PC Gamer Rig

Build your own Steam Machine

Dave James at

Everything you know about the PC gaming world is set to change over the next twelve months. We’re going to experience a tectonic shift in the coming year on a scale not seen since the introduction of Windows 95 and the death of DOS. Valve have struck a blow for open-source gaming must have reverberated around the corridors of Microsoft’s Redmond HQ like the last peal at a funeral.

Okay, that's overselling it a bit, but the groundswell of support surrounding Linux as a viable gaming OS alternative to Windows, currently spearheaded by Valve, really could change things. We'll at least get a range of gaming PCs that look like nothing on the market right now. Next year Valve have announced that they will be helping hardware partners sell branded Steam Machines specifically designed to run with a bespoke Linux-based OS and sit under your TV in the living room. One of the advantages they'll have over the consoles is that they'll be modular and upgradeable, and rely on the hardware we use to power our desktops right now.

That means we'll be able to build our own Steam Machines to fit our living rooms. With that in mind, I've scoured the world of small form-factor hardware to create two sample Steam machines, a no-holds barred powerhouse and a powerful but more sensibly priced offering. Want to build your own Steam machine? Here's what you'll need.


The PC Gamer Rig: New CPUs, motherboards and more

Adam Oxford at

It's been a while since I updated the specs of the PC Gamer Rig, mainly because I've been waiting for things to settle down a bit in the wake of big CPU and graphics launches before coming up with a definitive list of best buy kit. With a few notable exceptions, Intel, NVIDIA and AMD have more or less finished the current round of the chip refreshment cycle, so if you're looking to build or upgrade a PC for less than £1000/$1500, here's what I think you should get.


How to build a gaming PC

Henry Winchester at

A few years ago, we invited PC Gamer's tech guru Adam Oxford into a giant changing room to film a short piece about building a new PC. The resulting video has never been seen, but we've finally managed to cut enough of the improbably scary stuff out to get it past YouTube's content filters.

Yes, it is a bit old, but a lot of the points still remain - physically, the act of building a gaming PC hasn't changed at all in the last few years. Not wanting to blow our own trumpets but, parp, this is a great guide to getting started with a self-build, covering everything from how to install a CPU to your very first boot up.


The PC Gamer Rig: A graphics upgrade... or is it?

Adam Oxford at

You can always hold off upgrading until the next big thing has been announced, so offering it as some sort of advice is a little bit weak. But the thing is, right now, there really is a good reason to hold off putting together a new machine or upgrading your old one. I've updated the PC Gamer Rig this week, but I'm not so sure you should.

Here's why.


The PC Gamer Rig: A hard drive bargain driven?

Adam Oxford at

Thinking of building yourself a new PC or upgrading an old one? Then you've come to the right post for component advice. The PC Gamer Rig is our (almost) weekly update about the state of kit costs and best value performance for your PC.


The PC Gamer Rig: Upgrading the keyboard

Adam Oxford at

How come when we come to planning a new PC, we almost always skimp on the components that really matter? Yes a better graphics card might give you 10 more frames per second, but a decent keyboard will improve your game and keep you playing for longer. It's the most used peripheral you own, and your fingers hate you not buying a good one.

The PC Gamer Rig is the best value PC you can build for under £1,000/$1,550, and thanks to some recent juggling of components and suppliers there's been a fair bit of that budget left to play with in recent weeks. Since we can afford it, now that the Microsoft X4 - a long time favourite in the office - is getting harder to get hold of and more expensive it's time to find an alternative.


The PC Gamer Rig: Are hard drive prices on their way down?

Adam Oxford at

Another lazy weekend, another chance to kick back with a screwdriver and mess around with the PC Gamer Rig. Our averagely priced PC is in a state of constant flux, and rarely makes it through seven days without something changing as new components are released and online bargains are found.

So what surprises hide beneath its SECC shell this week? How did I manage to shave xxx off the overall cost without sacrificing a framerate of power? And are hard drive prices finally on the way down? For the answers to all these and more, click through the link.


The PC Gamer Rig part II: Son of the Rig

Adam Oxford at

Component prices haven't changed much over the last week, so there's no changes to the PC Gamer Rig to write about. Instead of taking a few days off from scouring shopping sites, however, I've put together something a bit different.

Inspired by Alienware's launch of its lounge friendly X51 console sized PC and a feature I'm writing for the mag, this week's post is about a second system I'm going to try and keep up to date: The PC Gamer Media Centre-cum-Occassional-Games-Rig-With-Console-Beating-Games-Ability. Or, as I like to call it, Son of Rig.


New year, new Rig

Adam Oxford at

Looking to build yourself a new gaming PC for the top titles of 2012? Sadly, January sales don't really affect PC component prices. If anything, things are a little bit more expensive than they were in mid-December. Memory is a little bit cheaper than it was, but most other components have gone up a little bit.

Even so, and with big news like Intel's Ivy Bridge and more affordable Southern Islands graphics cards on the horizon, now's as good a time as any to start upgrading your system.


PC Gamer Rig: 2 more shopping days to The Old Republic

Adam Oxford at

Planning to do nothing over the festive break but sit in your unmentionables playing games? Shame on you, there's a whole world out there for you to explore and see you know. Even the most athletically aware of us must be planning to spend a little time with our PCs come Christmas, though, and there's still time for an upgrade if you will.


Is water cooling making a comeback?

Adam Oxford at

Have you considered water for cooling your PC? The received wisdom suggests you probably haven't. Computer components have been getting gradually more efficient and cooler running, while at the same time traditional fan and metal heatsinks have improved in design to the point that they're often more efficient than water coolers and cost a lot less.

According to some industry insiders, however, water cooling is undergoing something of a renaissance. Baroque designs and piping are back in fashion, so they say, and demand for water cooling has never been higher.

Actual figures are hard to come by, mind. Gartner and other analysts don't really track the types of cooler PC owners are custom fitting to their machines, and any evidence one way or the other is entirely anecdotal. What's almost certain, though, is that reports of the demise of the water cooler have been greatly exaggerated.


Thanksgiving sales and the PC Gamer Rig

Adam Oxford at

How much money could you save by buying the PC Gamer Rig this week, thanks to the various Black Friday bargains that are going around? Are PC components even included in any of these seasonal fire sales?

To find out, we've done the shopping around for you.

Yes, Black Friday was technically yesterday, but the whole phenomenon is a relatively new one on these shores and I'm really only just starting to be aware of it. Besides, it seems to be more of a week long event than just one now, and this weekend is really when the bargains are to be found.

So if you're looking to build or upgrade your PC before Christmas, today could be the best day to do it.

A reminder – the PC Gamer Rig is our desktop for the average gamer. It's not the fastest PC you can build, or the cheapest, but it is the one that we think is the best possible value and will comfortably play any game now and in the foreseeable future for £1000/$1500.


Tuning Skyrim on the PC Gamer Rig

Adam Oxford at

Another week, another chance to hunt down bargains for the PC Gamer Rig. Like the well loved broom that's had many new handles and quite a few heads over the years, the Rig is continually evolving to be the best value machine for under £1,000/£1,500 it possibly can be. No part is the same as it was this time last year: but its essence of Rigginess remains.

This week, as you might expect, it's been mostly playing Skyrim.


Keep your PC up to date with the PC Gamer Rig

Adam Oxford at

It's the weekend, so time for our round up of the best deals in PC hardware that have caught our eye over the last seven days. What we do is this: find the best kit available less than a total budget of £1,000/$1,500 and make a machine out of it.

This is the PC Gamer Rig: your weekly guide to the best value components, which will deliver top notch performance today and for some time to come.


Keep your PC up to date with the PC Gamer Rig

Adam Oxford at

Readers of the UK mag (and our forum) will be aware of the PC Gamer Rig. It's what we keep in various stages of disrepair in the office and consider to be the 'average' PC – one that's not too expensive, but specced up well enough to run any game past or present at a respectable lick. It functions both as a guide to the sort of base system we'd expect anyone buying or building a new machine from scratch, and as a guide to upgrades if you're looking to just replace a single part.


Ask the expert: cooling your PC

PC Gamer at

The hot weather has provided a theme for this week's PC gaming helpdesk. Cooling concerns have cropped up over and over again, so how much do you need to worry about what your CPU's temperature?

Every Tuesday, our hardware expert Adam Oxford is on hand to answer your hardware and software gripes. If you've got a question, ask below in the comments, or in the tech folder in our forum.