The Best Mid-range / High Performance Gaming PCs

| April 29, 2015 | (8)

What is this article?
This guide covers everything that you need to know to build a custom mid-range / high performance Gaming PC, including all the parts that you need to build it!

I suggest five builds that cover what you need to build a mid-range / high performance Gaming PC that allows you to play video games on a 1920 x 1080 (1080p or Full HD) monitor or HDTV.

I recommend parts for U.S.A. readers and for International readers.

I don’t know how to build a PC, help me!
Building a computer has never been easier. Click here for more information.

The Thermaltake Urban S1, the case recommended for Tier 3 and 4.

The Thermaltake Urban S1, the case recommended for Tier 3 and 4.

Click on a section to jump to it:
Recommended parts summary
Recommended parts in details (with Internationally available parts)

Is this the right type of PC for me?

If you’re looking for a Mid-range/high-end Gaming PC, capable of handling any video game at a resolution of 1920 x 1080, you’re at the right place. Otherwise, check out our other Computer Systems or The Best Laptops For Your Money instead.

5 Reasons to choose Hardware Revolution’s mid-range / high performance Gaming PCs:

1. Outstanding performance

All of the mid-range / high performance Gaming PCs are equipped with Quad(4) cores high-performance Intel Core i5 CPUs, powerful gaming video cards, 8GB or 16GB of high-speed memory and high-performance storage (hybrid hard drives and flash-based SSDs (Solid State Drives)).

Simply put, you will be able to run any game at its highest settings on a 1080p monitor or HDTV. You can multitask without running out of power. For Tier 4-7, that are equipped with a SSD, Windows, programs, games all load much more quickly. These powerful mid-range / high performance Gaming PCs can easily double as a Workstation for most tasks.

2. Boost performance to the next level: Ready for safe overclocking!

Equipped with a dependable power supply, a motherboard with a Z97 chipset, a case with enough airflow to ensure proper ventilation and heat dissipation, a good CPU Cooler to keep your CPU at safe operating temperatures and CPUs with unlocked multiplier, Tier 5 to 7 of the mid-range / high performance Gaming PCs are ready to be safely overclocked if you want to boost the performance without sacrificing reliability.

Recommended overclocking guides: overclockers.com 3 step guide to overclock Haswell, overclock.net Haswell overclocking guide and Tweaktown Haswell-E overclocking guide.

3. Top-notch reliability with high-quality components

‘Wait, I don’t know which components I need!’
No problem. That’s exactly why I’m here to help you.

Every part is hand-picked by me, Mathieu Bourgie (see my About page), a professional with 14 years of experience, to guarantee that this PC is as unlikely to fail as possible.

In this article, I make recommendations as well as suggest upgrades and alternatives that you may desire, for five builds (Tiers) at progressively higher performance and price points.

That way, you can easily build your dream Gaming PC, because I offer to you a complete list of the components that you’ll need to build the computer itself as well as suggest accessories that you might want too.

4. Longer warranties:

Now, keep in mind that every part is subject to failure, sometimes during manufacturing or transport. Computer parts are very precisely manufactured items that are easy to damage. That said, by avoiding brand and models that are more likely to fail or give you issues, you can be more confident about your PC’s reliability because you know that it will be filled with high-quality parts that rarely fail.

If they do fail, you can contact the seller within 30 days for an easy exchange. After 30 days, you must contact the part manufacturer to get them the warranty. Each part comes with its own warranty. While Lenovo, Dell and HP offers warranties generally varying between 1 and 3 years for their PCs, the parts that I recommend come with warranties that last one, two, three, five, ten years or even a lifetime!

5. Effortless Customization:

Want more storage capacity, more RAM or a faster CPU? Alternatives and Upgrades are in Italic and are guaranteed to be compatible with the other recommendations (unless noted otherwise), so you can easily customize your PC to your desires.

Choose Your PC Performance (Tier):

There are five recommended Gaming PC builds (from now on: Tiers) in this article. They are in order of performance and price.

The Tiers and their recommended parts are indicated by their respective numbers (3, 4, 5, 6 and 7) through the article.

Less expensive, lower-end but capable Gaming PCs can be found in the Build a stunning Budget Gaming PC that you can be proud of! article.

Higher performance Gaming PCs can be found in the Find out how you can build an extremely High-end Gaming PC that you can be proud of! article.

Need a Tier recommendation?

Ask us on the forums: Tell us about the games that you want to play, the level of details that you want (i.e. medium, high or ultra details) and finally the resolution (e.g. 1920 x 1080. NOT the size) of the monitor(s) that you’ll use.

Recommended Parts Summary:

Main recommendations, upgrades and alternatives:

1. Recommended Components are in Bold, with one or more colors/symbols for the Tier(s).
2. Suggested Alternatives and Upgrades are in Italic. You can upgrade as many parts as you want to, including parts from higher Tiers.
3. Most but not all parts are interchangeable/compatible with each other, make sure to see notes in the article. Ask us on the forums if you want us to double-check your build.
4. If this is your first build and if you just a simple template to follow, stick to the recommended parts for a Tier.

Mid-range / High performance Gaming PCs Tiers:
Tier 3 (in Red): The Best Bang For Your Buck
Tier 4 (in Green): Faster CPU, 4GB video card, 256GB SSD
Tier 5 (in Orange): Ready to overclock, faster Video Card, 16GB RAM
Tier 6 (in Dark Red): Ready to OC, 512GB SSD, 2nd best video card
Tier 7 (in Fuchsia): Ready to OC, 512GB SSD, best video card
Click on a component’s name (e.g. CPU) to jump to the detailed section of it.
Price
$737
$880
$1177
$1501
$2233
CPU:
Tier 3: Intel Core i5-4590 3.3-3.7GHz Turbo Quad-Core 84W
Tier 4: Intel Core i5-4690 3.5-3.9GHz Turbo Quad-Core 84W
Tier 5-6-7: Intel Core i5-4690K 3.5-3.9GHz Unlocked Multiplier 84W
Intel Core i7-4790K 4.0-4.4GHz Turbo Quad-Core + HT 88W Unlocked Multiplier
-
$199
$224
$236
$339
Motherboard:
Micro-ATX motherboards: Compatible with Micro-ATX/ATX cases
Tier 4-5-6: 18″ SATA Cable w/Locking Latch
Tier 3-4: Gigabyte GA-H81M-HD3 2xSATA6Gb/s 2x+2xUSB3.0
Tier 5-6-7: Gigabyte Z97 GA-Z97M-D3H 6xSATA6.0Gbps 4+2USB3.0
Gigabyte GA-Z97MX-Gaming 5, for SLI/Crossfire
-

$3
$63
$103
$124
RAM:
1866/2133+MHz RAM only supported by Z97 chipset.
Tier 3-4: Crucial 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3 1600MHz CAS 9 1.5v
Tier 5: Crucial 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR3 1600MHz CAS 9 1.5v
Tier 6: Patriot 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR3 1866MHz CAS 10 1.5v
Tier 7: Patriot 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR3 2133MHz CAS 11 1.5v
Crucial 32GB (4 x 8GB) DDR3 1600MHz CAS 9 1.5v
G.Skill 32GB (4 x 8GB) DDR3 1866MHz CAS 10 1.5v
G.SKill 32GB (4 x 8GB) DDR3 2133MHz CAS 10 1.6v
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$56
$108
$125
$135
$221
$230
$250
Video Card:
Tier 3: EVGA Geforce GTX 960 2GB SSC Dual fan
Tier 4: EVGA GeForce GTX 960 4GB SSC Dual fan
Tier 5: EVGA Geforce GTX 970 4GB SC Dual fan
Tier 6: EVGA Geforce GTX 980 4GB SSC Dual fan
Tier 7: EVGA GeForce GTX TITAN X 12 GB
-
$205

$240
$337
$545
$1189
Storage:
SSD (Solid State Drive):
Tier 4-5: Transcend SSD370 2.5″ 256GB SATA III SSD
Tier 6-7: Transcend SSD370 2.5″ 512GB SATA III SSD
Transcend SSD370 2.5″ 1TB SATA III SSD
Hybrid Hard Drive:
Tier 3: Seagate ST1000DX001 1TB Hybrid Hard Drive SATA III
Seagate ST2000DX001 2TB Hybrid Hard Drive SATA III
7,200rpm Hard Drive:
Tier 4-5: Seagate ST1000DM003 1 TB SATA III
Tier 6-7: Seagate ST2000DM001 2TB SATA III
Seagate ST3000DM001 3TB SATA III
-
-
$101
$176
$360
-
$74
$91

$53
$77
$89
Optical Drive:
Tiers 3-4-5-6: ASUS SATA 24X 5.25″ Internal DVD Burner
Tier 7: Samsung Ultra-Slim USB DVD Burner
Pioneer BDC-207DBK Blu Ray Reader, DVD/CD Burner 5.25″ Internal Drive
Pioneer Electronics 16X SATA 5.25″ Internal Blu-Ray/CD/DVD Burner
Pioneer Slim Portable USB Blu Ray 6x Burner
LG BE14NU40 14X USB 3.0 Portable Blu Ray Burner
-
$21
$25

$42
$59
$90
$113
Power Supply:
Tier 3-4: Antec VP-450 450 Watt
Tier 5-6: Antec BP550 Plus 550W Modular 80 Plus
Tier 7: Cooler Master G650M 650W 80 PLUS Bronze Modular
Antec 850W 80PLUS Bronze Modular
Corsair 1000W 80PLUS Gold Modular
-
$37
$60
$88
$100
$170
Case:
Tier 3-4: Thermaltake Urban S1
Tier 5-6: Cooler Master Silencio 352
Tier 7: BitFenix Pandora Core Window Black
-
$39
$70
$119
Cooling:
CPU Cooler:
Tier 3-4: Cooler Master Hyper TX3 92mm CPU Cooler
Tier 5-6-7: Corsair Hydro Series H55 Quiet Edition Liquid CPU Cooler
Corsair Hydro H105 240mm All-in-One Liquid CPU Cooler
Fan controllers:
FrozenCPU Deluxe Multi Power Port – 12V / 7V / 5V
-
-
$17
$59

$110

$15
Sound:
PCI Sound Cards:
All Tiers: ASUS Xonar DG 5.1 PCI Sound Card
ASUS Xonar DS 7.1 PCI
USB Sound Cards:
ASUS Xonar U3 USB Sound Card
ASUS Xonar U5 5.1 USB Sound Card
ASUS Xonar U7 7.1 USB Sound Card
2.0 speakers (2 satellites, no subwoofer):
Creative Inspire T12 2.0 18W
Behringer MS16 2.0 16W
Mackie CR3 3-Inch 2.0 28W
Cerwin Vega XD3 2.0 30W
2.1 speakers (2 satellites + subwoofer):
Genius SW-G2.1 1250 2.1 38W
Logitech Z523 2.1 40W
Logitech Z623 2.1 200W
Harman Kardon Soundsticks III 2.1 40W
5.1 speakers (5 satellites + subwoofer):
Logitech Z506 5.1 75W
Logitech Z906 5.1 500W
Headphones/Earphones:
Open Design Headphones:
Koss KSC75 Clip on headphones
Koss PortaPro
Superlux HD668B
AKG K240
Audio Technica AUD ATHAD500X
Grado SR80e
Sennheiser HD558
Audio Technica ATH-AD700X
Sennheiser HD 598
Closed Design Headphones:
Koss UR-20
Panasonic RP-HTX7 (In Black, Blue, Red, White, Cream, Pink or Green)
Audio-Technica ATH-M30x
Audio-Technica ATH-M40x
Audio Technica ATH-A700
Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Black, Brown or White
Sennheiser HD25-1 II
In-Ear Headphones:
Panasonic RPHJE120K Black, Blue, Green, Orange, Pink, Red, Silver or Violet
Panasonic RPTCM125K Black, Blue, Pink, Purple or White
Symphonized NRG Premium with Mic (Wood + White)
Symphonized NRG Premium with Mic (Red + Black)
Logitech Ultimate Ears 600vi with Mic
Bose SoundTrue
Yamaha EPH-100SL
Shure SE315-K (Black or White)
Shure SE315-K (Black or White) with Mic & Remote Cable Kit
Bose QuietComfort 20i
Shure SE535-V (Bronze, Clear or Red)
Shure SE535-V (Bronze) with Mic & Remote Cable Kit
Microphone:
Zalman Zm-Mic1 Microphone
Blue Microphones Snowball USB Microphone
Headsets (Headphones + Microphone in one):
Yapster TM-YP100A
Koss SB-45
Sennheiser PC 151
ARCTIC Sound 5.1 Surround P531
SteelSeries Siberia V2 Available in 9 colors
Logitech 7.1 Surround G35
Logitech Wireless 7.1 Surround G930
Audio Technica ATHADG1 Open-Back Gaming Headset
Audio Technica ATHAG1 Closed-Back Gaming Headset
-

$26

$44

$43
$70
$87

$51
$80
$100
$116

$50
$75
$132
$170

$70
$350


$14
$39
$44
$72
$95
$99
$105
$115
$148

$15
$32
$67
$99
$120
$163
$150

$6
$14
$25
$25
$50
$90
$121
$199
$243
$299
$479
$543

$10
$59

$20
$24
$53
$57
$50
$86
$97
$238
$238
Network:
All Tiers: Ethernet Up to 1000 Mbps: Integrated on the motherboard
See The Best WiFi Routers/WiFi and Bluetooth Adapters article for more options.
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Free
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Never built a PC before and need help? No problem.

You don’t have to be a Geek to build a PC!
Building a PC has never been easier. We have hundreds of readers who had no experience and who built their first PC with the help of Hardware Revolution. If they can do it, so can you!

Start by reading our “Building Your First PC?” article, which covers everything that you need to know to get started. We also have videos on how to build a PC and on how to install Windows/software a bit further down in the article.

Have any questions? Leave a comment at the end of the article and I’ll get back to you.

Once you’re comfortable with the idea of building your own PC, simply pick a Tier and buy the recommended parts for it. When you get your parts, assemble your PC, install Windows and enjoy. Also, be proud of a job well done!

Sounds good? Let’s get started!

Recommendations in details:

CPU:

About Haswell, Intel’s 4th generation of Core CPUs:

Performance:

V.S. AMD FX series

Most video games only use two to four cores and prioritize single-threaded performance, a domain where Intel’s CPUs dominates AMD’s CPUs, there’s no other way to put it.

When it comes to gaming performance, even AMD’s fastest CPUs are no match for Intel’s 4th generation of Core CPUs. On top of that, the AMD FX-8350 consumes roughly 80W more power at load than the Core i5-4690K, a considerable difference. Finally, the AMD AM3+ platform is considerably outdated, lagging behind connectivity wise. In the end, there’s simply no good reason for me to recommend any AMD CPUs for the mid-range / high performance Gaming PCs.

Performance vs previous generation of Intel CPUs:
Intel fourth generation of Core CPUs is known under the codename Haswell.

Replacing Intel’s LGA1155 Ivy Bridge (known as Core ix 3xxx) CPUs, the LGA1150 based Haswell CPUs (Known as Core ix 4xxx) bring in on average a 8% performance improvement.

Compared to the 2nd generation of Intel CPUs, Sandy Bridge (Core ix 2xxx), the LGA1150 based Haswell CPUs (Known as Core ix 4xxx) bring in on average a 17% performance improvement.

Compared to the 1st generation of Intel CPUs, Nehalem (Core ix xxx), the LGA1150 based Haswell CPUs (Known as Core ix 4xxx) bring in on average a 44% performance improvement.

Power consumption:

When you compare the whole system power consumption, the Haswell platform consumes about 11W less at idle compared to Ivy Bridge. At load, the power consumption increases by about 12W but if you consider that it completes workloads faster than Ivy Bridge, it’s about as power efficient under load and more efficient at idle.

Overclocking:

Non-K series CPUs:
Either fully locked (no OC possible) or mostly locked (very little overclocking possible)

To overclock a non-K series CPU, you’ll want to raise the CPU multiplier:

  • If you have a CPU that offers no Turbo mode (e.g. Celeron/Pentium/Core i3), then you can’t raise the multiplier at all and thus can’t overclock. In short: Your CPU is completely locked.
  • If you have a CPU with Turbo modes (e.g. Core i5-4590), you can overclock, but just a tiny bit, using a motherboard equipped with a Z chipset. You are limited to an overclock of to the highest available Turbo one core frequency.

Let’s use a Core i5-4570, which runs at 3.2GHz by default, as an example:

  • When one or two cores are active, the chip can turbo up to 3.6GHz. You cannot change that turbo state to go any higher.
  • When three cores are active, the chip can turbo up to 3.5GHz. You can change that turbo state to go as high as 3.6GHz.
  • When four cores are active, the chip can turbo up to 3.4GHz. You can change that turbo state to go as high as 3.6GHz.

Overclocking the non-K Core i5/i7 chips relies entirely on turbo however. In the case above, the fastest your chip will run is 3.6GHz. Not exactly exciting, but better than nothing.

K series CPUs:
Fully unlocked, can be overclocked as much as possible:
Finally, there’s the K-series of CPUs, with the Core i5-4690K and Core i7-4790K currently available. These chips are fully unlocked and will let you overclock them as far as the CPU and/or your cooling can sustain.

A new addition is the ability to adjust BCLK to one of three pre-defined straps (100/125/167MHz) on K-series CPUs. The BCLK adjustment gives you a little more flexibility when overclocking, but you still need a K CPU to take advantage of that.

Want to overclock?
If you do want to overclock a K-series CPU, I recommend going with the motherboard, CPU Cooler, case, optical case and power supply of Tier 5, 6 and 7, which are optimized for overclocking. That way, you’ll be sure that your motherboard and the power supply can handle the additional power consumption and that the case/CPU Cooler will keep your overclocked CPU temperature in check.

Click here to go back up to parts summary

Our recommendations:

Tier 3:

Intel Core i5-4590 3.3-3.7GHz Turbo Quad-Core 84W

- $198.99 at Amazon
Core i5-4570 3.2-3.6GHz: $209.99 at B&H (International Shipping)

The Intel Core i5-4570/i5-4590 are Intel processors based on the Haswell architecture.

They features four cores and can handle four threads (No Hyper-Threading).

The i5-4570/4590 run at a base frequency of 3.2/3.3GHz and can automatically increase its frequency up to 3.6/3.7GHz, thanks to Turbo.

Tier 4:

Intel Core i5-4690 3.5-3.9GHz Turbo Quad-Core 84W

- $223.99 at Amazon
Core i5-4690K 3.5-3.9GHz (Unlocked Multiplier): $235.99 at B&H (International Shipping)

The Intel Core i5-4690 is an Intel processor based on the Haswell architecture.

It features four cores and can handle four threads (No Hyper-Threading).

It runs at a base frequency of 3.5GHz and can automatically increase its frequency up to 3.9GHz, thanks to Turbo.

Tier 5-6-7:

Intel Core i5-4690K 3.5-3.9GHz Turbo Unlocked Multiplier 84W

- $235.99 at Amazon
- $235.99 at B&H (International Shipping)

Out of the box, CPU performance wise the Core i5-4690K is no faster than the Core i5-4690.

The main advantage of the Core i5-4690K over the Core i5-4690 is its unlocked multiplier, which allows you to overclock it to your heart’s content.

Of course, Tier 5, 6 and 7 featured recommended components that are optimized for overclocking, meaning that your overclock won’t be limited by an inadequate CPU Cooler or something alike.

Alternative to consider:

Higher performance alternative:

  1. Intel Core i7-4790K 4.0-4.4GHz Turbo Quad-Core + HT 88W Unlocked Multiplier: $338.99 (Amazon) or $338.99 (B&H – International Shipping) – The i7 series brings with it Hyper-Threading, which isn’t that useful for gaming (i.e. it doesn’t bring much more performance for video games), but if you do a lot of photo/video editing, heavy multi-tasking, highly demanding workloads, need all the CPU performance that you can get or just want a more powerful CPU, the Core i7-4790K is an excellent choice and a great upgrade. It also offers higher frequencies (4.0-4.4GHz) as well as an unlocked multiplier for full overclocking.

Click here to go back up to parts summary

Motherboard:

Motherboard form factor:
ATX, Micro-ATX or Mini-ITX, which should you pick?

For this guide, I recommend Micro-ATX motherboards, in order to have your gaming PC fit in a smaller case. Size wise, Micro-ATX motherboards are an intermediate step between the larger ATX form-factor and the smaller Mini-ITX form-factor. All our recommended gaming PCs feature a single video card with a dedicated sound card, so the additional expansion slots of an ATX motherboard aren’t necessary.

Tier 3-4:

Gigabyte GA-H81M-HD3 2xSATA6Gb/s 2x+2xUSB3.0

- $63.00 (Amazon)
– $63.00 (B&H – International Shipping)

Important note:
This motherboard includes two SATA cables, you will need to buy another SATA cable if you want an optical drive, mechanical hard drive, and solid state drive as recommended for Tier 4.

Tier 3 doesn’t need an additional SATA cable as it only has an optical drive and a hard drive. Of course, if you decide to get an additional drive for Tier 3 or 4, you’ll need an extra cable for each drive.

I recommend and included in the budget of Tier 4 a SATA cable. I recommend a 18″ right-angle SATA cable: $3.24 at Amazon or $3.69 from B&H (International Shipping)

This is a basic H81 chipset motherboard at a great price that’s a perfect match-up for Tier 3-4 and the Core i5-4590/4690 CPUs recommended for those Tiers.

It comes with SATA III 6.0Gb/s and USB 3.0 support and it’s ready for Intel’s 4th generation of Core CPUs, codename Haswell, which are recommended in this guide.

If you looked at the picture of the motherboard, you will have noticed the video outputs. These allow you to use the integrated video card from the CPU. While the performance of the integrated video card is no where good enough to play recent games, it can still be used until you buy your video card, if you’re on a tight budget. It’s also useful if you need to troubleshoot your PC and suspect that the dedicated video card is defective.

Note that you only have two memory (RAM) slots on this motherboard, meaning that it’s limited to 16GB (2x8GB) of RAM at most. If you want 32GB of RAM, you’ll want to upgrade to the motherboard recommended for Tier 5-6-7.

Also note that the H81 chipset on this motherboard does not support overclocking. Then again, neither does the recommended CPUs for Tier 3-4.

If you want to overclock your CPU, you’ll need an i5-4690K (recommended Tier 5, 6 and 7) or i7-4790K (higher-end alternative), which feature a completely unlocked CPU multiplier, as well as a motherboard with a Z97 chipset (see alternative motherboards below). You’ll also want a more powerful PSU and an after-market CPU Cooler for the best overclocking results.

If you want to overclock your CPU, want to make your life easier and ensure that you get the right components, you can simply upgrade to the CPU, motherboard, case, power supply and CPU Cooler to the ones of Tiers 5, 6 or 7.

Ports, expansion slots, features, what’s included in the box and warranty:

  • Ports on the back: 2x USB 2.0, 4x USB 3.0, 10/100/1000 Mbps RJ-45 LAN, one P/S2, 6 audio ports, optical S/PDIF output, and VGA/DVI/Displayport/HDMI outputs.
  • Expansion slots: One PCI-Express 2.0 16x slot, two PCI slot and one PCI-Express 1x slots.
  • Other connectors/features on the motherboard: Two fan connectors (2 x 4 pins), two SATA 6.0Gb/s, two SATA 3.0Gb/s, one USB 3.0 header (for up to two USB 3.0 ports coming from the headers in total), two USB 2.0 header (for up to four USB 2.0 ports coming from the headers in total), LPT header and a COM header.
  • Included in the box: Motherboard, two SATA cables, backplate, manual and CD.

Click here to go back up to parts summary

Tier 5, 6 and 7:

Gigabyte Z97 GA-Z97M-D3H 6xSATA6.0Gbps 4+2USB3.0:

- $102.46 (Amazon)
- $103.95 (B&H – International Shipping)

Important note:
This motherboard includes two SATA cables, you will need to buy another SATA cable if you want an optical drive, mechanical hard drive, and solid state drive as recommended for Tier 5 and 6.

I recommend and included in the budget of Tier 5 and 6 a SATA cable. I recommend a 18″ right-angle SATA cable: $3.24 at Amazon or $3.69 from B&H (International Shipping)

For Tier 7, I recommend a USB optical drive, so you don’t need an additional SATA cable for Tier 7.

I recommend the Gigabyte Z97 GA-Z97M-D3H for the following reasons:

  1. Features the Intel Z97 chipset for overclocking support and highest performance
  2. Features highly reliable components.
  3. Four fan connectors.
  4. Relatively inexpensive for what it offers

Note that you need an Intel “K” series CPU to overclock, which is why I recommend the Core i5-4690K for Tier 5 to 7.

If you want an Intel Core i7 series CPU, to get Hyper-Threading (for higher performance with photo/video editing, heavy multi-tasking and highly demanding workloads), make sure to get the Intel Core i7-4790K to be able to overclock.

For future SLI or Crossfire setups:
Note that the second PCI-Express 16x slot runs at PCI-Express 2.0 4x from the chipset. This configuration is not recommended for a Crossfire or SLI dual video cards setup. So, if you intend on adding a second video card in the future, I recommend the Gigabyte GA-Z97MX-Gaming 5: $123.99 at Amazon or $127.50 at B&H (International Shipping)

Note that if you want to go with a SLI/Crossfire setup, you’ll want a USB sound card, as well as a more powerful power supply.

Ports, expansion slots, features, what’s included in the box, etc.

  • Ports on the back: 2x USB 2.0, 4x USB 3.0, 10/100/1000 Mbps RJ-45 LAN, 6 audio ports (for 7.1 sound, but a dedicated sound is recommended in this guide anyway), P/S2 and VGA/DVI/HDMI outputs.
  • Expansion slots: One PCI-Express 3.0 16x slot, one PCI-Express 2.0 16x slot (runs at 4x) and two PCI slots.
  • Other connectors/features on the motherboard: Four fan connectors, six SATA 6.0Gb/s, one USB 3.0 header (for up to two USB 3.0 coming from the header in total), three USB 2.0 headers (for up to six USB 2.0 ports coming from the headers in total), LPT header, TPM and COM header.
  • Included in the box: Motherboard, two SATA cables, backplate, manual and CD.

Click here to go back up to parts summary

Video Card:

A few important recommendations and notes regarding video cards:

  • Get the latest version of the video card drivers directly from AMD or Nvidia. That way, you’ll be sure to get the latest bug fixes as well as the best performance possible from your video card(s).
  • To confirm whether Crossfire or SLI is working or not, use GPU-Z which will show that information to you in the last field at the bottom of the program.
  • SLI Guide: How to enable SLI, check if SLI is enabled, actually working in your game and what to do if it’s not is a great guide from the Notebook Review forums. If you know of a similar guide that covers Crossfire, let me know, I’ll make sure to add it to the article.
  • When using two or more video cards in Crossfire or SLI, you want to connect your monitors into the top video card, i.e. the video card that is the closest to the CPU.
  • Most video cards require one or two PCI-Express 6 or 8 pin power connector(s) to be plugged into them to function properly. Make sure that your power supply comes equipped with enough 6 and/or 8 pin connectors for your video cards. Of course, I double-checked that already for the recommendations in this article, I simply mention it if you decide to modify a build to your own taste.

Tier 3:

EVGA Geforce GTX 960 2GB SSC Dual fan

- $204.99 (Amazon)
- $204.99 (B&H – International Shipping)

Geforce GTX 960 vs AMD R9 285:

Performance:
The two cards trade blows, with the R9 285 offering better performance in some games and the Geforce GTX 960 leading in other games.

That said, overall the Geforce GTX 960 does has a slight edge in performance, according to TechReport’s review of the Geforce GTX 960.

Power consumption and requirements:
The Geforce GTX 960 is far more power efficient: It consumes 4W less at idle and 87W less at load, again according to TechReport.

Its lower power consumption results in requiring only a single PCI-Express 6 pin power plug, instead of two on the R9 285.

Thanks to its lower power consumption, you can get away with a smaller power supply than with the R9 285.

Conclusion: The Geforce GTX 960 is the best choice for $200
With slightly better performance and lower power consumption, the choice is obvious to me: The Geforce GTX 960.

Why recommend the EVGA Geforce GTX 960 SSC ACX 2.0+?

1- EVGA customer support is the best in the industry. If you have any problem with your card, you can rely on them to get useful answers in a timely manner.
2- This particular card runs at higher frequencies (1279/1342MHz base/boost) than the reference Geforce GTX 960, resulting in higher performance.
3- Double bearing fans, meaning it has a longer lifespan and is less likely to fail early like cheaper sleeve fans.
4- If the GPU runs at 60C or less, the fans will shut down and your video card is silent. Of course, if the GPU runs above 60C, the fans will start again automatically. This is not exclusive to EVGA video cards but it’s a nice feature to have.

What games can this video card handle?

The Geforce GTX 760 is capable of handling most games at a resolution of 1680 x 1050 with high or maximum visual quality. 1080p (1920 x 1080) gameplay is usually not a problem either, but you will have to lower details in the most demanding games.

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Tier 4:

EVGA GeForce GTX 960 4GB SSC Dual fan:

- $239.99 at Amazon
- $239.99 at B&H (International Shipping)

For Tier 4, we still have the Geforce GTX 960.

The difference is that it’s equipped with 4GB of memory, instead of 2GB.

This is useful for the most demanding games that are starting to use more than 2GB of video card memory, as well as to future-proof your Gaming PC for future video games that will be more demanding.

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Tier 5:

EVGA Geforce GTX 970 4GB SC Dual fan:

- $337.35 (Amazon)
- $337.35 at B&H (International Shipping)

Geforce GTX 970 vs Radeon R9 290X:

  1. Higher performance at 1920 x 1080 (1080p/Full HD)
  2. Consumes less power: You don’t need as powerful of a power supply, especially with multiple video cards (SLI/Crossfire).
  3. Runs less hot: Will have no problem running in smaller cases with limited airflow.
  4. More quiet: Always a pro in my book.

 

What games can this video card handle?

This card is capable of handling pretty much any game at a resolution of 1920 x 1080 with maximum visual quality, although you might have to scale back details in the most demanding games.

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Tier 6:

EVGA Geforce GTX 980 4GB SSC Dual fan:

- $544.99 (Amazon)
- $544.99 (B&H – International Shipping)

Simply put, this card features the second fastest single-GPU on the market, even faster than the Radeon R9 290X and the Geforce Titan. Only the $1000+ Geforce Titan X is faster.

It’s faster than the R9 290X by an average of 11%, according to AnandTech. It’s also more quiet, thanks to its lower power consumption.

What games can this video card handle?
This card will run any game at 1920 x 1200 (or 1080 for 1080p) maxed out, as well as games at 2560 x 1600 without any problem. Gaming with a 4K resolution or on multiple monitors is also possible, although you might have to turn settings down, depending on the game.
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Tier 7:

EVGA GeForce GTX TITAN X 12 GB

- $1188.99 (Amazon)
- $1069.99 (B&H – International Shipping)

Simply put, this card features the fastest single-GPU on the market, even faster than the Radeon R9 290X and the Geforce GTX 980.

If you want the fastest video card without messing with Crossfire, SLI or dual-GPU video card setups, this is the way to go.

1080p and 2560 x 1600 is handled by this card without any problem.

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RAM:

Tier 3 and 4:

Crucial 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3 1600MHz CAS 9 1.5v

- $58.92 (Amazon)
- $56.99 (B&H – International Shipping)

Is 8GB of RAM necessary?

With the ever increasing memory usage of programs and video games, I’d argue that yes. It’s more than necessary. It’s pretty much the minimum that you want for a Gaming PC in 2015.

Simply put, RAM allows you to have more programs open at the same time without experiencing major slowdowns due to running out of memory and using the far slower storage drive as a backup (Yes, even SSDs are far slower than RAM).

I recommend these specific RAM sticks from Kingston as they offer the right combination of 1600MHz frequency, high reliability and low price.

Tier 5:

Crucial 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR3 1600MHz CAS 9 1.5v

- $108.03 (Amazon)
- $109.00 (B&H – International Shipping)

Why upgrade to 16GB of RAM?

Windows 7, 8.1 and soon Windows 10 use your unused RAM as a cache, in order to speed up your system, so more RAM allows Windows to cache more things.

If you’re like me and like switching back (Alt-Tab or Alt-Esc) to your desktop to check something while pausing your game and keeping it open, 16GB will even more improve the responsiveness of your PC.

Also, if you using other demanding programs (think photo/video/audio editing), 16GB will help your PC handle it with ease.

Another things to keep in mind is if you intend on keeping this Gaming PC for several years, 16GB is worth it.

This is exactly why Tier 5, 6 and 7 feature 16GB of RAM. That way, you know that you’ll be future-proof for a while and that you can alt-tab out of your games with minimal lag.

Tier 6:

Patriot 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR3 1866MHz CAS 10 1.5v

- $124.99 (Amazon)
- $130.00 (B&H – International Shipping)

1866MHz RAM is ONLY supported by motherboards equipped with the Z97 chipset

Why upgrade to 1866MHz RAM?

Video games performance is slightly higher with higher frequency RAM, although with quickly diminishing returns beyond 2133MHz.

With Tier 6 and 1866MHz RAM, you get higher performance than Tier 3-5 1600MHz RAM, without paying more for Tier 7 2133MHz RAM. It’s basically a good balance between performance and price.

I recommend these specific RAM sticks from Patriot as they offer the right combination of 1866MHz frequency, high reliability and low price.

Tier 7:

Patriot 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR3 2133MHz CAS 11 1.5v

- $134.99 (Amazon)
- $145.00 (B&H – International Shipping)

2133MHz RAM is ONLY supported by motherboards equipped with the Z97 chipset

Why upgrade to 2133MHz RAM?

Video games performance is slightly higher with higher frequency RAM, although with quickly diminishing returns beyond 2133MHz. With 2133MHz RAM, you get great performance at a reasonable price, without paying far too much for faster 2400MHz+ RAM that doesn’t offer that much of a benefit.

I recommend these specific RAM sticks from Patriot as they offer the right combination of 2133MHz frequency, high reliability and low price.

32GB kit alternatives:

32GB is overkill for all but the most powerful High-End Gaming PCs. The only reasons to justify upgrading to 32GB in my opinion is if you use your Gaming PCs for highly demanding workloads, tons of multi-tasking with highly demanding applications or to future-proof your Gaming PC. That said, here are my recommendations for 32GB memory kits.

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Is it worth it to get RAM with higher frequencies?

While synthetic benchmarks show great increases in bandwidth with higher frequency RAM, you’ll have a tough time seeing a perceivable difference in real-life applications.

In my opinion, there is little incentive to move to higher frequency RAM (e.g. 2400MHz+ RAM vs the recommended 2133MHz), as this will only bring a very small performance increase, nothing noticeable, while costing quite a bit more in some cases. You’re better off investing that extra money on a faster CPU, faster video card, a SSD, a different case, etc. Unless you think that spending a lot more money to brag about your “uber” 2400+MHz RAM sticks is worth it…Hey, it’s your money after all :P

Maximum amount of RAM:

The motherboard for Tier 3 and 4 in this guide support two sticks of RAM, for a maximum of 16GB (2 sticks of 8GB) of RAM.
The motherboard for Tier 5, 6 and 7, as well as the higher-end alternative in this guide support four sticks of RAM, for a maximum of 32GB (4 sticks of 8GB) of RAM.

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RAM Heatsinks and CPU cooler clearance:

Every kit that I recommend in this guide feature either no heatsinks or small heatsinks that don’t raise too much above the RAM sticks.

Why?

  1. Because RAM heatsinks barely make any difference when it comes to RAM temperatures. Besides, even if you overclock it/raise the voltage (at your own risk, Intel doesn’t recommend more than 1.5V), RAM temperatures aren’t a problem as long as you have decent airflow in your case.
  2. Tall RAM heatsinks can get in the way of larger aftermarket CPU air coolers, preventing you from installing your aftermarket CPU Cooler!

Important: RAM can require manual configuration within the BIOS to reach its full potential or function properly!

By default, some RAM kits will boot at lower frequencies than they are rated for. This is perfectly normal, it does not mean that your RAM is defective.

You simply have to go within the BIOS/UEFI (The first thing that you see when your PC starts) and enable XMP, for your RAM to function at its rated speed. If XMP is not available or doesn’t work for some reason, you can adjust the RAM settings manually, such as frequency (In MHz, usually linked to the CPU, look for a CPU:RAM ratio), and timings (a series of numbers, such as 9-9-9-24). Refer to your motherboard manual and your RAM specifications for more information.

Alternative RAM from other manufacturers:
I recommend high-performance RAM from reliable brands at the best price possible. If the recommendations are out of stock or not available to you, look for alternatives from Corsair, Crucial, G.Skill, Kingston, Mushkin or Patriot. Here’s what you need to make sure that it’s compatible: DDR3, 1600, 1866 or 2133MHz (Frequency), two or four sticks of RAM so 2x4GB, 4x4GB or 4x8GB.

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Storage:

  • Quick tip #1: Get the most performance out of your SSD, by selecting AHCI in your BIOS/UEFI options. Unless you use multiple SSD or HDD in RAID that is, in which case you want to select RAID.
  • Quick tip #2: Save storage capacity on your SSD by moving your documents default location to your hard drive. See this tutorial on the forums for instructions on how to do so. It’s pretty simple.

SSD FAQ:

If you wondering “Who are SSDs for?”, if you want a quick recap on what a SSD is or want to learn more about the benefits of using a SSD, I invite you to read our SSD FAQ.

SSD for Tier 3: None

In order to keep Tier’s 3 cost low, it is equipped only with a hard drive and no SSD.

This has no impact on video game performance, it only means that your PC will boot and shutdown more slowly (compared to the same system with a SSD), same thing with programs and loading games levels.

That said, if you’re building Tier 3 and wish to get a SSD, you get simply add one, you won’t need any additional hardware.

SSD for Tier 4 and 5:

Transcend SSD370 2.5″ 256GB SATA III SSD:

- $100.87 at Amazon
$89.99 at B&H – International Shipping

Offering great performance and reliability, the Transcend SSD370 is an great SSD at an excellent price.

Currently selling at $89.99 for 256GB, this is a great price for a SSD that offers top notch performance.

Need a SSD with more storage capacity? Upgrade to the Tier 6-7 512GB SSD for $85 more or get the 1TB alternative suggested below.

2.5″ to 3.5″ bracket adapter:

Note that these SSDs do include a 2.5″ to 3.5″ adapter bracket, which is necessary to install the SSD in your case if it doesn’t support 2.5″ drives. Most modern cases natively support 2.5″ drives nowadays.

SSD for Tier 6 and 7:

Transcend SSD370 2.5″ 512GB SATA III SSD:

- $175.99 at Amazon
- $175.99 at B&H – International Shipping

At $175 for 512GB, the Transcend SSD370 is hardly more than $0.33 per GB, while offering great performance and reliability!

Higher capacity SSDs:

256GB (Tier 4-5) will have no problem holding the OS, many programs and quite a few games.

512GB (Tier 6-7) will have no problem holding the OS, many programs and a many games.

If 512GB isn’t enough for you, here’s a 1TB SSD alternative:

  1. Same as above, but with a 1TB capacity: Transcend SSD370 2.5″ 1TB SATA III SSD: $359.99 (Amazon) or $359.99 (B&H – International Shipping)

For other options and alternatives, take a look at our The Best SSDs and HDDs For Your Money article.

You can skip the SSD if you need or want to cut down on costs:

Personally, I think that SSDs are the type of upgrade that once you’ve experienced, you don’t want to go without it anymore, because it makes the PC experience that much better, since the PC feels so much responsive.

However, If you feel like a SSD doesn’t make enough of a performance difference to justify its cost or if you need/want to cut down the cost of your build, you can remove the SSD from a Tier and go only with a hard drive, while still having perfectly functional PC. That’s the great part of building your custom PC, you choose the parts that go in it ;)
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Hard Drive:

Tier 3:

Seagate ST1000DX001 1TB Hybrid Hard Drive SATA III:

- $74.00 (Amazon)
- $74.00 (B&H – International Shipping)

Hybrid Hard Drive?
Also known as ‘Solid State Hybrid Drive (SSHD)’. It combines a 1TB (1TB=1000GB) or 2TB hard drive with a 8GB flash memory chip, similar to the ones used on SSDs.

  • This boost performance versus a traditional hard drive by caching the most frequently used files, so that when there are requests for those files, they are read from the much higher performance flash memory instead of being read from the disk.
  • This is all done automatically, you have nothing to do to gain the additional performance, but it also means that you have no control over it.
  • It also means that when the required file(s) isn’t in the cache, it is read from the hard drive, with the far lower performance of a 7,200rpm hard drive.

Overall, you get faster boot times and faster program/game launch for the applications that you use often.

All of this at a very reasonable price when compared to the price of a comparably sized SSD or a small SSD + HDD combo. It’s also much simpler to use compared to managing a small SSD and a HDD.

That said, if you want far higher performance, for editing audio, photo or video, loading Windows, games, applications far faster or loading heavy files, a SSD is the way to go.

2TB alternative

Like the idea of an hybrid hard drive, but 1TB isn’t enough for you? You get get the Seagate ST2000DX001 2TB Hybrid Hard Drive SATA III for $90.84 (Amazon) or $94.22 (B&H – International Shipping)

Tier 4 and 5:

Seagate ST1000DM003 1 TB SATA III

Seagate Barracuda 1 TB HDD SATA 6 Gb/s NCQ 64MB Cache 3.5-Inch Internal Bare Drive ST1000DM003- $53.90 at Amazon
- $50.97 at B&H – Internatinal Shipping

Why get a hard drive when you already have a SSD?
It’s fairly simple: The SSD has a limited capacity, so the idea is that you have two drives:
1. The higher performance but lower capacity SSD for Windows, highly demanding games and programs that will benefit from the higher performance
2. The lower performance but higher capacity hard drive for pictures, music, video, large files and older games.

Note that you can save storage capacity on your SSD by moving your documents default location to your hard drive. See this tutorial on the forums for instructions on how to do so. It’s pretty simple.

The Seagate ST1000DM003 1TB offers excellent performance and great reliability at a reasonable cost.

Tier 6 and 7:

Seagate ST2000DM001 2 TB SATA III

Seagate Barracuda 2 TB HDD SATA 6 Gb/s NCQ 64MB Cache 3.5-Inch Internal Bare Drive ST2000DM001- $76.65 at Amazon
$76.65 at B&H – International Shipping

For Tier 6 and 7, the storage capacity gets bumped up to 2TB.

Reliability
Reliability wise, Seagate hard drives tops the chart, hence why we recommend them.

All hard drives and all SSDs are prone to failure though, which is why you should Have a Backup System that you can rely on!

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Higher capacity alternative:

Optical Drive:

Tiers 3, 4, 5 and 6:

ASUS SATA 24X DVD Burner

- $20.39 at Amazon (USA)
- $19.95 at B&H (International Shipping)

Why this ASUS DVD Burner?
Simple: It’s highly reliable, having the best customer reviews on Amazon for a DVD Burner. It’s also reasonably priced. It’s the best selling model for a reason. ;)

This drive is able to read and burn CDs and DVDs. Relatively silent (it obviously makes some noise when reading/burning at high speed), compatible with all major formats including DVD-RAM.

Don’t believe people who say you don’t need a DVD drive anyone. For only $20, you can listen to audio CDs, watch TV and movie DVDs, see pictures stored on a DVD, the list goes on.

Tier 7:

Samsung Ultra-Slim USB DVD Burner:
Available in Black, White, Red or Blue

- $25.49 at Amazon
- $23.99 at B&H (International Shipping)

Tier 7’s case doesn’t have a 5.25″ drive bay to support an internal optical drive, so you must get an external, USB powered optical drive instead.

Upgrade to Full HD movies and TV shows by getting a Blu-Ray optical drive:

You’re getting a powerful Gaming PC with a nice monitor, why limit yourself to movies in low DVD definition (a mere 720×480)?

They will look awful on your screens if you watch them in fullscreen mode.

Do yourself a favor: You want to watch movies in Full HD to get the best visual experience possible. You want a Blu-Ray drive instead of a DVD drive.

Blu-ray player:

For playback purposes, the Pioneer BDC-207DBK Blu Ray Reader, DVD/CD Burner Internal Drive: $41.95 at Amazon or $39.95 at B&H (International Shipping will the job. It can also burn CDs, DVDs but NOT Blu ray disks.

Blu-ray burner:

So if you want that, as well as wanting the ability to not just read but also burn Blu-Ray disks, then I recommend to you the:

- Pioneer Electronics USA 16X SATA Black Internal Blu-Ray/CD/DVD Burner, which is available for $66.25 at Amazon or $63.95 at B&H (International Shipping).

It’s a fast 16x model that’s recent (read: more compatible with all sort of Blu-ray disks), it’s reliable and well priced. It does not include any software, so you can buy the best one instead.

USB Blu Ray Burners:

If you want a blu-ray burner for Tier 7’s (the case doesn’t have a 5.25″ drive bay to support an internal optical drive, so you must get an external, USB powered optical drive instead), you have two choices. One is slower, but less expensive and the other one is faster but more expensive. Your choice.

1. Pioneer Slim Portable USB Blu Ray 6x Burner:$89.99 at Amazon or $89.99 at B&H – International Shipping

2. LG BE14NU40 14X USB 3.0 Portable Blu Ray Burner: $113.50 at Amazon or $129.95 at B&H – International Shipping

Software required for Blu-Ray playback:

Can I use free software to play Blu-ray disks?
I haven’t found a way to do so, if you happen to find one, leave a comment please!

If you want a trouble-free experience, no. As far as I know, you still require paid software to playback Blu-Ray disks on a PC.

Based on various reviews and feedback on various forums, PowerDVD 15 is the software that I recommend to you.

You’ll want at least the Pro version for Blu-ray playback and the Ultra version for 3D Blu-ray. There’s the live version too, which you can subscribe to for 3 months or 12 months which includes ongoing access to future PowerDVD versions so you’re never stuck with an old version.

It is fully compatible with Windows 7/8/8.1 and should play give you any problems.

For burning blu-ray disks, there are many software solutions available on the Internet, including free ones. I’ve never burned Blu-Ray disks so I suggest that you do your own research on the best software for your needs. If you have experience with burning Blu-Ray disks and would like to suggest software for those who want to burn blu-ray disks, please leave a comment at the end of the article.

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Case:

Which case size should you pick? ATX, Micro-ATX or Mini-ITX?

Tier 3 and 4:

Thermaltake Urban S1:

- $39.48 (Amazon)
- $39.48 (B&H – International Shipping)

Why am I recommending this case?
It’s smaller than a larger ATX case, it looks good (in my opinion) and it’s inexpensive, at less than $40.

It’s a simple case that does the job at a great price, which allows you to invest your money on the components that make a difference when it comes to performance.

Cooling wise, this case includes one 80mm case fan, which is plenty enough to dissipate the heat of Tier 3 and 4 components.

Features wise, you get:

  1. One 2.5″ (SSD), five 3.5″ (Hard Drive) and two 5.25″ (optical) drive bays.
  2. Two USB 3.0 ports that connect to the motherboard via an internal USB 3.0 header that’s on the motherboard.
  3. An analog audio 3.5mm output (for speakers or headphones) and analog audio input (for a microphone). This header needs to be plugged into the sound card.

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Tier 5 and 6:

Cooler Master Silencio 352:

- $69.99 at Amazon
- $69.99 at B&H (International Shipping)

Why am I recommending this case?
The Cooler Master Silencio 352 is designed to be quiet. Noise cancelling materials help keep noise to a minimum.

Its front panel with its matte finish looks sleek, understated, looks good anywhere.

You can open the door to access the optical drive and the rest of the time, you keep the door closed to cancel out the noise of your components, including that optical drive that can get noisy at times.

Features wise, you get:

  1. Four 2.5″ (SSD), three 3.5″ (Hard Drive) and one 5.25″ (optical) drive bays.
  2. Two USB 3.0 ports that connect to the motherboard via an internal USB 3.0 header that’s on the motherboard.
  3. A SD card reader and a USB 2.0 port that connect to the motherboard via an internal USB 2.0 header that’s on the motherboard.
  4. An analog audio 3.5mm output (for speakers or headphones) and analog audio input (for a microphone). This header needs to be plugged into the sound card.
  5. Noise cancelling materials
  6. Multiple dust filters that facilitate cleaning your case.
  7. Liquid cooling ready – supports 240mm radiators (front /top) or a 120mm radiator (rear). Tier 5-6 gets a water-cooling solution with a 120mm radiator and there’s an alternative cooling solution with a 240mm radiator if you want better cooling performance, without more noise.
  8. Cable routing holes and tie-downs. Not much space behind the motherboard panel, only 0.5mm, so you can’t pass thick wires there.
  9. 2 x 120mm case fans to ventilate the case.

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Tier 7:

BitFenix Pandora Core Window Black

- $119.99 at Amazon
- $109.99 at B&H (International Shipping)

Why am I recommending this case?
The BitFenix Pandora is narrower (only 6.3″) than most cases, it has striking looks thanks to the use of brushed aluminum, side window and red LEDs.

The two downsides of such a narrow case are that:
1. It does not support 5.25″ internal optical drives, so if you want a DVD or Blu-Ray drive, you’ll want to use a USB one.
2. The limited maximum CPU Cooler height prevents the use of good, tall air CPU Coolers, so you’ll want a water-cooling system.

Of course, my recommendations for Tier 7 reflect these details, by recommending a USB optical drive and a water cooling system as a CPU Cooler.

It’s also available in grey instead of black and/or with a 2.4″ logo display, which can be customized to display any picture that you’d like, with the help of BitFenix software.

Features wise, you get:

  1. Three 2.5″ (SSD), two 3.5″ (Hard Drive) and zero 5.25″ (optical) drive bays. If you want an optical drive, you’ll want a USB one.
  2. Two USB 3.0 ports that connect to the motherboard via an internal USB 3.0 header that’s on the motherboard.
  3. An analog audio 3.5mm output (for speakers or headphones) and analog audio input (for a microphone). This header needs to be plugged into the sound card.
  4. Liquid cooling ready – supports 240mm radiators (front) or a 120mm radiator (top). Tier 7 gets a water-cooling solution with a 120mm radiator and there’s an alternative cooling solution with a 240mm radiator if you want better cooling performance, without more noise.
  5. Red LED strip at the top of the inside of the case highlights your components through the side panel acrylic window.
  6. 2 x 120mm case fans to ventilate the case.

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Power Supply:

Tier 3 and 4:

Antec VP-450 450 Watt:

- $36.61 (Amazon)
- $39.99 (B&H – International Shipping)

This power supply is capable of delivering up to 450W, not that you should rely on this information only as I often point in posts such as Warning: 6 Surefire Ways of Blowing Up Your Computer Due to an Inadequate Power Supply, but more importantly 30A on the 12V line, the most important factor when it comes to choosing a power supply for a gaming computer.

Inexpensive and reliable, unlike some cheaper power supplies that are simply dangerous for your fragile computer parts that are sensitive to current fluctuations, ripples and electrical noise.

80 PLUS? Bronze? Gold?
80 PLUS refers to a certification from an independant group that a PSU meets their requirements for the specified level of efficiency. Here’s a chart that shows the different required levels of efficiency depending on the specific 80 PLUS certification:

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Modular power supply?
A modular power supply is one that allows you to only plug in and only use the power cables that you actually need, instead of being stuck with a bunch of unused power cables that you need to hide somewhere in your case, that are resulting in less of a cable mess.

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Tier 5-6

Antec BP550 Plus 550W Modular 80 Plus:

- $59.99 (Amazon)
- $62.95 – B&H (International Shipping)

Value wise, this power supply is pretty much unbeatable. It is rated to deliver up to 550W, is rated for 37A on the 12V line, is 80PLUS certified and finally, it is modular.

This power supply is capable of delivering up to 650W, not that you should rely on this information only as I often point in posts such as Warning: 6 Surefire Ways of Blowing Up Your Computer Due to an Inadequate Power Supply, but more importantly 46A on the 12V line, the most important factor when it comes to choosing a power supply for a gaming computer.

It is 80 PLUS certified, to insure good efficiency, a lower power bill, less heat and noise, compared to a less efficient and/or lower quality power supply.

It is also modular, allowing you to use only the power cables that you need, resulting in a cleaner build.

Its efficiency also helps it remain fairly cool and quiet, as there is less wasted energy converted to heat to dissipate.

 

Tier 7:

Cooler Master G650M 650W 80 PLUS Bronze Modular

- $87.81 (Amazon)
- $87.81 at B&H (International Shipping)

This power supply is capable of delivering up to 650W, not that you should rely on this information only as I often point in posts such as Warning: 6 Surefire Ways of Blowing Up Your Computer Due to an Inadequate Power Supply, but more importantly 52A on the 12V line, the most important factor when it comes to choosing a power supply for a gaming computer.

It is 80 PLUS Bronze certified, to insure good efficiency, a lower power bill, less heat and noise, compared to a less efficient and/or lower quality power supply.

It is also modular, allowing you to use only the power cables that you need, resulting in a cleaner build.

It is only 140mm long, ensuring that it can fit and take less space in smaller, more crowded cases.

More powerful power supplies:

To future-proof your build, for future dual-video cards setups, etc.

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Power Consumption:

How to calculate power consumption:
I recommend using the eXtreme Power Supply Calculator. Here are the settings that I used:

  • CPU depending on the Tier, 90% TDP. For Tier 5- 6-7, it is overclocked to 4.3GHz/1.2V
  • Video Cards depends on the Tier
  • Two sticks of DDR3 (Add 10W for four sticks)
  • One regular SATA drive + One Flash SSD
  • 1 DVD-RW/DVD+RW Drive
  • 4 USB Devices
  • 4 x 120mm regular fans
  • System Load: 90%
  • Capacitor Aging: 20%

A quick note about the eXtreme Power Supply Calculator:
While that is the main tool that I use to estimate power consumption, do note that my recommendations also take into account my personnal experience (over 12 years) and some additional research on my own to verify these numbers. This is why you may notice that the numbers that I give below may or may not match what the eXtreme Power Supply Calculator gives you. When in doubt, stick with my numbers or ask us on the forums.

Give your power supply some overhead:
While you can match a 650W PSU with a 630W requirement, it is good practice to add about 75-100W (125-150W if you overclock) of overhead, so that your PSU doesn’t run at full capacity all the time, as that will reduce its lifespan, increase its chance of failure, increase its heat output and its noise output.

Estimated Power Consumption, per Tier:
According to the eXtreme Power Supply Calculator, with the settings that I described above, it is estimated that this system will require at load (peak usage), the following Watts out of a power supply. The minimum requirements are in Italic, while my recommendations (including overhead) are in Bold:

  1. 330W/450W with the Intel Core i5-4590/4690 and the Geforce GTX 960 (Tier 3-4).
  2. 424W/550W with the Intel Core i5-4690K, overclocked to 4.3GHz/1.2v and the Geforce GTX 970 (Tier 5).
  3. 446W/550W with the Intel Core i5-4690K, overclocked to 4.3GHz/1.2v and the Geforce GTX 980 (Tier 6).
  4. 510W/650W with the Intel Core i5-4690K, overclocked to 4.3GHz/1.2v and the Geforce GTX Titan X (Tier 7).

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Cooling:

CPU Cooler

Tier 3 and 4:

Cooler Master Hyper TX3 92mm CPU Cooler:

- $17.22 (Amazon)
- $17.22 (B&H – International Shipping)

The Cooler Master Hyper TX3 CPU Cooler is a low-cost after-market CPU Cooler that offers better cooling capabilities than the stock Intel CPU Cooler that’s included with the CPU.

Considering that the CPU recommended for Tier 3 and 4 cannot be overclocked, the point of this CPU Cooler is to keep the CPU temperatures in check during long gaming sessions and to avoid the noise from the Intel stock CPU Cooler.

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Tier 5, 6 and 7:

Corsair Hydro Series H55 Quiet Edition Liquid 120mm CPU Cooler:

- $58.88 at Amazon
- $58.88 at B&H (International Shipping)

Why am I recommending the Corsair H55?
Tier 5, 6 and 7 have narrower cases that aren’t compatible with tall air CPU Coolers.

The Corsair Hydro Series H55 CPU Cooler currently offers the best value for an after-market CPU Cooler, offering outstanding performance at a lower price than high-end air CPU Coolers.

This means that you can overclock your unlocked Core i5-4690K CPU pretty high before worrying about limited by your CPU cooler cooling abilities.

It’s also more quiet than other all-in-one liquid CPU Coolers, so noise is not a problem either.

Tier 5, 6 and 7 are designed with overclocking in mind and the Corsair H55 will have no problem handling the additional heat coming from high levels of overclocking.

Alternative: Best CPU Cooler: All-in-One Liquid CPU Cooler: Corsair H105

Corsair Hydro H105 240mm All-in-One Liquid CPU Cooler

- $109.99 (Amazon)
- $109.99 (B&H – International Shipping)

If you want to squeeze every MHz out of your CPU and push it to its limits, this is what you want.

The H105 is an excellent high-end all-in-one water cooling kit.

It offers top-notch cooling performance without being as noisy as other high-end all-in-one water CPU Cooling solutions. Installation is straight-forward.

Compatible with the recommended case of Tier 5, 6 and 7.

Thermal Interface kit:

Note: The CPU Coolers that I recommend already include high-performance thermal compound, so you don’t need to buy any.

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Fan controller:

Fan controllers allow you to control the speed of your computer fan(s). That way, you can reduce their speed and lower their noise.

  • $15 – FrozenCPU Deluxe Multi Power Port – 12V / 7V / 5V – This a board with four 12V 3pin fan headers, four 7V 3pin fan headers and four 5V 3pin fan headers. 12V will let your fan(s) run at full speed, 7V at lower speeds and 5V at even lower speeds. Note that not all fans can start with 5V. The underside of this board has a sticky material, allowing you to stick it somewhere in your case. Practical if you don’t have a free 5.25″ drive bay and if you want to see the speed of your fans once and forget about them.

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Sound:

Sound card:

All Tiers:

ASUS Xonar DG 5.1 PCI Sound Card:

Installation note:
You’ll want to install this sound card in the second PCI slot on the motherboard, two slots under the video card.

- $26.36 at Amazon
– $26.36 at B&H (International Shipping)

While integrated audio has improved a lot over the years, it’s still no match for the sound quality of a dedicated sound card.

Ask yourself:
1. Do you want to hear music as it was intended to be heard?
2. Do you want better location awareness through improved sound positioning in video games?
3. Do you want to fully take advantage of your headphones and/or speakers with higher-quality amplification?

If you said yes to any to these questions, you want a dedicated sound card.

Why am I recommending the ASUS Xonar DG?

It offers great sound quality at a minimal price.

Considering that audio is a big part of your PC experience, I believe that $26, or a small % of your total budget, is entirely worth it to improve your PC audio quality, whether it’s for gaming, music or other entertainment purposes.

Want a better sound card?
Now, if you can appreciate higher-quality sound, there are better sound cards that are available. See the alternatives below.

If you plan on adding a second video card in the future:
You’ll want to get a USB sound card, for compatibility reasons; the recommended Micro-ATX motherboards have four expansion slots and most video cards take the equivalent of two slots worth of space, so you cannot fit a PCI or PCI-Express sound card anywhere with two video cards.

One advantage of a USB sound card is that you can easily move it from your desktop to your laptop or any other PC. Once the drivers are installed, it’s a plug&play device, meaning that it works as soon as you plug it in the USB port, without needing to restart your PC or anything.

Alternatives:

  1. ASUS Xonar DS 7.1 PCI: $43.99 at Amazon or $49.99 at B&H (International Shipping) – If you want a 7.1 PCI sound card, with higher sound quality than the Xonar DG.
  2. ASUS Xonar U3 USB Sound Card: $39.99 at Amazon or $45.99 at B&H (International Shipping) – If you have no free expansion slots on your motherboard or would rather keep them free (for future Crossfire/SLI), this is a good affordable USB sound card, with an headphone amplifier and good sound quality.
  3. ASUS Xonar U5 5.1 USB Sound Card: $69.99 at Amazon or $59.99 at Amazon – A higher-end USB sound card, with support for 5.1 speakers.
  4. ASUS Xonar U7 7.1 192kHz/24-bit USB Sound Card: $87.24 at Amazon or $87.24 at B&H (International Shipping) – High-end USB sound card, with support for 7.1 speakers and high-fidelity 192kHz/24-bit playback.

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Speakers:

While I do not include speakers in the Tiers budgets, seeing as you may already own some or simply do not want any, here are some recommendations for great speakers at various price points:

Note that the power output is in RMS Watts, a more accurate measurement.

2.0 speakers: 2 satellites and no subwoofer:

2.1 speakers: 2 satellites and a subwoofer:

5.1 speakers: 5 satellites and a subwoofer:

Headphones/Earphones

I do not include headphones nor earphones in the Tiers budgets, seeing as you may already own a pair or simply do not want any.

Also keep in mind that sound quality is subjective, so while these are some great recommendations, in my opinion, at their respective price points, those recommendations are based on my own research, not yours. I do recommend that you do your own research, to figure out the best headphones for your needs, based on the type of music that you listen to and the games that you play.

There are various types of headphones and earphones, take the time to consider which one would be the best for you.

Double-check the cable length, it might be too short for your needs. Consider that you might need an extension cable. You’ll want a female to male 3.5mm audio cable. This is an analog cable, so this is where spending a bit more for a quality cable will make a difference in quality.

Open Design Headphones:
As the name implies, an open hear headphone means that it doesn’t cover or seal off the ear from hearing outside noises.

Pros: Enough airflow to keep your ears cool. On average lighter than closed design headphones. Resonance is significantly reduced providing better audio quality and a better audio experience.
Cons: You hear outside noises, so they can’t be used in noisy environments. They leak out sound, so they provide no privacy (people can hear what you’re listening to) and this can bother people that are close to you.

Closed Design Headphones:
These are the opposite of open design headphones. These headsets usually have larger ear cups that isolate the user’s ears from his surroundings and its design is typically meant to block out outside sounds.

Pros: 1- Closed ear cups that seal off the ear from the outside world so you can expect sounds not to leak in (cuts out external sound)
2- Doesn’t leak sound: You can enjoy exclusive audio entertainment particularly in a typically noisy environment, without bothering anyone.

Cons: 1- Due to the closed ear design, airflow is greatly minimized or prevented, producing more resonance and this can negatively affect the quality of sound.
2- Due to how they isolate you from outside noise, it makes you more vulnerable to accidents.

  1. Koss UR-20: $15 (Amazon) or $19 (Amazon)
  2. Panasonic RP-HTX7 (In Black, Blue, Red, White, Cream, Pink or Green): $39.99 (Amazon) or $49.95 (B&H – International Shipping)
  3. Audio-Technica ATH-M30x: $59.99 (Amazon) or $69 (B&H – International Shipping)
  4. Audio-Technica ATH-M40x: $99.99 (Amazon) or $99.99 (B&H – International Shipping)
  5. Audio Technica ATH-A700: $149.99 (Amazon) or $179.00 (B&H – International Shipping)
  6. Audio Technica ATH-M50x Black, Brown or White: $149.99 (Amazon) or $169.00 (B&H – International Shipping)
  7. Sennheiser HD25-1 II: $199.95 (Amazon) or $199.95 (B&H – International Shipping)

In-Ear Headphones:
Simply put, these are headphones that you insert straight into your ear, to create a seal between the headphones and your ears.

Some come with an integrated microphone that is often compatible with smartphones.

Important:
Make sure to take your time to properly test the different size of included tips, to find the ones that best fit your ears. This will make all the difference between a poor sounding pair and a good sounding one.

  1. $7.19 – Panasonic RPHJE120K Black, Blue, Green, Orange, Pink, Red, Silver or Violet
  2. Panasonic RPTCM125K Black, Blue, Pink, Purple or White: $12 (Amazon) or $12 (B&H – International Shipping)
  3. $25 – Symphonized NRG Premium with Mic (Wood + White)
  4. $25 – Symphonized NRG Premium with Mic (Red + Black)
  5. Logitech Ultimate Ears 600vi with Mic
  6. Bose SoundTrue: $129.95 (Amazon) or $129.95 (B&H – International Shipping)
  7. Yamaha EPH-100SL: $129.95 (Amazon) or $129.95 (B&H – International Shipping)
  8. Shure SE315-K (Black or White): $199.99 (Amazon) or $199.99 (B&H – International Shipping)
  9. Shure SE315-K (Black or White) with Mic & Remote Cable Kit: $249.98 (B&H – International Shipping)
  10. Bose QuietComfort 20i: $299.99 (Amazon) or $299.99 (B&H – International Shipping)
  11. Shure SE535-V (Bronze, Clear or Red): $499.99 (Amazon) or $499.99 (B&H – International Shipping)
  12. Shure SE535-V (Bronze) with Mic & Remote Cable Kit: $548.99 (B&H – International Shipping)

Microphone:

Personally, I recommend going for a pair of headphone with this dedicated microphone versus going with a headset that has a microphone, for two reasons:
1- The sound quality, for both the headphone part and the microphone part, is on average superior with a dedicated pair of headphones and a dedicated microphone vs a headset at comparable price points.
2- If the microphone on the headset breaks down (and they do more often than not, with years of usage), you’ll be stuck without your headset if you get it replaced, or either getting a new headset ($$) or a separated microphone. If either the headphones or the microphone breaks down, you still have the other part that you don’t have to replace.

You can also walk outside with a pair of headphones. A headset? You’ll look odd (in my opinion anyway).

If you want a dedicated microphone, to talk to your teammates online or for any other purpose, I recommend the Zalman Zm-Mic1 Microphone: $9 (Amazon) / $9.75 (B&H – International Shipping) which is an excellent low-cost option with perfectly fine audio quality and build quality. Three mini clips on the microphone cable help you latch the cable onto the headphone cable.

Want a higher quality USB desktop microphone for talking online, for recording broadcasts such as podcasts, or to record music? I recommend the Snowball USB Microphone: $49.99 (Amazon) / $42.59 (B&H – International Shipping) which offers excellent sound quality for less than $50 and is available in many colors.

Headsets:

Headsets are basically headphones with an integrated microphone.

If you go with an headset, make sure to check them all out, since they vary considerably in design.

  1. $13 – Yapster TM-YP100A
  2. Koss SB-45: $24.45 (Amazon) or $26.99 (B&H – International Shipping)
  3. Sennheiser PC 151: $43.00 (Amazon) / $43.00 (B&H – International Shipping)
  4. ARCTIC Sound 5.1 Surround P531 : $39.99 (Amazon)
  5. SteelSeries Siberia V2 Available in 9 colors: $69.99 (Amazon) or $89.99 (B&H – International Shipping)
  6. Logitech 7.1 Surround G35
  7. Creative Sound Blaster Tactic 3D Wrath Wireless
  8. Logitech Wireless 7.1 Surround G930
  9. Audio Technica ATHADG1 Open-Back Gaming Headset – $299.00 at Amazon
  10. Audio Technica ATHAG1 Closed-Back Gaming Headset – $238.00 at Amazon

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Network:

All Tiers:
Ethernet RJ-45 10/100/1000 Mbps LAN: Integrated on the motherboard

Integrated with the motherboard, this network adapter will allow you to access your local network and Internet, by connecting a Cat5-e cable from your modem/router to your PC.

If you need a cable, or a longer cable than what you have, to connect your PC to your modem, measure the distance between the modem/router and your PC. Consider that you may want to move your equipment at some point in the future. Order whichever length you need of CAT-5e cable. Don’t waste your money on a CAT6 cable, it will make no difference in speed.

Wireless Networking:
Need a WiFi adapter, router or Bluetooth adapter?

See our article on The Best WiFi Routers, Best WiFi Adapters and Bluetooth Adapters.

Recommended operating systems:

The operating system cost, if there’s one, is not included in the total cost. The two reasons for this are:

  • The budget only considers hardware.
  • You may be able re-use a previous license, upgrade from a previous version of Windows or go with an open-source OS such as Linux.

Note that you’ll need a 64-bit version OS, as 32-bit is limited to 4GB of memory for the entire system, which is not enough now, nor in the future if you decide to upgrade. Remember that you’ll have 4GB of RAM or more, along with a dedicated video that also has memory (1GB or 2GB). 64-bit drivers are widely available for pretty much any devices nowadays.

Windows 8.1

Released two years and a half ago, Windows 8 was Microsoft’s latest version of the popular Windows operating system. While it uses the same core as Windows Vista and Windows 7, visually it is a departure from these two OS, using colorful tiles and a look often referred to as “Metro”.

Windows 8 has been updated to 8.1, which gives you the option to boot to the classic desktop look by default and brings back the “start” button, although it only brings you to the metro live tiles start screen. It is also possible to bring back the “classic” start button and menu by installing third parties apps. Search has also been improved.

The vast majority of applications that ran on Windows Vista and 7 should have no problem running on Windows 8.1. Most programs that runs on XP should work on Windows 8.1 too, but there are some exceptions.

For more information on Windows 8.1, there are countless reviews of it available online that will do a better job than I can at fully describing what’s new.

Let’s address the obvious question: Should you use Windows 8.1 or 7 for your gaming PC?

While some might not like change, Windows 8.1 is no where as bad as it may seem. Sure, it forces you to re-learn how to do some things, but if you give yourself some time to learn the new functions, new shortcuts and such, you’ll feel at home sooner than later.

Windows 8.1 boots and shutdowns faster than Windows 7. File transfers are also quicker. Windows 8.1 also uses less resources than Windows 7.

Windows 8 has been out for over two years and 8.1 has been out for many months now, meaning that the vast majority bugs have been fixed by now.

From a performance point of view, Windows 8.1 is easy to recommend. You will get higher performance in games from Windows 8.1.

From an usability point of view, it is a departure from the previous versions of Windows and I understand that not everyone is comfortable with learning how to use a new OS. If you’re willing to put in some time to learn how to use Windows 8.1, it can certainly be a worthwhile experience. If not, Windows 7 is a perfectly fine alternative that will run smoothly on your PC.

If you’re interested in Windows 8.1, there are three versions that are available:

Highly recommended: Windows 8.1 books
If you’re going to use Windows 8.1 for the first time, you may feel a bit lost at first. Here are two books to help you navigate and use Windows 8.1 to its full potential.

For beginners, I recommend Windows 8.1 For Dummies.

For more advanced users, I recommend Windows 8.1 Inside Out.

Windows 7

Windows 7 will be supported (read: updated) by Microsoft until 2020, so if you prefer to avoid/skip Windows 8.1, Windows 7 is a perfectly acceptable alternative.

Three Available Versions:

  • Windows 7 Home Premium: The basic edition, with all the looks, most of the functionality and DirectX 11.
  • Windows 7 Professional: If you want the virtual XP mode, you’ll need at least the Professional edition. Also required if you want to backup to a network, using the built-in backup mode in Windows. Also good to know: You’ll need at least the pro version to take advantage of Remote Desktop Connection.
  • Windows 7 Ultimate: To help protect data on your PC and portable storage devices against loss or theft with BitLocker and to work and switch between 35 languages.

OEM Versions:

Important note regarding compatibility:
Note that to boot to Windows 7, you need to disable secure boot in the BIOS/UEFI menu, as secure boot is only supported by Windows 8/8.1.

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Linux

Linux is gaining more and more support as a Gaming OS and while many games still only run on Windows, there are a growing selection of titles that are available for Linux or that can run on Linux with some work.

There are nearly 1000 titles available on the Steam platform and The Humble Indie Bundle has helped a lot to push gaming on Linux.

That said, unfortunately SLI and Crossfire support under Linux is poor at best. For the best gaming performance, you’re better off with Windows 8.1 or Windows 7.

Wine:
Wine
is an application that allows you to run Windows programs on Linux, including games of course.

The Wine Application Database has a list of the games that run smoothly or with minimal/minor issues through Wine.

Crossover: Run the most popular Windows games/programs on Linux

Crossover allows you to play popular games as well as run Windows applications and more on Linux.

Open source games and source ports are also a good way to play games on Linux.

Which version of Linux should I pick?

There are a large variety of distributions (variants) of Linux, each with its pros and cons. Ubuntu is the most popular and arguably the most supported. For more information on other distribution of Linux and their latest version, visit Distrowatch.com.

If you need assistance with Linux, LinuxQuestions.org is a good place to start.

For more on the topic of Linux Gaming, I invite you to read this excellent article from ArsTechnica: The state of Linux gaming in the SteamOS era.

What about Word processing, Excel and other Windows-based programs that you need? Linux, being an open platform, has many free alternatives for you. For Word/Excel and such, try LibreOffice.

Cost: Free

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Conclusion

What did you think of this article? Let me know if you have any suggestion to improve this article or your opinion on it by leaving a comment below. Additionally, if a part goes out of stock, let me know.

Don’t agree with my choices? Have a better idea?

Feel free to leave a comment. There’s always place for improvement and after some research I may change the part according to your suggestion.

Building this PC?

If you build this system, I invite you to share your experience on how well it runs: What applications do you use, what type of work do you do, how well does this PC performs, is there anything that slows it down? Your feedback will help other people make an informed decision on what to buy for their own needs.

Do you need a guide on how to build a computer, need help or do you have some questions?

Join us on our forums!

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this article, feel free to leave a comment below and remember, you can join us on our forums to discuss with everyone else the build that you’re planning to build, ask your questions and join our helpful community!

Build your Gaming PC today!

Why should you?
For the same price, you’ll get more performance out of your custom PC, or you’ll save money while getting the same performance compared to a retail PC. Not to mention that retail PCs come with tons of bloatware and limited warranties. Why settle for less?

Stop relying on HP, Dell and other companies:
Build your own custom PC today.
It’s easier than you think!

This Build includes all the parts/cables that you need and it was double-checked to ensure compatibility. Simply order your parts, set aside some time, grab a screwdriver and build your own personal PC. No worries, we’ll (the HR community) be there to assist you if you have questions or need help.

Then you’ll be able to say, “See that computer over there? Yeah, I built that.” Talk about being proud of a job well done.

Category: Gaming PC

About Mathieu Bourgie: HR Founder - Computer expert with over 14 years of experience in building, fixing and modifying PCs. Over the years, I’ve developed a passion for PC hardware and now I enjoy helping others build their own PCs! In April 2008, I launched Hardware Revolution and ... Read more at my about page .

  • Miguel Lozano

    I have a question, which would be the most portable case that could substitute Cooler Master Silencio 352 for Tier 5?

    • https://www.facebook.com/Mathieu.HR MathieuB

      @miguel_lozano:disqus
      Most portable as in a smaller footprint or something that’s easy to carry?

      Tier 7’s BitFenix Pandora Core is smaller, most definitely less wide. If you pick that case, you’ll need the optical drive and the power supply from Tier 7 as well.

      • Miguel Lozano

        thank you for answer me; what I mean is if exist a case that could fit in a backpack (obviously in a big one, but not a huge backpack).

        • https://www.facebook.com/Mathieu.HR MathieuB

          The problem with the SilverStone Sugo SG11 is that it has no space for the 120mm radiator for the CPU Cooler.

          Basically, if you go with a smaller case, you’ll have to double-check support for a 120mm radiator, to ensure that you can use the Corsair H55 CPU Cooler.

          There are other options from SIlverstone that would most likely do the job.

          The BitFenix Prodigy M might interest you, it’s pretty small and comes with handles to easily carry it.

          You can go smaller, with a Mini-ITX motherboard and a Mini-ITX case such as the Silverstone Milo ML07 (only 14L), but then there are more possible compatibility issues that you have to double-check. For example, you’ll need a SFX form factor power supply, a USB sound card and a slim optical drive.

          Otherwise, a gaming laptop is another option.

          • Miguel Lozano

            Thanks Mathieu; definitely the Silverstone Milo ML07’s dimensions convence me, it would de great for me can have a Tier 5 performance in only 14 liters, even if it were a little more costly . If you can, I would love if you could advice me about what components put in that case for a Tier 5.

          • Miguel Lozano

            Thanks Mathieu; definitely the Silverstone Milo ML07’s dimensions convence me, it would de great for me to have the Tier 5 performance in that small case or if it were possible in other one even smaller like the Silverstone Sugo SG13 of 11.5 liters. I could say that Im looking the smaller possible case that let me have the same performance of the Tier 5 (with the overclocking and maybe a i7-4790k instead a i5-4690k), the aesthetics is secondary for me. For other side I d want to use a USB powered monitor with this PC, and I dont know if it matters for the output power of the power supply. I d be very grateful if you could help me choosing the best case for me and help me to choose the components that I d have to exchange from your recommended Tier 5’s list due to the change of case.

  • Jarod

    Hey Mathieu, pretty great article. Lots of info on here and it really looks like you know your stuff! I’m trying to get a gaming pc somewhere in the tier 4-5 range, and am wondering if you have a more concrete recommendation for me? I’m looking for something that will run most games at high-ultra settings, and will not be doing any photo/video editing or any major multi tasking or huge task loads beyond that. Should I stick with the tier four, or dip into both tiers to make a better PC for what I’m trying to do? Also trying to be very wallet conscious and not go overboard.

  • Morgan Chang

    Hi Mathieu

    I love these new builds! My one question is the motherboard. Sorry for the noob question but why does it have hdmi and dvi outputs? You’d just plug the monitor into the graphics card right? I ask because I’m planning on using the LGUM3495 monitor which I’ve read works best with a display port connection as opposed to hdmi. Are the onboard graphics outputs for an integrated graphics build?

    Thanks

    Morgan