You’re a gamer, a multitasker, a hard worker, and you’re determined to build a computer that reflects these positive characteristics within yourself. You’ve managed to put aside $900 of your hard-earned money, and maybe you’re going to hold out and step up to a $1,000 build. Or perhaps, you will opt to save a few dollars and check out one of our other, more affordable build guides. Regardless of what you decide, you’ve clicked on our build guide for a $900 budget, and we’re going to make sure you stay in budget and build the best computer you can using premium, all-new components.
Nine-hundred dollars affords us some serious firepower in the world of computing- keep reading to find out which parts we will need to build the ultimate gaming computer under $900.
Component #1 – The Processor
In a $900 budget, we can afford to pick from some of the latest and greatest processors from the Intel family. It may be tempting to look at something from the i7 lineup, but we’re going to stay a bit more grounded here and select the i5-8600 from Intel’s legendary i5 series. Renowned for their affordability and uncompromising performance, the i5 line has long been a favorite for gamers looking to get the most out of their dollar, and the i5-8600 is one of the best Intel has to offer.
Only one processor sits above the 8600 in the i5 lineup- the 8600K. Those familiar with Intel’s naming schemes will recognize that the “K” in 8600K indicates that the processor can be overclocked. This ability comes at a premium, however. There is a $30 markup on the “K” version of the 8600, and you will also have to factor in the cost of a more advanced, overclocking-enabled motherboard. These features are nice to have, but will largely be unnecessary for the tasks we wish to accomplish. We’re going to have more than enough horsepower to run the latest games and applications, but if you really feel the need to overclock, a K-series processor and an overclocking-capable board are going to take you outside of this budget.
Back to the 8600 then. Intel is finally putting more than 4 cores in their consumer processors, and the 8600 features 6 cores, and 6 threads with hyperthreading. The 8600 is manufactured on Intel’s 14nm process, and sits in the LGA1151 socket. The 8600 also features 9MB of L3 “Smart Cache” and uses 65 watts of power. The 8600 operates at a base clock of 3.1GHz with a max turbo boost of up to 4.3GHz.
The i5-8600 does not include a heatsink, but don’t worry, we’ve included one in this guide.
Component #2 – The Heatsink
The Intel i5-8600 does not include a stock heatsink, but even if it did, we would probably want to use something more substantial anyway. There are a multitude of low and extremely-low budget cooling options for CPUs but we do not want to put a cheap piece of metal and plastic on top of our precious 8600. Take extra effort to steer clear of unreliable or unknown brands and grab yourself a be quiet! Pure Rock Slim for $25. With a cooling ability of up to 120 watts, it’s got almost twice the power we need in a sleek and compact form factor, at a price that can’t be beat by even the legendary Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO.
With three aluminum-capped heat pipes and one of be quiet’s renowned airflow-optimized fans, the Pure Rock Slim is going to our processor cool and comfortable without breaking the bank.
A quick honorable mention goes out to the aforementioned Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO. The EVO has been around for years and years and has earned a reputation for its solid build quality and excellent thermal performance. At $29.99, we would still be in budget if this cooler was included, and the Pure Rock Slim wins only because it is a few dollars cheaper.
Component #3 – The Motherboard
Our processor, the i5-8600, may sit in a familiar socket, but because it uses a new kind of architecture dubbed “Coffee-Lake” we’re going to need a newer, compatible motherboard from Intel’s 300 series specification. For this task, I’ve picked out the Gigabyte H370 HD3, a newer offering from Gigabyte’s series of “UD” or “Ultra-Durable” line.
The Gigabyte H370 HD3 packs all the standard features: Socket LGA1151, USB 3.1 Type-C, USB 3.0, Dual M.2, 4 DIMM slots, onboard video out, and LAN. The HD3 also has a few new and interesting features not normally found on motherboards in this price range like Thunderbolt 3 support, and a Dual BIOS. With 2 PCIe slots, 4 PCIe Express slots, and 1 PCI slot, the HD3 is ready for a multitude of expansion cards be they new or old.
At $96.33, the Gigabyte H370 HD3 packs the perfect amount of features for the right price.
Component # 4 – The RAM
Unfortunately, RAM remains to be one of the most expensive components in the computer building world in 2018. Despite our considerable budget of $900, we’re still going to have to stick to 8 Gigabytes of Patriot Signature Line DDR4 2400.
There’s not much to say about this RAM. It’s a pretty typical dual channel kit that runs at 2400MHz with a CAS Latency Time of 17. You can choose between blue or black low-profile heat spreaders, and Patriot backs their product up with a lifetime warranty. Not bad, considering this kit retails for just $78.99.
Remember to check out the “Memory” section in your motherboard’s BIOS to ensure your RAM is running at the proper speed.
Components #5 and #6 – Storage
With a $900 budget, we’re finally going to have the ability to get a little crazy with our storage options. You might be aware of a relatively new technology called SSDs, or “Solid State Drives.” They’ve been around for a few years now and their no-moving-parts, flash-memory-only composition has earned them a reputation for being extremely fast and extremely reliable. The only downside being their high price per gigabyte.
What you may not be aware of, is an even newer type of storage called NvME, which is short for NVM Express, which is again short for Non-Volatile Memory Host Controller Interface Specification. In English, this translates to RIDICULOUSLY fast storage. How fast? Try 1,000Mbps fast. That’s right, the ADATA XPG SX6000 PCIe is unbelievably fast and even more unbelievably affordable at just $45.99 for 128GB. It’s true that 128GB isn’t a ton of storage, but it is more than enough to serve as our main boot drive. (We’ll add some more traditional storage in a minute.) What we’re really after is the speed here. The ADATA XPG SX6000 is a PCIe-controlled NvME drive that uses 3D NAND Flash to achieve read speeds of up to 1,000Mbps and write speeds of up to 800Mbps. Way faster than anything a typical SATA III SSD could manage. The ADATA XPG SX6000 is an M.2 form factor drive. If this is your first time using an M.2 drive, refer to your motherboard’s user manual for the M.2 slot location and mounting instructions.
ADATA backs up their Xtreme Performance Gear line of drives with a “Worry-Free” 5 Year Warranty and even includes a heat shield.
In 2018, 128GB is not enough to store all of your documents, pictures, movies, games, and other media, so we’re going to add a secondary, traditional hard disk drive to this build as well. Filling the auxiliary storage roll today will be the familiar Seagate BarraCuda 1TB 3.5” drive. I’ve used smaller variations of this drive in other build guides but today we will be taking the 3.5” size because of its slightly cheaper cost.
It may cost less, but the 3.5” variation of the Seagate BarraCuda is not lacking features in any way. With a spindle speed of 7200RPM and a cache size of 64MB, the BarraCuda is among the fastest consumer hard drives available, and currently retails for about $46.
Component #7 – The Case
We’ve got some really cool hardware in this build, so we’re going to want a case that is just as cool. That’s why I’ve selected the brand-new Corsair Carbide SPEC-04 Mid-Tower Gaming Case.
Simply put, the Carbide SPEC-04 is visually stunning. Maybe even a little bit polarizing. The hard, geometric angles and bold accent colors scream “No Compromises” and the multitude of cable routing options and tie-down points leave absolutely no excuse for a messy interior. Speaking of cable management, the SPEC-04 provides a large, tinted plexiglass side panel window, so you can have a clear view of the fruits of your labor and wow your friends when they peer inside and see your super clean, sleek components.
The SPEC-04 includes one fan and has mounting points for up to 5 more. You can mount 120mm or even 240mm radiators if you plan to water cool, and the slide-out dust filters ensure that no dust bunnies can make their way inside.
The SPEC-04 offers a range of color options including red, yellow, grey, and purple, (Purple is only available through Corsair’s website.) and also features an optional tempered-glass side panel upgrade. All of the regular features make their appearance as well. You will find both USB 3.0 and 2.0 ports on the side-mounted I/O and you can mount your hard drive on any of the 3 removable brackets.
The SPEC-04 is undoubtedly a bold statement-piece, but at just $45, no one would bat an eye if you told them it was $100. In addition to its affordability, the Corsair Carbide SPEC-04 can often be spotted in bundles that include fans or power supplies. You might be able to score a sweet deal on multiple components if you take advantage of that opportunity.
An honorable mention goes out to the Bitfenix Nova. If flashy, bold, color accents aren’t your thing, you’ll feel right at home with the Nova’s no-nonsense, clean white approach. At $49, you’re getting most of the features found in the SPEC-04 but gaining an external 5.25” drive bay and losing a side panel window.
Component #8 – The Power Supply
The components in our $900 build are estimated to use about 290 watts altogether. This does not mean we can use a 300 watt power supply. We need something that’s going to comfortably supply enough power to our components at a consistent rate, and to that end I’ve selected the Corsair VS550.
The VS550 will provide us enough power for our current components as well as enough power for any upgrades or additions down the line. It accomplishes this with an 80+ White certification, which means the power supply is at least 80% efficient at all times. An excellent certification to look out for when considering budget power supplies. I also enjoy the sleek aesthetic of Corsair’s power supplies. The VS550 features an all black, metal housing, and black sleeving for the cables. The simple white “VS550” banner on the side fits perfectly with the theme of our case, motherboard, and other components.
The thermally-controlled fan maintains low-RPM operation when your system is idle and only kicks on to full when the temperatures rise. Corsair also includes a 3-year manufacturer warranty with this unit.
PC Build Downgrade: Best Gaming PC Under $800
Component #9 – The Graphics Card
I’d like to say that a $900 budget could afford us something from the absolute top of the line of graphics cards, but unfortunately, shortages and cryptocurrency mining have kept top-tier graphics cards out of the hands of regular consumers. The cheapest GTX 1070 I could find was well outside of our budget. That’s okay though, because Nvidia’s 1000 series lineup packs a punch no matter what price bracket you choose. We’ll be taking a 1060. More specifically, we will be using a PNY GTX 1060 6GB for our $900 gaming computer.
You might be surprised to see the name “PNY” on a graphics card. You’re probably more familiar with their line of flash drives, PC peripherals and accessories. Fact is, PNY has been making graphics cards for a while, and while they haven’t produced anything wild with custom PCBs or innovative cooling solutions, choosing PNY is still a good way to get a reference card for cheap- just $299.99 for their 1060 6GB.
As for the card itself, the GTX 1060 6GB runs at a base clock of 1506MHz and has a boost clock of 1708Mhz. The card supports all of the latest technologies like G-Sync and Direct X 12, VR, and features a dual-fan cooler. PNY also offers a 3 year warranty and 24/7 customer service.
We’re finished! At $896.11 (as of June 12, 2018) we’ve been able to stay within our budget of $900 and we’ve got enough left over for a… lottery ticket or something. But that doesn’t matter. We’ve built an absolute monster of a PC. This build will utterly dominate with max settings at 1080p, 1440p, and should carry you pretty far into the 4K territory if you tune your settings appropriately. The extra cores in our processor are going to make multitasking, intense workloads, and multi-core-bound games a breeze. That extra processing power is also going to come in handy when we combine it with the 6GB of video memory in our graphics card. That’s right, our $900 PC build is VR ready.
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