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All you have to do is buy and put together one of the best gaming PCs, but building your own desktop is more rewarding. When you build your own gaming PC, you have complete control over everything from the exact make and model of your motherboard to the aesthetics of your chassis and the number of RGB fans you want.
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Building your own PC from components can save you hundreds of dollars over buying a pre-built system. For example, right now, if you want a desktop that looks like a $1,000 top-of-the-line PC, but with slightly lower specs, you’ll have to pay upwards of $1,259 at Best Buy (opens in a new tab).
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To help you put together the best gaming or productivity PC builds you can get, we’ve compiled a list of recommended components for every budget, from ultra-cheap systems under $500 to affordable builds under $1,000 to $4,000. A dream car for people with deep pockets.
Why Tom’s Hardware professional reviewers spend a lot of time testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the one that’s right for you. Learn more about our testing methods.
Our best PC build recommendations are based on component expertise, market research, and testing of each device’s key components: CPU, GPU, and SSD. However, because we try to match price points and change these lists frequently (as prices change), we didn’t test all the parts in each build together, as well as the less powerful parts like the case, motherboard, and PSU. This may be something we haven’t considered yet.
We also recommend GPUs, not specific manufacturers and models of graphics cards. For example, we recommend the Zotac RTX 4070 Ti (eg Zotac RTX 4070 Ti(opens in new tab) Ti(opens in new tab) and a link to the list of available cards. Opens in new tab). (Opens in a new tab) Given the cost of space and frequent inventory changes, by the time you’re reading this you should be getting the best 3rd party or 1st party card to work with your GPU of choice.
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You can see that most of the best computers now use Intel CPUs. This is because the current price of Ryzen 7000 processors, expensive motherboards and expensive DDR5 RAM make them poor low-end budget options. But the Ryzen 9 7900X3D is a great choice.
It also doesn’t include the cost of the operating system, since you can get Windows for free or cheap. And that doesn’t even include the cost of peripherals like the best gaming monitor, best gaming keyboard, or best gaming mouse. If you have never built a computer before, check out our article on how to build a computer.
You can build a PC with a discrete graphics card for around $500. You won’t get the fastest GPU, but you can play 1080p at moderate settings. This is a huge improvement over relying on integrated graphics.
We use Intel’s Arc A380 as the graphics card for this system. I didn’t like the card at launch, but it’s now readily available on Newegg and has been for a few months. In addition, it’s faster than AMD’s rival RX 6400, comes with more VRAM and, most importantly, has full video encoding/decoding acceleration, including future AV1 support.
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The card averaged 54.7 fps in our benchmarks at 1080p, but updated drivers could be 5-10% better. If you want something a little faster and can stretch your budget a few bucks, your best bet is the RX 6500 XT card (Opens in a new tab). The card supports up to 65.8 fps at 1080p for $159.
For our CPU, we use Intel’s Core i3-12100F (opens in a new tab). It’s a little over $100, but it offers good performance for the price. This processor has 4 cores, all of which have performance cores and a solid speed of 4.3GHz. AMD’s more expensive Ryzen 5 5600X was found to outperform AMD’s more expensive Ryzen 5 5600X by $60 in gaming benchmarks. The 12100F comes with a cooler in the box, so you don’t have to spend money on a CPU fan.
If you’ve been following the processor market, you’ll know that the 12100F has been replaced by the Core i3-13100F, part of Intel’s current 13th Gen Core lineup. However, at current prices, getting the 13100F and the 700 series motherboards that support it will put you in the $500+ price range.
The 13100F is not faster than the 12100F because it has the same 4 processor cores and 8 threads and the same 5MB L2 cache. However, the 13100F has a higher rated boost clock of 4.5GHz rather than 4.3GHz. So if you want to spend a few extra bucks to get a 13100F, the 13100F is your go-to. But you can’t get more performance than that.
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We also have to cut some corners and Intel H610 motherboards are not cheap. We chose the ASRock H610M-HDV. Because it is $10 cheaper than its nearest competitor. However, the H610M-HDV has a major drawback: it lacks an M.2 slot for PCIe NVMe SSD drives. Therefore, you should use a 2.5-inch SATA SSD.
Our SSD is the proven Crucial MX500 with 500GB capacity. That’s 560MB/s/510MB/s. Fast and reliable for SATA drives with consistent read and write speeds. When we reviewed the 2019 MX500, we gave it high marks for its strong stability rating and solid performance. However, if you can stretch your budget to $500 or more, you should get a motherboard that supports an M.2 PCIe SSD and a 1TB SSD.
One area where we didn’t compromise was RAM, we got 16GB of DDR4 PC-3200 RAM in a 2 x 8GB configuration. Our selection of high-performance RAM memory isn’t the flashiest, but it’s affordable and from a reputable brand. Whatever you do, don’t build or buy a gaming PC with less than 16GB of RAM.
Our case is the Thermaltake Versa H18, which comes with a tempered glass side panel, which you don’t often see on a $50-plus chassis. There’s room for two 120 or 140mm fans on the front (up to a 280mm radiator), a 120mm fan on the back and a 120 or 140mm fan on top, so there’s plenty of room for additional cooling. Our power supply is the Thermaltake Smart Series 500W. Because this is the cheapest PSU from a reputable brand we can find.
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If you can stretch your budget from $500 to $800, you’re entering a whole new world of gaming performance and productivity that’s good enough for serious gaming at 1080p (no beam-tracing). Here we upgrade from 12th Gen Core i3 to Core i5-13400F with 6 performance cores, 4 efficiency cores and 16 shared threads and clock speed of 4.6 GHz.
Priced at just over $200 and capable of delivering 152fps on our 1080p test suite, it’s our current pick for best gaming CPU. In fact, the Core i5-13400F is the great core value that we recommend for the three builds. It also comes with a box-capable cooler.
I’m using ASRock B760M-HDV motherboard to use this Intel processor, which supports 13th Gen processor without BIOS update. Since this is a DDR4 board, you can save money by using DDR4 memory. There are also two M.2 slots for SSDs, one of which supports a PCIe 4.0 drive.
The graphics card in this price range is the AMD Radeon RX 6650 XT. At this low price, AMD offers a lot more than Nvidia or Intel. According to the GPU Benchmark hierarchy, the 6650 XT slots below the older RTX 2080 and above Intel’s Arc A770. It delivered a strong 79.8fps on our 8-game test suite at 1080p Ultra settings and a modest 56.7fps at 1440p Ultra.
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For storage, we chose the 1TB WD Blue SN570 NVMe SSD, which is only $57 at press time. PCIe 3.0 drives promise read and write speeds of up to 3500 and 3000 MB/s. When we reviewed the WD Blue SN570, we put it to the test and found it effectively matched the top PCIe 3.0 SSDs, with the SK hynix Gold P31 coming in by a few milliseconds in our game load time tests.
It uses TeamGroup’s affordable DDR4 RAM and upgrades to a 600W version of the Thermaltake Smart power supply to support high-wattage CPUs and GPUs.
In our case