Exploring the insides of a gaming pc

Every PC has a common set of core components, whether it's a desktop or laptop. These enable you to carry out routine tasks like browsing the net. But if you want to make the leap to a more cutting-edge gaming experience, you'll need something else. Top of the list is a dedicated graphics card, which delivers a much smoother performance at higher resolution.

Graphics Card

Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)

Think of this as the engine room of the image department. It's the big brain that works out where picture pixels should be rendered on your screen and in what form.

Most standard integrated graphics chips simply aren't up to the task.

A GPU is designed specifically to process images and offers a much better all-round gaming performance.

If you want to play the latest blockbuster 3D games in all their graphic glory, you'll need a dedicated graphics card.

So what makes a good GPU? Here are a few things to look out for:

Nvidia Geforce GTX Titan-X

A top of the range graphics card will typically (but not always) have a faster clock speed, measured in MHz. As a general rule, the higher the clock speed, the faster a GPU can translate information. FLOPS (Floating Point Operations per Second) is the ultimate measure of performance. The more FLOPS a card can deliver the faster it is. Ultimately, less delays makes for a better framerate.

Start with VRAM (video memory). This refers to the GPU's storage capacity, which is important because the card needs somewhere to hold pixel data until your machine is ready to display the image. If none is available, there could be a traffic jam, which results in a jittery, jumpy picture.

This is another good indication of graphics performance power. It's measured in frames per second (FPS) and determines how many complete images a graphics card can display in one second. A higher frame rate can be achieved by manually adjusting your PC's settings (the resolution, for instance). But it's better to aim for a good combination of dedicated a GPU, RAM and clock speed.

How your computer processes images

Here is a simplified diagram of how your computer processes complex images and data simultaneously to deliver the kind of experience you get when gaming.

Images on-screen are made up of thousands of pixels. These pixels are all processed by the different elements inside your graphics card, before they can be displayed properly.

For people wanting to play games, a dedicated graphics card is where the magic happens. Made up of two core components (VRAM and a processor), this is where all the complex calculations are performed that are necessary for intensive graphics rendering.

Similar to how the CPU helps with overall PC performance, the capabilities of this processor dictate how quickly and smoothly your PC can render graphics. The more spec intensive the games you play, the better the processor you will need to handle to extra strain.

Whilst it's the job of the GPU to create and render images, it still needs somewhere to store them, ready to be displayed on-screen, in super-fast time. This is where Video RAM comes in, it's the short-term memory, exclusively reserved for your graphics card.

The CPU, or processor, is the brain of your PC. It's there to do all the heavy lifting for your PC, send things to the right places and help with complex tasks. Some processors are multi-core, meaning they have more places to complete their work and are thus more efficient.

This is the short-term memory for your entire PC. It's crucial to store stuff away and create a buffer of space for things that will be needed by your PC quickly to help it run more smoothly. The more RAM you have, the better your PC is able to perform complex tasks.

Hard drives are used to store away and boot up the important things such as your PCs operating system and of course, your games. There are two different types of storage available to you, read more below to understand the benefits of having each.

Graphics card comparison chart To give you an idea of the different options and their capabilities, here are our top picks...

Model Desktop/Laptop Speed in GigaFLOPS Clock Speed VRAM VRAM Speed (Gigabits per sec) Virtual Reality Readiness
Titan X Desktop 10157 GFLOPS 1417 Mhz 12GB GDDR 5X 10 Gbps Best
Nvidia Geforce GTX 1080 Both 8873 GFLOPS 1733 Mhz 8GB GDDR 5X 10 Gbps Best
Nvidia Geforce GTX 1070 Both 6463 GFLOPS 1506 Mhz 8GB GDDR 8 Gbps Better
Nvidia Geforce GTX 1060 Both 4372 GFLOPS 1708 Mhz 6GB GDDR 8 Gbps Good
Nvidia Geforce GTX 980 Ti Desktop 6060 GFLOPS 1000Mhz 6GB GDDR 7 Gbps Better
Nvidia Geforce GTX 980 Both 4981 GFLOPS 1216 Mhz 4GB GDDR 7 Gbps Good
Nvidia Geforce GTX 970 Desktop 3920 GFLOPS 1178 Mhz 4GB GDDR 7 Gbps Good
Nvidia Geforce GTX 960 Desktop 2413 GFLOPS 1178 Mhz 2GB GDDR 7 Gbps None
Nvidia Geforce GTX 1050 Ti Desktop 1981 GFLOPS 1398 Mhz 4GB GDDR 7 Gbps None
Nvidia Geforce GTX 950 Desktop 1825 GFLOPS 1024 Mhz 2GB GDDR 7 Gbps None
Nvidia Geforce GTX 1050 Desktop 1733 GFLOPS 1455 Mhz 2GB GDDR 7 Gbps None
Nvidia Geforce GTX 980M Laptop 3189 GFLOPS 1038 Mhz 8GB GDDR5 5 Gbps None
Nvidia Geforce GTX 970M Laptop 2657 GFLOPS 924 Mhz 6GB GDDR5 5 Gbps None
Nvidia Geforce GTX 960M Laptop 1404 GFLOPS 1096 Mhz 4GB or 2GB GDDR5 5 Gbps None
Nvidia Geforce GTX 950M Laptop 1271 GFLOPS 914 Mhz 4GB or 2GB GDDR5 5 Gbps None

Use our Gaming PC selector to help choose the Gaming PC that's right for you

Explaining the rest of the PC

Explaining the rest of the PC

Processor Central Processing Unit (CPU)

This is the main processor in your computer.

Modern CPUs are usually divided into cores, which can handle separate tasks. Great if you like to do several things at once.

The more powerful the processor, the faster you can perform complex tasks.

We recommend an i5 model or higher for more demanding PC games.

Processors with integrated graphics chips are available but they can't touch the performance power of a dedicated graphics card.

Memory Random Access Memory (RAM)

Not to be confused with the VRAM of your GPU, this is the short-term memory for the rest of your PC.

RAM is important because the programs that you're running need somewhere to temporarily store their data instead of using the hard drive, which causes delays.

Games will place quite a hefty demand on your PC. Best go for at least 8GB but hardcore enthusiasts could push up to 16GB.

Storage There are two kinds of storage and each has its strengths

Solid State Drive (SSD)

SSD is a special, high-performance hard drive.

It loads things much faster and more effortlessly than the hard drive you may be used to.

Hard Drive Disk (HDD)

The standard hard drive before the SSD came along.

They are more abundant, affordable and offer higher storage capacity relative to cost.

The best of both worlds

Naturally, you want faster load times but the higher the spec of the games you play, the more storage space you'll need. So choose a PC with both. Keep your Windows 10 operating system on your SSD, so it boots up quickly, and your games on the HDD. This will reduce the stress on your PC and improve overall performance.

Windows 10 Your operating system for gaming

Windows fits the life you live like never before. There's Cortana, your personal digital assistant, and tons of new gaming-related features.

Get the most out of DirectX 12, which offers better than ever graphics performance, even for your current games collection.

Play and chat with friends across Xbox One and Windows 10 devices using the Xbox app.

Buy Xbox Play Anywhere digital titles such as Gears of War 4 or Forza Horizon 3 and play them on both your PC and Xbox, at no extra cost.

Easily narrate, record and share your most epic gaming moments with built-in Game DVR.