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Best PC Builds for Gaming: From Sub $500 Budgets to $3000+

PC Builds
(Image credit: Future)

While you can buy one of the best gaming PCs and resolve your dilemma about whether to buy or build a PC that way, putting together your own system is almost always more rewarding. When you build a gaming PC yourself, you get total control of everything from the exact make and model of motherboard to aesthetics of the chassis and how many RGB fans you want. 

Depending on what type of computer you create, you may also be saving a few hundred dollars over the cost of buying a prebuilt system, For example, right now, getting a  desktop with similar specs to our $1,000 PC build will cost you $1,399 at Newegg (opens in new tab).

To help you assemble the best PC build for gaming or productivity on your budget, we've created a set of recommended parts lists below for different builds. We've identified budget builds that cost less than $500 and less than $1,000, along with mid-range, high-end and super high-end gaming rigs. 

Caveats for Best PC Builds

Prices change so rapidly that we are only trying to come up less than a specific price point with the $500 and $1,000 builds. Note that the prices we list below were current at publication time but could be different right now.

We are also going to recommend GPUs rather than specific makes and models of graphics cards. For example, we'd recommend an RTX 3080 Ti (opens in new tab) and link to a list of available cards rather than, for example, the Zotac RTX 3080 Ti Trinity OC (opens in new tab) Given stock issues, you should get whichever third or first-party card is available with the GPU you want for the best price at the time you read this.

Also note that we don't include the cost of an operating system, because you can get Windows for Free or Cheap. Nor do we include the price of peripherals such as the best gaming monitors, best gaming keyboards or best gaming mouse.

Best $500 PC Build for Gaming

Zalman S3 PC Case

(Image credit: Amazon)

Sub-$500 Gaming PC
Component TypeModelPrice (at Pub Time in USD)
CPURyzen 5 5600G$148
MotherboardASRock B450M Pro4$72
RAMTeamGroup T-Force Zeus DDR 16GB Kit (2 x 8GB) 3200 MHz$49
StorageTeamGroup MP33 (1TB)$71
CaseZalman S3$59
PSUCooler Master MWE 450$40
CoolerN/A, comes with CPU
Total$439

We hate to say it, but if you can't go over $500, you probably shouldn't consider using a discrete graphics card (you can do just barely but at the expense of other key parts). Because of that, we’re recommending that you go with the best possible integrated graphics you can afford. On the CPU side, that means an AMD Ryzen 5 5600G . The Ryzen 5 boasts AMD Radeon Vega 7 graphics, 6 CPU cores and a boost clock of 4.4 GHz. That APU also comes with AMD's Wraith cooler in the box, so that's one place where we'll save some money.

We don’t expect fantastic frame rates in games, but you should be able to game at 720p and perhaps step up to 1080p with low-to-medium settings on some less-demanding games. You can always save your pennies for a future GPU upgrade.

For the motherboard, any budget B450 or B550 board with an M.2 slot should do, but we’ve chosen the ASRock B450M Pro4 because of its relatively affordable price more than any of its features. If you can spring for a B550 board, you'll get better GPU bandwidth and also get the ability to someday upgrade to a speedy PCIe Gen 4 SSD, something that's way too expensive for this build and not at all a priority.

To milk the maximum performance out of our integrated GPU, which relies on system RAM, we need relatively-fast, but inexpensive RAM, so we’re going with a TeamGroup 16GB (8x2) kit running at 3200 MHz. Any pair of two 8GB DIMMs running at 3200 MHz will do, but this kit was cheapest when we wrote this. 

For our storage drive, we've chosen the TeamGroup MP33, which is an incredible value, considering its speed and capacity. For $63 (at pub time), the drive offers rated sequential read and write speeds of 1,800 MBps and 1,400 MBps respectively which is way faster than a SATA drive and really strong for this price range. This is a DRAMless drive so it's not quite as fast as one which has the memory, but in our tests, it was just a tiny bit slower than pricier drives. For example, it loaded a Final Fantasy XIV level in 11.42 seconds while the WD Blue SN550, which costs more than $100 for 1TB, loaded the same level in 11.04 seconds.  Most importantly, if you're installing more than a couple of games, you'll need 1TB of storage.

Our case is the Zalman S3, because it provides a tempered glass side panel and premium looks for less than $60 (at pub time). It comes with three fans (one rear and two front intake), which should be more than adequate for cooling this build. Any decent 450W PSU should be able to handle this build and the Cooler Master MWE 450 not only comes from a very reputable brand, but also is 80+ Bronze certified for added efficiency. 

Best $1,000 PC Build for Gaming 

NZXT H510 PC Case

(Image credit: Amazon)

Best $1,000 PC Build for Gaming
Component TypeModelPrice (at Pub Time in USD)
CPUAMD Ryzen 5 5600X (AMD) or Intel Core i5-12400F (Intel)$189 / $154
MotherboardASRock B450M Pro4 (AMD) or Gigabyte H610M S2H (Intel)$72 / $94
GPUNvidia RTX 3060 Ti (opens in new tab) or AMD Radeon RX 6650 XT (opens in new tab)$369 - $499
RAMTeamGroup T-Force Zeus DDR 16GB Kit (2 x 8GB) 3200 MHz$49
StorageSamsung 970 EVO 1TB$109
CaseNZXT H510$89
PSUEVGA SuperNova 550 GA$54
CoolerN/A, comes with CPU
Total:$850 - $1000

If you can stretch your budget up to around $1,000, you can build a PC with the ability to play games really well at 1080p and competently at 2K. At press time, we could find an Nvidia RTX 3060 Ti card for as little as $429. When running our 8-game test suite at 1080p resolution with ultra settings, the 3060 Ti averaged a strong 97.3 fps. It even managed a smooth 74.6 fps when we conducted the same tests at 2K ultra.

If you can't stretch your budget above $400 or you just prefer AMD, consider the Radeon RX 6650 XT, which starts at around $369. In our tests, the 6650 XT had a good 1080p frame rate of 86.2 fps and a playable 2K rate of 61.3 fps.

Our recommended CPU for this build is the AMD Ryzen 5 5600X. This 6-core, 12-thread CPU can operate at up to 4.6-GHz and uses a modest 65W of juice.  We're pairing it with the same B450 motherboard we used on our $500 build, but any B450 or B550 AMD board will get the job done. It comes with a decent air cooler in the box so you don't have to spend money on one of the best CPU coolers

Give or take, the Ryzen 5 5600X is about the same speed as the Intel Core i5-12400F, which is about $30 cheaper but requires a more expensive motherboard. So, if you prefer Intel, you can grab the Core i5-12400F and an H610 motherboard. However, if you get pair a Radeon GPU and the Ryzen CPU, you get up to a 15 percent performance boost thanks to AMD's Smart Access Memory (SAM) feature, which allows the processor faster access to the GPU memory.

We're also sticking with the same 16GB of RAM as our less-expensive build. There's no real need to go faster or increase the capacity at this price point.

For storage, we're stepping up to a 1TB drive and a faster one in the form of the Samsung 970 EVO Plus. The 970 EVO Plus boasts read and write transfer rates of 3,300 and 1,700 MBps respectively and a 1GB DRAM cache which is a nice step up from the DRAM-less WD Blue SN550, which claims speeds of 2,400 and 1,750 MBps respectively.

Our case is The NZXT H510. We like the clean, classy aesthetic of this case, which is available in black, black and red or white. It also has a USB-C Gen 2 (10 Gbps) front-panel connector, along with a Type-A connector and a headphone jack. It comes with two case fans and has room for a 240mm front radiator if you want to go that far. 

Finally, we've stepped up to a 550-watt power supply and we're  going with EVGA's SuperNova 550 GA which is both 80+ Gold and modular, a great value at this price point.

Best Mid-Range PC Build For Gaming

Phanteks P360A Case

Phanteks P360A Case (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Best Mid-Range PC Build for Gaming
Component TypeModelPrice (at Pub Time in USD)
CPUIntel Core i5-12400F$154
MotherboardGigabyte H610M S2H$94
GPURTX 3080 (opens in new tab) or Radeon RX 6800 XT (opens in new tab)$699 - $799
RAMPatriot Viper Steel DDR4 32GB (2 x 16GB) 3200 (opens in new tab)$94
StorageSK hynix Gold P31 2TB$198
CasePhanteks P360A$98
PSUCooler Master MasterWatt 650$69
CoolerN/A (included)
Total:$1500 - $1700

As we step up to a build that should be brilliant at 1080p gaming really strong for 2K gaming, we're looking at around a $1,500 budget, depending on the current price of the GPU. We recommend going with either an AMD Radeon RX 6800 XT or an Nvidia RTX 3080. 

At press time, 6800 XT cards selling for as little as $699 on Amazon and RTX 3080 cards for as little as $749. In our GPU benchmarks hierarchy, AMD's card outranks its Nvidia competitor, achieving average frame rates of 123 fps at 1080p Ultra and 99 fps at 2K Ultra to the 3080's rates of 116 and 95 fps. However, if you plan to play games with ray tracing, Nvidia's card is a better choice, achieving 66 and 43 fps at 1080p and 2K Ultra resolutions where the 6800XT got 46 and 29 fps.

Our CPU for this build is Intel's Core i5-12400F, which was our alternative choice for the $1000 build but is an even stronger choice here where we're using an Nvidia GPU and so can't benefit from AMD's Shared Memory Access.

The Core i5-12400F has 6 performance cores and 12 threads, but none of the efficiency cores we see in most Alder Lake processors. The 12400F cannot be overclocked and tops out at a boost speed of 4.4 GHz, but at this price, we're not looking to overlock anyway. Intel's processor comes with its own cooler in the box so you don't need to pay for a third-party one. 

We're going with a relatively-inexpensive motherboard with Intel's mid-tier H610 chipset. The Gigabyte H610M doesn't have PCIe Gen 4 SSD support and it only has two DIMM slots but it should work well enough for this build.

With our increased budget, we're stepping up to 32GB of RAM with the well-known and respected Patriot Viper Steel series. We're also going to a 2TB SSD that has really strong performance in the SK hynix Gold P31. This M.2 drive promises sequential read and write speeds of 3,500 and 3,200 MBps respectively.

Our chassis of choice is the Phanteks P360A, which offers excellent thermals, a premium tempered glass side panel and two included RGB fans. Our power supply is a 650-watt Cooler Master MasterWatt. This 80 Plus Bronze certified PSU is fully modular so you can only attach the cables you actually need. 

Best High-End PC Build for Gaming

Fractal Design Meshify 2

Fractal Design Meshify 2 Case (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Best High-End PC Build for Gaming
Component TypeModelPrice (at Pub Time in USD)
CPUIntel Core i5-12600K$278
MotherboardASRock Z690M Phantom Gaming 4$201
GPURTX 3080 (12GB) (opens in new tab)$799 - $899
RAMPatriot Viper Steel DDR4 32GB (2 x 16GB) 3200 (opens in new tab)$94
StorageKingston KC3000 (2TB)$225
CaseFractal Design Meshify 2 (opens in new tab)$177
PSUCorsair RM750x$147
CoolerCorsair iCUE H100i PRO XT RGB Liquid CPU Cooler 240mm$109
Total:$2000 - $2200

At a current price of $2,000 to $2,200, our high-end gaming PC build should provide enough performance to play games at 2K ultra settings with strong frame rates, and 4K ultra with playable frame rates. The system gets its GPU muscle from an RTX 3080 (12GB) card, which currently goes for $799 to $899, backed by the Intel Core i5-12600K, which is one of the best CPUs for gaming.

In our tests, an RTX 3080 card with 12GB of VRAM achieved an average frame rate of 66 fps at 4K resolution with Ultra settings. If you drop down to 2K resolution or 1080p, those numbers jump to 104 or 124 fps respectively. With ray tracing enabled at 2K,  the average was 47 fps, which is only a few frames behind the more-expensive RTX 3080 Ti and RTX 3090.

The Intel Core i5-12600K has 6 performance cores and 4 efficiency cores, which make it capable of using 16 threads at once (two for each P core). It carries a top boost frequency of 4.9 GHz and can be overclocked to higher frequencies than that.  We easily overclocked it to 5-GHz where it averaged 186 fps on our Windows 11, 1080p gaming suite (which uses an RTX 3090 card). That's only a little bit behind more expensive CPUs such as the Core i9-12900K and Ryzen 7 5800X3D.

In order to make the most of our CPU overclock, we need a Z690 motherboard and the ASRock Z690M Phantom Gaming 4 fits the bill. This Micro ATX board has a 7-phase power design, support for PCIe 4.0 SSDs and Nahimic audio. 

Our CPU doesn't come with a cooler in the box and we plan to overclock it to more than 5-GHz anyway, so we're using the Corsair iCUE H100i PRO XT RGB, a 240mm AIO liquid cooler, to keep its temperature down.  We're using 32GB of Patriot's Viper Steel DDR RAM again, but this time our kit is 3600 MHz rather than 3200 MHz.

To take advantage of our motherboard's PCIe 4.0 support, we're throwing in Kingston's blazing-fast KC3000 NVMe SSD in a 2TB capacity. Thanks to its Phison PS5018-E18 controller, the KC3000 can both read and write at up to 7,000 MBps making it one of the best SSDs.  At present, the KC3000 is even cheaper than the. Samsung 980 Pro 2TB NVMe SSD, but latter is perfectly acceptable if you find it for less money. 

Our case for this build is the $159 Fractal Design Meshify 2, which combines fantastic thermals, a classy design and strong cable management. It also comes with three non-RGB case fans and plenty of room for our radiator. 

To power all these high-end components, we're using a Corsair RM750x PSU which is 80+ Gold certified and fully modular. You might be able to economize by going for a slightly-cheaper unit that 

Best Super High-End PC Build for Gaming

Corsair iCue 5000T

Corsair iCue 5000T Case (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Super High-End PC Build for Gaming
Component TypeModelPrice (at Pub Time in USD)
CPUAMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D$418
MotherboardAsus X570 ROG Crosshair VIII Hero Wi-Fi$389
GPUNvidia RTX 3080 Ti (opens in new tab)$899 - $1049
RAMTeamGroup T-Force Xtreem ARGB 3600MHz 64GB (2x32GB)$299
StorageKingston KC3000 (2TB)$225
Secondary StorageSK hynix Gold P31 2TB$198
CaseCorsair iCUE 5000T RGB$426
PSUCorsair HX1000$246
CoolerCoolermaster MasterLiquid ML360R RGB$144
Total:$3500 - $3700

For our super high end build, we've got a system that's capable of playing high-end games in 4K at ultra settings and delivering smooth ray tracing. This is made possible thanks to the RTX 3080 Ti card which serves as our GPU. We could get slightly better performance out of an RTX 3090 card, but the price jumps up into the $1,200 for just a tiny bit of boost. In our tests, the RTX 3080 Ti averaged 66 fps at 4K Ultra resolution, 103 fps at 2K Ultra resolution and 49 fps at 2K Ultra with ray tracing enabled.

Our CPU is AMD's Ryzen 7 5800X3D, which uses 96MB of cache memory to dominate our gaming benchmarks. It's a modest $449 and yet overpowers Intel's top-of-the-line, Core i9-12900KS to lead our list of best gaming CPUs. In our tests, this chip averaged 201 fps in 1080p gaming and 177 fps at 2K resolution (tested with RTX 3090 graphics).

We're building the system around an Asus X570 ROG Crosshair VIII Hero Wi-Fi motherboard. The board has a 14-phase voltage regulator that should allow you to push the CPU to its limits. It provides 12 different USB ports, 8 of which can run at 10 Gbps and it even has built-in Wi-Fi 6 connectivity should your desktop not be close enough to your router to use the 2.5 Gbps Ethernet port.

To cool the Ryzen 7 5800X3D, we're using a Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML360R ARGB AIO cooler. The cooler has a 360mm radiator and offers an impressive light show.

Because we're fattening our budget for this build, we're going with 64GB of RAM, specifically TeamGroup's T-Force Xtreem 3600 MHz ARGB RAM. Unfortunately, AMD's platform doesn't support DDR5 so we have to go with DDR4 memory for now.

We can't do much better than the Kingston KC3000 SSD that we also recommended for the high-end build. However, because 2TB is may not be enough storage for a gamer with a lot of titles, we will add in a secondary 2TB SSD for data, the SK hynix Gold P31.

Our chassis choice is the Corsair iCue 5000T, which comes loaded with three brilliant RGB fans and plenty of room for our 360mm radiator. It also has a great selection of ports on the front panel, including four USB Type-A connectors, a single USB Type-C and a 3.5mm headphone jack. It had excellent airflow in our tests.

With these high-end components, we don't want to skimp on the power supply, and having something that's fit for a future graphics card upgrade makes sense. We're going with a full 1000-watts of power and the Corsair HX1000. This power supply is 80+ Platinum certified and fully modular.

Finding Discounts on the Best PC Components

With shortages of key components and prices on the rise, locating discounts on everything from cases to RAM is more important than ever. To find savings on components of all types, check out our lists of the best PC hardware deals, along with the latest Newegg promo codes, Corsair coupon codes, Best Buy promo codes, and Micro Center coupons.

Avram Piltch is Tom's Hardware's editor-in-chief. When he's not playing with the latest gadgets at work or putting on VR helmets at trade shows, you'll find him rooting his phone, taking apart his PC or coding plugins. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram developed many real-world benchmarks, including our laptop battery test.
  • tb75252
    Would it be possible to see the detailed BOMs for every build?
    Reply
  • mdd1963
    At even the lowest budget end, I'd never recommend the 9100F, as a 4c/4t CPUs frame rates often struggle for maintaining minimum FPS..; the R3/3300X is a $120 budget beast, with it's 4c/8t CPU often nearly matching the R5-3600 in many games...
    Reply
  • kep55
    Where were the builds for productivity? I only saw gaming builds.
    Reply
  • vinaysb14
    The z490-Pro has this in the specifications - Supports 1R 2133/2666/2933 MHz - And you seem to be recommending a 3200 Mhz DDR4?
    Reply
  • danlw
    Wow, the $500 and $2000 PCs don't even need a power supply! Are those both using Intel's new Zero Point Energy chipset, the ZPE000?
    Reply
  • aberchonbie
    vinaysb14 said:
    The z490-Pro has this in the specifications - Supports 1R 2133/2666/2933 MHz - And you seem to be recommending a 3200 Mhz DDR4?

    Those are "officially" supported speeds. They're basically guaranteed speeds the motherboard will run, but you can easily run higher speed RAM (especially on Intel-based platforms) with overclocking profiles that are embedded within RAM kits you buy (aka XMP profiles).
    Reply
  • murpes
    This is a horrible article. Every build inconsistently lists components, sometimes giving specifics, sometimes being general, and other times skipping over components altogether. The $1500 build says "We’ve stuck with the same RAM ... from our $1000 build" yet the $1,000 build doesn't list any RAM. A 500 GB SSD drive is listed as 1 TB.
    Reply
  • JfromNucleon
    kep55 said:
    Where were the builds for productivity? I only saw gaming builds.
    Exactly, that's probably the only reason I'm probably gonna build a pc in the coming year........... probably
    Reply
  • svliegen
    Tom's Hardware seems to be focusing more and more on gaming. That is bad. There is a myriad of gaming oriented websites already. I'm a business user, focused on productivity. I couldn't care less about gaming.
    Reply
  • jbo5112
    What's the point of suggestions with imaginary GPU prices that don't exist? None of the builds even meet their price points anymore (if they ever did), even with their fictitiously low GPU prices. The only exception is the $500 machine. It at least fits with its fictional pricing.

    Came for the productivity builds. Stayed for the disaster show.

    P.S. Why does the article say it's from "2 days ago", with comments from 5 months ago?
    Reply