Guide: build your custom Linux-based Gamer PC

Tux PC Gamer Linux

Many users demand a PC Gamer to match, a good team that meets their needs and adapts to the budget they have. There are many companies that are explicitly dedicated to creating this type of equipment or large manufacturers also have some models for gaming in their catalog. But a brand team is not always better, so here we will recommend a clone piece by piece to choose the best.

As pockets there are many types and it would be almost impossible set up a team that suits everyone, we are going to give advice to choose the best parts in quality and performance to teach you to select the best configuration that adapts to you in a personalized way. In addition, unlike the vast majority of computers with powerful hardware for video games that are, our PC Gamer will not be based on a Windows platform, but Linux. 

Hardware:

Modding

The video games and multimedia content, is the one that consumes the most hardware resources. A video game needs 100% of your equipment, without powerful hardware, the video game simply will not work or it will not work fluently. We all know how annoying it is to play and that the game is going to jerk. So that this does not happen, we are going to choose the best hardware, not only in performance, but in quality, since buying a PC and having it break down soon is not pleasant ...

I cannot advise you which specific model, but I will guide you so that depending on what you want to spend, you can choose the best equipment. For example, if you find that you can't get hold of an ASUS Radeon R9 390X graphics card, try choosing a R9 380 or R7… to fit your pocket. To satisfy the needs of video games there are three components that are vital. These will have to pay more attention than the rest. It is convenient to consume a higher percentage in the purchase of these three elements and manage the rest of the money for the rest of the team (less vital). The three components I'm talking about are: RAM, CPU, and Graphics Card.

To assemble your teamYou can always go to a technician, use guides and tutorials that can be found on the Internet, or go to a simulator like the one Cisco has to educate yourself on the assembly of computer equipment. Before selecting the components, I also recommend you see the recommended requirements that your favorite games need to know what to select (capacities, speeds, ...). To see if the components are compatible, there are websites that offer online configurators like this. It can be a good reference for both price and compatibility, even if you don't buy your equipment on this site.

RAM:

RAM module

RAM is responsible for storing data and instructions as a buffer between your hard drive and the processing unit. In this way, access will be faster. Keep in mind that all software needs to load data and instructions for execution in that memory. Games are no strangers to this and due to the type of audiovisual and interactive content, this amount of information is much greater than in other software.

That is why it must be fast and of large capacity, otherwise, if it is too small, your swap partition (dumping some of the content that can't fit in RAM to this partition) which is much slower. Keep in mind that a DDR3-2200 RAM has an access time of about 3.3 ns as it is SDRAM cells, while the flash memory of SSDs can take less than 0.2 ms and around 10 ms for HDDs. If you do the math, solid state hard drives are about 60.000 times slower than RAM and magnetic hard drives about 1.000.000 times slower.

How to choose the RAM?

To choose the RAM, you can orient yourself with the number of cores of your CPU / APU. It would be opportune for you to have at least 2GB per core. That is, if you have an eight-core processor, it is good that you have 16GB of RAM. As for brands, I recommend G.Skill, Corsair and Crucial. You can also choose Kingston HyperX as it is better than ValueRAM.

Of course there are other important factors, such as the latency, the frequency at which it works and the technology. It must be supported by the chipset of the motherboard you choose. It is best to select a faster technology, such as DDR3. The standard must be high, for example, a DDR3-2200 (PC3-18000) is better than a DDR3-1600 (PC3-12800), since the access times are usually lower (<ns), the higher frequency and higher data transfer rates.

Latency needs a separate chapter. They are usually 4 values ​​(tCAS, tRCD, tRP and tRAS). The most representative value and to which you have to pay the most attention is the first, the CL. If you have doubts between two modules, the one with the lower CL number is always better. For example, a CL9-9-9-24 is worse than a CL7-8-7-24. And as a tip, do not mix modules with different latencies on the same motherboard, since the system will be forced to work as the one with the highest CL.

Our recommendation: Corsair Dominator Platinum 16GB DDR3 1866Mhz CL9-10-9-27

CPU:

A10 AMD APU

La CPU (Control Processing Unit) will be in charge of processing the instructions to operate on the data that the video game demands (AI, control, physical calculations,…) so that the game mache adequately. The CPU will search RAM to fill its cache with instructions and data. Depending on the program you are running, it takes instructions sequentially. By decoding them, you know what data to bring in and what to do with it. For example, an instruction could indicate the memory location where two operands are stored and have an implicit multiplication. Therefore, the control unit will start the functional units necessary for these two data to be multiplied in the corresponding unit, for example the ALU.

Without a powerful processor, the game will not work properly. Now with the appearance of AMD APUs, this has been improved thanks to the integration of the GPU to speed up the rendering. Ageia also released a card called PhysX a few years ago. It was a PPU (Physics Processing Unit). It tried to relieve the CPU of the work of physical calculations, but new architectures and improvements in computing, made it disappear and did not become a standard like the GPU in its day.

Keep in mind that when you play a video game and for example you see the undulating movement that the water makes when you interact with it, when you shoot (trajectory of the shot and bounce), reflections, movement and collisions due to impacts, etc., all that is pure physics and must be generated by complex calculations. The hardware must be fast enough so that, for example, when you shoot at a wall, make a quick calculation of where the projectile will hit and how it will bounce depending on the angle or material at which you have fired, in addition to sending information to the GPU so that process the texture of the aftermath of the shot ...

How to choose the CPU?

There are two greats in this, AMD and Intel. There are also others like VIA, but they are a long way off. Before the offer was greater (Cyrix, IDT, Transmeta,…), but little by little, the two big ones have been liquidating the competition. Of course, we are always talking about x86-64, since there are other families such as SPARC, PPC, ARM, etc. But these we will not discuss here ...

And here is the eternal discussion of «Which is better?«. Well, Intel has done a great job on their latest designs, in part due to the large budget invested against the small AMD. The Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7 generally have better performance compared to their AMD equivalents, but the AMD ones have lowered their prices a lot to be able to rival. So for X amount of money, maybe you can get a better AMD processor than an Intel, due to the high price of the latter. In this sense, € / performance, yes that AMD wins and by a landslide.

To select a good processor, you should look at various parameters in this order (from most important to least): microarchitecture, number of cores, clock frequency, bus transfer rate, supported technologies, cache memory and TDP. Manufacturing technologies are also important, but these are somewhat more difficult for most to control and basically all they focus on is channel size (nm). But there are other things like technologies and materials ...

Always choose the latest microarchitecture, this represents a significant leap in performance. Not always a processor with more cores is better if its microarchitecture is older. The clock frequency is something that has always been given a lot of importance and that every time it loses weight due to many other ways to make a fast processor without increasing the Ghz. The bandwidth is important, since the communication between the chip and the rest of the equipment will depend on it and if it is poor, bottlenecks are generated that reduce performance. The technologies (SSE, XOP, FMA, 3D Now !, Cool'n'Quiet, NX-bit, AVX, AES, AMD-V, ...) are also very interesting, especially those related to multimedia content and acceleration of the calculation. The cache is also important, but a lot of cache is of little use if the processor is not able to squeeze it to the fullest. And finally, take a look at the TDP, the lower the better, so you don't generate too much heat while you play and have to buy more sophisticated cooling.

Our recommendation (Intel): Intel Core i7-5820k 3.3Ghz

Our recommendation (AMD): AMD A10-7850K 3.7Ghz or AMD FX-8350 4Ghz

 

Graphic card:

AMD Radeon R9 Graphics Card

The GPU (Graphic Processing Unit) will be in charge of the graphic processing, which is one of the heaviest tasks. Before the advent of graphics accelerators and dedicated GPUs, the CPU had to take care of all of this, and that was hard work that slowed down the system. Now this work has been downloaded for the GPU to do, which is no small thing. Generating the graphics that you see on the screen immediately is not an easy task.

The GPU collects the information that reaches the graphics RAM from the CPU in the form of vertices, points in a geometric space. The vertex shader, which performs movement and rotation operations, to place them on the map. Afterwards, a stage called clipping is carried out, in which it is decided which part of the vertices will be visible on the screen and they are transformed into pixels by rasterization. This does not consume too many resources, but what comes next, which is what the pixel shader takes care of. It transforms pixels into textures. It is also the moment to carry out some corrections such as antialiasing, blending and the fog effect. After this, the generated graphic is stored in a cache and some units called ROP, collect this information to prepare the pixels that will be displayed on the screen and apply some effects. Finally, it is stored in the frame buffer and from here they will be displayed on the screen. That is how a graphics card transforms some points given on a plane into a complete graphic.

How to choose the graphics card?

Don't make the mistake of thinking that having an AMD APU or an Intel processor with an Intel HD-Graphics GPU is sufficient for gaming. For a Gaming PC it is better to have a dedicated graphics card that is very powerful. As with processors, there are two leaders here: NVIDIA and AMD when it comes to the GPU chip, but there are a multitude of motherboard manufacturers. In this sense, I recommend ASUS, Sapphire and Club3D boards in this order.

De the plate it will depend on the integrated graphics RAM, the quality of the PCB and some particular technologies that these manufacturers integrate in addition to those in the GPU. In addition, another very interesting point is the cooling of the card, which also falls on this manufacturer.

In this case something similar happens as in the CPU, not always a card that has more GRAM is better than another, the most important thing is choose the latest GPU microarchitecture, then you can compare memories. For example, an R9-Series is always better than an HD-Series, regardless of the amount of GDDR they have. As for the bus, PCI Express 16x is always better, but most boards already are.

Our recommendation (NVIDIA): ASUS GTX970-DCMOC-4GD5 NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970

Our recommendation (AMD): ASUS R9390-DC2-8GD5 AMD Radeon R9 390

 

Other components:

In addition to the RAM, microprocessor and graphics card, your PC must depend on other elements, although these are less important when configuring your PC Gamer equipment. Although that is not why they should be underestimated. Here we will guide you to choose a good brand, the rest is your choice:

  • Motherboard: there are three big manufacturers in this regard: ASUS, Gygabyte and MSI. I prefer ASUS for the quality and the technologies it implements. There are some details to control on the motherboard, such as the chipset that it integrates. The chipset can be from AMD, NVIDIA, Intel, and others. In general, if you choose a system with an AMD graphics card and CPU, choose an AMD better, they will "understand" each other better. BIOS / UEFI is also important, brands like AMI, Phoenix / Award and Insyde are good. If it integrates a network card, try to make it Marvell or Realtek and if it integrates a sound card, make it Realtek.
  • HDD: you can choose between SSD (solid state hard disk) or HDD (magnetic-mechanical hard disk). Ideally, you should have an SSD to install the operating system and software, as well as a higher capacity HDD to store your data. But this depends on what you can afford… If you decide on an SSD, the brands Intel, Samsung, SanDisk and Mushkin give good results in every way. For a magnetic hard drive, the Seagate king has lost the crown and now has the highest failure rate of all. If you want reliability, I recommend HGST (Hitachi) and WD (Western Digital), although now HGST is owned by WD. By the way, technology is also important in this case, SATA3 is faster, also look at the data transfer rate (the higher the better) and the access time (it should be as low as possible).
  • Refrigeration: there are more and more brands with very innovative solutions. Sometimes you don't always have to go by brand, but if you want some advice and go for something safe, you can look at Scythe, Noctua, and Thermaltake. Look at the specifications of the CPU, it is important that it is powerful enough to cool your system, especially considering that the temperature rises near the maximum when you play.
  • PSU (Power Supply): To choose a good power supply, you must take into account the protection technologies it has. The more of these you integrate, the more it will protect your equipment from voltage spikes, overloads, etc. Of course, it needs to be powerful enough to supply power to all components, so keep an eye on the watts. The best brands are usually Seasonic, Tacens, and Enermax.
  • Sound card: If you do not opt ​​for a sound card integrated into the motherboard, you may want to have an external PCI card. Although this is not so critical, therefore you can save money and dedicate it to the main components. If you want a good plate, I recommend the Creative brand.
  • Optical drives: DVD / Blu-Ray players or recorders can be SATA type for better transfer speed. Also look at the X for reading and writing, the higher the better. In case of being a recorder, look at the supported formats DVD-RW, DVD-R, DVD + R, CD, BD, DVD-HD, etc. As for brands, LG, Philips, Plextor, LiteON, Pioneer, Matshita,… they are good.
  • Tower: or cabinet for Latin Americans who read us. In this case it is not too important. It is more a matter of taste than quality, since it does not interfere too much in the whole. The only thing that if it has extra cooling is much better. I would recommend Thermaltake, Lian-Li or Silverstone.
  • Speakers: it is important to have a good sound system to listen to your games as if you were inside. A 2.1, 5.1 ... system, with surround sound, etc., is a good idea for your PC Gamer. Recommended brands, perhaps Creative, Edifier, Logitech, Audioengine, etc.
  • Controls: It is another interesting part, not only to choose Joysticks, game controllers and steering wheels, but also to select a good keyboard and mouse, since these are the elements that will communicate you with the video game. Logitech, Azio, Razer, ... select your favorite brand, within these there are special devices for gaming.
  • Monitor: select the one that best suits your needs in terms of price and inches (better if it is> 19 ″). You just have to keep in mind that for video games one with a low response time is better. The fewer milliseconds the better, there are from 8ms to 1ms, for example 5ms, 3ms or 1ms are better figures for video content. Brands like LG, Philips, BenQ, Acer, AOC, ASUS are fine.

Software:

Ultimate Edition Gamers

Once we have all the physical part, now we go for the softare. In this case, the first thing is to install a good Linux distribution. You can choose a multitude of them, but considering that it is a PC Gamer, I would recommend three: Ubuntu, SteamOS and Ultiamte Edition Gamer. Although of the three, if you want to go to the easiest, you can discard Ubuntu, since it is a generic distro and to adapt it to video games you must install a series of things to make it ready (not a big problem, but ...).

SteamOS is in beta phase, it works properly, but there are still things to polish, so maybe the best option of all is Ultimate Edition Gamer, is based on Ubuntu, but has a number of plugins installed to help you. Such as XBMC, PlayOnLinux, Wine, etc., which will help you even play video games for Windows. You can also count on the Steam fanatic if you wish to have many more video games (+1500). On the other hand, it already has some pre-installed emulators and video games, so you can entertain yourself from the first moment. If this seems little to you, it has a light desk to leave more resources for your entertainment ...

linux-drivers

As for the drivers, you should install AMD / NVIDIDA owners for your graphics card and other components if there are for Linux, since they will give you better performance and you will have fewer problems than with the free ones. So much AMD and NVIDIA They have official drivers on their web pages. We have always tried to indicate in this blog that open source drivers are maturing and getting closer and closer to closed ones, but if you want maximum optimization, you must continue to trust the owners.

Having recommended a series of brands in the hardware section, we guarantee that we should not have problems when it comes to recognition and hardware operation by the operating system. However, before choosing your hardware, make sure it has Linux support. If you have doubts, you can also consult this website.

Soon we will also publish other post about configuration to create the best team of work, with a configuration of the most stable so that you do not have problems when working. There will also be a space for a Media Center and a team where security is everything. A good range of options to satisfy most user needs.

Allowed comments, contributions and suggestions...


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  1.   Mr. Paquito said

    Greetings.

    I agree that a gaming PC needs powerful hardware, this is not in question. However, I see that your proposal in micro, RAM and graphics is along the lines of not skimping on expenses, and I believe that, even there, we can save money.

    THE microprocessor: I understand that in the micro we can save a little money without sacrificing performance in most titles, a good quad-core I5 ​​(in AMD I am not on) should be more than enough.

    RAM: Without prejudice to the fact that 2GB of RAM per processor core may be ideal, I would say that for most current titles 8GB of RAM should be sufficient without being noticeable in the gaming experience; RAM latencies and frequencies are another thing, but when it comes to capacity, I think 8 should be enough.

    The power supply: I would not skimp too much here and, in addition, Tacens has very decent models at a great price. It would be a question, that if, of guaranteeing that it has enough power, I would choose a clear one (come on, there is no doubt that it is enough and that it allows us to make certain hardware extensions without having to worry about changing the source) above the PC power requirements.

    The graphics card: The GTX970s are, in general, above the budget of most, although, yes, they are the milk. But, in my opinion, you can have a very good gaming experience with the medium ranges, that is, choosing whether or not Nvidia's GTX models (I'm not on at AMD). In this it is advisable to get good advice, but with a graphic of about 250 euros you can play very comfortable and with more than decent graphic configurations.

    The tower: here I would not choose one of the cheap ones, and I say this for several reasons. First, because the more aerated it is, the better, we can save on fans and cooling, for this it is good that it has upper grilles (to facilitate the exit of hot air) and choose one that is wide wide, which will contribute to a better cooling (as the components are not piled up and having space to organize the wiring well) and it will also make life much easier when we need to expand the PC or change a component (powerful graphics are usually very large). Having enough bays for disks is not a bad thing either and having anchoring systems without screws (be careful, they are minimally secure) is very useful.

    The cooling: I have a generic heatsink and I have no overheating problems. It is true that my tower is very ventilated and that I try to keep the heatsink and fans clean, but I think that with a good box we can also save something on this. Of course, since they are not especially expensive components, we are not going to save too much either.

    Storage: I also think that the ideal situation is to have an SSD for the system and an HDD for data and to install games, for which it might be interesting to choose a HDD from the WD brand BLACK series. In any case, the speed of the disc to play matters, but it is not as decisive as it might seem, where it will be most noticeable will be when loading the game itself and then, while playing, when you have to load a map, but it should not hurt the experience far beyond that.

    When I bought my PC, about three years ago, I think, (without graphics or hard disk) it cost me about 580 euros, and the components would be, more or less:

    Board: GIGABYTE Z68AP-D3

    Processor: Intel Core i5 2500 (4 cores at 3.300GHz)

    RAM: 8GB DDR3 1.600MHz (Kingston Hyper X, I can't tell you the latency)

    TOWER: It's a Cooler Master Cm 690 II

    I completed it with:

    The storage: I use an SSD (Samsung 840 Pro 128 GB) for the system (Ubuntu 14.04 sharing space with a Windows 7) and an HDD for the data, which is also where I install the games, no longer to save writes in the SSD, but for a matter of space. Regarding the HDD to install games, it might be interesting to choose one of the BLACK series from the WD brand.

    The graphics: when I bought the equipment I had put a 450GB Nvidia GTS 1 (from ASUS) which obviously fell short for many games. Currently I have a 760GB Nvidia GTX 2 (from Gigabyte) that, without being able to put everything on top, moves very decently everything I have played so far, including things as demanding as The Witcher 2 (in Linux somewhat worse than in Windows), Bioshock Infinite or Shadows of Mordor, which is what I'm playing now and it's surprisingly good.

    In the rest of the components I am not very demanding, my keyboard is a generic Logitegh, the mouse is for games, yes, but a very cheap Tacens, the screen is a normal Samsung with about 6 years already ...

    The summary of what I wanted to say is that I think a very decent PC can be made with more modest hardware than is proposed in the article. Of all the components of my PC (including the micro itself, which is already an age and several generations of I5 have come out since then), the only thing that I consider to be below what I need is the graphics, obviously improvable, and my HDD, which is from the BLUE range. The other components, without being the most of the most, I think they are enough to play very decently.

    Greetings.

    1.    Isaac PE said

      Hey.

      Thanks for your comment. When I structured the article I thought about creating a unique configuration. But I discarded it because there are many possible configurations and all valid ... So I made this more generic and as I say, if obviously someone cannot buy an A10, then buy an A8 or an i5 instead of an i7, an R7 instead of an R9 …Sure. That is free and each one must select what best suits their case. This is for guidance only.

      A greeting!

  2.   redlinux said

    Oh my gosh. I congratulate you for the great post that you have worked on. It has hooked me to the end.

    It is true that the video game part makes the most of the computer and you have to think about all the pieces. Although what will cost you the most to decide is the micro, ram and graphic trio.

    And if you allow me to add to take into account in fourth place it would be the motherboard since it is in charge of interconnecting everything with each other.

    A greeting.

    1.    Isaac PE said

      Thanks. Of course, the motherboard is vital as well. You are absolutely right, but the RAM, CPU and GPU had to be highlighted above the rest. Like the hard disk, it is another element that also interferes ...

      Regards!!!

  3.   nitrofuran said

    please share pcpartpicker links with these suggested configurations! :)

  4.   Javier said

    It would be necessary to look to make the best guide for the steam machines that I think there will be cm I more than 1 that you will

    1.    Isaac PE said

      It is in the plans ... It would be interesting to get an article like that.

      Regards!!!

  5.   Yon Colmenares Prada said

    Hello

    I do not agree very much in your classification when you base the ram, cpu and graphics card. You are leaving aside something that you really should not skimp on and that is the motherboard. I would rather spend 600 USD on a quality motherboard than spend 1000 dollars on a cpu and I say this because who works as a conductor is the motherboard. If you spend a lot on a good motherboard, you can afford to lower your CPU budget a bit and increase your RAM and graphics card budget. Of course I am talking about that instead of buying an i7 you buy a fourth generation i5 at least, and you have a lot of money left over to invest in a motherboard, graphics card and good RAM (good RAM does not mean more RAM). Finally, the quality power source is also important, because even the case or tower can be adapted to your needs with a little materials, patience and ingenuity.

  6.   pau said

    Hello there!
    I just bought a laptop msi gp72 2qe leopard pro and I would like to know that it is better to install, I am something new in this ... I have installed Ubuntu 15.04 and I would like to know if I need to install another or something else, such as drivers etc ... to take advantage of it by maximum in the subject of audiovisuals, photo video, motaje….
    thank you very much

  7.   Jesus said

    They will excuse me for the comment but why are they going to spend so much money on a computer if they are going to put Linux on it? If you enter Steam all the games that are available for Linux do not require even half of this equipment, that is throwing money away, with an Intel 3250 and a GTX 750 they have, the new Metal Gear or Battlefield are for what OS ? And so it is with all AAA titles, I use Elementary OS and I have a modest laptop and I can wander through the Steam Linux arcade without fear of falling short.

  8.   Ivan Mendez said

    Nowadays build PC Gamer in Argentina It is not cheap at all, but it is not complicated to do either. I want to modify my pc and update it with other components while maintaining the price-quality ratio. Thanks for the input of these tips, I realized that I was researching wrong for the components.