SOLVED: Advice on computer specs

Roleybob

Member
So I'm looking into buying a new PC but I'm clueless when it comes to hardware, does anyone have any advice on what specs I should be looking for and any good UK based online stores?

It will mostly be used to play games, watch and stream videos / Netflix / music / etc, and do some work on using Word docs, Excel spreadsheets, etc, and of course it would need to perform well with GMS2. The games it will be used for won't be the most modern games, I don't feel like I need an actual gaming PC, and it would be good if I can keep it to ~GB£ 500, though I know I might need to spend a bit more.

My mate says I should be looking for an I5 core and I need to make sure that it comes with an operating system but other than that I have no idea. He suggested I look at Overclockers.co.uk but their site is asking me to choose what make & model I want for each of these: processor, motherboard, memory, primary drive, secondary drive, graphics cards, optical drive, power supply and build time - I have no idea!

Any help?

Thanks
 

TsukaYuriko

🌠
Forum Staff
Moderator
While I can't name any stores in the UK, I can certainly help out with hardware consulting (it is part of my day job).

First things first, is the only option here to buy a PC, or is it also an option to build one? The latter is often cheaper overall and offers unrivaled flexibility in terms of being able to mix and match parts together, whereas buying a pre-built PC limits you to what manufacturers have put together.


From your post, I've gathered that the applications you will be using it for won't be very demanding in terms of hardware. Exact examples would be extremely helpful with pinpointing stuff more precisely - "won't be the most modern games" is rather nondescript. Depending on this, you may not even need a dedicated GPU (as some CPUs have integrated GPUs that are entirely sufficient for anything you could reasonably classify as "office work"). I'll reserve the rest of my analysis for once we have more information, as the contents thereof may change based on your exact needs.
 

Roleybob

Member
Hi TsukaYuriko

Thanks for your reply, yes I was a little vague - sorry!

I certainly wouldn't build one myself but overclockers.co.uk is a site which builds PCs to the spec that the customer gives them (hence my confusion as I don't know what make and model of each component is suitable and works well with the other components).

I expect that if GMS2 runs well on it then any games that I might play would too - I use consoles for playing more modern games. Recent-ish games I've been playing on consoles include Witness, Tropico 6 and Zelda Breath of the Wild. I don't know how they compare to high-end games when it comes to PC hardware requirements.

I tend to have several windows open at a time - Netflix, Media Player, several Firefox pages, Word / Excel docs, GMS2, Splashtop to link to my work computer, and of course would need virus protection, etc running in the background.

I've done a little more reading - maybe you could advise:

Processor
I5 minimum?
Quad-core or is dual-core sufficient?
Clock speed 2GHz minimum?
What memory cache size minimum to look for?

Ram - 8GB enough or need higher?

Standard hard drive enough or need solid state drive?

Graphics card... I have no idea what to look for at all

Any other advice you can think of

Thanks
 

TsukaYuriko

🌠
Forum Staff
Moderator
Alright, so I'll be treating this like what you're doing on your PC can be treated as roughly equivalent to "office work" for now. If any games you'd definitely like to play on your PC come to mind, or any upcoming ones you'd be interested in playing, let us know.

This post will get a bit longer, as there's some stuff I'd like to explain before we proceed to allow you to make informed decisions. First of all, let's get a couple of terms defined. (Apologies if any of these are already known to you and superfluous - I'm basing this off of "I'm clueless when it comes to hardware".)

I'll put the tech-y stuff in a spoiler. Anything inside is mostly for information and not necessarily a question.

I5 minimum?
This is not a quantifiable measurement. This term mainly describes the product line of a CPU. As in:
i3 is the budget line.
i5 is the mid-range line.
i7 is the high-end line.
i9 is the enthusiast line.
You can somewhat reliably expect products from the same generation to have their performance tiered accordingly to the schema above. The price to performance ratio is inversely proportional to this - higher lines tend to offer greater performance at an even greater price.

However, the higher number does not always directly translate to better value performance. High-end CPUs from a couple generations ago tend to lose in performance to mid-range CPUs from the current generation. Therefore, when building a new PC, attention needs to be paid to ensure that the CPU is sufficiently recent - while older models tend to drop in price as newer models are introduced to the market, at some point, you could've gotten a more recent CPU with better performance for the same price.


With that said, this only covers Intel's side. There's another big name in the CPU industry, AMD, who has been on the rise lately. Although having been in Intel's shadow for the longest time, they are now also producing viable CPUs for just about any range of customers from budget to enthusiast. I'm throwing this in here as this choice directly affects the compatibility of other components, primarily the motherboard, as CPUs from one manufacturer are not compatible with the sockets of the other.

I suggest taking some time to think about which games you'd like to play on this PC now, and potentially any upcoming games you'd like to play in the future, and to check their minimum system requirements, as this will likely be the most intensive task your CPU will need to be able to handle. These will often be provided in the form of CPUs used as an example of what was used on a machine that runs the game well. You could then compare benchmarks of this provided CPU model on sites such as UserBenchmark to find out CPUs which have similar performance as the example - maybe you'll find something that offers a better price to performance ratio.

Quad-core or is dual-core sufficient?
This choice largely depends on how much you're planning to run at the same time on your device. Luckily, it's a lot more technical than the iSomething stuff, so this is something we can quantify!

A CPU's core count roughly translates to how much it'll be able to process... that is, at the same time. By default, programs will run on a single thread, which in turn runs on a single core of your CPU. It is sometimes possible, but not required, for developers to develop their application in a way that uses multiple threads across multiple cores to take advantage of end users' CPUs that have more than one core. The caveat here is that additional cores will only benefit any program if it was written in a way that takes advantage of it.

So, a CPU with two cores will run a single-threaded game roughly the same as a CPU with four or eight cores, provided that all other hardware specs are identical. A piece of software that can take advantage of as many cores as you have, however, will likely see massive performance increases the more cores you have - a common example of this is video rendering.

I'd call dual core the absolute minimum. A quad core CPU can provide great benefits if you are either running a lot of performance-intensive applications at the same time, or a single application that can take advantage of multithreading. The workload you described sounds like it's somewhere in the middle of these two - a quad core, although not entirely required, would be able to handle the multitude of applications that might be running at the same time more easily, while also leaving room for more intensive workloads, should you ever end up using anything that would greatly benefit from it. Unless doing so would burn a hole in your pocket, I'd recommend going for a quad core.

Clock speed 2GHz minimum?
This is one of those metrics marketing desperately wants you to believe are the most important thing out there. Why? Because "FIRST CPU THAT CAN RUN AT 5 GHZ!" sounds better than "we slightly increased the frequency over the old generation's model because we got it to run stable but the underlying architecture is roughly the same". While frequency does matter, it is merely one factor that determines a CPU's performance. (I'd definitely raise my eyebrows at any CPU marketed to me as "recent" with a 2GHz frequency, though - not because it automatically has bad performance, but rather simply because it's a figure most often seen in older models or mobile versions of the current generation)

You can think of the frequency as a "multiplier" of sorts - specifically, a multiplier for the CPU's IPC, or instructions per cycle. This is what's used to measure a CPU's throughput - as in, how much it can process. The frequency then acts as a multiplier to this. Given the same IPC, a CPU running at 5GHz has a 5 times higher throughput than a CPU running at 1GHz. IPC and frequency don't always increase at the same time, though - a CPU with a higher frequency may have a lower IPC than another CPU with a lower frequency, and the latter can still be able to outperform the former.

For example, an Intel i7 7700k running at a 4.2 GHz base clock is outperformed by an AMD Ryzen 7 3700x running at a mere 3.6 GHz base clock, due to the remaining architectural differences that make up the bulk of what determines performance. The former is three years older and yet tends to retail for 1.5 times the price of the latter.

The best way to tackle this issue is, once again, to compare benchmarks.

What memory cache size minimum to look for?
Ah, finally one I can answer with a general "the more, the better"! :D However, it's also one of those things I'd call a lesser priority - not on paper (as it does make a difference), but definitely when researching what to buy, as it is overall not indicative of a CPU's performance. A CPU with low performance but a bigger cache will very likely perform vastly worse than a CPU with high performance and a smaller cache. Fortunately, CPU caches tend to have more favorable statistics the better the overall performance of the CPU is, so I suggest looking for a good CPU based on its overall performance rather than based on its cache alone.

Ram - 8GB enough or need higher?
This one again depends very heavily on your most intensive workload (which likely is the games you'd want to play). The system requirements of said games will give you a general idea about this. A game that requires 8 GB RAM to run by itself, for example, will not run on a PC with 8 GB of RAM, as RAM is shared among all programs that run on it. Open up everything you'd like to have open at the same time (following your described workload above) and check your PC's memory usage.

For example, my PC with the absolute minimum that I need on a daily basis loaded sits at this memory usage:

You can see that 74 out of 128 GB are committed (reserved). This would be the absolute minimum, as loading anything more will not fit in your RAM. (Not 74 GB, by heaven's sake! Replace that with your own result. :D)
Once your RAM is full, one of two things happens:
If you have set up your PC to use a page file, a portion of your drives, such as your SSD or HDD, will be used like RAM. These are slower than your RAM, therefore dragging down your PC's performance.
If you do not have a page file, or your page file is also full... well, anything could happen at that point. The program you're using may complain that you don't have enough RAM to complete the operation, or it might crash, or your entire PC might crash... yeah, you don't want this to happen.

You don't want stuff to be forced to end up in the page file, and you especially don't want to run out of both RAM and page file space, so the general rule here is to get more RAM than you need, but not too much more, as you'd be wasting money at that point.

Standard hard drive enough or need solid state drive?
While you don't need a solid state drive, an SSD can tremendously improve your PC's performance, as their performance is in general vastly superior to that of HDDs of an equal price range.

With that said, I recommend... neither of the two options.
Why settle for one? Get both! Put anything that requires performance on your blazing fast SSD, such as your operating system and installed software, while stuff that merely exists on your drive most of the time, taking up space but not requiring performance whatsoever, such as music, pictures, videos, etc. can land on your hard drive. This helps you to not eat up your SSD's likely already very limited capacity while also providing all the speed benefits having one brings you.

Graphics card... I have no idea what to look for at all
Better question: Do you need one?
Chances are that whatever integrated GPU your CPU has (if it has one - if it doesn't, yes, you definitely need a GPU) will be more than sufficient for your workload. If not, name an example game you'd like to run and I can point you towards the general range of products you should be considering to have a smooth experience both in regards to performance and staying close to the budget.


There are a couple more components such as the motherboard and the power supply that can't be overlooked... however, they depend on the other components, so I can't make any statements about these yet.

Any other advice you can think of
On top of the aforementioned "which games do you want to play on it", there's one more thing: What is the hardware of the PC you are currently using? This will serve as a reference point regarding areas that should likely be upgraded, as well as to make sure we won't suggest anything worse than what you currently have.

You can check this with free software such as Speccy or HWiNFO.
The most important will be the following:
CPU model, RAM capacity, GPU model, storage drive type and capacity.
For example:
Intel i7 7700k, 4 GB, nVidia GeForce GTX 680, 500 GB HDD.
 

Roleybob

Member
So, I currently have open:

Splashtop (remotely connects to work PC)
IP Softphone (remotely connects to work phone)
Netflix (through Firefox)
GMS2
an empty Inkscape doc
2 Word docs
Speccy
3 low memory Firefox pages (e.g. Wikipedia)
And I've thrown in 2 Youtube videos on pause for testing purposes (open with Firefox)

Currently running at ~3.2 GB and I am getting some lag, etc

1589987131064.png


Speccy summary:

1589986964484.png


Didn't realise that I'd had it this long but it says that the OS was installed in July 2012...

I assume the below means that I'm already using quad-core

1589989172922.png
 
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Roleybob

Member
Could I PM you a link to a custom built PC that I've just chosen the options for and see what you think?

Some of the options I went for higher spec than I think I need, either because they were the same price (or cheaper) than the lesser models (or what I think are the lesser models) or because the cheaper ones weren't in stock.

I just need to know if there is anything else that I would need (e.g. it says that I need a graphics card if the CPU does not have VEGA graphics 🤷‍♂️) or if you think any of the options will not be high enough spec.

For possible future games I might want to play - Oddworld Soulstorm might be an example (if it is ever released), I doubt anything higher spec than that and I could always get that, or any other modern games on console once I know the minimum requirements to run the game.

I'm more interested in making my own games (with GMS2), videos, music, work stuff...

EDIT: Oh, and what you were saying about Intel / AMD - I assume that it is only hardware that might be incompatible with one or the other? Software will run on either fine right?

EDIT2: Would the Ryzen 5 3600 six core 4.2GHz actually be better than the Ryzen 7 2700X eight core/16 thread 4.35GHZ? 3600 x 4.2 is a lot more than 2700 x 4.35 but it has fewer cores... for the difference of < £5 I would prefer whichever is "better"

And I have no idea what I'm looking for with the motherboard

EDIT3: I'll just stick the link here instead of PMing:

Thanks
 
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kburkhart84

Firehammer Games
I don't know what is in your specs...but I think you should still get a dedicated GPU. It doesn't need to be a screamer, but even something like the NVidia 1660 thingy should be much better than integrated graphics. And I feel like you are going to regret a decision to go all integrated when some modern game comes out or you want to do something even in Gamemaker that needs better than an integrated chip.

AMD/Intel...software should work equally in both with maybe a couple exceptions. The differences are going to be more about if the software you use can take full advantage of all those extra cores that the Ryzen ones are doing. If not, you may be better off with less cores but faster single core processing, and the same applies even between different Ryzen processors.
 

Roleybob

Member
Thanks for the advice,

- The cheapest option of dedicated GPU the site is offering me with this build is an Asus GeForce GT1030 2048MBGDDR5 which is GB£ 83, after that, it jumps to GB£ 150 which makes the whole thing a lot more than I wanted to pay really...

- So you think that the Ryzen 5 3600 six core 4.2GHz would be better than the 8 core Ryzen 7 at 2700X and 4.35GHz? Assuming I don't need 8 cores, which from the sound of it I probably won't...


I have just gone through my piggy bank at home and there's GB£ 600 in there to add to my bank account so... it's a possibility
 

kburkhart84

Firehammer Games
It seems that the Ryzen 7 there has a faster core though, so it has more cores AND faster cores. But, I see 2700x is lower than 3600...I'm not that familiar with Ryzen, but that could mean that the first one that is the 3600 is a newer generation, meaning it may be faster overall despite a slightly lower clock speed, and would explain why the price is so close to the other one(I don't know if that's true, I'm just throwing it out there).

As far as that GPU...I'm not sure how much better that one is than what would be an integrated chip(though I don't know if those Ryzens even have integrated GPUs). It may be enough for your needs, I don't know. I'm sure it would be enough for basic office work and basic gaming, as well as a lot of game making with GMS(but not the heavier stuff some people do). I wonder if you wouldn't be better off getting a cheaper processor or cutting somewhere else to get enough to invest in the GPU. But then, I don't know your budget or needs either.
 

TsukaYuriko

🌠
Forum Staff
Moderator
EDIT: Oh, and what you were saying about Intel / AMD - I assume that it is only hardware that might be incompatible with one or the other? Software will run on either fine right?
Mac OS comes to mind here as an example of something that will - at least by default - only run on Intel hardware. That aside, it's mostly extremely specific applications that were specifically written for either platform that won't work on the other one. 99.9% of stuff will work on either.

EDIT2: Would the Ryzen 5 3600 six core 4.2GHz actually be better than the Ryzen 7 2700X eight core/16 thread 4.35GHZ? 3600 x 4.2 is a lot more than 2700 x 4.35 but it has fewer cores... for the difference of < £5 I would prefer whichever is "better"
3600 and 2700X are the model numbers, as in, the names. They have nothing to do with performance. (This is true for both Intel and AMD CPUs - the name, or anything they use for marketing, can not be used to figure out how well they perform.)
With that said, benchmarks state that this is true - the 3600 outperforms the 2700X overall.

And I have no idea what I'm looking for with the motherboard
Since the site you're using leverages most of the "compatibility" work for you, I'll focus on the less "obvious" parts here: The motherboard determines which peripherals (outside) and extension cards (inside) you can attach to your PC.
Chances are you don't have and therefore don't need support for any extension cards. There are a few "standard" peripheral interfaces such as USB and Ethernet ports which you can reasonably expect to find on pretty much any modern motherboard - anything more than those (such as Thunderbolt, PS/2, integrated WiFi...) can't be taken for granted. If you need any of those, make sure to check whether the motherboard has them.

- The cheapest option of dedicated GPU the site is offering me with this build is an Asus GeForce GT1030 2048MBGDDR5 which is GB£ 83, after that, it jumps to GB£ 150 which makes the whole thing a lot more than I wanted to pay really...
The 1030 here could be considered a budget option, while the 1650 is more of a mid-range thing. According to benchmarks, the 1650 vastly outperforms the 1030, so the price difference makes sense in this regard. For any kind of moderate PC usage, this is not going to make a difference. If you ever decide to play games with moderate system requirements, though, the difference should be noticeable. Of course, you can always go with the budget option now and then upgrade the GPU later, should the need to do so arise - since both of them are offered on the site you're using, you can be pretty sure that both will fit in the case.



Overall, my verdict here would be that your current system is so ancient that, regardless of which combination of hardware you'd pick from the page you linked, even if all of them were the budget options, it would perform immensely better than what you have right now.


Off topic I know but what in the world are you running that takes 74 gb TsukaYurik? :)
A web browser. Oh, and heavy virtualization. Both eat up insane amounts of memory. :)
 

kburkhart84

Firehammer Games
I'm not sure on the conversion from your GB currency to Dollars, google says the GB is about 1.2 dollars. If so, then 600 GB is about $720.

The below PC is about $750(and shows free shipping).


There are also some slightly cheaper options as well, but that one seems like a pretty good deal as far as pre-built goes. Its got an SSD to make your boot times faster and your software load faster than traditional spinner HDs. The GPU is also on the higher end, much better than the budget stuff at the least.

I've learned that sometimes pre-built can end up getting you a better deal overall. You lose the customization bit, but for many of us that isn't near as important as people would think.
 

Sybok

Member
The 1030 here could be considered a budget option, while the 1650 is more of a mid-range thing. According to benchmarks, the 1650 vastly outperforms the 1030, so the price difference makes sense in this regard.
Can vouch for the 1650, I purchased one myself recently. Upgrading from a 1050. Not a huge upgrade, but was forced into a purchase when an older card fried in another PC. So, I swapped cards around to give me the better card move the 1050 along to the other PC.

I use similar bench marking sites to @TsukaYuriko when I make the big decisions too (https://www.videocardbenchmark.net/gpu_list.php) and the 1650 benchmarks as three times faster than a 1030 (which you were looking at).

Most of the time my upgrades will be moderate. It isn't worth spending top dollar for the fastest thing out there, but it's also not worth getting the cheapest either. Mid range usually gives you most bang for your buck. But it always comes back to how much you can spend.

For anything I do, the video card is the best place to channel my money.

My recommendations (also being exactly what I do myself) -
  • Cheapest mainboard. Name brand though MSI, Gigabyte, or ASUS.
  • Mid range Intel I5.
  • Cheapest RAM. Minimum 8GB (pref 16GB or more).
  • Cheap SSD.
  • GTX 1650.
  • Half decent PSU (min 500W). Corsair? Antec?
  • DVDROM? Do you even need one these days? Haven't had one installed for years myself.
Don't go cheap and nasty on the PSU. It will make you sad when it goes bang and destroys your entire rig. I've seen that happen many a time and have had to break it to the client that nothing was salvagable.
 
Just going to throw this out there, but check and see how many monitors your GPU can support and what cords (vga-hdmi-display port) they take. Most mother boards these days support 2 monitors with built in integrated graphics, but most of the time you can only use the mb's 2 screens or the graphic card screens at once, not together. So its worth checking that graphics card that supports 3 monitors and that you have the monitors and the cords to use em. I made this mistake and I'm stuck with 2 monitors in till i upgrade, but trust me, having more than one monitor rocks. But its your money and your choice, good luck with the new pc! :)
 

Roleybob

Member
Thanks everyone for the advice, I've taken the plunge...

In the end I added the cheaper graphics card, I think it will be fine but as far as I'm aware it's much easier to upgrade a graphics card later than most other parts. I also upgraded the power supply to 500W 80 plus bronze which was the best option the had and opted for the Ryzden 5 3600 processor.

It came to a lot more than I was wanting to pay (£ 800) but as I had more in my money box than I was expecting it's ok, and if it gives me more options now and lasts an extra couple of years before having to upgrade again then hopefully it's worth it.

Yes, I do need an optic reader as I do sometimes watch DVDs in my computer room and I might even want to try installing Soul Reaver, Pharaoh or some other antiquated game on it ( which I have on disc)

Thanks everyone
 

Roleybob

Member
3600 and 2700X are the model numbers, as in, the names. They have nothing to do with performance. (This is true for both Intel and AMD CPUs - the name, or anything they use for marketing, can not be used to figure out how well they perform.)
With that said, benchmarks state that this is true - the 3600 outperforms the 2700X overall.
Ok thanks. I had thought that 2700 and 3600 referred to the IPC which you were saying you multiply by the clock speed
 
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