High-end gaming PC build guide 2019

High-end gaming PC build guide

This is our guide to creating a high-end gaming PC build. While you can just use this guide to create a new gaming PC from scratch, it's also a great place to find premium components (like the best graphics cards or the best PC cases) for upgrades to your existing rig. With the price of many core parts falling in 2019, now is the best time in years to treat yourself to a component that will genuinely transform your machine, making your gaming life a little better. And if you're new to PC building, here are some tips to get you started, to avoid expensive mistakes on your high-end build.

More advice

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.

What do we mean by a high-end gaming PC build, for this guide? You're looking at a rig that will handle the best PC games at 4K, and it'll be fine with things like VR, streaming, and general workflow for most creative tools and software. While it's likely to cost you in excess of $2000 / £2000, you'll be able to use this PC to run games at max settings (or close as possible) for the next 3-4 years, without tweaking too many parts. It's not quite as luxurious as our extreme gaming PC build, for people with unlimited budgets, but it'll definitely put you in the PC playing elite. Which is where we all dream of being, right? Our price comparison tool helps you discover the cheapest prices for each component in real time, so you're always saving a bit of money too, to help keep costs down. This could mean you'll save money for a larger SSD or better case, for example, without having to compromise on the make and model of GPU. Of course, you could skip ahead and get one of the best gaming PCs prebuilt. And give some consideration to one of the best antivirus programs around to keep your new machine nice and safe.

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

Generally speaking, our high-end gaming PC costs about $2000 / £2000, but market prices mean it could work out a little cheaper or more expensive. Right now, graphics cards, RAM, and SSDs are a little cheaper and are falling in price, so it's a good time to upgrade or buy these parts. Sure, you can track down deals on CPUs and motherboards, but they're a little harder to find. Cases, cooling, and PSUs are roughly the same price as ever. With all that in mind, here's what our high-end build looks like right now.

Components - best current prices

Prices fluctuate regularly, and short-lived sales come and go. Above are the real-time prices for our high-end build, which at the time of writing totals $2,150 / £2,200. The SSD, motherboard, and memory are great places to trim costs, if needed. 

CPU: Intel Core i7-9700K

Excellent gaming performance at a lower price

Cores: 8 | Threads: 8 | Base Clock: 3.6GHz | Turbo Clock: 4.9GHz | Overclocking: Yes, 4.9-5.1GHz typical | L3 Cache: 12MB | TDP: 95W | PCIe 3.0 lanes: 16

Excellent gaming performance 
Eight high-speed cores 
No Hyper-Threading 
Limited overclocking 

Intel's Core i7 line sits in an interesting middle ground, following the release of the Core i9-9900K—an eight-core, 16-thread chip. The Core i5 is still more budget-friendly, but this Coffee Lake Core i7 has the same number of cores as the Core i9, just without Hyper-Threading. The six-core i5 9600K actually clocks a tiny bit faster than the eight-core i7 9700K, but the i5 is about $140 cheaper, making it a more cost-effective option. We still rank the Core i7-9700K within our best CPU for gaming picks, so there's a good reason why we'd put it in this high-end build.

Thanks to the removal of Hyper-threading, this CPU won't run as hot as the Core i9, so you can use a (potentially cheaper) air-cooling solution if you prefer that over liquid-cooling. You might not get as high of a maximum overclock, but the Core i7-9700K is still a pretty beefy CPU even at base clock, so it'll last for years to come. Also, the difference in performance between the Hyper-Threaded i7-8700K and the non Hyper-Threaded i7-9700K isn't an issue. The i7-9700K has additional cores over the i7-8700K that more than make up for it.

If you're only concerned with building a new PC for gaming, and not live streaming or video editing, the Core i5-9600K might be the better alternative. You'll save some money and can still clock close to 5GHz with adequate cooling.

Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Ultra

Motherboard: Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Ultra

Great gaming performance and features at a decent price

Chipset: Z390 | Memory: (4) DIMM, 64GB, DDR4-4266 | PCIe slots: x16, x16 (x8), x16 (x4), (3) x1 | Video ports: HDMI | USB ports: (10) rear IO, (7) internal | Storage: (3) M.2, (6) SATA | Network: Ethernet, 1733Mbps 802.11ac | Lighting: Heatsink and DIMM slots RGB, (2) RGBW headers

 No-compromise features including triple M.2 slots 
 Slick RGB package with two LED headers 
 Potentially too much bling

We like a motherboard with great features, good overclocking support, and plenty of extras—especially for a high-end build - which for an Intel chip usually means looking around the $200 mark. The Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Ultra is our pick, with everything you need, and probably plenty of things you'll never use.

It overclocks as well as or better than other Z390 board we've tested, and it comes with useful extras such as triple M.2 slots, Intel Wi-Fi Wave2 and Ethernet, along with flashy options like Aura-RGB lighting. There's room for more than one graphics card, and the built-in audio is top notch.

Other options include the MSI Z390 Gaming Pro Carbon AC and Asus ROG Maximus XI Hero (Wi-Fi). We find Asus boards usually work just a bit better than the competition, but any of the boards we've mentioned should please any gamer. If this isn't for you, here are the best gaming motherboards.

Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080

Graphics card: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080

Second fastest GPU at a more reasonable price

GPU Cores: 2,944 | Base Clock: 1,515MHz | Boost Clock: 1,710MHz | GFLOPS: 10,068 | Memory: 8GB GDDR6 | Memory Clock: 14GT/s | Memory Bandwidth: 448GB/s

Ray tracing and deep learning features 
Fast and potential to become even faster 
Ray traced BF5 is super demanding
More expensive than the 1080 Ti

The reign of the GTX 1080 Ti is well and truly over, especially when building a new PC, so it's time to move on to the RTX 2080. As one of Nvidia's latest GPUs with the new Turing architecture that supports ray tracing, deep learning, and, of course, higher performance gaming, this is the card to get if you're all about playing games at the highest resolution and fps possible. That is, if you can't quite justify $1000 for an RTX 2080Ti.

There aren't many games that support ray tracing or the clever DLSS that intelligently upscales images at the moment, but with this new technology available, it's more than likely we'll start seeing more as the years go on. Ray tracing seems poised to become a new standard for GPUs, so the RTX 2080 is a great option for the long-term. We tested its capabilities in Battlefield 5 with mixed results, but if you're only playing at 1080p on Ultra, the RTX 2080 can handle that. And as Battlefield is frequently patched, performance can only improve.

Which RTX 2080 card should you get? There’s been little bit of a price drop recently, and we've tested and used the Founders Edition, along with models from PNY and MSI. The RTX 2080 is also available from Asus, EVGA, Gigabyte, Zotac, and others. There are minor variations in clockspeeds and cooling, but the main differences tend to come down to appearance and price.  We recommend whichever you can find cheapest, unless you have a strong brand loyalty or aesthetic preference. If you need more advice, here are the best graphics cards in 2019.

G.Skill TridentZ RGB 2x8GB DDR4-3200

Memory: G.Skill TridentZ RGB 2x8GB DDR4-3200

Fast memory with decent timings to maximize performance

Capacity: 2x8GB | Speed: 3200MT/s | Timings: 16-18-18-38 | Voltage: 1.35V

Good timings and speed
Good price for DDR4-3200
Too much bling?
Not CL14

There’s a question that’s frequently asked about RAM in high-end PC builds: do you go for clock speed or quantity? While memory capacity can be a factor up to a certain point, going beyond 16GB requires very specific workloads before you really benefit. Increased memory speed, however, can benefit performance and framerates. G.Skill's TridentZ DDR4-3200 RGB balances price with performance, and anything faster usually costs substantially more.

Compared to typical DDR4-2400 with CL15 timings, the TridentZ improves performance by 5-10 percent. It costs about 20-30 percent more on the memory side, but if you look at the entire system it only increases the price by about one percent. And you'll never have to worry if your memory speed is slowing things down.

If you'd rather have more RAM rather than higher performance RAM, be prepared for a much larger increase in price—and the benefits of 32GB are only available if you're actually running workloads that need more than 16GB. There's no binary right/wrong answer to the question of speed vs. capacity, but most users will see more benefit from faster RAM, at least once we're at the 16GB level. For more tips, check our best DDR4 RAM article.

Samsung 970 Evo 1TB

Primary storage: Samsung 970 Evo 1TB

Plenty of fast storage for your games and other media

Capacity: 1,000GB | Interface: M.2 PCIe | Sequential IO: 3,400/2,500MB/s read/write | Random IO: 500K/450K IOPS read/write

Excellent performance and reasonable price
Plenty of capacity and endurance
Not quite as fast as 970/960 Pro
Twice the price per GB of SATA

By moving to a full 1TB NVMe SSD, you'll have room for a large gaming library in addition to your Windows folder and a few apps—watch out for those 100GB games, though! Once you get used to loading games off an SSD, it's painful to go back to a traditional hard drive. We don't want any of you to feel pain with a $2,000 PC.

The Samsung 970 Evo delivers sequential read speeds of up to 3,400MB/s and write speeds of 2,500MB/s (that’s megabytes per second). It's not quite as fast as the more expensive 970 Pro line, or some exotic PCIe flash solutions, but you likely won't notice the difference. More importantly, you won’t be spending a whole lot of time looking at loading screens. 

You could save money by sticking with a slower SATA SSD—the Crucial MX500 1TB for instance costs about $180 less. If you're only worried about gaming performance, you generally won't notice the difference between a modest SATA SSD and an NVMe drive (until you verify a large game install in Steam).

Another option would be to stick with a 500GB 970 Evo as your boot drive, and then use a large HDD for archival purposes, including games you aren't actively playing any longer. With utilities like Steam Library Manager, you can easily move things back and forth between fast and slow storage over time. We'd rather ditch spinning disks completely, or at least avoid them as much as possible, which is sort of the point of a high-end build. You could also use PrimoCache to set aside part of your SSD as a cache, which is something we'll be testing in the future. If you need more, here is the best SSD for gaming guide.

EVGA Supernova 850 P2 Platinum

Power supply: EVGA Supernova 850 P2 Platinum

High efficiency and enough power for future upgrades

Output: 850W | Efficiency: 80 Plus Platinum | Connectors: (1) 24-Pin ATX, (2) 8-Pin (4+4) EPS12V, (4) 8-Pin (6+2) PCIe, (2) 6-pin PCIe, (10) SATA, (4) Molex, (1) Floppy | Modular: Fully

Excellent efficiency
Can power any current system
Additional connectors for the future
It's not Titanium efficiency

EVGA’s P2 series power supplies improve on the impressive G2 line and sport 80 Plus Platinum efficiency, along with a fully modular design that keeps cable clutter to a minimum inside the case. They’ve become something of a favourite of ours, especially as EVGA also backs its premium power supplies with a 10-year warranty, and the PSUs run cool and quiet.

The 850W maximum load is plenty for this build, and there's still the capacity to add a second GPU should the need arise. We usually like to leave 50-100W of headroom above the estimated maximum load of the system, and even with overclocking and a second RTX 2080, this PSU will be sufficient.

About the only thing it’s missing is Titanium efficiency, which the EVGA 850 T2 provides. That's $70 more for a final 1-2 percent gain in efficiency, which isn't really necessary. If you need more guarantees, here are the best power supplies for PC gaming.

NZXT H500 / H500i

Case: NZXT H500 / H500i

A stylish case that's easy to use

Type: ATX mid-tower | Motherboard Compatibility: ATX, Micro-ATX, Mini-ITX | Drive Bays: (3) 3.5" internal, (3) 2.5" SSD | Front Ports: (2) USB 3.0, (1) Headset | Fan Options: Front: (2) 140/120mm, Top: (1) 140/120mm (120mm included), Rear: (1) 120mm (included) | Max GPU Length: 381mm | Dimensions: 460x210x428mm (HxWxD) | Weight: 7.0kg

Clean aesthetic and good cooling
Thoughtful design elements
No support for optical drive
Slightly limited radiator support

PC cases aren’t simple gray boxes anymore, they’ve become increasingly complicated. Modularity is great, and good cable management with a separate PSU partition is almost compulsory, as there’s nothing like a tidy build with all the cables routed neatly out of the way. Things we don't really like (other than for aesthetic purposes): small cases that are a pain to set up and run hotter.

NZXT's H-series has some great cases, and the new H500 / H500i has nearly everything we could want. Not only does it have an understated kind of beauty, but it's available in white or black, with several color accent options. Airflow is decent, and there are plenty of options for routing cables, storing SSDs, and more, with room for up to a 280mm radiator in the front.

Cases are highly subjective, however, and our previous pick, the Cooler Master MasterCase 5, remains a great option that's geared toward tweaking and liquid cooling. If you're looking for something a bit flashier, or just want other ideas, check our best mid-tower case and best full-tower case guides.

Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML240R RGB

CPU cooler: Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML240R RGB

A great solution to keep your CPU cool

Size: 240mm | Fan speed: 650-2,000rpm | Noise level: 6-30 dB(A) | Dimensions: 277x120x27mm | Socket support: LGA115x, LGA1366, LGA2011, LGA2066, FM1/2, AM2/3, AM4

Good cooling performance
Compatible with all major sockets
RGB controller and software
Needs a midsize or larger case

We’re big fans (pun totally intended) of AIO liquid coolers, but want something a bit better than Cooler Master’s Hyper 212 Evo for this build, so we've opted for the MasterLiquid ML240R. It's reasonably easy to install as far as liquid cooling goes, and it works well.

We've opted for a 240mm cooler, with two fans, which should be more than enough for the Core i7-9700K processor’s heat generation. That also gives us a bit of breathing room when it comes time to install the radiator in a case. Larger 280mm radiators would fit our case, but can be a tight fit even in large and spacious cases, so the ML240R is a bit easier to work with.

Alternative AIO cooelrs are also plentiful: NZXT's Kraken X52 (240mm) and Kraken X42 (120mm), or Corsair's H80i v2, H100i v2, and H110i are equally viable. And, yes, if you need it we have a guide to the best CPU coolers in 2019.

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