It's play time

Die-hard gamers are said to have the biggest budgets for a PC. When you ask for the best motherboard, the fastest and best VGA card in town, accessories such as mice and gamepads, and hip monitors, it isn’t difficult to understand why.

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By  Vijaya Cherian Published  March 24, 2003

I|~||~||~|Electronic gaming has become more than just a ordinary pastime these days. Today, it is a billion dollar industry that keeps many people locked in combat for hours on screen, while bringing them together to share a common love offline. The Middle East itself has come to be a gaming hub in the last couple of years. Gaming parlours are aplenty in the region, the number of gamers has increased rapidly over the last couple of years and government organisations, such as Emirates Internet and Multimedia in the UAE, have encouraged it by hosting online gaming competitions across the Gulf.

For people, who have developed an interest in gaming and want to hone their skills at home, there's no better way to begin than by getting the right hardware. You may have the potential to be the finest gamer on earth but you may find yourself lacking because you don't have the right components or the right accessories. And a not-so-worthy opponent could beat you simply because you do not have the right hardware. So, if you are on the threshold of gaming and have the budget for a new PC, here are some pointers you need to know. Windows Middle East teamed up with Grand Computers, a company responsible for assembling many computers for gaming cafes in the UAE, to find out what are the important components, accessories and other things you need to know.

||**||II|~||~||~|Budget
A die-hard gamer always has the biggest budget. Even bigger than a graphic designer, we are made to believe. After all, you need to get the top-of-the-range motherboard, VGA card, monitor and accessories.

Video card
This is the single most significant piece on a gamer's PC. You might be forgiven if you have only 128 or 256 MB RAM. But if you do not have a high-end video graphics adapter with 64 MB DDR, which is what most games require today, you will find yourself in a frustrating position. The most recommended video card is a GeForce 4. These come in different forms. The high-end cards use a Ti4600 chipset and are capable of the best performnace, next are the mid-range cards based on the Ti4200 chipset. MX cards are designed for budget use and are basically cut-down versions of the higher speed cards, running at lower core clock speeds and sometimes with fewer data pipelines included, or perhaps with less memory. Don't be deceived though. MX cards can be surprisingly powerful. The GeForce 4 chipset is released by many manufacturers like XFX, Gainward and MSI.

Most games require a minimum of 64 MB RAM on the VGA card. Even if the RAM on your PC is 256 MB, you can get away with it. What is important is the VGA card, as gaming utltises all the resources on the PC.
Note: nVidia has released a new FX chipset recently. The cards based on this will be among the best on the market and are vying with the 9700 chipset from Ati as the best high-end offering. If you have a high budget, look out for these that will be in the market soon.
The GeForce FX 5800 Ultra (approx. $350) is the card that die-hard gamers looking for the best in the market must go for. GeForce FX 5800 (approx $200) has also been introduced into the market.

They use the world’s first DDR2 memory interface, come with an 8pixel/clock rendering pipeline that accelerates and smoothes game speed, an FX flow heat pipe technology where the fan speeds automatically due to the loading of GPU and a DVI input of upto 1600 x 1200 resolution. There are certain prominent differences between the high-end ultra and the basic GeForce FX 5800. The Ultra VGA has a graphics core clock of 500 MHz, while the basic has 400 MHZ; the former has a fill rate of four billion and a memory data rate of 1 Ghz while the latter comes with 3.2 pixels/sec and a memory data rate of 800 MHz.

||**||III|~||~||~|Motherboards
If you are purchasing a new PC, go for the fastest speed. The difference between a P4 2.4 GHz and a 1.7 is only $40. Go for an Intel original motherboard or other high-end motherboards such as Gigabyte, or MSI, which are strong and stable.
One important note that gamers need to keep in mind while purchasing a motherboard is that you need to go for one that comes with an AGP slot. Some motherboards, even Intel, come with integrated graphics.

Some come with integrated graphics as well as an AGP slot. We recommend that you purchase a motherboard that comes with only an AGP slot, and does not include integrated graphics.

This is because a motherboard that comes with integrated graphics is designed for it. There may be display conflicts or other glitches with an additional video card. Moreover, integrated graphics shares your computer memory. Hence it is called shared VGA. This will slow down your system.

Sound
Any sound card will do because most today have four channels. Most of us are likely to think that gamers use surround sound. However, a quicky survey done among die-hard social gamers revealed that most are not particular about sound. In fact, most use headphones. The reason for this is that if in a gaming café, there are different game scenarios and listening to different sound effects from other games could distract the gamer. Many Intel motherboards come with built-in sound. Surround sound is mostly preferred by those who use their PCs to listen to music.

Other hardware to consider
A 17" monitor is the most popular screen among gamers today. However, if you have the budget for a larger screen, go for it. Some manufacturers such as Samsung have designed monitors (like the MagicBright) expecially for gamers. This monitor has three levels of brightness. The first is for regular use, the second is for internet applications and the third is for games and has the highest brightness. Gamers should go for a flat monitor, whether CRT or TFT, because there is virtually no distortion.

One last point to keep in mind is that you require a CD-ROM drive with a minimum of 52x speed. Some games have to be played straight from the CD. It helps, therefore, to check on the speed of your CD-ROM before you make a purchase. These are but some of the main components to keep in mind and check carefully before you purchase a PC for gaming. Most gamers prefer assembled machines for this purpose as they have the option of including all the hardware that they prefer. However, while doing this, ensure that you look into compatibility issues as well to make certain that there are no conflicts between different hardware. Also, always go for original software to help generate better games in future.||**||

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