It’s been a few months since our last PC build--in fact, it was published well before Ryzen was released. For our first post-Ryzen build, we’ve pulled together some of the components we liked best in testing to make an affordable ultrawide gaming machine. As we did in January, we pulled parts out of inventory and actually assembled and tested this PC to back up our recommendations--we’ll try to continue doing this going forward.
This gaming PC build is priced at just over $1000 -- about $1200, depending on rebates -- and is made for UltraWide 3440x1440 gaming. Our goal is to take reasonably affordable parts and show that UltraWide 1440p gaming is feasible, even while retaining high settings, without buying the most expensive GPUs and CPUs on the market. We’re only using parts in this build that we actually have, so that partially dictates cost (yes, you might be able to do some things cheaper -- like the motherboard), but it also means that we’ve had time to build, validate, and use the system in a real environment. In these early days of Ryzen as a new uarch, that’s important. We’ve done the hard work of troubleshooting a functional build. All you’d have to do is assemble it, configure BIOS, and go.
As a note: This build is also readily capable of production workloads. CUDA acceleration on the GTX 1070 will work well for Premiere renders, and the CPU thread-count will assist in CPU acceleration (like for streaming).
The holiday season is upon us. In due time, the Steam Holiday/Winter sale will be flowing like a river, and many users will be preparing their wallets for the impending profligacy. As Newegg, Amazon, and other retailers usually offer sales of their own, other users may be eyeing core component upgrades or new systems entirely. That said, we’ve attempted to take some of the legwork out of putting together a mid-level gaming machine that is comprised mostly of hardware currently on sale, or discounted through current rebates. Admittedly, that narrows options; however, we’ve still come up with very capable and modern build without becoming lusus naturae.
This rig will be a sub-$700 system focused on gaming at the respectable, and still most popular, 1080p. If by chance you are needing more horsepower for, say, the 1440p domain, check out another recent build guide of ours. As an aside, we’ve selected mATX hardware housed in an mATX chassis; something that will please space mindful users wanting a build with a minimal footprint. Before getting into it, I’ll preface with this: more ardent enthusiasts might balk at the presence of a core i3, specifically the i3-6100, but keep in mind that this is a value-oriented build, and the i3-6100 fills the space well. We’ll discuss this a bit more below.
Per the usual format, we will list an OS in the below DIY build list as an optional purchase in addition to an optional, but advised, SSD. Also below, find our tutorial on building a gaming PC or check out our more in depth article.
This gaming PC build is priced below $700 (though may be below $600, if the sales are still active), and is targeted at high graphics settings with a 1080p monitor.
Withstanding the circumspect of PC players, Watch Dogs 2 has seemingly launched without a hitch. Mostly, anyway. The usual PC congregations of Steam and Reddit have been mostly devoid of the day one despair that is PC gaming in 2016, partially indicative that Watch Dogs 2 actually runs on a variety of hardware. Not easily, mind you, but it runs. What is more, we recently published our own benchmarks of the game using an assortment of 11 GPUs, from the 1050 & 460 to the 1080. Having found the game playable, albeit demanding, across multiple video cards, we’ll look at a build aimed at outputting reasonably fluid performance at elevated settings, but without going too far over $1000.
This gaming PC build will focus on running Watch Dogs 2 with the “Very High” preset at a resolution of 1080p, with a sustained 60 FPS average.
As an aside, the build will also place a slight emphasis on overclocking with air cooling, while exhibiting very low system noise. We’re also built to be multi-GPU ready, despite the presence of a GTX 1060 (no SLI support for 1060s). This is to ensure that, should you decide to change the video card setup down the road, the rest of the system will permit the change.
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:
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.
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.
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.
This $1000 mATX gaming PC build is aimed at those wanting a fluid gaming performance at 1080p and, to a lesser extent, 1440p at a mix of high and ultra settings. While this PC won’t be a powerhouse or capable of computing the answer to life, the universe, and everything, it is fully capable of playing games like Fallout 4, Star Wars Battlefront (which we benchmarked), and GTA V (we also benchmarked) at reasonably high settings at 1080p and 1440p.
Today’s ~$1000 PC build uses an i5-6600K in conjunction with an nVidia GTX 970 graphics card. Together, the GTX 970 and i5-6600K PC build outputs an FPS exceeding 60FPS in Battlefront (1080p) and nearly meeting 60FPS at 1440p, easily running most games at Ultra settings with 1080p.
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!