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How to build the best gaming PC for you

When building your first gaming PC, several questions should come to mind. Which parts should I buy? Which parts do I need? How do I recognise compatibility issues? Daunting questions like these often have the potential to scare prospective builders into buying prebuilt, but after reading this guide, all questions will be eliminated.

NOTE: the comments and recommendations made in this guide are relevant as of December 2013, future hardware generations may not correspond to the ideas set here.

Price Points

Perhaps the most important factor to building a gaming PC is the budget. Anywhere between $400 and $2000 is a good start in terms of what you can buy, any less and you might find gaming rather uncomfortable. It is important to note at this point that sales, offers, and new releases are almost always unpredictable in the hardware industry; this means that unless you are absolutely sure of a price drop, it is never practical to wait before you buy. So now that you’ve established a budget for yourself, you need to work out exactly what kind of things you should be looking out for in terms of hardware. To help out a bit before we dive into specifics, here’s a quick-fire reference list for different price points (don’t worry if you don’t understand some of the terms just yet, we will come to that later):

$400-$600: This is really the lowest you can splash out before having to run everything on low settings. Don’t expect EVERYTHING to run on ultra just because it’s custom made, but know that with the right specs, you can game comfortably in almost any setting.
Recommended resolution: 1080p
Recommended CPU manufacturer: AMD (Athlon. FX at a stretch)
Recommended GPU: 7800 series (AMD) or 600 series (Nvidia)
Recommended cooling: stock cooling (third party at a stretch)
Overclocking?: If using a single third party heatsink (note that overclocking may not be optimal at this price point)
SSD?: No
HDD?: 500gb – 1tb
PSU: 80+ Bronze
Example build:
CPU: AMD Athlon II X4 750K 3.4GHz Quad-Core Processor ($80.98 @ Newegg)
Motherboard: MSI FM2-A75MA-E35 Micro ATX FM2 Motherboard ($59.99 @ Amazon)
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1333 Memory ($77.99 @ Newegg)
Storage: Seagate Barracuda 500GB 3.5″ 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($47.94 @ Amazon)
Video Card: XFX Radeon HD 7850 1GB Video Card ($129.99 @ Newegg)
Case: Antec One ATX Mid Tower Case ($29.99 @ NCIX US)
Power Supply: Corsair Builder 600W 80+ Bronze Certified ATX Power Supply ($37.99 @ Newegg)
Optical Drive: Lite-On iHAS124-04 DVD/CD Writer ($17.98 @ OutletPC)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8.1 – OEM (64-bit) ($94.98 @ OutletPC)
Total: $577.83
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2013-12-29 12:55 EST-0500)

$600-$800: This is a bit of a step up from the previous price point. We’re able to use slightly more appropriate parts, and achieve higher FPS in particularly demanding games.
Recommended resolution: 1080p
Recommended CPU manufacturer: Intel (Ivy Bridge) or AMD (FX)
Recommended GPU: 7800 series (AMD) or 600ti series (Nvidia)
Recommended cooling: stock or single third party heatsink
Overclocking?: If using third party cooling (note that overclocking may not be optimal at this price point)
SSD?: No
HDD?: 750gb – 1tb
PSU: 80+ Bronze
Example build:
CPU: AMD FX-6350 3.9GHz 6-Core Processor ($139.99 @ Amazon)
Motherboard: MSI 970A-G46 ATX AM3+ Motherboard ($77.55 @ Newegg)
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($83.87 @ OutletPC)
Storage: Western Digital Caviar Blue 1TB 3.5″ 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($59.98 @ OutletPC)
Video Card: XFX Radeon HD 7870 2GB Video Card ($205.66 @ Newegg)
Case: Rosewill REDBONE ATX Mid Tower Case ($39.99 @ Newegg)
Power Supply: Corsair Builder 600 80+ Bronze Certified ATX Power Supply ($37.99 @ Newegg)
Optical Drive: Lite-On iHAS124-04 DVD/CD Writer ($17.98 @ OutletPC)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8.1 – OEM (64-bit) ($94.98 @ OutletPC)
Total: $757.99
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2013-12-29 13:14 EST-0500)

$800-$1000: Now we’re approaching the “luxury zone”. Overclocking is much more accessible, and we can start thinking about aesthetics a bit more.
Recommended resolution: 1080p
Recommended CPU manufacturer: Intel (Haswell) or AMD (FX)
Recommended GPU: 7900 series (AMD) or 600ti/700 series (Nvidia)
Recommended cooling: stock or single third party heatsink
Overclocking?: If using third party cooling (overclocking is at its optimal level here and above)
SSD?: No
HDD?: 1tb
PSU: 80+ Bronze
Example build:
CPU: Intel Core i5-4670K 3.4GHz Quad-Core Processor ($231.98 @ SuperBiiz)
CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO 82.9 CFM Sleeve Bearing CPU Cooler ($33.98 @ SuperBiiz)
Motherboard: MSI Z87-G45 Gaming ATX LGA1150 Motherboard ($139.99 @ NCIX US)
Memory: G.Skill Sniper Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1866 Memory ($82.21 @ NCIX US)
Storage: Western Digital Caviar Blue 1TB 3.5″ 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($59.98 @ OutletPC)
Video Card: Asus GeForce GTX 760 2GB Video Card ($249.99 @ Microcenter)
Case: Zalman Z11 Plus ATX Mid Tower Case ($59.99 @ Microcenter)
Power Supply: Corsair Builder 600W 80+ Bronze Certified ATX Power Supply ($37.99 @ Newegg)
Optical Drive: Lite-On iHAS124-04 DVD/CD Writer ($17.98 @ OutletPC)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8.1 – OEM (64-bit) ($94.98 @ OutletPC)
Total: $1002.08
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2013-12-29 13:27 EST-0500)

$1000-$1200: Here we are folks, the “luxury zone”. More high end and current gen gear can be utilised here.
Recommended resolution: 1080p
Recommended CPU manufacturer: Intel (Haswell) or AMD (high end FX)
Recommended GPU: R9 series (AMD) or late 600ti/700 series (Nvidia)
Recommended cooling: stock or single third party heatsink
Overclocking?: If using third party cooling
SSD?: Possible, but not recommended
HDD?: 1tb
PSU: 80+ Bronze
Example build:
CPU: Intel Core i5-4670K 3.4GHz Quad-Core Processor ($231.98 @ SuperBiiz)
CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO 82.9 CFM Sleeve Bearing CPU Cooler ($33.98 @ SuperBiiz)
Motherboard: MSI Z87-G45 Gaming ATX LGA1150 Motherboard ($139.99 @ NCIX US)
Memory: G.Skill Sniper Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1866 Memory ($82.21 @ NCIX US)
Storage: Western Digital Caviar Blue 1TB 3.5″ 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($59.98 @ OutletPC)
Video Card: Asus GeForce GTX 770 2GB Video Card ($349.99 @ SuperBiiz)
Case: Fractal Design Define R4 (Black Pearl) ATX Mid Tower Case ($88.98 @ Newegg)
Power Supply: Corsair Builder 750W 80+ Bronze Certified ATX Power Supply ($59.99 @ Newegg)
Optical Drive: Lite-On iHAS124-04 DVD/CD Writer ($17.98 @ OutletPC)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8.1 – OEM (64-bit) ($94.98 @ OutletPC)
Total: $1153.07
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2013-12-29 13:32 EST-0500)

$1200-$1500: Prices get a bit funny here, thus the larger interval. This is what I like to call the “bells and whistles” level.
Recommended resolution: 1080p
Recommended CPU manufacturer: Intel (Haswell) or AMD (high end FX)
Recommended GPU: late R9 series (AMD) or 700 series (Nvidia)
Recommended cooling: single/double third party heatsink. Closed loop water cooling also acceptable.
Overclocking?: If using third party cooling
SSD?: 120gb, although you may want to sacrifice the SSD for performance on other fronts
HDD?: 1tb
PSU: 80+ Bronze
Example build:
CPU: Intel Core i5-4670K 3.4GHz Quad-Core Processor ($229.98 @ OutletPC)
CPU Cooler: Corsair H100i 77.0 CFM Liquid CPU Cooler ($89.99 @ NCIX US)
Motherboard: MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming ATX LGA1150 Motherboard ($169.99 @ Microcenter)
Memory: G.Skill Sniper Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1866 Memory ($82.21 @ NCIX US)
Storage: Western Digital Caviar Blue 1TB 3.5″ 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($59.98 @ OutletPC)
Video Card: Asus GeForce GTX 780 3GB Video Card ($579.99 @ SuperBiiz)
Case: Fractal Design Define R4 (Black Pearl) ATX Mid Tower Case ($88.98 @ Newegg)
Power Supply: Corsair Builder 750W 80+ Bronze Certified ATX Power Supply ($59.99 @ Newegg)
Optical Drive: Lite-On iHAS124-04 DVD/CD Writer ($17.98 @ OutletPC)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8.1 – OEM (64-bit) ($94.98 @ OutletPC)
Total: $1474.07
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2013-12-29 13:35 EST-0500)

$1500-$1800: Now we’re approaching the extreme zone.
Recommended resolution: 1080p or 1440p
Recommended CPU manufacturer: Intel (high end Haswell) or AMD (high end FX)
Recommended GPU: late R9 series (AMD) or 700ti series (Nvidia). SLI and Xfire are also possible
Recommended cooling: single/double third party heatsink. Closed loop water cooling also acceptable.
Overclocking?: If using third party cooling
SSD?: 120gb<
HDD?: 1tb
PSU: 80+ Bronze
Example build:
CPU: Intel Core i5-4670K 3.4GHz Quad-Core Processor ($229.98 @ OutletPC)
CPU Cooler: Corsair H100i 77.0 CFM Liquid CPU Cooler ($89.99 @ NCIX US)
Motherboard: Asus Maximus VI Hero ATX LGA1150 Motherboard ($199.98 @ OutletPC)
Memory: Corsair Vengeance 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($90.64 @ NCIX US)
Storage: Samsung 840 EVO 120GB 2.5″ Solid State Disk ($97.99 @ Mac Mall)
Storage: Western Digital Caviar Blue 1TB 3.5″ 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($59.98 @ OutletPC)
Video Card: Asus GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB Video Card ($704.98 @ SuperBiiz)
Case: Fractal Design Define R4 (Black Pearl) ATX Mid Tower Case ($88.98 @ Newegg)
Power Supply: Corsair Enthusiast 850W 80+ Bronze Certified ATX Power Supply ($117.98 @ Newegg)
Optical Drive: Lite-On iHAS124-04 DVD/CD Writer ($17.98 @ OutletPC)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8.1 – OEM (64-bit) ($94.98 @ OutletPC)
Total: $1793.46
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2013-12-29 13:41 EST-0500)

$1800-$2000: Monstrous gear at this price point, total destruction on all fronts.
Recommended resolution: 1080p acceptable, 1440p recommended
Recommended CPU manufacturer: Intel (high end Haswell) or AMD (high end FX)
Recommended GPU: late R9 series (AMD) or late 700ti series (Nvidia). SLI and Xfire are also possible
Recommended cooling: single/double third party heatsink. Closed loop water cooling also acceptable.
Overclocking?: If using third party cooling
SSD?: 120gb<
HDD?: 1tb<
PSU: 80+ Bronze – 80+ silver
Example build:
CPU: Intel Core i7-4770K 3.5GHz Quad-Core Processor ($299.99 @ Newegg)
CPU Cooler: Corsair H100i 77.0 CFM Liquid CPU Cooler ($89.99 @ NCIX US)
Motherboard: Asus Maximus VI Hero ATX LGA1150 Motherboard ($199.98 @ OutletPC)
Memory: Corsair Vengeance 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($96.99 @ Newegg)
Storage: Samsung 840 EVO 250GB 2.5″ Solid State Disk ($169.45 @ Newegg)
Storage: Western Digital Caviar Blue 1TB 3.5″ 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($59.98 @ OutletPC)
Video Card: Asus GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB Video Card ($704.98 @ SuperBiiz)
Case: Corsair Air 540 ATX Desktop Case ($139.99 @ J&R)
Power Supply: Corsair Enthusiast 850W 80+ Bronze Certified ATX Power Supply ($117.98 @ Newegg)
Optical Drive: Lite-On iHAS124-04 DVD/CD Writer ($17.98 @ OutletPC)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8.1 – OEM (64-bit) ($94.98 @ OutletPC)
Total: $1976.29
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2013-12-29 13:43 EST-0500)

$2000+: Every builders dream budget.
Recommended resolution: 1440p
Recommended CPU manufacturer: Intel (high end Haswell) or AMD (high end FX)
Recommended GPU: late R9 series (AMD) or late 700ti series (Nvidia). SLI and Xfire are strongly recommended
Recommended cooling: single/double third party heatsink. Custom loop cooling is strongly recommended
Overclocking?: If using third party cooling (it’s a crime not to overclock at this level)
SSD?: 120gb<
HDD?: 1tb<
PSU: 80+ Gold
Example build:
Similar to the above build, but with a custom loop

 

Henry Wilson


Team TechRaptor

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