Shopping for PC components can be intimidating if you’re not up to date on hardware news. Fortunately, we’ve done the research for you and have put together three tiered builds (cheap, mid-range, and high-end) geared to deliver great gaming experiences.
You can certainly build a gaming PC for less than our budget-oriented rig here, but it’s often a good idea to spend a little more to mitigate serious bottlenecks and to avoid harsh compromises. With that in mind, we spec’d out components that will deliver an excellent 1080p gaming experience for around $700.
|CPU: Intel Core i5-6400||$179.99|
|GPU: Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX 480 4GB||$220.99|
|Motherboard: ASRock H170M Pro4 LGA 1151 Intel H170 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Micro ATX||$78.98|
|RAM: HyperX FURY 8GB (2 x 4GB) 288-Pin DDR4 SDRAM DDR4 2133 (PC4 17000)||$51.99|
|Storage: Kingston SSDNow UV400 120GB||$42.99|
|HDD: WL 1TB 32MB Cache 7200rpm||$39.99|
|Case: Corsair Carbide Series 100R||$49.99|
|PSU: Corsair CX Series CX 500W 80 Plus Bronze PSU||$49.99|
Listed prices reflect time of publish.
CPU: Intel Core i5-6400
Intel’s $60 dual-core G4400 CPU is a tempting proposition for a budget rig, but in general, we recommend a quad-core CPU for gaming. Four cores is really the sweet spot. While the current crop of AMD CPUs are generally cheaper than Intel’s modern quad-core solutions, they require AMD’s AM3+ chipset, which is outdated and will soon be replaced by the company’s upcoming AM4 platform. With AMD’s Zen CPUs around the corner, it doesn’t make much sense to go with an AMD processor right now.
That’s why we’re going with the Core i5-6400 processor, which is Intel’s most affordable four-core Skylake CPU. The chip is built on a 14nm production process and offers four threads. The CPU is clocked at 2.7GHz, features a max turbo frequency of 3.3GHz, and offers 6MB of cache. Since the i5-6400 uses the 1151 socket, there’s an upgrade path to Intel’s desktop Kaby Lake processors when they come out next year. This gives you the option to upgrade your CPU down the road.
Graphics Card: Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX 480 4GB
For our budget-friendly graphics card, we’re going with AMD’s Radeon RX 480 GPU. The card is built upon the company’s new Polaris microarchitecture. The RX 480 offers 2304 stream processors, a 1266 boost clock, and 4GBs of video RAM. In total, it features 5.8 teraflops of GPU performance. It also happens to be an amazing card that can max out just about any game at 1080p, and it can handle 1440p really well, too. Specifically, we’re going with Sapphire’s Nitro+ variant, which features a slightly overclocked 1306MHz core clock.
Motherboard: ASRock H170M Pro4
To supplement our Core-i5 6400 CPU, we’re going with ASRock’s H170M Pro4 motherboard. While ASRock is known as a budget brand, it has the LGA 1151 socket support we need.
It also has eight USB 3.0 ports, 7.1 HD audio support, six SATA III ports, and two PCIe slots.
RAM: HyperX FURY 8GB (2 x 4GB) 288-Pin DDR4 SDRAM DDR4 2133
While 4GB of system RAM will allow you to squeak by in most games, you’ll really want 8GB. We’re going with two 4GB sticks of HyperX Fury DDR4 memory clocked at 2133MHz. Going with two sticks allows us to run the 8GB of RAM in dual-channel mode, which allows us to get more memory bandwidth. At around 40 bucks, it’s fairly priced and also has some heat spreaders that keep the sticks cool.
SSD: Kingston SSDNow UV400 120GB
Friends don’t let friends build gaming PCs without solid-state drives, even for budget-oriented rigs. We recommend even a small SSD, at least for the operating system. This will allow your PC to quickly boot. For this budget build, we’re going with a modest 120GB SSD from Kingston, the company’s SSDNow UV400. This is enough for the operating system and your most-used games and applications. The drive offers read and write speeds up to 550MB/s and 500MB/s, respectively. Though the drive scales up to 960GB, the 120GB variant costs around 40 bucks, which isn’t likely to break the bank.
HDD: WL 1TB 32MB Cache 7200RPM
In an ideal world, we’d all be using nothing but massive solid-state drives, but because SSDs are still relatively expensive compared to hard drives, we’re recommending a 1TB HDD to supplement this rig. Just because this is a budget build doesn’t mean we have to go with a slow 5,400rpm drive, however. The white label version that we’re recommending here spins at a faster 7,200rpm. The big thing to look out for when shopping for an HDD is price per GB. With this drive costing four cents per GB, that’s not a bad bargain.
Case: Corsair Carbide Series 100R
Just because we’re putting together an affordable gaming PC doesn’t mean we have to skimp out and buy an ugly case. The Corsair Carbide Series 100R chassis not only looks clean and modern with its all-black finish, but it’s also made of steel and features a side-panel window, which allows you to admire all your rig’s sexy components. The front of the case features two USB 3.0 ports and 3.5mm audio jacks. Inside the case, there are four tool-less drive trays and enough room for full-size graphics cards that measure up to 12 inches. The 100R also includes one 12cm fan and a removable dust filter beneath the power supply slot.
Power Supply: Corsair CX Series CX 500W 80 Plus Bronze PSU
While we’re on a mission to build an affordable rig, you don’t want to skimp on the power supply unit–you wouldn’t want a cheap PSU to short out and harm any of your components. We’re going with Corsair’s CX500 power supply. The company makes great PSUs, and the CX version here carries a respectable 80 Plus Bronze rating. With 500 watts of power, we’ve got enough juice for our entire rig.
The total for our build comes up to $714.91. You can certainly build a PC for less, but this build represents a killer gaming rig that will be able to max out the most graphically demanding games at 1080p with smooth frame rates. It’ll also be able to handle VR and plenty of 1440p games as well. It has all the core components you need in a great gaming PC.