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Best PC Builds for Gaming: From Sub $500 Budgets to $3000+

While you can buy one of the best gaming PCs, putting together your own desktop is 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. 

By putting together your own PC from components, you will also probably save hundreds dollars over the cost of buying a prebuilt system. For example, right now, getting a  desktop with similar specs to our $1,000 PC build will cost you more than $1,300 at Best Buy (opens in new tab).

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

Prices change so rapidly that we are only trying to come up under 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 when you read this.

We are also going to recommend GPUs rather than specific makes and models of graphics cards. For example, we’d recommend an RTX 3080 Ti (opens in new tab) and link to a list of available cards rather than, for example, the Zotac RTX 3080 Ti Trinity OC (opens in new tab) Given frequent price changes (with prices now going down), you should get whichever third or first-party card is available with the GPU you want for the best price 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. And if you’ve never made a computer before, see our article on how to build a PC.

Best $500 PC Build for Gaming

Cooler Master MasterBox Q300L

(Image credit: Amazon)

Good news. For around $500, you can build a PC that has a discrete graphics card. You won’t get the fastest GPU around, but you will be able to play games at 1080p with modest settings. That’s a big improvement over the market a few months ago when we couldn’t fit any graphics card into this budget and would have had to rely on a CPU with an integrated GPU.

For the graphics card in this system, we’re going with either AMD’s bottom-of-the-line Radeon RX 6400. This isn’t a fast card, but it managed a very-playable 52 fps on our gaming tests at 1080p medium. If you can could find one in stock, substitute the hard-to-find Intel Arc A380 (opens in new tab) graphics card, which got 54.7 fps on the same test and was nearly-playable at 1080p ultra with 28.3 fps. Better yet, splurge another $30 – $40 and get a buy a Radeon RX 6500 XT (opens in new tab), which hit a very playable 30.8 fps at 1080p ultra and a smooth 65.8 fps at 1080p medium.

For our CPU, we’re going with Intel’s Core i3-12100F, which is just over $100 but delivers plenty of pep for the price. This CPU has four cores, all of them performance cores, and a solid boost clock of 4.3 GHz. We found that it outperformed AMD’s more-expensive Ryzen 5 5600X, which costs about $100, in gaming workloads. The 12100F comes with a cooler in the box so we don’t have to spend money on buying a CPU fan.

To hit our $500 price point, we have to cut some corners and Intel H610 motherboards don’t come cheap. We went with the ASRock H610M-HVS, simply because it’s $10 cheaper than its nearest competitor. However, there’s one huge trade-off: the H610M-HVS doesn’t have an M.2 slot for PCIe NVMe SSDs. Therefore, we have to go with a 2.5-inch SATA SSD.

Our SSD is the tried-and-true Crucial MX500 at 500GB capacity. It’s fast and reliable for a SATA drive, with rated sequential read and write rates of 560 MBps / 510 MBps.   When we reviewed the MX500 back in 2022, we gave it high marks for its strong endurance rating and solid performance. If we could stretch our budget over $500, however, we’d have gotten a motherboard that supports M.2 PCIe SSDs and a 1TB SSD.

One area where we didn’t compromise is on the RAM, where we got 16GB of DDR4 PC-3200 RAM in a 2 x 8GB configuration. The Silicon Power Value RAM we chose isn’t the flashiest, but it’s inexpensive 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 Cooler Master MasterBox QL300, a high-quality chassis with a clear side window and good air flow. It’s not the most attractive case, but it’s well-made and we have built in it before. Our power supply is the Thermaltake Smart Series 500W, because this is the least expensive PSU from a reputable brand we could find.

Best $1,000 PC Build for Gaming 

NZXT H510 PC Case

(Image credit: Amazon)

If you can stretch your budget up to around $1,000, you can build a PC with the ability to play games really well at 1080p and competently at 2K. At press time, we could find an Nvidia RTX 3060 Ti card for as little as $459 and an AMD Radeon RX 6700 XT for as low as $379. When running our 8-game test suite at 1080p resolution with ultra settings, the 6700 XT offered an impressive frame rate of 95.8 fps while the RTX 3060 Ti hit 91.5 fps. The GPUs achieved very-playable rates of 70.8 and 69.7 fps at 2K resolution. 

If ray tracing performance is more important to you, Nvidia’s card is better. the 3060 Ti hit 65.3 fps at 1080p ultra settings with ray tracing enabled. However, the Radeon RX 6700 XT was only able to deliver 45.9 fps.

Our recommended CPU for this build is the Core i5-12400F, which has 6 performance cores and 12 threads (no E cores) while boosting up to 4.4 GHz. To go with Intel processor, we’re using a Gigabyte H610M S2H motherboard that has an M.2 slot and supports PCIe 4.0 SSDs. AMD is not as good of a value at this price point as the 12400F (aka 12400 with integrated GPU on board) outperformed the Ryzen 5 5600X and Ryzen 7 5700X in our 2K gaming benchmarks. There’s a cooler in the box with the 12400F so no need to buy one.

Average FPS

(Image credit: Future)

We’re also sticking with 16GB of DDR4-PC3200 RAM here. 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 Silicon Power UD90. Our favorite value-priced NVMe SSD, the UD90 promises sequential reads and writes of up to 3,900 MBps and 1,800 MBps respectively. On our tests, the UD90 was only a few points behind the pricey but popular Samsung 980 PRO.

SSD benchmarks

(Image credit: Future)

Our case is The NZXT H510. We like the clean, classy aesthetic of this case, which is available in black, black and red or white. 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. 

Finally, we’ve stepped up to a 600-watt power supply and we’re  going with Thermaltake’s GX2, which is both 80+ Gold certified but not modular. You can get a modular PSU for $20 more, but that seems like money you don’t need to spend.

Best Mid-Range PC Build For Gaming

Phanteks P360A Case

Phanteks P360A Case (Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

As we step up to a build that should be brilliant at 1080p gaming really strong for 2K gaming, we’re looking at around a $1,500 budget, depending on the current price of the GPU. We recommend going with either an AMD Radeon RX 6800 XT or an Nvidia RTX 3070 Ti. 

At press time, 6800 XT cards selling for as little as $587 (opens in new tab) on Amazon and RTX 3070 Ti cards for as little as $629 (opens in new tab). In our GPU benchmarks hierarchy, AMD’s card outranks its Nvidia competitor, achieving average frame rates of 123 fps at 1080p Ultra and 99 fps at 2K Ultra to the 3070 Ti’s rates of 104 and 82 fps. The differences are really clear on some individual titles such as Borderlands 3 at DX12 Ultra.

GPU performance

(Image credit: Future)

However, if you plan to play games with ray tracing, Nvidia’s card is a better choice, achieving 78 and 34 fps at 1080p and 2K Ultra resolutions where the 6800XT got 69 and 29 fps.

We’re sticking with the Core i5-12400F from our $1,000 build, because we’re putting more money into the GPU. The Core i5-12400F has 6 performance cores and 12 threads, but none of the efficiency cores we see in most Alder Lake processors. The 12400F 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 the $119 ASRock H670M PRO RS as our motherboard, because i t provides a step up from the H610M motherboards in our cheaper builds. For one thing, it has four RAM slots so you can easily add more RAM after your build. It has has support for a couple of different M.2 drives and sports two USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports (10 Gbps).

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 the performance-leading SK hynix Platinum P41 (2TB) SSD. This M.2 drive promises sequential read and write speeds of 7,000 and 4,700 MBps respectively. That currently puts it at the very top of our list of best SSDs.

SSD performance

(Image credit: Future)

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

Fractal Design Meshify 2

Fractal Design Meshify 2 Case (Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

At a current price of $2,300 to $2,400, 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 frame rates. The system gets its GPU muscle from an RTX 3080 (12GB) card, which currently goes for $899 – $999, backed by the Intel Core i5-13600K, one of Intel’s new Raptor Lake processors, which is one of the best CPUs for gaming.

In our tests, an RTX 3080 card with 12GB of VRAM achieved an average frame rate of 66 fps at 4K resolution with Ultra settings. If you drop down to 2K resolution or 1080p, those numbers jump to 104 or 124 fps respectively. With ray tracing enabled at 2K,  the average was 47 fps, which is only a few frames behind the more-expensive RTX 3080 Ti and RTX 3090.

The Intel Core i5-13600K has 6 performance cores and 8 efficiency cores, which make it capable of using 20 threads at once (two for each P core). It carries a top boost frequency of 5.1 GHz and can be overclocked to higher frequencies than that.  We easily overclocked it to 5.6-GHz where it averaged 199 fps on our Windows 11, 1080p gaming suite (which uses an RTX 4090 card). That’s better than every AMD chip on the market, including the Ryzen 7 5800X and only a few frames behind the Core i7-13700K, which costs $129 more.

Core i5-13600K fps

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

In order to make the most of our CPU overclock, we need a Z790 motherboard that supports DDR5 RAM and the ASRock Z790 Pro RS fits the bill. This full ATX board has 14 + 1 power phase, enlarged heat sinks and support for 2.5G Ethernet. 

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 G. Skill’s Trident Z5 RGB DDR5-6000 RAM. The Trident Z5 kit tops our list of best RAM, thanks to its tight-timings, fast performance and overclocking potential. In our tests, the Z5 also had the lowest memory latency of its competitors.

Memory Latency

(Image credit: Future)

We’re sticking with the SK hynix Platinum P41 SSD (2TB) from our mid-range build. At the moment, you really can’t find a better consumer drive at any price.

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. You might be able to economize by going for a slightly-cheaper unit that 

Best Super High-End PC Build for Gaming

Corsair iCue 5000T

Corsair iCue 5000T Case (Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

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 smooth ray tracing. This is made possible thanks to the RTX 4090 card, which is, by far the fastest card on the market, hands down. 

This our super high-end gaming build, so we’re overlooking the fact that the RTX 4090 is way overpriced at the moment. The Founder’s Edition RTX 4090 card carries a $1,599 MSRP, which means third-party cards should be either a little more or a little less. Instead, we can’t find a card selling for less than about $2,100, with some going for as much as $2,500. But, if you want the very best performance on the market, this is what you’ll have to pay right now.

On our tests, the RTX 4090 averaged 124.8 fps playing a suite of games at 4K. That’s a huge improvement over the next-best card, the RTX 3090 Ti, which only hit 80.7 fps. An RTX 3090 Ti goes for $1,499 to $2,149 (opens in new tab) these days, so it’s no bargain. 

RTX 4090 Test Results at 4K

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

Our CPU is Intel’s top-of-the-line, Core i9-13900K CPU, which has 8P cores, 16E cores and a maximum boost clock of 5.8 GHz. This CPU is selling for around $749, which is nearly $200 above the $589 MSRP, because it’s in high-demand right now. The chip topped our gaming charts at 1440p resolution, though to be honest, the Core i7 and Core i5 Raptor Lake processors weren’t far behind.

Core i9-13900K at 1440p with Core i9-13900K

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

We’re building the system around an Asus ROG Strix Z790-F, a powerful motherboard with 16 + 1 power stages, 4 x M.2 slots and built-in Wi-Fi 6E. To cool the Core i9-13900K, we’re using a 360mm DeepCool LT 720 AIO cooler.  

We specifically set out to test different types of cooling on the 13900K and found that this cooler offered the highest P-core clock speeds, besting all forms of air cooling.

Core i9-13900K with different coolers

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

Because we’re fattening our budget for this build, we’re going with 64GB of RAM, specifically TeamGroup’s T-Force Xtreem 3600 MHz ARGB RAM. Unfortunately, AMD’s Ryzen 5000 platform doesn’t support DDR5 so we have to go with DDR4 memory.

We can’t do much better than the SK hynix Platinum P31 that we also recommended for the high-end build. However, 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 SK hynix Gold P31.

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. It had excellent airflow in our tests.

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 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.