Looking to build a gaming computer? Hopefully, this page can save you a bit of time. It’s a list of builds, by budget, that you can quickly reference what we feel currently gives you the best bang for your buck.
Considering the swinging prices we’ve seen over the past year, building a gaming PC can be a practice in patience right now and especially with your graphics card. And if you can get any card near MSRP for the budget you have, you’ll probably grab it as quickly as you can. Unfortunately, the used GPU market is just as bad. So, rather than post specific graphics cards for each of these builds, we’re going to leave the GPU slot blank for now.
How do you get a graphics card in 2021?
Your best bet is to try and order online from various retailers, be in line early, and hope for a bit of luck. NewEgg has a lottery system that is totally random. Other places will be first come first serve. You may also have some luck picking it up from a retailer, such as Micro Center, which has it in store. In the meantime, you may want to use a graphics card you already have until the market calms down.
With all that being said, here’s a look at the PC builds we’re recommending right now.
15 Good Custom Gaming PC Builds for 2021
*To view all PC builds, please scroll or slide the following table.
|CPU||i5 10100F (requires dedicated GPU)||Ryzen 5 3600||Ryzen 5 3600||Ryzen 5 3600||Ryzen 5 3600||AMD Ryzen 7 3700X||Ryzen 7 5800X|
|Motherboard||ASRock H510M-HDV||MSI B550M||MSI B550-A PRO||MSI B550-A PRO||Asus TUF Gaming X570-PLUS||Asus TUF Gaming X570-PLUS||Asus ROG STRIX B550-F GAMING|
|RAM||Corsair Vengeance LPX 8GB||Corsair Vengeance LPX 8GB||Corsair Vengeance LPX 2x8GB 3000MHz||Corsair Vengeance LPX 2x8GB 3000MHz||Corsair Vengeance LPX 2x8GB 3000MHz||Corsair Vengeance LPX 3000MHz 16GB||Corsair Vengeance LPX 3000MHz 16GB|
|HDD1||Kingston A400 240 GB||WD Blue 500GB||WD Blue SN550 1TB||WD Blue SN550 1TB||WD Blue SN550 1TB||WD Blue SN550 1TB||WD Blue SN550 1TB|
|HDD2||Seagate Barracuda 2TB||Seagate Barracuda 2TB|
|PSU||EVGA 500W 80+||EVGA 500W 80+||Seasonic S12III 650W||Seasonic S12III 650W||EVGA SuperNova NEX 650W||EVGA SuperNova G3 650W||Corsair RM 2019 750 W 80+ GOLD|
|Case||Rosewill FBM-X1||Rosewill FBM-X1||NZXT H510||NZXT H510||Fractal Design Meshify C||Fractal Design Meshify C||Fractal Design Meshify C|
|GPU||$160 Budget||$250 Budget||$250 Budget||$350 Budget||$500 Budget||$500 Budget||$750 Budget|
|CPU Cooler||Stock||Stock||Stock||Stock||Cryorig H5 Ultimate||NZXT Kraken X53|
Custom Gaming PC Builder’s Guide for 2021
You can get a lot more performance out of your gaming computer if you’re willing to build it yourself. So, here’s a guide to some of the basics you need to know about each part before you begin. If you’re on a budget, also take a look at our guide to cheap PC building.
Intel Vs. AMD Processors 2021 CPU Comparison
Want to know what processor you should get for your build? Here are our thoughts.
Ryzen is King?
AMD’s Ryzen lineup has really changed the face of the landscape in the CPU market. While Intel processors will give you a few more frames at the same price points, the Ryzen processors will give you more cores. Those same cores translate into some good performance in work-related tasks.
That being said Intel has added more cores to their processors as well in recent years. For example, I really like the i3-9100F for gamers. It’s a CPU that has no integrated graphics and it truly reflects that in the price point. I’ve seen them as low as $80. Considering they give you the performance of the i5-8400 it’s really a great deal.
Overall, you’ll have to decide whether more cores or more frames is what you’re going with. On the low end, under $100, I’d probably stick with one of Intel’s “F” series processors assuming you plan on purchasing a dedicated graphics card.
So, Whose Processors are Better Intel or AMD?
Rather than asking yourself this question, you should ask yourself what you plan to do with your gaming PC.
If you use your PC as an editing rig, it might be more advantageous to have those few extra cores.
Benchmarks are your friend. If you know what games and software you’ll be using, try and find reviews with performance benchmarks to show you how one CPU performs against the other.
Ryzen’s Future Performance In Games
There are some that will argue that in the future, the AMD Ryzen processors will perform better as manufacturers utilize more cores. That being said, by the time this really happens there will be other options in the market. So, instead of going on what could happen, I recommend you go with the results we’re seeing right now. For now, Ryzen is a great workhorse CPU but lacks the performance in games that Coffee Lake does.
NVIDIA Vs. AMD in 2021
PC gaming is all about having an experience that goes beyond what you can achieve on console. Your GPU is what makes the difference. And with better CPU options than we’ve ever had before, even low-end GPUs can handle some of the higher-end options.
I recently wrote my thoughts down on graphics cards for the $200 and $100 categories. Unfortunately, with the current market, you’re probably going to purchase any reasonable graphics card you can find near its MSRP.
So, price shop, know what cards compare similarly to each other, and then go with the card you can get that gives you the most value for where we are in the current market.
Ultimately, be sure to build something that works for your current situation. Some of you may be fine with 250GB of storage while others need 8TB. It all depends on what you’re doing on a daily basis. For me, making sure my PC is most functional for my work first is most important. Here are some additional thoughts.
Graphics Card Budget Allocation
The graphics card, along with your processor, will be the biggest boost to your overall FPS or frames per second. For that reason, 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.
How to Allocate Your Budget
Above I’ve included PC builds for budgets from as low as $150 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 Gaming 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.
For 2018 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 DDR4 Memory Should You Buy?
DDR4 is standard across most modern platforms in 2021. If you’re building an AMD Ryzen gaming computer and want to hit that magic 3200MHz number, I suggest you take a look at our post on the best DDR4 memory for Ryzen. For Intel builds, find something inexpensive and fast. Of course, if you don’t have a Z270 or Z170 motherboard, you’ll likely be limited to 2133MHz. So, keep that in mind before spending extra.
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. For DDR4 it depends on whether you’re using an Intel or AMD Ryzen CPU. Moderate improvements in FPS can be achieved by getting up to 3000MHz. And since ram seems to be expensive across the board, it’s hard not to spend that extra $10 on something that will give your system a bit more performance.
Do I Need a CPU Cooler?
If you’re not trying to overclock, then no. Believe it or not most PC builders and even enthusiasts do not overclock on a regular basis. So, quite a bit of money can be saved by eliminating the extra CPU cooler and get a processor that isn’t unlocked. Take an i5 as an example.
For $190 you can get an i5 that does a fantastic job in gaming. If I were to go with the i5, I’d pay another $40 for the CPU and anywhere from $30 to $100 for the CPU cooler. If, instead, you put that money towards a graphics card, it’s likely you’d get more performance in games anyway.
Ultimately, you’ll have to decide whether you truly plan on overclocking or not. If you do, you’ll definitely want a CPU cooler. For those overclocking a Ryzen processor, I suggest you try out the included Wraith CPU cooler to see how well it does before you go out and spend additional money.
What Monitor Should I Use for My Gaming Rig?
If you’re a competitive gamer, then likely you’ll want to pay attention to terms like input lag, refresh rate, and response time. Unfortunately, input lag is rarely listed.
To help you find the right monitor, we’ve written various posts on good gaming monitors.
Overall the best idea is to spend a little bit more on components that influence your PC’s FPS. Quality parts may also improve 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.