Best PC Builds

Introduction

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.

MORE: How To Build A PC
MORE: Systems in the Forums

Best PC Builds

MORE: Best Cases
MORE: Best Cooling

MORE: Best CPUs

MORE: Best Graphics Cards

MORE: Best Memory

MORE: Best Motherboards

MORE: Best Power Supplies
MORE: Best SSDs

Best $500 PC Build


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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.

Best $750 VR Build


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Best $1000 PC Build


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Best $1250 PC Build


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Best $1500 PC Build


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Best $1750 PC Build


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Best $2000 PC Build


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Best $2500 VR Build


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Best $1000 Steam Machine Build


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17 comments
    Your comment
  • anort3
    And Nvidia just made all of these obsolete.
    8
  • gbair
    From the $750 VR thread: "Those [the two from the poll] were the only submissions that met minimum specs...".

    Not sure which specs y'all were using, but I saw more than a couple that met what was posted for submissions...
    1
  • Nuckles_56
    I agree with anort3 here, I guess you'll need to do a new one of these next week lol
    Also, I wish SR-71 Blackbird went with a different r9 390x, as I know the Strix ones run very hot
    0
  • turkey3_scratch
    I have to agree that the lack of an SSD on the $2000 machine is sort of disturbing. I'm usually that guy going around saying, "Oh, it doesn't help FPS at all" - but it's a $2000 budget.
    1
  • DarthPancho
    This all goes out the window with Pascal today!
    1
  • Dirk_Funk
    Hey that's my case in the soup kitchen build. Can confirm it is an excellent value.
    0
  • DynamoNED
    Quick question about the "Steam Machine" build: Is this intended to run SteamOS, or just intended as an HTPC that runs Steam? If it's the former, is a Radeon card really the best option for a SteamOS machine? Pardon me if my ignorance is showing, but last time I dabbled in SteamOS, the official Nvidia drivers were far more stable in Linux that either the FGLRX or radeon drivers. If it is the latter, then I agree that it's a good performance platform that could use a bit more RAM.
    0
  • superninja12
    I've got some compliments about the 2k build I'm sorry but here we go.

    1) cpu cooler with that budget could easily be a kraken x61/ cryorig h40/h80/ultimate, or at least a cryorig h7
    2) better case like the phanteks p400s
    3) better power supply.
    4) seagate hdd? wheres the ssd .
    -1
  • Thomas Serruques
    No SSD and 8GB of RAM on the 2K$ build is really underwhelming. Plus all those SLI config are not really futureproof what with M$ DirectX12
    and explicit SLI support for AAA titles. M$ said they would make an announcement concerning the support of multi GPU but we're still waiting. I hope there's some good news and people don't regret their SLI or Crossfire builds.
    0
  • Thomas Serruques
    750$ build and 1K$ build both seem to have 16GB of RAM.
    So in the 1K$ build description I don't see how it has double the ram of the 750$ build
    0
  • Mooisme123
    Can someone explain to me why the 980 ti is obsolete or isn't really worth buying anymore? I noticed that the 980 ti performance is still very strong atm when it comes to AAA titles. Please enlightening me as this might sound sort of like a noob question.
    0
  • anort3
    Anonymous said:
    Can someone explain to me why the 980 ti is obsolete or isn't really worth buying anymore? I noticed that the 980 ti performance is still very strong atm when it comes to AAA titles. Please enlightening me as this might sound sort of like a noob question.


    The GTX 1070 is faster and cheaper. The GTX 1080 is significantly faster and the same price the 980 Ti released at.
    0
  • Mooisme123
    Anonymous said:
    Anonymous said:
    Can someone explain to me why the 980 ti is obsolete or isn't really worth buying anymore? I noticed that the 980 ti performance is still very strong atm when it comes to AAA titles. Please enlightening me as this might sound sort of like a noob question.


    The GTX 1070 is faster and cheaper. The GTX 1080 is significantly faster and the same price the 980 Ti released at.


    Hey there, do you know what is the price range that is suitable to buy since I notice its around $600 atm.
    0
  • anort3
    A two month old article comment thread is the wrong place to ask build questions. Please start a new thread to address any questions you might have.
    0
  • kamhagh
    can someone tell me why there is a cooler on Screaming Skylake Build? you can't overclock it! And stock fans are usually good, atleast mine is, it has never gone over 30% i think :D I have a stock 3570k, but maybe ivy bridge is just cold:?
    0
  • Wurmfist
    I wish OS was added into the cost of these reviews. Face it, you're not going to build even the 500 dollar one without the functionality of Windows 10. And I've heard the arguments about Steam OS and so on so forth. That's fine, but add the cost of 100 dollars to every build and it gets realistic. Yes, I know sometimes you can find it cheaper.
    0