The Current Best Gaming PC Builds for the Money: Q2 2020 Edition (for May & June)
Recommended Components to Maximize Bang for Buck When Building a PC
Pictured: The new season 5 of the MOBA Apex Legends
Always-Updated PC Builds for Beginners
Pinpointing the Current Top Value PC Parts on the Market to Strategically Stretch Gaming Performance, Component Reliability, Airflow & Aesthetics
Last Updated: May 18, 2020
Welcome to the latest update of our best gaming PC builds for the money series where we do the painstaking market research for you to carefully publish custom PC build example templates for all price points to help you make more sense of the ever-changing (and almost always confusing) hardware world to more easily choose the best bang for buck components for your specific needs.
Most people know that taking the DIY path and building your own PC has TONS of benefits, and that it's simple to do these days even if you don't consider yourself too tech savvy. But what actually stumps most beginners from building a gaming PC is deciding which exact combination of compatible PC parts to use in the first place, as there's almost endless possibilities and different hardware configurations you could build.
Choosing the best parts for a custom gaming PC build really can be difficult if you don't continually keep a pulse on the ever-evolving hardware/DIY market where new models seemingly get released every 5 seconds. But thankfully, there are crazy people out there who do exactly that, and who find it (gasp) fun to keep up with every little latest breakthrough in gaming and graphics technology.
Each build is carefully crafted for max gaming performance, cooling & reliability at that price point
That's why each month (sometimes every quarter) we tap into over a decade of build design experience to publish the very best gaming PC builds we can muster based on where the best value in the market currently lies (IMHO) to help spark ideas for your first (or next) custom gaming PC build.
We started these gaming PC build recommendations many years ago, and it quickly became the most popular guide on the site and have since kept it frequently updated to always remain as accurate as humanly possible. We hope it comes in handy as a base for your research as it has been for other beginner builders.
Let's cut the small talk and get into our latest best gaming PC builds updated for mid 2020 based on which combination of parts will stretch your money furthest as a gamer in our opinion based on many years planning and designing builds for both the budget and high-end market.
If you're building a PC for work as well, we also include tips on tweaking component selections for other demanding non-gaming tasks such as video editing, rendering, streaming, and so on. We also cover VR in detail. Hope these build templates come in handy in your research, and if you get stuck or want a second opinion with choosing optimal parts, feel free to ask for help in the comments section at the end.
All build cost estimates are in USD (US Dollars). If a part is out of stock at Amazon, check B&H, our second pick of the best store for PC parts (US and Canada), Umart and Scorptec (for Aussies), and Overclockers (for UK).
Swipe to Scroll the Builds:
Recommended Parts for Optimal Gaming Performance, Cooling, & Reliability (May 2020 Updated)
These are our best gaming PC builds for dual-GPU SLI mode - an advanced feature for extreme builds where you use two NVidia video cards. But just want to make it very clear that most people should completely ignore these builds, as we only recommended SLI for 0.1% of builders who fully understand the pros and cons to SLI and that not all games even take advantage of a second GPU (see the best games that support SLI). SLI setups are rarely a simple plug-n-play experience, and require patience with tweaking settings. But if you are an enthusiast considering it, these SLI builds are best if you install a full water cooling loop in your PC to handle the extra heat of dual cards, but you can get away without a full water loop if you use a high-end liquid/air cooler for your CPU, choose a top airflow case, have an optimal case fan setup, and so on.
What's Changed in the Builds (New Releases)
In this latest May/June 2020 update to our recommended builds, there have been quite a few changes since our last list of builds. Skip this section if you don't care what's been happening lately in terms of new hardware releases, otherwise read on for a summarized recap of any noteworthy shifts in the hardware game that affect our gaming PC build recommendations moving forward.
The Ryzen 3 3100 and Ryzen 3 3300X release any day now, and have already proven in early-access benchmarks to be top value buys. Steve the Benchmark Beast has you covered for specifics, but the gist is that while being only quad core CPUs, they have surprised many and only slightly trail the fairly more expensive Ryzen 5 3600 when it comes to performance in the majority of games.
This makes the new 3100 and 3300X processors hard to ignore if planning a budget gaming build, though the beloved Ryzen 5 1600 AF doesn't exactly become obsolete once these new kids hit the block; while it trails the 3300X slightly (and equals the 3100) in terms of FPS in games, it boasts 2 extra cores for better multitasking/productivity performance (such as for gaming and streaming build) and at the right price it's still a legit steal.
Though due to popularity, these days the 1600 AF has unfortunately risen a fair bit over its original MSRP of $85 US, but even at over that it's still a great choice (yep; even for $100+). But if it creeps up to $110 and beyond, the better it is to just grab the 3300X (MSRP $120 US) if gaming performance is all you care about as the 3300X is superior in that regard.
But while the 1600 AF stays in our recommendations, we do finally retire the higher-priced Ryzen 5 2600 from our builds as it's just not worth it anymore due to the 3300X trounces it in games (and the 1600 AF performs around the same as the 2600 but for cheaper).
New 10th-Gen Intel CPUs (and Z490 Motherboards)
Intel are releasing their 10th generation desktop CPUs this month for pretty much the same price as the previous 9th gen range. They'll be a tad faster and net you a few extra frames as is always the case with a new generation launch, but a great thing about this new gen is hyper-threading will now be included on i3 and i5 processors - not just in the i7 and i9 range like before (meaning further performance increases).
These new Intel CPUs use the all-new LGA 1200 socket instead of the previous LGA 1151 socket, meaning that Z390 motherboards are NOT compatible - you'll need a brand-spanking new Z490 board which release any day now.Naturally, since we historically recommend Intel for high-end gamers wanting the highest frame rates for the money (which is the chief aim of this guide in the first place) as they slightly edge out AMD, from now on we recommend the new 10th gen CPUs instead of the previous 9th gen for anyone building a new high-end gaming computer.
A Familiar Story in More Ways Than One: Intel Strikes Back Round 10,430,543
Just remember that while competing high-end AMD processors like the 3700X, 3900X, or 3950X won't get as high frame rates in games, the difference isn't huge and so whether you choose Intel or AMD will depend on what else you're doing with your PC. For heavy multitasking, streaming, and a host of certain productivity applications, AMD shines in many instances, though remember not to get too caught up with the AMD hype train as Intel do actually win in certain applications too (eg the 10900K beats the 3950X in Photoshop performance, however it must be said the 3700X does beat the 10600K in that app so it depends on what price tier you're comparing).
AMD CPUs are mostly better value overall in the low/mid range market though - and yes, even if just gaming. Though the new Core i3 10300 and Core i5 10400 look promising; still waiting for benchmarks, but right now the 3300X will be very tough to topple from its fresh crown of clear budget gaming CPU king. But if gaming is your only jam for a high-end system and you want the highest frame rates for 144Hz or higher refresh rates, Intel is still the undisputed FPS king and you can't go wrong with a 10600K, 10700K, or 10900K depending on your budget, as they all beat competing AMD processors when it comes strictly to gaming performance.
Stay tuned to our blog for future articles that will go into more detail on choosing the right CPU (and motherboard) for your needs as we start to publish our findings and own thoughts following all the 10th gen Intel benchmarks that will come out this month.
Best Operating System and Accessories
Windows vs Linux for a Gaming PC
Choosing an operating system for a new gaming PC build comes down to either Microsoft Windows (latest edition is 10) or some variant of Linux (such as Ubuntu or Manjaro just to name a couple). If you're new or unsure, just stick to Windows. Specifically, Windows 10 Home is fine for the majority of people, and you'd only need Windows 10 Pro if you're building a professional workstation PC (and you actually know that you would use its extra features).
While Linux is free and can offer more control and security features, it's a more advanced OS that takes a while to learn and get used to, and it also has less support overall for gaming compared to Windows (but it's always getting better). If you're interested, check out these good resources on learning Linnux: 1,2,3).
Getting and Installing Windows 10
To install Windows 10 on a fresh new gaming PC, you have 3 options:
1) Download Windows Onto a USB Drive (For Free), Then Buy/Activate Later
This is the cheapest way to get Windows 10 up and running on your new PC as you don't have to buy a Windows 10 license/key straight away. You can do this for free and then buy a key later on when you have perhaps saved up more money, but until then your PC will still be 100% functional without any limitations. The only downside is you'll see a watermark image in the bottom right of your screen reminding you to upgrade, but the watermark disappears when gaming.
To do this you'll need a spare USB flash drive that's 8GB or bigger (or buy one like this one), and you also need to have access to a desktop or laptop in order to be able to download Windows onto the USB. Here's how you do it:
Clear all data on the USB drive by formatting it (it must be blank). Do this even if it's brand new.
Go here to download the Windows 10 installer to your computer, then follow the steps on that same page under the heading "Using the tool to create installation media". Both of these things can take a while (up to a few hours depending on your internet connection).
The Windows installation should automatically begin, but if not then you'll need to re-enter your motherboard BIOS and set the boot priority order so that the USB drive is showing up first. During the installation of Windows it will ask you for a product key, but you can still proceed if you select the option to enter your product key later on.
Follow the Windows steps on-screen to finish the installation. Full photo steps for every aspect of this are also included in our manual, but to be honest it's not hard to figure out on your own unless you're completely not tech-savvy and have never used a Windows PC before (in which case we can comfortably recommend getting the manual for detailed guidance on every aspect of building, owning, and maintaining a PC for the first time).
Once Windows is installed you want to download all necessary drivers for your particular parts-list such as motherboard and GPU drivers (and drivers for things like wireless adapters and for any devices you find don't automatically work on your new PC). You also want to update Windows straight away. All this is explained in this article (quick overview) and in our manual (detailed photos for the less tech-savvy).
In your own time, buy a product key from the Microsoft site or elsewhere (making sure it's a legit key).
2) Buy Windows 10 Now (USB or DVD Version)
If you can afford buying Windows from the start, the easiest and quickest way is to buy the official ready-to-install USB or DVD version. That means you won't have to do all the steps mentioned above, and you just insert the USB or DVD Disk when you've finished building your PC and it's time to install Windows.
The DVD version (available at Amazon and B&H) is usually cheaper than the USB flash drive version, so get that if you're including a DVD drive for your PC build (and don't forget to ensure your case has a 5.25" drive bay as not all do). But if you're not including a DVD drive in your build, get the USB version (available at Amazon, B&H, and OutletPC
Note: Consider Windows 10 Pro instead of Home if you're building a hybrid gaming and workstation PC for professional use (if you need its advanced features like BitLocker, remote desktop, and domain join). You can also find them on Amazon (DVD or USB) and B&H (DVD or USB).
3) Reuse Your Previous Copy of Windows
If you already have Windows on another PC and it's a full retail version that's eligible to be reused on another system, this is the way. See our reusing PC parts guide for more details on this, but I can pretty safely say that if your previous PC was a prebuilt one (and not a custom built one by either you or someone else), then chances are you won't be able to reuse Windows as it's likely tied to that single machine.
Recommended Utility, Gaming, and PC Enthusiast Applications
As for other software applications to install to kick-off your new gaming PC in style (such as good anti-virus/malware, system monitoring, handy utilities, gaming applications, etc) see our continually-updated list of recommended applications if you need suggestions on good, reliable programs to consider:
We include specific monitor and accessory recommendations within the individual build guides (linked in the main table above), but you can also see all our recommended monitors/accessories for all budgets below in these guides:
If you're building a PC just for gaming, move along. But if you're planning your parts-list for other demanding applications other than gaming (in other words, you want to build the best hybrid gaming/workstation PC) then see our accompanying guides for helpful tips on tweaking your PC parts to perfection:
But note that many of our best gaming PC builds already naturally double-up as great workstation, streaming and/or editing PCs too. For example, our $1500 build is an excellent multitasking/work system with the flexible Ryzen 7 3700X CPU, the $1000 setup is a good workstation PC build on a budget, and the $8000 and $10,000 builds are not only the most overkill of overkill gaming rigs for crazy-hardcore cashed-up gamers, but are great as the ultimate high-end 3D rendering/animation, game development, and deep/machine learning production setup (though consider Ryzen 9 instead of an Intel i9 for these purposes too; study benchmarks for your specific workflow).
What About VR Gaming?
Any of the best PC builds for $1000 and higher will be fine as a VR-Ready PC build (see that guide for extra tips), with the $2000+ builds being ideal if you want the best possible performance both now and over the next few years of the unfolding, exciting unknown rabbit hole that is VR. If you're specifically building a PC for Half Life Alyx, the good news is that the game is well optimized and will run decently on even the $800 build in our main chart (on low settings, though low settings actually still looks very nice in the game).
How the Best PC Builds Are Decided
Each month we spend a great deal of time objectively re-thinking and tweaking all our recommended builds based on any recent changes in the market, current pricing, and where the current best value lies, to compile what we believe to be the current best PC builds for gaming at different price points to fully maximize frame rates for any given budget and target resolution.
The builds are carefully crafted from a combination of objective analysis of what makes the fastest gaming PC build for a certain price point by weighing up multiple professional reviews, benchmark data and trusted expert opinions across the industry at large, as well as our own subjective opinion on what makes the best PC build for gaming right now without sacrificing on your other important parts, too.
In other words, each recommended parts-list is simply what we would personally buy right now if we had to build the best PC for any given price and target resolution as avid gamers wanting to get the highest frame rate possible at the highest graphics quality (though FPS is more important than quality if you're a competitive gamer; there's a reason most pro gamers use lower settings than most to achieve higher frame rates for 144Hz/240Hz monitors).
In our builds we also favor beginner-friendly configurations of components (no intricate 8-hour custom water cooling loop installations unless you poke around the bottom of our builds chart; as a first-time builder just ignore the $4000+ enthusiast/workstation builds) that are easy to work with if you're a first or second-time builder, because ever since starting this best PC builds series way back around a decade ago (we were one of, if not the first site to do monthly/quarterly gaming builds but now it kinda seems like every dude and his 5 dogs are doing it) we've noticed a good chunk of our readers are first-time builders who are a little overwhelmed (don't be; building a PC really is simple and well worth it).
For the best gaming PC builds each month we also avoid recommending a parts-list that would require extra potentially-confusing or troublesome steps such as combining a new Ryzen 3000 CPU with a B450 motherboard which would require you to update your new motherboard's BIOS using an old CPU before you're able to install your CPU.
Each build is planned for maximum gaming performance first and foremost, but in meticulously designing these example builds we also take into account all the other important aspects of building a good, well-balanced, long-lasting custom PC including getting the highest component quality and reliability for the money, ensuring good airflow to handle strenuous gaming sessions (AAA games can be some of the most taxing applications out there), allowing for good future upgrade flexibility so you don't encounter a dead-end with your rig a few years down the track, and last but not least choosing a universally-attractive matching parts-list that will look great once construction is complete and your battlestation of glory is fully operational.
If you're a fellow tech enthusiast who also keeps a continuously keen eye on the state of DIY and you ever have any feedback on the builds then please do feel free to share your thoughts in the comments or by reaching out to us direct as we're always open to ideas and/or constructive criticism on how to keep these builds both as helpful and on-point as they possibly can be for both beginner and enthusiast builders around the globe. Thanks guys.
All our recommended builds are thoroughly checked to avoid compatibility issues
Building Your Gaming PC
Required: Phillips-head Screwdriver (get a size #2 like this one if you don't have a screwdriver already)
If it's your first time building a custom gaming PC, it really isn't anything to be afraid or overwhelmed by if you simply take your time, follow basic safety precautions, and take one step at a time. You'll need a walkthrough tutorial to follow though, as the manuals that come with your components don't contain the full written instruction or explanations that you need as a beginner (though don't throw them out as you will need to refer to them during installation; especially the motherboard and case manuals).
To learn how to put together your gaming PC build, you essentially have the choice of either following a written guide or watching a video guide:
Option A: Written Tutorial
Our detailed written guide on building a PC was carefully crafted with complete beginners in mind and includes all the little important details you need to know as a first-timer. It includes photos from a real-life build, along with diagrams throughout to help illustrate certain steps. We also offer an even more comprehensive eBook edition if you want all the steps in the one single downloadable PDF, which also includes extra bonus modules on how to test, performance optimize, monitor/maintain, and upgrade/overclock a PC for the first time.
While a YouTube video doesn't provide as much in-depth guidance and instruction as a written guide, and generally moves through the steps quite quickly while missing certain little details that could be important to understand as a beginner, in conjunction with using other guides it may be enough for you to build your first PC (especially if you're a little more tech savvy and understand the basics of computers).
Gaming PC Builds FAQ
There are many factors to consider when choosing how much to spend, and we discuss this in our introduction to building a gaming PC but let's quickly recap. The biggest factors in how much power you need is the screen resolution you want to play in (1080p, 1440p or 4K), and what types of games you're playing (as they can vary dramatically in how demanding they are on your hardware).
As a general rule of thumb, for standard 1080p resolution (full HD), which is what most gamers use right now and will continue to do so throughout 2020, $400 - $800 will serve you well depending on the games you play and the performance level you'd be happy with. You can get away spending $300 to $400 if you're only playing lesser-demanding or older games, or you don't mind dropping to 720p resolution.
Next step up in quality is 1440p, which is also quite popular these days, and generally speaking for a good experience in most modern games you'll want to spend $800 to $1000 minimum. For a great experience in 4K resolution, to take full advantage of VR gaming, or for great high refresh-rate gaming on 144Hz or 240Hz monitors, you're looking at $1200-$1500 and above depending on your exact needs.
Of course! Customizing parts to your exact preferences can be part of the fun of building a PC.
Our list of the best gaming PC builds are our own opinion on what would make a great "safe bet" buy for any particular budget if you care about gaming most.
Just don't forget to always check compatibility between all of your parts when changing things around. If you need help or a second opinion, feel free to ask us in the comments and we'll gladly help a brother out.
Most modern motherboards actually don't actually come with built-in WiFi, so if you want wireless internet access for your new desktop you can either buy an external USB or internal PCIe adapter or choose a motherboard that does have WiFi. If the recommended motherboard we suggest for a certain build doesn't have WiFi, in that build's guide we typically mention a secondary motherboard choice that does have WiFi.
Because there are various ways to get Windows for a new gaming PC build. For example, some will already have a (legal) copy of Windows they can reuse from a previous PC for a new build, and some people will use Linux (which is free but more complicated). So when planning the best PC builds for gaming above we just focus on the core parts-list.
Choosing peripherals/accessories such as a monitor, keyboard, mouse and headset comes down to personal preference a lot more than the actual hardware (which is more based on objective data/facts of what performs best), and again like with the operating system, many people will reuse PC parts for a new build (see that article for tips). But for each build guide we include our top accessory recommendations for that specific build.
The age-old question older than is Intel better than AMD (yes, no, sometimes, maybe, depends). Overall, it comes down to various factors, including whether you just want to build now or are not in a rush for a new system and are willing to play the waiting game if there is something coming up that could be worth holding out for.
The hardware game is a fast moving one with new parts always seemingly (and sometimes actually) just around the corner, either real soon or in the not too distant future. But if you wait for all new releases before building your computer you'll be waiting forever.
However, not all new releases are created equal, so it does depend on your particular build and the particular part you may be waiting for. Some might be worth the wait, others not so much.
Also keep in mind that if do hold out for a new part, it may not be the best overall value for money once released, and previous generation parts might drop enough following a new series launch to actually be the better buy overall even after that new part is released. Case in point? Some Ryzen 2nd gen chips are a slight steal right now, such as the Ryzen 5 2600 which is amazing value objectively-speaking.
Possibly, but it depends on pricing and availability in your particular country, etc.
Hardware is an international product, and generally speaking if a certain component is a good buy in the USA it's usually also a good buy in other countries (if it's not overpriced where you live).
All the Amazon product links we list in the builds table will automatically direct you to your local country's store where possible, and in our individual build guides we also provide additional links for Australia and the UK.
We update the main builds chart above every month or every quarter. As for the more detailed individual build guides for each tier, we update them whenever they require an overhaul (sometimes every 3 months or 6 months, depending on how much the market changes). So, for our latest up-to-date recommendations, refer to the main builds chart above first (before the individual build guides).
We're 100% independently operated and not affiliated with any manufacturer or brand, and pride ourselves on being as objective and unbiased as humanly possible in our recommendations.
If we include a certain company over and over again (eg we do love recommending ASUS boards, especially for beginners, and we do have a thing for EVGA and their typically great value PSUs right now), it's simply because we think it's a great buy.
Nor are we fanboys of any company: we love to see the underdog do well because that's essentially what we are as a site, but we don't let that emotion get in the way of our objective recommendations. Hence why post Ryzen 3rd gen there's still some Intel in our chart, because the facts do not lie and for serious gamers they are still the (ever so slightly) better choice for 144Hz/240Hz eSports.
Because these are the greatest gaming PC builds on the planet handed down by legendary PCMR elders who have gone before me.
But seriously, never trust what anyone says on the internet without doing your own research, especially when it comes to a large and (hopefully) long-lasting purchase like building a new gaming PC. In saying that we do pride ourselves on giving the best, tailored, well thought-out recommendations that we possibly can and for many years have obsessed over the ever-evolving DIY landscape to better serve you as beginner or intermediate builders.
Our recommendations aren't just quickly hashed-up selections at random like some of the advice and guidance you might find elsewhere online and we never recommend anything without proper thought, weighing up all the options available, and carefully comparing our findings with what the smartest minds in the industry are thinking (people much smarter than me).
While there are good builds out there if you know where and what to look for, there is a ton of inaccurate, misleading, or straight-up bad advice/builds out there in internet land, so you have to be careful from where and whom you take your advice if you're a beginner who doesn't know any better. For example, while age is no barrier to smarts/awareness (or even experience if you start early enough), any 14 year old kid can whip up a YouTube channel and start pumping out tech recommendations without too much nuanced thought. Some people will see a flashy intro or slick editing and assume it's good advice, when it might or might not be.
Don't get me wrong; I'm not alluding to say our advice and builds are the best in the land, though I'm not gonna lie and say part of our aim isn't to provide the very best, most accurate recommendations possible - and that means conjuring the best starting-point builds for casual or serious gamers/VR enthusiasts that we can. But again, always do your own research.
Tell G Ma to post a better sample build below with accompanying reasoning as we are more than open to different viewpoints and any feedback on how you feel a certain tier could be improved to be a better starting point for beginners, especially if you (or Grandma) are fellow enthusiasts who genuinely wants to help make our builds the best they can be for everyone who visits this humble site. If you state a good case, pun intended, we'll definitely take your suggestion on-board as we don't live in echo chambers of egoic delusion.
You're dead to me ;) If George didn't create the best alternate universe to our own Milky Way in the history of mankind, I'll mail you a couple Titan RTX's by week's end, though citing prequels as your argument won't count as contrary to popular opinion I like them just as much as the originals. As for the sequels, not my cup of tea (I liked Ep 7 though) and they technically don't count for the sake of this argument as I'm strictly talking George-inspired SW. Ha, yeah, no way you're getting a Titan RTX dude, though don't count it out in future (epic giveaways are a near future plan for the site!).
Get Help / Your Feedback
Need further help or want a quick second opinion on your parts-list before pulling the trigger?
Disagree with one of our recommendations and want to share your 2 cents?
Or just want to drop by and let us know if you found our sample PC builds helpful?
Leave a comment below as we'd love to hear from you. Alternatively, comment on another guide around the site if it's more relevant to your build (such as our VR PC build guide or streaming PC build guide).
PS: If you need ongoing help and advice, see our special "Master" or "VIP" packages of our comprehensive manual for PC building beginners which includes long-term access to our dedicated 1-on-1 support email to get quick, detailed guidance throughout your entire DIY PC journey all the way from planning to building to maintenance and beyond.
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