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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November 2016 Update
This update was spurred on by the release of the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060. The GTX 1060 is one of the least expensive graphics cards capable of handling VR games (thanks to the new Asynchronous Space Warp feature from Oculus). This prompted us to introduce a new $600 VR Build position in our lineup. We wanted to see whether our readers could build a VR gaming PC on such a tight budget. Although we didn't limit builds to the GTX 1060, it didn't come as a surprise that most submissions (and the winning submission) used a GTX 1060.
We appreciate the time everyone in the community put into designing the various builds, and we hope you’ve enjoyed the experience as much as we enjoyed reading through all the entries.
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Best $500 PC Build
Homeless Overclocker - Built By: damric
These days, gaming on a budget has never been easier. Despite its name, the Homeless Overclocker designed by damric does not use a typical overclockable CPU. Instead, it uses an Intel Core i3-6100 processor with a locked core multiplier. Although Intel doesn’t want you to overclock its Core i3 processors, you can still base clock overclock them with select motherboards, such as Asrock’s Z170M Pro4S. Even if overclocking isn’t in your wheelhouse, the Core i3-6100 comes clocked at 3.7GHz and should offer decent performance out of the box.
For gaming, the Homeless Overclocker uses AMD’s budget friendly Radeon RX 460 GPU. This graphics card isn’t going to max out the latest games, but it should get them running with modest detail settings.
Although this system was compiled on a tight budget, it is important to point out the weak points in the build. The biggest issue is its rather limited storage space, with its 240GB SSD and no other storage devices. An SSD is a clear advantage in terms of performance, but you may find it difficult to fit many games on an SSD this size. The system also has less RAM than we would like to see in a gaming PC, but it would be exceptionally difficult to accommodate 16GB of RAM at this low budget.
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Best $600 VR Build
i5-6500, GTX1060 6GB - Built By: King Dranzer's
Thanks to advancements in graphics technology, it has never been so inexpensive to game in VR (“never” being relative, given that consumer-based PC VR has only been around this year, of course). King Dranzer’s i5-6500, GTX1060 6GB Build is priced just under $600 and should technically run VR titles. This is made possible by a recent new Oculus feature called Asynchronous Space Warp, which can reduce the application frame rate to 45 FPS, relieving some of the graphics processing power required for VR. Although this build’s GPU can handle VR with modest graphics settings, it consumed nearly half the build budget, and the rest of the PC suffers somewhat as a result. The system has a lower-end motherboard that uses the H110 chipset. King Dranzer was also unable to fit an SSD in the budget, and the HDD is relatively small by today’s standards at 320 GB. But cheap VR doesn’t come without a few compromises.
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Best $750 VR Build
My PC Costs As Much As My Vive - Built By: g-unit1111
This system, designed by g-unit1111, takes advantage of Nvidia’s recently released GeForce GTX 1060 GPU to achieve high-performance gaming on a relatively tight budget. The build also includes an Intel Core i5-6500 CPU and a Gigabyte GA-H170-Gaming 3 motherboard. No overclocking features here, but the Core i5-6500 should easily outpace the Core i3-6100 on the $500 build.
Although this system is clearly more powerful, the system’s storage and memory are weak points again. Because the budget is somewhat higher, it would be much easier to fit a 16GB RAM kit in this build, but these are always the tough choices when picking parts. Unlike the $500 build, this system has plenty of storage space for the average user, but an SSD didn’t fit into the budget.
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Best $1,000 PC Build
i5-6600K GTX 1070 Build - Built By: King Dranzer
King Dranzer’s i5-6600K GTX1070 Build pushes performance higher still, with an unlocked Core i5-6600K CPU and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070. With $1,000 to spend, it becomes increasingly easy to build a powerful PC without significant weak points. The extra $250 allowed King Dranzer to push RAM capacity up to 16GB, and the system features both an SSD and an HDD. The weakest aspect of this system is its rather small 120GB SSD.
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Best $1,000 Mini-ITX PC Build
Broken Frames - Built By: logainofhades
Every PC gamer wants a powerful computer, but many of them also want a compact system that doesn’t clutter up their room. This build takes space into consideration, and it is limited to hardware that fits inside a mini-ITX case. Overall, Broken Frames is nearly as powerful as the i5-6600K GTX1070 build from King Dranzer. This system’s designer, logainofhades, also opted for an EVGA GeForce GTX 1070 graphics card and a 16GB RAM kit. Moreover, this system SSD is less problematic, with its 240GB capacity.
Broken Frames falls behind the i5-6600K GTX1070 Build in CPU horsepower with its slightly less expensive Core i5-6500. The system also uses a somewhat-lackluster ASRock H110M-ITX/ac motherboard, which uses the low-end H110 chipset. Finding an affordable high-quality mini-ITX motherboard is the hardest part of building a mini-ITX system, though, and this one is quite functional and shouldn’t hurt performance.
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Best $1,250 PC Build
i7-6700K GTX1080 Build - Built By: King Dranzer
King Dranzer also submitted the best $1,250 build, improving on the $1,000 build by replacing the Core i5-6600k with a Core i7-6700k. The Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 gets an upgrade to an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080. While overall performance has increased, the 120GB SSD remains.
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Best $1,500 PC Build
Anxiety - Built By: SR-71
Having reached the limits of the LGA1151 platform, SR-71 Blackbird was forced to use an LGA2011-3 CPU to further increase processor performance. This, however, comes with a heavy price tag, because X99 motherboards and LGA2011-3 CPUs are considerably more expensive than their LGA1151 counterparts. As a result, this build backtracks on RAM capacity to 8GB, and it also lacks an SSD. These are fairly significant trade-offs for a $1,500 build, but it is technically the fastest system so far (on paper).
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Best $2,000 PC Build
Little Monster - Built By: logainofhades
Additional funds in your PC build budget can fix just about anything, and that is essentially what happened with Little Monster. This build uses the i7-6800K CPU, an X99 platform, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080. Unlike Anxiety, however, Little Monster beefs up the rest of the system with 16GB of DDR4 clocked at 3200 MHz, and a 512GB M.2 SSD.
Logainofhades also equipped the Little Monster with a higher-quality Platinum efficiency power supply. Although this build isn’t necessarily faster in terms of its processing hardware, the advantages it gains from the additional component hardware make it a much more well-rounded, feature-rich build.
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Best $2,500 VR Build
Roswell Reality - Built By: SR-71
SR-71 Blackbird’s Roswell Reality is designed to be the best $2,500 build for VR gaming. It far surpasses all other builds by using two EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 graphics cards in SLI. It also has the fastest CPU so far, with its choice of the i7-6850K. The power supply and SSD used in this build are lower quality components compared to the Little Monster build, but when you pack in multiple flagship graphics cards, even a budget of $2,500 can get tight. It’s doubtful you will have any issues running games in VR, though.
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