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Budget gaming PC build guide 2019

(Image credit: Future)

We've all got to start somewhere, and our budget gaming PC build guide gives us all the room in the world for improvement. To be clear, our goal isn't to build a clunker that can barely handle running chrome, let alone Crysis. What we're doing is looking for the components that will give us the most bang for your buck in order to achieve a set level of performance. In this case, that means being able to handle running modern titles at a steady 60 FPS at 1080p with high graphics settings at least. 

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Prefer to buy a prebuilt than build your own gaming PC? Check out our guide to the best gaming PCs. Or, if you're going portable, here are the best gaming laptops in 2019.

A crucial part of the PC building experience is researching which parts here will net you the best performance dividends based on the dollars you've spent. For this build, it means giving priority to parts like the CPU and GPU.  We've given our list of components a significant boost across the board while managing to stay within our $750 budget. Everything from the GPU to storage has gotten an upgrade. This will still be a machine that's focused mainly on providing an excellent gaming experience at 1080p, but the improved hardware will let you turn your graphical sliders up just a bit more. While investing in the best gaming motherboard isn't going to translate into a massive improvement in our performance, we've still upgraded our motherboard to give ourselves a little more headroom for upgrades.

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Our build budgets don't account for things like the best gaming monitor or an OS license, so if these are things you need, you'll want to adjust your budget accordingly. If you need to free up some extra bread, we'd recommend dialing back the SSD or potentially the RAM if you need to save a few bucks. Spending a bit less on these parts won't have a tremendous detriment on your performance, but will give your budget a bit of wiggle room. 

CPU

(Image credit: Intel)

Intel Core i5-9400F

Good for gaming and regular tasks, but won't handle streaming

Cores: 6 | Threads: 6 | Base Clock: 2.9GHz | Turbo Clock: 4.1GHz | Overclocking: No | L3 Cache: 9MB | TDP: 65W | PCIe 3.0 lanes: 16

Typically runs at 3.9GHz
Includes a heatsink and fan
No overclocking
Requires a dedicated GPU

While we weren't able to upgrade to an unlocked CPU, we did manage to dial things up a few notches with the Intel Core i5-9400F. Intel's F-series of processors are a solid options for anyone on a budget so long as you have a dedicated GPU. While it does have a slower clock speed, an extra $20 nets you an extra pair of cores compared to the i3-8100, giving us a considerable increase in performance overall.

If you're looking for a modest upgrade, or want to try your hand at overclocking the i3-8350K offers that capability at a slightly higher price point. You'll need to buy a heatsink in that case, and you drop to a 4-core CPU. It doesn't get close to the kinds of speeds we see in the best CPUs for gaming, but this still gives us all the power we need to not waste any potential with our GPU.         

GPU

(Image credit: EVGA)

Nvidia GTX 1660 Super

A great graphics card for 1080p gaming

GPU Cores: 1,408 | Base Clock: 1,530MHz | Boost Clock: 1,785MHz | GFLOPS: 5,027 | Memory: 6GB GDDR6 | Memory Clock: 14Gbps | Memory Bandwidth: 336 GB/s

Excellent 1080p performance
Offers 1660 Ti performance but cheaper
No Ray-Tracing
No benefit over GTX 1070

While Nvidia has been quick to sing the praises of ray-tracing with its RTX cards, its newest line of GTX GPUs refuses to be ignored. The freshly minted Nvidia GTX 1660 Super offers similar performance at 1080p to the 1660 Ti but at a reduced price point. (While both cards share the same 6 GBs of VRAM, comparatively the Super has fewer CUDA cores when stacked against the 1660 Ti and a slightly lower clock speed, but far greater bandwidth.

While this card may come equipped with Nvidia's newer Turing architecture, users of any of the later 10-series of GPUs won't see much in the way of improvement and would be better off looking to Nvidia's 20-series of GPUs to upgrade their performance. The 1660 Super lacks any hardware ray tracing features, but it doesn't really have the necessary power to take advantage of them.

The real spotlight here is the price; before the 1660 Super hit the streets you'd have to pay for a 1660 Ti if you were looking to boost your performance, which at that point you were practically pennies away from an RTX 2060 anyway. In short, the 1660 Super gives you comparable performance to the 1660 Ti, just for around $60 less. If you're looking for a solid 1080p card, the 1660 Super is definitely one of the best graphics cards for gaming.

Motherboard

(Image credit: Gigabyte)

Gigabyte Z390 UD

A good budget Z390 board with upgrade potential

Chipset: Z390 | Memory: (4) DIMM, 128GB, DDR4-4266 | PCIe slots: x16 (x1), x4 (2), x1 (3) | Video ports: D-Sub, DVI-D, DisplayPort | USB ports: (6) rear IO, (2) internal | Storage: (1) M.2, (6) SATA | Network: Ethernet | Lighting: None

Affordable Z390 board
Does everything you need
Limited OC potential
No Wi-Fi or RGB, single M.2

This modest Z390 board from Gigabyte has everything we need for a baseline gaming PC build. While it only comes with a singular M.2 slot, there are still six SATA ports if you need additional storage. However, moving up to a Z390 chipset gives us a ton of headroom for CPU upgrades with compatibility reaching all the way up to the newly released 9900KS. This motherboard is about as simple and straightforward as it gets, and while it may lack some of the bells and whistles of the best motherboards for gaming, for a budget build this will suit just fine. 

Memory

(Image credit: G.Skill)

G.Skill Aegis 16GB (2x8GB) DDR4-3000

Plenty of memory for most games

Capacity: 2x8GB | Speed: 3000MT/s | Timings: 16-18-18-38 | Voltage: 1.35V

Sufficient for most tasks
Relatively inexpensive
May need more RAM in the future

This slim, no-nonsense memory kit from G.Skill lets us double our RAM capacity from our previous pick and increases our clock speeds too without going off the deep end with our budget. While certainly not the fastest RAM available by any stretch, and it lacks the flair of many RGB RAM kits, it's effective and sensible, which is exactly what we need for this build. 

There are of course tons of options when it comes to memory kits, and this is just a suggestion. While memory prices have definitely steadied somewhat, there's always the potential for savings on higher quality RAM. You could technically get away with 8GB of RAM, but we'd recommend sticking to 16 and staying in the realm of 3000 MHz instead. Just make sure to pay attention to the frequency and timing as well as the price. If you're in need of some additional pointers when looking for memory, our guide to the best RAM for gaming can help point you in the right direction.

SSD

(Image credit: Intel)

4. Intel 660p 1TB

High capacity and low cost make the 660p a winner

Capacity: 2000GB | Interface: M.2 PCIe 3x4 | Sequential IO: 1800/1800MB/s read/write | Random IO: 220K/220K IOPS read/write

High Capacity
Solid Value
Easy installastion
Slows down as it fills up
Lower endurance

You can't have a PC without storage, and you're going to need space for your OS as well as whatever games you want to keep on hand. Thankfully, with memory and SSD prices dropping in pretty rapid order we've finally found a way to slot an M.2 SSD into our budget build. Not only are M.2 SSDs easier to install but they generally offer better performance than their SATA counterparts. What's even better is we've managed to double the storage capacity from the previous iteration of our build.

The transfer speeds of the Intel 660p do have a tendency to slow down considerably as it approaches capacity. This isn't exactly what anyone would call top of the line performance, but if you're on a budget, this is still one of the best SSDs for gaming. Just try to keep at least 100-200GB free and it should perform fine. Or at least, no worse than any budget SATA SSD.

Power Supply

(Image credit: EVGA)

EVGA GD 500W 80+ Gold

More than enough power for a budget PC

Output: 500W | Efficiency: 80 Plus Gold | Connectors: 24-Pin ATX, (1) 8-Pin (4+4) EPS12V, (2) 8-Pin (6+2) PCIe, (6) SATA, (3) Molex, (1) Floppy | Modular: No

Small, inexpensive, efficient
Can power most single GPUs
Fixed (non-modular) cables
Only bronze (up to 82 percent) efficiency

The various upgrades to our budget rig definitely draw more power than our last build, so we've had to go with a slightly larger PSU. It's tough to go wrong with a power supply as long as you're sticking with a major vendor. This non-modular unit from EVGA has more than enough juice for our needs. The fixed cable design does limit you somewhat in terms of expansion, but unless you're planning to put a second GPU in your rig, there's still modest headroom for overclocking. However, you'll need to look at the best power supply units for PC gaming if you want to take your upgrades even further.   

Case

(Image credit: Phanteks)

Phanteks P300 ATX Mid Tower Case

Understated and attractive

Type: ATX mid-tower | Motherboard Compatibility: ATX, Micro-ATX, Mini-ITX | Drive Bays: (2) 3.5" internal, (2) 2.5" SSD | Front Ports: (2) USB 3.0, Audio | Fan Options: Front: (2) 120/140mm, Top: (2) 120/140mm, Rear: (1) 120mm, Bottom: N/A | Max GPU Length: 380mm | Dimensions: 450x200x400mm (HxWxD) | Weight: 6kg

Does what you need
Front-loading HDD trays
Simple and plain
More included fans might be nice

Cases can be extremely subjective, and while it's easy to spend more on a case, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better one for less than $60. We've settled on this relatively spacious and inexpensive case from Phanteks. It definitely lacks many of the bells and whistles that a more expensive case can provide, but it gets the job done without cutting too many corners.

Some might be tempted to spend most of their budget on a pretty looking case, but it's important to remember that this piece of your build will have virtually no impact on performance when compared to the other stuff you should be spending money on. Buy something that works and is easy to work with. Or make a fashion statement, but don't expect higher framerates.

All Components

All the totals here are correct at time of publishing, and we update this feature regularly. The widget below will always show the cheapest component prices our engine is tracking, but be aware they go up and down. The build is based on US prices, but the below prices should be comparable in the UK and rest of the world.