Best PC Builds: From $500-$5000

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

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MORE: How To Build A $500 Gaming PC

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

MORE: Intel & AMD Processor Hierarchy

Best $1,000 Main Stream Gaming PC Build

"No Compromises" - Built By: TechyInAZ

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MORE: How To Build A $1,000 Gaming PC

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).

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MORE: Desktop GPU Performance Hierarchy Table

Best $1,500 Streaming and Gaming PC Build

"A Little More Than A Thousand Dollahs" - Built By: LutfiJ

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MORE: How To Build A $1,500 Gaming PC

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

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Best $2,000 High End Content Creation and Gaming Rig

Quiet & Reliable Work Machine” - Built By:Arthur.Prieto

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MORE: How To Build A $2,000 Gaming PC

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.

MORE: Best Gaming Monitors

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Best $5,000 Ultimate Everything RGB Build

"Two is Better Than One" - Built By:LogainOfHades

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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.

MORE: How To Build A PC

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  • WildCard999
    Congratz to the winners, all solid builds!

    I was especially impressed with the dual computer build by LogainOfHades, nice job!
  • Lutfij
    I personally think LogainOfHaides's build was spectacular ;) Not many people you see consolidate two builds, in a family that use the same space for their day to day tasks, on one case. Most people think to go for a (basement)server rack and then have long wires running along the crib.

    Regardless, thank you to the community for voting for my build in the $1,500 category. I'm very humbled! I also want to congratulate Barty, Techy, Arthur and Logain for winning their respective categories. Ofc, the votes from the community and our reader base had a hand in that ;)

    + We need more of this competition.
  • WildCard999
    Anonymous said:

    + We need more of this competition.


    Agreed, maybe like best ITX/MATX/ATX/EATX within a certain budget.
  • mlee 2500
    Nice work by Barty1884....under $500 for a new machine that can handle 99% of what most non-gamers use a PC for.

    Using a 3GB GTX 1060 instead of the 1050 would have pushed the cost up another $70, but given it more mainstream gaming capabilities. I've used it to play Total War games at 2K with decent results.
  • mlee 2500
    Yeah, that Phantek's case design blew my mind.
  • TechyInAZ
    I have to agree aswell, Logain's build is AMAZING!
  • Corporate_goon
    I found your SSD choices a bit baffling - given the amount SSDs have dropped recently, I'd assume every PC above the $1000 mark would have a 1TB drive - with a gaming PC, you want your games loading off the SSD, and it only takes a couple of games the size of Witcher III, GTA V, or Monster Hunter: World to fill up a 500GB drive.
  • logainofhades
    Somehow, the 1tb 660p, that the system originally had for games storage, on the mini-itx side, was accidentally removed.
  • vrekman64
    pardon me but, why pair a 2700x with a ASRock B450M PRO4 While a 2600 with Asus Prime X470-Pro?
    shouldn't be the other way around? thanks
  • mlee 2500
    Anonymous said:
    I found your SSD choices a bit baffling - given the amount SSDs have dropped recently, I'd assume every PC above the $1000 mark would have a 1TB drive - with a gaming PC, you want your games loading off the SSD, and it only takes a couple of games the size of Witcher III, GTA V, or Monster Hunter: World to fill up a 500GB drive.


    You're absolutely right. I thought I was future proofing myself by dedicating a 1TB EVO 960 M.2 as a STEAM-only drive on my new build, but really 500GB is the minimum you want these days, and that's assuming it's not also being used for OS or anything else. And I say that as someone who usually only has a dozen or so games installed at any given time.

    Nothing dampens your enthusiasm and slows your New Game Roll like having to figure out what previous games to delete first.
  • Krazie_Ivan
    Anonymous said:
    Anonymous said:
    I found your SSD choices a bit baffling - given the amount SSDs have dropped recently, I'd assume every PC above the $1000 mark would have a 1TB drive - with a gaming PC, you want your games loading off the SSD, and it only takes a couple of games the size of Witcher III, GTA V, or Monster Hunter: World to fill up a 500GB drive.


    You're absolutely right. I thought I was future proofing myself by dedicating a 1TB EVO 960 M.2 as a STEAM-only drive on my new build, but really 500GB is the minimum you want these days, and that's assuming it's not also being used for OS or anything else. And I say that as someone who usually only has a dozen or so games installed at any given time.

    Nothing dampens your enthusiasm and slows your New Game Roll like having to figure out what previous games to delete first.


    AMD's StoreMI; loading times of an SSD, w/o consuming all your storage. each build i did with an AMD cpu had this tech in-mind. made sure to use M.2 (if i could afford it) to further the effect. SSDs are much cheaper lately, fo sho - but still not as cheap as the combo (& every penny mattered).

    but my builds didn't win anything here, so take advice from me with a grain -lol
  • Krazie_Ivan
    Anonymous said:
    pardon me but, why pair a 2700x with a ASRock B450M PRO4 While a 2600 with Asus Prime X470-Pro?
    shouldn't be the other way around? thanks


    i can't speak for the winners, can only say why i'd personally do it... i'd normally prefer to let auto-boost do it's thing with an "X" chip, which will be the same on either mobo. but if i'm building with a non-X cpu, then i'm manually OC'g & want the added VRM stability. course, pricing constraints in the competition rarely let me do what i prefer.
  • Krazie_Ivan
    really enjoyed this! thx Tom's, & everyone who entered/read-along/voted!

    i found it odd that the "Mainstream Gaming" system wasn't full of i5 entries/votes, and the "Content Creation & Gaming" winner wasn't a threaded workload monster with massive SSDs. when i saw the $5k dual build, i knew it was over for the rest of us, lol (GJ mate).

    (@moderator - shouldn't $500 segment read "Console Killer"? "We are looking for the best performing gaming PC under $500")
  • robin2rl
    Wouldn't look here for build advice. This page isn't updated frequently enough, prices are way off compared to online, and recommendations are more expensive than pre-builds even.
  • Krazie_Ivan
    Anonymous said:
    Wouldn't look here for build advice. This page isn't updated frequently enough, prices are way off compared to online, and recommendations are more expensive than pre-builds even.


    i can agree with points made on updates to this site's suggestions, & price fluctuation is hourly on components (so differing models with same specs will change the advice) ...but a custom-built PC costs more than pre-builts due to the quality of components.

    mainstream OEM systems tend to be a hot tin box filled with the absolute lowest tier junk that actively prevent upgrades so you'll buy another whole PC instead. even many of the the boutique pre-builts (which are normally more expensive for the same hardware) tend to cut corners that i wouldn't, or be configured in ways that diminish value.

    people don't build their own unless they are really into the idea, so those who could care less are not the reader a contest like this will attract anyway.
  • andy2112
    Careful: The link for the case on the $2000 gaming that's supposed to be the Cooler Master Silencio 652S goes to the 352 which is for a mini-ATX (and won't hold the ASROCK H370 ATX board...)
    Also shows the price for the 352: the 652S on Amazon from a 3rd party seller (NewEgg doesn't even have it) is about double the price too.
    Might want to change to a more available ATX case while you're at it.