Defining that the core focus of a PC build is for “gaming” is a good first step – but there’s more to figure out before just buying top-rated parts from your favorite retailer. Gaming PCs come in many flavors – mostly budget, mid-range, and high-end – and can offer unique capabilities at various price-points. Outside of the usual “just gaming” requirements, builders who seek to stream, make YouTube videos, host Minecraft/game servers, or perform other tasks of varying intensity will need to research part selection.
HOW SHOULD YOU BUILD A GAMING PC?
Picking a Budget for a Gaming PC
This step is largely a function of your available funds – but keep in mind that PC building can be done as an over-time activity; if you just need something functional for now, you can always buy more expensive parts later. That’s the beauty of PCDIY.
But there’s another hard aspect to this: what is an appropriate amount to spend? Maybe you’ve got a flexible budget if the results are worth the extra money – that’s where we come in.
Most budget-friendly gaming PCs are going to land in the ~$500 to $700 range, and will offer generally reasonable performance for gaming at (again – generally) medium settings, 1080p. You’ll forfeit luxuries like an SSD, or maybe a faster GPU or aftermarket CPU cooler, but those are acceptable sacrifices to make if budget is tighter. Generally, if building an entire system from the ground-up, expect that a minimum of ~$550 is pretty reasonable (though there is room as low as the $400s, with cheap parts).
As with anything, quality does start to go down as price does – but that ~$550 area is a great starting point.
Once that’s defined, we can look at options that’d increase price. Adding an SSD, for instance, may be another ~$50 to $100 (for 120-240GB). Upgrading the platform (motherboard and CPU) could be, jointly, about $100-$150. GPUs exist in all price-points, of course, and can also be upgraded.
But do you need those upgrades?
Tips for Building a Mid-Range Gaming PC:
When more intensive games are your lifeblood – or it’s just not acceptable to drop frames or play with lowered settings – a mid-range gaming PC is a good option for 1080p gaming with reasonably high settings. These types of PCs fill-in the middle of the market, and will generally use something akin to a Core i5 CPU and a GTX 960/970/1070 or R9 380X/390X. These builds run a price of ~$700 plus, but there’s no hard-and-fast rule that defines what is firmly “mid-range” versus “budget.”
Tips for Building a High-End Gaming PC:
Going for high-end gaming PC is suitable to streamers, content creators, or budding enthusiasts who demand only the highest settings, framerates, and resolutions. There’s really no cap to how much can be spent. If you don’t feel strongly about ultra graphics with higher resolutions – like 1440p or 4K – and don’t have a need to produce content, then it might be possible for you to save some cash and buy a cheaper setup.
ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS BEFORE YOU BUILD A GAMING PC
Before taking the plunge, define these requirements for yourself:
- How much money can I budget toward this project?
- What do I want to spend?
- What am I OK with spending, if I had to?
- Will I be streaming games or making YouTube videos?
- Will I be playing at 1440p, 4K, or UltraWide resolutions?
- Will I be playing AAA titles with Ultra or near-max graphics?
If the answer to most of these lower questions is “no,” then budget and mid-range options may be appealing. If you answered mostly “yes,” then you should consider spending a little bit more money to build something you can use across the board. Just think about what the system will be used for, then start building! – Steve Burke, GamersNexus