Computers / Buying Guide

What You'll Need for a Good Gaming Rig

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When I was younger, I had an Excel spreadsheet that I used like a wish list. I would read about the latest tech, check various online retailers, and put them in three columns: item, location, and price. I updated this every other week for years.

When I finally put together my own system, it wasn’t quite the Of My Dreams build that I had been wishing for, but it still felt good to have done it myself. Since we’ve already shown you How to Assemble Your Own Gaming PC, it seemed like a good time to give you some more options for what you might build it with (especially if you don’t love LEDs.)

Because that young guy is still in me somewhere, we’ve put together two lists. The first has all the components for a legit mid-tier rig. It’ll wreck any 1080p game you want, and should rock 1440p, as well.

The other? Well, it’s just silly. It’s the kind of thing that I was dream-building in Excel. If you have an unlimited budget (oh, the envy), this is what you would buy. It’ll run anything you throw at it, at whatever settings you want, with no compromise on resolution or frame rate anywhere. (It’s priced appropriately.)

Case

Reasonable: NZXT S340 Mid-Tower
NZXT makes solid, gaming-focused hardware. The S340 is no different. It’s got a side window, but it’s not nearly as ostentatious as many cases tend to be, and I think it looks sleek. More importantly, it will be able to fit everything you need from this build and more. As a fan of relative minimalism, I’ve linked the black one here, but it also comes in white or black with colored accents, if that’s more your thing.

NZXTMid-Tower Chassis

Extravagant: Lian Li DK-04 Desk
If a case is a statement, then your statement is, “I have more money than you do.” I’ve got an electronically height-adjustable desk at home, and I love it. There’s something about being able to go from sitting to standing with the press of a button that just feels good. But my desk doesn’t have my computer literally inside of it. Being able to look down and see everything working is kind of amazing, and every desk or similar setup I’ve ever seen has blown me away.

Lian Electrical Height-Adjustable Computer Desk

Motherboard

Sensible: Z270 SLI Plus
MSI makes genuinely great budget-friendly motherboards, which is why I’ve got an SLI Plus motherboard in my own rig. They may not have all the features of their top-of-the-line brethren, but they’re significantly cheaper and, in their price range, they’re impossible to match.

MSI ATX Motherboard

Excessive: ASUS ROG Rampage V
Where the money-conscious might go toward a motherboard with an LGA1151 socket, which can fit both Skylake and Kaby Lake systems, 2011-v3 and the X99 chipset are the only choice for the real power user. With it, you access the -E lines of processors, with chips ranging from 6 to 10 cores. X99 also allows for quad-channel DDR4 RAM, versus the two found everywhere else, and up to 40 lanes of PCIe, depending on the CPU. And those are just the basics. The Rampage V takes all of that and runs with it, packing its enormous E-ATX form factor—all the better to go with your enormous desk/case—with pretty much every feature they could.

ASUS Republic of Gamers Rampage V Edition Motherboard

CPU

Rational: Core i5-7600K
Between the announcement of AMD’s Ryzen platform and the first reviews, this whole section was up in the air. But while Ryzen is going to be awesome for workstation purposes, Intel® still retains the crown on gaming-centric hardware. So, the i5-7600K. Kaby Lake may not be much of an improvement over Skylake, but performance in games scales directly with clock speed, so it makes sense to get the faster chip.

Intel Core i5 Processor

Intel’s more expensive i7-7700K has a slightly higher clock speed and hyperthreading, but the i5-7600K comes very close in real-world settings. For gaming, you don’t need those extra features.

Not at All: Intel Core i7-6950X
Look—this processor by itself costs more than the entire other build. In the consumer space, there is nothing on the market like it. With 10 cores and 20 threads, it’ll make mincemeat of anything optimized for multi-core, and though the 3.0 GHz clock base speed may be comparatively low, the chip has some headroom for over-clocking as well, generally to about 4.0 GHz stable. And, again, that’s across 10 cores. If you want the best of the best of the best, this is your only option.

Intel Core i7 Extreme Edition Processor

CPU Cooler

What You Need: Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO
This thing is great. I’ve been using one for years without any kind of problem. It’s both cost-effective and performance-effective. I don’t even have anything else to say other than that I really like it and intend to keep using it.

Cooler Master CPU Cooler

What You Might Drool Over: NZXT Kraken X52
If you’re serious about heavy over-clocking or are infuriated at the thought of hearing a whirring fan, then you’ve got to try liquid cooling. It keeps things freezing and does so near-silently, both of which are definite pluses if you’ve got the cash for them. The X62 is technically more expensive, but it’s not the right size for your case, so we had to step down just a hair (sorry).

NZXT Kraken All-in-One Liquid CPU Cooler

GPU

The Best Value: GTX 1070
The release of the GTX 1070 was a big deal, because it was significant and because it’s an amazing bargain. With the performances of cards that cost 50% more, the GTX 1070 finally made high-end graphics power available to people on more of a budget. It may not be cheap, but it continues to be peerless at its price point.

MSI GeForce Graphics Card

Ain’t Nothing Better: Two GTX 1080 Tis in SLI.
The newly announced GTX 1080 Ti is the fastest card out there, being 35% faster than the GTX 1080 and even a little ahead of the GTX Titan X, which launched at an appropriate for this category, but not anything else, $1,200. The 1080 Ti comes at a significant discount, which is why you, as someone with an unlimited budget, should buy two of them. If you want 4K gameplay at 60 fps with maxed-out settings on pretty much everything out there, this is how you make that happen.


GTX 1080 Ti Graphics Card

RAM

Good Enough: One pair of Crucial Ballistix Sport 8 GB 2400 MHz
There are people who say you need more than 16GB of RAM. For certain types of applications, that may well be true, but for gaming? Nah. 16GB is great. And higher than 2400 MHz clock speeds may make a marginal difference, but we’re being economical, and that difference won’t justify the added expense of an over-clocked DIMM.


Crucial 16GB Ballistix Sport DDR4 2400 MHz UDIMM Memory Module Kit

Why: Four pairs of Viper 4 16GB DDR4 3200 MHz
As mentioned, the X99 chipset allows for quad-channel DDR4 memory, and your motherboard has eight DIMM slots. So, go whole hog and just fill those all with 16GB modules. You don’t know the meaning of the word “enough,” so you shouldn’t stop until there’s 128GB of RAM in your gaming system.

Patriot 32GB Viper 4 DDR4 3200 MHz UDIMM Memory Kit

Power Supply

A Solid Foundation: EVGA SuperNOVA 750G2
Gonna be honest—this rig could be powered easily by a 650W power supply (my hungrier setup has been), but I’m a believer in going a bit above your needs to get ready for the future. If you intend to upgrade your system at any point and won’t want a new PSU, this is a great way to go.

EVGA SuperNOVA Power Supply

More than You Could Ever Use: EVGA SuperNOVA 1600G2
1600 Watts; you won’t even come close to hitting this. I’m not even sure how you could come close to hitting this (maybe by building two systems in one case?). But we’re being over the top here, and this certainly is that. If you want the most headroom to put whatever you might possibly want into your system, this is how you make that happen.

EVGA SuperNOVA Modular Power Supply

Storage

To Get Things Done: 500GB 850 Evo
SSDs have pushed the SATA III bus to their limit, which means that most of the products in this category are fairly similar. And they’re all very fast. If you’re not used to the speed of SSDs, they’ll blow your mind. If you are, just know that Samsung’s Evo series of SSDs works very well (I have two) and has an excellent reputation for quality and reliability. If you’re looking for a basic SSD, you can’t really do better. Install your OS and games there, and maybe add a 3TB drive from HGST for extra storage.

Samsung SATA III SSD

To Prove a Point: 1TB 960 PRO
PCIe SSDs are obscenely fast. Like, hilariously fast. Will you ever need to read or write more than 1 Terabyte of information per second? No, probably not. But if you can, why not do it? Plus, Broadwell-E has an obscene 40 lanes of PCIe available, meaning you can run your two 1080 Tis in SLI at full power and get the whole PCIe x4 of your 960 PRO (and have another four lanes left if you decide you want to expand your system further). For extra space? Eight 4TB Evos—one for each of the case’s 2.5" slots.

Samsung Internal SSD

Have you put together your own gaming rig? Tell us how you went about it, below, in the Comments section.

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