Recommended Gaming Desktop Computer Builds: January 2017

(Best PC Builds for $500 and $800)


Last Updated: Jan 16, 2017

Welcome to our latest recommended gaming desktop computer builds where each month we tap into our 10+ years of hardware experience and do the extensive, painstaking research for you to compile the current best bang for your buck custom builds for your hard-earned money.

Our aim is to make building your own gaming PC as smooth an experience as possible, and the place where beginner and even intermediate builders get stuck the most is actually choosing the best parts for their specific budget.

It's easy to get lost in ever-changing, confusing maze of endless hardware options if you're not tech-savvy. We make it our duty to always stay on the forefront of the industry and go to great lengths (ie many hours of monthly research) to ensure we bring you the highest quality recommendations with these build examples.

We'll start with the $500 Budget Gaming Build aimed for gamers on a tight budget who still want to be able to run the latest games fairly well. Then there's the $800 Mid-Range Gaming Build for even better performance, and for those wanting top performance (yet still remaining cost-effective) then the High-End Gaming Builds are for you. If you have any questions or feedback feel free to reach out to us here.

We link all parts to Amazon.com because their hardware prices are typically hard to beat and service/shipping is world-class (plus you get free 2-day shipping with an Amazon Prime account - you can get a free 30-day trial of Amazon Prime here).



The Budget Gaming PC Build


(Best Performance & Reliability for ~ $500)




*All prices listed were correct at the time of writing but may fluctuate day to day.


Expected Performance:

  • 1080p (1920 x 1080):
    Smooth
  • 1440p (2560 x 1440):
    Playable/Average
  • 4K (3840 × 2160):
    Unplayable

The above is the expected average performance of this build for each main resolution in modern, graphically-demanding games on ultra settings (ie: maximum in-game graphics settings).




The Budget Build: Full Breakdown & Recommended Peripherals

This is a great example of how to put together a very capable, reliable and balanced custom gaming computer without breaking the bank. Firstly, just a quick heads up for the beginners - the above components represent the computer's core components however for a fully functional setup you'll require operating system software, a mouse and keyboard, a monitor, and either a set of speakers or headset. We'll get into our top suggestions for these parts below once we've dissected each of the core parts first.

As well as having very solid performance in the latest PC titles allowing you to play any game that you wish without problems, it'll also dominate any older and slightly older games and has great performance for general home and office applications.

The build boasts the latest generation i3 processor, a reliable yet low-priced motherboard, the current best bang for your buck budget video card, and a healthy 8GB of the latest DDR4 RAM. To top it off you have a nice mid-tower case that is both functional and stylish, and a decent-quality 500 watt power supply, 1TB hard drive.

This setup will easily outperform many pre-built computers that sell for WAY more than this, and you'll also find it to be more powerful than consoles when it comes to gaming. Let's take a closer look at each carefully-considered component and why they made the cut.

Graphics Card

We'll start with the the all-important graphics card because it's the biggest factor when it comes to gaming performance. This month we've included the ASUS ROG STRIX Radeon Rx 470 4GB as our current top gaming card on a budget (replacing the previously recommended 1050 Ti) because of its current attractive price.

With a RX 470 you'll be able to easily play any modern games very smoothly in full HD (1080p resolution) even with the in-game graphic settings cranked up. Plus, with 4GB of video memory it's nicely future-proofed as well so you won't have any trouble playing the latest games for a long time.

Processor

Now to the CPU/Processor, which is the second most important component in a gaming system, and we have the Intel Core i3-6100 3.70 GHz which is our current top recommended gaming CPU for those on a tight budget. It's the latest 6th generation "Skylake" processor and when it comes to gaming it'll generally outperform its AMD equivalent in the FX-6300.

The i3-6100 has faster single-core performance, and whilst it's essentially a dual-core processor it can still handle multi-threaded games easily due to its hyperthreading technology. It also comes with a decent CPU cooler which is good enough to keep things running nice and cool (so no need to buy a separate cooler).

Motherboard

The ASUS H110M-K (Micro ATX, DDR4) is an excellent little Skylake DDR4 motherboard that has everything you need for a build of this nature, though of course don't expect any fancy features for the price (not that you need any for a budget build of this nature). Asus are known for producing some top value for money and reliable mobos, and this one is no exception and will serve this build well.

RAM

As for memory, you've got the latest DDR4 memory, namely the Ballistix Sport LT 8GB DDR4 2400 MT/s. Can't go wrong with Crucial RAM as they've been one of the most reliable names in the memory game for a long time, and 8GB is the sweet spot for gaming right now and all you need for flawless performance.

Yeah you could shave off a few dollars by going for 4GB and get away with it (ie not noticing much of a difference in gaming performance), however now we're starting to see some games really benefiting from 6GB and above so you might aswell get 8GB and be done with it. RAM is fairly cheap. As for getting more than 8GB? Waste of money for a budget-friendly build and better spent somewhere else.

Hard Drive

Now to your storage and when building a PC on a tight budget it's probably best to avoid SSDs (Solid State Drives) because traditional storage still offers much more space per dollar. However, if you do want to take advantage of faster boot and application load time and don't mind spending an extra 50 bucks or so on your build, the SSD included in the upcoming Mid-Range Gaming Build below would be our suggestion.

Ok, as for the standard hard drive we've included in this budget build, you can't go wrong with the very pouplar Western Digital 1TB Blue. Good value and Western Digital are a top name for reliability. If you want to get a Seagate drive instead, they're totally fine too and would be our second choice.

1TB is more than enough storage space to please most, however since this is a "budget" PC you could save a little extra money by opting for a smaller size such as 750GB, 500GB or even 250GB if you don't think you'll need much space.

If you're really not sure, it all comes down to whether or not you'll be storing large amounts of videos, games and other data-intensive stuff on your PC. But don't worry too much because if you run out it's very easy to add a secondary drive (either internal or external).

Power Supply

Now onto the often-overlooked PSU (don't underestimate the importance of a decent PSU) and we have the EVGA B1 500 Watts which is an excellent budget-conscious choice to reliably power this setup. It's a decent quality unit with a 80+ Bronze rating which is nice, and 500 watts is more than enough for our needs including plenty of wiggle room to accommodate any potential upgrades you may wish to make later.

Case

Finally we have the Rosewill Galaxy-01 ATX Mid Tower which fits our needs nicely as a budget-friendly case that doesn't sacrifice much on quality. It's sturdy enough and will comfortably house all of your precious components with some room to spare too.

It's got decent airflow and built-in cooling with 3 pre-installed fans, plenty of ports (including a USB 3 port on the front) and drive bays, and is easy to work with for first-time builders. To top it off it has a nice blue LED lighting effect. Overall a great buy and easily one of the best cheap gaming computer cases on the market.


Recommended OS and Peripherals:







The Mid-Range Gaming PC Build


(Best Performance & Reliability for ~ $800)




*All prices listed were correct at the time of writing but may fluctuate day to day.


Expected Performance:

  • 1080p (1920 x 1080):
    Flawless
  • 1440p (2560 x 1440):
    Smooth
  • 4K (3840 × 2160):
    Playable/Average

The above is the expected average performance of this build for each main resolution in modern, graphically-demanding games on ultra settings (ie: maximum in-game graphics settings).




The Mid-Range Build: Full Breakdown & Recommended Peripherals

This well-balanced, very high-performing and awesome-looking gaming PC build boasts a fast i5 processor and a powerful GTX 1060 6GB graphics card which is capable of flawless gaming in 1080p (full HD) and very decent performance in 1440p. It's also built to last, upgrade-friendly, beginner-friendly, and only high quality brand-name components have been included.

Graphics Card

First to what matters most to us gamers, and at this moment in time if you're putting together a new gaming build around this sort of price range it's hard to go past the powerful yet well-priced GTX 1060. The particular model we've chosen for this month's mid-range machine is the EVGA GeForce GTX 1060 6GB which we definitely suggest getting over a 3GB variant - our logic being that if you're dropping a decent amount of coin on a rig like this then you may as well future-proof that little bit more. With this card in your arsenal your PC will dominate modern gaming in 1080p (full HD) on ultra settings, and it'll also fair quite well in 1440p.

It's worth noting that for this price point it's pretty much neck and neck between the 1060 and AMD's direct competitor in the RX 480 - either card will do just fine and the reason we've opted for the 1060 is because of its current attractive price. Note that if you do end up favoring the 480 over the 1060, then we'd suggest the 8GB model (and yes the card is compatible with the rest of the mid-range build's components).

Processor

For a mid to high-end PC the Intel Core i5 6500 (3.20 GHz, Quad Core) is arguably the best performance for your money assuming you won't be overclocking your CPU (it's not an unlocked CPU meaning that it's not meant for overclocking). It comes with a decent stock fan which is adequate for our needs. More advanced builders who do plan on overclocking will want to get the "unlocked" 6600K version, as well as getting an aftermarket CPU Cooler (you'll also need a new 'Z' series motherboard).

Motherboard and RAM

The Asus H170-PRO motherboard which is a well-priced no-frills base for a Skylake DDR4 build of this caliber and has everything you need for a standard gaming build. RAM stays the same from the budget build as 8GB is plenty for gaming now and into the near future. 8 is the sweet spot at the moment, however if you want to get more that's fine but just keep in mind that you won't see any difference when it comes to current gaming.

Hard Drive and SSD

The standard 1TB hard drive from the previous budget build remains the same, however for the mid-range PC we've also included an SSD. Specifically, the excellent bang-for-your-buck Kingston Digital 120GB SSDNow UV400. You don't NEED an SSD, but these days they're fairly affordable and it's a very nice addition to any build that will allow you boot your PC (and any programs you throw on the drive) quite a bit faster.

For any first-time builders who may be wondering, setting up a dual hard drive and SSD setup is very straightforward to do, and simply involves installing your OS and any frequently-used programs/games on there and then you make your Western Digital hard drive as the secondary drive where you stash all of your other files.

Case

Now to the case, the Corsair Carbide SPEC-01 (Mid-Tower, ATX), which is good value and hard to fault at this price. It's got the quality, features and looks of more expensive cases, yet it's only around 50 bucks. Can't go wrong with this one, 'nuff said.

Power Supply

Next up is the often overlooked power supply where some beginners make the tempting sin of picking the cheapest one they can get their hands on. The thing is, the quality of your PSU does matter and it's a definite risk to have a low quality unit powering an expensive setup of high-end parts.

For this month's mid-range build we have the high-quality and reliable EVGA GQ 650 Watts (Semi Modular, 80+ Gold). Can't go wrong with a good EVGA PSU - they have taken over the PSU market in recent times and for good reason. The 650W GQ is a gold-rated unit which is ideal for a mid to high-end PC, and is also SLI-compatible too if you end up going down that route. 650 watts is more than enough with plenty of room for any type of upgrade (yes, even a dual 970 SLI setup).

Recommended OS and Peripherals:





Optional Add-On Components for Budget & Mid-Range Builds



For either builds above, you may want to consider the following add-on components (DVD drive, wireless card, mouse mat and anti-static wristband) depending on your wants/needs, however they are all totally optional and not required for a complete build.


  • Asus DVD Drive: These days you don't require an optical drive (ie the DVD drive above) as most people download all their games using Steam, but the above Asus drive is what we'd recommend if you still want one. Note that if you DO get a DVD drive, you may as well get the Windows 10 disc-install version instead of the USB-install version that we've suggested above as the disc version is typically a little cheaper.
  • TP-Link Wireless Card: If you want your desktop to have wireless internet/networking capabilities you'll require a wireless adapter card such as this one which fits into your motherboard, although you can get USB dongle versions too (we prefer the card as it frees up a USB port). Whilst all motherboards support LAN/wired networking, they rarely have built-in wireless support unfortunately.
  • SteelSeries Gaming Pad - Totally optional but if your desk doesn't allow for smooth, comfortable mouse movement then it's worth picking up a cheap decent pad like this one to improve your gaming experience. Can't go wrong for the price.
  • Anti-Static Wrist Band - This is something you wear whilst building a PC to avoid damaging your precious components with anti-static electricity, however it's totally optional as you can apply the same effect by constantly grounding yourself by touching your case with one hand before handling your hardware (see more in our PC building guide). If you wish to take extra precaution though, get the wrist band as it costs nothing and can give extra peace of mind.




The High-End Gaming Builds



If you have the money to spend on an absolute powerhouse high end machine then be sure to check out our recommended high-end gaming desktop computer builds to help make the selection process easy as pie. Once again, all the parts are carefully selected with both maximum gaming performance and reliability in mind.

These builds will dominate PC gaming even on ultra settings and high resolutions, and they'll obviously have longer lastability allowing you to enjoy flawless gaming for years to come without needing to upgrade. Take a look at the current high end builds for yourself:

January 2017 High-End Gaming Builds





Assembling Your Gaming PC



If you're putting together your very first gaming desktop computer, you can rest assured that these days it's a very straightforward process and you don't need any prior experience. Basically, if you can build Lego, you can build your own PC. However, as simple as it is, if you're brand new it helps a lot if you have a step by step guide by your side to make the process even easier and to avoid any potential problems.









Home | About Us | Contact Us

Budget PC Builds | High-End PC Builds | Best Laptops

Privacy/Disclaimer | All Articles