So you’re ready to really stretch deep into that wallet and build a serious gaming machine, and you don’t know where to start. Well, I can help with that. In this ever-changing world of prices and models and rapidly-changing PC environments, it can be tough to keep up with the newest, much less the best. But, research can be a tricky proposition, digging past hype and every salesman tactic in the book and sometimes even a brand-name bias to find the best components you can get for your personal gaming machine. Have no fears; we’re here to help.
Today I’ll be going over a build you can grab for under $800, a solid advance on a premium modern console, for a system that will naturally blow through any modern game and give you a solid footing in extremely beautiful games, with smooth gameplay and high graphical fidelity.
As in my other guides, I’ll detail the component parts required for each computer. There’s seven of them, and each of them is a vital part of the overall matrix that, when bound together, will become your machine. I’ll list all of the parts below of course, with my choices for each item and a description of why I chose each one. But, in the meantime, here’s a summary of each core part; if you’re already familiar with these, keep moving.
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.
There has been for many years now something of an epic battle between AMD and Intel in the field of solid, reliable CPU production. These competing titans have, in many ways, struggled to maintain their own market share while carving out distinct niches within the PC building community. And, in the past couple of years, the rise of AMD’s Ryzen (no pun intended) has brought a healthy dose of competition and a shot of new tech to the market. Which is good for everybody. In fact, it means I’ll be suggesting an additional CPU for those interested in AMD: the Ryzen 5 2600. It’s a little more expensive, and you trade a small bit of pure gaming strength for more workplace versatility, and multithreading. But I digress, and I’ll now cover the 8400.
For under $200, this is a great mid-range CPU for the build. It’s a relatively new model, a higher-end multi-core processor that maintains the general gaming strength of Intel’s chips. It’s fast, efficient, potent, and keeps cool, all while running on only 65 watts, and most importantly, it won’t bottleneck our GPU at all. All in all, a thoroughly impressive processor, and a solid way to break into Coffee Lake. An optional add-on at a little more cost would be its burly younger brother, the i5-8500, with a chunk of extra power and a cost at just over $200.
Here it is, the absolute unit that will be running all of our games. Sadly, as a foreword I have to say that GPU prices are still in flux, and will be a bit until the market calms down or until nVidia releases some new hardware. But with that in mind, while you may check and find 1060s costing a bit more, it’s just as likely you’ll find one even cheaper than this, though don’t expect too much. With that in mind, let’s cover the card itself and find out what makes it so special.
While 1060s have always been a pretty solid GPU on their own, hovering at nVidia’s potent idea of a minimum for high-end gaming, the 6G upgrade literally doubles the video RAM onboard, and was a sizeable upgrade to an already worthwhile line of graphics cards, putting them in range of competing with stock-standard 1070s–or even above that line, impressively enough. The ASUS model was chosen for its twin fans, which keep the unit cool and quiet, while also fitting into a generally smaller GPU setup to fit a wider range of motherboards. However, any of the notable GPU brands should have a similar 1060 if the price dips and you want to pull the trigger. Just make sure you get the 6GB version, and you won’t regret it.
With the CPU and GPU out of the way, we’ve gotten our heaviest investments in the computer out of the way, and what an investment. But with that said, there’s still plenty of room to build a great system, starting here, with the MOBO. As in several of my other builds, I’ve chosen an ASRock model, in this case one set up for Intel’s B360 chipset. It comes with all of the expected and necessary features of such a motherboard, with nothing really unnecessary and without too much extras, in favor of putting money elsewhere in the build. However, don’t let the price and general lack of optional extras deceive you about the board, it’s a very solid unit with support for everything we need.
As elsewhere, the motherboard is set up to allow a bit of advancement into the future, supporting a possible expansion to the memory in this build and a much higher maximum, as well as all of ASRock’s normal motherboard tech to keep your parts in working order. Nothing flashy, but it really gets the job done.
The Caviar Blue setup is something of an icon in storage, despite the storing of data generally being less attractive and noteworthy than something big and expensive like the GPU. However, for years now Western Digital’s gotten the job done with an extremely reliable, high-performance series of hard drives, including this option here. It clocks in at the expected level of storage, bringing us one full terabyte of possible data and not much more, but it spins at 7200RPM and has fast SATA connections for all of your saving and moving purposes.
As of this writing, there is a solid sale on a 2TB Seagate drive, and as a fan I was considering putting it in the build, but it typically runs a bit more than the current price. However, if you’re like me and 1TB just isn’t enough to store all of the games you want to play, it won’t run you too much more, and I’d recommend looking into it.
You may recognize this guy from, well, probably all of my other builds. It’s true, I’m a fan; I’ve rarely used much else in my computers, and occasionally I’ll see a different brand’s standard memory sticks with better timings or a bit less on the price tag, but I always come back to Corsair. The Vengeance is especially a solid unit with a long and storied past of use by consumers across the market, with solid performance and a typically low rate of busted RAM. You can do worse, though I’ll say, as you may be interested in something similar from G.Skill or Crucial who usually make good stuff, be prepared to do a little research and make sure you get something at the best speed and performance mark for the price you pay.
As before, the LPX is a low-profile stick compatible with most motherboards and setups in general, with little to no effort needed to make them work with any system. It also comes in a few different colors, and like any other RAM stick, can easily be upgraded by buying a second one at any time down the road and slotting in place next to the first. If you want to start off with better RAM built in, look for a two-pack now that’ll be cheaper than buying two sticks separate.
If your budget stops here: Best Gaming PC Under $700
For the power supply here, I’ve chosen a Seasonic model. While they’re a company I’ve personally tested less, I can’t find anything wrong with this PSU, which is actually pretty potent and also built surprisingly well for such a cheap offering. For starters, it gives us a little flex room with 620 watts, at the same price of many other 550w systems, and of course, because this is my build guide, it’s 80+ Bronze certified, to make sure it runs and performs the best it can without putting your system at any kind of risk.
As an extra, the 620 EVO comes with fully modular cables, which are a handy feature for those less-experienced in cable management, or with smaller builds. The cables are sturdy and black, and I made sure they were long enough to fit pretty much any mid-size tower case, so it should be extensively compatible with this build and any adjustments made to it.
Rosewill is a brand I’ve only come to rely on a few times in my build history, but I’ve never had a part of theirs let me down. So, to me, this Stryker seems like a really solid deal, especially for the price point. Plus, it has a surprising wealth of optional little features for something in the sixty-dollar-or-under range, such as a dust filter for your power supply, tool-free management of your drive bays and storage, and plenty of space inside are just a few of those features. In fact, it even comes stock with three built-in 120mm fans, perfect for the starter who doesn’t want to have to worry about upgrading them, and a cheaper starting point for fan enthusiasts who want to add a couple more.
And though it doesn’t particularly matter, I think it’s a very attractive case, a little squat but very smooth and streamlined, with a cool window on the side to look in through. And on the plus side–and more importantly–it feels like it’s built well; none of the parts feel cheap, and it’s overall a pretty sturdy case. I’d recommend it. Obviously, as this is a recommendation.
Upgrade your build to a monster: Best Gaming PC Under $900
Being something of a higher-end builder myself, I was surprised by how flexible a PC can be in this price range. Mind you, it is $800, but that’s not too much of an investment considering the end result. It’s definitely a worthwhile machine, the kind PC gamers tend to give a cool nickname–though I’ll leave that to you. The 8400 and the 1060 make for a solid pairing, both the price of a lesser component while filling out the upper mid ranges of high-end PC graphics, together able to tackle even recent gaming giants like Battlefield One and PUBG with decent framerates. In fact, assuming a standard setup running the highest settings possible on 1920×1080 resolution, I couldn’t find a single game that dropped below 60 fps. So, overall not a bad build for the price. Not at all. And for the hardcore, you can always buy a more expensive GPU and clap it right inside. Just be sure your old 1060 goes to a good home, if you do.
As always, enjoy the build and enjoy the games. Once you’ve got everything built, that’s when the fun truly begins.
Guide Written By Devon Boyette