The Best Gaming PC Builds for the Money: February 2020 Update (Recommended Parts)
Monthly-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: February 8, 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 different 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 building your own PC has many advantages, and also 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.
That's why each month 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) gaming PC build. We started this detailed gaming PC build guide 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 (in terms of where the current best value is in the market). We hope it comes in handy as a base for your research as it has been for other beginner builders.
Unless you spent the past year chilling under that cliche rock, things got real interesting in the hardware game last year with plenty of significant new releases that shook the market up quite a bit and that led to healthy competition in many areas of the market that were previously dominated by certain companies (*cough* Intel). The standout was AMD of course and their launch of the now very successful Ryzen 3000 range of CPUs which has brought healthy competition to practically every segment of the CPU, the likes of which we've not seen for a long time.
Each sample parts-list is carefully crafted for maximum value & performance at that price point
But while AMD CPUs have indeed closed the gap on Intel's long-term grip on top-dog gaming performance, that's not to say you should lose your balance of perspective and buy into extreme fanboy viewpoints. After all, only a Sith deals in absolutes. Intel dead? The empire does not fall so easily, and objectively speaking they still have an ever-so-slight edge in the high-end with their hard to beat 9700K and 9900K/KF/KS chips that perfectly suit performance perfectionists wanting to fully maximize frame rates for competitive 144Hz and 244Hz gaming.
But Intel has definitely been hit hard from a gaming standpoint and the gap between them and AMD is now so close that most gamers and anyone building a hybrid gaming and multitasking/workstation computer should be seriously considering Ryzen for their next setup. But last year wasn't just interesting for the shifts in the CPU market, as we also witnessed AMD bring heat to NVidia in both the budget and mid-range graphics card markets (no change in high-end GPUs though which NVidia still owns), further increasing joy for builders as more healthy competition means more competitive prices for us all. Yep, AMD really are killing it right now in more ways than one, and that's reflected in our best gaming PC builds which sees a clean sweep for AMD in all budget and mid-range builds.
For the majority of gamers looking to build something more wallet-friendly, the current hardware market is a bit of a goldmine, especially if you skip the cutting edge tech and look at something like Ryzen 2nd gen CPUs which currently offers amazing value at present. A good case in point being the still-stellar R5 2600 which you can find at a bargain $120 (or even less) - super bang for buck in anyone's book and a 6-core chip that can still last you a good 5 years and handle any modern game no problem.
To top things off, SSD and RAM pricing are still as good as they were in the second half of last year, so overall it is without a doubt a buyer's market at this point in time. In other words, in the grand scheme of things, Q1 2020 is still a good time to build or upgrade a PC, and I don't always say that (eg during the GPU crisis of doom a couple years back I made it clear you really should reconsider building/upgrading). So if you missed the deals of late last year, fret not for nothing has changed in terms of the overall state of the market being quite excellent all-things considered.
All this competition between the big boys is great for us consumers as it leads to better prices, and the trend of the second half of last year being a good time to build a new PC continues on as in early 2020 it's still very much a "buyer's market" with solid value to be found (especially for the budget and mid-range builds). I mean, just look at the 2600 for instance, which is a great 6 core 12 thread CPU that's now just a little over $100 thanks to it's bigger brother 3600 hitting the scene of late (which is also good value overall).
Then there's the new Ryzen 5 1600 AF for just $85 (not to be confused with the older 1600 "AE" model) which now easily gets a recommendation in our best gaming PC builds chart below; a strange product as the name suggests it's 1st gen Ryzen, but it's actually a 2nd-gen refresh of the original 1600. A 6 core, 12 thread CPU that performs almost identically to the 2600, and for just 85 bucks? Objectively speaking, that is literally insane value based on past history, or in other words, cheap AF (could not resist).
But the super juicy bang for buck CPUs don't even stop there in today's market, and for low spec gamers scrapping together systems on super tight budgets (I feel you) for 720p, 900p, indie, retro, and/or emulation gaming (or for a basic office PC), the recently-released Athlon 3000G is another top value proposition at a mere 50 bucks with respectable integrated graphics for the price capable of low-res gaming in non-demanding games.
The CPU market really is great again, and I didn't even get to the high end market, which isn't as much "bang for your buck" as the lower end (never is, to be fair), but is still actually better than recent years as well thanks to AMD bringing the fight to Intel on all fronts. A prime example is the significantly lower launch price of Intel's latest flagship workstation chip (10980XE) compared to its predecessor, but for actual gaming CPUs there's been the recent price cuts of Intel's 9700K and 9900K range with Ryzen 7 and 9 now hot on Intel's heels for top dog gaming performance.
But it's not just CPUs in a great spot right now either; RAM and SSD prices still currently sit pretty compared to past history, and GPU pricing is back to normal these days after the lengthy, infamous GPU shortage of a couple years ago. Some industry experts like GN predict RAM and SSD prices may increase this year, but right now as of February 2020 the PC components market is ripe for the picking as builders.
Let's cut the small talk and get into the latest best gaming PC builds of the month fully updated for February 2020 based on how the market stands right now. Hope these build templates come in handy in your research, and if you get stuck or want a second opinion with choosing the best parts for your needs, feel free to ask for help in the comments and we'll help a gamer out.
Component out of stock at Amazon? Check B&H, our second pick of the best store for PC parts and accessories. If you're outside the US, we recommend Umart for Australia (sometimes better prices than Amazon AU), or Overclockers for the UK.
Swipe to Scroll the Builds:
Recommended Parts for Optimal Gaming Performance, Cooling, & Reliability (February 2020 Updated)
These are SLI builds (as in, they have two NVIDIA video cards) and only recommended if you understand the pros and cons to SLI and that not all games will take advantage of a second GPU (see the best games that support SLI here). SLI isn't for casual gamers wanting a quick plug-n-play experience, but for patient enthusiasts who don't mind tweaking settings. Also, 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 such as the $5000 build if you use a good AiO liquid cooler for your CPU, choose a high airflow case, have enough case fans, etc.
Best Operating System and Accessories
Recommended Operating System
Choosing an operating system for a new gaming desktop 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 just unsure, just stick to Windows (either Windows 10 Home or Pro). 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 (if you're interested, check out these good resources; 1,2,3). Plus, Linux isn't as well supported as Windows when it comes to games.
So, to get Windows for your new custom PC build, you have a few options:
1) Download Onto USB Drive, Then Buy/Activate Later
If you have a spare USB flash drive that's 4GB or bigger (and access to a desktop or laptop), you can download Windows 10 onto your USB flash drive using the Media Creation Tool on the Microsoft website, which you then plug into your new PC case during installation when you first boot-up. During the installation of Windows it will ask you for a product key, but you can still proceed and finish the installation if you select the option to enter your product key later on (to activate Windows). Then, in your own time, you can buy a product key from the Microsoft site which will remove the watermark from Windows. The good news is that in the meantime until you get the product key and activate your copy of Windows, everything is 100% usable.
2) Buy USB Version
If you want Windows activated from the get-go and don't want to have to download it to a USB drive yourself, just buy the USB flash drive version that you simply plug into your rig once you've installed all your parts: Windows 10 Home 64-Bit (USB flash drive)
3) Buy DVD Version
If you're including an optical drive in your PC build (make sure your case has a 5.25" drive bay as not all cases do these days!), consider getting the DVD edition of Windows (instead of the USB one above) as it is usually a bit cheaper (find it on Amazon, B&H, or OutletPC).
4) Reuse your 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.
Note: Consider Windows Pro edition instead of Home if you're building a hybrid gaming and workstation PC (USB version or DVD version).
Recommended Utility/Gaming 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 for ideas:
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.
How the Best 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.
Each recommended build is carefully planned for maximum value as gamers
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.
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 custom gaming PC build, you essentially have 2 options:
Option A: Read a Written Tutorial
Our own written guide on how to build 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 such as how to maintain, upgrade and performance-optimize your new gaming PC.
A YouTube video on building a PC like this one can be good for a quick refresher, especially if you already have experience with computers in the past, but if you're a total beginner then a 20 to 30 min video may not have enough meat for you to understand all the steps and important details (including learning about all the different parts and how they work together etc).
This top-rated video course covers things in more detail and includes a total 12 hours of video footage and slides for beginners who want to learn all the basic hardware fundamentals too (not just the basic installation steps). You don't need to watch the whole 12 hours to build your first PC, but if you're interested in really taking your hardware knowledge to the next level with this series you can learn a bunch of extra cool stuff like benchmarking basics, overclocking 101, building with liquid CPU coolers (AiO coolers), and more.
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. 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 the latest up-to-date PC build 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 (and as for the sequels; don't count 'cause George wasn't involved).
Get Further Help / Feedback
Need further help or a quick second opinion with choosing the right parts?
Disagree with one of our top recommendations and have your own 2 cents to share?
Or simply found these recommended PC builds a big time saver and just want to drop by to say thanks?
Let me know in the comments below and I'll personally reach out and do my best to help if you need it. Otherwise, good luck with everything and enjoy the new setup!
PS: Building in the near future? Subscribe via email below to be notified of updates to our builds, plus any standout deals we come across in our research, future giveaways (planning our first ones for early/mid 2020), and more cool stuff.
Simplifying the latest in PC building in plain English for builders of all skill levels to understand and apply. Always objective, unbiased, and fanboy free, with minimal ads, maximum cheap SW jokes, and the original birthplace of monthly PC builds.