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RGB Lighting Guide: Different Ways to Elevate Your PC Gaming Setup

Written by Thao Tran
Last updated Jun 30, 2020

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PC gaming setup with a desktop wallpaper that just works.

RGB lighting is a fun way to add some flair to your gaming setup. And while it’s easy to buy a bunch of different RGB products, it requires a little finesse to create something truly awesome.

In this guide, we’ll cover the various ways you can illuminate your PC build and gaming environment, and how to bring all those colors together tastefully.

What is RGB Lighting?

The acronym RGB stands for Red Green Blue, referring to the three hues of lights that can be combined to produce over sixteen million different colors. RGB is the method by which computer monitors, TVs, and smartphone screens produce their colors.

Red, green, and blue LED lights side-by-side

Source: flickr

In the PC gaming world, RGB refers to the ever-expanding selection of computer products that have these customizable LEDs.

Before You Buy: Be Mindful of RGB Ecosystems

Different brands often use different lighting management software and there isn’t yet a way to sync them all. Having to fiddle with five different programs to synchronize your lighting schemes can get old quickly. However, some brands have partnered up with others to create “ecosystems” of RGB products that work well together.

While there’s no single best RGB ecosystem or brand yet that can cover all products under the sun, you can make your life a lot easier by sticking to a select few. Here are two that cover a lot of bases.

ASUS Aura Sync

ASUS not only has its own extensive line of RGB computer parts, its Aura Sync software is also compatible with an impressive amount of 3rd party brands. This makes it a great ecosystem to build your computer with as long as you have an ASUS Aura Sync capable motherboard. More on this later.

Corsair iCue

Corsair has one of the biggest internal ecosystems of RGB peripherals — all managed by their iCue software. This makes them a decent choice for your keyboard, mouse, mousepad, etc.

A spread of Corsair iCue RGB pc peripherals

You can build an awesome RGB gaming setup with just these two ecosystems, but you’ll most likely still end up branching out. And that’s okay. Just being mindful of the different ecosystems you’re getting into will save you from future headaches.

RGB Computer Lighting

When it comes to building and upgrading your PC, there are countless RGB computer parts you can buy. In this section, we’ll cover the components that make the most noticeable impact on the appearance of your rig, a few factors to consider for each, and popular product choices.

Good to Know: Addressable RGB (ARGB)

As you’re browsing different RGB computer parts, you’ll inevitably run into mentions of Addressable RGB or ARGB . It’s not just marketing speak. It uses a completely different technology than traditional RGBs and consequently, different connectors. Something to watch out for when choosing your parts.

This video by Mike’s Unboxing gives a good explanation of the difference between the two and the science behind it if you wish to understand further.

Computer Case

Owning RGB computer parts doesn’t really make sense if they end up hidden inside your computer case, so we’ll start there. You can think of your computer case as the foundation for the style you’re trying to achieve. Are you building a workstation with a subtle hint of gamer? Then a clean, minimal case like the one pictured below might do the trick.

Chromatic's gaming setup with the NZXT H500i computer case

Pictured: The NZXT H500 in Chromatic’s Setup.

Or, if you’re planning on a full PC light show, a case that allows for maximum visibility like the Lian Li O11 might be a better match.

Case Fans

RGB case fans are nothing new but the latest versions are on a whole ‘nother level. A product like the Corsair LL140 boasts 16 independent RGB LEDs and comes with its own controller hub. Today’s RGB fans attract a lot of attention, and because you can install so many of them in a single computer case, they can easily be the most noticeable RGB computer part in your setup.

Motherboard

If you’re building a gaming PC from scratch, you may want to consider purchasing an RGB motherboard. These motherboards produce their own lights and have RGB headers (connection points) that make it easier to control other lighting accessories connected.

As we mentioned earlier, an ASUS Aura Sync motherboard is a good option because of its extensive compatibility with 3rd party products.

If you’re only looking to upgrade your build with RGB and don’t want to replace your motherboard, don’t sweat it — you don’t need to. Most RGB computer parts come with their own controllers/hubs that can connect to your existing motherboard.

RAM

RAM has traditionally been an understated and purely functional part of a PC build, but RGB RAM sticks are quite the opposite. When you fill all four of your RAM slots with RGB sticks, you get distinct glowing stripes on your motherboard. The G.SKill Trident Z are a popular option because of their addressable RGBs that allow you to create trailing color effects.

CPU Cooler

Whether you prefer a water-cooled or air-cooled solution for your build, you have plenty of RGB products to choose from. We won’t debate liquid cooling vs. air cooling in terms of performance here, but we’ll discuss how the two different products tend to differ aesthetically.

The main visual factor to consider is their size. Because of how they work, CPU air coolers tend to take up a lot more space on your motherboard. On one hand, this means more lighting real estate to work with. On the other, its large size often blocks the visibility of other components like your RAM.

Our stance at the moment is if you like RGB RAM, you’re better off with an AIO liquid cooling solution like the DEEPCOOL Castle 360EX or doing your own custom loops.

RGB Cable Combs

Straight, well-managed cables look nice. Straight, well-managed cables that light up look even nicer? See below and decide for yourself. We like the subtlety.

RGB Cables

If you couldn’t care less about subtlety, forget the cable combs and go with fully light-up cables. Lian Li has RGB PSU Cables that comes in both a 24-pin and 8-pin variant.

LED Strips

If the timing isn’t right to upgrade any of your computer parts, LED strips are an easy add-on. All it takes is adhering a few LED strips to the inside of your case. A kit like Corsair’s Lighting Node Pro comes with four addressable RGB LED strips and its own controller.

RGB Desk Lighting & Ambient Lighting

A lot of effort can go into contemplating PC components and illuminating your gaming rig, but it’s actually only a small part of your entire setup. It’s easy to overlook your computer especially if it sits under your desk, but you’ll always notice the items above and around it. In this section, we’ll cover notable RGB peripherals and ambient lighting products.

Mechanical Keyboards

Fancy mech keyboards can be a spectacle all on their own with the sheer amount of customization options available, but that’s too much to get into in this article. For now, all that means is that there are plenty of keyboards that can elevate your gaming setup — many of them with RGB backlit keys.

Mousepads and Desk Mats

Whether you prefer hard or soft, large or small, there’s an RGB version of it. Extra-large desk mats seem to be especially popular lately.

Speakers & Headphones

Yes, they make RGB audio equipment. Because unless you’re an audiophile or musician, why not? With its own subwoofer and game-syncing RGB software, the Logitech G560 seems to be the most robust RPG computer speaker available at the time of this writing.

As for headphones and headsets, there are many more RGB options to choose from. If you’re grabbing the speakers we mentioned, you might opt to stay within the same ecosystem and grab the Logitech G935 Lightsync.

RGB Headphone Stands

If audio quality is a priority for you, you probably won’t go anywhere near RGB speakers or headphones. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a light-up headphone stand to hold your fancy over-ears. A product like the ASUS ROG Throne also has a wireless Qi charging station that could come in handy.

LED Strips

RGB LED strips can be attached to a few interesting locations to produce a subtle ambient glow. You’ve likely already seen examples of this without even realizing. In the example below, an LED strip attached to the back edge of that desk creates that warm, inviting glow.

An example of ambient RGB lighting on a desk setup

Pictured: teqz’ Setup

You can also attach LED strips to the back of your monitors for a similar ambient effect. See below.

Wall Lights

Wall lights may be the single best purchase you can make to enhance how your gaming space feels.  If you’re into geometric shapes and creating your own designs, both Nanoleaf and LIFX have interesting products to choose from.

Strategies for Tasteful RGB Lighting

The tricky thing with RGB products is they make it way too easy to go full rainbow mode, and that’s what many people end up sticking with. Full rainbow is cool, but your gaming setup can look even better if you just experiment a little. Try out some of these ideas to start.

Pick a Single Color

Sometimes, picking a single color to accentuate your setup is all you need. A few RGB products set to the same color can go a long way.

Starting with this strategy might save you money too, as you can always buy more RGB later.

Pick a Color Scheme, and Commit

If you’re not about that subtle life, by all means, go hard. But it’s important you pick a PC color scheme that doesn’t clash and then commit to it.

See how every single source of light is set to either pink or blue? Throwing some green or other random colors in there would ruin it.

Start With Your Favorite Wallpaper

Can’t decide on a color scheme? Pick a desktop background you like and use those colors. The best gaming setups usually match their lights with their wallpaper anyways. Why not start there?

Good Artists Copy, Great Artists Steal

Here at Voltcave, we feature the internet’s best PC gaming setups in our interactive gallery. Draw inspiration or straight up copy them. We won’t judge.

At the end of the day, you can change your RGB lighting colors as many times as you want. And that’s half the fun anyway.

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