Last Updated: November 10, 2019
In this guide we break down how to strategically choose the best value November 2019 parts to plan the best $1200 gaming PC build that money can buy right now. Stepping things up from our $1000 gaming PC build which includes the popular Ryzen 5 3600, this $1200 custom gaming PC includes an Intel i5-9600K CPU instead for slightly higher frame rates in 1080p for gamers using 144Hz monitors. But these parts will also produce excellent gaming performance in 1440p resolution too, for gamers using a 1440p 60Hz monitor instead (1440p 144Hz would require more powerful components).
Like all custom gaming PC builds we recommend, the below $2500 parts-list was carefully-crafted and thoroughly thought-out to take into account everything that make for a great custom PC including:
We also explain every component choice and why they made the cut for this particular build in the full build breakdown below, as well as including great alternative picks if your needs differ than that of the typical gamer. That said, while we do our best to bring you the very best PC builds for gaming that we can possibly muster based on many years of experience, we encourage you to always do your own research, especially if you have more specific requirements.
But if getting the fastest gaming performance (read: highest frame rate) is your main aim when building your new desktop, you'll find the following custom $2500 gaming PC build a very safe bet to stretch your money further based on the as far as current hardware market in late 2019. Time to cut the small talk and get straight into the build - hope it helps in your research.
See Also: The $1500 AMD Ryzen Gaming PC Build (High End 1440p, Decent 4K, & Streaming)
Best $1200 Gaming PC Build (November 2019 Updated)
|Graphics Card||Sapphire Radeon RX 5700XT Pulse (8GB GDDR6)||Sapphire|
|CPU||Intel Core i5-9600K (3.7GHz, 9th Gen, 6 Cores, 6 Threads, Unlocked)||Intel|
|CPU Cooler||Arctic Freezer 34 eSports Duo (157mm Height)||Arctic|
|Motherboard||MSI MPG Z390 Gaming Plus (ATX)||MSI|
|RAM||Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB (2 x 8GB, DDR4, 3200MHz)||Corsair|
|SSD (Primary/Boot)||Samsung 860 EVO 250GB SSD (2.5 Inch, SATA)||Samsung|
|HDD (Secondary Drive)||Seagate Barracuda 2TB (3.5 Inch, 7200 RPM, 64MB Cache)||Seagate|
|Power Supply||EVGA 650 SuperNOVA G3 (80 Plus Gold, 650 Watts, Fully Modular)||EVGA|
|Case||Cooler Master MasterCase H500 (Mid Tower, 3 Included Fans, RGB)||Cooler Master|
Additional Build Features Cheatsheet
|RAM Slots||4 x DDR4 (2 free)|
|Motherboard Support||ATX, Micro ATX, Mini ITX|
|Max RAM Size / Speed||128GB / 4400MHz|
|CPU Architecture / Generation||Coffee Lake / 9th Gen|
|Built-in Wireless?||No (buy wireless desktop adapter)|
|PCIe Slots (PCIe 4.0)||PCIe x16: 2
PCIe x1: 4
|Storage Support||6 x SATA Drives
2 x m.2 SSD
RAID 0, 1, 5, 10
|Front Ports||2x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0, 1x Audio|
|Optical Drive Support?||No|
|Multi-Monitor Support||Up to 4 Displays|
|Pre-installed Fans||2x 200mm RGB (Front), 1x 140mm (Rear)|
|Fan Placement Options||
Top: 2x 120mm, 2x 140mm, 1x 200mm
Front: 3x 120mm, 2x 140mm, 2x 200mm
Rear: 1x 120mm
|Water Cooling Radiator Support||
Top: 1x 120mm / 140mm / 240mm
Front: 1x 120mm / 140mm / 200mm / 240mm / 280mm / 360mm
Rear: 1x 120mm
|Max GPU Length||410mm|
|Max CPU Cooler Height||167mm|
|Max PSU Length||180mm|
|SLI / CrossFire Support||No / Yes|
(Adds Parts to Amazon Cart in 1 Click: USA Only)
The above is the average expected performance of this build at different resolutions and refresh-rates when playing a typical, graphically-demanding modern PC game on high/ultra/maxed settings. If you're not sure what refresh-rate your gaming monitor is, chances are it's a standard 60Hz screen. See PC gaming refresh rates explained for more.
The average FPS (Frames Per Second) estimations below were calculated based on studying multiple benchmark sources that use either the exact or similar parts recommended in our current best $1500 gaming PC build example: an AMD Radeon RX 5700XT graphics card, Intel Core i5-9600K processor, and 16GB of 3200MHz memory). Also keep in mind the following when using these FPS estimates in your build planning:
1440p Ultra (2560 x 1440)
|Read Dead Redemption 2||50 - 60|
|Deus Ex: Mankind Divided||60 - 80|
|Metro Exodus||55 - 75|
|Call of Duty Modern Warfare||80 - 100|
|Gears of War 5||60 - 70|
|Apex Legends||60 - 80|
|PUBG||50 - 60|
|Fortnite Battle Royale||80 - 100|
|Far Cry New Dawn||65 - 75|
|Far Cry 5||70 - 90|
|Anthem||55 - 65|
|F1 2019||75 - 95|
|Shadow of the Tomb Raider||65 - 75|
|Assassin's Creed Origins||50 - 70|
|The Witcher 3||75 - 85|
|GTA V||85 - 105
|Rainbow Six Siege||140 - 180|
|Monster Hunter: World||50 - 60|
|Forza Motorsport 7||90 - 100|
|Battlefield V (RTX Off)||75 - 90|
1080p Ultra (1980 x 1080)
|Read Dead Redemption 2||70 - 80|
|Deus Ex: Mankind Divided||90 - 100|
|Metro Exodus||80 - 90|
|Call of Duty Modern Warfare||120 - 140|
|Gears of War 5||85 - 95|
|Apex Legends||90 - 110|
|PUBG||70 - 90|
|Fortnite Battle Royale||120 - 140|
|Far Cry New Dawn||85 - 95|
|Far Cry 5||90 - 100|
|Anthem||75 - 90|
|F1 2019||100 - 110|
|Shadow of the Tomb Raider||85 - 95|
|Assassin's Creed Origins||75 - 95|
|The Witcher 3||95 - 105|
|GTA V||115 - 125
|Rainbow Six Siege||190 - 220|
|Monster Hunter: World||70 - 85|
|Forza Motorsport 7||130 - 150|
|Battlefield V (RTX Off)||90 - 110|
As you can see from these aggregated benchmarks for 1080p and 1440p for our best $1200 gaming PC build, with a RX 5700XT and i5-9600K you'll see a flawless 60FPS in 1440p resolution on maxed/ultra settings in the majority of demanding AAA modern games. You could use 4K resolution if you really wanted to, but to get smooth performance you would have to use low or medium settings (though older games will be fine in 4K).
If you're more of a First Person Shooter or Battle Royale player and gaming on a 1080p 144Hz monitor instead (these parts are overkill for a standard 1080p 60hz monitor), you can reach that holy yet difficult 144FPS level on high settings (not ultra) in less demanding games like Fortnite, and in older games like CSGO you'll breeze past 144FPS (even on ultra).
But for the most demanding games that would benefit from 144Hz such as Apex Legends and PUBG, you'd need to run medium-ish settings to get up and around the 144FPS mark.
Note: All "honorable mention" recommendations below were also checked for compatibility
Graphics Card: Sapphire Radeon RX 5700 XT Pulse 8GB
Gigabyte Radeon RX 5700 XT Gaming OC 8GB (well-cooled triple fan model)
Powercolor Radeon RX 5700 XT Red Dragon 8GB (our 3rd choice and worth considering if cheapest)
Gigabyte GeForce RTX 2060 Super 8GB Gaming OC (best value 2060 Super)
MSI GeForce RTX 2060 Super 8GB Armor OC (another good value 2060 Super)
As always with our build breakdowns, we start with the star of any good gaming desktop; your trusty video card. When planning the best gaming PC build under $1200 or thereabouts, you'll want to allocate around $350 - $450 on your graphics card to maximize gaming performance. Right now as of November 2019, a close GPU war wages within that price segment, and it's a close call between NVidia and AMD as always.
AMD RX 5700XT vs NVIDIA RTX 2060 Super
However, the good news for those of you who like easier, simpler buying decisions is that there is indeed a clear winner in terms of maximum gaming performance for the money. I speak of the new 5700 and 5700 XT graphics cards, which clearly out-perform their NVidia competition, the RTX 2060 and RTX 2060 Super. In the vast majority of games, the 5700 and 5700 XT get noticeably higher frame rates.
For example, Techspot found the RTX 2060 Super roughly 8% slower than the 5700XT at 1440p and benchmarks from other trusted sources found around the same differences. Results like that makes the whole RX 5700 XT vs 2060 Super debate very clear from a gaming performance standpoint, hence our inclusion of the 5700 XT as our top pick right now for our top recommended $1200 parts-list, but that's not to say the RTX 2060 Super is never worth buying (or standard RTX 2060 for a $1000 custom gaming PC).
As is quite often the case, these NVidia cards do run cooler and more quiet than their AMD counterparts. They're also more power efficient, though it's not like you'd notice a difference on your monthly power bill. Whether the extra heat and noise produced by the AMD cards is going to be a problem will depend on your particular preferences and your particular build.
If you choose a good third-party model of the 5700 XT or 5700 with decent cooling solutions like the Sapphire Pulse range (I'd avoid 5700/XT models with blower-cooler designs as they run too hot and loud), as well as pick a case with good airflow (our Cooler Master H500 selection shines in that regard), you'll be just fine. But if you want the most efficient or silent PC build possible, and willing to sacrifice performance for those aims, then NVidia is your best bet. But yeah, for most gamers, just get a good 5700/XT and you'll be golden, and you'll get excellent 1440p performance for a while to come.
Is a 5700 XT Good for 4K Gaming? What About VR?
While the 5700 XT is a 1440p card, 4K gaming is possible and you'll get respectable frame rates at that resolution if you don't mind using lower settings in demanding titles. But we don't recommend it for 4K, and suggest a building a $1500 gaming PC with a better GPU (RTX 2070 Super) as the minimum for a good 4K gaming experience now and over the next few years (and ideally a RTX 2080 Super).
But don't fret as 1440p resolution is still higher-quality than what most gamers experience, as the norm is still 1080p judging by Steam's monthly surveys. As for virtual reality, a 5700 XT is VR-ready and shouldn't have an issue running any VR title out there, so if you're building this as a budget VR setup then I'd say go for it. But if your aim is to build the best VR gaming PC for high-end headsets (HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and Valve Index) then just like for 4K gaming you'll want to shoot for a RTX 2070 Super graphics card as a minimum for an optimal experience and to be somewhat "future-proof".
CPU: Intel Core i5-9600K
Now to the tricky decision of choosing the right brains for the best $1200 gaming PC build. Intel may still hold the high-end and extreme crowns when it comes to gaming CPUs, but in the mid-range/mainstream segment of the CPU market it's a different story and AMD and Intel are neck and neck for straight-up gaming performance. The best CPUs you can fit in a $1200 PC build budget is either an Intel Core i5-9600K from team blue, or a Ryzen 5 3600 from team red.
Intel Core i5-9600K vs AMD Ryzen 5 3600 for Gaming
Long story short is there's no right or wrong answer here if you're after maximum gaming performance for the money, as either is going to serve you well and deliver around the same performance. The 3600 is the better value overall for most gamers though, as it's not only cheaper and holds its own against the 9600K, but comes with a stock cooler as well which is adequate if not overclocking (9600K doesn't come with a cooler).
Also, if you're doing other demanding non-gaming tasks with your system, such as streaming or heavy multitasking, the superior thread count of the Ryzen 5 3600 is going to come in handy (9600K = 6 cores and 6 threads, 3600 = 6 cores and 12 threads). If you go for the Ryzen 3600 instead, see our $1000 gaming PC build guide for recommended motherboards and RAM to go with it.
However, the case for choosing the i5-9600K vs a 3600 would be if using a 1080p 144Hz monitor (240Hz is not feasible for this parts-list unless it's strictly old games or the lowest of settings). Why? The 9600K will crank out slightly higher frames overall due to its superior single threaded performance, and it'll get your system closer to that flawlessly smooth 144FPS mark for the competitive First Person Shooter, MOBA, or Battle Royale gamers among us. Thing is, for higher refresh rates like 144Hz (and especially 240Hz, though again, you'll want an i7 or i9 for that), your CPU becomes very important.
That's not to say a Ryzen 5 3600 isn't good for 1080p 144Hz gaming, as it's still a strong enough processor for that resolution, but the 9600K is better for that use case, and it fits within our 1200 US dollar target for this parts-list hence its inclusion as our top pick. Due to the huge popularity of FPS, MOBA and BR games right now, a decent chunk of gamers reading this build guide will indeed be planning a build for 1080p 144Hz gaming.
Though not all, and we recommend 1440p 60Hz instead if you're more of a casual gamer and/or you play games that are more about graphics quality than blazing-fast action/competition, in which case it's a complete toss-up between a 9600K and Ryzen 3600 and depends on your needs.
CPU Cooler: Arctic Freezer 34 eSports Duo
When getting an unlocked "k" model Intel CPU such as the 9600K we've gone for, you must purchase your own CPU cooler to go along with it as they don't come with one (for good reason as Intel's stock coolers are not too flash performance and looks-wise).
For our current best $1200 gaming PC build, the fairly new Arctic Freezer 34 eSports Duo fits our needs perfectly; both literally (physically), as it's more flexible in terms of being compatible with many more mid tower cases than other behemoth-sized coolers on the market, and performance-wise as it's been tested to be very competitive against more expensive models (see the reviews we've linked under "references" at the end of this build guide).
Long story short, it's without a doubt one of the best bang for buck, top-performing and aesthetically-pleasing air coolers on the market, and a great value choice for keeping a i5-9600K (or any mid-range CPU) cool and quiet no matter whether you're keeping it at stock speeds or overclocking. Pick whichever color tickles your fancy, but the red would go well if you end up getting the MSI MPG Z390 Gaming Plus motherboard that we currently recommend.
Motherboard: MSI MPG Z390 Gaming Plus
MSI are well-known for producing some great value for money components, most notably motherboards, and their current crop of Z390 9th-gen Intel boards is where the current best value is right now in November meaning a triple-threat clean-sweep of MSI motherboards to make up our top 3 picks. The MSI MPG Z390 Gaming Plus has a slick red and black design if that's your cup of tea, with the Z390-A Pro having a more low-key black and grey theme (though technically brown although through a side case window it'll look black unless you're a cyborg from the future with superhuman vision).
Both the Gaming Plus and Z390-A Pro motherboards are excellent value at their sub $140 price tags, and are also both suitable for 9600K overclocking purposes should you take that path (a 9600K is still a fine choice if you don't plan on overclocking). The slightly more expensive Gaming Edge AC is a good option if you want built-in wireless capability, otherwise just get an adapter - either a USB or PCI-Express wireless adapter (take your pick as there's plenty of room for a PCIe add-on card with standard ATX-sized motherboards like these).
16GB of RAM is a no-brainer inclusion for any mid-range gaming PC build of $800-$1000 and beyond, and so easily fits within our 1200 dollar PC build budget here. Some games do take advantage of 16GB nowadays, but there's absolutely zero need for anything more than 16GB as of 2019 and going into 2020. Can't go wrong with Corsair memory for quality and affordability, and 3200MHz is also more than enough speed for a gaming rig, and especially so if using an Intel CPU as it's only worth getting faster than this if rocking a Ryzen (as they take more advantage of faster RAM than Intel does).
As for storage, for a mid-range $1200 gaming PC build like this, we've gone for a fast, reliable 250GB Solid State Drive as the main boot drive for super-fast loading of your OS and a handful of games/programs, along with a large traditional 2TB Hard Drive from Seagate for all your other files (which runs at a respectable 7200RPM; always shoot for that when buying a HDD). This hybrid setup is a good balance of price vs performance and is enough for most gamers, but if you value maximum storage speed for more games and applications, consider investing in a larger SSD.
Power Supply: EVGA 650 SuperNOVA G3 80+ Gold Modular
650 watts, when coming from a reliable high-quality unit like the G3 from EVGA is absolutely more than enough for the PC components of the $1200 build, even considering the fairly power-hungry 5700 XT graphics card, and also taking into account the fact you want to keep plenty of wiggle room for future flexibility of upgrades. As listed in the build specs cheatsheet from earlier, this sample system won't draw more than 500w of power, so 650w is fine, though if you plan on out of the ordinary upgrades and/or extensive overclocking, there's nothing wrong with getting a 750 watt PSU instead. But for most people, 650 will serve you well.
Not gonna beat around the bush here; the Cooler Master MasterCase H500 is an absolutely amazing case and it's easily one of the very best cases that 100-120 bucks can buy; a good amount to allocate for your case when building a PC around $1200. Not only does it look stunning (pics don't do it justice) with a universally attractive design and included RGB fans (plus an included fan controller), but it backs up the show with plenty of go and comes with all the features that you'd ever really need as a PC builder - whether you're a first-timer or more of an enthusiast.
Speaking of beginners, if that's you then this case is also easy to use and a joy to work with as a builder. Cable management is a breeze with places to slots and a shield to hide your cables. It's also quite spacious for a Mid Tower, meaning you can fit most configurations that'd you like including large CPU coolers like the Cooler Master 212 Evo and/or triple fan GPUs like our second-choice Gigabyte 5700 XT should you wish to tweak around the parts of the $1200 PC build.
Fan Setup for the Cooler Master MasterCase H500
It comes with two large 200mm RGB fans in the front, which not only look awesome but are of high quality and will effectively cool your rig. You also get a built-in 120mm fan in the back (non RGB). So, do you need more than the 3 stock fans that come with the Cooler Master H500? For this particular parts-list, no you don't, as these three fans are enough, but you can buy and add an extra 200mm fan on top if you want to further cool your rig (ie for overclocking, if adding more components or more powerful components, if you live in a hot climate, etc).
Feel free to replace the 120mm included fan in the rear with an RGB one if you want more lighting, as the 2 front RGB fans don't light the inside of the case much, though those front LED fans are bright enough looking from the outside; some cases borderline false-advertise by showing bright LED/RGB fans online whereas in-person they don't look as good, but the Cooler Master H500 is the opposite and actually looks better in person than in photos. They really make the case come alive; I don't own this case myself but I've seen it in action first-hand at a local store.
Cooler Master have smashed it out of the park with this one, and it's genuinely hard to fault this case if you find it for 100 bucks or less. If I had to be picky, I'd say you could use a 20 dollar cheaper chassis that'll match the H500 overall in quality and looks (such as the Phanteks Eclipse P400 which is equally as impressive inside and out IMO).
But for the marginally extra amount, I think the H500 is worth getting over the many slightly cheaper mid tower cases on the market in late 2019, and it's sure to impress most gamers with its slick design and standout pre-installed RGB front fans. See the reviews we've linked down below in the references section if you want to delve deeper into why it's so well received in the DIY gaming community (eg it made the GamerNexus list of top cases of last year which is a site we generally trust for credible, accurate case reviews as they usually go quite deep).
Good Value 1440p 60Hz Monitors
Top Pick: Acer V277U 27 Inch WQHD 2560x1440 (75Hz, 4ms response time, IPS)
AOC Q3279VWFD8 31.5 Inch QHD 2560x1440 (75Hz, 4ms response, IPS)
ViewSonic VA2719-2K-SMHD 27 Inch QHD 2560x1440 (60Hz, 5ms response, IPS)
Acer EB321HQU 32 Inch QHD 2560x1440 (60Hz, 4ms response)
Good Value 1080p 144Hz Monitors
If you're more of a FPS, Battle Royale, or MOBA gamer, you'll want to consider using a 1080p 144Hz monitor for a build like this instead of a 1440p 60Hz one. If you have a Radeon RX 5700 XT, you'll want to look for a monitor with Freesync support if you can, or a G-Sync monitor if you end up going for a RTX 2060 Super instead. Though it's not the end of the world if you get a cheap monitor that has neither (though many cheap monitors will have Freesync support).
See our guide to buying the best gaming monitor to learn more about what specs to look for in a good screen, but here are our top value picks to go along with our current recommended $1200 gaming PC depending on which video card you end up choosing: (but if you only need to know 1 thing, always get a monitor with a 5ms response time or less for gaming)
Top Pick for 5700 XT: AOC C24G1 24 Inch Curved (1ms response time, TN, AMD Freesync)
Top Pick for 2060 Super: Acer XFA240 24.5 Inch (1ms response time, TN, NVIDIA G-Sync)
Sceptre E255B-1658A 24.5 Inch (1ms response time, TN, AMD Freesync)
Acer XFA240 24.5 Inch (1ms response time, TN, NVIDIA G-Sync)
Acer Predator XB272 27 Inch (1ms response time, TN)
Asus VG248QG 24 Inch (0.5ms response time, TN, NVIDIA G-Sync)
LG 27GL650F-B 27 Inch (1ms response time, IPS, NVIDIA G-Sync)
AOC CQ27G1 27 Inch Curved (1ms response time, TN, AMD Freesync)
Recommended Software and Peripherals
See the main gaming computer build guides section for recommend operating systems, other applications for a new gaming PC build, and other accessories.
Standout Sources/References Used In Our Research: