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, putting together your own desktop is 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. 

By putting together your own PC from components, you will also probably save hundreds 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 $1,299 or more at Best Buy (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. 

Pricing the Best PC Builds

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Prices change so rapidly that we are only trying to come up under 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 when you read this.

We are also going to recommend GPUs rather than specific makes and models of graphics cards. For example, we'd recommend an RTX 4080 (opens in new tab) and link to a list of available cards rather than, for example, the Zotac RTX 4080. (opens in new tab) Given frequent price changes, 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. And if you've never made a computer before, see our article on how to build a PC.

Best $500 PC Build for Gaming

Deepcool Matrexx 40

(Image credit: Newegg)
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Sub-$500 Gaming PC
Component TypeModelPrice (at Pub Time in USD)
CPUIntel Core i3 12100F$110
MotherboardASRock H610M-HVS$79
GPUIntel Arc A380$139
RAMSilicon Power Value Gaming DDR4 RAM 16GB (8GBx2) 3200MHz$39
StorageCrucial MX500 (500GB)$42
CaseDeepCool Matrexx 40$49
PSUThermaltake Smart Series 500W$34
CoolerN/A, comes with CPURow 7 - Cell 2
TotalRow 8 - Cell 1 $492

For around $500, you can build a PC that has a discrete graphics card. You won't get the fastest GPU around, but you will be able to play games at 1080p with modest settings. That's a big improvement over relying on integrated graphics.

For the graphics card in this system, we're going with Intel's Arc A380. We didn't love the card at launch, but it's now readily available at Newegg and has been for a few months. Besides that, it's faster than AMD's competing RX 6400, comes with more VRAM, and most importantly it has full video encoding/decoding acceleration — including AV1 support for the future. The card averaged 54.7 fps in our benchmarks at 1080p medium, though updated drivers may have improved things another 5–10 percent. If you want something faster, your best bet is this GTX 1660 Ti for $179 (opens in new tab), which should get you to around 82 fps at 1080p medium.

For our CPU, we're going with Intel's Core i3-12100F (opens in new tab), which is just over $100 but delivers plenty of pep for the price. This CPU has four cores, all of them performance cores, and a solid boost clock of 4.3 GHz. We found that it outperformed AMD's more-expensive Ryzen 5 5600X, which costs about $60 more, in gaming workloads. The 12100F comes with a cooler in the box so we don't have to spend money on buying a CPU fan.

If you've been following the processor market, you know that the 12100F has been replaced by the Core i3-13100F, which is part of Intel's current 13th Gen Core line. But, at current prices, getting the 13100F and a motherboard that supports it out of the box would take us over over $500 price point. 

The 13100F isn't a lot faster than the 12100F as it has the same 4 performance cores and 8 threads, along with the same 5MB of L2 cache. However, the 13100F has a higher rated boost clock of 4.5 GHz as opposed to 4.3 GHz. So, if you want to spend a few dollars extra to get a 13100F, go for it, but you won't get a lot more performance.

We also have to cut some corners and Intel H610 motherboards don't come cheap. We went with the ASRock H610M-HVS, simply because it's $10 cheaper than its nearest competitor. However, there's one huge trade-off: the H610M-HVS doesn't have an M.2 slot for PCIe NVMe SSDs. Therefore, we have to go with a 2.5-inch SATA SSD.

Our SSD is the tried-and-true Crucial MX500 at 500GB capacity. It's fast and reliable for a SATA drive, with rated sequential read and write rates of 560 MBps / 510 MBps. When we reviewed the MX500 back in 2019, we gave it high marks for its strong endurance rating and solid performance. If we could stretch our budget over $500, however, we'd have gotten a motherboard that supports M.2 PCIe SSDs and a 1TB SSD.

One area where we didn't compromise is on the RAM, where we got 16GB of DDR4 PC-3200 RAM in a 2 x 8GB configuration. The Silicon Power Value RAM we chose isn't the flashiest, but it's inexpensive and from a reputable brand. Whatever you do, don't build or buy a gaming PC with less than 16GB of RAM.

Our case is the DeepCool Matrexx 40, which comes with tempered glass side panel, something we don't always see in a sub-$50 chassis. It also has plenty of room for extra cooling, with space for two 120 or 140mm fans (a 280mm radiator) on the top and front, along with a rear 120mm fan. Our power supply is the Thermaltake Smart Series 500W, because this is the least expensive PSU from a reputable brand we could find.

Best $1,000 PC Build for Gaming

Thermaltake S100

(Image credit: Newegg)
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Best $1,000 PC Build for Gaming
Component TypeModelPrice (at Pub Time in USD)
CPUIntel Core i5-13400F or Intel Core i5-12400 (Intel)$209 (or $182)
MotherboardASRock B760M-HDV$109
GPURadeon RX 6700 XT or RTX 3060 Ti$349 or $339
RAMTeamGroup T-Force Zeus DDR 16GB Kit (2 x 8GB) 3200 MHz$43
StorageSilicon Power UD90 (1TB)$74
CaseThermaltake S100$68
PSUThermaltake Toughpower GX2 600W$54
CoolerN/A, comes with CPURow 7 - Cell 2
Total:Row 8 - Cell 1 $950 - $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 1440p. The two best options right now are the Nvidia RTX 3060 for $339 and the AMD RX 6700 XT for $349 (with a current $10 instant discount code). Those cards offer different strengths.

For example, in our 8-game rasterization test suite at 1080p ultra settings, the 6700 XT offered an impressive frame rate of 99.8 fps while the RTX 3060 only delivers 70.2 fps. In our ray tracing tests, however, Nvidia's GPU takes the lead with 52.5 fps at 1080p medium settings, compared to 49.3 fps on the 6700 XT. 1080p ultra with ray tracing is a bit much to ask without upscaling, but Nvidia also offers DLSS support in over 250 games and that can deliver an addition 20–40 percent in quality mode.

Our recommended CPU for this build is the Core i5-13400F, which has 6 performance cores, 4 efficiency cores and 16 total threads, along with a boost clock of 4.6 GHz. We are still in the process of testing this processor, but we're recommending it right now for our $1,000 build because it appears to be a big step up from the last-gen 12400F we recommended previously, which has just 6 performance cores and no efficiency cores. There's a cooler in the box with the 13400F so no need to buy one.

To go with Intel processor, we're using an ASRock B760M-HDV motherboard because it supports 13th Gen CPUs without a BIOS update. It's a DDR4 board so we can save money by using DDR4 memory. It also features two M.2 slots for SSDs, with one of them supporting PCIe 4.0 drives.

We're also sticking with 16GB of DDR4-PC3200 RAM here. There's no real need to go faster or increase the capacity at this price point. Using DDR4 saves us money over DDR5.

For storage, we're stepping up to a 1TB drive and a faster one in the form of the Silicon Power UD90. Our favorite value-priced NVMe SSD, the UD90 promises sequential reads and writes of up to 4,800 MBps and 4,200 MBps respectively. On our tests, the UD90 was only a few points behind the pricey but popular Samsung 980 PRO.

SSD benchmarks

(Image credit: Future)

Our case is the Thermaltake S100. We like the sleek, gunmetal gray and black color scheme, along with the the steel material and magnetic tempered glass side panel . It comes with a rear exhaust fan but has room for up to five 120mm case fans and a 280mm radiator on the top or front.

Finally, we've stepped up to a 600-watt power supply and we're going with Thermaltake's GX2, which is 80+ Gold certified but not modular. You can get a modular PSU for $20 more, but that seems like money you don't need to spend.

Best Mid-Range PC Build For Gaming

Phanteks P360A Case

Phanteks P360A Case (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
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Best Mid-Range PC Build for Gaming
Component TypeModelPrice (at Pub Time in USD)
CPUIntel Core i5-13400F or Intel Core i5-12400 (Intel)$209
MotherboardASRock B760M Pro RS WiFi LGA$149
GPURTX 3080 or RX 6950 XT$699
RAMPatriot Viper Steel DDR4 32GB (2 x 16GB) 3200$86
StorageKingston Fury Renegade (2TB)$189
CasePhanteks Eclipse P360A$89
PSUThermaltake Toughpower 750W$89
CoolerN/A (included)Row 7 - Cell 2
Total:Row 8 - Cell 1 $1,510

As we step up to a build that should be brilliant at 1080p gaming and really strong for 1440p gaming, we're looking at around a $1,500 budget, depending on the current prices on graphics cards. We recommend going with either an AMD Radeon RX 6950 XT or an Nvidia RTX 3080.

At press time, 6950 XT cards selling for as little as $699 (opens in new tab) on Newegg and RTX 3080 (for a Peladn card) also goes for $699 (opens in new tab). In our GPU benchmarks hierarchy, AMD's card outranks its Nvidia competitor, achieving average frame rates of 142 fps at 1080p Ultra and 118 fps at 1440p Ultra, compared to the RTX 3080's 120 fps and 99 fps for AMD. The differences are really clear on some individual titles such as Borderlands 3 at DX12 Ultra.

However, if you plan to play games with ray tracing, the delta skews back in favor of the new Nvidia card, and again that's not including potential gains thanks to DLSS, never mind DLSS 3. The RTX 3080 achieves frame rates of 64 fps and 43 fps at 1080p and 1440 Ultra resolutions with DXR (DirectX Raytracing), where the 6950 XT only gets 56 and 36 fps. You could also certainly make the argument in favor of spending the extra $100 to get Nvidia's new RTX 4070 Ti in this case, even if Nvidia's new card feels very overpriced compared to previous generation 70-class GPUs.

We're sticking with the Core i5-13400F from our $1,000 build, because we're putting more money into the GPU. The Core i5-13400F has 6 performance cores, 4 efficiency cores and 16 threads. It can't be overclocked and tops out at a boost speed of 4.6 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 the $149 ASRock B760M Pro RS WiFi as our motherboard, because it provides a step up from the B760M-HDV motherboard in our $1,000 build, giving us built-in Wi-Fi 6E connectivity. It also has two PCIe 4.0 M.2 SSD slots.

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 the very-fast Kingston Fury Renegade 2TB SSD. This M.2 drive promises sequential read and write speeds of 7,300 and 7,000 MBps respectively. It's not at the top of the PCIe 4.0 SSD stack, but it offers strong performance that's only a few points behind the industry-leading Samsung 990 Pro and competitors such as the SK hynix Platinum P41.

Kingston Fury Renegade 2TB Scores

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

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 750-watt Thermaltake Toughpower 750W. This 80 Plus Gold certified PSU packs enough power to support our GPU with plenty of juice to spare. However, it's not fully modular, with some of the wires being built-in.

Best High-End PC Build for Gaming

Fractal Design Meshify 2

Fractal Design Meshify 2 Case (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
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Best High-End PC Build for Gaming
Component TypeModelPrice (at Pub Time in USD)
CPUIntel Core i5-13600K$319
MotherboardGigabyte Z790 Aorus Elite AX$259
GPUNvidia RTX 4070 Ti or AMD Radeon RX 7900 XT$799 - $889
RAMG.Skill Trident Z5 RGB Series 32GB (2 x 16GB) DDR5 6000$164
StorageWD Black SN850X (2TB)$214
CaseFractal Design Meshify 2$159
PSUCorsair RM750x$114
CoolerCorsair iCUE H100i PRO XT RGB Liquid CPU Cooler 240mm$141
Total:Row 8 - Cell 1 $2,169 - $2,259

At a current price of $2,250 to $2,500, our high-end gaming PC build should provide enough performance to play games at 1440p ultra settings with strong frame rates, and 4K ultra with playable frame rates. The system gets its GPU muscle from either an RTX 4070 Ti or Radeon RX 7900 XT, both of which are in the $800 to $900 range. The card is backed by the Intel Core i5-13600K, one of Intel's Raptor Lake processors, which is one of the best CPUs for gaming.

In our tests, an RTX 4070 Ti card achieved an average frame rate of 76 fps at 4K resolution with Ultra settings. If you drop down to 1440p resolution or 1080p, those numbers jump to 121 or 139 fps, respectively. AMD's Radeon RX 7900 XT card is even faster, hitting 83 fps at 4K resolution, 125 fps at 1440p ultra and 144 fps at 1080p Ultra. You could look to the RTX 4080 as another possibility, though paying 50% more for the additional 26% performance means we're definitely in the diminishing returns range.

Nvidia cards do much better at Ray tracing so the RTX 4070 Ti is the better choice if that matters to you. The 4070 Ti delivered 60 fps at 1440p Ultra with ray tracing in our tests while the RX 7900 XT could only do 45 fps (and if you want to try 4K without upscaling, that drops to 30 and 23 fps, respectively).

The Intel Core i5-13600K has 6 performance cores and 8 efficiency cores, which make it capable of using 20 threads at once (two for each P core). It carries a top boost frequency of 5.1 GHz and can be overclocked to higher frequencies than that. We easily overclocked it to 5.6-GHz where it averaged 199 fps on our Windows 11, 1080p gaming suite (which uses an RTX 4090 card). That's better than every AMD chip on the market, including the Ryzen 7 5800X3D and only a few frames behind the Core i7-13700K, which costs $129 more.

Core i5-13600K fps

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

In order to make the most of our CPU overclock, we need a Z790 motherboard that supports DDR5 RAM and the Gigabyte Z790 Aorus Elite AX fits the bill. This full ATX board has 16 + 1 + 2 power phases and snazzy MOSFET heatsinks. It also comes with Wi-Fi 6E built-in, 2.5 Gbe Ethernet and support for up to three M.2 SSDs.

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 G. Skill's Trident Z5 RGB DDR5-6000 RAM. The Trident Z5 kit tops our list of best RAM, thanks to its tight-timings, fast performance and overclocking potential. In our tests, the Z5 also had the lowest memory latency of its competitors.

Memory Latency

(Image credit: Future)

We're going with WD's Black SN850X (2TB) as our SSD, because it's just a step behind the industry-leading Samsung 990 Pro, but costs about $70 less right now.

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. 

Best Super High-End PC Build for Gaming

Corsair iCue 5000T

Corsair iCue 5000T Case (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
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Super High-End PC Build for Gaming
Component TypeModelPrice (at Pub Time in USD)
CPUIntel Core i9-13900K$599
MotherboardAsus ROG Strix ZZ90-F$479
GPUNvidia RTX 4090$1,709 – $1,799
RAMG.Skill Trident Z5 RGB DDR5 (2 x 16GB) DDR5$199 x 2
StorageSamsung 990 Pro (2TB)$289
Secondary StorageKingston Fury Renegade (2TB)$189
CaseCorsair iCUE 5000T RGB$369
PSUCorsair HX1000$254
CoolerDeepCool LT 720 360mm$139
Total:Row 9 - Cell 1 $4,425 - $4,500

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 Nvidia RTX 4090 card, which is by far the fastest card on the market — and also the most expensive, by an equally large margin.

This our super high-end gaming build, so price is a lesser consideration on parts like the 4090, but the good news is prices are starting to come down. Last month, 4090 cards cost over $2,000, even though the Founder's Edition RTX 4090 card carries a $1,599 MSRP. Right now, there's an MSI card on Newegg for $1,709 (opens in new tab), about the lowest readily available price we've seen since launch.

On our tests, the RTX 4090 averaged 123 fps playing a suite of games at 4K. That's a huge improvement over the next-best card, the Radeon RX 7900 XTX, which only hit 99 fps. In ray tracing, the gap widens a lot more, with the 4090 averaging 56 fps, the 4080 sits at 39 fps, and the fastest card from AMD, the 7900 XTX, gets just 27 fps.

Our CPU is Intel's top-of-the-line, Core i9-13900K CPU, which has 8P cores, 16E cores and a maximum boost clock of 5.8 GHz. The chip topped our gaming charts at 1440p resolution, though to be honest, the Core i7 and Core i5 Raptor Lake processors weren't far behind.

Core i9-13900K at 1440p with Core i9-13900K

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

We're building the system around an MSI MPG Z790 Carbon WIFI , a powerful motherboard with 19 + 1 + 1 power stages, support for DDR5 RAM up to 7600 MHz, 5 x M.2 slots and built-in Wi-Fi 6E. To cool the Core i9-13900K, we're using a 360mm DeepCool LT 720 AIO cooler.

We specifically set out to test different types of cooling on the 13900K and found that this cooler offered the highest P-core clock speeds, besting all forms of air cooling.

Core i9-13900K with different coolers

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Because we're fattening our budget for this build, we're going with some speedy DRAM in the form of G.Skill's Trident Z5 RGB DDR5 , which operates at up to 6,400 MHz. In our review of the G.Skill Trident Z5, we lauded the kit's strong performance and excellent overclockability. In our table, we are linking to a 32GB kit (2 x 16GB DIMMs as that is the highest capacity it is sold in. However, we recommend buying two of these kits so you can have 64GB of RAM.

We're stepping up to the fastest PCIe 4.0 SSD on the market in Samsung's 990 Pro. In full power mode, the 990 Pro made mincemeat of the competition in our tests, especially 3DMark's SSD performance benchmark.

Samsung 990 Pro 3DMark

(Image credit: Newegg)

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 Kingston Fury Renegade.

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

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 and Best Buy promo codes.

Avram Piltch
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