Extreme gaming PC build guide 2019

Extreme gaming PC build guide 2019

This is our extreme gaming PC build guide, and it's intended to show off the ultimate in PC parts (like the best graphics cards or even the best PC cases) for gaming. If you're looking to create the best PC money can buy, optimized for games, or you want a class-leading component in your existing rig, this is the place to be. Perhaps you need to create an extreme PC to show off your own game, or to use powerful content creation tools alongside your 4K Metro: Exodus sessions? Maybe you just want to lock in all the best PC games at 4K and run them with incredible frame rates? Whatever your needs, this PC will fulfill them.

Don't want to build?

Here's our guide to the best gaming PCs that come pre-built, and the best gaming laptops. Many of which are surprisingly good.

When considering the extreme gaming PC build we didn't look to offer good value. This is all about getting the absolute best components, regardless of the impact they'll have on gaming. What you get is a PC future-proofed for years, and something that'll crush 4K and even 8K, but not a build that is created with budgeting in mind. While we usually aim for a set price with our builds, the object here is to splurge money on the premium components and showcase the best of everything. So, if you're simply looking to upgrade one or two components in your PC, and need the very best, it'll be a good indicator of how much you need to spend to make that happen. And if are making that happen, remember to think about one of the best antivirus programs going to protect your extreme machine once you're up and running. 

If you're looking for more realistic prices, check out our gaming PC build guide, our high-end gaming PC guide, and our budget gaming PC build guide. No? You're just here to drool over parts, and mentally build a PC for when your streaming career takes off / your rich uncle dies in a freak hotdog eating accident? OK, here's the most extreme gaming PC you can (realistically) commercially create today.

You can see the regional pricing for the components we selected in the above table, which will update in real time. You'll only need one RTX 2080 Ti card, but using two is entirely possible if you want to buy an NVLink adapter and spend $2500+ on the GPUs alone. Note that this following build guide doesn't even include the cost of peripherals or a monitor (which could easily set you back another $2000-3000 if you want to go all out), so here are some handy guides to those.

Best gaming monitor | Best gaming mouse | Best gaming keyboard
Best gaming headset | Best gaming router | Best gaming chair

Extreme Gaming PC - the full build

CPU: Intel Core i9-9900K

CPU: Intel Core i9-9900K

The fastest consumer CPU

Cores: 8 | Threads: 16 | Base Clock: 3.6GHz | Turbo Clock: 5.0GHz | Overclocking: Yes, 4.9-5.0GHz typical | L3 Cache: 16MB | TDP: 95W | PCIe 3.0 lanes: 16

Excellent per core performance  
Plenty of cores and clockspeed 
Requires separate cooler  
Limited overclocking 

For most gamers, we shy away from Intel's so-called 'enthusiast' offerings, sticking instead with the mainstream offerings. While you can usually get everything you need from a Core i5/i7 or Ryzen 5/7 build, there are a couple of places where you come up short. Intel's i9-9900K bumps things to 8-core/16-thread, keeping things barely on the side of sanity.

The Core i9-9900K is overkill for gaming, sure, and it doesn't have the core counts found of chips like the i9-9980XE or Threadripper 2990WX, but it's unbeatable in gaming performance. It's the fastest mainstream CPU for the LGA1151 platform. You will definitely need a liquid-cooling system for this CPU, though. It can draw a lot of power and tends to run hotter than the previous gen, thanks to the extra cores.

If you're more interested in extreme multithreaded performance, something like AMD's Threadripper 2990WX or Intel's Core i9-9980XE is possible. Those are viable options for professional work, but when it comes to gaming, we've found many games simply don't like the added latency and slower per-core performance of Intel's Skylake-X and AMD's Threadripper. For now, Intel remains the best gaming CPU company. 

Here's our guide to the current best CPUs for gaming.

Motherboard: Asus Maximus XI Hero Wi-Fi

Motherboard: Asus Maximus XI Hero Wi-Fi

The board that does it all

Chipset: Z390 | Memory: (4) DIMM, 64GB, DDR4-4400 | PCIe slots: (2) x16 (x16 or dual x8), x16 (x4), (3) x1 | Video ports: HDMI, DisplayPort | USB ports: USB ports: (8) rear IO, (7) internal | Storage: (2) M.2, (6) SATA | Network: Ethernet, 866Mbps 802.11ac | Lighting: Heatsink RGB, (2) Aura RGB, (2) addressable Aura

Great CPU and memory overclocking  
Not too expensive for a top-tier board  
Wi-Fi could be faster  

If the CPU is the brains of your new PC, the motherboard is the nervous system and other vital organs that actually keeps things running smoothly. Skimp on a motherboard at your own peril—especially when using multiple graphics cards.

The Asus ROG Maximus XI Hero Wi-Fi comes with a Z390 chipset, which means it's primed to handle Intel's 8th and 9th gen cores. Its redesigned 5-way optimization overclocks based on thermal telemetry. It also has 802.11ac 2x2 MU-MIMO Wi-Fi so you won't have to buy a separate card. There are tons of USB slots and, of course, its RGB lighting works with a bunch of Aura Sync compatible peripherals. The only thing missing is a third M.2 slot.

There are other Asus motherboard models that are a step up from this one, but not enough to justify the jump in cost. The Asus ROG Maximus XI Hero Wi-Fi sits at a stable $280 at the moment, but you can give yourself a small discount if you purchase the same motherboard sans Wi-Fi.

Here are the best gaming motherboards in 2019.

Graphics Card: GeForce RTX 2080 Ti

Graphics Card: GeForce RTX 2080 Ti

The fastest graphics card for 4K, ray tracing, and everything else

GPU Cores: 4,352 | Base Clock: 1,350MHz | Boost Clock: 1,545MHz | GFLOPS: 13,448 | Memory: 11GB GDDR6 | Memory Clock: 14GT/s | Memory Bandwidth: 616GB/s

Fastest graphics card around 
Ray tracing and deep learning tech 
TItan pricing on GeForce
Ray tracing is slow in BF5

More than anything else in an extreme gaming PC, the graphics card—or cards—matter. In sticking with our 'not entirely insane' mantra, we've elected to go with one RTX 2080 Ti rather two, because one will get the job done. If you really want two RTX 2080 Tis, you'll need an NVLink bridge, and the only thing to worry about here is whether the games you play support SLI.

We've intentionally left the specific model of GTX 2080 Ti up to the user, because all of the 2080 Ti cards fall within a narrow performance spectrum. For an SLI build, some people prefer blower coolers that vent heat out of the case, while others are fine with large open air coolers, and still others like liquid cooling and will want a hybrid card. All of those are viable options, though the larger open air coolers often keep temps and noise lower than blowers (provided you have a large case with other fans helping out).

Overclocking is definitely possible with any of the 2080 Ti cards, and if nothing else you should use EVGA's Precision X OC software or MSI's Afterburner to increase the power limit of your GPU to the maximum—it's a quick and easy way to add an extra 5-10 percent to gaming performance over stock.

Here are the best graphics cards you can buy right now.

Memory: G.Skill 32GB TridentZ DDR4-3200 RGB (4x8GB)

Memory: G.Skill 32GB TridentZ DDR4-3200 RGB (4x8GB)

Gobs of RAM for video editing, gaming, and more

Capacity: 4x8GB | Speed: 3200MT/s | Timings: 16-18-18-38 | Voltage: 1.35V

Never worry if you have enough RAM
Double down and make a RAM drive
Negligible benefit for gaming vs. 16GB
What if you want 64GB?

You could definitely put more memory into this build (up to 64GB), but for gaming 4x8GB DDR4-3200 is more than sufficient. There are many memory options, and speed is more about bragging rights than actual performance, but we love the look of G.Skill's TridentZ RGB sticks.

RAM prices are also coming down (thanks in no small part to price fixing investigations, we suspect). That means a 32GB kit can be had for under $300 again. If you prefer some other brand, there are many options.

Besides G.Skill, we recommend Corsair, Kingston, HyperX, Crucial, Adata, and Team as safe picks. RAM has reached the point where most modules work well, so it's often a question of price—and color, if that's your thing—rather than miniscule performance differences. Higher clocked DDR4 might add a percentage point to the overall performance, but the money is usually better spent on a faster CPU or GPU, or a larger SSD. Unless you're going for record overclocks, in which case go nuts on the fastest DDR4 you can find.

Need other options? Here's the best DDR4 RAM in 2019.

Primary Storage: Samsung 970 Pro 1TB M.2 NVMe

Primary Storage: Samsung 970 Pro 1TB M.2 NVMe

Incredibly fast storage to make your files fly

Capacity: 1,024GB | Interface: M.2 PCIe | Sequential IO: 3,500/2,700MB/s read/write | Random IO: 500K/500K IOPS read/write

Fastest M.2 drive available
Plenty of capacity and endurance
Only slightly faster than 970 Evo
No 2TB option

An extreme build like this needs equally extreme storage, and the fastest SSDs are M.2 NVMe drives. Of those, Samsung's 970 Pro rises to the top, beating the previous generation 960 Pro and Intel SSD 750 by up to 15 percent. Of course, it's only available in 1TB and 512GB capacities. If you really want a ton of fast storage, you could double down and run RAID 0, or get the 2TB 960 Pro.

Will this crazy SSD actually make your PC feel faster? If you're copying files or installing games (or verifying Steam installs), yes. The only potentially faster SSD is Intel's Optane 905P, but that's only available as an add-in card (for now), and it's not always faster.

These are the best SSD for gaming options right now.

Mass Storage: Samsung 860 Evo 4TB SATA

Mass Storage: Samsung 860 Evo 4TB SATA

Tons of speedy space for your games, movies, and more

Capacity: 4,096GB | Interface: SATA | Sequential IO: 550/520MB/s read/write | Random IO: 98K/90K IOPS read/write

Highest capacity consumer SSD
Excellent SATA performance
Not as fast as NVMe drives

Yeah, only 4TB of SATA storage for the secondary drive. We were trying to be somewhat reasonable, but you could always double down (or even go with four drives) and run the drives in a RAID set.

In testing, the 860 Evo 4TB is as fast as it gets for SATA storage. You could always add a few 10TB HDDs as well, but we'd personally recommend a good NAS with 10GbE rather than adding HDDs to your main PC—because spinning disks are the opposite of extreme performance.

Power Supply: Corsair AX1500i

Power Supply: Corsair AX1500i

Enough power for overclocking and then some

Output: 1,500W | Efficiency: 80 Plus Titanium | Connectors: (1) 24-Pin ATX, (2) 8-Pin (4+4) EPS12V, (10) 8-Pin (6+2) PCIe, (20) SATA, (12) Molex, (2) Floppy | Modular: Fully

Maximum efficiency
Connectors to spare
What, only one 24-pin connector?

A wise man once told us to never underestimate the power of the dark supply. Or something like that. The point is, you don't want a crappy PSU taking down the rest of your rig, and when you're putting together the best PC possible that means getting an equally bodacious power supply. The top of the heap is 80 Plus Titanium, and it may be some time before we see anything more efficient.

When it comes to power supplies, the Corsair AX1500i is one of the best around, with a fully digitally controlled design and monitoring software as a bonus. But that's not the main selling point, which is the 1500W of clean power at up to 94 percent efficiency. And you'll need most of that, as the i9-7900X and motherboard can draw around 400W under load, and each GTX 1080 Ti is 250W—more if you run the CPU and GPU overclocked, which is sort of the point of an extreme build.

If you only plan to run a single GPU, or a lower tier CPU (like the i7-7800X), EVGA's SuperNOVA 850 T2 is a great alternative that will save some money. If you want to save even more the SuperNOVA 850 P2 costs about $50 / £50 less and is every bit as good.

Case: be quiet! Dark Base Pro 900

Case: be quiet! Dark Base Pro 900

A big and beautiful case to show off your build

Form Factor: Full tower | Motherboard Support: E-ATX, XL-ATX, ATX, M-ATX, Mini-ITX | Dimensions: 577 x 243 x 586 mm | Weight: 14.39 kg | Radiator Support: 120mm; 140mm; 240mm; 280mm; 360mm; 420mm | I/O Ports: 1 x Audio/Mic, 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type C, Qi Wireless Charger | Drive Bays: 2.5”: 10, 3.5”: 5

Highly modular
Wireless Qi charger
Extensive cooling support
Yeah, it's expensive

One of be Quiet!'s newer cases, the Dark Base Pro 900 remains one of our most highly recommended full towers thanks to its sleek design and enthusiast-friendly interior. One of the most modular cases we've ever seen, just about every single panel can be removed, making this case a modder's dream. There's also a whole lot of customization available, with options for an inverted motherboard layout and even some nifty features like wireless qi charging for your cellphone and preinstalled LED lighting.

The Dark Base Pro 900 is large enough to support the biggest motherboards and radiators up to 420mm in size. It's a very large full tower that can support just about any custom cooling you can dream up. It also looks very sleek with a few color options to spice things up and enough bells and whistles to make it worth the outlay.

Here are the best PC cases in 2019, for more options.

CPU Cooling: NZXT Kraken X62

Substantial cooling for your Core i9 processor

Size: 280mm | Fan speed: 1,200rpm | Airflow: 55.4 CFM | Noise level: 20.4 dB(A) | Dimensions: 315x143x29mm | Socket support: LGA115x, LGA2011, LGA2066, AM2, AM3, AM4

Good cooling and software
Quieter than previous revision
Needs CAM software for optimal tuning
Might need custom loop for max OC

This rig has a beastly CPU, and yes, it needs overclocking. Liquid cooling is highly recommended when you're trying to get the most out of Intel's unlocked enthusiast chips, and the new 9th Gen Core i9 processors basically require it.

The NZXT Kraken X62 is an impressive piece of kit, and works with all major platforms. It's reasonably easy to install and features a large 280mm radiator with a pair of 140mm fans. Once everything is installed, having a small waterblock on your CPU instead of a massive air cooler makes things look much cleaner. You'll need a large case capable of housing the radiator, naturally, which we already took care of above.

But even with the X62, you may run into thermal limitations. If you're serious about pushing the i9-9900K to its limits, you'll want to consider going with a fully custom liquid cooling loop. That's beyond the scope of this buying guide, but know that even a good AIO cooler likely won't allow maximum overclocks with the i9-9900K.

You'll need one, so here are the best CPU coolers in 2019.

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