How Realistic is it for me to get in to PC Gaming?

For a while I've been wondering about getting a gaming PC, and I've thought about doing it in a number of different ways. But the main problem I have actually taking the plunge is that I don't really have any idea of what I'm doing. I don't really understand much of the technical side of things.

I've had people tell me it's not really as complex as it seems and all you really need is "this, this, and that", but from my own personal experience with PC gaming, the opposite tends to be true. I currently have a laptop with supposedly reasonable specs, but I've found that it simply can't run the majority of stuff at anywhere near a playable frame rate, and is noisy as hell while it's trying to do it. I've also found that whenever I've had problems nothing is ever as simple as it initially appears. Everything is more complicated than it should be.

So although I hear that you can save a huge amount of money building your own PC, I was thinking about the possibility of buying a pre-built one. I figured that this might be better suited for me since knowing what I need, let alone being able to put it all together, seems like an insurmountable task, but money isn't actually a problem.

So is this a viable solution? I imagine that if I actually get a PC I will need to learn the more technical stuff in order to maintain it, but that won't be so hard since I'll be learning as I go. Is that a realistic assumption? If not, then how much do I actually need to know?

I would also be aiming for a PC that could run most modern games at a decent level. Maybe something like medium settings at 60fps, or high (but not max) at around 30fps. I'm not really interested in having a powerhouse that can run Crysis or Planetside 2 at top settings though. I'm also aiming for a price of around 500, but I could possibly go up to 700. Maybe I could go a bit more than that, but not much.

I'm sure there are shops in the UK that let you customize your own setup, so you can have all the advantages of building your own PC without actually.. building it :P
I came across this in the forums so check out if they can deliver at your area.

I've looked in to the option of selecting parts for a pre-built PC before, but the thing is even that is baffling to me. I have no idea what all the acronyms and numbers mean. I have no idea if what I'm picking is any good, or if they're incompatible, or any other thing that I might not be aware of.

I think you're on the right track, personally I think the best way of getting into PC gaming is buy a pre-built system and then build it up over time as you grow more confident.
And the link AWAR provided is actually pretty useful, it shouldn't let you pick incompatible parts. I've managed to put together a decent system for 684.
It's not an uber, universe destroying machine but it should be able to play things like Crysis and Planetside 2 etc (it's faster my my current system anyway and I can play both of those).
What I just quickly picked out (someone can probably come up with alternatives) is..

CPU - Intel i5-3470
Motherboard - ASUS P8H61
Memory - 8GB 1600MHz
Graphics card - 1GB NVidia GTX 650

Hard disk - 500GB (you might want to up this depending on your budget and what you're planning to store movies etc)
DVD - 24x
Memory card reader - it's 3 so just go for it just in case you happen to need it in the future
Power supply - 450W

Processor Cooling - Standard CPU Cooler
Sound Card - Onboard
Network Facilities - 10/100/1000 Gigabit Lan (standard)
USB - 4X ports
Modem - None
Floppy drive - None
Firewire - None
TV Card - None

Operating system - Windows 7 64bit
Office Software - None (unless you need it for work, course work etc, however there is OpenOffice which is free)
Antivirus - None (there's good free ones, however if you want to pay for one Kaspersky is suppose to be pretty good, although not an option on here)

Monitor - AOC 21.5 LED TFT 1920 x 1080 (I just quickly picked this as it was the first decent size one I came across so I'm not sure if it's actually any good, monitors are something you really need think hard about as of course it's what your going to be looking at)
2nd monitor - None
DVI-D & HDMI Monitor cables - None (It depends on the monitor, DVI is a slightly better connection type than the standard one)
Eyefinity - None
Keyboard & Mouse - I just picked the Logitech MK260 Wireless Keyboard & mouse, this is very much down to your preferences though
Mouse - None (currently comes with the above)
Gaming Mouse Pad - None (again it's your own preference)
Speakers - Logitech S220 2.1 (speakers, like the monitor are something you need to think about, a good set of speakers does make all the difference)
Webcam - None (unless you really want one)
Headsets - None
Surge Protection - None
Cable Tidy - None
Printer - None (unless needed for work/course work)
External Hard Drive - None

Warranty - Standard, I've not looked into the differences (the silver is only 5 more than the standard).
Home installation - None (the plugs either won't fit in the wrong port, or are colour coded to the ports, so it's not hard and things won't explode if you plug it in wrong)
Delivery - Standard
Build time - Standard
Quantity - 2 (well there's got to be some reward for me typing all this!)

The case I just went with the default 14 one, again it's your preference.

You are of course paying a premium for this, but you already know that anyway.
If you are interested in going down this route I can spend some more time actually looking into things rather than just throwing stuff together.

As for technical stuff, can you push the power button? Yes? Well your qualified!
Windows will look after itself with updates etc, the antivirus will sit in the background and look after itself, basically it's just a big and immobile version of the laptop your using (and you don't need a degree in computing for that now do you?).

Yeah, I'd recommend pretty much the same as Aitur. It's a nice build that's going to play every new game on high.

Wow, thanks for that. I was actually expecting to need to spend more than that, let alone on something capable of running Crysis, especially since it's including a monitor. I'm not actually certain that I even want one. I have limited space in my room and I was considering running the thing through my TV. At the moment I have a 26" 720p LCD, but I might upgrade to a larger 1080p at some point. But I really don't have room for a TV and a monitor. Doing that would also mean speakers wouldn't be an issue. Or is it actually important that I have a proper monitor?

And as for technical expertise, this is the kind of thing I'm talking about when I say things are never as simple as it appears. It may be simple to turn it on an update Windows and such, but games aren't like that. I've found them to be incredibly temperamental. So often there are strange, complicated problems with them which require a lot of work to fix with things that I can't even start to understand.

Scrustle:
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720p is meh for PC gaming but it will do for now. As for the games, I don't know. If your past experience comes from your laptop I assure you things are going to be smoother on a gaming rig with a clean Windows install. Actually console games in many occasions have become more messy and temperamental than on PCs. What sort of games will you be playing though?
Also this contains useful info for beginners.

For a PC you'd definitely want the higher resolution TV especially at that size, but the main question would be is the refresh rate any good.
Forgive me if I'm stating something you already know this but the refresh rate is how quickly the screen/TV can completely update the picture you're seeing, so the lower the stated time the better.
My, admittedly old, monitor is 5ms and I've always been quite happy with it, but I wouldn't want to use anything higher. Depending on the quality of the TV they can be really slow and you will notice it when playing games.

With overall picture quality, you'd probably get sharper images on a monitor but it's really hard to say without actually trying it on the TV as LCD TV's these days seem to have a lot of similarities to monitors. So my advice here is go with the TV, if the picture looks like crap or you get lots of tearing you can always just pick up a monitor later.
Also stand alone speakers will generally blow built in speakers away, but again try it without, if it's rubbish just pick them up later (there's also lots to choose from, I picked out a 2.1 setup but you can get them without the bass and also fairly small but good quality ones).

As for games, generally these days they have few problems installing out the box unless you've got some weird setup (e.g. overclocked) or oddities on your system (malware etc). I can't even remember the last time I had to fiddle around with anything to get things to work, and I just let Steam handle most of the stuff these days.
If your system can handle the game it should just be a case of install and go.

I don't really know what sort of games I would play. I doubt I'll be playing many extremely PC-centric games like RTS or MMOs, but it's possible I might.

The main reason I want to play PC games is because of the games I've already bought but am unable to play at a playable level. Things like Deus Ex: HR, The Witcher, and NFS World. But there's also indie stuff like EYE: Divine Cybermancy which, although not amazing looking, actually runs far worse than stuff like DE:HR and NFS. Those games don't really run very well either though.

There are a few games I've been interested by which I might possibly get in to if I got a PC though, like maybe Hawken or some of those space combat sims that are on the way. Maybe some racing sims like Project Cars when that comes out too. There are even some MMOs that look like that they could have promise, like Raiderz.

But if we're talking about whether they would be appropriate for a TV, that kind of thing is hard to guess about too. Just because a game isn't a console port doesn't mean that it'll be impossible to see on a TV, and whether a game was made with TVs in mind doesn't really factor in to whether I want to play them.

What exactly are the type of games that would be an issue here? Can I get away with running them on something like a 32" 1080p screen?

Scrustle:
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It's hard for me to imagine how will you be using a TV to play games on your PC. Will you be sitting on a couch with the TV in front of you? I don't mean to sound like your mom but if I were you I'd be careful about my posture. As for the games, I think Aitur's concern was about things like screen tearing which could be annoying at a short viewing distance. As far as I'm aware of, all games look the same on PCs and consoles (except for the graphics of course).

It wouldn't be the games that'd be the problem, it's just how TV's interpret the signal from the PC.
Whether it be a console port or a PC exclusive game they'll send the information to the graphics card and that'll output in the PC standard.

Originally monitors were designed to be pixel perfect and display static screens and text, TV's were designed to 'fudge' the smaller signals that were transmitted prior to HDTV to fill out all the pixels on screen, and then with a constantly moving picture pixel accuracy wasn't a priority.

However these days with HDTV TV's, pixel quality is far better but they are still designed for TV pictures and PC input is generally lower down the list of priorities.

So in short, you can get away with running anything on a 32" 1080p, but how sharp or blurry it looks, and how much tearing you get with fast moving images is entirely dependant on the quality of the TV.
So if you do decide to go for a PC, try it out on the TV, if you don't like it, it gives you headaches or your eyes start bleeding then you can always just pick up a monitor later from Amazon or something.

AWAR:
Snip...

Thank you AWAR :)
Just as I hit post I thought to myself I should probably find an example of screen tearing to clarify things, but you were already way ahead of me.
You're just full of useful links today!

I admit I didn't actually think about posture...

Currently I just sit on my bed with my TV about 5-6ft away from me. Seems to be totally fine with a controller and I can move about if I get uncomfortable, but I can see how using a mouse and keyboard could be hard. It's already a pain trying to use my laptop for games for an extended length of time.

I was thinking it might be a good idea to wait until we know more about the next gen consoles too. I'll certainly be getting at least one of them, so I'll probably need to take them in to consideration if I'm going to get a new TV.

 

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