How to improve your PC: Five must-have upgrades

You want to upgrade your PC, it�s clear, but you don�t know where you should start. It is a very common problem and it is that, when we have a limited budget we have to choose very carefully, because not all component upgrades, and peripherals, will have the same impact on our user experience, ie, will not be as important nor will we enjoy them at the same level.

For this reason, I wanted to shape this guide, and I have given it a very personal touch, since i have started from more than 15 years of my own experiences to share with you what are, in my professional opinion, the five updates that you will notice the most when it comes to improving your PC and that are, therefore, “must-haves”.

Unlike what I usually do in most guides, I am not going to limit myself to components. This has an explanation and it is that, in the end, most of these must-have updates focus precisely on peripherals.

Yes, it is clear that by using more powerful components you will enjoy higher performance, but when it comes to experience, power is not everything, and we can illustrate it with a very simple example: imagine using a high-end graphics card with a low-end monitor equipped with a 60Hz TN LCD panel. Terrible, isn’t it? And now imagine that on top of that you have a low-end keyboard and mouse, poor speakers..

There are many ways to improve your PC, that is clear, and as we have said these are not limited to hardware. However, in this guide I wanted to get out of the usual, the classic “change CPU, upgrade RAM” and the like, and i have carefully selected five lesser known, but that you should prioritize to take your experience to another level. As always, if you have any questions you can leave them in the comments and I will be happy to help you.

1.-The sound, a great forgotten that can significantly improve your PC

improve your pc with a sound card

I remember back in the eighties and also in the nineties, sound was a very important aspect for any PC user, especially for those of us who used it for gaming The sound card played a key roleit was a vital component as it determined not only the compatibility with the games, but also the sound quality that we were going to enjoy in the games.

In my case, my first PC of my own came with a Sound Blaster 16 which gave me a lot of joy, both for the compatibility it offered and for the quality it presented, and that was a model that could be considered as economical. The differences that the sound card could make at that time were enormous, so much so that we could have a quality sound or a canned one, with little depth and punch, or even be left without sound in certain games.

As time went by, the sound was left in the background. The integration of sound chips on motherboards was certainly one of the main culprits, although other aspects also play a role, such as the fact that more and more priority has been given to graphics elements, that few people are willing to pay for a dedicated sound card that they think will do the same thing as the motherboard chip.

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Obviously, the reality is totally different. A sound chip integrated in a motherboard is not at the level of a dedicated sound card, although it is true that the quality it offers is not as good as that of a dedicated sound card is sufficient for most user profiles which are grouped within the mid-range, and especially within the low-end.

This idea of sufficiency, of believing that it is acceptable and that we do not need more has been one of the great burdens that has affected the world of PC sound, especially in games. However, it is curious what happens when we put skeptical users in front of a scene with sound generated by the chip of a motherboard, and when we put them the same sample generated by a sound card They notice a lot of differences, even though their ears are not trained.

A dedicated sound card, and a speaker kit of reasonable quality, will allow you to enhance your PC in a fantastic waywhether youâ¤?re gaming or just playing music and multimedia content. In games, you’ll enjoy enhancements such as positional sound, specialized profiles for specific genres and titles, and effects with greater punch and depth. In music, youâ¤?ll enjoy a richer experience, better differentiate sounds, identify instruments that were previously ⤽lost⤠in the bulk of the musical ensemble, and hear your favorite songs at a new level.

2.-A monitor with a refresh rate of 120 or 144 Hz makes a big leap

hz monitor

Image: Intel.

The refresh rate determines the number of times an image is refreshed in one second. This means that if we have a refresh rate of 30 Hz, the image will refresh 30 times in one second, if we have a refresh rate of 60 Hz it will refresh 60 times in one second, and with a 120 or 144 Hz monitor the image will refresh 120 or 144 times in one second.

We already know what the refresh rate is, but it is important to keep in mind that this concept is deeply linked to the frames per second ratethat is, the number of new frames generated in one second. So, if we have a 60 Hz monitor, ideally the frame rate should be 60 frames per second, while in the case of a 120 Hz or 144 Hz monitor the ideal would be 120 FPS or 144 FPS.

Jumping from a 30 Hz to a 60 Hz monitor will already allow you to improve your PC in an incredible way, because you are doubling the refresh rate of the image, and this translates into a much greater sense of fluidity. It is not the same to tell it as to see it, but in the end the difference it makes is so big that we can say that there is a world of difference, so much so that, in fact, it is not at all advisable to buy monitors limited to 30 Hz.

However, many believe that this is where it endsthat is, that it is not worth buying a monitor with a refresh rate of more than 60 Hz because we are not going to notice a substantial difference. Again, the reality is totally different, although in fairness it is true that, for a normal user, going beyond 144 Hz does not make much sense.

In my case, one of the most important updates I have made in the last few yearsbecause of the differences I have noticed thanks to the higher refresh rate, was to buy a QHD monitor at 144 Hz. I was coming from a 60 Hz monitor, and the jump I noticed was very big in terms of fluidity, especially in games. This made me enjoy them on another level, and also gave me a slight advantage in competitive games, as I noticed a better response to my actions in general.

At the time I had a GeForce RTX 2080 Super and could maintain very high FPS rates without any problems. This detail is important since, as I told you, to take advantage of a monitor with a high refresh rate, we need a powerful PC. So, if we have a 144 Hz monitor but our computer is only capable of maintaining 60 FPS we will not notice any difference, but if we exceed that figure the amount of frames that will be reproduced in a second will increase, up to that maximum of 144, and will make a huge difference, as we have said.

3.-G-Sync and FreeSync with essential to enhance your gaming PC

monitor with FreeSync

A 144 Hz monitor can improve your PC in an impressive way, as we have already discussed in the previous section, but the ideal is to accompany it with G-Sync, if we are going to use an NVIDIA GeForce graphics card, or FreeSync, if we are going to use an AMD Radeon RX graphics card. Both technologies play a very important role in gaming, and they represent an improvement that I certainly consider a must-have.

That was another change I noticed a lot when I upgraded my monitor. As I told you, I had a 60 Hz model with VA panel that, to be honest, offered a very good image quality, but in games I frequently found myself with stuttering problemsand also with cases of  “tearing” quite severe. This forced me to turn on horizontal sync, but sometimes when the performance dropped below 60 FPS, I ended up having problems with that setting, and the stuttering was still present.

Stuttering is caused by irregularities in frame generation timesresulting in a loss of synchronization between frames. Its impact can be variable depending on how severe it is, but in extreme cases it can have such a large impact that a game running at 100 FPS can exhibit constant microbursts that will completely ruin the experience, and make it unplayable. On the other hand, the “tearing” is the image tearingrepresented by large horizontal lines, is produced when we move a set with an FPS rate higher than the refresh rate of our monitor.

Jumping to a G-Sync compatible monitor was for me one of the best investments I have made in over 30 years as a technology lover, and the same would apply if I had opted for one with FreeSync. Both technologies are focused on different graphics cards, as I have mentioned, but in the end their goal is the same: to act as link between the GPU and the monitor so that both work in a perfectly synchronized way, completely eliminating stuttering and tearing.

There are currently different versions of G-Sync and FreeSync, but even in their most basic modes they make such a huge difference that when you try them, you can’t help but wonder why you waited so long to upgrade your PC with either one. In my case, i couldn’t go back to a monitor without G-Sync.

4.-Jump to the next generation: ray tracing and DLSS

ray tracing

NVIDIA was the first to bet on ray tracing, and also took the biggest risk in order to implement ray tracing technology in current games. Not only did NVIDIA develop dedicated hardware to accelerate ray tracing, but it also shaped a specialized hardware in artificial intelligence that made possible the advent of DLSS, an intelligent image reconstruction technology that, as we know, can triple performance in certain games.

Buying a new graphics card will allow you to enjoy those games that used to be too big for your PC, you will be able to set them at high quality and maintain a good frame rate per second. This is all well and good, but the world of gaming has gone to another level thanks to ray tracing and DLSS, two technologies that complement each other wonderfully, and which have made it possible to create a next-generation experience even in spite of the burden of intergenerational developments.

In my case, when I went from a GTX 980 Ti to a GeForce RTX 2080 Super, the most important change that I noticed was not so much the difference in raw powerbut by the improvements in graphic quality that ray tracing offered me, and also by how I could compensate for its performance impact with the DLSS without sacrificing image quality.

The first game I took the plunge to try was Quake 2 RTX, and I was amazed at how ray tracing could bring such a simple geometry to that level of graphical quality. Since then, I have been enjoying many games with ray tracing, and thanks to the excellent implementation of this technology by games such as Cyberpunk 2077, Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition and Dying Light 2, it’s clear to me that making the leap to a GeForce RTX was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

We can no longer measure the value of a graphics card by limiting ourselves to rasterization Ray tracing is no longer the future but the present, and DLSS has done exactly the same. Both technologies can enhance your PC in a clear and simple way: allowing you to enjoy superior image quality, with highly realistic lighting effects, shadows and reflections, without sacrificing performance.

5.-Mount an SSD: The fastest, easiest and cheapest way to upgrade your PC and take it to the next level

upgrade your PC with an SSD

Few things make as huge a difference as moving from a hard drive to an SSD. In 2015, taking advantage of the fact that I was going to build a new PC, I decided to take the plunge and i completely forgot about hard drives, a decision that was obviously a wise one, and one that I am still celebrating today. My experience was so good that, in fact, I did not hesitate to remove the DVD drive from my Lenovo laptop in order to fit a SATA III SSD in its space, a few years ago.

SSDs have no mechanical parts and do not use platters to store data. This makes their access times much fasterand that they do not suffer from the problem of fragmentation and can offer read and write speeds that, even in the most inexpensive and limited models, are totally out of reach of HDDs.

If you’re wondering how it can improve your PC, the answer is simple: by reducing startup and shutdown times, reducing loading times in games, speeding up the launch of numerous applications, and generally making your computer more responsive You will have the feeling that your operating system “flies”and you won’t have to worry about mechanical failures. Games will also run better, as the SSD can work faster, and this helps to generate open worlds with a fluidity impossible for an HDD.

Some people still keep alive the myth that SSDs are less reliable than HDDs, something that certainly doesn’t make any sense. The technology behind this type of drives has improved substantiallyand nowadays, if we make even the slightest sensible use of an SSD, we will most likely end up replacing it before we run into problems. For proof, I still use the first SSD I bought in 2015, and CrystalDisk Info rates its status as “Good – 95%”.

To start enjoying the advantages offered by an SSD, and that differential value that will improve your PC so much, you do not need to go to the most expensive drives on the market Even a 20 Euro SATA III SSD is already a huge leap forward compared to any current hard drive. All in all, keep in mind that if you plan on gaming, and want to be prepared for the transition to the new generation, you may want to consider buying a PCIE Gen3 x4 model that operates at least 2400 MB/s sequential read.

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