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Why I’m glad I built a gaming PC — and why you should, too

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

We’re all finding ourselves relying upon certain material goods these days that weren’t especially useful back in, say, February. I’m not just talking about face masks and hand sanitizer; webcams, for example, are really important now. They’re so back-ordered that you can’t even order the most popular models from Logitech’s website without lengthy delays.

So I’m really glad I bit the bullet last year and built my own gaming PC. I waffled on taking the plunge for years, even while my friends ditched their PlayStations and Xboxes to game on computers. I was barely using my consoles enough to justify owning them, so the last thing I needed — in my mind — was an even more expensive box to not play games on.

  • Plus: Nvidia RTX 3090 prices revealed — and they’re 3x the Xbox Series X

What I didn’t realize was how a gaming PC would improve all the other things I personally need a PC for, from writing articles to editing images and recording podcasts. 

Well before the pandemic, I quickly came to understand how gaming was but one of many potential uses for my gaming PC. I’d work from home maybe once or twice every other week, and during those moments I’d be happy I had a fully functional workstation within my home. But, of course, I wasn’t exclusively relying on it, since I still had my office PC.

After the pandemic, however, my home gaming rig has gone from being a nice-to-have luxury to absolutely essential. With all due respect to my colleagues in the IT department, my company-issued laptop just can’t compete with the freedom, versatility and performance of my PC, and thus I truly feel like I can do my best work on my own machine. But it goes deeper than that.

It just makes everything easier

My PC has, in these isolating months, transformed into the center of my life. And while I’m fully aware of how depressing that sounds, the fact of the matter is that without my computer, I’d just be attempting to do all the same things, albeit far less comfortably and efficiently. 

My games would be scattered on a myriad of platforms. I’d have to work on the small display and cramped keyboard of a laptop. Staying in touch with friends, family and colleagues would be harder.

I’m aware a great deal of this is common sense, but again, I wasn’t aware how much value I could extract out of my PC until I started to turn to it for so many different reasons. To bring it back to gaming for a moment, having this machine allows me to take a wait-and-see approach to the Xbox Series X and PS5 rather than running out to snap up a system and potentially underwhelming launch title on day one. (But who am I kidding; deep down I know I’m just waiting until Gran Turismo 7 comes out to pick up Sony’s next console.)

Regardless, I’ve still been able to get my racing fix on PC. Project CARS 3 is currently filling the Gran Turismo/Forza Motorsport-sized hole in my life, and doing a respectable job of it. F1 2020 and WRC 9 are fine updates on their respective yearly franchises. And Hotshot Racing and DIRT 5 seem well-equipped to feed my old-school, arcadey instincts.

My build is far from perfect. I skimped out on the graphics card when I put it together in March of 2019, as I was able to grab a friend’s old GTX 1070 Mini. It’s a very solid card, but with the generational leap that’s about to rock the entire industry, I’m already seeing that 1070 strained by new titles. Speaking of DIRT 5, the beta I tested earlier this summer, for example, was unplayable beyond low settings.

The time is now

Like everyone else, I’m waiting impatiently for Nvidia’s new RTX cards (Image credit: Nvidia)

Of course, the very reason I’ve held off upgrading my card is the same reason I suspect many people interested in building a PC of their own haven’t yet: this is a really expensive hobby or investment, depending on how you look at it. 

If you’re not entirely sure what you’ll get out of PC ownership, it’s certainly more than any rational person would want to spend on a whim. Big purchases make me feel sick, and ordering all the components for my PC certainly had that effect on me.

Today, though, I’m oh so glad I did. This is a rabbit hole, and one that won’t quite appeal to everyone. If you don’t do most of your work on a computer, dropping upwards of four digits on one will surely be a tough sell. I understand the reticence.

But I suppose that if you’ve made up your mind that you’d like to build a PC, the biggest question you have to ask yourself today is when.

Recently, Nvidia announced its Ampere-powered GeForce RTX 3090, RTX 3080 and RTX 3070 graphics cards, which the company claims signify the biggest performance jump in its history. The RTX 3080 in particular, at $699, is said to offer double the performance of the RTX 2080 Ti. The $499 RTX 3070 is estimated to be faster than that card as well, though not by the same margin. If you have a 1440p monitor, as I do, and don’t plan to upgrade to 4K anytime soon, the 3070 would appear to suffice.

Personally, I’ve never subscribed to the philosophy of waiting for the “new one” just because it’s supposedly right around the corner; the way I see it, there’s always something new on the cusp of release, depending on your perception of time. However, the value these new cards look to bring is already inspiring regret among my friends who upgraded last year and now wish they hadn’t. I’ll take that as a cautionary clue to hold on a bit longer.

Bearing that in mind, I’d wait until Nvidia’s new cards go live to preorder — and then I’d pull the trigger on PC building. The games, of course, will look great. But if you’re looking into a long future of working from home, the benefits, as I’ve found, are far more numerous than that.

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(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

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