Someone asked me this question a few moons ago. It’s a loaded question which can be interpreted in a lot of ways. Being the genius that I am, I forgot to ask for clarifications which would have qualified the question.
How long does a gaming PC last …. before it breaks down? ….if owned by an abusive owner..if owned by a child? ..How long does a gaming PC last … WHAT?
Like a computer in a looping sequence overload, I was about to BSOD.
That’s when I got my moment of clarity.
Gamers are not interested in durability, lifespan or backward compatibility. They want high quality, lag free, high definition gameplay.
What they want is for their gaming PC to play at the highest level for as long as possible.
The most common benchmark for gaming is the measurement of graphics performance. The unit of measurement universally used is the frame rate or frames per second (FPS - not to be confused with the other FPS - First Person Shooter).
The frame rate or FPS in video games show how many times an image is refreshed to produce movement, effects or motion. If a computer can play a current game with high FPS, then it can be considered a gaming PC.
Most modern video games are developed to maximize current monitor technologies. A game must reach frame rates of more than 60 FPS to be considered as high definition gaming. At this rate, game characters movements are fluid with no instance of lagging motion which is vital in competitive computer games. Frame rates that fall below 30 fps will have negative and distracting effects to one’s gaming experience where sometimes a split second delay will spell the difference between victory and defeat.
So what do we call a computer that fails to reach acceptable gaming frame rates? We call it a big paper weight. It's a savage world people.
So let’s agree that a gaming PC is a computer that can play current video games at a high frame rate and high visual quality.
A gaming PC should have a powerful CPU that will not bottleneck the system. The current CPU market has great offerings from both AMD and Intel.
There’s a wide range of CPUs at every price level, from beginner to enthusiast. Intel is known to make the best (and often times more expensive) CPUs. Their Intel Core i5s and i7s have received very positive reviews.
Recently AMD released the Ryzen or Zen platform which gives high-performance computing on any price range from a budget build to enthusiast levels (shoutout to those Threadrippers). Both Intel and AMD processors work well for gaming, each has its own merits and you can’t go wrong with either brands.
The GPU is another defining factor. Without a graphics card, your gaming rig is essentially a, repeat after me...An Oversized Paperwei.....ok, it’s an office computer.
So let’s agree again on these points.
A gaming PC should have at least:
A newly built gaming PC will be dreamy the first year. As newer games become available and current games release updates. Your gaming PC will slowly but surely feel the pinch in performance. If it was well and balanced built, you can squeeze a lot of gaming years from it.
Choosing a good graphics card to pair with your CPU will be crucial to build a balanced gaming PC. But it’s not a bad decision you are screwed thing. It’s easier to upgrade GPUs since graphics card slots rarely changes interface or standard. The PCIe standard has been around for years and will be the de facto standard for the foreseeable future.
CPUs on the other hand seems to change socket standards about every 2 or 3 years. For instance, AMD’s recent sockets are AM3 (2009), FM1 (2011), AM3+ (2011), FM2 (2012), FM2+ (2014) and AM4 (2017).
Since most will backward compatibility issues, upgrading a CPU would necessitate a motherboard upgrade as well. So it’s common for computer owners to use CPU and Motherboard combo for 5 years or more.
A GPU on the other hand will age faster than the CPU. Both Nvidia and AMD (again!) provide powerful graphics card options that runs today’s most demanding games. But game designers keeps pushing the limits of gaming technology. A game running smoothly today might be stuttery in a few years.
From my experience I would say 3 years of gaming nirvana before you would need to scale down graphics and other settings to cope up with the gaming requirements. This can fluctuate depending on which GPU you have.
Games are mostly GPU intensive thus in time, the GPU has a higher potential to be the bottleneck rather than the CPU. Note that a quad core CPU and 8GB RAM would not bottleneck game performance as much as the GPU.
So let’s agree again on these points:
When your gaming PC reaches above thresholds, you would start seeing performance deterioration when playing current AAA games.
Tweaking game settings will lengthen hardware lifespan in exchange you will lose graphic eye candies. But if we are strictly talking about gamers that demands the highest resolution and ultra settings, then a gaming PC’s prime will lasts for 3 years.