Thursday, May 14, 2015

Building Compy, Peripherals

Building a new computer can be a daunting task, especially if you've never done it before. Fortunately, it's easier than ever to put together a machine the way you want at a price that fits your budget...

What are peripherals? They are the one thing most computer build guides skip, the assumption being that you already have them on hand. For completion sake, I wanted to cover these as frankly they're important as the peripherals are actually the parts of the computer you literally interact with. Common peripherals include the monitor, keyboard, and mouse but also include the speakers, headphones, and mic. There are also more esoteric peripherals like the USB hubs, wacom tablets, etc.

For our purposes, I will be talking specifically about the basics. Since this blog definitely has a gaming bias however, we will also be discussing some things that will come in handy for when you want to pwn. First, let's look at monitors...

Much like with the video card, there's a few things to consider here. Space is definitely a concern, if you're in close quarters or if you don't have a load of cash then don't bother with a 4k monitor. In fact, I would recommend to most people sticking with a 1080p panel for the time being anyway, 4k monitors are nice, don't get me wrong. But they are prohibitively expensive, have higher requirements in terms of hardware, more limitations in terms of software support, and frankly don't offer an appreciable improvement for most people who would use them.

The exception of course would be for those really interesting in simulation games, if you're on the ATI side of things you might consider pushing for 4k sooner than the rest of us. Having a large wrap around (or multiple panels) in panorama can be very immersive if you're in a racing or flight sim for example. For productivity it's nice too, and for some specialized interests (dual boxing for example) it can have benefits for MMO players. For the rest of us, we're talking a single screen.'

Much like our earlier discussion about video cards, my advice tends to be get the best/biggest you can afford. Fortunately, with 4k being the new hotness the 1080p panels are currently on the downturn in terms of price (remember what I said about last year's tech? It definitely applies here). For gaming, regardless of what type you're doing there's a few things you want to consider.

Size, response time (lower is better), refresh rate (higher is better), display lag (less than 10ms), inputs, and of course features. The last part can be somewhat nebulous, but things like adjustable height, smaller bezzles, etc can be the final push a good monitor needs to set apart from the competition.

My personal favorite right now is the BenQ RL260HT, not only does it have the inputs to run 1080p gaming from PC or console (yes, xbox can sit next to the computer comfortably) but it has several nice features including height and tilt adjustment and an HDMI passthrough for streaming (bonus). It's a 24 inch widescreen with good stats all around for gaming, the price is right too ($230 on Newegg currently).

For these input devices there is a HUGE amount of variance, more so probably than any other part of your machine. It seems every manufacturer has 50 different "GAMING" branded mice, and another 50 with similarly labelled keyboards. Unfortunately that gaming label can add some cash to the purchase pretty quickly. One thing that's always proven useful to me when buying a new mouse or keyboard (something I haven't done in a VERY long time) is hitting up a Best Buy, Frys, or similar store and simpy getting my mitts on the various options they have available on the sales floor. A lot of what's going to sell you on either is the feel and responsiveness.

Aside from ergonomics, you also need that tactile sensation to make an informed decision. Some people really like a hard clicking keyboard when they press a button to fire at their enemies. Others like a softer response, I'm probably somewhere in the middle. I like something I don't have to fight with, preferably less noise than a lot of mechanical keyboards, spammable, and preferably with some macro capabilities for MMOs.

It's a similar situation for mice, I've used both Microsoft and Logitech mice for a VERY long time. I was an early adopter of the Microsoft Optical mice back in the late 90s/early 00s. Since then, I've moved to the Logitech mice with their adjustable weights, dpi tuning, and more buttons. I've always been of the opinion that if a mouse doesn't have at minimum a forward and back button on the side, it can piss right off.

However, there is a point of diminishing returns for me. Some of the modern "GAMING" mice really turn me off personally, Razr has proven to be particularly troubling in this regard offering me a Nokia numpad worth of keys literally under my thumb while I'm trying to pull a boss might be appealing for some, but not for me. Ergonomics can be especially annoying with some specialty mice, the worst mouse I've ever owned was the original Creative Labs Fatal1ty branded mouse...

It's like pornography with nothing but plot and dialog, it makes no sense and it's completely frustrating to look at...

So, I can't really tell you what to get here. I can only tell you that you really need to get your mitts on several options and pay for whatever feels right. Personally, I'm looking at upgrading my mouse and keyboard after I finish building my new rig, so I'm sure I'll revisit this topic.

This might be controversial to some, but I don't recommend getting speakers if you're building your first gaming rig. Or at least don't spend much on them. First, if you get the BenQ listed above, it has speakers built in, they suck, but they function. And that's really all you need for gaming. I also absolutely advise against picking up "GAMING" branded headsets, they have a very troubling tendency to make sacrifices in the name of putting both a microphone and headphones in the same package. Instead, grab a good set of headphones (or earbuds if you're a child) and a mic.

My personal preference is the Superlux HD668B, comfortable with excellent sound and you can put replacement pads from the much more expensive AKG headphones on it for a more comfortable experience (thanks Tek Syndicate). For the mic, grab a Zalman ZM-MIC1 it's a simple clip on that will work fine for talking in Vent or Mumble. Should work fine for streaming as well until you can afford something more serious. For around $60 you end up with something that's MUCH better than the standard gaming headset, and going to be used more than speakers.

And with that, I leave you today. But check back for the next installment where we talk operating system and basic programs to get you started. And remember...

Always Be Closing,

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