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Understanding What Are Specs on PC and More For Beginners

What makes a good gaming PC?

Well, it boils down to what PC specs you have at the very least. But computer specs for video games will vary from one developer to another. Some developers publish games that don’t require that much power, while some developers just go all out. This forces a lot of gamers to consistently upgrade their PC specs every few years or so because of the video game trends.

If you want to build a gaming PC for the first time, but don’t know where to start or even how to read PC specs, you’re in luck.

This article is designed to help you understand the basic terminologies associated with computer specs, as well as recommended PC hardware specifications for when you want to start building.

We’ll also be showcasing what the minimum computer specs should be for a gaming laptop if you do want to go down that road.

What Are The Different Hardware Components You Need To Know About?

High End Gaming PC What Are Specs on PC

Before we get to the nitty gritty details of identifying ideal PC specs for gaming, we need to talk about the different parts that make up Windows computers (or any other computer for that matter).

Motherboard

The motherboard acts both as a nervous system and a skeletal system of sorts for your personal computer. The motherboard has slots that house the hardware components while ensuring that they all run cohesively as a unit.

The motherboard is an important part of the gaming PC because you need to pick one that houses all the necessary hardware for gaming. Older motherboards won’t be able to handle the power of next-generation processors, RAMs, and graphics cards.

CPU or Central Processing Unit or Processor

The CPU is the brain behind your personal computer. It’s responsible for executing all programs, processes, basic arithmetic operations, and more.

In terms of gaming, the CPU is responsible for simulation and number generation in real space, as well as procedural physics. It’s also responsible for rendering the game’s virtual environment together with the graphics cards.

It’s uncommon for video games to be CPU-reliant, so most of the time, you can run with minimum requirements for CPU.

GHz or Gigahertz is the unit of measurement for processor speed that you need to be aware of and should be part of basic knowledge for personal computers. The higher the GHz, the faster the processor.

RAM or Random Access Memory

RAM or Random Access Memory supports the CPU, sort of like a cheerleader. The RAM is part of the computer that houses the operating system, applications and programs, and data. The processor will simply go into the RAM and carries out the processes there.

When we say data, we don’t mean files. There’s nothing being stored on RAM except for the processes necessary to run the CPU.

How much RAM you have installed will matter a lot in terms of gaming, which is why developers and publishers include RAM as part of the minimum requirement checklist.

GPU or Graphics Card

Up next on our computer fundamentals walkthrough is the GPU or graphics card. People rarely call it a GPU, though. It doesn’t matter what your installed RAM is, or how fast your processor is. If your graphics card is slow, you won’t be running games the way you want them to run.

Graphics cards have one purpose and that’s to display images on the screen, thanks to a specialized chip installed in them. This chip is similar to the chips installed in processors, but GPU chips are only meant for graphics processing.

Like the RAM random access memory, GPUs are measured by what’s called VRAM or Video RAM. The unit of measurement is in Gigabytes, so like the processor, the higher the GB, the better.

As games get more detailed, outdated graphics cards are not going to be able to keep up. And sadly, the majority of video games in the market are video card-reliant. If you have an outdated video card, you might have trouble running the latest AAA games.

Storage

Believe it or not, your storage device plays a large part in determining your PC’s capacity to play video games. If the PC’s short-term memory is handled by the RAM, long-term memory is handled by your storage device.

Today, gaming PCs are running solid state drives or SSDs, which are 100 times faster than traditional HDDs or Hard Disk Drives. SSDs are preferred by gamers as they cut load times by more than half. If a game took a minute to load with an HDD, an SSD will only take about a couple of seconds at best.

When you check your PC specs for a particular game, you’ll find that developers will include storage as part of their minimum requirements. For the most part, this gives you an idea of how much space the game takes up. But at the same time, it also gives you an idea of how much space your HDD or SSD needs to have in order to run it better.

If a game requires 100GB of storage, it won’t fill up the 100GB entirely. Rather, it will only take up about 90GB and the 10GB are saved for whatever the game needs, like saved data and so on.

What’s The Difference Between Minimum Requirements and Recommended Requirements?

If you go to a video game platform like Steam or Blizzard’s Battle Net, you’ll find that they list the minimum requirements and recommended requirements for their games.

What do these two sets of requirements mean, and which one is more important to consider?

Minimum Requirements

Minimum requirements are what you need if you want to run the game at the bare minimum. These are the specifications for processors, graphics cards, RAM, and storage that will allow you to RUN the game. But minimum requirements don’t guarantee performance, high-quality graphics, or smooth movement.

The PC specs listed under minimum requirements don’t necessary have to be built together. Some of them will be a combination of next-generation and older generation hardware components.

Engineers also assume that the gamers who buy their video games have a better set-up than what’s listed on their PC specs for minimum requirements.

Recommended Requirements

Recommended requirements are the PC specs that will allow you to enjoy the game to its fullest. This means that you’ll be able to max out the graphics, achieve the highest FPS possible, and more.

Which One Is More Reliable?

Just to recap, minimum requirements are the computer specs needed for a game to run at the bare minimum. There’s no guarantee of performance here. Meanwhile, recommended requirements are the computer specs that allow you to enjoy the game at full graphics settings.

Minimum requirements is used to determine if your PC can run the game, while recommended requirements is used to determine if your PC can max out the graphics and FPS of the game.

If you just want to know if your computer can run a particular game, then you should rely on minimum requirement information. Otherwise, if you want to know if your PC can play the game at its highest settings, you have recommended requirements.

The majority of gamers will probably have PCs that are right in the middle. They have enough computing and graphic processing power to run the game way past minimum but don’t have enough to run at the highest settings.

Now, it’s worth mentioning that developers won’t be using the latest generation of processors and graphics cards for recommended requirements. For example, The Witcher 3 was released in 2015, but the graphics cards listed under its recommended requirements are either AMD GPU Radeon R9 290 or Nvidia GPU GeForce GTX 770, both released in 2013. If your PC has a better video card than that, you can run the game at high settings at the very least. You’ll still need to make sure that your CPU and RAM are up to the task.

What About Computer Specs For A Gaming Laptop?

Gaming Laptops What Are Specs On PC

The hardware components of a gaming laptop are no different than that of a gaming PC, except that the parts for a laptop in general are only available to laptops and PC parts are only meant for PCs.

If you have to upgrade your laptop’s RAM or storage device, then you’ll need to find a RAM or storage device that’s meant for a laptop.

As with a gaming PC, a gaming laptop will rely mostly on CPU, RAM, and GPU for the most part. Newer laptops today will already have an SSD installed, albeit smaller in capacity.

What Are The Minimum Requirements For A Gaming Laptop?

So how do we know if a laptop’s meant for gaming or not? You just need to check out their specs listed below.

These are the bare minimum requirements that will guarantee your laptop’s ability to play a game. It’s a different story when we talk about your laptop’s capability to run a game at high settings.

If you’re on the hunt for a gaming laptop, be on the lookout for these specs:

  • CPU – At least an Intel Core i5 or AMD Ryzen 5
  • GPU – At least an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 or Radeon RX 480
  • RAM – At least 8GB of RAM
  • Display or Resolution – 1920×1080
  • Operating System – Windows version 10 or Windows 10
  • SSD – At least 128GB (as long as there’s an SSD available)
  • HDD – At least 500GB if you have a lot of files

More or less, what are specs on PC for gaming are similar to the specs you need for a gaming laptop. These are the minimum requirements that you’ll need from your laptop if you want to play the latest games. Of course, if you’re just playing older games, you can make compromises with some of the parts above.

Then you also have to consider cooling capabilities, battery life, and so on.

The Wrap Up

Not all PCs are made equal. Depending on the games you want to play, hardware specifications will vary. The latest AAA games might have you going for next-generation components, while other components would be sufficient if they’re the previous generation.

If you’re getting a good gaming PC, it will also be capable of doing other tasks like graphic design, video editing, and even light animation.

James Stephenson

james stephenson profile picJames is a gaming and tech enthusiast. He has been playing computer games since the Commodore 64 days in the 80s. He has worked as a Broadcast Engineer with BBC News and knows a thing or two about building, fixing, and playing with PCs.