Building a new PC is always an adventure – particularly if you are trying to build yourself not just any PC but a themed one! It will be an enjoyable venture no matter what theme you are looking to get for your computer.
Popular themes include colored builds, anime-themed ones, or even beer-themed ones (complete with “water” cooling). But really, there are endless options to create your own personal build. You’ll have to consider a few different things than you would for a regular build, so we’ve created a guide to help you along your journey!
Step 1: Make a List of What You Need
In addition to your standard PC parts, you’ll need to account for additional elements to fit into your theme. If you are going for a character-themed PC, you’ll likely want to get a figurine or some stickers. If you’re doing a color theme, you’ll need some additional RGB (or single-colored) lights, and so on. Plan for your decorations in advance to account for them in your budget!
Don’t forget your standard parts either, though – no matter how nice your themed PC looks, you won’t have much fun with it if you forget to put in a PSU!
Step 2: Finalize the Budget, Pick the Parts
Once you’ve made a list of what you need, it’s time to select your specific parts and put them in your budget. You’ll have a few additional costs for most themed PCs that you wouldn’t have with other builds. Make sure these costs don’t interfere with the parts you need – getting a worse CPU so you can buy a few more fancy lights is probably not a good idea!
A CPU for a themed build is about the same as for any other – it won’t be visible when your PC is assembled. So there really aren’t any aesthetic decisions to be made. As with any PC part, make sure you select one that fits your other parts – particularly when it comes to the motherboard. Make sure the ones you pick are compatible.
In most cases, you’ll want a minimum of either an Intel i5 CPU or an AMD Ryzen 5. However, in some cases, such as for a gaming PC, you’ll want to go for something even more potent than these. Your motherboard selection will affect what CPU it can be used with – and vice versa.
For many themed builds, space matters – so you’re probably better off with water cooling than air cooling, as cooling water solutions take up less space than air cooling options. They are also more readily available with RGB, making it easier to keep things in theme for colored builds. Water cooling tends to be a little bit more expensive than air cooling. However, it is also more efficient unless you are sure a heatsink won’t interfere with your build. You’re likely better served by water cooling rather than air cooling!
Suppose you want to go all the way. In that case, you could invest in a custom water cooling loop – this would allow you to decide the exact piping and even the color of the liquid you use to cool your PC. However, these systems are pricy and require maintenance that pre-built AIO liquid cooling doesn’t – make sure to consider this when you make your choice.
Your motherboard choice will be affected by your CPU, as different versions of motherboards have other chipsets and thus aren’t compatible in all combinations. If you’re getting an AMD CPU, make sure your motherboard features a compatible AMD chipset and socket, or you won’t be able to assemble your PC!
Beyond that, you might also want to consider coloring – some motherboards are available in different colors and have RGB elements. This could affect the appearance of your build – though it’s worth noting that almost all motherboards come in either silver and black or just black. Some models, such as the ASUS Prime Z390-A, GIGABYTE Z490 Vision G, or ASUS Rog Strix B550 – A, are available in white. For example, you have options if you don’t want a black one!
A good case is essential when building a PC with a theme – from simple color choices to glass elements to show off what’s inside, you’ll want to pick your case with great care. There are countless colors and designs as well as size options. Be sure to select a case that matches the size of your motherboard, or you might end up with a case too small for it!
Beyond that, you have many options available for your design – from all-glass options to red, white, pink, or other color cases. You can find almost anything.
Tip: If you are artistically inclined or know someone who is, you could buy a plain white case and add a design that matches your theme on the outside!
The only definite decision you need to make when it comes to your graphics card is if you want it to be an RGB one or not. There isn’t a lot of variety out there. Given the general scarcity of graphics cards, you’ll likely be more limited by availability than your style choices.
Keep an eye out for your ideal card, but be aware you might have to settle for an alternative choice instead. It’s probably worth coming up with a shortlist of models you’d like if they’re available.
There is a surprising variety of options in the RAM market – you can definitely go out of your way to find the perfect choice for your themed build. Shopping around is worth it – options such as the G.Skill Trident Z Royal line ideally complement any brightly-colored build, and that’s just one of many options. With a bit of shopping around, you’ll be able to find almost any color you can think of – and if you can’t find the perfect choice for your design. You also can buy RAM without a cover and have it custom-made or add design to a plain white or black RAM option.
As far as speed and size go, most PC builds will likely need at least 8GB of RAM, potentially even 16GB if you build a gaming PC. Remember to always get matching sticks – don’t combine different speeds or sizes as they will throttle each other’s performance and potentially affect stability.
In most cases, your storage drives won’t be visible in your build, so there aren’t many visual considerations to be made – in other words. It’s all about the space and speeds. As with any PC build, you’ll want to get an SSD over a standard HDD drive – the increase in speed is well worth the slight price increase. If you can, add an NVMe drive to your PC and use it as a boot drive – it’ll significantly improve how fast your computer is ready to use.
Suppose you really want to get a visually appealing hard drive. In that case, you could go for options such as T’Force’s Delta Phantom SSD. However, whether or not that’s a good choice will depend on your PC’s overall design and composition.
Power supplies, much like most PC parts at this point, are mainly available in black. That said, there are both white and RGB options out there. In many cases, the PSU won’t be evident in your build anyway, so there’s a good chance this part won’t be a huge priority in a themed build.
Remember to prioritize performance over design – your PSU should always be a bit more potent than needed. Roughly 30% extra is reasonable headroom. Use an online calculator to work out what power draw your selected parts will have – if the result is 633W, go for an 850W PSU at minimum.
You’ll also want matching peripherals for a good, themed PC build. While with your monitor, you’ll likely be limited to specific colors and designs. You have a lot more freedom for mice, controllers, keyboards, and the like – you can find a near-infinite number of design options if you look carefully online. You can also consider a vast range of custom keycaps if you’re going for a mechanical keyboard. Think of things like fitting mousepads or console covers – peripherals can pull your overall build together!
You’ll likely want to budget for some themed decorations for your new build than in other builds. Whether custom neon lighting, figurines, stickers, or just as many RGB lights as you can cram into your case. These decorative elements can get quite pricy, so plan for them in advance.
If you have something commissioned for your themed build, keep in mind that it may take some time to arrive. If you want to collect all of your pieces before building your PC, order your decorations early to arrive in time!
Step 3: Hunt for deals
When purchasing parts, it’s often a good idea to shop around for the best deals. While you’re likely to find the best deals online, it’s generally good to look in local physical stores. If you don’t mind waiting for a little, you can often find good sales around commercial holidays. It can also be worth balancing the shipping costs too. Even if a part is slightly cheaper elsewhere, buying it at a higher price may be more affordable than shipping it in a group with other items.
Tip: If you are near the end of your budget, consider adjusting your plan a little. As mentioned, shopping around for a good deal could save you a surprising amount of money. Sometimes you might even find that a variation on the part you wanted is on sale. You may even find an upgrade on sale for less than your planned part if you’re’ really fortunate.
Step 4: Assemble!
Once you’ve bought and received all of your parts, it’s time to put them together. You can build it yourself; there are plenty of online guides. If you don’t have the confidence to do that, you can probably find a local computer shop that will put it together for you. Local computer shops can also be beneficial for troubleshooting issues if you have no idea why something might not be working right. It is good to ensure that your new PC is working as intended before going all out with extra customizations. If you apply stickers to your PSU, for example, and then find it’s defective, you might not be able to return it and would be out the stickers.
A themed computer will place more emphasis on aesthetics than most. This can push up the cost a fair bit so if you’re struggling with a budget, consider reducing some of the extras, as you can always add them later. Do your research and plan your build; it will be a big disappointment if you spend a bunch of time and money only to realize they don’t work together.