Gaming PC build guide 2019

Gaming PC build guide 2019

Welcome to our gaming PC build guide for 2019. It's here to guide you through the process of building or upgrading your rig. We know that you're smart about PC components (like the best PC cases or the best graphics cards), and we know that you like to tinker with your gaming build to make it as powerful as possible, working to whatever budget you have. We also know the joy of building a new gaming PC from scratch, shopping for all the parts, saving money on certain components, spending more on others, and putting together the gaming rig of your dreams. Well, if your dreams come with the crushing reality of a bank balance and the need to also eat and pay bills each month. But, finally, we also know that it's great to get advice on how to build, and what the best parts are right now, which is why we built this guide. If you're totally new to building, here's our beginner's guide to how to build a PC.

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.

When we talk about a 'gaming PC build guide', we're talking about creating a gaming rig that'll be able to handle most of the best PC games at 1080p or even 1440p, with a base frame rate of 60fps. By our reckoning, that'll cost you about $1000 / £900, and that's just for the PC itself. We don't include the cost of peripherals, monitors, or software here, but we do have buying guides for all the best external kit below. That target price is also subject to market conditions, and while we list all the lowest prices for each component we recommend below, you may either pay more or get that part for a bargain, so you need to be flexible with your budget and be prepared to spend more or reassign cash to get something a little better. As a general rule, we recommend getting the best graphics card you can afford, and once you have that, it's smart to stretch your budget on a bigger, faster SSD and potentially a slightly quicker CPU. Obviously, having a good monitor and headset is vital too, so if you save money on your gaming PC build, you may want to spend a bit more on extras.

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

Right now in May, it's a great time to buy almost all PC components. In terms of GPUs, the 20-series cards are quite expensive, but falling in price AND pushing down older GTX cards. RAM is cheaper, SSD prices are dropping (making some NVMe drives more affordable), and motherboards are generally a little cheaper than normal. The toughest part to find a true bargain on is a CPU, so if you're looking for a fresh processor, keep an eye on sales. Cases do see reductions, but less often so, again, if you see a deal on the case you want... go for it!

With all that in mind, let's take a look at the cheapest prices for our overall PC build right now.

Components

CPU: Intel Core i5-8400

Great performance and a great price

Cores: 6 | Threads: 6 | Base Clock: 2.8GHz | Turbo Clock: 4.0GHz | Overclocking: No | L3 Cache: 9MB | TDP: 65W | PCIe 3.0 lanes: 16

Fast enough for any single GPU
No aftermarket cooler required
Might bottleneck future GPUs
No overclocking

Intel's Coffee Lake processors pushed the Core i5 from 4-core to 6-core territory, and the Core i5-8400 matches the i7-7700K, at a substantially lower price. And unlike the enthusiast K-series parts, you get a cooler in the box. It's not just core counts that have improved, with higher turbo clocks on 8th gen processors.

Don't let the low base clock fool you. In testing, the i5-8400 clocks at 3.8GHz in all multithreaded workloads, and 4.0GHz in lighter workloads. Even with a GTX 1080 Ti, the i7-8700K, is only about six percent faster in games at 1080p. At 1440p the CPU isn't even really a factor. For non-gaming purposes, the extra cores still keep the i5-8400 basically tied with the i7-7700K, though chips like AMD's Ryzen 7 and Intel's i7-8700K (not to mention Core i9 and Threadripper) are all substantially faster—and substantially more expensive.

The only real drawback to the 8400 is that it's not an unlocked "K" chip, meaning you can't overclock it. But you won't really need to—this CPU will be great for gaming for years to come. Bottom line is that for most gamers, the Core i5-8400 is currently the best option. If you want overclocking or more threads, look to the Core i7-9700K as a $200 step up, or the Core i5-9600K as a $100 bump in cost.

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

Motherboard: Gigabyte Z370P D3

A capable board with all the required features

Chipset: Z370 | Memory: (4) DIMM, 64GB, DDR4-4000 | PCIe slots: (1) x16, (2) x16 (x4), (3) x1 | USB ports: (6) rear IO, (6) internal | Storage: (1) M.2, (6) SATA | Network: Ethernet | Lighting: Full RGB, (1) RGB header

Good performance and features
No crazy bling or lighting
Cuts out extras (wi-fi, second M.2)
Budget audio and network

The Gigabyte Z370P D3 is a mainstream motherboard that will deliver everything needed to run the i5-8400. The board is capable of overclocking, if you have a K-series chip, though if you're going that route you might want something geared more toward enthusiasts.

Not that there's anything wrong with the Z370P D3. It supports memory speeds up to DDR4-4000 and includes an M.2 slot for a fast SSD or Optane Memory. About the only thing missing is USB 3.1 Type-C support, and there's also no wi-fi or extra accouterments, so for example SLI isn't supported (though CrossFireX is).

If you're interested in those extras, there are tons of 300-series boards for Coffee Lake processors, including new Z390 options. But if you're after something better than this Gigabyte board, you're probably also looking at a higher-end build, which we cover in our best high-end PC.

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

GPU: Nvidia Geforce RTX 2060

The most reasonably-priced ray-tracing GPU out there

Base Clock: 1365MHz | Boost Clock: 1680MHz | Memory Speed: 14 GT/s | GDDR6 Capacity: 6GB | Bus Width: 192-bit | TDP: 160W

Delivers good value
Great for 1080p and even 1440p
Beats the GTX 1070 (just)
Very few RTX enabled games

We’ve dropped the GTX 1070Ti from this build as it’s no longer generally available, replacing it with the RTX 2060. The future consists of real-time ray tracing effects, used to enhance lighting and shadows, reflections, and refractions—three elements of graphics that are notoriously difficult to get 'right.' The price of entry to this future, though it’s a poorly supported future just now, dropped with the release of the RTX 2060.

$349ish gets you basically everything that's in the $499 RTX 2070, just a bit less of each. There are 30 SMs instead of 36, and 6GB of GDDR6 instead of 8GB. But to put that in perspective, the drop from the RTX 2070 to the RTX 2060 is more like the difference between the GTX 1070 Ti and GTX 1070, rather than the 1070 and 1060. 

In our testing it’s more than capable of busting an average of 100 fps in games at 1080p and Ultra settings, and manages a respectable average of 74 fps at 1440p. It’s not really a 4K card, however, unless framerates lower than 45 fps are tolerable to you.

Despite that, this is the best upper midrange card (or lower high-end card) that we've seen since the 1070 Ti, which it ties with for performance. The addition of ray-tracing and DLSS, however, means it pulls ahead of the last-gen pack and earns its place in our mainstream build.

These are today's cheap graphics card deals, to help you save money on this pricey component.

Memory: 16GB (2x8GB) DDR4-2400

Memory: 16GB (2x8GB) DDR4-2400

The best value RAM you can get

Capacity: 2x8GB | Speed: 2400MT/s | Timings: 15-15-15-36 | Voltage: 1.2V

Negligible benefit to faster RAM
Can be overclocked
DDR4 prices remain high

Memory is pretty straightforward these days, as you really just 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 returning to 'normal' from the highs of the last two years, with typical prices for 16GB falling below $100. Buy from a reliable memory manufacturer and you should be fine, and 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 DDR4-2400 or higher, with as low a CAS latency as possible, but at a good price. There's not much benefit to sky-high RAM clocks, particularly with the i5-8400, so really it's about finding a good balance. You can often find 16GB DDR4-2400 kits on sale for under $100, but if the step up to DDR4-2666 and DDR4-3000 isn't too much, those are worth considering.

Check out the best DDR4 RAM options in 2019.

Storage: Samsung 970 Evo 500GB M.2 SSD

Storage: Samsung 970 Evo 500GB M.2 SSD

The quickest SSD to help you boot and load quicker

Capacity: 500GB | Interface: M.2 PCIe | Sequential IO: 3,400/2,300MB/s read/write | Random IO: 370K/450K IOPS read/write

Good performance and price
Fewer wires in your build
Far higher cost per GB than SATA

At PC Gamer, we've reached a point where spinning disc drives are simply not worth our time (at least for your OS drive). If you’ve never used an SSD-powered system before, the difference between running on an SSD and HDD is like night and day. We consider it an essential part of any gaming PC.

For this build, you have a couple of choices. If you want to save money, the Samsung 860 Evo and Crucial MX500 500GB are slower SATA drives that are still more than fast enough for gaming—both rank high in our guides. But SATA is old school, and with a new build we felt it was time to step up to a higher performance M.2 NVMe drive. If you get the motherboard we recommend, you'll be able to support this format.

If you want more capacity, an alternative would be to drop down to a 240-256GB SSD and then grab a larger 1-3TB HDD ($50~$75). With some games now hitting the 100GB mark, even a 500GB SSD can get full fast, so a larger HDD picks up the slack in that regard. Or you could just grab a 1TB SATA SSD for twice the capacity and still plenty of performance, if you don't mind the slight drop in speed and the additional wires in your overall aesthetic.

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

HDD: WD Black 1TB

HDD: 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 instal sizes of most modern PC games, it's probably a good idea to get yourself an additional 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. And, whisper it, performance isn't massively improved between the mid-priced SSDs and the upper tier of HDDs, so it's a decent place to save money.

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 easily get a WD Blue or Seagate Barracuda for less, the WD Black offers speed over capacity. 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're already seeing load times creep up for the biggest games of 2019. Is it worth skipping straight to a 1TB or 2TB SSD? Well, you're looking at $120 for a decent 1TB SSD, with 2TB usually costing double that. Depends on your budget. Sure, we'd normally recommend going with an SSD for performance, but you don't really need it if you're booting the system from an NVMe. The Black will do just fine.

PSU: Corsair TX650M 650W

PSU: 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 less than five years or an efficiency rating below 80 Plus Gold (maybe Bronze in a pinch). The $10 or $20 saved just 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 unused cables have to find a home in your closet.

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

Case: Phanteks Eclipse P400

Case: Phanteks Eclipse P400

Clean design shows off your build without being garish

Type: ATX mid-tower | Motherboard Compatibility: EATX, ATX, Micro-ATX, Mini-ITX | Drive Bays: (Up to 6) 3.5/2.5-inch internal (2 included), (2) 2.5-inch SSD | Front Ports: (2) USB 3.0, Headphone, Mic | Fan Options: Front: (3) 120mm (1 included) or (2) 140mm, Top: (2) 140/120mm, Rear: (1) 120mm (included) | Max GPU Length: 395mm | Dimensions: 465x211x470mm (HxWxD) | Weight: 7.0kg

Nice tempered glass side panel
Plenty of expansion options
Not a lot of drive bays
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 Phanteks Eclipse P400, a sweet tempered glass case. It's available in white or black, and there are also variants that skip the tempered glass and go with a windowed side panel instead. The Phanteks Eclipse P400 is also reasonably priced, which is always a bonus.

If you want other options, check our guide to the best mid-tower cases. The NZXT S340 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'.

Here are the best PC cases you can pick up right now, as this is quite a personal choice.

CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo

CPU Cooler: 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 Core i5-8400 includes a cooler, and it will be more than sufficient. But in case you're looking at the i5-9600K or i7-9700K as a higher performance option, 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 overclocking a K-series CPU. If you're serious about overclocking an i7-8700K or one of the new 9th Gen CPUs, though, we recommend moving up to AIO liquid coolers like the NZXT Kraken X62, which is a substantial jump in price.

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

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