A Central Processing Unit (CPU)
A Graphics Processing Unit (GPU), also known as a video card
Random Access Memory (RAM), also known as volatile memory
Storage: Solid State Drive (SSD) or Hard Disk Drive (HDD)
In terms of computer construction, each of these main components are attached to the motherboard and then put into a protective case—resembling the clean, polished look most of us are accustomed to seeing. Sure, most computers have their own distinct design – and different brands of hardware installed – but the components listed above are standard across all computers.
Important: A quick note before we dive into the details—I’m listing and talking about the different components of a computer. This is by no means intended to be an invitation to disassemble your computer, nor is it a set of instructions to do so. Without the proper knowledge, you can severely damage your computer, and importantly, doing so is unsafe.
MSI MEG Z490 Godlike motherboard
In case the name wasn’t a clue-and-a-half: This is no modest motherboard. MSI’s MEG Z490 Godlike is the company’s Intel Z490 flagship, competing directly with the likes of Asrock’s Z490 Taichi and Asus’ Z490 ROG Maximus XII Extreme in terms of both price and features. (The Z490 chipset is the top-end chipset for Intel’s latest desktop CPUs, allowing for extensive CPU and memory tweaking.) With an MSRP of $749.99, this deluxe motherboard certainly isn’t for the casual user or PC builder. But if money is no hurdle, and the aim is pushing a 10th Generation “Comet Lake” Core i9 or Core i7 to the limit, then this builder package is certainly worth considering. Fancy features such as an onboard OLED info/bling panel and an included M.2 SSD expansion card pump up the price, but this board rivals Asus’ offering for Z490 supremacy.
The Design: Is This the PCB of the Gods?
Straight out of the box, the Extended-ATX-size (E-ATX) MEG Z490 Godlike is almost entirely black, with just a few thin white lines and labels to add detail. You’ll see some gray thrown in the mix on various metal parts, but these are all fairly dark and don’t stand out much from an otherwise black PCB. After the board is supplied with power, it’s still not what I’d call colorful, but lights on the rear I/O shroud and the motherboard chipset do add some life to the board. The lights on the rear I/O shroud illuminate a dragon image that looks nifty, but it probably won’t be visible depending on where you place your PC.
Central Processing Unit (CPU)
What it is: The CPU is often called the “brain” of a computer, thanks to its direct plug connection to the motherboard, and communication with all of the computer’s other components. What it does: Whenever you write a line of code (in Python, Java, C++, or any other programming language), it’s broken down into assembly language—which is a language that the processor can understand. It fetches, decodes, and executes these instructions. And that’s where the CPU comes in—all the processes a computer handles are taken care of by the CPU.
Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)
Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080
RTX 3080 is rare as pigeon eyelashes, but there is no doubt Nvidia’s new RTX 3080 is the best graphics card today. It represents a huge generational performance boost over the previous RTX 20-series. That’s impressive when put up against either the RTX 2080 or 2080 Super, but when you consider that this nominally $699 card can not just match but massively outperform the $1,200 RTX 2080 Ti, it really hits home.
The thing which really stands out from our testing is the difference it makes to ray-tracing performance. The first generation of ray tracing-capable cards required such a huge frame rate sacrifice that most people shied away from turning it on, but that’s no longer the case with this generation.
When you can now get ray-traced performance that exceeds the frame rates you’d get out of the top card of the RTX 20-series when running without it, you know that this is a whole different beast. And hey, the RTX 3080 can actually run Crysis.
Nvidia has managed this by adding a whole load more CUDA cores to the mix in this 8nm GPU and updated Tensor Cores (for extra DLSS goodness) and second-gen RT Cores to make with the ray-traced pretties.
The RTX 3080 may need a fair chunk more power—you’ll want at least an 850W PSU—and be tricky to get hold of, but this is the most desirable graphics card around today. Which I guess is also why it’s so tricky to get hold of.
Random Access Memory
What it is: RAM, also known as volatile memory, stores data regarding frequently accessed programs and processes. (It’s called volatile memory because it gets erased every time the computer restarts.)
What it does: RAM helps programs and games start up and close quickly.
Corsair Vengeance LED
Corsair is one of the most trusted names when it comes to the best RAM on the market. Its Vengeance series, especially, has something for everyone with its LED DDR4 offerings. On top of giving PC builders that extra touch of vibrant lighting, this RAM has robust heat spreaders that maximise cooling for higher overclocking and maximum performance. Corsair’s Vengeance LED DDR4 series also features CL16 latency and whopping 3,466 MHz speeds, so it’s just as fast and responsive as it is aesthetic.
What it is: All computers need somewhere to store their data. Modern computers either use a Hard Disk Drive (HDD) or Solid State Drive (SSD).
What it does: HDDs are made of an actual disk onto which data is stored. The disk is read by a mechanical arm. (HDDs are cheaper than SSDs, but are slowly becoming more and more obsolete.)
SSDs (think SIM cards) have no moving parts and are faster than a hard drive, because no time is spent waiting for a mechanical arm to find data on a physical location on the disk.
KINGSTON KC2500 M.2 NVME SSD
The Kingston KC2500 M.2 NVMe SSD is the most premium option, in T3’s mind, on the market today, and boy does it show it. It costs a little more at each capacity level than some other brands, so isn’t the best for the budget conscious, but for those who want the best performance then it is a perfect match.
Hyper-rapid read and write speeds (up to 3,500 MB/s read and 2,900 MB/s write) means that no matter what you’re doing on the drive, it happens incredibly quickly, be that editing and processing 4K video, tweaking massive TIF files in PhotoShop or playing huge open-world AAA games with all the graphical bells and whistles turned on.
Best hard drive: Seagate BarraCuda
It’s almost impossible to talk about hard drives without mentioning Seagate’s BarraCuda lineup – it’s a force to be reckoned with. And, it’s not hard to see why, Seagate BarraCuda drives offer a great gigabyte-per-dollar ratio and speed benefits to top it off. The 2TB model hits a sweet spot by balancing high performance and affordability. Since this drive combines 7,200rpm platters and high density data, computers outfitted with this drive will be able to read data extraordinarily fast.