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Gaming PC build guide

Gaming PC build guide 2020
It's team red all the way with our Gaming PC build guide. (Image credit: Future)

The target budget for this mid-tier gaming PC is $1000 which should give you a quality build that will run any modern game. With graphics settings pushed to their limit, we're aiming for a build that can reliably push 60fps at 1080p. And while higher resolutions may require you to dial back your graphical settings a notch, reaching higher refresh rates in less-demanding games such as Rocket League or Overwatch will be an absolute breeze.

Buy it now

Want to buy a prebuilt instead of building your own PC? Check out our guide to the best gaming PCs and the best gaming laptops.

We've switched from Nvidia to AMD for our mid-tier gaming build to help keep the cost down. We've also allowed plenty of room for future upgrades thanks to compatibility with AMD's 3rd generation Ryzen processors as well as a modular PSU with extra power if and when it's needed. And if you enjoy squeezing the most out of your build, the CPU we've chosen can be overclocked for added performance if you're curious about the differences between the processor giants, our AMD vs. Intel article should give you all the information you need.

As with our other builds, the $1000 budget doesn't include a gaming monitor or a Windows license, so you'll need to allow extra for those bits that live outside the PC case. If you're upgrading, some of this additional expense can be avoided by migrating your instance of Windows from your old machine and making do with your current peripherals until you can afford to replace them. But setting a bit of extra cash aside for accessories is always a smart idea.

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

It's worth looking around for deals as some of the best components are often on sale at some of the more prominent outlets, but you can always save a bit of cash by scaling back this build if you're finding yourself struggling to manage the expense. Opting for a smaller SSD or slightly less RAM shouldn't sacrifice much in terms of overall performance and will leave you room to upgrade in the future when you're in a better position financially.

CPU

AMD Ryzen 5 3600

(Image credit: AMD)

AMD Ryzen 5 3600

A reliable mid-range CPU

Cores: 6 | Threads: 12 | Base Clock: 3.6GHz | Turbo Clock: 4.2GHz | Overclocking: Yes, 4.2GHz typical | L3 Cache: 32MB | TDP: 65W | PCIe 4.0 lanes: 16

Low price for 6 core/12 thread CPU
Very secure and reliable
Good pairing with AMD GPU
Not the best for high-end gaming builds

AMD's 3rd generation Ryzen CPUs are here, and the Ryzen 5 3600 is an excellent candidate for mid-range gaming. It outclasses our previous pick for this build, the Intel i5-8400, and offers superior performance, along with overclocking and a slick-looking stock cooler all around the same price point. 

Alternatively, you could go with the previous generation Ryzen 5 2600 for a small drop in price, and while it may not be quite as fast as the 3600, it still has all the same features and matches the i5-8400 almost pound for pound. If you're looking for a little more juice, though, the Ryzen 5 3600X can give it to you for about $40 more.

Ultimately we went with the 3600 because it gave us the best bang for our buck and some additional room to expand into more powerful 3rd gen AMD CPUs down the line.

If you're looking for a little extra power in your next build, check out our guide to the best CPU for gaming in 2019.

Motherboard

(Image credit: MSI)

MSI B450 Gaming Plus

A good all rounder with Ryzen 3rd gen compatibility

Chipset: B450 | Memory: (4) DIMM, 64GB, DDR4-3466 | PCIe slots: (1) x16, (1) x16 (x4), (4) x1 | USB ports: (6) rear IO, (6) internal | Storage: (1) M.2, (6) SATA | Network: Ethernet | Lighting: Full RGB

Good performance and features
Great starter
Cuts out extras (wi-fi, second M.2)
Budget audio and network

The MSI Performance B450 Gaming Plus is a reliable motherboard that will deliver everything needed to run the Ryzen 5 3600. It may not necessarily be pretty or pack in a ton of extras, but it gets the job done.

The B450 supports memory speeds up to DDR4-3466 and includes an M.2 slot for a fast SSD or Optane Memory. And while this setup would need a little TLC to help it, this motherboard could potentially handle SLI or crossfire if need be.

Motherboard compatibility for Ryzen's 3rd gen processors is pretty prolific, but make sure to check the compatibility on the manufacturer's site if you're committing to something with more options. But if you're after something better than this MSI board, you're probably also looking at a higher-end build, which we cover in our high-end gaming PC.

Here's our guide to the best gaming motherboards in 2019.

GPU

(Image credit: ©AMD)

AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT

An excellent AMD alternative to Nvidia's supers

GPU Cores: 2,560 | Base Clock: 1,605MHz | Boost Clock: 1,905MHz | GFLOPS: 9,754 | Memory: 8GB GDDR6 | Memory Clock: 14 GT/s | Memory Bandwidth: 448GB/s

Outperforms the 2060 Super for the same price
No ray tracing hardware or driver support

It may look like a piece of modern art, but the 5700 XT was a relatively easy pick for this level of build and a solid replacement for the Nvidia 2060 Super. Our build is mostly looking to push 60fps at 1080p, which is where this particular GPU excels, and at a lower price point than the 2060 Super, the choice was clear.

The 5700 XT does lack dedicated hardware for ray tracing and DLSS, but in terms of actual in-game performance, it just edges out the 2060 Super. Additionally, these extra features only tend to matter once you start reaching the edge of the performance envelope. For that, I recommend you check out our extreme gaming PC build guide.

For our mid-range build, the 5700 XT hit that sweet spot of cost versus performance and is suitable so long as you aren't trying to push 4K resolutions (and don't mind it's funky looking dent).

Memory

(Image credit: Corsair)

Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB (2x8GB) DDR4-3000

The best value RAM you can get

Capacity: 2x8GB | Speed: 2400MT/s | Timings: 15-17-17-35 | Voltage: 1.35V

High frequencies on a budget
Can be overclocked
High CAS Latency

Memory is pretty straightforward these days, as you want a solid choice that will get the job done, though if the price isn't much higher, you can improve performance slightly with faster RAM. DDR4 prices are have thankfully galvanized somewhat, with typical costs for 16GB falling below $100. Buy from a reliable memory manufacturer, and you should be fine. There are many options to choose from Adata, Ballistix, Corsair, Crucial, G.Skill, GeIL, Gigabyte, Hynix, HyperX, Micron, Mushkin, Patriot, PNY, Samsung, Team, and XPG are all good brands as far as we're concerned.

Our main goal for gaming memory is DDR4-3000 or higher, with as low a CAS latency as possible, but at a good price. It doesn't make a lot of sense to buy extreme memory with a Ryzen 5 3600, but with DDR4-3200 only costing $10 more than basic DDR4 kits, it's worth buying more excellent memory on AMD builds.

For more information, check out our guide to the best gaming RAM options in 2019.

Primary Storage

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(Image credit: Crucial)
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(Image credit: Crucial)
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(Image credit: Crucial)

Crucial P1 1TB NVMe

Great performance, price, and capacity

Capacity: 1TB | Interface: M.2 PCIe 3x4 | Sequential IO: 2000/1700MB/s read/write | Random IO: 170K/240K IOPS read/write

Super fast R/W speeds
Respectable brand
Reduced performance when full

The Crucial P1 is currently our top pick for gaming SSDs. It's fast read/write speeds and low price point make it an easy pick, especially considering it's cheaper than most SATA drives. And for what it's worth, I've always found installing M.2 drives easier anyway.

The one drawback is that the speeds don't always hold up under load or if the drive is mostly full. Still, the P1 is excellent for gaming; it will outpace most SATA drives, and there's little reason not to make this a part of our build. 

The Crucial P1 has a low price point and has enough space and reliability to hold you over until you invest in some bulk storage, which is relatively easy to slot into you build after the fact.

Additional Storage

HDD: WD Black 1TB

WD Black 1TB (Optional)

The quickest regular HDD, offering storage on a budget

Capacity: 1TB | HDD speed: 7200RPM | Cache: 32GB | Connectivity: SATA 6Gb/s | Warranty: 5 years

A cheaper storage option
Not much slower than SATA drives
Great reliability
Slower than SSDs
Expensive for an HDD

Given the install sizes of most modern PC games, it's probably a good idea to get yourself a new drive for your gaming PC. While SATA SSDs are almost cheap enough to recommend as secondary storage (what a world we're living in), you'll probably need to get a regular HDD to keep the cost down.

We recommend the WD Black drive because it's a 7200RPM drive with a respectable 32GB cache, which offers 1TB of storage for about $70 or less. While you could quickly get a WD Blue or Seagate Barracuda for less, the WD Black offers speed overcapacity. Realistically, you'll appreciate that speed if you're planning to keep your HDD inside a gaming PC for more than a couple of years, as we already see load times creep up for the biggest games of 2019. 

PSU

PSU: Corsair TX650M 650W

Corsair TX650M 650W

Highly reliable and efficient power without going overkill

Output: 650W | Efficiency: 80 Plus Gold | Connectors: (1) 24-Pin ATX, (1) 8-Pin (4+4) EPS12V, (4) 8-Pin (6+2) PCIe, (6) SATA, (4) Molex, (1) Floppy | Modular: Partial

Good efficiency and price
Sane output rating
All Japanese capacitors
'Only' gold efficiency

Power supplies are one of the least sexy parts of any build. After all, it can be hard to tell them apart in terms of features. Even so, you don't want to skimp on your PSU. Corsair has an excellent and well-deserved reputation for its power supplies, and the TX650M comes at a reasonable price and delivers 80 Plus Gold efficiency.

Most power supplies from the bigger names are generally good, but we wouldn’t recommend that you put your money in anything with a warranty of fewer than five years or an efficiency rating below 80 Plus Gold (maybe Bronze in a pinch). The $10 or $20 saved isn't worth the risk.

We also tend to go with modular PSUs where possible. It means less cable mess inside the case since you don’t have to stash unused cables somewhere. Instead, the remaining wires have to find a home in your closet.

Here's our guide to the best power supplies for PC gaming.

Case

NZXT H510

(Image credit: NZXT)

NZXT H510

Clean design and great cable management

Type: ATX mid-tower | Motherboard Compatibility: ATX, Micro-ATX, Mini-ITX | Drive Bays: (Up to 7) 3.5/2.5-inch internal (2 included), (2) 2.5-inch SSD | Front Ports: (1) USB-C (1) USB 3.0, Headphone, Mic | Fan Options: Front: (2) 120mm or (2) 140mm, Top: (1) 120mm (included) or (1) 140mm, Rear: (1) 120mm (included) | Max GPU Length: 381mm | Dimensions: 460x210x428mm (HxWxD) | Weight: 6.6 kgs.

Nice tempered glass side panel
Plenty of expansion options
USB-C front panel connector
Only comes with two fans

Cases can be as sexy or boring as you want. We're going to go for the former rather than the latter, with the NZXT H510, a slick, tempered glass case available in white or black. The NZXT H510 is also reasonably priced, which is always a bonus. 

If you want other options, check our guide to the best mid-tower cases. The Phanteks Eclipse P400 was our previous pick, and it's still highly recommended. The clean look goes well on any desk and doesn't obnoxiously stand out like many so-called 'gaming cases.' There's also the pricier H510i that integrates some smart features if you like the look of the H510 but want a few more bells and whistles.

Picking a case can be an entirely personal choice, so for more options, here are the best PC cases you can buy right now.

CPU Cooler

CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo

Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo (Optional)

Better cooling and less noise than the stock Intel cooler, at a great price

Size: 120mm | Fan speed: 600-2,000rpm | Noise level: 9-36 dB(A) | Dimensions: 120x159x51mm | Socket support: LGA115x/1366/2011/2066, FM1/2, AM2/3, AM4

Good and affordable cooling
Compatible with most sockets
Not needed for i5-8400
A bit finicky to install

The Ryzen 5 3600 includes a cooler, and it will be more than sufficient. But in case you're looking at really pushing the limits, or you want something quieter, we felt it would be worth mentioning our old standby cooler, the Hyper 212 Evo. It's something to always keep as an option with system builds.

If you're willing to spend a bit more, a nice AIO liquid cooler is another option worth considering, especially if you're planning on doing home heavy overclocking. The NZXT Kraken X62 would be a solid option but is substantially more expensive.

Here's our guide to the best CPU coolers in 2019, liquid and air.

Components