Gaming on Low-Powered Hardware: A Primer

If you haven’t already seen our other article about latest gaming technology, here you go. Trust me, it’s a good read!

There are lots of potential players out there who want to delve in to the world of PC gaming, but are hesitant due to the expensive technical requirements that most modern computer games seem to have. While some bleeding edge AAA titles honestly do require the best of the best when it comes to PC hardware you’d be surprised at just how much gaming you can get away with on a machine that’s older or cheaper. In this article I’ll attempt to show you some ways to stretch the performance of more modest computers so you can still enjoy gaming with the rest of the community.

Before we get in to the practicalities, let me first start by saying you should set realistic expectations. If you’re hoping to play the latest Medal of Duty: Honor Call at the highest settings on a toaster then you’re going to be sorely disappointed. A lot of the recommendations I’m going to make here revolve around making compromises to various things so that you can still enjoy a pleasant and worthwhile gaming experience even though it won’t be absolutely perfect. If you’re the type of gamer who can’t appreciate a title without experiencing it with the highest resolution textures and insane framerates, then this article may not be for you.

So, without further ado, here are my suggestions:

The biggest performance saver I can think of is to simply drop your screen resolution. Many PC games today support the newest 4K monitors, but they’ll still be designed to look good on regular ‘ol HD. Even if you managed to snag a 4K, give serious consideration to dropping the game’s render resolution down to 1920×1080 or even less. As long as you maintain the same aspect ratio you’ll be surprised how little you notice the resolution drop after a few minutes.

Next, learn how to fiddle with a game’s advanced video settings. Many games try to give you a quick, user-friendly way to adjust the relative graphical quality they’ll run at, usually in the form of a “Good – Better – Best” slider or drop down menu. This is great for convenience, however if you want to trim the maximum performance out of your game you might want to think about hitting that “advanced” button instead and manually changing the various values that go in to the game’s visual quality. The specifics will of course be different for each individual game but it seems like pretty much all of them have one or two values that can have a profound impact on performance while having relatively little impact to what you see on screen.

Third, remember to take note of your computer’s overall state of operations. You have to keep in mind that a PC is a universal machine that’s more often than not handling many other things in the background while your game is playing out on your screen. Ease the burden on your machine by checking to see what background processes are running before you play and closing them down whenever possible. Not only will it help your in-game performance but it will also benefit your computer’s overall health.

If you game on a desktop PC then you get a rather unique advantage that consoles and most laptops don’t get to enjoy: you get to cheaply upgrade the individual components of your machine instead of being forced to purchase an entire new computer. This might be a little intimidating at first if you’re not technically-savvy, but if you watch a few Youtube tutorials you’ll quickly see that manually swapping out PC parts is a surprisingly simple process in most cases. What’s more, websites like PCPartPicker will make sure that the parts you buy are actually compatible with the rest of your rig. Usually you’ll see the biggest performance boost from upgrading your graphics card, however if you can’t spare that kind of cash even a cheap memory upgrade can often help tons. And if you DO game on a laptop, you aren’t necessarily left out in the cold – while you have less options than with a desktop, most laptops mid-range and up still at least allow you to upgrade your system memory and hard drive (tip: replacing your hard drive with a newer solid state drive [SSD] will have an insanely massive impact on your load times).

My final recommendation would be to simply remember that video games have been around for several decades now, and there’s countless great older titles out there that you may have never gotten around to playing. Even a game only a few years old may be able to run more than comfortably on your hardware and provide hundreds of hours of enjoyment. Even better – most of the older games are sold at a steep discount!

So there you have it – if you configure things right, throw a memory upgrade in your machine, and consider starting with the classics, you could easily dip your toe in to the incredibly diverse and infinitely expanding PC gaming community.

About Ginny

I'm addicted to gaming, and you probably are too. Gamers will take over the world soon. We can bet on it! I play mainly MOBA games and the occasional RPG. My all-time favourite has got to be Zelda, however cliche that may be...

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