Seven-Hundred dollars. Now we’re talking. Maybe you’ve been eyeballing some $500, or even $600 build guides and have decided to spend just a few bucks more. You’re curious. Where can another couple of dollars take me? Well, I have some good news for you. Seven-hundred dollars is a fantastic budget for someone looking to put together a new computer that won’t have any problem flexing its muscles on the latest games and software.
Seven-hundred is still considered sort of a “mid-range” budget, but don’t let that moniker fool you. We’re going to be packing some seriously cool new hardware into this machine and we’re going to see some benefits from our larger budget. Keep reading to discover the best build you can get for $700.
Component #1 – The Processor
Starting off our $700 PC Build is a newcomer from Intel’s legendary i5 lineup. The i5 series has long been a champion of mid-range builds for people looking to maximize performance without breaking the bank, and the eighth-generation Intel i5 8400 is no exception. In fact, the 8400 has some new features that set it apart from the competition and even apart from its last-generation brethren!
For starters, the i5 8400 features 6 cores! I’ll say it again. 6 cores! In an i5! Yes, it seems AMD’s recent high-core-count CPU offerings from their Ryzen and Threadripper lines have reignited Intel’s competitive spirit, because Intel’s new generation of Coffee-Lake processors all feature increased core counts. Including a never-before-seen i5 six-core with six threads.
The Core i5 8400’s six cores run at a base clock of 2.8GHz, and can boost up to 3.8Ghz. However, the 8400 will allow one core to turbo all the way up to 4GHz! Extremely useful for games especially. This is no small feat, considering the 8400 uses just 65 watts of power. On the subject of power, the Core i5 8400 does include a stock heatsink, but I always recommend an aftermarket cooler for better thermal performance. I had to omit one in this guide to stay in budget, but builders who are willing to make the investment in an upgraded cooler will find it to be a worthy investment indeed.
The Core i5 8400 has 9MB of L3 cache, uses a 14nm manufacturing process, and sits in the LGA1151 socket. Despite the familiar socket, the i5 8400 will require one of Intel’s new 300-series motherboards, but don’t worry. We’ve included that in our guide.
You won’t be able to overclock the 8400, but that’s okay, because the 8400 punches way above its weight at $178.99, and even gives some of the processors from Intel’s last generation Kaby-Lake i7 series a run for their money. Games will be a breeze at 1080p and the onboard Intel HD graphics means you will be able to do some system configuration if you get stuck waiting for your graphics card to arrive. Finally, the aforementioned higher core count means multi-taskers, streamers, and content creators are going to be able to comfortably get their work done, browse the internet, game, stream, and do whatever they desire without breaking a sweat.
Component #2 – The Motherboard
As I mentioned earlier, the Intel Core i5 8400 is going to require a motherboard that is compatible with Intel’s new 300-series specification. I’ve chosen Gigabyte’s interpretation: The Gigabyte B360M DS3H.
The Gigabyte B360M DS3H contains the full gamut of features. Socket LGA1151, Onboard Video Out, 4 DDR4 DIMM sockets, USB 3.1 and USB 3.0, Gigabit Ethernet, one PCIe slot and two PCIe Express slots, and it all fits into the MicroATX form factor. What really impresses me about the B360M DS3H is the price. Not only was I unable to find something similarly priced that still had all of the B360M DSH3’s features, I wasn’t even able to find something close. MSI does have a similar offering that is about $15 more expensive, so die hard MSI fans will have at least one option as long as they are willing to shell out a few more bucks. For the rest of us, the Gigabyte B360M DS3H will give us everything we need for just $68.
(If you need onboard WiFi and don’t mind making the jump to the full size ATX form factor, the Gigabyte B360 AORUS Gaming WiFi can be had for $115.)
Component #3 – The RAM
RAM remains to be one of the most expensive components in computing lately, even though it shouldn’t be. (We have some alleged price fixing on the part of the world’s largest memory manufacturers to thank for that.) We’re going to have to stick with an 8GB limit for our RAM, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get something nice. I’ve selected the Patriot VIPER Elite line for our build. Our selection of Viper Elite comes in the form of two 4GB DDR4 DIMMs, running at a speed of 2400MHz. The CAS timing is relatively quick at just CL15 and top it all off, we get a bold (but not gaudy) silver and red (or blue, depending on your choice) heat spreader. Not bad, considering.
Don’t forget to select the proper speed in your motherboard’s BIOS when you boot up for the first time.
Components #4 and #5 – Storage
At $700, we’re finally going to be able to get some serious speed in our build. The addition of an SSD (Or Solid-State-Drive) is going to dramatically decrease our boot-up times and loading times for certain applications and games. The only drawback of SSD’s are their low capacity and high price. Don’t worry though, we’ve found the right balance between the two. However, we’re going to quickly talk about some more traditional storage first.
Because of the limited size of more affordable SSD’s, we’re going to need an auxiliary hard disk drive. (Also known as an HDD or “Spinning Disk” Drive.) These “spinning disk” drives have the advantage of being a tried-and-true technology, and their age means savings for us. Hard disk drive prices continue to fall, and I can’t think of a better example for this phenomenon than the Seagate BarraCuda 1TB 2.5” drive.
That’s right, the BarraCuda is back for more. You can check it out in my $500 PC Build Guide where I mentioned that it was $46. Well, in just a few short days the price has again fallen to $41.99. This deal just keeps getting better and better. With a 2.5” form factor, it’s a compact drive for a compact price.
With a frankly ridiculous 128MB of cache and a technology Seagate calls “Multi-Tier Caching Technology,” which applies a layer of NAND flash into the mix, the BarraCuda 1TB makes up for its mediocre 5400RPM spindle speed with a unique application of fresh technology. Ordinarily, I’m okay with using a 5400RPM drive as a secondary storage option, since we don’t need the extra speed in that application. In this case, we’re getting something of a “hot-rodded” storage drive, which is more than okay with me. After all, who could argue against faster speeds?
Just in case you go too fast, Seagate has your back with a 2 year limited warranty.
Now onto the fun part, the SSD. Due to their high price-per-gig, high-capacity SSDs are not a good idea for this build. Instead, we’re going to use a smaller, more affordable, 120GB SATA III SSD from Patriot.
The Patriot Burst 120GB is an affordable package at just $32.49, (with a 240GB version as well for another $20) but don’t let its affordability fool you. The Patriot Burst is packing sequential read and write times of 560MB/s and 540MB/s, respectively, which places it firmly in the competition among rival manufacturers like Samsung and Corsair. The 2.5” size means we’re going to have plenty of space to share with our secondary drive.
Adding this SSD is going to take our OS boot times from minutes to seconds, just remember to set up your documents, pictures, movies, and music folders so they are routed to your secondary drive. 120GB is going to fill up very quickly, so I recommend only putting your OS and a few select programs on this drive.
At just $33.99, the Silicon Power 120GB S55 is a good second-choice for builders who can’t get their hands on the Patriot Burst for whatever reason. Just as long as they don’t mind going a dollar or two over budget.
That extra dollar and a half buys Silicon Power’s ECC (Or Error Checking And Correction) technology, as well as a 3-year warranty when you register the drive on Silicon Power’s website.
Component #6 – The Case
We’ve got some hard-hitting hardware in this build, so we want a case that reflects that, and has the durability to stand up to any forces that would threaten the precious components inside. That’s why we’re going with the DeepCool Tesseract ATX Mid Tower for this build. Before we get in to the specifics, a quick note about the price: The White version, or “Tesseract WH” seems to be the cheapest right now at $29.99, with other colors hanging around the $40 range. If the white version is not available in your location, check out the honorable mentions in this section.
The DeepCool Tesseract has long been a go-to for builders looking for something with bold styling that reflects the personality of their rig. For some, the price tag adds to that reflection, for others, the affordability is just the icing on top of an already very nice-looking cake. The Tesseract offers mountings for 120mm liquid coolers, a floor mounted PSU support, and an all-metal mech design for continuous airflow no matter where you decide to mount your components. Speaking of airflow, the Tesseract includes a vented side panel, and 2 LED fans to enable brisk circulation and colorful styling. With plenty of 5.25,” large, and small form factor drive bays, we will have more than enough room for our two drives with space to add almost as many as we want in the future.
The Cougar MX330 secures an honorable mention in this list because it sports may of the same features of the Tesseract, but also includes dedicated SSD mounts, and a gorgeous plexiglass side panel window. The reason it doesn’t take the top spot is because of the seemingly promotional pricing. $25 at some merchants, $50 at others. Check your local availability.
Finally, the Rosewill Galaxy-01 also gets an honorable mention because of its similar price point. At $28.99, its only a dollar cheaper than the Tesseract and lacks some of the bold styling and flexibility, but could still be a good option if you are unable to score a Tesseract.
Component #7 – The Power Supply
At 265 watts of estimated power usage, we can classify our build as being reasonably low-power. That doesn’t give us an excuse to buy a low-voltage or cheap power supply though. We’re going to want an electrical safety net to make sure out processor, graphics card, and other components can run comfortably without worrying about receiving a steady supply of power. To that end, we’re going to go with yet another EVGA power supply, the 500 W1. Previously seen in my $500 PC Build Guide.
You’d be forgiven for not necessarily thinking of EVGA when someone says “Power Supply.” No, the name “EVGA” calls to mind images of the absolute-bleeding edge in performance graphics technology in the form of Nvidia’s “Founder Edition” graphics cards, or maybe even the robust yet remarkable ACX and ICX coolers on their Kingpin edition cards. In reality though, EVGA also makes motherboards, cases, and yes power supplies. EVGA has a reputation for uncompromising performance and reliability and their power supplies are no exception. At 500 watts with an 80+ White rating, (meaning the power supply is at least 80% efficient at all times) the EVGA 500 W1 delivers all the power we need for our build at just $35. EVGA proudly calls this product an “Unbeatable Value” and I tend to agree. If you’re still not convinced, this unit features a variety of over-and-under voltage protections, as well as a 3-year warranty manufacturer warranty.
Lower Cost PC Build: Best PC Gaming Build Under $600
Component #8 – The Graphics Card
The final piece of the puzzle, the cherry on top- the graphics card. In a $700 budget, we’ve finally got a little bit of room to breathe when making our selection, and room to breathe is certainly something we need in this hellish market of crypto mining and inflated prices. To that end, we’re going to choose the EVGA Geforce GTX 1060 3GB for our $700 PC Build.
Now, I would much prefer to take the 6GB edition of the 1060, but with a $70 markup, I simply can’t justify it for this build. I won’t argue that $229.99 is a lot for only 3GB, but the reality is 3GB is going to be more than enough for seamless 1080p gaming and you’ll even be able to push 1440p on games like Doom, Fortnite, and Counter Strike: Global Offensive. Featuring a base clock of 1506MHz and a boost clock of 1708MHz, the GTX 1060 supports Direct X 12, HDMI 2.0, Displayport 1.4, and Dual Link DVI. EVGA offers a 3 year warranty on this card.
At $699.61 (as of June 6, 2018) we have barely managed to stay in budget, but we’re getting the absolute most we can with the parts we’ve selected. This build will dominate 1080p gaming and push the boundary at 1440p. Gamers willing to take the next step up on the graphics card and processor will find that their build is even VR ready. For now though, we’ve managed to put together the ultimate gaming computer for under $700, and look good doing it.
Thanks for reading this build guide! All of the parts mentioned in this article can be found on Amazon and other retailers. Happy building!
Guide Written By Roman De Simone