Gaming Upgrade Kit
Too often people considering PC gaming will fall into the train of thought that gaming PCs have to be expensive. This train of thought is both unfortunate and untrue: Gaming PCs can certainly be expensive, but a decent gaming PC can also be built relatively cheaply.
Today’s “Cheap Bastard” gaming PC build comes to a total of about $436, and uses an ASUS R9 380 Strix along with an i3-6100 to allow for solid gaming performance at 1080p. Graphics settings at 1080p will generally fall within the “medium” to “high” range, depending on the game.
We were mixed in our review of Mirror's Edge Catalyst, but it's still one of the most intensive games currently out – our graphics card benchmark shows that much. Mirror's Edge pushes even the newest hardware to its limits, has fast-paced parkour gameplay that demands high sustained framerates, and uses heavy post-processing and post-FX to make its beautiful scenes.
In that respect, Catalyst is a good visual successor to the first game. The red-and-white color scheme has returned, and the focus remains on free-running – despite some ancillary focus on open world nonsense.
This gaming PC build is built to spec for playing Mirror's Edge Catalyst at 1080p with High graphics settings. Read our ME Benchmark for recommendations for Ultra/Hyper settings.
We tested Overwatch back when it was still in beta, posting one of the earliest GPU benchmarks for Blizzard's new team shooter. The game's finally concluded its full beta pass and has set its final release date for May 24. Graphics requirements have more-or-less remained the same as when we last tested the game, making Overwatch one of the more accessible titles for PC builders. We're building this machine with a GTX 960 and i5-6400 non-overclocking CPU; the combination runs significantly cheaper than the next step up – and that's good anyway, since the GTX 1070 (and presumably, Polaris) will soon land in that mid-range price gap.
This ~$700 gaming PC build uses the best components for playing Overwatch at ultra graphics settings (1080p, 60FPS) while staying on a budget. Follow the below parts list and DIY PC guide to get up and running, and remember to check our forums for one-on-one help.
It sometimes seems that gaming PCs have to use high-end components and, subsequently, be expensive. These high-end PCs may provide a pretty looking picture and high FPS, but a PC capable of a decent gaming experience at 1080p can actually be built fairly cheaply.
Today's "Cheap Bastard" build totals about $455, and uses an nVidia GTX 950 along with an i3-6100 to enable a decent gaming experience at 1080p for most games using medium settings.
PC build list follows!
The Dark Souls series is known for challenge and development of player skill, but it is also infamous for its poor PC ports (read our review on this here). On the PC, the Dark Souls games have suffered from sub-par controls, FPS locks, and generally disappointing optimization -- but the third game in the series has improved things for PC. With the recent Dark Souls III launch, we decided to throw-together a $1037 gaming PC for Dark Souls III (and other higher-end gaming).
Today’s $1037 gaming PC build uses an i7-6700K with an EVGA GTX 970 to produce a solid gaming experience for most games, including Dark Souls III.
Building PCs is almost always a compromise between performance and cost. In this PC build, we’re making a gaming PC for approximately $500 -- but a good one; a powerful, $500 gaming PC. This $500 PC is meant to be a barebones build that still allows for a very capable 1080p gaming experience in most games at medium to high settings, although it will generally struggle – depending on the game – at resolutions and settings above that.
Today’s $500 gaming PC build uses an i3-6100 running at 3.7GHz, along with a 2GB EVGA GTX 960 with a noteable factory overclock. Together, these parts offer solid gaming performance at 1080p, while also being budget friendly. The build will readily play Call of Duty: Black Ops III, Rocket League, DOTA2, CSGO, and even heavier titles like GTA V.
Gaming PC build classifications haven't changed much over the years, despite enormous leaps in hardware capabilities and game graphics. The price brackets are largely defined by the likes of Intel, AMD, and nVidia, responsible for the most critical and expensive gaming components. For an Intel i3 – what we're deploying today – total system build price generally, in our experience, spans the ~$400 to ~$650 range, with an i5 or equivalent CPU generally entering the fray thereafter. That's not how it always works, of course, and PC builds can be targeted at different use cases with a different component price split.
This gaming PC build is targeted at the entry-level gaming market – not quite a full-on 'budget' build, but not mid-range. It's a gaming PC best suited for high-FPS throughput in games like Rocket League, DOTA, Counter-Strike, Black Ops III, Overwatch, and similar games.
With CES just past, there’s a move in the market to introduce new computer hardware through Q1 and Q2, making for a prime buying time of existing stock.
For this PC build, we’ve chosen the price point of $1500 as it allows for the inclusion of a high-end GPU, CPU, and SSD without costing an arm, leg, and kidney. Then again, no one needs two kidneys when they have a high-end gaming PC, and arms are of negligible value as VR iterates.
This PC is primarily meant for high and ultra graphics at 1080p and 1440p, and should even be usable for low-load games at high and medium settings at 4K. The PC build uses the latest Intel Skylake i5, the i5-6600K, along with a GTX 980 Ti GPU. This combination allows for high-end performance and overclocking to push the system into the future.
The launch of Just Cause 3, Star Wars Battlefront, Fallout 4, and all the other season’s games have spurred-on new system builds. We’re one of the only teams to have tested each of those games on GPUs and CPUs, all found here, and we’ve compiled that hands-on knowledge into a mid-range gaming PC capable of playing all the above.
This PC build will allow for stable performance at 1080p, but higher resolutions like 1440p (and definitely 4K) will require a higher-end PC. That being said, for a budget-to-mid-range gaming PC, this configuration will perform well without breaking the bank.
Our below $700 gaming PC uses an i5-6600 and an AMD R9 380 to create a budget-friendly and fairly powerful combination that will generally allow for games at 1080p, 60FPS. Assassin’s Creed Syndicate will give the 380 some trouble, but other current titles are more than playable on the R9 380. We’d expect reasonable settings for games even into the upcoming years.
We just leveraged the season's sales to restock GN's lab with test equipment – mostly SSDs and CPUs – and took the opportunity to throw together a budget gaming PC. The goal was to create a truly down-the-center machine, capable of playing most modern games at high settings with an FPS target of 60+ (at 1080p). A few outliers exist that would stress this system beyond its limits, like Assassin's Creed Syndicate, but the rest of the season's titles are mostly within reason. Fallout 4 is playable on the GTX 950 (at higher settings now, with optimization patches), as are Battlefront (tested) and Black Ops 3 (tested). We've also recently shown the i3 CPUs to retain fiercely competitive market positioning at ultra/1080p settings.
Intel's new i3-6100 Skylake CPU is currently the only available i3 SKU (i3-6300 ships in December), but at $130, it's also the cheapest Skylake SKU. This budget gaming PC build uses an i3-6100 and GTX 950 to play games at under $500, including Battlefront, Black Ops 3, and Fallout 4. Fallout 4, surprisingly, will be the most abusive of the lot – but it's fully playable on this setup at a mix of medium/high settings.