Practicalities of a living room gaming PC

I'm looking to get a living room gaming PC to hook up to my TV and I could use some help thinking through it. It's been a long time since I've built a desktop gaming rig as I've been gaming primarily on a laptop (then consoles before that). So I don't know much about current components. I also don't know much about the practicalities of a living room gaming PC. Here are the requirements:

  • footprint no larger than (480mm x 210mm)
  • relatively quiet, but the idea of liquid cooling sounds scary
  • current TV is a 11ish year old Samsung LNT4671F, but will probably replace with a larger 4K in the next year or two
  • will have a wired ethernet connection so wi-fi unnecessary
  • external aesthetics: black preferred - don't want it to stand out
  • internal aesthetics: unimportant (RGB a waste)
  • won't be overclocking
  • prefer not to build it myself from parts even though it would be cheaper
  • budget: rig and peripherals around $1900

Here's a build that I'm looking at from BLD/NZXT. What I really like about it is that it comes pre-built.
For peripherals, I like the SteelSeries Arctic 7 headset and Corsair K63 wireless keyboard/lapboard (the Razer Turret looks good too, but that's hard to find), and I already have a wireless mouse.

So I'd love to hear what you guys think not only about the build, but also (and more importantly) are there factors of living room PC gaming that I'm not thinking about?

I typically build my own and use a case that looks more like a piece of stereo equipment (so it can fit in the cabinet) but they are always fairly loud and run hot so for my living room I went with the prebuilt Zotac ZBox E series. I have the 1080 version and it does a respectable job at 4K gaming. It’s relatively small and quiet but like all gaming PC’s can run hot if you enclose it fully so I tend to try and open the cabinet door when I do a long gaming session.

In my basement where I don’t care for asthetics I used a Silverstone case and went ATX mobo for dual 1080Ti’s for best 4K gaming performance. It’s a nice looking case and blends really well with the other AV equipment.

I got the Razer Turret but honestly I use it rarely just preferring gaming with a controller.

Out of curiosity, is there a reason the PC needs to be hooked up directly to the TV? If not, maybe take a look at putting the PC elsewhere, and use a Steam Link or something similar to stream games to the TV? That would let you not worry as much about size or noise. If you're wired at both ends, the quality is very solid, and you can use both controllers and any mouse/keyboard combos you would on a regular PC. You can also use it to mirror your desktop if you want to do something like play media files (though for that, I'd say you're better off running a Plex server and using a streaming device). The main thing to keep in mind with the Steam streaming is that control passthrough can get a little hinky if you're looking to play games through another launcher, like Blizzard. You can usually get non-Steam games to stream nicely by adding them (or the launcher) to Steam and running that way, but sometimes it doesn't play nice. That said, I've been using the Link a ton since it released, and it's pretty much how I play any PC games that are better with controller.

As for general considerations, I'd say that mouse and keyboard on the couch is harder than I thought it'd be. I have a lapboard, a small wireless keyboard, and wireless mouse that I got for that purpose. Found out pretty quickly that even with a small keyboard and normal mouse, the lapboard wasn't really big enough to mouse comfortably, and the smaller keyboard was just different enough from a normal one that my muscle memory made it really hard to hit the right keys. I wound up deciding that it wasn't worth it, and now couch PC gaming is just for controller games, and anything requiring m&k is for the desk. The Steam Controller is potentially a solution to some of that, though it takes a bunch of tinkering and learning curve, and it still won't be good for everything.

I have my main gaming PC at a desk in my living room, it has a Zalman air cooler in a very standard, plain case and it's quieter than the fish tank filter at idle, and when gaming I still can't hear it over the game. Modern PCs are whisper quiet if well ventilated. That case you have selected is unobtrusive, so ideal for sticking in a corner.

I'm connected to the TV with an HDMI cable for the occasional couch gaming session.

I'd immediately write off using a mouse & keyboard and stick with playing controller games. Sitting with a mouse and keyboard is a recipe for aches & pains. IMO, Stick with a small wireless keyboard with touchpad like a Rii i8 for non-gaming use. Your build looks very solid, but there's no bulk hard-drive, just the small SSD?

My living room gaming is just on a laptop. Now that they finally have made some that have good performance and stay cool enough to use on your lap it works pretty well. Could always hook up to the tv via HDMI if I need to for a particular session. Have you thought about just using a laptop most of the time and then tv hookup when you want the big screen?

Buy the software Controller Companion. It allows you to use swap back and forth between using your controller as a kb/mouse in Windows and in game use it as a controller. It's $2.99 on Steam.

Steam Link no longer available, Chaz. But would have been a good idea 2 weeks ago.

Similar to MrDevil, I just have a regular gaming PC over in a desk area at the back of the living room and a 25 foot HDMI hooked up to the TV for the rare times I want to stream and can wrestle the TV from my wife. It also allows me to easily stream a web site or show that may not have a streaming app on PS4.

Gumbie wrote:

Buy the software Controller Companion. It allows you to use swap back and forth between using your controller as a kb/mouse in Windows and in game use it as a controller. It's $2.99 on Steam.

That looks very cool.

These are great responses and much appreciated.

Forget keyboard and mouse, just go with a controller.

If only! For action/FPS games I currently use a controller on my laptop (Warframe, Destiny, Borderlands). Games like Civ6, Factorio and modded Minecraft (I play a lot of that) are not well suited for a controller in my experience. I do have a Steam Controller but I haven't put in the time to get over the steep learning curve so that's on me. I'm told Civ6 works well with it and Minecraft could. My current setup for those games is a laptop with a mouse on a pillow and that works fine for me.

Why not a laptop?

That's not out of the question. That's what I did last go round. For the first couple of years it was really good, but now it has trouble playing modern games. I didn't like how limited the upgrade options were (in both number and price/performance). I've taken a look at a few gaming laptops, but knowing how much more performance and upgradability you can get from a desktop keeps pushing me in that direction. That said, I'm not opposed to the idea.

Just a 500GB SSD?

For the moment. All of my movies and other non-game media is on a media server, so that really just leaves games. I don't really see myself putting games on HDDs anymore. I figure once I get close to the 500GB limit I'll buy another and/or larger SSD/m.2 at a lower future price.

New data... So I wanted to test how my current laptop (Lenovo IdeaPad Y510P with dual SLI GeForce GT 750m) looked over HDMI to my TV. I wasn't even able to get a handshake to my main TV (Samsung LNT4571F which has HDMI 1.3). That's bad news since I was hoping to keep it around a little longer as the display for my new computer. So I tried it on our other newer TV (Vizio E3D420VX) and it connected fine to that one. For turn based games it was OK, but when I tried a FPS (Borderlands 2) I noticed considerable display lag; enough to make sniping a moving target near impossible. Since these are the first and second times, respectively, I've used the HDMI port on my laptop, I don't know if this is normal. Is PC-to-TV HDMI lag a thing? Will it be like this on a new computer?

If so I might have to reconsider the laptop option.

Crouton wrote:
Forget keyboard and mouse, just go with a controller.

If only! For action/FPS games I currently use a controller on my laptop (Warframe, Destiny, Borderlands). Games like Civ6, Factorio and modded Minecraft (I play a lot of that) are not well suited for a controller in my experience. I do have a Steam Controller but I haven't put in the time to get over the steep learning curve so that's on me. I'm told Civ6 works well with it and Minecraft could. My current setup for those games is a laptop with a mouse on a pillow and that works fine for me.

Definitely not suited for a controller. Probably also not suited for TV viewing distances either. I would keep those for playing at the desk, but if you can get it to work, the more power to you.

One down side of PC games on the TV is how quickly you realize that PC font sizes are frequently just a little too small to read at a distance. I've got a 60" TV that I sit about 13' back from, and a lot of games are real hard to read.

I want to thank you all for so much food for thought. After digesting for some time, I've decided to go the laptop route. It's not without flaws, but given the specifics of my situation, it's the best option for me. Thank you again for helping me think through this.

Just popping in to thank Gumbie for the Controller Companion recommendation. I never mouse and keyboard game but needed them handy for some on screen tasks(I don't really use big picture mode) and now I don't have to.

I even have it setup so that it works on the log in screen.

10/10. Would buy again.