2020 saw the majority of the world stay at home and a lot of them turned to video games. This opened up a world which brought video games and video gamers into the spotlight. Many of whom were fairly experienced with staying indoors and doing what they do best and that’s playing video games.
There’s been an influx of activity in the region for PC gaming and content streaming with more looking to jump in. So this is a handy guide if you’re someone new to PC gaming and is looking to invest and build a Gaming PC, what parts you need to look at getting, how much it’s going to cost, and where you can get it built in the UAE.
PC Gaming vs Console Gaming
I do like my share of console gaming, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of sitting on the couch and loading up a game on the big screen but thanks to the pandemic, there’s been a short supply of consoles and prices for Playstation 5 units in particular have been skyrocketing and will take a bit of time to normalize.
As it stands currently, the only way to get them is to either acquire them for a higher price through third party sellers, wait for the next stock to roll into retail, or take part in different social media competitions to win them. I also have to point out that you do end up paying slightly more for PC components here in the region. You will see putting more money into graphic cards from AMD and Nvidia largely because of the import costs involved and the high demand that comes with getting one.
Building a PC or getting a gaming laptop is its own reward in a number of ways. When you build a PC, you do sink a significant amount of money into the system but over time, you don’t really have to upgrade the entire build rather putting in money over many years to improve parts of the system.
You’re looking at putting in Dh5,000 for a starter system that will run most conventional titles at the basic settings and for the very best, the sky’s the limit. I’ve seen machines for Dh20,000 get built for gamers who want to play on an 85 inch 8K TV.
But that’s the beauty of PC building, you can save a lot of money over a longer period of time if you’re smart about it and there are many components across different price ranges that you can put together and over time, you’ll see that you saved a lot of money across a longer time than you would if you played on a console.
PC games also have the distinct advantage of being cheaper in the long run thanks to the many sales you can get on different digital game publishers and platforms from Ubisoft, Epic, Steam, GoG, Origin and more and you also get free video games seasonally. If you’re an Xbox user you also share the added benefit of Xbox Game Pass subscription that has a massive game library. In this case, Playstation is cinema and PC gaming would be netflix.
When you do the math, you end up significantly saving a whole lot more than you would if you buy a new console and buy video games that come out each year.
Building a PC in the UAE: Where you can get one made
Now I’ve been a PC gamer from the very beginning and I’ve been gaming here in the UAE since the days of Al Shamil broadband and building machines since the very early days with the spare pocket money I got as a kid and we had to wait for parts to come in back in the 90’s and 2000’s to build a computer. Today, gamers and builders in the UAE have plenty of options!
For those looking to get a gaming machine quickly, you also have the option to buy a gaming laptop or a prebuilt PC. Prebuilt PCs are gaming machines that are already assembled by a systems builder and already have the latest and greatest specs your money can buy in a package and available in most retail stores, however there’s also the added concern that it costs a lot.
The easiest route to PC gaming is to get a gaming laptop which does everything for you. There are several laptops from the likes of Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, MSI and Lenovo that cater to gamers in a variety of price segments. I’m personally a fan of Asus’ machines largely because of the products they offer across different price ranges and their customer service is second to none.
It goes without saying, that building your own PC is a way to match the specs on pre built PCs and cut down on the price but it’s always a good idea to check on individual prices of components before you set out on your build as you may end up matching on price on pre-existing systems that you can pick up immediately.
If you’re not building one yourself, there are multiple places that you can go to. Jumbo Electronics and Geekay Games are two physical locations that you can go to get a build done and there are online stores like Microless and Gear Up Middle East that you can check out in terms of prices. There’s even popular hardware retailer Newegg that serves to the UAE market directly.
However, if you’re someone that likes doing things your own way, the best place to get anything remotely tech related is Computer Plaza in Bur Dubai. Computer Plaza has long been a staple for veteran PC builders who know what they want and where to get it. There are even flash sales on PC parts and bargains to be had. They also do repairs and arguably you’re more likely to find that rare spare battery for that very old laptop you still have but want to maintain.
The Building Process: What you’ll need and how much it will cost you.
My previous build was a custom built, Intel core i7-4790K CPU with 16GB RAM, 2TB SSD, 128GB HDD and started out with a MSI GTX 970 and later only upgraded to a Nvidia GTX 1070 Founders Edition GPU and it was a big machine that focused on power rather than looks.
It costed me a total of Dh10,000 when I built it and it lasted me for ten years, not bad for a return on investment I’ll say. As someone who personally started streaming last year, I realized that my machine was just not cutting it anymore.
It was time for an upgrade and I built just the high end system that I wanted. Here’s what I did to get to that build philosophy and what you can do to get the build that you want.
My build is designed for productivity, streaming and gaming so my build costs around the Dh15,000 mark and is future proofed for the next generation so I will not be spending anything for a good couple of years.
You can find some of the best resources to start drawing up plans for a PC build from scratch online. I prefer to use PC Part Picker since it accurately tells you if the parts you’re picking are compatible with each other.
PC Case: The Canvas you will draw on.
When you start a build, make sure that you first buy a PC case or chassis that everything will fit in. It’s important because this will determine many things from airflow in the system, your PC will be running applications that can be taxing and the key to running things smoothly is to make sure they stay cool.
I’ve been using Thermaltake’s components for a while personally. So for the purposes of this build, my entire rig was built with Thermaltake components to make sure I didn’t have to worry too much about compatibility.
I used the Thermaltake View 51 Tempered Glass ARGB Edition Snow. It comes with three existing fans already built in and has a tempered glass panel that you see right through. It’s incredibly versatile allowing for multiple fans to be installed.
Dh150 is enough for a starter build, but there are some out of this world cases that can cost well over Dh4,000 if you’re in the market for it.
Power Supply Unit
Most high end gaming PC’s need a minimum wattage power supply to run. Choosing a power supply purely depends on what graphics card you’re putting into your PC.
I used the Thermaltake Toughpower 750W Gold, a quiet and efficient power supply. It’s modular so I’ll be able optimize on the cable management and it has a 140mm fan, it’s really quiet. My old PC had the disadvantage of getting extremely noisy when the fans spun at high speed. So I’ll be appreciating the fact that the new PC’s fans will be quieter.
I chose the 750W for two reasons. Firstly, when you overclock the PC, it draws greater power. 750 watts of power is recommended for most conventional mid to high end gaming PCs. Secondly, the graphic card I chose needs at least 700 Watts to run optimally. They can start at 350 Watts and go as high as 1200 Watts.
You’ll find PSU’s for Dh150 and can go as high as Dh1,500.
Right now, there’s been an interesting battle between processor makers, Intel and AMD, with AMD currently taking the lead in most respects on performance and price with their Ryzen series chips. This means that Intel will begin to price their earlier products less to compete with AMD’s rising popularity in processors but as far as performance goes, AMD is no longer the underdog or dark horse it once was. AMD is challenging all of its rival in the console, PC and laptop segments
A decent gaming PC at the minimum would require an Intel i5 or AMD Ryzen 5 series CPU which start at around Dh750.
I already had an pre-existing Intel i9-10900K and Asus Z490 ROG Extreme Motherboard with me so I planned my build around that. The Intel Core i9-10900K is one of the fastest gaming CPUs available. It offers 10 cores, 20 threads, a base frequency of 3.7GHz, and a turbo frequency of 5.3GHz. The unlocked multiplier enables easy and significant overclocking. Something I wanted for a long time.
Gaming processors start at Dh750 typically but you can find them for lesser, the high end CPUs will cost you around Dh2,500 or higher.
When you’re getting a motherboard make sure that it’s compatible with the processor you’re getting. AMD and Intel both have different CPU sockets. Both rival’s use different designs, architecture so that will be your first area to look at. This is the groundwork you will lay for putting your PC together. It will also future proof it.
The motherboard will be your constant as you start upgrading around it and it’s ideally a good idea to get a motherboard that will last you for a few years at the very least.
Asus also has a cheaper variant that serves the same purpose which you can check with their TUF and STRIX line. You’ll find motherboards at a variety of size and pricing segments you should ideally allocate a budget of Dh500-Dh600 for a gaming motherboard.
The best board for the i9-10900K that Intel has for gaming is without a doubt, Asus’ ROG Asus ROG Maximus XII Extreme. It’s not cheap but it is the one that you’ll get the most out of your CPU and is quite the looker. There are also other boards from Gigabyte and MSI that you could check out. My previous build used a MSI board and it was a reliable as ever.
Motherboards can starting at Dh350, with prices going to Dh4,000 or more
RAM sticks are up next. I opted for the TOUGHRAM Z-ONE RGB Memory DDR4 16GB RGB Memory DDR4 Ram sticks running at 3200MHz which was optimal enough to run the entire system, I will be upgrading to 32 GB at some point but this is a good enough standard as far as gaming goes.
16 GB is the golden standard for gaming, you can also opt for faster frequency sticks to run things quicker and get more out of your build if you so choose.
You’ll find yourself spending anywhere between Dh200 – Dh800 for RAM sticks
You can choose to cool your processor through an air or liquid cooler, with liquid being an expensive alternative. You can also go halfway with an AIO ( all-in-one ) cooler which is what I did with the TH360 ARGB Sync AIO Liquid Cooler. It includes three 120mm powerful high static pressure fans, and a high performance radiator along with a water block and the lights on it can be customized.
Placement of these coolers matters since you’re dealing with liquid so you don’t want issues much later. You can choose to place it above the CPU or towards the side.
For budget builds, you can choose to go for air cooling solution that start Dh100 for a single air based cpu cooler, but a higher end build requires a lot of cooling to keep temperatures acceptable so a liquid cooler is ideal, you can get one that has a single fan or multiple with an added radiator.
Liquid CPU coolers cost anywhere between Dh350 to Dh1,000.
The Graphics Card
This would be the component that you’ll have to allocate the most budget towards, GPU prices in the region are based on demand, and let’s face it, demand is high. You can go for Nvidia or AMD in this department but Nvidia has been the king of graphic cards and the RTX 30 series was proof of that. AMD’s new cards are no slouch either and you can get slightly a smidge lower level of performance at a reduced price.
You can go for Nvidia’s founder edition cards which come from the company directly or you can go for a system builder like Asus, Gigabyte, MSI or Zotac. There are many to choose from.
I chose Zotac’s RTX 3070 for a few reasons. Zotac as a component builder makes graphic cards that are primarily targeted for DIY PC builders. They are designed to comfortably fit in smaller PC builds as they are incredibly compact and are pretty solid on price. It’s perfect for 1440p gaming and works for me as I have two 2K monitors that I use for streaming and it will comfortably pull me through without much hassle.
Depending on where you get your GPU from, and if you manage to get one in stock, suggested prices Nvidia’s RTX series cards range as follows, the 3090 starts at Dh6650, the RTX 3080 starts retailing from Dh3670, the RTX 3070 starts at Dh2690 and the 3060Ti is priced at Dh1995. AMD’s new Radeon cards also range from Dh2,500 to Dh5,000.
However, keep in mind there’s a significant markup on cards because of the demand and the pandemic has further caused a shortage, so you’ll need to scour the local market to find one at the price you want to get it at, you’ll find yourself spending a bit more to get a GPU locally.
Finally what sort of storage should you get ? Best practices say that you have a fast SSD ( solid state drive ) to run Windows and your immediate applications and a big HDD ( hard disk drive ) for all your data that you intend to store, these could be your pictures, work files or just about anything you don’t access everyday.
SSD’s are great because they run quicker than most traditional drives which means installing Windows on a SSD will see you being able to turn on your computer and you’ll get the login screen in a few seconds. Most gaming PC builds have multiple SSDs, one to put the operating system on, and the other for the games or work software. They come in different sizes, the standard hard disk, a smaller mini hard disk, the size of a wallet and a m.2 variant which you can mount directly on the motherboard.
There are major players in the storage space that are great for gaming and specialized productivity but I have been a staunch supporter of Western Digital’s SSD solutions and external drives. For this reason, my old system had a Western Digital SSD as my primary driver, which is still good enough to transfer to the new system. You can migrate most of your data without any loss as long as it’s not the drive that Windows is installed on.
I opted to upgrade to two m.2 ssds ( mountable on the motherboard ) The WD Blue and WD Black, the WD Blue SN550 NVMe SSD is excellent for all general productivity and I’ll be using it primarily for video editing and design. Windows was installed on this drive and it boots up almost immediately. The WD Black SN850 NVMe SSD is my game drive. With speeds up to 7000MB/s read time, I can load up a heavy game like Cyberpunk 2077 or Assassin’s creed Valhalla in less than fifteen seconds.
My main hard disk drives that I imported along with the old PC for being good storage drivers were Seagate’s Barracuda Pro drivers that I focused on getting because of their storage size. It’s also a good idea to have a backup external hard drive that serves as your plan b drive should things go wrong.
Great storage solutions likes SSDs typically cost around Dh200 and can go to Dh400 or more while standard hard disk drives will cost Dh200 and the higher end ones go up to Dh400. Prices on both are dependant on size and data read speeds.
What’s left ?
With all of that your gaming PC is ready. All you need is a great monitor, and there’s plenty of options to find one that suits your needs. Top it off with the peripherals that suit you which are headphones, mice and keyboard. After that you now have a complete setup.
I feel that this needs to be said, the build that I opted for, has a lot of RGB ( for the uninitiated, RGB is for Red, Green Blue, which in gamer terms is a multicoloured lights on your components.) in it. Most PC builds can be built without the need for it as it only serves to suit aesthetic purposes and this is mine. Opting for a more subtle system will help you save a fair bit of money but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that building a gaming PC deserves this sort of treatment as your final build should look as good as it runs.
My final build looks something like this. A dual gaming 144 hz monitor setup from Viewsonic and BenQ with peripherals and microphone from Razer and a Astro Headset with an additional amplifier. I still have my Creative Soundblaster speakers that work like a charm and a speaker system with a subwoofer of that kind can cost as low as Dh200.
Once your PC is up and running and windows is installed, you can test and benchmark your PC to make sure it’s running smoothly, under stable temperatures and performing to your expectations.
You can even overclock it to get some extra power although I recommend you carefully do this by reading instructions or take the advice from a professional as you’re stepping into modifying your PC’s performance that pushes it beyond its limits.
I usually upgrade every 5 years incrementally but I waited longer as the newer generation of cards got announced. Bang for buck, the wait paid off, the newer build gives me a generational leap of performance and I can load up and run my applications within seconds. Not to mention that as a complete package it looks very cool, runs quiet and is very power efficient.
The first build is always the trickiest but once you finish it, your experiences with building a computer stay with you and it will only get easier from there. There’s a certain satisfaction that comes with making your own build, the same satisfaction you get when you finish a lego project.
And at the end of it all, your gaming PC will be your pride and joy.