Gaming Upgrade Kit
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.
2015 has proven to be a relatively big year for game releases: GTA V, The Witcher 3, Fallout 4, and Battlefront are all certifiable “block-busters.” As we ramp into next week's Fallout 4 release date, 11/10, we thought it wise to prepare a budget gaming PC for playing the game at high settings.
A full Fallout 4 GPU benchmark will be published closer to launch, alongside several other tech articles, but we're going to open the floor with this build. Bethesda posted somewhat zealous recommended specs for Fallout 4 already. Despite this, the game is easily played on most mid-range GPUs and CPUs, as should be apparent from its relatively modest graphics, and it'll run well on the R9 380 and high-end i3 CPUs. That's what we've got here – a ~$550 budget gaming PC build for Fallout 4, taking the DIY approach to drive costs down.
Here's the list:
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.
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!
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