What You'll Need for a Good Gaming Rig

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The best parts of building your own system are the flexibility, component options, savings, and the “I did it myself” feeling of accomplishment. I’ve also been looking at computers since I was a kid and, to this day, manufacturers will offer something like a top-tier Core™ i7 processor with 64GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD, and a GTX 1030. And just like you, I’m whispering the same three words to myself. Not all manufacturers do this, but let’s put that aside for now, because our goal is to help you build the best within your budget. Below we’ve prepared three systems for you, in different tiers. Please note that these do not include monitors and peripherals. We’d also recommend doing some extra research because there are plenty of great alternatives at varying prices.

High-End

There’s a difference between high-end and excessive, like comparing a supercar to a hypercar. If you’d like, we can cover that in a follow up post—so no X299s, no Xeons, X, or XEs, Titans in SLI, no quad-sticks of RAM, or adding SSDs for the sake of filling up ports. As a gaming-focused build, these components have got you covered. Ideally, high-end is 100 FPS+ performance at 3840 x 2160 4K UHD. It’s a tall order and we’re not exactly there yet, but, with the right selection of hardware, we can get close (plus the right games, of course).

High-End

CPU / Processor

Intel® Core™ i7-8700K 6-Core LGA 1151 Processor

CPU Cooler

be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4

Motherboard

ASUS Republic of Gamers Maximus XI Hero ATX Motherboard

RAM / Memory

16GB Ballistix Tactical Tracer RGB 3000MHz DDR4 (2 x 8GB)

Storage Drive(s)

1 x 1TB 970 EVO NVMe M.2 SSD

1 x 6TB Seagate Barracuda SATA III 3.5” HDD

GPU / Graphics Card

ZOTAC GAMING GeForce RTX 2080 Ti AMP

Case

NZXT H700i Mid-Tower Case

PSU / Power Supply

850W Seasonic FOCUS Plus 80 Plus Platinum

CPU

Starting with the CPU, we have the Core™ i7-8700K. While it’s not the latest and greatest Intel® offers, the alternatives are pricey, and I’d like to think that most of us are value shoppers. Games these days, especially popular AAA titles, utilize four to six cores and favor high clock speeds. With six cores at 3.7GHz stock, the 8700K checks off all the boxes. Some alternatives include the Core™ i7-9700K, Core™ i9-9900K, and the Ryzen 7 2700X. The 9th gen Intel® processors have the numbers and benchmarks to back them, but it’s hard to justify the FPS gains for the price difference. As for the Ryzen 7 2700X, this chip is a fan-favorite value option. The 8700K beats it in single- and quad-core performance, but the 2700X takes it in multi-core workloads, making it a more versatile option. If you’re not Intel-bound, consider going AMD. There’s a reason why it’s highly rated.

Intel Core i7-9700K 3.6 GHz Eight-Core LGA 1151 Processor
Intel Core i7-9700K 3.6 GHz Eight-Core LGA 1151 Processor

CPU Cooler

Gamers choose Intel® K-series CPUs because they’re unlocked/overclockable to reach higher speeds. Once a tedious process, it’s been simplified and now many manufacturers are even offering one-button solutions built into a hardware button on their motherboard or via software. Enthusiasts may opt for the traditional method for better optimization, but easy, instant performance gains is a no-brainer. The tradeoff with overclocking is the (potential) increased voltage, which means higher temperatures and more heat. To keep things cool, we have the Dark Rock Pro 4. Like strapping a brick to your motherboard, this cooler is an absolute unit and for a good cause. Due to the first law of thermodynamics, more surface area equals more cooling. Alternatively, you can opt for a closed-loop liquid cooler like the NZXT Kraken X62 if that’s more your style.

NZXT Kraken X62 All-in-One Liquid CPU Cooler with AM4 Bracket
NZXT Kraken X62 All-in-One Liquid CPU Cooler with AM4 Bracket

Motherboard

The motherboard is an important factor in a build because it’s what everything plugs into. What you need in a board is decent VRMs, RAM support, and connectivity options. Don’t forget RGB lighting too, so you know it’s “gamer” certified. This one is built on the Intel® Z390 chipset, supports socket LGA 1151 processors, up to 64GB of 4400 MHz DDR4 memory (overkill), two M.2 slots, six SATA III ports, and three PCIe 3.0 x16 slots should you opt for GPUs in SLI. Usually, we prefer a wired Internet connection for our desktops, but realistically we know that’s not always possible, so built-in Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) and Bluetooth 5.0 is a plus. And as mentioned before, this motherboard has AI overclocking available in Windows or BIOS for free gains.

ASUS Republic of Gamers Maximus XI Hero (Wi-Fi) LGA 1151 ATX Motherboard
ASUS Republic of Gamers Maximus XI Hero (Wi-Fi) LGA 1151 ATX Motherboard

RAM / Memory

RAM is somewhat like storage in the sense that, there’s no point in getting more than you need. For gaming and standard everyday use, 16GB is enough. Since this kit consists of two 8GB modules, you can easily expand to 32GB if needed. Speed is also important, so you won’t be CPU bottlenecked. On Intel’s platform, once you reach a certain level, faster RAM offers nominal gains. The sweet spot ranges from 3000 to 3200MHz.

Ballistix 16GB Ballistix Tactical Tracer RGB DDR4 3000 MHz SR UDIMM Memory Kit
Ballistix 16GB Ballistix Tactical Tracer RGB DDR4 3000 MHz SR UDIMM Memory Kit

Storage

Like RAM, storage is user-dependent; however, it’s worth noting that the motherboard we picked has two PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 slots which, when coupled with NVMe SSDs set in RAID 0, will provide you with some serious speed. In this scenario, a single SSD and HDD setup gives a good balance of speed and storage capacity. Install more, or change, as needed.

Samsung 1TB 970 EVO NVMe M.2 Internal SSD
Samsung 1TB 970 EVO NVMe M.2 Internal SSD

GPU

So here it is, the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti, which basically costs half the build. It wouldn’t be gaming without a graphics card, so if top-tier is what you’re going for, this is the best you’re going to get shy of an RTX Titan. This is an open-and-shut case, since AMD has yet to offer a contender.

NVIDIA Titan RTX Graphics Card
NVIDIA Titan RTX Graphics Card

Case

User-dependent, but hey, the H700i has a clean, minimalistic design, as well as integrated fan and lighting control, so you can get your RGB going. Regardless of what case you get, make sure it supports the motherboard (size) and has adequate cooling options.

NZXT H700i Mid-Tower Case
NZXT H700i Mid-Tower Case

PSU

The PSU is one of the most underrated components in a system and I’m glad more people are emphasizing it when they’re commenting on builds. You can have all or the best components you want, but with a crummy PSU, you’re going to run into issues. Aside from ensuring you have the wattage headroom to cover your hardware, you’ll also want to do some research on the OEM. Just because it’s from the reputable brand you’ve come to trust and love doesn’t mean they’re all “good” units. Seriously, don’t skimp on it. This thing powers your components and you wouldn’t want it causing issues.

SeaSonic Electronics FOCUS Plus 850W 80-PLUS Platinum Modular Power Supply
SeaSonic Electronics FOCUS Plus 850W 80-PLUS Platinum Modular Power Supply

Mid-Tier

The mid-tier build is centered around 2560 x 1440 QHD gaming (100+ Hz if possible, is always a plus), or what I’d prefer to call the new norm. Many users are opting for 27"+ monitors, and 1080p doesn’t cut it at that size. Moving on, things will be a tad shorter, since we’ve already covered certain details. If you skipped directly to this part and would like to know more about something, read the corresponding section on the high-end build. If it’s not covered, drop a comment.

Mid-Tier

CPU / Processor

AMD Ryzen 5 2600 Six-Core AM4 Processor

CPU Cooler

Thermaltake Frio Silent 14 (Optional)

Motherboard

MSI B450 Tomahawk AM4 ATX Motherboard

RAM / Memory

16GB Ballistix Tactical Tracer RGB 3000MHz DDR4 (2 x 8GB)

Storage Drive(s)

1 x 500GB Samsung 860 EVO SATA III 2.5” SSD

1 x 1TB WD Desktop Everyday 7200 rpm SATA III 3.5” HDD

GPU / Graphics Card

EVGA GeForce RTX 2070 BLACK GAMING

Case

NZXT H500 Mid-Tower Case

PSU / Power Supply

650W EVGA SuperNOVA 650 G3 80 Plus Gold

CPU + CPU Cooler

For mid-tier, we’re going AMD. The Ryzen 5 2600, or even 2600X, is a popular price-per-performance pick. So, what’s the difference between the X and non-X models? Well, the 2600X has higher out-of-the-box clock speeds and comes with a better stock cooler. The regular 2600, on the other hand, costs less, but needs to be overclocked and paired with an aftermarket cooler to be its best. It’s also worth noting that all 2nd gen Ryzen desktop CPUs feature XFR 2.0 and PBO 2.0 technologies for self-overclocking. The tl;dr; without getting too technical? 2600X for “set it and forget it” and 2600 for “I want to play with things.” As for the cooler, we’ve mentioned more surface area equals more cooling, but you can also consider the Hyper 212 EVO if you want a cookie-cutter build.

AMD Ryzen 5 2600 Processor
AMD Ryzen 5 2600 Processor

Motherboard

The B450 Tomahawk is a highly rated value pick. If you want to skip the gamer-tax, you can also consider the B450-A. The reason we’re not using 300-series MSI boards is due to quality reports of the MOSFETs. Regardless, their 400-series is much better rated and should cover all your bases. Alternatively, you can spend a bit more to get the B450 Gaming Pro Carbon AC, which has Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) and Bluetooth 4.2 connectivity.

MSI B450 Tomahawk AM4 ATX Motherboard
MSI B450 Tomahawk AM4 ATX Motherboard

RAM / Memory

Ryzen processors have this weird relationship with memory. There’s this whole thing regarding RAM speed, low latency, and Hynix/Samsung B-die, which other people can and have explained much better, so your best bet is to do some research. The takeaway, though, is for 1440p gaming—you’ll ideally want 3000MHz or faster RAM. (Don’t roast me on this, I don’t need the DRAMa.)

Ballistix 16GB Ballistix Tactical Tracer RGB DDR4 3000 MHz SR UDIMM Memory Kit
Ballistix 16GB Ballistix Tactical Tracer RGB DDR4 3000 MHz SR UDIMM Memory Kit

GPU

The RTX 2070 is a generous pick and should hold you over for most games; however, that doesn’t mean it’s the only choice. The RTX 2060 also holds it own with solid 60 FPS 1440p performance in most modern titles. If you’re not into 20-series GPUs, I wouldn’t go any lower than a GTX 1070 Ti. You can obviously go higher, as well, for 100 FPS+.

EVGA GeForce RTX 2070 BLACK GAMING Graphics Card
EVGA GeForce RTX 2070 BLACK GAMING Graphics Card

PSU

EVGA SuperNOVA G3s are tried-and-true units with many reviews touting its build quality and performance, putting it up there on the value chart. The wattage depends on your parts and whether you’re overclocking or not, so try using a PSU wattage calculator beforehand.

EVGA SuperNOVA 650 G3 650W 80 Plus Gold Modular Power Supply
EVGA SuperNOVA 650 G3 650W 80 Plus Gold Modular Power Supply

Entry-Level

The entry-level build is a tough one because it’s hard to form a consensus of what price point is considered “entry.” If these parts don’t fall into your budget, or don’t match up to your definition of entry (performance-wise), we can try another build some other time. For now, let’s work around the idea that entry-level should offer 60 FPS+ 1080p gaming. Just like the mid-tier build, if there’s something not mentioned, please check the corresponding section in the high-end one for more details. If we’re missing something you’d like to more about, let us know.

Entry-Level

CPU / Processor

AMD Ryzen 5 2600 Six-Core AM4 Processor

CPU Cooler

(Stock cooler included with CPU)

Motherboard

MSI B450M PRO-M2 AM4 Micro-ATX Motherboard

RAM / Memory

16GB Ballistix Tactical Tracer RGB 3000MHz DDR4 (2 x 8GB)

Storage Drive(s)

500GB Samsung 860 EVO SATA III 2.5” SSD

GPU / Graphics Card

MSI Radeon RX 580 ARMOR MK2 8GB OC

Case

Cooler Master MasterBox Q300L

PSU / Power Supply

550W Cooler Master MasterWatt 80 Plus Bronze

CPU + CPU Cooler

While the Ryzen 3 2200G and Ryzen 5 2400G processors satisfy 1080p gaming with their integrated GPU, I think we want a bit more, so we’re opting for a dedicated graphics card. Thus, we’re back to the Ryzen 5 2600. Due to its price and overclock-ability, I can’t help but recommend it again. The included stock cooler is alright, but if you’re overclocking, consider getting an aftermarket cooler. An alternative for Intel® users is the Core™ i5-8400.

AMD Ryzen 5 2600 Processor
AMD Ryzen 5 2600 Processor

Motherboard

Micro-ATX motherboard are smaller and thus feature less ports, connectivity, and things, you know, due to space. That doesn’t mean there aren’t high-end micro boards though. Since we’re operating in the entry level, we’re going to need an entry-pick. The B340M PRO-M2 is a good starter board with enough expandability, should you choose to do so in the future. I wouldn’t recommend A-series boards that don’t support overclocking, so stick with B-series to squeeze out some extra performance. You can also consider the boards mentioned in the mid-tier build, but we’re trying to keep costs down.

MSI B450M PRO-M2 AM4 Micro-ATX Motherboard
MSI B450M PRO-M2 AM4 Micro-ATX Motherboard

Storage

You might have noticed we only have one 500GB SSD, and that’s because of the significant performance increase compared to standard hard drives. We’ve mentioned that storage is user-dependent, so it’s up to you, but I would seriously consider having some form of SSD, even if it’s only 32GB for your OS.

Samsung 500GB 860 EVO SATA III 2.5" Internal SSD
Samsung 500GB 860 EVO SATA III 2.5" Internal SSD

GPU

Even though it’s not new tech, the RX 580 offers solid 1080p performance and can even hold its own a bit here and there in 1440p. The direct NVIDIA competitor would be the GTX 1060; however, be sure to note that the 580 comes in 4GB and 8GB VRAM variants whereas the 1060 is available in 3GB, 6GB, and 8GB and priced accordingly.

MSI Radeon RX 580 ARMOR MK2 8G OC Graphics Card
MSI Radeon RX 580 ARMOR MK2 8G OC Graphics Card

PSU

Even though we picked out a 550W unit, you can shell out a bit extra for a 650W or even 750W unit if you upgrade your system later. The best part about power supplies is that they’re not bound like other components e.g. chipset, socket, etc. You can pretty much use the same power supply build-to-build as long as it keeps up.

Cooler Master MasterWatt 550 550W 80 Plus Bronze Semi-Modular Power Supply
Cooler Master MasterWatt 550 550W 80 Plus Bronze Semi-Modular Power Supply

Now that you’ve got all your parts, assemble it. And if you don’t agree with some of our choices, change it. That’s why you’re building your own system. What we’ve suggested is simply a starting template. Tailor it to fit your needs, budget, aesthetics, whatever, you name it. Is there something you feel like we’ve missed or could explain more about? Do you want to see what we would build if we didn’t have a budget, or if we only had X amount of dollars? Let us know in the Comments section, below.

2 Comments

I've never seen something like this for editing movies. Would this be a good guide for editing also?

Hey Craig!  Absolutely!  A gaming rig would also be great for video editing and photo editing.

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