In 2018 there are more reasons than ever to upgrade your PC, with reasons including becoming more productive if your PC is a work machine, or perhaps improve your gaming experience by running games at superior graphics levels or FPS. There are plenty of advantages to upgrading, and today getting a big improvement in performance doesn’t necessarily come at an expensive cost. In this guide, we go over different components you should consider upgrading, what you should consider in terms of features, what to look out for, and useful resources for making these comparisons and choosing components easy.
The graphics card is often the most popular upgrade to make for gamers as it is usually the bottleneck in systems which prevents people gaming at higher frame rates and resolutions. When upgrading you should consider whether to go for NVIDIA or AMD, and this is usually down to personal preference and choice, or perhaps your monitor is FreeSync in which you would then go for an AMD monitor for better compatibility. You also should look at whether to choose a founder edition card or perhaps a aftermarket brand graphics card, which features a number of changes from the stock graphics card models, such as a redesigned PCB, different fan cooling design, slot-width and length (usually), as well as clock speeds out of the box. With many aftermarket cards available from a number of manufacturers, comparing and working out which card is the best graphics card for you can be difficult. Luckily, there are resources out there to see which is best, such as benchmark sites for graphics cards, such as 3Dmark, and comparison chart tools to compare between graphics cards – which is extremely handy when looking between specific specifications, such as looking at the number of ports or clock speeds.
Having a powerful motherboard creates a good and stable foundation for your PC build. When upgrading the motherboard it is important to have in mind that it is compatible with existing components, or compatible with other components you plan to upgrade at the same time. Chipset, RAM and power connector ports compatibility is imperative to consider when upgrading and making sure all these are compatible with your current build to prevent disappointment when finding out it isn’t compatible. Other things to consider are external I/O ports and features you may want, such as the motherboard having thunderbolt 3 technology on board, which is often useful for high-speed data transfer or connecting to various monitors. In addition getting a motherboard with ports such as USB 3.1 and Type C is a great idea for future proofing your PC build as peripherals in the future are more likely to adopt the Type C standard. VRM is important to look at as having a motherboard with decent VRM components means that it is better at handling power regulation and delivery, meaning that overclocks become easier and more stable, putting less stress on the system. VRM info is pretty difficult to come by as the community usually relies on enthusiasts breaking down the motherboard to manually find the components used, as the manufacturer never advertises this but rather just states the number of power phases. Resources which are useful in finding VRM information of motherboards include the youtube channel Actually Hardcore Overclocking, Overclock forums, as well as HardwarePick which lists VRM information within their motherboard database. A handy tool indeed.
The processor is arguably the most important component in the PC in regards to seeing performance improvements during everyday use. There are a few things to consider when upgrading the CPU, for example, is to ideally aim for a new generation model as compared to picking a more powerful one from the previous generation. This is good in future proofing the PC build and permits for better support from the manufacturer in the future. In addition, looking at benchmark websites which test and rank CPUs is a good way to see which CPU is the best bang for your buck and worth upgrading to. There are plenty of things to look for when upgrading a CPU, apart from just clock speed and number of cores. This includes whether the CPU has integrated graphics or not, the number of threads, TDP, and Cache including Cache L1, L2, and L3. Die size is important too, transistors as well as making sure the socket is compatible with your current, or new, motherboard. There are two choices to pick from when it comes to CPUs, AMD (Ryzen) or Intel (Core i3/i5/i7) and which one you should go for entirely comes down to preference, but if you plan on gaming on an AMD graphics card then go for a AMD CPU to pair with, and likewise with Intel and NVIDIA graphics cards.