Last Updated: Sep 9, 2018
Welcome to our monthly-updated gaming PC build guide which is here to help you solve perhaps the most confusing aspect of building your own computer: choosing the right parts-list that not only maximizes your particular budget but that is fully compatible, reliable, well-balanced and as "future proof" as possible (and with our higher-tier builds: the best-looking and with the most effective cooling/airflow/noise-reduction for the money).
Building a PC is, and always has been, the ideal way to go if you want the best gaming desktop computer for your money because you'll end up with much better, higher-quality parts overall, and most importantly you'll get the fastest gaming performance possible that'll max your frame-rate and your overall enjoyment of your favorite games.
We update and fine-tune all the recommended desktop computer builds on this page each and every month, and have been doing so for many years which has allowed us to really hone and fine-tune our selection process to an absolute science (and art for the higher-end builds) to pick parts that will suit most gamers well who are looking to build a PC with the main focus being gaming performance.
The key word there is "most" though - you may have more specific wants and needs depending on what you'll be doing with your PC, so don't just take our word for it (or anyone else's online for that matter) and always do your own research to ensure you pick the best parts for YOU.
For example, you may not just want to build a computer for gaming, but one for other tasks as well such as video editing/production, streaming, 3D rendering/animation/modeling work, workstation, or other things. That's why we've also put a lot of time into creating supplemental guides on these sorts of topics for those with more specific needs:
But if you are just building a gaming desktop, the following recommended builds will provide a good head-start on your research: a roadmap of sorts as a first-time (or 2nd or third time) PC builder. Feel free to use these builds exactly as they are as they've been painstakingly designed and researched based on years of build planning experience (of course, only if your own further research confirms that they're the right choice for your budget..never take anyone's advice blindly no matter who it is), or use them as a base of reference or inspiration for your own custom parts-list.
IMPORTANT FOR FIRST-TIME PC BUILDERS:
Our top recommended parts-lists below do not include Operating System Software, or peripherals/accessories, which are both things you'll be needing for a brand new PC to be fully functional and ready to game (if you're not re-using parts from a previous setup). We recommend getting Windows 10 and for peripherals see our top-rated gaming monitors, keyboards, mice, and headsets. Also, if you want a CD/DVD drive in your build, make sure you choose a case that has at least one drive bay and this is the drive we would pick. For WiFi, see the FAQ below.
Can I mix and match parts around from different builds?
Of course, but whether or not your parts-list will stay remain compatible after your changes depends what you're changing around. If you're doing a big change to a certain build, such as switching from an Intel to an AMD processor, or vice versa, you'll need to change the motherboard which may also affect your other hardware choices as well (such as RAM). Intel CPUs only work with Intel motherboards, and vice versa for AMD.
But there are a lot of simple tweaks you could do to our recommended gaming desktop builds that won't require you to change any other parts. For example, adding an SSD to a build, adding a bigger hard drive, changing the case, or including a stronger GPU in a certain build (ie using the $600 build's GPU for the $500 build) won't affect the compatibility of all your parts and you won't need to change anything else.
Even with minor changes there are always exceptions to the rule though, so when changing any parts around always think about how it may affect your build overall and check for compatibility. If you're adding a lot more parts to a certain build, or a lot stronger parts, you may need to get a power supply with more wattage to accommodate for the extra power. However keep in mind that all our power supply selections give you a fair bit of wiggle room in terms of spare power for upgrades.
Do the builds have WiFi capability?
All modern motherboards come with built-in wired networking capability (known as LAN), however most DO NOT have built-in wireless. If you want your PC to access the internet wirelessly (for gaming or non-gaming), you'll need to get a wireless adapter of which you have three options for:
Option 3 may require you to get a more expensive motherboard, as like mentioned most boards don't come with the built-in wireless feature, so it may not be within your budget to do this. The first 2 options are most common for a cost-effective desktop build, and whether you get an internal adapter card or a USB dongle is personal preference as either can work just as well.
If you get an internal adapter, you'll want to consider whether your motherboard has a spare PCI-E port for the adapter (in most cases you will unless you're really decking out your build with expansion cards) as well as enough space on your motherboard (in some cases the graphics card, if large, may get in the way). If getting a USB dongle instead you'll want to make sure you have a free USB port for it. For either option you'll also want to get one that matches the speed of your router, so if you have a 5GHz router then get an adapter/dongle that supports this speed.
Recommended Wireless Internal Adaptors:
Recommended Wireless USB Adaptor:
Is wired internet better than wireless for gaming?
If you're gaming online, a wired LAN connection is always the most ideal as you don't have to worry about dropouts and/or potential slowdowns in your connection. This becomes more important if you're gaming competitively. However, these days wireless connections can be pretty much just as good if you have a good connection, a good router, and good network card/dongle.
Should I wait for X or Y new part to be released before building?
This is an age-old question that will never die. Truth is, there's always new parts coming out, either really soon or in the not too distant future, so if you wait for all new releases before building your gaming desktop computer you'll be waiting forever. However, not all new releases are created equal, so it really depends on your particular build and the particular part you may be waiting for. Also keep in mind that even if you wait for a new part, it may not even be the best overall value for your money at the price at which its released, and sometimes older parts represent better bang for your buck.
When are the builds updated?
We thoroughly look over, re-consider and tweak (where necessary) all our recommended gaming desktop computer builds in the first week of each month, but we may also update a build mid-month if there's any noteworthy changes to the hardware market. Sometimes a particular build will stay the exact same month to month if it remains the best value for money parts-list for that price in our objective opinion.
Why isn't Windows included in the price of the builds?"
We don't include the operating system, which for most builders will be Windows 10, because A) there are other choices other than Windows such as Linux, and B) some builders will already have a (legal) copy of Windows that they can use for their new build (such as multi-computer edition they previously bought).
Why aren't peripherals included in the price of the builds?
Choosing peripherals such as your monitor, keyboard, mouse and headset comes down to personal preference a lot more than the actual hardware parts, so it wouldn't make sense to include specific peripherals for each build. Plus, like with the operating system, a lot of readers will already have peripherals they can use from a previous desktop build.
Are you sponsored by X or Y manufacturer because you recommend them so much?
No - we're not affiliated with any specific manufacturer. We're 100% independently operated and do not accept any outside incentives to suggest a particular brand over another. All our recommendations are solely our objective opinion on what we genuinely believe is the best choice for most readers, and are what we would buy ourselves if building a particular tier right now. If we include a certain brand or component over and over again, it's because we think it's a great buy.
Are these builds suitable for my country?
Hardware is an international product, and if a certain component is a good buy in the USA it's usually also a good buy in other countries. We tweak our builds first and foremost for the USA market, however most of the parts we recommend for our monthly gaming desktop computers will also be available for other countries. Meaning, by clicking on a recommended component within our builds you'll be automatically directed to your local online vendor (ie Amazon) whether you visit our site from either North America, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, with Australian support coming soon (shoutout to my beloved Aussie gamers).