Buy/build a PC for Gaming

I’ve recently started playing Minecraft again, and my Mac can handle it “ok” but trying the larger modpacks like All of the Mods 6 makes me realize it’s a potato (All of the Mods 6 Slice of Pi, designed to be served by the Raspberry Pi works ok, not great).

I think I want to get a PC dedicated to gaming, but it’s been so long since I’ve bought anything in that area that I don’t even know where to start. I’m not looking for insane performance or price, just something “good enough” in the $500-$1k range. Is buying parts still the way to go? Get a Dell and stick RAM and a graphics card in it?

At the moment graphics cards are way over-priced. As I understand it there are multiple compounding factors:

  • New gaming systems coming to market requiring large orders from graphics manufacturers
  • People getting into crypto mining
  • People getting into PC gaming more during the pandemic
  • Strains on the supply chain due to covid
  • People seeing the demand is higher than supply and buying up popular graphics card models to sell for a huge mark-up on secondary markets

I guess my advice would be, if you can wait a year, you’ll get WAY more for your money.

I will say is super handy for figuring out what components you want.

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A modern graphics card alone, if you can find one, will eat most of your budget.

In the $500 price range, the solution is pretty simple: Find a used gaming machine locally and buy it.

At $1000, you might be able to build something, but it will still be reasonably limited.

You might consider a Broadwell or Skylake era build with used parts. That should get you in your budget with something at least respectable.

What’s your current system that’s not handling things?

I have a MacBook Pro (15-Inch, 2017) with 16GB of RAM and a 2.9GHz Quad-Core i7. It “works” but trying to play Minecraft with too much going on mod-wise lags really hard.

The graphics card is the Radeon Pro 560 4 GB. Maybe it’s not worth getting a PC until graphics card prices come down.

Have you tried just dropping the resolution to game? That era MBP is retina resolution, which involves an awful lot of pixel pushing.

It’s at a pretty low resolution as it - and it works fine in vanilla or with a low number of mods - it really is when I go up that it goes slow.

But now thinking about it I’m probably better off waiting until there’s a graphics card glut as the basic modback is more than enough for me for now.

Even a last or 2 generations ago mid range (1060 or thereabouts) should be pretty solid, if you have a decent CPU and sufficient RAM for the mods, is my guess. Keep an eye out for those used, might be able to find one for not too crazy.

Otherwise, for a current generation, even the 3060, prices are insane. If you can even find one retail, even at MSRP it’s a good bit. It might actually be cheaper to look for a pre-built gaming system with a 3060 and skimp on the RAM and upgrade that yourself. Probably a pretty long lead time, to be honest though.

Don’t bother waiting for a GPU glut, is not going to happen for years, if ever again. Unless somehow all the GPU mining suddenly is impossible or all those cryptocoins disappear overnight.

If you want a GTX 980 (4GB?) or a 3GB GTX 1060, I could pry one free from F@H duty. I’ve got a couple more CPU-heavy boxes (a dual socket Xeon and a Broadwell eDRAM box) that I run, and that means I don’t really have the power to run both GPUs in the F@H/BOINC desktop.


Uh, unless you wanted to buy an old gaming/workstation grade desktop. That box does literally nothing beyond convert electrons into compute, and it’s old, inefficient, and doesn’t run an awful lot. Shipping would be a pain because it’s obscenely big. Let me go find specs on it.

Ok, specs:

  • MSI Big Bang XPower II
  • Intel i7-3820, quite stable on air at 4.3GHz.
  • 32GB DDR3 of some variety
  • 240GB SATA SSD (old)
  • 4GB EVGA GTX 980
  • 3GB Gigabyte GTX 1060
  • PSU that will run plenty of GPUs, should you care.

In a gigantic “Thor” case, because the mainboard is one of the huge EATX boards.

$800 plus shipping (probably around $100 UPS Ground), pick one GPU (they’re about the same value and performance)?

That’s a good deal - let me meditate on it a bit.

Are you sure it’s GPU-bound and not CPU-bound? I haven’t played Minecraft, but I’ve watched coworkers play with ~2012 era GPUs without any trouble. This was several years ago before Microsoft bought them out, so I don’t know if that’s changed.

Also, have you checked thermals/clocks on the i7? Intel chips clock down to avoid frying themselves. Laptops are particularly terrible because everyone obsesses over size and weight, which leads vendors to ship laptops with terrible cooling solutions. It’s worth checking thermals/clocks to see whether you’re hitting the thermal cap.

That’s a good point check if it’s CPU bound. Although with the extra mods, might be somewhat less optimized than straight minecraft, which could include the GPU side.

That system of Syonyk’s probably would be pretty solid, although with the availability of curre t and last Gen CPUs, if you build a cheaper Ryzen 3000 series, and that 1060, you’ll have something to work with a lot of games for quite some time.

Thank you for all the suggestions! The CPU was a key - I was able to increase the memory allocated to Java and tune some of the CPU-heavy options and now I have workable FPS on Sevtech Ages.

Thank you Syonyk for the offer on the computer, but at this time I think it’s probably best to use what I have and wait - it’s probably a better use of my money trying to reduce power consumption on these servers I have.

Fixing what you have and making it works beats getting new hardware, even if it’s used! I’ll keep heating my office with the heater…

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Thank you! This was the key - for future reference anyone on a Mac can run pmset -g thermlog in terminal and watch it:

bombcar@lappy386 ~/Downloads $ pmset -g thermlog
Note: No thermal warning level has been recorded
Note: No performance warning level has been recorded
2021-06-03 09:31:08 -0500 CPU Power notify
        CPU_Scheduler_Limit     = 100
        CPU_Available_CPUs      = 8
        CPU_Speed_Limit         = 100

If that last line isn’t 100 it’s throttling - and it was throttling hard at times. So far putting a Duplo brick under the back and getting it a bit off the desk (and vacuuming out the ports) seems to be making it work much better.

Kind of annoying in an Apple™ way that there’s no normal indication of throttling beyond the fans running.

It’s been well known for a decade or so that closing the lid and standing your macbook vertically, using an external monitor, is massively better for thermals.

To be fair to Apple, I don’t think any OS gives an indication that the CPU is throttled. Laptops are all around just bad at thermals. The tank-like “desktop replacement” laptops do a bit better out of necessity, but they tend to fail earlier and are inferior to desktops in every metric except portability. The situation is exacerbated by Intel TDP figures being greater fiction than Alex Jones.

There was a Dell I was looking at a few years back, but it literally underperformed the same model in the previous generation because of the thermal cap. Despite a higher nominal frequency and more efficient CPU, under load it could barely hold at 2 GHz because the cooling was so bad.

Task manager in Windows gives current CPU speed and expected on the performance tab. But certainly no easy “warning: your system is running warm so we’ve slowed your cpu” flag or message.