PC gaming gets ridiculed for being too expensive to get into. The truth is that you can get into PC gaming on a budget. The problem, though, is that there are so many “shiny toy” products related to PC gaming (PC hardware and peripherals) that it’s easy to spend a lot of money on stuff you may not need.
In this article, I’ll go over five products that PC gamers often buy that may or may not be practical and I’ll discuss how they are (or are not) justified.
1. RGB Lights
It’s easy to criticize PC gamers for their love of RGB lighting. RGB lights serve no practical purpose and are solely aesthetic add-ons to custom gaming computers and gaming setups. And, the biggest downside of RGB lighting is how expensive it is.
RGB RAM, RGB power supplies, RGB motherboards, RGB cases, and everything else you can get RGB lights on typically come at a significant premium over standard components without RGB lighting. And, so, every dollar you spend on RGB lighting is a dollar that doesn’t go to your system’s overall performance.
Seems silly, right?
Well, not really. At least, not if you think that RGB lights look cool.
Part of PC gaming culture revolves around building custom gaming computers and awesome battlestations. RGB lighting helps gamers everywhere build the kind of setups they want. It’s really no different than people who get custom paint jobs on their cars, or people who update the landscaping in front of their house for aesthetic purposes.
Adding RGB lights to your setup may not make your system run faster or give you higher framerates, but it will make your battlestation look cooler, which, for you, might make your experience more enjoyable.
And, that’s all that really matters. RGB lights may not be “practical,” but if you think they look cool and you have the extra money to spend, I say ignore the naysayers and add RGB lighting to your setup.
2. Racing-Style Gaming Chairs
I’ve reviewed a few different racing-style gaming chairs recently and one thing I’ve noticed is how much they get bashed on by some members of the PC gaming community. The common argument is that racing-style chairs aren’t ergonomic and are, thus, bad to sit in.
The truth is that, despite having a few flaws from an ergonomics perspective, racing-style gaming chairs really aren’t that much worse to sit in than the same office chairs at similar price points.
What this means is that, at the price points that PC gaming chairs come in (typically anywhere from $100-$400), there really aren’t any office chairs available at those same prices that offer ideal ergonomics.
So, unless you’re willing to fork up close to a thousand dollars (or more) on some high-end office chair, you’re probably going to have to settle for a less-than-ideal chair (from an ergonomics standpoint) anyway.
And, just how RGB lighting can take a PC gamer’s battlestation to the next level, so, too, can a sweet-looking gaming chair. So, if you don’t have a small fortune to spend on a high-end ergonomic office chair, and you want something that looks cool, getting a gaming chair isn’t as bad of an option as some would have you believe.
3. Liquid Cooling
I have an AIO cooler. I think it’s pretty cool.
The reality, though, is that I could have gotten a high-end air cooler and gotten similar cooling performance for a fraction of the cost.
But, I spent a couple of thousand dollars on my latest computer build and I wanted to make it look cool. And, in my opinion, AIO coolers look better than air coolers.
So, I spent more on an AIO cooler to get the look I wanted. In fact, I combined two impractical things into one… an AIO liquid cooler that has RGB lighting.
And, I couldn’t be happier.
Yes, liquid cooling, on average, offers superior cooling to air cooling. But, the performance margin isn’t as big as you’d think (at least between AIO coolers and air coolers). And, on a price-to-performance level air cooling offers a bit better value in terms of the performance you get.
Custom water-cooled setups can offer extreme cooling but they also come at a very high price. And, typically, custom loops are either designed for extreme overclocking (which is probably impractical to the average gamer, as well), or for aesthetic purposes.
But, this, again, is like RGB lighting and racing-style gaming chairs… if you want the aesthetics that an AIO cooler or custom loop can offer, and you can afford it, then get it. If you’re working with a tighter budget and performance is your main goal, then it will make more sense for you to choose an air cooler and use the money saved on a better GPU or CPU, and/or more memory.
4. Multiple GPUs
For a lot of gamers, the idea of combining multiple graphics cards in one system is alluring. Surely, the more graphics cards the better, right?
Well, kind of…
The reality is that using multiple graphics cards doesn’t provide the same multiple in performance gains. There is diminishing returns when you starting adding additional graphics cards to your setup.
And, because your graphics card will likely be the most expensive component in your system, adding another one (or two, or three) is only going to rack up the cost of your setup.
Of course, if you have an unlimited budget, that’s completely fine. However, if you have a moderate budget, and you’re debating between adding a second graphics card, or putting that money towards upgrading other components, you may want to rethink adding the second graphics card.
The other problem with multiple GPUs is that games don’t always offer support for SLI or CrossFireX configurations. So, while your dual GTX 1080 Ti configuration might allow you to run one AAA title at 60+ FPS on a 4K monitor or a 1440P 144Hz monitor, that might not be true for another AAA title—the second card may not give you any boost at all. And, in the worst case scenario, it may even cause problems.
So, if you don’t have an unlimited budget or you do and you’re not willing to deal with some of the pitfalls that come with multi-GPU configurations, you’ll probably be better off avoiding it.
5. Huge Power Supplies
One common sentiment among the PC building community is that it’s a bad idea to get a cheap power supply. And, this is very true.
However, some first-time builders and PC gamers can take this to the extreme and drop a ton of money on a 1000W 80Plus Titanium power supply for their single-GPU system.
The reality is that, unless you’re running multiple graphics cards and/or trying to set an overclocking record, you probably won’t need a power supply with a wattage rating of over 600-700W (at the most).
Now, that doesn’t mean that any 600-700W (or less) power supply will get the job done. You still need to ensure that you choose a quality power supply. But, it’s just that most single-GPU setups will never use enough power to justify getting a monstrous 1000W (or higher) power supply.
So, it’s always a good idea to use an accurate power supply calculator (I use the OuterVision calculator) to give you a good estimate of the type of power your system will draw, and then choose a power supply that offers a little bit of headroom over that number.
Did I Miss Anything?
PC gaming and/or building a gaming PC aren’t necessarily expensive to get into. However, with all sorts of peripherals, add-ons, and other gaming-specific products out there, it’s easy to go overboard on your setup.
And, sometimes those products aren’t always the most practical. But, hey, if they make you happy and contribute to an awesome gaming setup, who cares?
If you think I’ve left anything off this list that should be included, post a comment below and let me know what other impractical (but, potentially awesome) PC gaming-related products are out there. Or, if you disagree with anything above, let me know!