For over two decades Tom's Hardware has brought you news and reviews of the latest in PC hardware, while the famous forum has grown to more than 2 million members. 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. 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! As always, feel free to quibble in the comments, and submit your own ideas next time around.
Best Custom PC Builds For Gaming
It’s been another tumultuous year for the PC market. We’re (hopefully) past the worst of the price hikes caused by crypto miners, and SSD prices are continuing to fall. AMD’s second-generation Ryzen processors gave Intel even stronger competition, leading Team Blue to respond with its own impressive 9th Generation Core chips, despite continuing issues with 10nm production.
AMD has been mostly silent on the graphics front, while Nvidia’s new Turing cards have stoked controversy over their high prices and new features (like ray tracing and machine learning-assisted super sampling, or DLSS) with no game support in the weeks and months after launch. Memory prices also remain high, but there are signs it may fall significantly in 2019.
In this update, all categories are only limited by budget. It should be noted, that these builds were assembled around the launch of Intel's 9th Generation Core CPUs, so they will not be present in this article. Further, availability of those chips, particularly at or near their MSRPs, has been pretty tight. We'll create some new builds once that situation settles down and we've reviewed more 9th Generation Core SKUs.
The text accompanying each build below is provided by the forum member who designed it, giving you more insight into their system building process.
Best $500 PC Build
"The Little Engine that Could Be Upgraded" - Built By: Barty1884
At $500, my goal was to create a solid foundation for a build that would support a GPU upgrade in the future. While the AMD Ryzen 3 1200 or 2200G was an obvious choice, with games starting to utilize 4 or more processing threads, the AMD Ryzen 5 1400 seemed a more appropriate long-term solution, especially true when paired with a B350 motherboard to allow for overclocking and sufficiently fast memory. For storage, I considered a single 500GB SSD, but in the end decided on the best balance of speed and capacity available. A solid, while unexceptional, SuperFlower-made PSU finalized the foundation. With the remaining budget, my GPU options were limited between a Nvidia GTX 1050 or a cut down AMD RX 560. In this case there was a clear winner: the GTX 1050. The result is a solid 1080p gaming system, with upgrade potential for years to come.
MORE: Best CPUs
Best $1,000 Main Stream Gaming PC Build
"No Compromises" - Built By: TechyInAZ
My strategy for this build was to provide the highest-quality components that were most appropriate for $1000. Instead of skimping on some components for a beefier GPU, I wanted this build to be great across lots of categories, like excellent overclocking capability, excellent upgrade path for the future, and very reliable system components (that will allow you to upgrade the CPU, RAM and GPU without worry).
MORE: Best Graphics Cards
Best $1,500 Streaming and Gaming PC Build
"A Little More Than A Thousand Dollahs" - Built By: LutfiJ
I decided to go with a Ryzen 7 2700X, since it's known to be a good all-rounder without breaking the bank. The board followed suit with a capable power delivery, a blank canvas to introduce color to the build and possible upgradeability down the road. Although rated to run at DDR4-3000MHz out of the box, as with most G.Skill ram kits, the 16GB kit can be pushed to higher specs, which I hope can go to DDR4-3200MHz~3466MHz with tight timings and marginal voltage increments. A sleek medium form factor case with a tempered side panel was on my short list since a streamer, at some point in time, needs to show off their system and it's innards. The Meshify C met that requirement while also allowing great airflow and watercooling support. Lastly, I didn't want anything less than an 80+ Gold rated PSU in order to maintain good power efficiency while churning out all that 4K-ish goodness from the GTX 1080 Ti, and 650 watts of power will provide some headroom for overclocking and future upgrades.
MORE: Best Motherboards
Best $2,000 High End Content Creation and Gaming Rig
“Quiet & Reliable Work Machine” - Built By:Arthur.Prieto
For me, the most important thing is to have a reliable machine, to avoid any issues with my personal work. A noiseless system is also something important, to to help me concentrate.
CPU: Intel's Core i7-8700K 3.7GHz 6-Core Processor was the best and more reliable processor from this year. Intel has a history of being the best choice in terms of temperature and also reliability.
- CPU Cooler: Noctua's NH-U12S, s the perfect match to the LGA 1151 socket, since air coolers are simpler than liquid. In a liquid system, there's a chance to have leakage, and pump and fan failure. Noctua has an impeccable tradition or reliability with long warranties and less chance for something to go wrong. And of course, their fans tend to be quiet.
- Motherboard: ASRock's Fatal1ty is, in my opinion, the best balance of cost and benefit, while being stable.
- Memory: G.Skill Trident Z 32GB. G.Skill also delivers a great balance of cost and features, with a lifetime guarantee and low incidence of failure.
- Primary Storage: Samsung's 860 Evo 250GB 2.5-inch Solid State Drive will house the OS and important programs. It's fast and reliable.
- Secondary Storage: After much searching, I've found Toshiba's X300 4TB 3.5-inch 7,200 RPM hard drive has a lower incidence of failure. I have a Toshiba hard drive which was used 24/7 for the past 6 years and is still working. For all my files and documents, all my work, I need a drive something that I can trust to avoid loses.
- Graphics: Zotac's GeForce GTX 1080 Ti is one of the bests 1080 Ti cards on the market. Zotac in the past years has been shown to be one of the best video card brands.
- Case: Cooler's Master Silencio 652S ATX Mid Tower Case is simple, quiet and well-cooled. It's also priced well for a big name-brand case, while not taking up to take up too much space.
- Power Supply: SeaSonic's PRIME Ultra Platinum 750W is reliable, with a long long warranty and lower noise.
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Best $5,000 Ultimate Everything RGB Build
"Two is Better Than One" - Built By:LogainOfHades
The Phanteks Enthoo Mini XL DS is capable of handling a M-ITX, and a M-ATX system at the same time, hence the name. You can game/stream on one system, and do full-on content creation on the other at the same time. Or for the couple who likes to game together, you'll take up less space using only one tower, though you'll want a different SSD selection if that's your aim. Here the M-ATX side was set up with a scratch disk. I decided to stay with the stock Wraith Prism cooler, which adds some more RGB.
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