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10 Good Custom Gaming PC Builds 2018 - Beginner's Building Guide

So you want to build a gaming PC but aren't really sure where to start. That's where this page comes in. We'll show you how to put together your PC build, what parts are the best for your budget, and where you can cut some costs.

If you've never built a custom gaming PC before. Don't fret! It's a lot simpler than you think. A big part of it is knowing what parts are compatible. We'll show you five different PC builds for budgets from $500 to $2,000. So, if you don't want to worry about compatibility, you don't have to.

After choosing your parts, the assembly is best done with a friend who has assembled a PC before. That being said even if you don't know anyone, we'll give you the information you need to know in order to install each part.

10 Good Custom PC Builds from $500 to $2,000

Looking for the right PC build for your budget? Here are five options that we feel are the best for the money you have to spend.

Below you'll find my favorite PC builds currently according to budget. If you want more information about picking parts and putting them together, there is an extensive FAQ below this list.

Intel Coffee Lake i3-8100 and AMD Ryzen 3 1200 Builds

As Coffee Lake 300 series H and B motherboards are released a cheaper motherboard might make more sense here. As it sits, the Intel build is currently $60 over budget while the Ryzen 3 1200 build is right at $500.

ProcessorIntel i3-8100Ryzen 3 1200

Motherboard

*MSI Z370-A PRO

MSI B350M Gaming Pro

Memory

Corsair Vengeance LPX 8GB

Corsair Vengeance LPX 8GB

Storage

PNY CS1311 240GB SSD

PNY CS1311 240GB SSD

Video Card

Zotac GTX 1050 Ti Mini

Zotac GTX 1050 Ti Mini

Case

Thermaltake Versa H21

Thermaltake Versa H21

Power Supply

EVGA 450W Bronze Certified

EVGA 450W Bronze Certified

The GTX 1050 Ti Mini from Zotac might not win any eye candy awards, but it is a cheap and reliable option that's available. At this price point we're worrying more about performance.

The GTX 1050 Ti Mini from Zotac might not win any eye candy awards, but it is a cheap and reliable option that's available. At this price point we're worrying more about performance.

Want to play today's latest games in medium to ultra resolutions with at least 50 to 60 frames a second? This $500 gaming PC will get you there.

Processor:

The Intel Core i3-8100 is a 4 core processor that is a good buy around $130. Another good option here is the Ryzen 3 1200. It's $30 cheaper and has 4 cores as well.

While the i3 will give you slightly more performance for the graphics card you use, the Ryzen 3 1200 is no slouch. In addition, there are budget $50 motherboard options that work just fine for Ryzen while Intel hasn't released its more affordable boards yet.

So, the Intel Core I3-8100 build goes over our budget by $50. For that same amount, the Ryzen build could get the GTX 1050 Ti, allowing it to have much better in-game performance.

A Good Graphics Card for the i3-8100 or Ryzen 3 1200

We're limited in our video card choice because of the capabilities of our processor. That being said, these processors are capable of driving a GPU like the NVIDIA GTX 1050Ti or even a GTX 1060. Both are fantastic budget choices for 1080p gameplay.

Storage Woes

For storage, we're using a small solid state drive. So, if you need capacity, it may be necessary to borrow from an old PC. Alternatively, you could purchase a 1TB hard drive; however, we think the SSD is worth it here.

For case, we're going with the Thermaltake Versa H21 Windowed version. It's an inexpensive case that is relatively solid. I've used in several budget builds without an issue. It doesn't have the toolless installation that you'll find on the more expensive cases; however, once your build is ready you won't be worrying about that.

Lastly, our power supply is the 500W EVGA Bronze certified version. This power supply is efficient, cheap, and should last you several years. No, it's not likely to last you as long as a tier 1 gold or platinum model, but those options don't really fit our budget.

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Coffee Lake i5-8400 and AMD Ryzen 5 1600 Builds

*As the Ryzen system's motherboard is less expensive, we're pouring that into a better quality power supply.

CPUi5-8400Ryzen 5 1600

Motherboard

MSI Z370-A PRO

MSI B350 Tomahawk

Memory

Corsair Vengeance LPX 8GB DDR4 300MHz

Corsair Vengeance LPX 8GB DDR4 300MHz

Storage

PNY CS1311 240GB

PNY CS1311 240GB

 

Western Digital Caviar Blue 1TB

Western Digital Caviar Blue 1TB

Video Card

GTX 1060 6GB

GTX 1060 6GB

Case

Corsair 200R

Corsair 200R

Power Supply

EVGA 500W 80+ Bronze

*EVGA SuperNova NEX 650W

Upgrading to the GTX 1060 6GB vs the RX 580 8GB

For our $750 build, we're upgrading our video card to the NVIDIA GTX 1060 6GB. This card is more than capable of playing today's latest games in Ultra settings or beyond. Alternatively, you could go with the RX 580 8GB. It's a good card from AMD; however, as it gives lower FPS in all but DX12 titles, we're sticking with the GTX 1060 here.

Alternatively, you could go with the RX 580 8GB. It's a good card from AMD; however, as it gives lower FPS in most games and flip flops on DX12 titles, we're sticking with the GTX 1060 here. The 1060's increased efficiency and established sales pricing is another good reason.

An alternative here might be to go with the RX 480 8GB. It's essentially the same card as the RX 580 but often times cheaper.

A Big Processor Upgrade - i5-8400 vs R5 1600

In order to avoid potential current and future bottlenecks with our more powerful GPU, we're going with a better CPU in the i5-8400. An alternative would be the R5 1600. The Core i5-8400 is the faster IPC processor and therefore should give you a higher average FPS in most games. However, the R5 1600 is tempting as it gives you 6 cores and 12 threads rather than the 6 cores of the i5-8400.

Which one you go with should depend on what you plan on doing with your PC. If you have a heavy editing workload, the AMD Ryzen CPU makes sense. On the other hand, if you just plan on playing games, the i5-8400 is the optimal choice.

Storage Options

For storage, we're sticking with a standard SSD here and including a 1TB drive for additional capacity. You could go for an NVME M.2 drive here and it would be faster. However, I don't think the tradeoffs would be worth it considering the budget.

Corsair 200R - A Good Case for Budgets Around $50

Our case is the Corsair 200R. It's one of the best cases in the $50 price range. It's one you could stick in a budget build or even use in a high one. It has plenty of room for a full-sized graphics card or a CPU cooler up to 165mm tall. If you prefer to see your components, a windowed option is available. Otherwise the standard black box of the 200R is classy, has plenty of room for additional fans, has tool-free installation, and includes 2 120mm fans (front and rear).

Final Thoughts:

Overall I'm happy with the overall balance of this build. We've cut costs where we can while giving FPS critical components a high budget.

Part$1,000 Intel Build$1,000 AMD Build

CPU

i5-8400

Ryzen 5 1600

Motherboard

MSI Z370-A Pro

Asus Prime B350-PLUS

Memory

Corsair Vengeance LPX 2x4GB DDR4-3000

Corsair Vengeance LPX 2x4GB DDR4-3000

Storage

PNY CS1311 240GB

PNY CS1311 240GB

 

WD Caviar Blue 1TB

WD Caviar Blue 1TB

Video Card

GTX 1070

GTX 1070

Case

Corsair 200R

Corsair 200R

Power Supply

EVGA SuperNova NEX 650W

EVGA SuperNova NEX 650W

build-gaming-pc

Our $1,000 build is now more than capable of playing 1440p.

Keeping Our $200 CPU Budget

While I prefer to spend a big portion of my overall budget on a processor, we're saving that budget for a GPU upgrade. If you're going with 1440p, a CPU like the i5-8400 or Ryzen 5 1600 should be more than enough.

The Intel i5-8400 processor will give you slightly more frames while the Ryzen 5 1600 gives you an additional 2 cores and 12 threads in total. So, depending on your workload, you'll want to go with one or the other.

Avoid Overspending On Your Motherboard

It's easy to spend too much on your motherboard. However, it's unlikely that it would increase your performance.

Still, both builds are getting an upgraded motherboard with plenty of features. While the i5-8400 isn't capable of overclocking, the Ryzen 5 1600 will be on the B350-Plus board along with its stock cooler.

If you'd prefer to overclock an Intel processor, go with the i5-8600k and a hyper 212 Evo along with the board listed above.

Upgrading to a T1 Gold Rated PSU

We've also decided to upgrade the power supply to a tier 1 option. We don't need the additional capacity, but the NEX 650W from EVGA is one of the cheaper quality options available and one worthy of our recommendation.

Memory Speeds for Intel vs AMD Ryzen

AMD Ryzen's performance thrives on memory. So, you'll want to aim for something that will give you around 3000MHz. Intel's Coffee Lake also makes noticeable gains.

GTX 1070 - A Solid Graphics Card Upgrade for around $400

A card like the GTX 1070 is more than what you need for 1080p 60 frames per second. So, if that's your goal, this might be overkill. However, if you're looking to go with a high frame rate in 1080p or high to ultra resolution 60 fps gameplay in 1440p, it's the perfect option.

Alternatively, you might be able to fit in the GTX 1070Ti here. At around $70 to $100 more it gives you GTX 1080-like performance on the cheap.

build-gaming-pc
PartsIntel $1,250 BuildAMD $1,250 Build

CPU

i5-8400

Ryzen 5 1600

CPU Cooler

Stock

Stock Wraith Cooler

Motherboard

Gigabyte Z370 Aorus Gaming 7

ASRock X370 Taichi

Storage

Samsung 960 EVO M.2 SSD

Samsung 960 EVO M.2 SSD

 

WD Caviar Blue 1TB

WD Caviar Blue 1TB

Video Card

GTX 1070 Ti

GTX 1070 Ti

Case

NSXT S340

NSXT S340

Power Supply

EVGA SuperNOVA 650W

EVGA SuperNOVA 650W

Want to go for higher frames in 1440p or have entry-level play in 4k? This $1,250 build will get you there.

Processor Options

With the Intel i5-8400 you've got a faster IPC 6 core processor that will certainly give you better FPS in games. However, the AMD Ryzen 5 1600 gives you the opportunity to overclock for additional performance and could be considered a better workstation CPU.

The i5-8600k, which could be an option here, would be a decent option if it weren't currently overpriced and hard to find.

Motherboards

I've picked two rock solid boards here. You certainly don't have to go with these boards. In fact, you could save money and go with the same boards as the $1,000 build and get similar performance. However, the Z370 Aorus Gaming 7 and ASRock Taichi are what I'd step up to if you're looking for a bit more.

The Taichi is an award winner at TweakTown for Best Performance.

Staying With a Budget Motherboard

Optionally you could stick with Skylake and get the Gigabyte GA-Z270 Gaming K3 Z270 motherboard for Intel and Asus Prime B350-PLUS AM4 Motherboard for the AMD build should give you plenty of performance and features. Again, our budget doesn't dictate a more expensive motherboard as it would decrease our budget for a graphics card.

GTX 1070Ti - Hard to Pass Up

The GTX 1070Ti recently came out and is basically a GTX 1080 in terms of performance. Above this, I'd recommend the GTX 1080Ti as the GTX 1080 can't really give enough more to justify its extra price.

The GTX 1070 Ti should give you fantastic performance for its price of $500 and allow you to play at a high framerate in 1440p or even 4k in medium to high settings at 60 frames.

It's Worth Going M.2 Here

For storage, we've moved on to the faster M.2 solid state drive in the Samsung 960 NVMe. It's a bit more expensive than a typical solid state drive for its capacity. However, if you're spending this much you should really stick with the latest technology. It'll give you blazing speeds for your OS and all of your favorite programs. Booting should be nearly instantaneous.

$1,250 Budget Build Final Thoughts:

Overall this is a build that we feel most can get behind. It's not too shiny but makes up for it in pure performance.


*A mounting kit may be required for compatibility.

PartsIntel i7 $1,600 BuildAMD Ryzen $1,600 Build

CPU

i5-8400

Ryzen 7 1700

CPU Cooler

Noctua NH-D15

*Noctua NH-D15

Motherboard

Asus ROG STRIX Z370-E

Asus Prime X370-PRO

Memory

Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB 3000MHz

Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB 3000MHz

Storage

Samsung 960 EVO 250GB M.2

Samsung 960 EVO 250GB M.2

 

WD Caviar Blue 1 TB

WD Caviar Blue 1 TB

Video Card

GTX 1080 Ti

GTX 1080 Ti

Case

NSXT S340

NZXT S340

Power Supply

EVGA SuperNova NEX 650W

EVGA SuperNova NEX 650W

build-gaming-pc

Are you ready to play in 4k? This build can do it.

CPU Conundrum

I'd like to be able to go up to an i5-8600k here or even the i7 8700; however, prices are simply too high right now. For that reason, we're sticking with the 6 core i5-8400 and going up on the AMD side to the R7 1700.

CPU Cooler Options

We're using a Noctua NH-D15 CPU Cooler for the Ryzen build. So, depending on where you're getting it from, you may need a separate mounting bracket. These are typically available for cheap or even free from the manufacturer website. As companies continue to adapt to Ryzen, these will likely be unnecessary.

For the Intel Build, we're using the cheaper Hyper 212 Evo. It should allow an overclock of around 5GHz. So, it's inexpensive and does basically everything you need it do for around $30.

Faster Memory

We're going with fast ram here for the AMD and Intel builds here. It's pretty crucial for the AMD build as I mentioned above.

Fitting in a GTX 1080Ti

Yes, we could have added more storage and gotten a fancier case and motherboard here; however, we'd have skimped on the most important component. So, we're squeezing in GTX 1080Ti here. It's ideal for 4k, VR, or high frame rate 1440p gaming with performance up to 35% improved over the GTX 1080.

Final Thoughts for the $1600 Build

Overall, we feel this build is a good mix of maximizing performance and functionality. If you don't have a high refresh rate or resolution monitor, you may prefer to allocate more of your GPU budget to something else.

build-gaming-pc

*A mounting adapter may be required.

Parts$2,000 Intel Editing PC$2,000 AMD Ryzen Editing PC

CPU

Intel i7-8700k

Ryzen 7 1700

CPU Cooler

Corsair H100i v2

*Corsair H100i v2

Motherboard

Asus ROG STRIX Z370-E

Asus Prime X370-PRO

Ram

Corsair Vengeance LPX 3000MHz 16GB

Corsair Vengeance LPX 3000MHz 16GB

Storage

Samsung 960 Evo M.2 500GB

Samsung 960 Evo M.2 500GB

 

Seagate Barracuda 2TB x 2

Seagate Barracuda 2TB x 2

Video Card

GeForce GTX 1080 Ti

GeForce GTX 1080 Ti

Case

Corsair 750D

Corsair 750D

DVD

Asus DVD DRW

Asus DVD DRW

Beginner PC Builder's Guide and Help

Looking to build a PC this year? Here's a guide with all the latest information you need to know.

If you're a photo or video editor, the $2,000 editing PC gives you a few more options that are practical for daily use.

Increased Storage Solutions

First of all, you're getting a total of 4TB of storage with 2 Seagate Barracuda drives. For M.2 drive, you're getting an additional 500GB. This gives you the flexibility to work with your videos, photos, and favorite programs.

More Space for Upgrades

We've upgraded the case to allow for something with additional capacity for drives and a few more features as well. The 750D is capable of keeping your expensive components cool as well.

Increased Overclocking

As you'll likely need good CPU performance, we've also included the Corsair H100i v2 coolers. Along with the good midrange motherboards we've chosen, you should be able to get Ryzen to 4GHz and Coffee Lake to 5GHz. This will cut your rendering times considerably.

Final Word:

Overall, this build may be more than enough for the average gamer; however, if you thrive on playing at the best FPS and resolution, it's what you need. For photo editors and graphic designers, it's also a cheap and high performing solution when compared to prebuilt solutions.

Building a PC is simple and allows you to get more bang for your buck. Purchasing something prebuilt gets you less performance with typically inferior parts. So, if you're ready to dive in, here are a few things you should think about when choosing the hardware.

Intel vs AMD in 2018

Intel Vs. AMD - Who has the Best CPU of 2018?

Intel Vs. AMD - Who has the Best CPU of 2018?

The two big players in the CPU market are Intel and AMD. And depending on what the goal is of your computer build you may prefer one over the other.

The easy way to think about it is that Intel processors, in general, have faster IPC or instructions per clock. This means that for each core or thread they perform faster. For games that prefer faster over more cores (most of them) Intel will typically give more FPS or frames per second. So, if your only goal is to get the most performance in games, Intel will likely be the winner in most scenarios.

On the other hand, if more cores and threads matter to you, AMD is a very good choice. First of all, a similarly priced AMD CPU isn't that much slower than an Intel one. It also typically comes with more cores. This means that for certain tasks your AMD CPU will outperform the Intel one. This also is true in certain games that can take advantage of those cores. As more and more games continue to use more cores, this will certainly give AMD CPUs additional longevity.

How Much CPU do you Really Need?

For gaming, the amount of CPU you need is determined by your graphics card and the resolution you're playing at. For example, if you're purchasing a $100 graphics card, then a CPU from $75 to $125 likely won't bottleneck it. However, if you're purchasing a $700 graphics card, you'll need something in the $300 to $400 range to give you the best results.

The resolution you play at also matters. Those who play at a higher resolution are putting more demands on their graphics card. As such, the CPU they use is actually not as big of a deal. This is counterintuitive to many.

Installing Your Processor

Installing your CPU is actually a simple process as long as you've purchased the correct motherboard. Simply align the notches of your CPU with the socket of your motherboard being careful not to bend any pins. Once it's installed, the socket latch should do the rest of the work. Pull it down and latch it into place.

It's easy to overspend on a motherboard. They come as cheap as $50 and as expensive as around $500. Yet, the performance you'll actually get in a game isn't that different between the two. So, what's the difference?

Some motherboards have more features and include the option to overclock your Ram and CPU. Better parts and even size can also make a difference.

Motherboard Compatibility

When you purchase your processor, pay attention to the socket type. This should correspond to the motherboard type you purchase. For example, if you purchase a socket LGA 1151 CPU, you'll need an 1151 motherboard. Or, if you purchase an AM4 socket processor, you'll need an AM4 motherboard.

From there, you'll want to determine what type of chipset of that type of motherboard you need. The chipset of your motherboard is just another way of saying that certain features are guaranteed to be found on that type of motherboard. Certain features will also be added by the manufacturer of the motherboard.

So, the best way to determine what features your motherboard has is to look at the specifications of the motherboard itself.

From there, you'll have to determine what types of features you want on your motherboard or if you want to overclock. Overclocking is only available on certain chipsets. So, knowing that beforehand is crucial; however, most gamers do not overclock.

Installing Your Motherboard

Motherboards come in various sizes that fit into certain types of cases. So, be sure you're getting a case that is compatible. For the most part, bigger cases will fit smaller motherboards.

In order to install your motherboard line up the holes in your PC case with the motherboard. Once you've done that install motherboard offsets in the corresponding PC case holes. Place the motherboard down on the offsets while forcing the back I/O into the back of the case. Screw the motherboard down to the offsets.

What Motherboard Manufacturer do you prefer?

As you might imagine the power that your PC needs is based upon the components that you choose for your PC.

For the most part, the power required to even run higher-end PCs has gone over the years. So, it's unlikely you'll need a large capacity power supply. That being said you can get a general idea by using a power supply calculator online to calculate your overall wattage needs.

Power Supply Efficiency and 80 Plus Certification

I recommend you go with a good energy efficient power supply that is rated at least 80 PLUS. This means that the power supply is at least 80% efficient with the power it draws from the wall. 80 Plus certifications are rated by efficiency from bronze, silver, gold, and platinum.

Not all 80 Plus power supplies are expensive. So, even a budget build of around $500 should still look for a bronze certified power supply. I've also made a list of the top rated power supplies on the market. I recommend that if you're wanting additional information on power supplies.

Power Supply Sizes

If you buy an ATX or standard power supply it should fit into any Micro ATX, mid-tower, or full tower PC case. For other slim sizes, be sure to check your case's specifications.

Installing Your Power Supply

Power supplies are typically mounted on the top or the bottom of the back of your PC case. Use four of the screws provided by your motherboard manufacturer to secure it into place.

While your case certainly won't affect the performance of your PC much, it's still important to find something compatible that will help to keep your components cool.

Understanding Case Sizes and Motherboard Compatibility

Cases come in various sizes just like motherboards. Motherboard Sizes include mini ITX, Micro ATX, ATX, and E-ATX from small to large. Cases are available in mini-ITX, Micro, mid-tower, and full-sized towers. Some large-sized cases may be compatible with any smaller motherboard; however, be sure to check the manufacturer technical details to be sure.

Compatibility typically has to do with where the holes are for the motherboard offsets.

Cooling

Cases come not only with or without fans but also compatibility for liquid cooling. I'd recommend you get a case that has at least one fan even if you're doing a budget build. A front fan brings in cool air and helps to blow the hot air out the back of your computer. This keeps your PC and components cool which also increases their longevity.

The more wattage that your PC uses the more heat it will produce. So, if you go with an energy efficient build, very little cooling is actually needed. On the other hand, if you build a huge PC that you plan on overclocking, additional cooling plans may be ideal.

DDR4 is the latest memory technology. It's available in speeds from 2133MHz to above 4000MHz and comes in various capacities.

How Much Ram Do You Need?

For any gaming system, the typical answer to this is 8GB. I'd say that in almost every situation that this is true. While some games use over 8GB I haven't seen a huge difference in a number of frames one gets simply by having Ram over this amount. That being said, some modern games do go over so if you're wanting to future proof your system, 16GB might be a good idea.