Published: July 19, 2021
If you haven't heard of Fortnite, do let me know what life's like on Mars. Wouldn't mind visiting one day once Musk hopefully sorts it out for us all. To matters of Earth, if your gaming arena of choice is the infallible mega phenomenon that is of course Fortnite, in this guide I'll break down how to strategically choose optimal PC parts for your particular budget in order to build the best PC for Fortnite.
I'll also list the best competitive Fortnite settings used by the majority of pro players if you want to balance maximum frame rates and visibility/clarity - an important thing to think about if you're the competitive type who wants to play at your absolute best. Let's get to it.
Fortnite isn't a demanding game in general, and will run well on cheap gaming PCs (or laptops). Especially so if you have a 1080p 60Hz (or 75Hz) monitor, as with an entry-level gaming display like that all you need to aim for to get super smooth performance is 60FPS (or 75FPS). On low graphics settings, something that doesn't detract from the Fortnite experience due to the nature of the game (cartoony graphics and the fact it's a competitive shooter where frame rate should take priority over pretty visuals), all you need to get 60FPS consistently is an AMD Ryzen 3 3200G processor, which is exactly what I recommend to those wanting to build the best budget PC for Fortnite.
New to PC? Resolutions Explained (1080p vs 1440p vs 4K)
The included integrated graphics of the 3200G is good enough for decent performance in lesser-demanding games like Fortnite, and that means you won't need to buy a discrete graphics card, saving you a chunk of change. For RAM, the bare minimum these days for gaming is 8GB (of DDR4, the latest standard), and ideally you want 2 lots of 4GB sticks (instead of a single 8GB stick) which noticeably boosts frame rates when using an integrated graphics setup like this (as they lean heavily on RAM capacity and speed).
If you want recommendations for all the parts that make up a complete PC build, see the main best gaming PC builds for the money series, but in this guide we'll just focus on the 3 components that matter when it comes to actual gaming performance (CPU, GPU, and RAM - though that's NOT to say the other parts are not important, because they are).
If you want to run high settings instead, you'll have to give integrated graphics solutions like the 3200G a miss (and even the more powerful Ryzen 5 3400G, which does have better integrated graphics but doesn't quite cut it for high settings in Fortnite). That means you'll need to buy a graphics card (also called a GPU, Graphics Processing Unit), but the good news is pretty much any cheap modern GPU will get you good performance in Fortnite, especially at only 1080p resolution.
If you want that magical 60FPS or higher, and at High or "Epic" (maximum) settings, the NVidia GeForce GTX 1650 Super or AMD Radeon RX 5500 XT is the tier of GPU you will want to be looking at. With slightly older, less powerful budget gaming GPUs such as the GTX 1050, 1050 Ti, RX 560, or RX 570, you'd still be just fine and you'd clear 60FPS if you dial back some settings, but to guarantee 60FPS on high/epic settings you will want the extra grunt of the modern 1650 Super (or if you're set on buying a used GPU, go for a GTX 1060 3GB or 6GB or an RX 580 4GB or 8GB).
To use with said graphics cards, any cheap modern CPU will do since getting 60FPS in Fortnite doesn't require much at all in terms of processing power. You could stick with the Ryzen 3 3200G that I spoke about before, and just use it as a "standard" CPU (as in, just disable its integrated graphics), but even better would be to opt for a faster gaming CPU like the Ryzen 3 3100 or Core i3 10100, both of which are very affordable and provide nice gaming performance (not just in Fortnite, but in many modern titles).
Moving on to 1080p 144Hz monitors, which if you weren't aware, allows you to see up to 144FPS (Frames Per Second). If your PC is powerful enough that is: getting around 100FPS or more is still beneficial on a 144Hz monitor, but ideally to make the most of it you want to get around 144FPS (and in a perfect world, a consistent 144FPS and above).
Once again, just like mentioned in the above recommendations for 1080p 60Hz, since Fortnite isn't a very demanding game in general, achieving 144FPS in Fortnite will not require very beefy specs in the grand scheme of things. In other words, you don't need to fork out too much money if you want a very good 1080p 144Hz Fortnite experience.
New to PC? Refresh Rates Explained (60Hz vs 144Hz)
You definitely will need a better graphics card than you would for 1080p 60FPS, and ideally you also want a faster CPU as well. However, if you're building a budget Fortnite build for 1080p 144Hz, you actually don't need a very powerful CPU if you keep the graphics settings on low (some of Fortnite's visual settings affect the CPU and not just the GPU). If you're looking to be cost-effective, you can get away with a cheaper budget gaming CPU like a modern Ryzen 3 or Core i3 (as recommended in the 1080p 60FPS section), and you can still hit 144FPS consistently.
That said, for the best 1080p 144Hz experience, you want a better CPU to not only raise your average FPS, but to raise the minimum FPS during hectic action moments, which will make for a more consistently smooth experience for competitive play. If you're a true pro player (or an aspiring one), the absolute ideal would be to get your hands on one of the best gaming CPUs on the market such as the super-fast Ryzen 5 5600X, but it's really not necessary to spend so much.
A cheaper CPU like the Ryzen 5 3600 or newer Ryzen 3 3300X would serve you very well and be more than enough for an excellent 1080p 144Hz Fortnite gaming PC. Both of these are in the same ballpark of performance despite the 3300X "only" being of the budget Ryzen 3 family. I mention AMD first since they're the most popular gaming CPUs these days (for good reason as they've caught up to Intel of late, and in some ways even surpassed them slightly), but Intel is just as good an option seeing as they've reacted to AMD's recent dominance with more competitive pricing. So any modern i3 or i5 will serve you well and is all you need for a super-smooth 144Hz Fortnite setup.
Buying a 240Hz monitor (and investing in the hardware required to run it) is obviously not for everyone. But it is a verifiable fact that the vast majority of professional (or aspiring professional) Fortnite players do use 240Hz screens to gain every little miniscule edge that they can possibly get in terms of reaction times, visual clarity, and accuracy. Therefore, if you want to play the game at the highest level and be on the same playing field as the pros, a 240Hz setup is worth considering.
But just remember the difference between 240Hz and 144Hz is hardly noticeable to most people, so using a 144Hz - even for competitive play - is unlikely to hold you back much (if at all). With that caveat out the way, if you want 240FPS in Fortnite to make the most of a 1080p 240Hz screen, below are the parts I can suggest for competitive settings. You'll want the best CPU you can afford, since at 1080p your frame rate is capped by your processing power (as opposed to high resolutions where you're capped by the GPU), but you'll also need a top GPU.
Believe it or not, 360Hz monitors are now a thing, and while I'm not suggesting it to anyone there are a small handful of you who will be eyeing off such a crazy Fortnite setup. You could argue 240Hz is overkill as it is, unless you're a literal pro getting paid to play, and so you can imagine that 360Hz is even more of a niche product, with the benefits over 240Hz being even more of a diminishing return compared to the already-diminishing returns of the jump from 144Hz to 240Hz (though that is noticeable to some with great vision).
So if you're the 0.001% reading this who are aiming for an insane 360FPS to make the most of a 360Hz display, in terms of recommended specs it's pretty simple; get the fastest CPU and GPU that you can. Reaching 360FPS consistently is not easy, even in a lesser-demanding game like Fortnite and even with lower, "competitive" settings. But a top-tier CPU and GPU will get the job done. For those wondering, there's not a huge difference between the 5600X and 5800X for Fortnite, but the latter does increase both average FPS and 1% lows (ie minimum frame rates), making for a smoother experience.
But the 5600X is the much better value choice, and is still viable for 1080p 360FPS when paired with a strong GPU like a RTX 3080. It's just that the ideal would be the slightly-stronger yet objectively better overall 5800X (or 5900X though that provides even more diminishing returns). As for the GPU, a RTX 3080 is ideal for pro players, but a RTX 3070 or RX 6800 would absolutely suffice for 1080p 360FPS as well if you turn down ALL settings to low (a 3080 would give you more leeway in terms of running true competitive settings, as in having a liberal Draw Distance setting and high/epic texture settings, both explained later in this guide).
I'm going to leave 4K monitors out of this guide since Fortnite isn't often played at such a high resolution (if you're building a PC for Fortnite specifically, chances are it's going to be 1080p or 1440p for various reasons). For good performance on a 1440p display - specifically a 1440p 144Hz model which are becoming increasingly more affordable and popular these days - you will need to bring a stronger graphics card into play, as well making sure your CPU is good enough as well. At 1440p 144Hz, you're mostly GPU bound, meaning that your graphics card will all but dictate what performance you get, though keep in mind that at this resolution and refresh rate you still need a good CPU to reach high and consistent 144FPS+ frame rates.
I'm not going to cover 1440p 60Hz, which is becoming less and less a worthwhile option for gaming purposes. 1440p 144Hz monitors offer a much crisper experience for fast-paced action gaming (Fortnite isn't as fast as say CSGO or other native FPS titles, but it's still relatively quick and does objectively benefit from 144Hz over 60Hz). You can find a lot of affordable 1440p 144Hz options out there, and besides, even if they were all out of your price range, for a competitive game like Fortnite you would be best of (and recommended to by the far majority of players) to opt for a 1080p 144Hz display in that case, as opposed to settling for a 1440p 60Hz model. That said, there's nothing wrong with 1440p 60Hz/75Hz screens for gaming if you prefer resolution over refresh rate, and for many games it's absolutely fine. For Fortnite
You'll find that the majority of competitive Fortnite players run what's referred to as "competitive settings", a specific mixture of custom in-game graphics settings that maximizes both performance (ie frame rates) and in-game visibility/clarity.
The exact settings used by competitive players varies slightly, but the overall trend is clear; you want most settings set to low or off to maximize frame rates, but also because those settings either don't add to the experience in any meaningful way and/or detract from it (in a competitive sense). But for certain other settings, like Draw Distance, you want to set it to the highest setting you can (Epic if you have a good-enough setup that won't be affected by doing so) because it'll help you play at your absolute best (on lower Draw Distance settings you'll notice objects "popping in" at a distance, which can be distracting).
If you want a thorough breakdown of Fortnite's graphics options and how they relate to performance, check out PC Gamer's Fortnite settings guide, but if you want a quick summary, from my research the below settings are the optimal balance for competitive play.
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Indie game dev currently working on my dream game, an atmospheric VR FPS adventure powered by Unreal Engine, who also likes writing about hardware and gaming in general. Favs of all time are OOT, Perfect Dark, MGS1, MGS2, GE007, DKC2, THPS3, WC3, HL1, HL2, with the most recent addition to my list of immortals being the VR masterpiece that is Half Life Alyx. To keep in touch check back to the blog for my latest articles or see BGC on FB, and for anyone also into the VR FPS scene I'll be sharing the first screenshots of my upcoming VR game on Twitter soon. - Julz