Important PC Requirements for Running Graphics-Intensive Games
The virtual worlds we immerse ourselves in are more beautiful than ever! Technologies like ray tracing and upscaling make everything look even more realistic while keeping framerates high.
If you've built a good enough rig, that is.
What components and tools should you focus on if you want to run maxed-out AAA games for the foreseeable future? Check out our quickstart guide and start building your dream PC.
While you also want to pair it with an adequate CPU, the GPU is the most important component in your gaming build. It determines which resolution you can play at, what visual quality to expect, and the longevity of your build.
The most expensive desktop GPUs offer the highest fidelity. You'll have to pay a lot for something like an RTX 4090. Still, it's guaranteed to run games at 60+ frames at 4K with all details set to Ultra or High, with ray-tracing on, for the next several years. And that's without accounting for DLSS 3.0, which is a technology that uses artificial intelligence to upscale lower-resolution images in real-time.
If you don't have well north of a grand to spend on the GPU, consider its generation, tier, and VRAM when buying. The most expensive cards receive the highest generational gains, so getting an RTX 4080 over a similarly-priced RTX 3090 Ti makes sense. The more VRAM the GPU has, the more textures and visual effects it can render. You'll want 12GB or more for modern 4K games, and 8-10GB if you're playing at 1440p.
Your GPU handles a game's visuals; your processor takes care of the logic behind those visuals. It's responsible for different background calculations that ensure the game runs like it should. These include AI behavior, calculating outcomes like damage rolls, determining when to play different sound effects, etc.
Most importantly, for game graphics, it sends a stream of instructions to the GPU detailing which parts of the world to render and how. Its frequency and core count determine the speeds at which it can do so. Games are single-threaded applications that still don't benefit from more than eight cores. That's the amount even the best gaming CPUs come with, not counting Intel's Efficiency cores.
Choosing the right CPU and GPU combination is critical to avoid bottlenecking. Expect lower details, framerates, and resolutions with weak GPUs. A weak CPU will supply the GPU with fewer instructions than it can handle, leaving its framerate potential unfulfilled. CPUs are usually the bottleneck at low resolutions. The increased strain resulting from 4K and high details causes GPUs to reach their limits earlier at such settings.
The right software adds crucial touches to a game's optimization. Your OS of choice should be Windows since PC games are designed for it.
Tune-up software like MSI Afterburner lets you overclock and undervolt your GPU to squeeze some extra frames out of it or make it run cooler.
If you're an online gamer, you'll also want to secure your logins with a reliable password manager and two-factor authentication so you don't lose access to your account even if it gets hacked.
Random Access Memory is where games and other programs temporarily store data. Modern games won't even start unless there's not enough of it. 16GB is the minimum these days, but RAM is cheap enough that 32GB shouldn't be a problem.
Having more RAM than needed won't make games play better, but it will let you run other programs in the background. Frequency and latency can help with CPU efficiency, resulting in a small framerate boost. The effect isn't as pronounced with DDR5, so expect diminishing returns in most games past 6000MHz CL30.
The monitor displays all the frames your GPU renders, making it a deciding factor for your gaming experience. Its resolution and refresh rate determine which GPU you should buy. For example, you can get an RTX 4070 Ti or RX 6800 XT and enjoy high-detail 60+fps gaming on a 1440p display.
144Hz is becoming the new standard, and some monitors can push their refresh rates much higher for competitive play. When buying a monitor, also take note of its panel and color gamut. OLED offers true blacks and the best contrast but is expensive. IPS panels have excellent color fidelity but poor contrast. VA panels are a good middle ground but have narrow viewing angles.
The gamut determines how vibrant the colors will be. There's no sense in building an awesome rig only to have everything look washed out. Thankfully, most monitors cover the entire sRGB gamut, which is the color space developers use. Also, consider a display's Adobe RGB and DCI-P3 coverage if you work with videos & photos.
High-resolution textures, audio in several languages, and video cutscenes keep taking up ever more space. They also take time to load, which is why you'll want to store games on a fast drive. It's gotten to a point where some games won't run properly on traditional HDDs.
The good news is that any SATA SSD will do, and NVMe drives aren't expensive either. You don't need a PCIe 5.0 drive since loading speed differences are minimal compared to older and much cheaper PCIe 3.0 drives.