Gaming Upgrade Kit

This $1560 gaming PC is meant to play most games at high and ultra settings on 1080p and 1440p. The high-end gaming PC build offers long staying power through future game launch cycles, but it’s also got the ability to run rendering operations for streamers and YouTube content creators. The 980 Ti and i5-6600K enable playability of The Witcher 3 on ultra settings (1440p) at 60FPS+, leaving plenty of headroom for 1080p gamers; some upcoming titles, like Fallout 4 and Battleborn, will be playable at 1440p through 4K, given their relatively low requirements.

Today’s ~$1500 DIY system build uses an Intel i5-6600K -- the new Skylake CPU -- alongside an nVidia GTX 980 Ti. The two in tandem offer one of the most powerful combinations for a gaming PC right now, short of entering the ultra high-end enthusiast range (which is largely unnecessary).

Power isn't always necessary. We recently benchmarked AMD's new A10-7870K APU, which necessitated the testing of low-end video card testing alongside low-end processors; our findings dictated that the latter coupling made for perfectly playable framerates at 1080p in popular eSports games.

Counter-Strike: GO, DOTA2, League of Legends, and Heroes of the Storm are all readily played on low-end hardware. In the case of CSGO, DOTA, and LoL, the games can be run using a cheap, $400 PC build on high and medium-high settings with framerates exceeding 60FPS. We've got benchmarks lower down to back this up.

With the release of Intel’s Skylake, we built a gaming PC using the new LGA1151 chip, as it is the latest in Intel’s consumer CPUs. Intel only released their unlocked Skylake CPUs so far, so while Skylake is new (although it isn’t a game changer), the locked Haswell CPUs are still the best value for certain builds.

Speaking of which, it’s been a bit since we’ve assembled a gaming build with a mid-range budget. That’s what we’re doing today. This build includes a locked Haswell i5 CPU and GTX 970; it may not be a powerhouse capable of 4k at 120FPS, but for 1080p (and 1440p, to a lesser extent) the system will perform admirably for gaming.

Skylake’s recent unveil showed that, while it isn’t a game changer for gaming, the platform brings the standardization of new technology like DDR4 to the forefront of PCs. For that reason, and due to the need to have updated build guides to help system builders, it’s once again time to assemble a mid-priced PC build.

Skylake shipped alongside the Z170 chipset. Z170 and Skylake aren’t too unfamiliar when it comes to architecture, but there are a few major improvements that we’ll discuss more below. This ~$1000 gaming PC build is focused on gaming performance and aims to play modern games at High to Ultra settings.

Let's get to the list!


We've said it before: Gaming HTPCs are rising in popularity. The viability of a quiet, small form factor gaming PC has never been more pronounced. For the PC builder who wants something for use in the living room with a larger screen – something that can double for movie and TV playback alongside gaming use cases – building a gaming HTPC is a quick, affordable solution. A TV-attached HTPC also bears with it the possibility of cable plan termination, given that most shows are now officially hosted online or on video streaming services.

Gaming, of course, is a major draw for such a build. We make some sacrifices in favor of budget but, in general, most graphically-modest games will go well-played on an APU or low-end dGPU.

This budget gaming PC comes in at less than $500 thanks to a DIY approach; it's easily capable of playing the likes of Skyrim, Fallout, DC Universe, and similar titles at reasonable graphics settings.

NVidia's aggressive $650 price-point for the new GTX 980 Ti ensures that a build centered around it is more of a reasonable goal rather than a pipe dream. 

This $1747 GTX 980 Ti gaming PC build is versatile, with the ability to tackle a variety of high-end gaming experiences. It's useful to think of the build in terms of what monitor will be paired with it, as both 1080p and 1440p G-Sync up to 120Hz are functional pairings. 1080p at Ultra settings and 1440p at High or Ultra (depending on the game) are both achievable on the 980 Ti; as we learned recently, the 980 Ti performs almost as well as the Titan X for a significantly lower price. This build aims to take advantage of that price with a system that does such a powerful card justice while looking badass.

This PC build will easily play The Witcher 3, GTA V, and other modern, high-graphics quality games.

It's been a while since we've done a low-budget HTPC build, so this time around, we've pieced together a PC for under $500. This will do great as either an entry-level gaming system or as an HTPC for the living room. If you're looking for a build with a bit more "under the hood," consider our high-end Witcher 3 PC Build.

This sub-$500 gaming PC build is powered by an AMD A10-7850K, which is a cheap solution for light gaming, streaming, and everyday usage. You won't be playing GTA V or the Witcher very well on this build, but not everything has to be high-end – for League of Legends, Skyrim, DiRT, and similar games, this will do just fine.

This quarter's major game launches are of the high-fidelity variety. GTA V shipped with tremendous focus on pushing modern PC components to the absolute limit, as we found in both CPU testing & GPU benchmarks. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt aims to similarly push graphics hardware heavily, hoping to finally make use of high-end gaming PC components without console-bound limitations.

This ~$1000 Witcher 3 gaming PC build offers a DIY approach to running CD Projekt Red's latest game at high settings. The intent is to land just below $1000 while still being able to play the game with high graphics quality; you won't be absolutely maxing-out the game with this configuration, but we've offered an upgrade path for those who have extra money to burn.

We regularly emphasize that, by going with and AMD CPU and motherboard, you can utilize the savings to purchase a higher-end GPU rather than going with an Intel CPU and motherboard (for that, see our Battlefield Build we recently did). In the case of games which are not CPU-bound, this makes for an easy way to save money on building budget gaming computers.

This is an experiment of sorts for us, attempting to see how cheap a build we can do using AMD components; note that we do not recommend this build for GTA V as it is a CPU-intensive game. This gaming PC build -- with some slight overclocking -- can play just about every game out (sans GTA or Watch Dogs) at highest settings for under $1000.

Don't be the April fool this year with an outdated PC, struggling to fully appreciate the high-fidelity graphics of modern games at high resolutions. This month's mid-range gaming PC build comes in at just over $1000, focusing purely on high gaming framerates at resolutions approaching 1440p – though it'll handle 1080p just fine.

This system opted for use of an AMD 290X given its positioning as a cost-effective alternative to the similarly-priced GTX 970. With the looming launch of Grand Theft Auto V, we built the system with the intention of running the game at ultra graphics settings, hopefully allowing some headroom for graphics mods in the future. This gaming PC will handle GTA V without issue.

This time around, we decided to do a high-end Gaming PC build that features an AMD video card. This PC will be able to play most modern games at the highest settings, so the only April showers you see will be tears of your enemies.

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