The Best PC Builds. Our title is practically self-explanatory. Unlike the System Builder Marathon, these configurations are not chosen by Tom's Hardware's editors. They are submitted and selected by our forum members based on defined pricing tiers. Every so often, we ask the community for its help picking parts based on performance and features for the price. Feel free to quibble in the comments, as always, and submit your own ideas next time around. Seriously. Someone needs to take down SR-71 Blackbird's setups, which owned three of our subcategories!
The Tom's Hardware editors and forum team believe this is a great place to come together and showcase the fusion of content and community. For nearly two decades (2016 marks our 20th anniversary) Tom's Hardware has brought you the news and reviews of the latest in PC hardware, but also the famous Tom's Hardware forum, now more than 2 million members strong, a remarkable milestone we recently surpassed.
The forum attracts technology enthusiasts of all stripes and levels, connected by their interest in discussing computer hardware and helping solve technical challenges. Many are ultimately seeking help in building a PC, and they receive that help not only through our editorial content but thanks to the dedicated moderators and forum members who put countless hours into assisting others. Because of their expertise and the constant requests for help with PC builds, our members have developed a talent for finding the best prices and putting together the best system builds.
The following selections showcase all of that. We received numerous submissions and enjoyed examining all of your PC builds, but we could ultimately only select one system per price range — thanks to the readers and forum members who participated!
Updates - May 2016
With new VR HMDs from Oculus and HTC hitting the gaming market, and questions from the community about VR builds, we wanted to add two VR-ready PC builds to our list. Naturally, these builds must comply with the recommendations for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. This means you will need at least an Intel Core i5 or an AMD equivalent, a high-end graphics card comparable to a GTX 970, and at least two USB 3.0 ports.
The USB 3.0 requirement alone knocks several older or low-end systems out of of the running. The system needs at least one additional USB 3.0 port is required if you want to use other accessories such as the Rift Touch controller. With this in mind, we removed any build candidates that had fewer than three USB 3.0 ports available.
We opted to replace the $750 build with a VR ready alternative. This gives us a budget-oriented VR option, and it also challenged builders to get creative. We also introduced a new $2500 build as a high-end VR gaming system.
Finally, we replaced our best $600 Steam build pick with a more feature-rich $1000 build. Although the $600 system was a viable steam machine, the $1000 build simply offers a richer experience and is more in line with what most enthusiasts would like to see in a gaming system. Because these are steam machines and were limited to compact mini-ITX cases, it was important to keep an eye on the heat these systems produce. Several build submissions we received used components that ran too hot for the cases they were in and were removed from consideration as a result.
Best PC Builds
Best $500 PC Build
Nikoli707’s “El 4K 2000” continues leaning on the Core i5-6600K, balancing stock performance, reasonable cost and overclockability. And like G-Unit1111’s build, it relies on SLI to outperform the competition. Instead of using GTX 970s, however, this setup employs two EVGA GeForce GTX 980 Ti SC graphics cards with 6GB of GDDR5. Because this doubles the amount of cash spent compared to “Big Things Come In Small Packages”, Nikoli707 had to settle for a lower-end air cooler and a less efficient PSU. Nikoli707 also removed the SSD to pare costs back even more. No doubt, many of you will take issue with that decision.