It seems everywhere you look you can find someone post images of their build with beautifully cleaned desks, immaculate cable management, matching component colors and of course a ton of RGB. We, as a community, have become enthralled with the way our hardware looks. Sometimes, however I think we focus on that too much.

I wanted to talk about ‘ugly’ PC builds and why they are not really a bad thing. As always, my focus is on the PC gamer so there are exceptions to many things I will say in the work or professional environments.

et’s begin with an explanation of what is an ‘ugly’ PC. I am referring to computers that we build to get them running and working as fast as we can. This might mean using the motherboard box under the system to keep the board isolated, zip ties to hold something out of the way of other components, cables flying everywhere.

This is a build we have all seen or even done at one time or another, a quick build thrown together to see if all the parts work. However, what if it was not a test of parts but the way we used or PC? What if we cared less about how our PC looked and more about what we do with it?

As someone that does builds to show off at events, I spend a lot of time making pretty’ builds. However, as I get older, I do not seem to care as much as I find my personal builds become less about what people look at in awe, and more about what appears to be a pile of parts. How about we examine that?

If your PC is in a public area, I understand the need to keep it looking good to a certain level. You do not want friends and family in your living room seeing a bunch of computer parts sprawled all over the place. However, what if your gaming area is private? A gaming cave or personal space set away from others. In such a scenario the only person admiring your PC is likely going to be you. Let’s be honest if you’re a gamer, you’re not even spending much time looking at your PC, right, you’re focused on the game. If you do not focus on the game and stare at your PC perhaps you should consider playing a different game.

Another consideration for the ‘ugly’ PC is cost. Making a PC ‘pretty’ adds to the cost. You need a stylish case, while with an ‘ugly’ PC you can often get by without a case at all. An ‘ugly’ PC can save some money by skipping RGB and since it will be open to the air, the cooling solution is both less complex and expensive. (I have discussed this in a piece I did on open air builds.) Since you’re not focused on how ‘pretty’ the build is, you can buy less expensive components with more focus on basic function.

What about the ease and even speed of the build? When you’re not focused on the PC’s aesthetics, the build process is a LOT faster. You put the parts together, make sure nothing is touching that shouldn’t be and you’re off to the races. A ‘pretty’ build takes extra time for cable management, making sure everything is neat and tidy. From start to OS install with an ‘ugly’ build, I can install an OS within 10 to 12 minutes, I could possibly do it faster. I can then (internet speeds depending) be actually gaming in under 30 minutes total from beginning to open component boxes. This is much less time than even assembling the ‘pretty’ PC.  

That ease of construction can also mean ease of maintenance. The simple design means everything is readily accessible and thus super easy to swap out if needed. It also means it is EASY to clean. Sure you might get more dust build up that if you used a fancy case with filters. However, the actual cleaning time of the PC is SUBSTANCIALLY lower, in fact so much lower than you might spend less actual time in cleaning an uncased PC.

What about the bad? I mean there is a downside to the ‘ugly’ PC approach, right?

The fact that everything is laid bare means the parts are more suspectable to damage. In case you spill your drink while gaming, the odds are only the case gets wet, not the components. Also those cables running everywhere can mean it is easier to accidentally snag one and pull something loose on your build. If you have cats or small kids the ‘ugly’ PC is an accident waiting to happen, you need that protection a case offers.

The goods news however is even in a case you can have an ‘ugly’ PC. Cable management is an art form and looks great, but the truth is it really has no impact on air flow in a case. Unless you purposefully bunch all the cables up in a ball directly in front of a fan, the cables in your case will NOT restrict air flow enough impact cooling. This means you cannot worry about making the cables ‘pretty’ in your case, cut down some of that build time.

Now obviously you do not need to have your PC be a mess, like the first image showed. Austin Evins did a build challenge in Microcenter and took the ‘ugly’ PC approach. He took a few extra minutes to tidy up the build. Showing even an ‘ugly’ PC can be presentable.

So where did this article come from? Well, it was actually started the other day from a new build I am doing. This is a new PC for me to use, I added a 4TB NVME drive along with a 2TB for the boot and will be using this as a backup gaming PC as well as my Plex server. My brother was at the house talking to me and I had everything on a small test bench as you can see for the early testing before going into a case.

My brother asked about the case I was going to use and why I was using that case. The kind of questions you expect, when it dawned on me, WHO CARES? This is in my man cave, it is fast, cool, and quiet. I do not need anything else from the system and it is built and done, except for adding the data to it.

So now that build, ‘pretty’ much as you see it, sits on my worktable hooked to my 3D printer and is the plex server for my home. My son was home this weekend on leave (proud of my Army son) and used it for gaming while he was home.

It may not have neat cabling, or a ‘pretty’ case, but it is a gaming brute, super cool and quiet and took me only a few minutes to build. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder they say. It also matters what you’re beholding. This PC isn’t all that ‘pretty’, but I am more focused on playing Starfield, so will worry about how ‘pretty’ the game is instead.

I know I will be asked what the purpose or moral of this article is so let’s break it down. Do not sorry about how your PC looks more than you need to. Great experiences are worth way more than flashing RGB and fancy cabling. A PC at the end of the day is a tool, WHAT you do with it is more important than how it looks doing it

The articles content, opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed in SAPPHIRE NATION are the authors’ own and do not necessarily represent official policy or position of SAPPHIRE Technology.

Edward Crisler
Edward is the definition of an “old school” gamer, playing computer games as far back at 1977. He hosted a tech talk show for 20 years and is now the North America PR Representative for SAPPHIRE as well as SAPPHIRE’s unofficial gaming evangelist. You can follow him on Twitter @EdCrisler.