There comes a certain point in setting budget for a computer where you realize just how much room you’re giving yourself to truly let loose. It’s true, a high-end PC will cost more than a console, but that cost doesn’t come alone. It brings its friends: power, value, longevity, and so on. A good, powerful computer will start setting you back a premium in the $1,000 range and up, but when you build it well it’ll play games the console market couldn’t dream of at ranges of pure graphical prowess and resolution untold. And it’ll do it for years to come, unburdened by an alternating release cycle, delays between console updates, or a more limited schedule for actual games you want to play. It’s true, it’s not for everybody. But you’re here for a reason; let’s make sure you get your money’s worth.
As before, I’ll lay out all of the individual parts in the PC below, so feel free to skip ahead if you’re ready for the list. But, for anyone new, I’m also making a small summary of the core seven components every basic computer needs right here at the top. Cover it if you want a handle on the parts before going in.
Processor – The thinking engine of any modern PC, and the driving force behind it. The CPU is required to get everything in running order–to put the ”computer” in “personal computer”. Measured in gigahertz as a unit of speed, across multiple cores of power.
Graphics Card – A separate processing core solely for pushing visuals to your screen or monitor. In a gamer’s rig, this will often be the most expensive part–and for good reason.
Memory – Sticks of temporary storage the computer uses to stay agile. Data is stored in RAM sticks while being shuffled around your CPU. Think of these like ‘pockets’; they can’t hold as much as your house, but you also don’t need to drive home every time you need to pay for gum.
The Motherboard – This is where all of the above parts will live, where they need to attach to work and become one central unit. It’s also where everything attaches; housing this and everything on it is why we need a case.
Storage Suite – At the basic level, this will be a hard drive, with more or less storage space and slower or faster spin-up times, to move things there. If you’re willing to drop more money, you can get a ‘solid-state’ drive, which doesn’t spin and works faster overall but comes at an extreme cost increase per terabyte of space.
Power Supply – Inarguably the most important part of the PC. The power supply or PSU is simply what diverts power to all the parts of your PC, and without it there is no PC.Cheap pre-built computers you buy often skimp on these; I would only do so at your peril, as a bad PSU can cause loading issues, shutdowns, or even small fires.
The Case – The skin, the shell, the outside. The case, the last and somewhat optional component of any computer, and one that is also subject to opinions on aesthetics and size. However, inside of each case are some important points to note.
With that out of the way, let’s begin.
AMD Ryzen 5 2600X
Though Intel still offers more expensive chips for straightforward gaming, it’s hard to stack up against AMD’s more versatile offerings. While the prices fluctuate between specific items or tiers, one thing you’ll notice is that Intel’s Core series CPUs tend to excel a bit more at pure gaming, while AMD’s Ryzen chips are built with better threading and superior multi-core performance, making them better at utility apps such as editing software, or general multi-tasking. In the last couple of generations, the gap has closed somewhat; the gaming performance hit with the new Ryzen 5s will be barely noticeable, a few FPS here and there at worst, but it’s worth it for the price point comparison, and the overall system improvements.
The 2600X is a six core CPU running at a stock 3.6GHz, with built-in overclocking and an overall strong, efficient performance. It runs at 95 watts, a bit less than similar Intel CPUs, but the temps get a bit hotter; it comes with its own cooler, which works fine, but if you plan on stressing the card or running it in turbo mode, you may want to upgrade the cooler down the road.
EVGA GTX 1060 6GB
You may pick up that I’m a fan of EVGA, and you wouldn’t be wrong. I tried them out years ago in my second PC build, and I haven’t looked back since; it’s true, from time to time there’s deals or sales, or specific cards from competitors that’ll make me dip and try them out. In fact, pretty much all of the main manufacturers are worth your time and money. But EVGA stands out for several reasons; they have excellent prices, extremely strong and reliable cards, and a great warranty system. The 1060 is an excellent deal in the 6GB upgrade version, having literally double the video memory for use and a suite of enhanced upgrades from the old standard version. It’s no 1080, but it gets the job done easily and fits a strong PC into a tight budget.
Another option is to downgrade here, to pick something even cheaper for the time being like a 1050 or a 1050 Ti and bide your time, saving up for a big card. It’s not optimal if you’re just ready to go right now, but a cheap investment to start with means you can wait for prices to go down, or you can wait for a big sale closer to the holiday season and get a $500+ card on the cheap. And with nVidia looking to release new GPUs probably sometime this year, you may also be waiting on a much stronger lineup of gaming cards.
MSI X470 Gaming PLUS
With the 2600X, we get an amazing performance across the board at roughly a solid $200 price point, which isn’t bad overall. I’ve also extolled on how solid it is for our purposes, running at a relatively low voltage and with such easy overclocking. But, it does come at a different cost–that of a technological upgrade. Being among the newest and best AMD chips, the 2600X requires an upgrade to the motherboard; to that end, nothing less than an X470 will do. Luckily, this hasn’t jacked prices up to a ridiculous degree. Even $130 is a pretty good deal on a MOBO of this quality, and it has a lot of handy features both for this build and many future upgrades you may wish to make use of.
In addition to all of the standard features you’d expect, such as the minimum required slots and an array of USB ports and basic features, the Gaming PLUS includes room for up to two GPUs and four DIMM sticks of memory, allowing you to buy two new cards later to SLI link them together, or to upgrade to a maximum of 64GB of RAM. It’s a bit of overkill, but your system will love you for it. It also has a smooth built-in UEFI with controls for RGB adjustments, as well as ways to easily boost your CPU or memory performance.
Seagate Constellation ES 2TB
SanDisk Ultra II SSD 480GB
Well, that’s unusual.You may be wondering why I chose two storage units, but the answer is simple; I added a solid-state drive to the build, for a variety of reasons. For starters, let’s cover the regular hard drive.
As a Seagate, it’s going to be solid. A fast, reliable two terabyte drive with all the basics of capacity and price we’ll need for the build, with Seagate’s reputation behind it, plus plenty of tools for editing storage areas, creating partitions, managing backups, and so on. All in all, it’s hard to recommend anything higher.
Now, for the SanDisk. Unlike a regular hard drive, which has one or more ‘platters’ to store information on, a solid-state drive is one solid piece of writable memory the system maintains complete access to at all times. It’s more difficult to get it to work well–read also: more expensive–but the benefits are numerous. Everything on an SSD loads faster than any hard drive could manage, period. The space limits can hurt, as you won’t fit a whole PC’s worth of games and documents onto one, but a typical user puts Windows on the drive and adds games they’re currently playing, removing or replacing them as needed. This keeps your whole system fast and nimble, especially in cutting down load times.
The SSD is an option, however; you can forego it if you want, or pick two hard drive or maybe go with one larger HDD. Or, you could splurge and break my own $1,000 rule, and get a more potent graphics card. Up to you.
G.Skill Ripjaws V Series DDR4 2400
G.Skill has always made pretty solid RAM for gaming, and this is no exception. This V Series is relatively cheap for 2400MHz, with a solid performance, good timings, and of course, a smooth and attractive look. I also chose this memory for its low voltage load, helping to mitigate the heat produced by the Ryzen CPU (in case you decide to overclock it) and allowing for us to make even more use of said Ryzen’s lower wattage, to save on a strong PSU. The memory doesn’t tout it, either, but the V Series are also relatively low profile for memory sticks, allowing us to fit everything on a wide array of motherboards and, more importantly for this build, allowing you to swap in a larger third-party CPU cooler if you wish, with no size or fit problems.
As always, I’ve picked one stick at 8GB capacity to fit into the build. This is the level of PC where it starts being beneficial to cram in 16GB of RAM, or more, but this is also a cost-effective build first and foremost, and RAM happens to be not only extensively cheap to buy later on–at least, in comparison to the hefty cost of the other major components–it’s also one of the easiest upgrades you’ll ever add on to any PC, requiring simply opening the case up and sticking it into the right slot. As such, picking a second one up later is recommended.
EVGA SuperNOVA 650 Gold
Of course, another EVGA pick. No one’s surprised. With the overall wattage reduction from the low-cost parts and the 2600X’s overall lower TDP, we’re able to slip in a slightly lower weight PSU, at the benefit of saving a bit of money and upgrading to an 80+ Gold certification at the same time, once again helping system efficiency and letting you keep heat levels down. As before, this power supply is fully modular, allowing you to use or take away cables as needed and making future expansion easy. Also included is EVGA’s ten-year warranty for power supplies, so worst case scenario you get it taken care of.
Aside from standard temperature testing and EVGA’s rigorous testing standards, all six of the standard PSU safety models are included. While half of these are extremely niche and only useful in outside cases, having over-power protection and overdraw protection helps, and it’s nice having the whole suite. Overall, a solid buy.
If your budget stops at $900 then read our other guide: Best Gaming PC Under $900
Aerocool P7-C1 Black Edition
One of my favorite recent discoveries, the P7-C1 is a gorgeous case first and foremost; it comes in black and white for varying styles, and even has some side window options you can look into for a connoisseur, but that’s not the only reason we’re here. The P7-C1 is designed for gaming from the ground up. it has great clearance, great design, room for all your parts and components, a separate cutout made just for cable management, and best of all, both the top and the front remove for easy access to included dust filters for easy, excellent cleaning. Keeping the case maintained and dust-free is a dream, and the inside does its best to keep your setup cool with proper airflow.
On that last bit, though; the included fans are minimal, from what I could tell. I purchased mine aftermarket with all of the fans in place and the system is one of the coolest I’ve used. But, while the case works as is, the only negative I’d give it is that it won’t include all the fans you need to give it the best airflow you want. So, either use it as is, or spend extra on the fans. However, at full fan capacity, there’s no case I’d recommend higher.
I don’t know how I did it, but I managed to get a pretty solid build out there and exactly meet my maximum amount of money spent. I also ended up producing a pretty slick-looking final product, one that really shows off how much you spent–especially when you sink time into playing the prettiest and newest games on it.
For my mileage, I’m more graphically-obsessed than the average man or woman gamer. I spent a long part of my life being behind on gaming tech, with no PC able to run modern games (or sometimes even old games) and I make up for it with power overwhelming. For me, I’d have even made a few sacrifices above to fit a 1070 in there. But in the end, tactical trade-offs were made, leaving anyone with a potent modern PC for kids who want to game good and do other stuff good, too. And it’s hard to beat that.
Guide Written By Devon Boyette