While you can buy one of the best gaming PCs and resolve your dilemma about whether to buy or build a PC that way, putting together your own system is almost always more rewarding. When you build a gaming PC yourself, you get total control of everything from the exact make and model of motherboard to aesthetics of the chassis and how many RGB fans you want.
Depending on what type of computer you create, you may also be saving a few hundred dollars over the cost of buying a prebuilt system, though in today’s market that’s not always the case. OEMs such as Dell, Asus and HP can easily get their hands on the best graphics cards without overpaying like consumers do, so the price discrepancy between prebuilts and DIY systems has shrunk dramatically. On the other hand, OEMs tend to skimp out on memory and storage or charge huge markups on them.
To help you assemble the best PC build for gaming or productivity on your budget, we’ve created a set of recommended parts lists below for different builds. We’ve identified budget builds that cost less than $500 and less than $1,000, along with mid-range, high-end and super high-end gaming rigs.
Caveats for Best PC Builds
As most hardware enthusiasts know, this is a challenging time to buy PC components, particularly graphics cards. Fortunately, the situation is improving and you can often find GPUs for sale at major online retailers, but marked up 50 to 100 percent over their original MSRPs. Our GPU price index shows this situation in detail by tracking the selling prices on eBay.
Prices change so rapidly that we are only trying to come up less than a specific price point with the $500 and $1,000 builds. Note that the prices we list below were current at publication time but could be different right now.
We are also going to recommend GPUs rather than specific makes and models of graphics cards. For example, we’d recommend an RTX 3060 Ti and link to a list of available cards rather than, for example, the MSI Ventus 3X RTX 3060. Cards with the same GPU perform similarly enough that, given supply issues, you should get whichever is available at the time you read this.
Also note that we don’t include the cost of an operating system, because you can get Windows for Free or Cheap. Nor do we include the price of peripherals such as the best gaming monitors, best gaming keyboards or best gaming mouse.
Best $500 PC Build for Gaming
We hate to say it, but with price spikes on GPUs, it’s impossible to fit a discrete graphics card into a $500 build–or at least a gaming-class card. Because of that, we’re recommending that you go with the best possible integrated graphics you can afford. On the CPU side, that means an AMD Ryzen 5 5600G . The Ryzen 5 boasts AMD Radeon Vega 7 graphics, 6 CPU cores and a boost clock of 4.4 GHz. That APU also comes with AMD’s Wraith cooler in the box, so that’s one place where we’ll save some money.
We don’t expect fantastic frame rates in games, but you should be able to game at 720p and perhaps step up to 1080p with low-to-medium settings on some less-demanding games. You can always save your pennies for a future GPU upgrade.
For the motherboard, any budget B450 or B550 board with an M.2 slot should do, but we’ve chosen the ASRock B450M Pro4 because of its relatively affordable price more than any of its features. If you can spring for a B550 board, you’ll get better GPU bandwidth and also get the ability to someday upgrade to a speedy PCIe Gen 4 SSD, something that’s way too expensive for this build and not at all a priority.
To milk the maximum performance out of our integrated GPU, which relies on system RAM, we need relatively-fast, but inexpensive RAM, so we’re going with a TeamGroup 16GB (8×2) kit running at 3200 MHz. Any pair of two 8GB DIMMs running at 3200 MHz will do, but this kit was cheapest when we wrote this.
For our storage drive, we’ve chosen the WD Blue SN550, which is a great budget M.2 NVMe SSD, in a 500GB capacity. It boasts theoretical sequential read and write speeds of 2,400 MBps and 1,750 MBps respectively which is way faster than a SATA drive and really strong for this price range. However, 500GB doesn’t leave you a lot of room for games so, if you possibly can, consider spending about $40 or $50 more for a 1TB SSD or later add a SATA SSD as a data drive.
Our case is the Cooler Master MasterBox Q300L, because you can normally find it for just over $50 and it has a premium look, although its side panel is acrylic. It comes with one rear exhaust fan, which should be adequate for cooling this build. Any decent 450W PSU should be able to handle this build and the Corsair CV450 not only comes from a very reputable brand, but also is 80+ Bronze certified for added efficiency.
Best $1,000 PC Build for Gaming
If you can stretch your budget up to around $1,000, you can build a PC with the ability to play games reasonably well at 1080p resolution, often with high settings. At press time, you could grab either an AMD Radeon RX 6600 or an Nvidia RTX 3050 card for somewhere in the $400 to $500 range. The RX 6600 is way faster and the better choice, but usually more expensive.
Our recommended CPU for this build is the AMD Ryzen 5 5600X. This 6-core, 12-thread CPU can operate at up to 4.6-GHz and uses a modest 65W of juice. We’re pairing it with the same B450 motherboard we used on our $500 build, but any B450 or B550 AMD board will get the job done. It comes with a decent air cooler in the box so you don’t have to spend money on one of the best CPU coolers.
Give or take, the Ryzen 5 5600X is about the same speed as the Intel Core i5-12400, which is about $30 cheaper but requires a more expensive motherboard. So, if you prefer Intel, you can grab the Core i5-12400 and an H610 motherboard. However, if you get the Radeon RX 6600 GPU and the Ryzen CPU, you get up to a 15 percent performance boost thanks to AMD’s Smart Access Memory (SAM) feature, which allows the processor faster access to the GPU memory.
We’re also sticking with the same 16GB of RAM as our less-expensive build. There’s no real need to go faster or increase the capacity at this price point.
For storage, we’re stepping up to a 1TB drive and a faster one in the form of the Samsung 970 EVO Plus, which was $109 at press time. The 970 EVO Plus boasts read and write transfer rates of 3,300 and 1,700 MBps respectively and a 1GB DRAM cache which is a nice step up from the DRAM-less WD Blue SN550, which claims speeds of 2,400 and 1,750 MBps respectively.
Our case is The NZXT H210, which was $79 when we wrote this. We like the clean, classy aesthetic of this case, which is available in black, black and white or red. It also has a USB-C Gen 2 (10 Gbps) front-panel connector, along with a Type-A connector and a headphone jack. It comes with two case fans and has room for a 240mm front radiator if you want to go that far. This is a mini ITX case, so there will be less room for expansion cards than in larger cases.
Finally, we’ve stepped up to a 550-watt power supply and we’re again going with a Corsair CV550, but any decent 80-plus Bronze model would get the job done.
Best Mid-Range PC Build For Gaming
As we step up to a build that should be really strong for 1080p gaming at high settings and cross over into decent 2K gaming, we’re looking at around a $1,500 budget, depending on which of the two video card options you go with. We recommend either an Nvidia RTX 3060, which went for around $650 – $750 at press time, or the RTX 3060 Ti which was in the $800 to $900 range.
In our GPU benchmark hierarchy, we show that the RTX 3060 averaged 51 fps in our 2K gaming benchmarks while the 3060 Ti averaged a much-stronger 69 fps. The 3060 Ti is definitely worth the splurge.
Our CPU for this build is Intel’s Core i5-12400, which was our alternative choice for the $1000 build but is an even stronger choice here where we’re using an Nvidia GPU and so can’t benefit from AMD’s Shared Memory Access.
The Core i5-12400 has 6 performance cores and 12 threads, but none of the efficiency cores we see in most Alder Lake processors. The 12400 cannot be overclocked and tops out at a boost speed of 4.4 GHz, but at this price, we’re not looking to overlock anyway. Intel’s processor comes with its own cooler in the box so you don’t need to pay for a third-party one.
We’re going with a relatively-inexpensive motherboard with Intel’s mid-tier H610 chipset. The Gigabyte H610M doesn’t have PCIe Gen 4 SSD support and it only has two DIMM slots but it should work well enough for this build.
With our increased budget, we’re stepping up to 32GB of RAM with the well-known and respected Patriot Viper Steel series. We’re also going to a 2TB SSD that has really strong performance in the SK hynix Gold P31. This M.2 drive promises sequential read and write speeds of 3,500 and 3,200 MBps respectively.
Our chassis of choice is the Phanteks P360A, which offers excellent thermals, a premium tempered glass side panel and two included RGB fans. Our power supply is a 650-watt Cooler Master MasterWatt. This 80 Plus Bronze certified PSU is fully modular so you can only attach the cables you actually need.
Best High-End PC Build for Gaming
At a current price of $2,200 to $2,300, our high-end gaming PC build should provide enough performance to play games at 2K ultra settings with strong frame rates, and 4K ultra with playable but modest frame rates. The system gets its GPU muscle from an RTX 3070 Ti card, which currently goes for $1,000 to $1,100, backed by the Intel Core i5-12600K, which is the overall best CPU for gaming, given its price.
The Intel Core i5-12600K has 6 performance cores and 4 efficiency cores, which make it capable of using 16 threads at once (two for each P core). It carries a top boost frequency of 4.9 GHz and can be overclocked to higher frequencies than that.
In order to make the most of our overclockable processor, we need a Z690 motherboard and the ASRock Z690M Phantom Gaming 4 fits the bill. This Micro ATX board has a 7 Power Phase design, support for PCIe 4.0 SSDs and Nahimic audio.
Our CPU doesn’t come with a cooler in the box and we plan to overclock it to more than 5-GHz anyway, so we’re using the Corsair iCUE H100i PRO XT RGB, a 240mm AIO liquid cooler, to keep its temperature down. We’re using 32GB of Patriot’s Viper Steel DDR RAM again, but this time our kit is 3600 MHz rather than 3200 MHz.
To take advantage of our motherboard’s PCIe 4.0 support, we’re throwing in a Samsung 980 Pro 2TB NVMe SSD. This powerful drive, which is among the best SSDs, promises read and write speeds of 7,000 and 5,100 MBps respectively.
Our case for this build is the $159 Fractal Design Meshify 2, which combines fantastic thermals, a classy design and strong cable management. It also comes with three non-RGB case fans and plenty of room for our radiator.
To power all these high-end components, we’re using a Corsair RM750x PSU which is 80+ Gold certified and fully modular.
Best Super High-End PC Build for Gaming
For our super high end build, we’ve got a system that’s capable of playing high-end games in 4K at ultra settings and delivering frame rates well above 60 fps. This is made possible thanks to the RTX 3080 Ti card which serves as our GPU. We could get slightly better performance out of an RTX 3090 card, but the price jumps from $1,700 to $2,300 for just a tiny bit of boost.
Our CPU is Intel’s top-of-the-line consumer processor, the Core i9-12900K. This Alder Lake chip has 8 performance cores, 8 efficiency cores and 24 threads to go along with its 5.2-GHz boost clock. It’s unlocked for overclocking so we could conceivably go quite a bit higher than that.
Our graphics card choice now actually has a somewhat sensible price of ‘only’ around $1,000. The RTX 3080 Ti might technically be slightly faster, but it’s not worth the extra $200 compared to the RTX 3080 12GB cards. Especially considering later this year both will likely feel rather outdated with Nvidia Ada RTX 40-series cards become available.
We’re building the system around a Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Pro, which is one of the best motherboards on the market thanks to its excellent overclocking prowess, four M.2 slots , 6 SATA connectors and 13 USB ports! It also has built-in Wi-Fi 6.
To cool the Core i9-12900K, we’ve chosen an NZXT X73 AIO cooler. With a 360mm radiator, this is about as beefy as it gets, and at $131 it’s relatively affordable too. Note that you’ll want the LGA1700 compatible mounting bracket, which will require that you fill out a form on NZXT’s support site.
Because we’re fattening our budget for this build, we’re going with speedy DDR5 RAM, specifically G.Skill’s Trident Z5 RGB DDR5-6000, which is one of the best RAM kits you can get. We’re going with 32GB (2 x 16) because, even at this price, it’s not really necessary to jump up to 64GB.
We’re taking a small step up in storage speed, going with Kingston’s blazing-fast KC3000 NVMe SSD in a 2TB capacity. Thanks to its Phison PS5018-E18 controller, the KC3000 can both read and write at up to 7,000 MBps. Because 2TB is may not be enough storage for a gamer with a lot of titles, we will add in a secondary 2TB SSD for data, the 2TB Crucial P2 that’s only $169.
Our chassis choice is the Corsair iCue 5000T, which comes loaded with three brilliant RGB fans and plenty of room for our 360mm radiator. It also has a great selection of ports on the front panel, including four USB Type-A connectors, a single USB Type-C and a 3.5mm headphone jack.
With these high-end components, we don’t want to skimp on the power supply, and having something that’s fit for a future graphics card upgrade makes sense. We’re going with a full 1000-watts of power and the Corsair HX1000. This power supply is 80+ Platinum certified and fully modular.
Finding Discounts on the Best PC Components
With massive shortages of key components and prices on the rise, locating discounts on everything from cases to RAM is more important than ever. To find savings on components of all types, check out our lists of the best PC hardware deals, along with the latest Newegg promo codes, Corsair coupon codes, Best Buy promo codes, and Micro Center coupons.