Most gaming enthusiasts have long been do it yourself (DIY) types who buy components and assemble their own machines. Generally there are not that many components needed.
There are several hundred chassis models in the market. Our last build used the Corsair Carbide 300R which offers front panel USB 3.0 and mounts for numerous fans. The old Cooler Master HAF 932 was considered for a refurbish before we buying the 300R new. The Corsair Obsidian 750D Airflow Edition is another great option.
Intel changes the socket on motherboards every 2 years while AMD only changes it with the RAM cycle. Once you have assembled all of the needed components it’s fairly easy to assemble a machine. Generally 16GB of memory is adequate for the most demanding games. DDR3 tops out at 8GB and sticks and DDR4 bumps that up to 32GB per stick. Unless you are doing some extreme electronic data processing, there is no real need for more than 32GB of memory.
The power supply is very important. It’s not a good idea to cut corners as every component depends on it. Modern power supplies now offer detachable cables making it easier to manage the wires with zip-ties. We have a good background page on power supplies.
- Power Supply
- Video Card
- Hard Disk and/or SSD
Starting with the chassis, if necessary, is to first install the motherboard standoff mounting screws. There are screw mounts on the chassis tray to install the standoffs. Some recent chassis models have the standoffs installed at the factory.
Now install the CPU on the motherboard and apply a very very small amount of thermal material. Then place the CPU cooler on the and assemble it. A water cooler can be installed after the motherboard is installed of that is preferred. Thermal material will spread easily when the machine warms up and the pressure from the cooler increases.
Next install the RAM into the motherboard sockets. M.2 NVMe SSD should also be installed before the motherboard is installed. While RAM and M.2 SSD can be installed with the motherboard in place, it is easier to attach them first.
Now that the motherboard is ready, the I/O shield can now be placed in the chassis so that it snaps into place. Sometimes the I/O shield does not fit into place on some chassis properly for some reason. With the shield in place align the motherboard to the shield and the index peg to position the motherboard. Check to be sure the I/O shield is completely accessible and adjust the placement if necessary. Now the remaining 6-32 screws can be placed and lightly tightened. The motherboard should be firmly in place. Check the I/O shield again to be sure it is properly accessible.
Now the power cables for the 2×12 and EPS12V connectors need to be attached. Once these are done the rest of the assembly is much easier.
Now the PSU can be installed. Modular cables are easy to place as needed which eliminates the headache of surplus octopus tentacles. The 8-pin EPS12V is at the top is all that is needed, the smaller 4-pin ATX12V can be ignored. The larger 2×12 cable is close to the front which may be more difficult to install. The video card may need 2 PCIe cables which are included and this will complete the primary power.
Wiring the chassis LED indicators, USB and switches can be connected. Consult the motherboard manual for cable specifics.
Hard disks are lower in cost than SSD and they offer huge capacities. Seagate recently began offering 18TB hard disks. Samsung recently began offering 4TB SSD drives. Motherboards have lots of SATA ports for storage and PCIe cards are available with additional ports. A SATA power cable from the PSU can handle many hard disks.
SATA power cables are fairly thin so it’s not a bad idea to use two cables from the PSU to be sure there is enough to prevent 3.3V from resistance losses etc. In practice with PCIe 3.3V shows zero with the AX1600i PSI suggesting it is now deprecated by motherboard and peripheral designs. While the AX1600i is overkill it is the most efficient PSU available.
The video card can be installed in the large slot close to the CPU. Be sure it is snug in the slot. Attaching two screws can hold the card snugly but most make do with a single screw fine. The bracket and the slot hold the video card stable in a standard ATX chassis. Attack the PCIe power cables so the card will operate properly.
The video card is the real beef for gaming. Enthusiast grade cards can be over $500. Such extreme cards afford the ability to play games with top rendering enabled. The move to 3820×2160 resolution however will remain away from the mainstream for serveral years until graphics cards can improve sufficiently to cope.