The case and its components comprise the majority of the PC building experience – but the user experience is derived largely from peripherals. Display configurations alone are varied: a single, flat panel is certainly one option, but now there are 21:9 aspect ratio Ultra-Wide displays, surround display configurations, and – of course – VR headsets.
WHAT ARE SOME PERIPHERALS YOU NEED WHEN BUILDING A PC?
Required Peripheral #1 – Monitor
Monitors are one of the last components that go through the upgrade cycle. Gamers will hang onto monitors until they break or become woefully obsolete, often spanning years of use. Choosing the best monitor for your needs should be addressed carefully.
If you’re mostly concerned with competitive FPS gaming, a high-refresh rate display with low latency is of the most importance – something in the 120Hz to 144Hz range, for ultra-competitive players. The extra speed of vertical refresh will improve overall smoothness of frame delivery, without having to shell-out extra for proprietary adaptive refresh technologies.
Artists and designers would be wise to opt for an IPS panel, which will offer greater color clarity (and sometimes bit-depth) in exchange for response times. Marginally slower response is a reasonable trade when prioritizing color accuracy and depth of contrast – both important, deal-breaking points for artists.
Production users and enthusiast / power users may want to consider something like an Ultra-Wide. These displays are 21:9, effectively offering the usable workspace of two monitors, but have no bezel in the middle. They’re often curved (and often expensive), supporting resolutions upwards of 3440×1440 at the high-end.
It’s worth spending some money on a display. You’ll get years of use out of it and, more importantly, displays can be easily handed-down to other systems in the house.
Required Peripheral #2 – Keyboard
Mechanical keyboards offer the resolute, clicky satisfaction of solidly engineered switches. Multiple switch manufacturers exist, but most mirror (or are directly from) Cherry, a German-based mechanical switch manufacturer. Cherry has been developing keyboard switches since the early IBM keyboards.
Mechanical switch types are mostly judged by color, and the Kaihua (Kailh switches) mostly apply the same meaning to their colors as Cherry. Red switches have a higher actuation depth, and so can be pressed more easily. This is potentially a negative for folks who spend most their time typing (many accidental key hits while transitioning), but is a major positive for some gamers who prefer the extra millisecond of speed.
Blue switches are among the loudest and are generally recommended for typists. Brown switches offer a somewhat damped feel, providing the mechanical endurance and quality without going too heavy on the clicky aspect. Some keyboards will use rubber o-rings to further damp their switch depression, which helps absorb shock from the downstroke and lessen noise output.
We’d recommend going to a nearby electronics store and trying out the keyboards personally. Mechanical keyboards are highly individualized and bear with them many idiosyncrasies.
If you’d rather save the money, membrane keyboards run cheap and lower-quality switches with a somewhat ‘spongy’ feel, but are easily afforded by most.
Required Peripheral #3 – Mouse
Another highly personalized item, mice are first-and-foremost selected upon their feel in the palm of the user, and secondarily (but not that far behind) selected based upon sensor accuracy and speed. Some gaming mice have more frequent report rates, use higher resolution sensors, and abandon irritating technologies like Mouse Smoothing and Acceleration (or, more accurately, “speed-related accuracy variance”).
Endurance is important. Selecting a mouse with a long run-of-life rating for its switches will ensure that the product lasts years, in-step with the keyboard and other peripherals. Accuracy is, of course, also important. Most gamers will want mice without any form of automatic mouse acceleration or smoothing. Mouse smoothing isolates spurious motion in mouse input, then smooths it into a straighter line. This might be useful in some artistic applications, but could seriously throw-off the game of a veteran gamer.
Required Peripheral #4 – Headset
Gaming headsets like to brandish their multi-channel (e.g. 5.1 or 7.1) support as a selling point, but digital surround isn’t all there is to it. Comfort, again, is ranked top of the list. Microphone and wireless features should be taken into consideration prior to hard specs. Do you need a microphone? How about wireless functionality?
Both features will immediately narrow the selection.
But there are the hard specs, too. Driver technology dictates the depth of bass and quality of overall sound output, and wireless signal strength determines just how far away from the receiver the headset can be.
Pick a headset based on what you need most. There is no such thing as a headset that does everything well. There are headphones fine-tuned for music – is that the most important to you? Buy that – or headphones tuned for competitive games, immersive games, etc. There is no “one size fits all” solution to headphone selection. It’s all preference.
CHOOSE PERIPHERALS WISELY WHEN YOU BUILD A PC
The best part about peripherals when you build a PC is that they will last a long time. It’s not uncommon for builders to use the same keyboard/mouse/monitor setup for several years and builds. Take the time to research peripherals before you buy them because you’ll probably be using them for a long time. – Steve Burke, GamersNexus