Gaming Upgrade Kit
1080p remains the most popular resolution in use today, with more than 80% of the market sticking to existing 1920x1080 displays. Just a few years ago, a fairly beastly rig was needed to run games at 1080p with High to Ultra settings. AMD and nVidia have released new video cards nonstop this year, each enabling 1440p gaming at the entry-level market, or bolstering 1080p to max game settings. These new releases include the RX 480 and the GTX 1060 $200-$250 options, both of which we've reviewed.
You no longer need a $1200 gaming PC to game at 1080p/ultra, and 1440p now comes as a "free" add with these mid-range GPUs. This $800 gaming PC build targets ultra settings in Overwatch at 1440p, and will be capable of high settings in Battlefield 1 (and likely Titanfall 2).
In the paragraphs below we’ll go over our parts list and why we chose the parts for this rig like we did:
AMD’s recent GPU release, the RX 480, is in a strong position for 1440p gaming at $200. We’ve decided to detail an ~$1100 gaming PC aimed at 1440p gaming on the cheap. Our full coverage of the RX 480 can be seen here, for those interested, and it’s noteworthy that both the GTX 1060 (review) and RX 470 (review) approach “playability” at 1440p. The industry is clearly changing to a new resolution standard. This PC build is meant for gaming at high settings at 1440p at around 60FPS, while also not costing an arm and a leg.
This ~$1102 1440p PC gaming build uses an Intel i5 6600K paired with AMD’s new RX 480 4GB. We have also included a 144Hz 1440p FreeSync monitor (with 1ms response time) in the optional extras, for those seeking a monitor to pair with the system.
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.