With the holidays coming up – Black Friday chief among them! – you’re surely thinking about what PC upgrades will keep you entertained through the coldest months of the year up in the Northern Hemisphere. The vendors certainly hope so, anyway! MassivelyOP’s resident tech nerd is here once again to help with suggestions that will keep your frames rated and your tower case generating plenty of heat all winter long! If you’re going to pick one of these up for yourself or as a gift, please consider using our links as a way to help support your favorite MMO news site (hopefully still us). Please note that Amazon affiliate links may grant a small commission to us, which is very much appreciated!
You might think that building a new PC for your kid would be a breeze: Onboard graphics should be fine, right? But not when you’re expecting him to join you for Guild Wars 2‘s Icebrood Saga without crashing to desktop every five minutes. So you need a video card with solid performance at 1080p (Viewsonic curved 27″ monitor, 144Hz, $195) without spending the kid’s entire college fund. Luckily for you, the new line of nVidia GTX 1660 Super ($240) cards is shipping for this holiday season. These offer faster overall clock speeds than the GTX 1660 Ti cards built on the same Pascal chipset, and typical entries are promised to be $40-$50 cheaper as well. (This might also be the right time to look for a Black Friday deal on the soon-to-be-replaced 1660 Ti line.) If you’re not planning to go all the way to the new 2080 Super ($739) to get the new ray-tracing features and you’re not pushing ultra settings on a 144Hz 4k monitor, then the 1660 Super models should perform as well as the 1080 or 1070 Ti models for a fraction of the power (under 150W), which is important when you’re trying to build in a low-profile or microATX case.
We all need RAM just to get our PCs out of bed in the morning, but I’m sure that you’ve opened up the side of your PC case and gazed disconsolately at your DDR4 RAM, just sitting there in its dull black metal casing with workaday cooling fins, and thought, “Why doesn’t my RAM spark joy?” Well, Corsair has you covered with its RGB PRO line of brightly colored RAM, compatible with its iCUE zone-lighting software. It does everything this and that do, for about the same price, but way, WAY glowier.
As my own family’s been trying to fit more gaming PCs into the same amount of house, we’ve made repeated use of Gigabyte’s line of very small form-factor mainboards, including this one from the inspirationally named Ultra Durable line. The full-sized ATX tower mainboards were great back when everything from sound cards to ethernet (or modem!) to your 3.5″ floppy drive needed its own connector on the mainboard, but times have changed a lot since then, and the onboard versions of most of that stuff is fine now. If you’re just looking for a place to park your CPU, RAM, and full-sized video card that will fit inside whatever clever enclosure you’ve devised, these mainboards are a great buy.
The newer mainboards come with another advantage: They have dedicated PCIe slots for the M.2 (smaller form factor) solid state drives that are now available. The PCIe interface allows raw data transfer rates 7 times faster than the usual SATA drive connections, which is a huge boon for reading and writing large files (streams, video, large images), and for loading big piles of video game textures directly over to the video card. Samsung’s 970 series offers 500GB for $80 or 1TB for $150, so this SSD can easily take the place of your main boot drive for all but the largest of file storage applications.