This article explains how to build an esports lab and outlines requirements for several types of labs, including single and multi-purpose labs. We will also provide a few suggestions for setup, furniture, and layout. This guide is intended to provide hardware suggestions and part lists for sourcing parts AND/OR for deciding what parts you may want in pre-built systems.
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In order to begin constructing your lab, you’ll need to determine what type of lab you want and find a space that supports it. The space you have available can determine if you choose to create a multi-use desktop computer lab, a console-based pure gaming lab, or a hybrid which can be the most versatile choice.
For a console-based gaming-only lab, we recommend a combination of the big 3 consoles (PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo), ideally half a dozen of each as most team sizes in games max out at half a dozen players. A console-based lab can usually be easily set up and torn down as needed, requires very little space, and will play the majority of the games we offer.
PlayStation and Xbox currently offer both diskless and disk-based models, we recommend only sourcing disc-based models for your labs as digital-only models limit game licenses to one single account whereas discs can be considered a transferable license/physical game license and can be used by multiple accounts.
For the Nintendo Switch, we recommend the standard switch with a dock since the switch lite cannot be connected to an external display. The Switch OLED costs $50 more than the standard but the dock includes ethernet if you want to play wired, which can mitigate some networking problems.
Pros: Affordable, versatile, space-saving, very little maintenance
Cons: Smaller game library, gaming only, allows for less STEAM learning, cannot upgrade hardware, requires online subscriptions (free-to-play titles excluded), consoles are more of a headache for your IT and networking department.
For an exclusively PC-based lab, we recommend 6-18 systems. A medium-sized well-lit, clean, and not dusty room is ideal, with decent spacing between desks and computer systems. Gaming desktops are powerful machines and need room for airflow and need to stay clean so they don’t overheat. Keep at least 8 inches of space open on all sides of the machine. Monitors should be set up on desks or tables with enough room for students to sit back at least 2 or 3 feet from the monitor and have at least 1 square foot of movement space for the mouse.
Pros: Fairly affordable, allows for STEAM learning, hardware can be upgraded, does not require online subscriptions
Cons: Inability to play console exclusive titles, PC hardware shortages, more maintenance than a console, more gaming knowledge required
Hybrid Lab (Console & PC)
For the hybrid lab setup, we recommend a minimum of six consoles and six PCs. Consoles are easy to choose based on the games your school plays, but in a hybrid lab, we recommend the Nintendo Switch as nearly any games offered by HSEL on PlayStation and Xbox are also available on PC, while Mario Kart and Super Smash Brothers are Nintendo Switch exclusives. Building PCs can be more daunting than choosing a console and sourcing parts will be the biggest hurdle you may face. In a hybrid lab, consoles and PCs can be set up as workstations with everything in one place and one display for a console and PC, or separate stations for everything which will allow the max # of students to use the lab at once.
Pros: Extremely versatile, extremely suited to STEAM learning and game development, suited to anything gaming or STEAM learning based
Cons: Expensive, more maintenance, needs a larger space, requires online subscriptions for consoles
Recommended Hardware Specifications
Below is a list of recommended specifications for several tiers of PCs, and following that, tips that may allow you to upgrade your potentially existing hardware.
The recommended lowest hardware specifications are as follows...
These hardware specs will play games at a lower graphical quality to achieve higher frame rates. Lower quality for higher frame rates is in general a standard recommendation for all competitive play, regardless of hardware. These specifications will also be capable of light CAD (computer-aided design) and programming, as well as basic digital art and content creation.
Processor (CPU): Quad-Core Intel Core i5/Quad-Core AMD Ryzen 5
Motherboard: For a small form factor PC, Mini ITX, for a full tower Standard ATX size. Make sure the Motherboard you choose is compatible with your processor using a tool such as “PCpartpicker.com”
Memory (RAM): 16GB
Graphics Card (GPU): Nvidia 3050 TI or 3060, AMD 5500XT 4GB or 8GB
Storage: 1TB NVME Solid State Drive (SSD) (Mechanical hard drives as a boot drive are strictly not recommended, but as an alternative, a 128GB SSD and 1TB mechanical drive can be more economical in rare cases, and provide a much larger amount of storage at the cost of application and game speed.)
Power Supply (PSU): minimum 650-watt full-modular
The recommended extreme high-end hardware specifications are as follows:
These hardware specs will easily play any games at high graphics with high frame rates, however, lowering settings to maximize frame rate for esports is always recommended. These machines will be fantastic for engineering, programming, art, and content creation.
CPU: Intel Core i9 or AMD Ryzen 9
Motherboard: A higher end compatible motherboard
GPU: Nvidia RTX 3070, 3080 or 3090, AMD 6900XT.
Storage: 1TB-2TB NVME SSD
PSU: Minimum 750 watt full-modular power supply