be tough to truly understand the difference of larger fans without hands-on experience -- that's what we're here for. Our previous guide explained the basics of fan placement and our recommended number of fans per system, this guide will go into depth on fan sizes, quieter gaming fans, and we'll set the stage for our next article, which will cover case fan bearing types and technologies.

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120mm fans used to be the prevailing option for gaming cases, but in the last year or two, companies like Cooler Master, Antec, and Thermaltake have pushed the combinatory usage of 140mm, 200mm, and even 220mm+ fans in their larger cases. 120mm fans are still abundant in the sub-$100 range, but the larger variations do have a noticeable impact on noise-levels and cooling efficiency. This is for reasons that are much more transparent than most would think -- let's make it easy by looking again at the physical properties of fan size:

This low-difficulty guide addresses what I call "fan placement theory," essentially looking at how many fans gaming computers should have, where they should be placed, and what the ratio of intake-to-exhaust case fans should exhibit. Cooling for gaming rigs -- even in the budget build guides we write -- has the power to inhibit gaming (and even damage components) if it is insufficient, so it is of high priority that you get your cooling figured out early in the game to increase the longevity of your gaming computer.

fans-sliderOne of the fantastic cases we saw at PAX East '11.

This is part of an ongoing, extensive guide about case fans and cooling. You can expect a feature about fan bearing technology and fan noise level reduction to be published over the next few days. Update: Our guide to quieter case fans and case fan size differences can now be found here.

With no end to the spindle drive price hike in sight, hardware analysts have pointed toward growing action potential for solid state drive price reductions. The question, then, is whether or not gaming machines utilize SSDs -- several of our forum users have asked "is an SSD worth it?" or "should I get an SSD?" lately, and having done some minor bottleneck performance calculations, GN hardware editor Patrick Stone and I have some great (demystified) answers for you (and a TL;DR at the bottom).

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GN's Black Friday Survival Guide, 2011

By Published November 23, 2011 at 11:36 pm

Black Friday is just around the corner! For some this day may hold a special place in your heart -- perhaps you’ve been run over in the past by a rushing mob seeking the best deals at the mall (or maybe you're just sarcastic, like we were last year), for the international folks, it may hold little to no significance. This is the day where some of the best deals of the year can be found, whether you look on the net or at your local shopping center. Here at Gamers Nexus we find ourselves excited about the hardware bargains that will appear over the next couple of days, especially those related to souping-up your PC aesthetically or our $482 gaming rig.

black-friday-sliderNuclear Launch Detected.

For those new to hardware or Black Friday shopping in general, or those looking for how to prepare for Black Friday, we'd like to share the best gaming deals of Black Friday with everyone:

5 Ways to Soup-up Your PC

By Published November 19, 2011 at 1:57 am

PC gaming is as much about style as it is about raw performance, of course, it also helps to have some skill. LEDs have become the norm in modern gaming cases, but there's an entire world of aesthetic- and performance-boosting add-ons for your gaming rig out there. These little gadgets are typically quick to install and require little (if any) modding experience, which means you get to focus on what's most important: playing with your new high-tech toys.

This is a fantastic way to expand on our $482 budget gaming build for those who want a little more style. More often than not, the add-ons are extremely affordable and can be swapped in-and-out rapidly, so this is a fun project for almost any PC gamer to take part in - set aside a weekend and grab some of the cool components below. If you've been looking for some of the best PC add-ons and easy case mod options, enjoy this list!

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