The GPU market is all over the place, the Ryzen refresh is nearly here, and RAM prices are nearly double what they were this time last year. And while we don’t see the market stabilizing any time soon, there are still a lot of good deals to be had if you’re willing to look for them.
In this post, we’ll take a look at 15 builds from as little as $150 all the way up to $2,500. This post is a summary of many others we’ve made and keep up-to-date on PC builds. We try to take into account as many good deals as possible; however, if you’re looking for rebates, you might have to do the additional legwork.
15 Good Custom PC Builds for Q1 2018
Building your own gaming PC isn’t difficult if you’ve got the right parts. So, we’ve put together a list of builds for all budgets from as low as $150 to as high as $2,500. So, whether you’re trying to play in 720p or 4k, you’ll find what you’re looking for here.
Are these builds right for everyone? No. Still, they are a good starting point. Need help with building your PC? There’s an additional guide below. You can also ask us any questions you may have.
*To view all PC builds, please scroll or slide the following table.
|*$150||$200||$300-$350||$400||$500||$750 AMD||$750 Intel||$1,000 AMD||$1,000 Intel||$1250 Intel||$1250 AMD||$1500 Intel||$1500 AMD||$2000||$2500|
|CPU||AMD A6-7400k||AMD A8 7600||Pentium G4400||Pentium G4560||Ryzen 3 1200||Ryzen 5 1600||i5-8400||Ryzen 5 1600||i5-8400||i5 8400||Ryzen 5 1600||i5 8400||Ryzen 7 1700||i7 8700k||i7-8700k|
|Motherboard||MSI A68HM-E33||MSI A68HM-E33||Gigabyte GA-B250M-DS3H||Gigabyte GA-B250M-DS3H||MSI B350M Pro-VD PLUS||MSI B350 Tomahawk||MSI Z370-A PRO||Asus Prime B350-PLUS||MSI Z370-A PRO||Gigabyte Z370 Aorus Gaming 7||ASRock X370 Taichi||Asus ROG STRIX Z370-E||ASRock X370 Taichi||Asus ROG STRIX Z370-E||Asus ROG Maximus X Hero|
|RAM||Crucial 2x2GB DDR3 1600||G. Skill Ares 2x4GB DDR3||GEIL EVO Potenza 2x4GB DDR4-2133||GEIL EVO Potenza 2x4GB DDR4-2133||Corsair Vengeance LPX 3000MHz 8GB||Corsair Vengeance LPX 3000MHz 8GB||Corsair Vengeance LPX 3000MHz 8GB||Corsair Vengeance LPX 3000MHz 8GB||Corsair Vengeance LPX 3000MHz 8GB||Corsair Vengeance LPX 3000MHz 8GB||Corsair Vengeance LPX 3000MHz 8GB||Corsair Vengeance LPX 3000MHz 16GB||Corsair Vengeance LPX 3000MHz 16GB||Corsair Vengeance LPX 3000MHz 16GB||Corsair Vengeance LPX 3000MHz 16GB|
|HDD1||WD Caviar Blue 160GB||WD Caviar Blue 250GB||WD Caviar Blue 250GB||WD Caviar Blue 500GB||SanDisk SSD Plus 240GB SSD||Crucial MX 300 275GB SSD||Crucial MX 300 275GB SSD||Crucial MX 300 275GB SSD||Crucial MX 300 275GB SSD||Samsung 960 Evo M.2||Samsung 960 Evo M.2||Samsung 960 Evo M.2||Samsung 960 Evo M.2||Samsung 960 Evo M.2 500GB||Samsung 960 Evo M.2 1TB|
|HDD2||WD Caviar Blue 1TB||WD Caviar Blue 1TB||WD Caviar Blue 1TB||WD Caviar Blue 1TB||WD Caviar Blue 1TB||WD Caviar Blue 1TB||Seagate BarraCuda 2TB||Hitachi Ultrastar 3TB|
|PSU||EVGA BT 450W||EVGA BT 450W||EVGA BT 450W||EVGA BT 450W||EVGA BT 450W||EVGA 500W or NEX 650W||EVGA 500W or NEX 650W||EVGA SuperNova NEX 650W||EVGA SuperNova NEX 650W||EVGA SuperNova NEX 650W||EVGA SuperNova NEX 650W||EVGA SuperNova NEX 650W||EVGA SuperNova NEX 650W||EVGA SuperNova NEX 650W||EVGA SuperNova NEX 650W|
|Case||Rosewill FBM-01||Rosewill FBM-01||Rosewill FBM-01||Rosewill FBM-01||Rosewill FBM-01||Thermaltake Versa H21||Corsair 200R||Corsair 200R||Corsair 200R||NZXT S340||NZXT S340||NZXT S340||NZXT S340||Corsair 750D||Corsair 750D|
|GPU||GTX 1050||GTX 1050||GTX 1050 Ti||GTX 1060 6GB||GTX 1060 6GB||GTX 1070||GTX 1070||GTX 1070 Ti||GTX 1070 Ti||GTX 1080 Ti||GTX 1080 Ti||GTX 1080 Ti||GTX 1080 Ti|
|CPU Cooler||Stock||Stock||Stock Cooler||Stock Cooler||Wraith Spire Cooler (Included)||Wraith Spire Cooler (Included)||Stock Cooler||Wraith Spire Cooler (Included)||Stock Cooler||Stock Cooler||Wraith Spire Cooler (Included)||Stock Cooler||Wraith Spire Cooler (Included)||Corsair H100i v2||Corsair H100i v2|
Custom Gaming PC Builder’s Guide for 2018
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 2018 CPU Comparison
Want to know what processor you should get for your build? Here are our thoughts.
Ryzen is Relevant
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. In addition, low priced B350 motherboards give builders additional money to put towards their graphics cards.
Intel’s Coffee Lake processors require LGA 1151 300 series motherboards. Unfortunately, the less expensive H and B options are not available as of yet.
The Ryzen refresh is set to release soon. It’ll likely be a notch better than the original Ryzen; however, don’t expect to be blown away like we were last year when Ryzen was released.
So, Whose Processors are Better Intel or AMD?
While this time last year, I would have said that it made no sense to use an AMD CPU at all, this year it’s starting to. The Ryzen processors are fantastic options for those of us who use our gaming rig as our daily work computer. If you’re curious, you can take a look at our Ryzen 7 1700 vs i7 benchmarks here as well as our Ryzen 5 1600 vs the i5 here.
No, the Ryzen IPC has not caught up to Intel’s Coffee Lake. However, compared to Broadwell-e Ryzen is very good. This makes it ideal for building a cheap photo editing PC.
So, the answer to the question of whether AMD or Intel is better in 2018, is it depends. It depends on what you’re using for. If you’re using this PC strictly as a gaming, rig, then it’s likely Intel is your solution.
Coffee Lake was a big upgrade for Intel and one we think had to do with the Ryzen release. Getting 4 cores on an i3 is definitely something that’ll keep budget-minded gamers interested.
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 2018
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 while this market is volatile, you still shouldn’t skimp on the part that will have the biggest impact on your overall gaming experience.
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 1050 and RX 560 race to be fairly even. The GTX 1060 vs RX 580 race is also a solid one.
One of the better deals you’ll find in the category is the RX 570. If you can find it for around $180 you’ve got solid 1080p ultra settings for cheap. Unfortunately, the upswing in cryptocurrency has caused GPU prices to rise substantially. Most of these GPUs are available only for prices well above initial MSRP.
Above those categories, Intel seems to have the advantage right now. The new GTX 1070Ti, which is nearly a GTX 1080 for considerably less, along with the GTX 1080 Ti are superior to what Vega has to offer right now. Again, pricing is an issue.
For benchmarks, here’s a look at our 1080ti vs 1080 ultrawide benchmarks to give you an indication of the gains you can expect.
Your choice of graphics card may not be about whether you like NVIDIA or AMD better this year. Instead, it might be whatever card happens to be the right price when you need it. Paul from Paul’s Hardware recently summed the frustration of these choices in his video:
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 2017. If you’re building an AMD Ryzen PC 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 i5-7500 that does a fantastic job in gaming. If I were to go with the i5-7600k, 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.