Building your own gaming computer is really the best way for you to get maximum performance and quality out of your PC. Below is an outline of our ten builds, for 2017.
For each of the builds we’ve featured, I’ve also included a link to the PC build review which includes our thoughts on why we’d go with a specific piece of hardware. Builds are updated regularly to reflect current rebates and pricing.
This page also includes a guide with my thoughts on Intel, AMD, and NVIDIA in 2017.
Be sure to let us know your thoughts about these builds and the current hardware market in the commentary section below this post.
10 Good Gaming Computer Builds from $150 to $2500
Contents at a Glance
- 1 10 Good Gaming Computer Builds from $150 to $2500
- 2 Custom PC Builder’s Guide for 2017
- 3 Intel Vs. AMD Processors
- 4 NVIDIA Vs. AMD 2016 – 2017
- 5 How to Allocate Your Budget
- 6 How Much Power Does Your PC Need?
- 7 What about DDR4 Vs. DDR3?
|Reviews||CPU APU||Graphics Card||Mobo||Storage||Case||Memory||Power Supply||CPU Cooler|
|A6-7400k||Gigabyte GA-F2A68HM-H||WD Caviar Blue 250GB||Xion mATX Case||Crucial 4GB (2x2) DDR3-1600||EVGA 430W|
|AMD A8-7600||Gigabyte GA-F2A68HM-H||Seagate 500GB Pipeline HD||Xion mATX Case||Kingston HyperX Fury 2x4GB||EVGA 430W|
|Intel Pentium G3258||GTX 1050||MSI H81M-P33||Seagate 500GB Pipeline HD||Xion mATX Case||Kingston HyperX Fury 2x4GB||EVGA 430 W|
|i3-6100 or potential 8320 ($120 sale price)||GTX 1050||Gigabyte GA-H110M-A||A-Data Premier 240GB SSD||Antec mATX||Crucial 8GB Kit (4x2) DDR4 2133MHz||EVGA 430W|
|i3-6100||RX 470 4GB||Gigabyte GA-H110M-A||A-Data Premier 240GB SSD||Antec mATX||Crucial 8GB Kit (4x2) DDR4 2133MHz||EVGA 500W W1|
|Intel Skylake i5-6500 or 6600k||GTX 1060 6GB or RX 480 8GB||Gigabyte GA-Z170M-D3H||A-Data Premier 120GB WD Caviar Blue 1TB||Corsair Carbide 200R||Corsair Vengeance LPX 8GB 3000MHz||EVGA SuperNova 650 W|
|i5-6600k||GTX 1070||Asus Z170-A||A-Data Premier 120GB SSD Hitachi Deskstar 2TB||NZXT Source 210||Corsair Vengeance LPX 8GB 3000MHz||EVGA SuperNova 650 W||Hyper 212 EVO|
|i5-6600k||GTX 1070||Asus Maximus VIII Hero||A-Data Premier 120GB SSD Hitachi Deskstar 2TB||NSXT S340||Corsair Vengeance LPX 16gb 3000MHz||EVGA SuperNova 650 W||NZXT Kraken X61|
|i7-6700k||GTX 1080||Asus Maximus VIII Hero||A-Data Premier 120GB SSD Hitachi Deskstar 2TB||NSXT S340||Corsair Vengeance LPX 16gb 3000MHz||EVGA SuperNova 650 W||NZXT Kraken X61|
|i7-6700k||Dual GTX 1080s||Asus Z170-A||A-Data Premier 120GB SSD Hitachi Deskstar 2TB||Phanteks Enthoo Pro||Corsair Vengeance LPX 16gb 3000MHz||EVGA SuperNova 750 W||Hyper 212 EVO|
|i7-6700k||Dual GTX 1080s||Asus Maximus VIII Hero||A-Data Premier 120GB SSD Hitachi Deskstar 2TB||Phanteks Evolv||Corsair Vengeance LPX 16gb 3000MHz||EVGA SuperNova 750 W||NZXT Kraken X61|
Custom PC Builder’s Guide for 2017
Building a PC in 2017? The PC market is constantly changing. To keep you up to date, here’s a look at some changes you should know about. If you’re on a budget, also take a look at our guide to cheap PC building.
Intel Vs. AMD Processors
Want to know what processor you should get for your build? Here are our thoughts.
2017 CPU Comparison
While we don’t know exactly what we’ll get from AMD’s new Zen lineup, we’re hearing good things. It’s likely that this will be a bit of a game changer from what has been a stale AMD lineup for some time. On the Intel side of things, we’ll be getting Kaby Lake. The seventh generation “i” series processors from intel should give a 5-10% improvement clock for clock. For Kaby Lake, Intel is also planning on releasing an overclockable i3 processor. This is a first for the company.
Whose Processors are Better Intel or AMD?
For budget builds in the under $200 PC build and under category, it still makes some sense to use an AMD APU. More games are optimizing for multiple cores and as AMD has more cores for the price you pay it definitely makes sense for certain types of games. Other games, not optimized for multiple cores, will continue to be dominated by Intel.
In the above $100 category of processors, we mostly prefer Intel’s processors. They are cool and have extremely fast single core performance. For 1080p and 1440p gaming, it doesn’t get a lot better than Intel’s i5 series of processors. This includes processors from Sandy Bridge, Ivy Bridge, Haswell, and most recently Skylake. All of them still do a great job of eliminating the bottleneck that the CPU can sometimes cause.
What Processors were released in 2016?
Here’s a look at the processors that were released in 2016. Many of them are still very much relevant. Clock for clock they’ll be close to the performance you’ll get from newer 2017 parts.
Enthusiast processors from the LGA 2011 platform were released in quarter 2 of 2016. These include the 10 core i7-6950x, 8 core i7-6900k, and 6 core i7-6850k and i7-6800. These are great options for editing, streaming, and multitasking in general but are pricier than the mainstream CPUs.
Starting as a 14nm manufacturer process, Skylake represents a completely new processing design and is a “tock” release for Intel. This means a significant processor and integrated graphics performance boost in addition to amazing new wireless computing technologies.
Most Skylake platform CPUs were released in 2015 with a few additional options in 2016. Options released in 2016 include the i7-6785R, i5-6685R, and i5-6585R. These chips are for use in all-in-one PCs and have better integrated graphics with Crystal Well eDRAM cache. Overall, their impact is limited in the PC performance enthusiast space.
In 2016 not much has changed from the AMD front. In 2017 we’ll get Zen-based CPUs that we’re hoping will reshape the landscape a bit.
Processor releases from AMD in 2016 include the Wraith Cooler release with processors. These include the FX-8370, 8350, and 7890k.
On the APU front, we’re getting a look at the AM4 platform with the seventh generation Bristol Ridge. Models for this generation include the A12 9800, A12 9800E, A10 9700, A10 9700E, A8 9600, A6 9500, A6 9500E, and Athlon X4 950. These should offer a significant performance boost vs previous generation Kaveri models.
Desktop processors with AMD’s Zen technology, nicknamed Summit Ridge, should be released in early 2017. AMD claims a 17 percent better performance boost over the previous generation.
NVIDIA Vs. AMD 2016 – 2017
Who has the best graphics card for the money?
I recently wrote my thoughts down on graphics cards for the $200 and $100 categories. AMD’s RX series has certainly done a good job with keeping with Intel in those categories. I’d consider the GTX 950 and RX 460 race to be fairly even and the GTX 1060 vs RX 480 race to also be a good one.
Above those categories Intel seems to have the advantage right now; however, I’m excited to see what will come out shortly from AMD in the high-end space.
How to Allocate Your Budget
Above I’ve included PC builds for budgets from as low as $200 to as high as $2500. While these are the builds that many will like, I know that others will need to allocate their money towards various other costs instead.
That being said I do recommend purchasing the CPU you plan on having for the life of your motherboard. This tends to be something we stick with until the next PC build comes around. Other parts like the graphics card and additional RAM are much more likely to be upgraded during the life of your PC. In other words, you’ll want to spend a little more on your CPU to get the kind of processing power you’re willing to stick with for several years. Sacrificing in-game FPS performance from your GPU may be difficult at first but should extend the life of your PC.
A perfect example of this would be with Intel’s Sandy Bridge release. If you purchased an i3 at that time, it may have had a bottleneck in games like Battlefield 4. At that point in time, you’d be forced to either upgrade to another LGA 1155 processor or build a new PC altogether. Building a new PC would be pricey but enticing to avoid purchasing an older version of the processor. On the other hand, if you’d purchased an i5 up front, most likely you’d just be looking to upgrade just your graphics card.
Why Rebates Are Important:
If you’re willing to take the time to fill out the rebate and send it in, you can save a lot of money on your overall PC. If you’re willing to find the parts for your PC over a few months, then most likely you can save up to 25% on your PC. These savings are compounded when you find a product that’s already on sale and rebate. Power supplies are a big part of this and can often be found at a 50% discount.
Are Combos Deals Worth It?
For the most part, I’d say no. Combo deals often show a large savings number that doesn’t really add up when you find the individual components you’re looking for. Often times prices for particular components will go off sale just at the exact time combo deals come up. In addition, not being able to choose the exact parts you want for your PC comes with the cost of getting hardware that is poorly rated.
How Much Power Does Your PC Need?
If you’re looking for a good power supply and want to know how much power your PC needs, I recommend our post on power supplies for the money. In the post, I discuss not only how much power you need, but also show power supplies in tiers.
Speaking of tiers, whether or not you want to go with a high-end CPU depends on your budget. We recommend lower tier PSUs for budget builds and more long-term solutions for high-end builds.
Heading into 2017 it’s likely that the power supply needs for even higher-end builds will continue to decrease. With more efficient CPUs and GPUs it’s easy to get away with a low capacity tier 1 PSU and expect to use it for its lifespan.
What about DDR4 Vs. DDR3?
DDR4 is still a bit of a conundrum in 2016. We’re still waiting for the great performance boosts that should come from the new technology. For now, you’ll need it for Broadwell E, Haswell E, and most Skylake and Kaby Lake builds.
If you’re looking to upgrade to DDR4 for futureproofing, the good news is that it’s not a lot more expensive than DDR3 at this point in time. Even higher speed DDR4 memory has come down in price.
Of course, DDR4 has a few advantages that go beyond performance including up to 40% lower power consumption.
How Much Do You Need?
While there are some games that go beyond 8GB of Ram in their needs, the performance impact is still minimal. So, unless you have a build that’s over $1,000, I’d stick with a 4x2GB configuration. APU builds should use multi-channel kits as they tend to improve performance overall.
How Fast Does Your Ram Need to Be?
I feel like the Ram sweet spot for DDR3 is 1866MHz while for DDR4 its 2400MHz. Moderate improvements in FPS can be achieved by going beyond this. However, it’s not as big of a deal.
Graphics Card Budget Allocation
On all of our builds we try to allocate as much of our budget as possible to the graphics card. As long as you have a processor that won’t bottleneck, the graphics card will be the biggest overall performance indicator for your gaming PC in games.
That being said it’s important to have a functional PC first. This is especially true if you have enough graphical power for your needs. For example, if you’re playing in 1080p, you probably don’t need to go beyond the GTX 1060 6GB or RX 480 8GB at this point in time. Any additional money might be put towards other useful components for your custom build.
In our $150 build we use an APU which combines a budget processor with slightly enhanced integrated graphics. These graphics give us enough to play basic games.
At each price point, we improve both the processor and the CPU in equal fashion until we hit the i7 sweet spot. In previous years, we’d have said this was the i5. However, having seen the i5 bottleneck in certain games, we now feel it’s a good idea to go with something more substantial for higher-end PC builds.
Do I Need a CPU Cooler?
A CPU Cooler is necessary for all Skylake-e and Broadwell-e enthusiast builds as well as with Intel unlocked series processors like the i5-6600k. CPUs like the i5-6600 should be fine with the stock CPU cooler that Intel includes with the part.
What CPU Cooler is the best?
For Fan coolers, we like the Hyper 212 EVO. It’s cheap, at around $25, but gives you great overclocking potential. Beyond that, we’d recommend the Corsair Hydro H100 series. If you’re an experienced builder, trying out a custom loop can be fun as well.
Overall the best idea is to spend a little bit more on components that influence your PC’s FPS and your computer’s overall longevity. Focus heavily on your processor and graphics card, and upgrade other components as they are needed.
Before you go be sure to take a look at our PC builds by budget above.