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.
It takes our technicians minutes to build a computer these days – a learned skill – but even that first-time build is completable within a span of hours. Cable management and “environment setup” (OS, software) generally take the longest, but the build process is surprisingly trivial. Almost anyone can build a computer. The DIY approach saves money and feels rewarding, but also prepares system owners for future troubleshooting and builds a useful, technical skillset.
Parts selection can be initially intimidating and late-night troubleshooting sometimes proves frustrating; the between process, though, the actual assembly – that's easy. A few screws, some sockets that live under the “if it doesn't fit, don't force it” mantra, and a handful of cables.
This “How to Build a Gaming Computer” guide offers a step-by-step tutorial for PC part selection, compatibility checking, assembly, and basic troubleshooting resources. The goal of this guide is to educate the correct steps to the entire process: we won't be giving you tools that automatically pick parts based on compatibility, here; no, our goal is to teach the why and the how of PC building. You'll be capable of picking compatible parts and assembling builds fully independently after completing this walkthrough.
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.
It's been snowing here lately, which means that the entire state has shut down from its 1” of cumulative death-powder. While waiting for one of the thermal benches to warm-up, we figured a quick, informal discussion on basic PC building would be a worthy snow-day topic.
GN test technician Mike Gaglione handles most of our system assembly and case testing, making him an ideal candidate to speak to out-of-mind system install tips and common beginner oversights. We talk about motherboard standoffs, memory slotting, PCI-e slot assignment for multi-GPU setups, cable management tips, and more.
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:
The purpose of this content is to quickly, with as little intricacy as possible, guide new system builders through common build problems. We may explore longer, issue-dependent pieces in the future, but this guide is meant to remain as simple as possible.
Common PC build mistakes and boot problems will be resolved by the below step-by-step troubleshooting guide. Common problems we're looking at include:
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