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An Introduction to RGB Lighting: What You Need

A gaming PC that reflects your personality and preferences is incomplete without some good 'ol RGB lighting to spruce it up. Yes, we know, it's not for everyone. But for most people out there, RGB does get a thumbs up. That said, there's an extremely fine line between a tacky RGB setup and a gorgeous one. Simply throwing in a few components and LED strips and lighting them up won't cut it.

We're here to guide you through the various components and accessories that you can use to light up your battle station – ensuring that all the different parts work in synergy, and most importantly, make your setup look stunning.

MSI Center

To get started, you need to ensure that you have a software utility that offers the flexibility and functionality to control and synchronize all the lighting in your system.

msi center
From changing your MSI motherboard lighting to controlling the RGB LED strips connected to your PC, MSI Mystic Light 3 gives you fine-tuned control over every aspect of lighting that you could want. What's more, the intuitive interface allows you to set even the most complex lighting patterns without much effort.
*You can download MSI Center here

RGB and ARGB Headers

When you're buying RGB components, you're bound to run into these terms eventually. Not only are they functionally different, but they are visually quite distinct too. But plugging the wrong part into the wrong header can damage it – making it essential for you to understand the visual differences between these headers.

RGB or ARGB headers are both used to connect LED strips and other 'lighted' accessories to your PC. That's where their similarity ends.

An RGB header (usually a 12V 4-pin connector) can only control colors on a strip in a limited number of ways. For example, multiple colors on distinct parts of a single strip aren't possible – severely limiting the lighting choices at your disposal.

That's where ARGB headers come into the picture. An ARGB, or Addressable RGB, header (usually a 5V 3-pin connector) supports devices equipped with an IC (Integrated Circuit, also sometimes referred to as a microchip) to provide much better flexibility with regards to lighting options.

It allows you to enjoy a plethora of lighting effects, including, but not limited to, multiple colors on a single LED strip, multiple color-changing patterns on the same strip, or in sync with other strips connected to ARGB headers.

On MSI motherboards, the ARGB header will be labeled as 'JRainbow,' while an RGB header will bear the label of 'JRGB' or 'JLED.'


Next: Get Ready to Pick Your Basic Parts!

Before we move on to accessories, we need to get the basics right. Without a solid foundation, your RGB components and accessories won't work together to deliver the stunning look you envisioned. Your motherboard and PC case form the backbone of any PC; this doesn't change even when you're thinking about parts with RGB.

MPG Z390 GAMING PRO CARBON

Motherboard

Before you decide on a motherboard, map out what kind of lighting and parts you prefer. Are you going for ARGB, or would regular RGB lighting suffice?

Once that's decided, head to the specifications page for the motherboards you're considering and check the number of RGB/ARGB headers they offer. Please note that it IS possible to daisy chain (connect one to the other) multiple devices to a single header, so it's not necessary to need one header per ARGB device.

Here's MSI's MPG Z590 GAMING EDGE Specifications page (Details tab) –

Scroll down until you see the 'LED Feature' heading. For example, the MPG Z590 GAMING EDGE features 2 RGB LED and 2 Rainbow (ARGB) LED connectors.

MPG Z590 GAMING EDGE

*Note that all the Addressable RGB devices need to connect to MSI JRAINBOW headers; else, the part will only work as RGB.
Some motherboards not only feature the capability to control lighting with internal headers, but they also come equipped with lights themselves! Check out those motherboard models here.

PC Case

If you want to build a stunning gaming PC, a gorgeous case is one of the most critical parts you'll need to pick (when it comes to looks). While PC cases with RGB fans might be aplenty, it's always better to have more control over your lighting with pre-installed ARGB fans or hubs.

For example, PC cases with ARGB Hubs allow you to connect multiple devices to a single hub. Not only does this ensure that you can plug in all your ARGB parts without depending only on your motherboard headers, but it also means that you can build a much cleaner PC with better cable management.

Front intake ARGB fans are an excellent choice if your PC's lighting aesthetic is an important aspect of your build. Buying ARGB parts separately might inflate your costs, so it's always advisable to go with cases that already come bundled with ARGB fans and even ARGB hubs.

For instance, MSI's MPG Gungnir 110R offers 3 front ARGB fans and 1 rear ARGB fan. Again, you can confirm this information on the product's specification page. Here's the MSI MPG Gungnir 110R specification page –

Find the row that lists pre-installed fans.

Find the row that lists pre-installed fans

Top 5 Components and Accessories for your RGB Build!

Now that we've got our basics done, let's move on to the others!

Memory Modules: RAM

Memory Modules: RAM

Today, RGB memory modules have changed the game with a plethora of lighting effects to enhance the look of your gaming rig even further – making them an indispensable part of any RGB gaming PC.

We recommend going for a dual-channel setup at the very least. This will give your rig better overall symmetry and more lighting patterns to choose from. Ideally, though, you'd want all 4 slots on your motherboard (if your board features 4) populated.

CPU Cooler and Case Fans

Your case fans and CPU coolers are among the most visible parts of your rig, especially when you're using a PC case with a tempered glass window like the MSI MPG GUNGNIR 100.

The RGB patterns and effects on these parts are incredibly apparent to anyone looking at your PC. Fortunately, RGB and even ARGB CPU coolers like MSI's CORELIQUID series have made matching this part to the rest of your system relatively straightforward.

If you're going with a liquid AIO CPU cooler, make sure that the radiator comes with standard-size fans that will allow you to swap them out and match them to other parts in your PC or your overall lighting theme.

When picking an ARGB/RGB case fan, make sure you're not compromising cooling in exchange for fancier lighting. Pay close attention to how large the fan is.

Front panel intake fans should be at least 140mm (in most scenarios), while rear fans can be as small as 120 or even 80mm. Of course, usually – the bigger, the better. Radiator fans will vary according to the CPU AIO cooler you choose.

ARGB/RGB LED Strips

RGB/ARGB LED Strips drive the darkness away. Use them in spaces that aren't covered by your other RGB components and accessories to ensure your lighting remains uniform and as gorgeous as ever.
RGB components


There are many ways to position these LED strips, and it depends on your preference.

For more sober ambient lighting, position them in such a way that their light never exits the case directly. Face them towards various case/hardware surfaces to ensure that illumination remains ambient and never directly beams into your eyes. Strips directly visible from the PC's tempered glass window are considered tackier and aren't an ideal way to place them.

Thanks to MSI Center, you can easily customize combinations of multiple strips and set patterns that match the rest of your system's lighting.

RGB Peripherals

When it comes to peripherals, you do have a lot of choice and flexibility. However, if you add in the fact that you'd like this build to be as convenient as well as uniform, we're looking only at gaming mice, keyboards, and headsets that can be controlled using the MSI Center application. If you want to check out various RGB peripherals, head on here to see compatible options.

Gaming Headset: While you won't notice the light from your headset when you're gaming, it contributes to your gaming nook's overall look. MSI's IMMERSE series of gaming headsets feature tasteful RGB lighting that you can customize using, yes, MSI Center.

Gaming Mouse: An ergonomic, high-performance mouse elevates your gaming performance. A good-looking one elevates the look of your room, and lighting is the cherry on top that allows you to make it your own. MSI's CLUTCH series of gaming mice feature gorgeous RGB, top-of-the-line optical sensors, and resilient OMRON switches for long life – a perfect recipe for the best RGB gaming mouse. Again, controllable via MSI Center.

Gaming Keyboard: Backlights on a keyboard allow you to match this peripheral to your system's color theme while also making its keys far more visible and usable in the dark. It ties your tabletop in with the rest of your PC. A mechanical keyboard with per-key lighting is ideal for users who want to make sure they get the best performance and looks. MSI's range of VIGOR mechanical keyboards is an excellent option for those who need peripherals that can be controlled within the MSI Center software.

That's it! Time to Get Creative.