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.
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!
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March 2017 Update
These new PC builds were spurred on by the release of Intel’s Kaby Lake CPU and the corresponding 200-Series motherboards. These builds were compiled before the release of AMD’s Ryzen CPUs, 300-Series motherboards, and Nvidia’s new GeForce GTX 1080 Ti, so you won’t see those show up in any of the systems below. There’s always next quarter.
In this update, we have also transitioned away from specialized build categories. Nor are we limiting builds by form factor or use case. Instead all categories are only limited by budget. The text accompanying each build is provided by forum member who designed it, giving you more insight into their system building process.
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Best $500 PC Build
I can ITX anything you can ATX - Built By: Why_Wolf
This build was based around trying to get a console sized PC. This case is around the same size as the original Xbox One if you include the power brick. Since this size of case requires an SFX PSU it made sense to go with this case as it includes one [a PSU] for a price you can't beat buying them separately. The main compromise point is what CPU to use: either an i3 or Pentium G4560. I opted for the stronger CPU to provide a solid foundation on which someone can just plug in a stronger GPU later as opposed to having to completely rebuild the PC. In that spirit, I also opted for just a single stick of RAM so the user can upgrade to a full 16 GB later.
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Best $750 Build
Lava Stream - Built By: SR-71 Blackbird
With my Lava Stream setup, I wanted to pack as much performance per dollar as possible without sacrificing on the quality of the core components. I chose a Z270 board and a 7600K CPU, so that the total performance could be maximized with some overclocking ability and superior dual channel memory speeds from the 2x4 2800mhz GSkill Ripjaws V modules. The choice of the MSI Radeon RX480 8GB was an easy choice because of the great horsepower and first rate cooling you get for your money invested. I decided to go with a cheaper, but decent case and a standard 1TB HDD, to enable the purchasing of the other higher quality build components. The choice of the Seasonic power supply was a no-brainer, because excellent hardware needs a high-quality power source, to ensure smooth operation.
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Best $1000 Build
Provost's Pick - Built By: Damric
I'm more of a super low budget gaming expert, and with $1000 I knew I could put one of the higher end graphics cards in the machine for ultra QHD gaming. I picked the power supply first. To power a high-end graphics card, you want a very solid 50°C rated unit, and the LEADEX platform is one we all trust. The 550W G2 fits these considerations. I recycled the same budget case from my low budget builds as a placeholder, but it ended up staying in the build because I was reaching the budget cap. The Zalman T2 looks decent enough to hold everything and is better than a shoe box. To fit in the small case, I chose one of the smaller high end graphics cards, the Zotac GTX 1070 mini. I compromised between speed and capacity when choosing the SSD. The cloud has made slow hard drives obsolete even for bulk media storage. The only question was more room for games, or get something faster like a Samsung 960. I decided I would rather the higher capacity and settled on a standard TLC drive that is fast enough and comes with Toshiba's advanced replacement warranty: the OCZ Trion 150. Lastly I needed a platform to push all of this. I went with Kaby Lake i5 and 16GB RAM. The CPU cannot be overclocked but it does turbo boost, and comes with a stock cooler. It should push game engines quite well in QHD.
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Best $1,250 PC Build
Gamer's Delight - Built By: Shrapnel_Indie
This is a computer built with a non-compromise to quality while delivering the most performance within the given budget. In that perspective, the PSU was chosen for its history of providing clean power without risking the computer. The CPU was chosen mainly because it is Intel's latest and greatest i5 CPU, and Cryorig was chosen as the cooler for its known target of performance as well. This was a balancing act, and while I would have liked to drop an i7 in as the CPU, I didn't want to sacrifice graphics at 1440p to do it. The case was chosen for its ability to look at home in a more reserved environment and to let the components shine. One of the other things I would have liked to do was to put a larger SSD in, but to keep on budget and offer plenty of space for storage, this SSD was chosen. 16GB of RAM was chosen to allow games that preferred more than 8GB to stretch their legs with the CPU and GPU. It's a delightful system for a gamer because it can be pushed and it won't choke.
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Best $1,500 PC Build
Lobotomy - Built By: SR-71 Blackbird
With my Lobotomy build submission, I wanted it to scream QUALITY from top to bottom. To make the build stand out and scream top tier performance, I jumped to the X99 platform and paired an ASrock X99 Extreme 4 with the flame throwing 6 core/12 threads i7 6800k. My next move was to add the Zotac GeForce GTX 1080 8GB AMP! Edition Graphics Card and 16GB of 2666 MHz GSkill Ripjaws V [DRAM] Series to enable this setup to hammer the competition. Booting this setup into Windows will be a breeze with the Sandisk PLUS 120GB SSD drive. The very dependable WD Caviar BLUE 7200RPM 1TB HDD was added for additional storage. To keep the 6800k nice and cool, the budget, but very capable Deepcool Gammaxx 400 was inserted into the fray. I wanted a well-built case to house the X99 beast, so I added the budget friendly but excellent quality Cooler Master MasterBox 5. Finally, to keep this build running smooth, I added the High Quality EVGA 650W GS PSU made by Seasonic.
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Best $2,000 PC Build
i7-7700K GTX1080 SLI Build - Built By: King Dranzer
With an i7-7700K Kaby Lake CPU and two GTX1080 Pascal GPUs in SLI this PC is a powerhouse of gaming which can satisfy the requirements of all the games thrown at it, even at 4K. Even if one decides to game at lower resolution like 1440p or 1080p this PC will be able satisfy their requirements for a longer period of time. Even with two GTX1080s included, the build comes with high quality components and without any compromises. With the EVGA GQ 750W PSU that PC is safe to run even under load with CPU and GPUs overclocked.
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Best $2,500 PC Build
The Glass House - Built By: G-Unit1111
I chose this build because I love the tempered glass look of Lian Li's PC-08B. The downside of the tempered glass case is the extremely high cost. I had considered using other cases including my trusty go-to Phanteks Enthoo Luxe with RGB lighting. But the Lian Li is a real standout in this field. One of the biggest challenges was being able to use this case along with a top of the line i7 CPU and a dual GTX 1080 setup and still be able to come in under the $2500 budget.Where the challenges lie are that I usually try to include some form of mass storage, but also wanted the ridiculously fast speeds that an M2 drive provides. But again, the high cost means that something had to be eliminated. So therefore, the mechanical drive goes. The other sacrifice I had to make was coming up with a processor cooler that wasn't quite a liquid cooler, but not quite a gigantic dual tower air cooler like the Noctua D15. I would love to use a CLL like the Cryorig A40 but again the challenges of meeting a strict $2500 prevented me from doing that. So, I chose the Cryorig H5 as a good medium between using a giant air cooler and a closed liquid loop.
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Best Unlimited Budget PC Build
Ultimate Versatility Compute/Visualization Workstation 1.26.17 - Built By: Bambiboom
A very versatile workstation that is also high performance is difficult- and expensive. The data processing requires high calculation density and efficient threading distribution, followed by high speed, high bandwidth memory and disk subsystems. As a proprietary system, the cost would be nearer $50,000. Similar systems using a smaller version Supermicro Superworkstation SYS-7048A-T is possible for about $23,000. From HP or Dell it would cost over $30,000.
“The CPU is a difficult choice given that the more cores the lower the clock speed, but the Xeon E5-2673 v4 20-core has a healthy 3.6GHz on the first two cores for a very good single-threaded performance and the all-core rate of 3.1GHz maintains a high-rate multi-threaded data stream that can benefit from a large amount of RAM.
“GPUs today have substantial calculation density so the system integrating four GPUs will have a very high capability in the most demanding analytical and simulation applications. The GPU specification of this system can probably be improved by following the single Quadro P6000 driving the displays with three Tesla Pascal coprocessors, either P40 or P100.
“The Supermicro X10DRG-Q motherboard is of a proprietary size to accommodate four double-height GPUs without covering the other PCIe slots, plus the volume of air required to cool the GPUs, the requirement for a substantial number of drives, and the need for this kind of system to operate quietly, meant that the Supermicro SuperWorkstation SYS-7048GR-TR is the ideal case/chassis for the system. It’s also convenient in that the user need only mount the CPUs, plug in the RAM, GPUs, and drives, saving substantial assembly, wiring, and configuration time.
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Update, 3/17/17, 7:00am PT: Fixed build name on $1,000 build.