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The PC Gamer team's personal rigs

Building a better budget PC via hand-me-downs.

Building a better budget PC via hand-me-downs.

The top vent of the case doesn't have fans, but it does display Tom's pin collection.

Tom Marks’ PC

Specs for Tom's PC

CPU: Intel i5-4670 (stock 3.4-3.8GHz)
Graphics card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 (reference)
Motherboard: Gigabyte Z87 G1.Sniper 5
RAM: 8GB Crucial Ballistix Sport DDR3-1600
SSD: Kingston V300 120GB SSD
HDDs: 1TB WD Blue + 750GB laptop HDD
PSU: Seasonic X-series 650W
Case: NZXT Phantom 410
Displays: Samsung S24D590 24” 1920x1080 72hz IPS +
Dell UltraSharp U2410 24” 1920x1200 60hz IPS
Keyboard: Microsoft RT2300 Wired Keyboard
Mouse: Logitech MX518
Speakers: Labtec LCS-2632

Other goodies: Logitech c920 webcam, Blue Yeti Pro mic, Enermax ETX-T40-BK CPU cooler, HyperX Cloud headset, SteelSeries DeX mousepad, Mad Catz Pro Controller for Xbox 360, Logitech Extreme 3D Pro Joystick

Tell us about your computer

I first built this PC about four years ago and have been slowly been upgrading it ever since. It started out in a bright orange BitFenix Prodigy case on a micro-ATX board with a GTX 760, but as I started upgrading different parts, the small case got pretty restrictive. The new case and motherboard were actually hand-me-downs, along with a whole lot of other pieces of this machine. 

The speakers are over a decade old, the keyboard and mouse I got about eight years ago, the 750GB hard drive was from an old, dead laptop and is just velcroed (not a joke) to the inside of my case, and the monitors are both refurbished. But wait, there's more! The motherboard is missing its I/O panel and my ethernet cable is zip tied to the neighboring USB plug because it no longer locks into the port on its own. I try to keep my rig on a budget, and as a result my computer is a box full of bits and pieces I’ve collected over the years. But it’s a decently powerful machine and runs my games well, so I like to see the rough edges as character rather than cracks.

What are you playing?

Lately I’ve been playing a lot of Overwatch, and a former Quake/CS pro was appalled to hear I was doing so on a keyboard with a PS/2 plug. But I really like platformers and strategy games (just picked Divinity: Original Sin back up) so I haven’t noticed a problem yet. Even though it’s an ancient membrane keyboard, I really love the feel of it. 

What upgrade are you planning next? 

I got the GTX 970 as a gift for Christmas, but I think my next upgrade will be a bit of a doozy. I want to move up to a Skylake CPU, but doing that will mean I also have to get a new motherboard and new RAM, so I am delaying that upgrade until it really seems worth it. I am pretty happy with how my rig runs right now, in all its ramshackle glory.

Wes Fenlon’s PC

Tell us about your computer

I last built a new system in early 2011, when the power and price of the Sandy Bridge i5-2500K proved irresistible. That system served me well for nearly five years, and probably would’ve kept on ticking with a clean wipe and install of Windows, but it was starting to feel long in the tooth. I was considering building a new rig when I ended up inheriting this one from MaximumPC.

Turns out it’s almost as old as my previous rig, but with an Extreme Edition 6-core CPU instead of the i5’s quad core! It’s not the ideal CPU for gaming, but thanks to Sandy Bridge’s overclockability and a big honkin’ liquid cooler, I’ve got it running at 4.4GHz. That’ll do. (I was getting some stuttering in Dark Souls 3, at first, and that would not stand). 

I never owned my own “gaming” PC until college, when I bought a system from one of my best friends so he could upgrade to something even more powerful. I had a string of hand-me-down PCs throughout my childhood and teens. The one I remember best was an all-in-one Packard Bell 486, which I adored and played lots of Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis on. Those were the good days. When my hand-me-down systems got too out of date, I’d spend more time playing on the household computer. My dad was into PCs but we couldn’t afford frequent updates, so I’d miss out on the new games every few years. I still remember the heartbreak when our 133 MHz Pentium couldn’t run Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun. I had to go to a friend’s house to lust after it.

What are you playing?

My all-time faves are mostly shooters and RPGs: Halo CE, Unreal 2004, Final Fantasy IX. Lately I’ve been pouring most of my time into Nuclear Throne, Total War: Warhammer, and Dark Souls 3. Actually, that’s a lie: I’ve been pouring most of my time into travel, so my poor PC has been neglected most of the month.

What upgrade are you planning next?

Even though I just got this system running and moved over three HDDs and an SSD, I already have the itch to upgrade. I’m eager to build a smaller, quieter, black box of a rig. Maybe when Skylake’s successor arrives I’ll make the jump to mini-ITX…. Until then, I don’t foresee any changes. This 980 is chugging along just fine.

The previous generation of hardware is still more than capable of serious gaming.

Batman contemplates life as the Dark Knight.

Tim Clark’s PC

Tell us about your computer

My computer is called The Black Knight, because that’s my favourite card in Hearthstone, and it suited the austere stylings of the Cooler Master mid-tower case that Wes picked out for me. TBK is built from spare stuff we had floating around the office and components bought from Amazon.

I’m not a confident rig builder, so I relied on Wes (in his then capacity as hardware editor) to help pick the parts and put them together. He went beyond the call of duty by slicing his thumb open and bleeding directly onto the CPU during installation. Which means I hear the distant call of nameless gods whenever I boot up, but on the upside the thing has always run super smoothly. A fair bargain.

Ridiculously, the most expensive part of my whole setup is the Steelcase chair, which I finally got a year after writing about it. And before you ask: no they didn’t give me it. Oh, and purists will probably baulk at this, but TBK rides a mount. My girlfriend bought it to keep the computer off the carpet, and I really like it, even though I can’t really explain why.

What are you playing?

I recently completed Dark Souls 3, which aside from frustrations with the none-more-esoteric multiplayer system, ran absolutely perfectly. I’ve also recently revisited XCOM 2 to try the new DLC. That’s running much better than when I first played it, too. Otherwise still a ton of Hearthstone. I want to try to get into Stellaris but will probably wait for the promised patch that addresses the issues people had with the mid-game.

What upgrade are you planning next?

I don’t really need a new GPU, given most of my gaming time is spent whining about queuing into Shamans on Hearthstone, but I am almost certainly going to get a 1070 or 1080 in the next couple of months. I want to be able to play Deus Ex on the kind of absurd settings that really extract maximum luxuriance from Adam Jensen’s technodouche beard. Otherwise, I might get a new mouse. I used the Razer Nava Hex v2 for a couple of weeks at work and really liked it, even though I’m not a MOBA guy. I’ll probably get a second monitor too, but don’t plan to bother with 4K anytime soon.