PC Builds

PC builds are always challenged by commenters with alternative component options and whatifs and whatabouts. We took this to mean that PC build lists need more comparative tests, so we tested two different variants of this build: One with a single stick of RAM versus two sticks of RAM, because you can sometimes save money by going 1 stick, and then one with a GTX 1050 versus an RX 560. This should give a somewhat wide spread of understanding for what a base platform G4560 and HD3 motherboard can achieve.

This gaming PC build targets a sub-$500 price, using budget parts, like the Intel G4560 and RX 560/GTX 1050, in order to achieve a machine capable of playing games at 1080p/High or Medium.

Prices are crazy volatile right now. When we started this project, there were discounts on memory and power supplies that dropped an additional $40 off the price at the time of filming. In all likelihood, once this goes live on Cyber Monday, those sales will probably be re-applied either directly or to directly competing products. Nonetheless, we can say that this build is under $500 – it’s been as low as $430, at times, depending on the sales, but always under $500.

Now that it’s officially Cyber Monday, we’ve still been combing through sales online, and we’ll continue to do so throughout the holiday season. As such, we thought it might be a good idea to throw together a quick and dirty PC build based on some of the better deals we’ve seen, in the event anyone is currently or looking to piece together an entire system. Our target was $1000 or less, and we’ve managed to assemble a pretty potent gaming machine for right under that.

Admittedly, $1,000 is a bit steep for a mid-range build—an upper-scale mid-range, no doubt—but still mid-range. This is the part where we insert the disclaimer about the voracious prices on RAM, SSDs, and GPUs. Alas, such are the times.

This gaming PC build for under $1000 uses an AMD Ryzen R5 CPU, a GTX 1060 3GB card, and 16GB of memory to provide a foundation for hobbyist or semi-professional workstation uses.

Unlike our recent Threadripper Workstation build, this one is squarely aimed at gaming and a mix of “content creator” type tasks; the R5 and additional memory will abet in light productivity workloads. Should anyone be considering serious overclocking, certainly pick up the optional cooler listed below, and maybe consider a move to X370 with a better VRM and heatsink.

The recent trend in memory prices have put a major hold on our PC build guides. For years – most of its 10-year existence – GN has published nearly monthly gaming & workstation PC build guides. We haven’t published one for several months now, and that’s because of the simultaneous collision of memory and video card prices. The two all-time high price jumps on GPUs (miner+gamer joint demand) and RAM (supply shortage & process switch) made PC building nearly impossible to afford. There’s been some alleviation of that lately, but not in memory prices directly. The onslaught of Cyber Monday and Black Friday sales have brought down other components enough to more or less neutralize the insane RAM pricing; now, for instance, the 1950X is $200 off MSRP, which instantly counters the RAM pricing being 2x what it should be. For this reason, we decided to revisit our PC build guides with a Threadripper 1950X workstation, built for 3D rendering (Blender), H264 video encoding with Handbrake, and some other batch processing work and Adobe Premiere work.

A Note About PC Builds

PC builds always get comments from people who want to express their infinite wisdom and intelligence in comments fields, likely because, of all the things we publish, PC building is the item with which folks have the most experience. A note, here: We’re building based on two primary criteria, which include:

  • - We have used and tested the parts, and trust them for this build.
  • - We are using this build internally as a temporary encode/render system, which means that it’s mostly to suit our needs; if you can do better, great, but we’re going for a workstation that can get our jobs done, then be unbuilt.

There are places you can cut costs on this build. We’ll include alternative parts listings for those instances.

Intel’s Kaby Lake launched to a sweeping shrug of insouciance amongst enthusiasts, as the upper-end Core Series parts—aside from the manifest overclocking headroom—failed to provide any prominent impact. While the i3-7350K attracted the gaze of frugal-minded overclockers for being the first unlocked i3, it is simply priced too close to the neighboring Core i5 CPUs. Yet, Kaby Lake may still hold a gift for budget builders: the Pentium G4560, arguably the most interesting aspect of Kaby Lake.

The Pentium G4560, alongside its G4600 ($87) and G4620 brethren, received a boon in the form of boosted core clocks and enabled Hyper-Threading. This marks the first time Intel has released a Hyper-Threaded Pentium since the Pentium 4. The G4560 is of particular interest for a being a 2C/4T processor at ~$70, making it roughly half the price of both the i3-7100 and 6100 (see here). The G4560 can’t cannibalize the i3 line entirely, as cost cuts come by way of a hamstrung iGPU (HD Graphics 610 vs. 630) and stripped AVX instruction support; now, the former is largely a non-issue for our audience, as even pennywise builders usually opt for a discrete GPU. The latter can prove a hitch for strenuous workloads; i.e., certain types of encoding, video capture, and blender rendering. Still, we—and likely any of our readers interested in a processor like this—are far more interested in raw gaming potential at the cost.

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).

With the arrival of Kaby Lake on the microarchitecture roadmap, Intel had effectively signaled the end of their long-established “tick-tock” cadence of manufacturing and design, opting instead for the new “process-architecture-optimize” paradigm. Specifically, the “optimization” step comes by way of a revised fin profile as part of the new process that Intel has dubbed “14nm+.” While the architecture remains largely unchanged from Skylake, the improved fin profile and larger fin pitch affords a less transistor-dense design, making way for MHz headroom in overclocking performance, which can be ascertained by looking at our review of the i7-7700K. Furthermore, readers can learn more about the Kaby Lake architecture, SKUs, and the Intel 200-series chipsets amongst the usual thermal and benchmark performance. To an extent, Kaby Lake can be viewed as the Devil’s Canyon counterpart to Skylake.

The scope of our build today will be dual purpose, so to speak. In its duality, the foremost objective will be leveraging the new Intel i7-7700K in combination with a GeForce GTX 1080, underpinning our second objective: 144Hz & 120Hz based gaming. The build will be ready for resolutions at 1080p or 1440p with higher refresh rates (144 & 120), and will still manage a minimum of 60 FPS with ultra settings. Lowering settings will allow for that 120-144Hz refresh target.

We will also deploy one of the new Z270 motherboards, complimenting the overclocking aptness of the i7-7700K. Speaking of overclocking, the i7-7700K approaches the 5GHz barrier with relative ease. We’ll be relying on a CLC cooling solution with 280mm of radiator space. While it may prove conceivable to approach a 5GHz overclock with active air cooling thanks to a better frequency/voltage curve with Kaby Lake, there are a couple reasons we won’t go that route, detailed below.

Additionally, we will list a 144Hz, G-Sync-capable display as an optional purchase. Find our tutorial on building a gaming PC below, if this is all new. In an interesting deviation from our normal methodology, the team at GamersNexus will be replicating this build and running it through the benchmark gauntlet.

Editor's note: The point was to use only products that we had in our inventory, meaning no purchases or product requests allowed.

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.

With the gaming community migrating towards 1440p as the new resolution sweet spot, and the booming prominence of UltraWide 21:9 displays, we’ve set forth to outline a build guide that caters to both these trends in equal parts. UltraWides eschew the traditional 16:9 aspect ratio in favor of a more horizontal 21:9 aspect ratio, providing additional screen real-estate without consuming all the physical desk space. You can read more on that, alongside some UltraWide benchmarks, over here. As is the norm with PC gaming, UltraWide support deviates across titles, with games scaling differently. To help determine how your game of choice will fare in an UltraWide environment, view this list provided by wsgf.org.

The increased pixel density and pixel throughput at 3440×1440 means a capable GPU is required; especially so if hoping to approach the 60 FPS gold standard. The GTX 1070 specified below is a formidable choice for driving an UltraWide at such resolutions, and fits well given the budget. This build is also able to pull double duty of sorts, as a workstation for light content creation, video editing/rendering, or game streaming. As such, we’ve selected the unlocked i7-6700K featuring Intel’s Skylake architecture, coupled with a 16GB kit of DDR4 memory. The Z170 chipset will serve as our building platform and rounds out the focal points of this build.

This 21:9 gaming PC build is ready for games like Watch Dogs 2, Battlefield 1 at Ultra settings, and can handle YouTube content creation or Twitch streaming. The DIY build list is below, along with a tutorial for how to build a gaming PC.

It's technically Thanksgiving here, and we need some easier content to consume to go with the rest of the consumption this weekend—and we mean consumerism and Black Friday, not food. Our latest experiment is a cheap gaming PC build for under $500, using an AMD X4 845 and GTX 1050 for games like Overwatch, DOTA2, and even GTA V.

Oh, and just for fun, we did throw in a Battlefield 1 benchmark -- it's just that this isn't an ideal configuration for that sort of game. Still worth learning about performance limitations, though.

The system build is detailed below.

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