January 2017 Update: What’s new
1. New Z270 motherboard recommendation
2. New Intel Kaby Lake 7th generation of Core CPUs recommendations.
3. New video card for Tier 4
4. New CPU cooler recommendations for Tier 5-6
5. Lower capacity SSD recommend for Tier 5-6, to lower the total cost. You can choose to upgrade to an higher capacity SSD if you wish to.
Choose Your PC Performance (Tier):
About Hardware Revolution’s Gaming PCs recommendations
This is one of three comprehensive articles where I, Mathieu Bourgie, a computer hardware enthusiast with over 16 years of experience, recommend to you all the required parts, to help you build your own Gaming PC.
Is a High-End Performance Gaming PC powerful enough for you?
There are four (4) recommended Gaming PC levels of performance (Tier) in this article.
The recommended parts for each Tiers are indicated by their respective numbers (3, 4, 5 and 6) through the article.
– Tier 3 is a Gaming PC that will run most mainstream video games at 1920 x 1080 with high/ultra details and 60+ FPS.
– Tier 4 is recommended for gaming at 1920 x 1080 at 144+ FPS with high/ultra details, or 2560 x 1440 at 60+ FPS with good details. Good for Virtual Reality.
– Tier 5 can handle 2560 x 1440 with high details at 60+ FPS, 1920 x 1080 at 144+ FPS maxed out in the vast majority of games. Great for VR.
– Tier 6 can handle 2560 x 1440 with ultra details at 60-120 FPS, 2560 x 1440 at 120-144+ FPS with good/high details and 1920 x 1080 maxed out at 144+ FPS easily. 4K gaming is possible, but you’ll have to cut back on visual settings to get 60+ FPS. The best VR experience.
Are you on a limited budget?
I recommend more affordable Gaming PCs in the How to easily build your Budget Gaming PC: Worldwide Edition! article.
Are you going to play on a 4K monitor/TV, on multiple monitors or do you want a Virtual Reality (VR) ready Gaming PC?
In that case, the highest performance Gaming PCs are what I recommend. They can be found in the Extreme Gaming PCs article.
Do you need help picking the right level of performance for your Gaming PC?
Leave a comment at the end of the article. Give us details about the video game(s) that you want to play, the level of details that you want and the resolution of the monitor or HDTV that you’ll use.
Not interested in a Gaming PC?
Do you want an inexpensive PC for general use?
All the PCs in this guide have integrated graphic processors (GPUs), with video outputs on the motherboard, meaning that you can connect your monitor or HDTV directly to them, without requiring a dedicated video card. So if you want to a standard inexpensive PC and don’t intend to play video games, just buy everything except for the dedicated video card.
Things to keep in mind when reading this article:
My recommendations in this article are based on the prices that I saw on January 14th 2017.
- This is a worldwide guide. If you live outside the USA, B&H offers worldwide shipping. In the USA, Amazon, Newegg and B&H offer the best prices and customer support.
- This list is based on the best prices for new parts from B&H, NewEgg and Amazon. No used, open box or refurbished parts are included. While you may be able to score a nice discount, those parts come with trade offs, such as unknown reliability, a limited return policy and a limited warranty. I want your PC to function without issues.
- Prices and availability often change. I can’t keep up with ever changing prices, but I only recommend to you parts that I would buy myself. Reliable and great performance for the price.
This table can be scrolled on a smartphone
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?” and the How to Build Your Own Computer articles, which covers everything that you need to know to get started.
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!
Get the Intel Core i5-7500 3.4-3.8GHz Quad-Core from Amazon
The Intel Core i5-7500 is an Intel processor based on the newest Kaby lake architecture.
It features four cores and can handle four threads (No Hyper-Threading).
V.S. AMD FX-8350:
Most video games only use two to four cores and prioritize single-threaded performance (a domain where Intel dominates AMD) so when it comes to gaming performance, AMD’s FX-8350 is no match for Intel’s Core i5-7500. On top of that, the FX-8350 consumes a lot more power at idle and at load than the Core i5-7500.
While its 8 cores might make it seem like an attractive option for heavy multi-threaded programs, even then, the Core i5-7500 competes or outperforms it thanks to its more modern architecture that offers higher IPC and far higher single-thread performance.
In the end, the Core i5-7500 is just a better choice is the vast majority of cases and this is why I’m recommending it.
Get the Intel Core i5-7600 3.5-4.1GHz Quad-Core from Amazon
The Intel Core i5-7600 is a faster variant compared to the Core i5-7500 recommended above.
It also features four cores and can handle four threads (No Hyper-Threading).
The main difference is that it runs at 3.5-4.1GHz, compared to to 3.4-3.8GHz for the Core i5-7500.
So that’s 100MHz morre base frequency and 300MHz more Turbo frequency.
Not a bad deal for
Get the Intel Core i5-7600K 3.8-4.2GHz Unlocked from Amazon
The Intel Core i5-7600K is also an Intel processor based on the Kaby lake architecture.
It also features four cores and can handle four threads (No Hyper-Threading).
If you want to easily overclock by raising the multiplier, the Core i5-7600K K variant is the way to go, with its unlocked multiplier.
You also get a base frequency that is 300MHz higher than the Core i5-7600 and a turbo frequency that’s 100MHz higher, if you don’t overclock.
It runs at a base frequency of 3.8GHz and can automatically increase its frequency up to 4.2GHz, thanks to Turbo.
Get the Intel Core i7-7700K 4.2-4.5GHz Unlocked from Amazon
High Gaming Performance:
It’s the CPU that offers the highest performance for a gaming PC, thanks to its high-frequencies and highly efficient architecture that offers far higher single-threaded performance than AMD’s CPUs.
Most video games only use two to four cores and prioritize single-threaded performance so when it comes to gaming performance, AMD’s fastest CPU, the 220W(TDP) FX-9590 is no match for Intel’s Core i7-7700K when it comes to gaming performance.
Simply put, AMD hasn’t updated their high-end FX CPU’s architecture since it launched in September 2011. In the meantime, Intel is trying to launch a new generation of Core i CPUs every year, alternating between a new architecture (higher performance) and a smaller manufacturing process (lower power consumption).
When the first CPU based on the Bulldozer FX architecture came out, they were facing Intel second generation Sandy Bridge Core CPUs, such as the popular Core i5-2500K. The Core i7-7700K is five (!) generations ahead of that, so it has a higher-performance architecture, higher frequencies (4.2GHz base frequency, 4.5GHz maximum Turbo frequency) and is even more power efficient.
High overall performance:
With 4 Kaby Lake cores and Hyper-Threading, the Core i7-7700K can handle 8 threads simultaneously. With its high performance, it’s a fine choice for a Gaming PC that also gets used as a workstation.
The Core i7-7700K also consumes a lot less power (200W less at load than the AMD FX-9590!), resulting in a PC that consumes less electricity (lower electricity bill) and is less noisy.
It also allows you to spend less money on the power supply because you don’t need one that’s as powerful.
Ready to overclock
Finally, it is an unlocked multiplier CPU, so you can easily overclock it (raise its frequency) to raise its performance even more!
Tier 5 and 6 feature recommended components that are optimized for overclocking, meaning that your overclock won’t be limited by an inadequate CPU Cooler or something alike.
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 i7-7700K is an excellent choice.
It also offers higher frequencies (4.2-4.5GHz) as well as an unlocked multiplier for full overclocking.
Get the ASUS PRIME Z270-K from Amazon
This is a great mid-range Z270 motherboard, offering support for USB 3.1 Type-C, high frequency DDR4 RAM, CPU overclocking, reliable high-performance Intel LAN, 2x M.2 slots with PCI-E 3.0 4x SSD support, good reliability and with a good layout to support the video and sound cards, all at an excellent price for a motherboard packed with so many features!
Why choose the Z270 chipset?
Motherboards with lower-end chipsets, such as the B250 and H270 only support DDR4 RAM frequency of 2400MHz.
Video game performance is significantly improved by using higher frequency DDR4 RAM (3000-3200MHz) compared to lower frequency DDR4 RAM (2133-2400MHz).
RAM frequencies above 2400MHz is only supported by motherboards with the Z270 chipset, same goes for CPU overclocking (officially), hence why I recommend a Z270 chipset equipped motherboard in order for you to get the best gaming performance possible.
Why not go with a motherboard equipped with the Z170 chipset?
While Z170 motherboards are in theory compatible with the new Intel 7th gen Kaby Lake CPUs, they require a BIOS update to support them. This mean that out of the box, a Z170 motherboard may not work with the 7th gen Core CPUs because it needs an update. However, you can’t update without a supported CPU, so you’d need another, older CPU to update the motherboard to be able to use your new CPU.
This is why I recommend a Z270 chipset equipped motherboard, to make sure that your CPU is compatible with your motherboard out of the box. In other words, I want to keep things simple for you.
Ports, memory (RAM), expansion slots, connectors and what’s included in the box
- Ports on the back: 1x USB Type-C, 2x USB 3.1 Type-A, 2x USB 3.0 Type-A, 2x USB 2.0, 10/100/1000 Mbps RJ-45 LAN, one P/S2, 3 audio ports, DVI / HDMI / VGA outputs
- Memory (RAM): 4x slots, DDR4, maximum: 64GB (4x16GB), dual-channel (you want 2 or 4 sticks), maximum official frequency: 3866MHz
- Expansion slots: Two PCI-Express 3.0 16x slots (x16/x4, use top slot for video card), two PCI-Express 1x slot and two PCI slots.
- LAN: Intel I219-V
- Onboard Sound chipset: Realtek ALC887
- Other connectors/features on the motherboard: Three fan connectors (1×4 pins CPU + 2 x 4 pins for case fans), six SATA 6.0Gb/s, 2x M.2 PCI-Express 3.0 4x or SATA 6Gb/s, two USB 3.0 header, two USB 2.0 header and a COM header.
- Included in the box: Motherboard, two SATA cables, backplate, screw for M.2 socket
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).
- 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.
Get the EVGA GeForce GTX 1060 SC 6GB from Amazon
Performance: Geforce GTX 1060 vs AMD RX 480, GTX 960/980
Compared to the last generation GTX 960, the GTX 1060 is significantly faster, trading blows with the GTX 980!
Compared to the RX 480, the GTX 1060 more often than not has the performance edge. At 1080p, it’s on average about 10-15% faster than the RX 480. At 2560 x 1440, this performance advantage shrinks, but I’d still recommend the GTX 1060 over the RX 480. Also, you could argue that for gaming at 2560 x 1440, you’d be better served by a more powerful video card.
Geforce GTX 1060: Not SLI compatible!
Do note that the Geforce GTX 1060 is NOT SLI compatible.
The Geforce GTX 1060 consumes very little power considering how powerful it is. Under gaming load, it uses 120-135W. This is less than AMD’s Radeon RX 480: The GTX 1060 consumes 5-7W less at idle and roughly 30-45W less at load.
Get the Gigabyte Geforce GTX 1070 8GB from Amazon
Offering 80% of the performance of the Geforce GTX 1080 for 60% of the price!
Compared to the $650 Geforce GTX 1080, the $379 Geforce GTX 1070 offers roughly 80% of its performance for significantly less money.
Compared to last generation GTX 970, you get 55-60% more performance at 1440p.
For gaming at 1080p or 1440p with very high framerates, the Geforce GTX 1070 is ideal.
Geforce GTX 1070 vs AMD:
Unfortunately, AMD currently has no product that can compete with the GTX 1070. Simply put, they are one generation behind Nvidia in the high-end market.
AMD are expected to launch their new high-end video cards, based on the Vega 10 and Vega 11 GPUs, in early 2017. Those are rumors and in the meantime, the GTX 1070 is here.
Tier 5 and 6:
Get the Zotac Geforce GTX 1080 8GB from Amazon
70% of Titan X performance for 55% of the price
The Geforce GTX 1080 offers on average 70% of the performance that the $1200 Geforce Titan X offers, while costing 45% less, making it a more valuable proposition than the fastest video card.
Compared to the GTX 980? You get roughly 65% more performance at 1440p and 70% more performance at 4K.
Compared to the GTX 1070? You get a 20% performance boost.
That said, the GTX 1080 offers borderline performance if you want to play at a 4K resolution. It’s doable, but you’ll most likely have to lower graphic settings to get decent FPS.
That said, for gaming at 1080p or 1440p, the GTX 1080 has absolutely no problem. Same goes for VR.
Unfortunately, AMD currently has no product that can compete with the GTX 1080. Simply put, they are one generation behind Nvidia in the high-end market.
Get the 16GB (2x8GB) Dual-Channel Kit DDR4 3000MHz from Amazon
Is 3000MHz DDR4 RAM necessary?
You get a good gaming performance increase going from DDR4 2133MHz to DDR4 3000MHz without spending much more, hence why I’m recommending DDR4 3000MHz for all Tiers.
Why 16GB of RAM?
Games can require 8GB of RAM or even recommend 16GB of RAM. Considering the small price difference between 8GB and 16GB, I see no good reason to limit your system with 8GB of RAM.
Windows 10 uses 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.
Same goes if you like to have a lot of different applications open at the same time.
Also, if you using other demanding programs (think 3D/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 all Tiers 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.
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.
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. 3333MHz+ RAM vs the recommended 3000-3200MHz), as this will only bring a very small performance increase, nothing noticeable, while costing quite a bit more in some cases. While you get performance increases going from 2133 to 3200MHz, after that, you hit diminishing returns and it simply isn’t worth spending more in my opinion.
You’re better off investing that extra money on a faster CPU, faster video card, a higher capacity SSD, a different case, etc. Unless you think that spending a lot more money to brag about your “uber” 3333+MHz RAM sticks is worth it. It’s your money after all.
RAM Heatsinks height and aftermarket 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.
- 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), RAM temperatures aren’t a problem.
- Tall RAM heatsinks can get in the way of larger aftermarket CPU Coolers, preventing their installation.
So if you ever decide to upgrade your CPU Cooler, you don’t have to worry about that.
RAM may require manual configuration within the UEFI/BIOS to reach its full potential
By default, some RAM kits will boot at lower frequencies than they are rated for. This is not unusual and 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 the enhanced performance profile (XMP, DOCP, EOCP), for your RAM to function at its rated speed.
You can also adjust the RAM settings manually, such as frequency (In MHz, usually linked to the CPU, look for a CPU:RAM ratio), voltage (e.g. 1.35v) and timings (a series of numbers, such as 15-15-15-35). Refer to your motherboard manual and your RAM specifications for more information.
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: 288-pin DDR4 SDRAM Desktop, 2800MHz (Frequency), two or four sticks of RAM so 16GB (2x8GB), 32GB (2x16GB) or 64GB (4x16GB).
- 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.
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 All Tiers:
Get the Crucial 525GB MX300 SATA III SSD from Amazon
The Crucial MX300 offers good performance and outstanding reliability at an excellent price.
Need a SSD with more storage capacity? I recommend the 1TB and 2TB Crucial MX300 just below.
Why not recommend an higher performance SATA III 2.5″ SSD or a PCI-Express 3.0 4x SSD, which offers even higher performance?
It’s simple: You’re unlikely to perceive the difference in real life, unless you have a significant workstation type workload. For gaming performance, a faster SSD will make no perceivable difference in how fast the game loads. Once it is loaded, a faster SSD won’t increase the frame rate.
The only thing that will increase iscost: Higher-end SATA III 2.5″ SSDs and PCI-Express 3.0 4x SSDs are significantly more expensive than the MX300 SATA III 2.5″ SSDs.
This is why I recommend the Crucial MX300 SATA III 2.5″ SSDs for Gaming PCs. They offer significantly higher performance than hard drives, while offering decent storage capacity at a great price for SSDs.
If you want more performance, with a higher-end SATA III 2.5″ SSD or a PCI-Express 3.0 4x M.2 SSD, take a look at our The Best SSDs For Your Money article.
Do you want a 1 TB or 2 TB SSD instead?
Get the Seagate Barracuda ST3000DM008 3TB SATA III Hard Drive from Amazon
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.
I recommend installing Windows on the SSD of course.
The Seagate 3TB offers great performance and great reliability at a reasonable cost.
Higher capacity alternatives:
Visit The Best Internal Hard Drives (HDD) For Your Money article for higher capacities alternatives.
Get the NZXT S340 (5 colors available) from Amazon
Why am I recommending this case?
It’s available in 5 colors, it comes with two fans for cooling, plenty of space to route/hide your cables, it’s smaller than a large ATX case, it looks good (in my opinion), it’s easy to assemble a system in it and it’s fairly inexpensive.
It’s a 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.
Features wise, you get:
- Two 2.5″ (SSD), two 3.5″ (Hard Drive) and one 5.25″ (optical) drive bays.
- One USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0 ports that connect to the motherboard via an USB headers that are on the motherboard.
- 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.
- Liquid cooling ready – supports a 120mm radiator (rear) or 240mm radiator (top).
- Cable routing holes and tie-downs.
- 2 x 120mm case fans are included to ventilate the case.
Get the EVGA 430W 80+ from Amazon
This power supply is capable of delivering up to 430W, 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 34A 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.
Get the EVGA 500W 80+ from Amazon
Value wise, this power supply is pretty much unbeatable. It is rated to deliver up to 500W, is rated for 40A on the 12V line and it is 80PLUS certified, all of that at a low cost.
This power supply is capable of delivering up to 550W, 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.
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:
Tier 5 and 6:
Get the EVGA SuperNOVA 650 G2 Modular 80+ Gold from Amazon
I picked this power supply because it’s highly reliable and offers top notch performance for a power supply, offering clean power with minimal fluctuation, ideal for overclocking.
Another pro is EVGA 7 years warranty.
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 54A on the 12V line, the most important factor when it comes to choosing a power supply for a gaming computer.
This is plenty enough power for the Tier 5 and 6 build, including if you want to overclock your CPU and/or video card.
It is 80 PLUS Gold 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.
Power Requirements, per Tier:
Based on my experience, my research and the eXtreme Power Supply Calculator , it is estimated that this system will require at load (peak power), the following amount of Watts from the PSU:
The minimum requirements are in Italic, while my recommendations for a PSU Watts Output (including overhead) are in Bold.
- 327W/430W with the Intel Core i5-7500 and the Geforce GTX 1060 (Tier 3).
- 357W/460W with the Intel Core i5-7600 and the Geforce GTX 1070 (Tier 4).
- 439W/600W with the Intel Core i5-7600K, overclocked to 4.3GHz/1.25v and the Geforce GTX 1080 (Tier 5).
- 430W/600W with the Intel Core i7-7700K, overclocked to 4.5GHz/1.25v and the Geforce GTX 1080 (Tier 6).
Minimum requirements vs my recommendations: Give your power supply plenty of overhead!
You could match a 500W PSU with a PC that requires 480W and at first it would work just fine, but that would be unwise. Your PSU will run too close to its limit, close to full capacity all the time and that will reduce its lifespan, increase its chance of failure, increase its heat output and its noise output.
Also keep in mind that as years go by, a power supply components age and the PSU loses some of its output capacity every year. So giving your power supply enough overhead will help it last many years.
Do not underestimate the importance of a high-quality power supply
The components in your PC run on DC power and your power supply is responsible for converting AC power into DC power. Your PC’s components depend on the power supply to deliver stable, low-noise, reliable power within specific values to run without fault, as well to protect them from power surges, power fluctuations and other electrical dangers.
How to calculate how powerful of a power supply you need:
If you decide to upgrade the CPU or video card to something else than what I recommend for a Tier, I recommend using the eXtreme Power Supply Calculator to help you figure out your needs.
Keep in mind that if you want to upgrade to more powerful and more demanding PC components, it could be wise to pick a more powerful PSU to begin with, so that you don’t have to worry about it when you decide to upgrade your CPU, video card, etc.Estimated Power Consumption, per Tier:
Tier 3 and 4:
CPU Cooler: Included with the CPU – Free
Use the CPU Cooler that is included with your CPU.
The CPU cooler that is included with your CPU is perfectly capable of keeping your processor at safe temperatures for many years of usage. Unless you live in an area of the world with particularly warm weather (40C/100F or more), without air conditioning, you don’t need an after-market CPU Cooler.
That said, you may want one an after-market CPU Cooler for many reasons:
2 reasons to upgrade your CPU Cooler:
1. To improve the reliability of your PC and the longevity of your CPU: If your CPU overheats, it will automatically slow down and eventually shutdown to avoid damage. This: 1. Lowers performance 2. May causes a system shutdown, losing all data that was unsaved. 3. Can potentially damage your CPU.
2. To lower noise, as the stock cooler can get noisy at times, especially during prolonged work sessions, in a warm room or if you overclock.
Get the CRYORIG H7 from Amazon
Why am I recommending the Cryorig H7?
Simply put, the Crorig H7 offers slightly better cooling performance than the Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO and does so while being considerably more quiet.
You need to spend quite a bit more to get better cooling performance. It does so while being relatively quiet, with its PWM fan only spinning faster when your CPU gets hotter.
It offers similar, if not better, performance at a lower price than entry-level water CPU Coolers like the Corsair Hydro H55 and H60, while being far more quiet.
This means that you can overclock your unlocked CPU pretty high before worrying about limited by your CPU cooler cooling abilities, without spending a fortune.
It’s also more quiet than the majority of all-in-one liquid CPU Coolers, so noise is not a problem either.
Tier 5 and 6 are designed with overclocking in mind and the Cryorig H7 will have no problem handling the additional heat coming from high levels of overclocking.
Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO
Shopping outside the USA?
Unfortunately, the Cryorig H7 isn’t currently available from B&H, who ship worldwide.
So if you can’t find the Cryorig H7 locally, the Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO is a good alternative. It’s not as good: it offers slightly less good cooling performance and it is a bit noisier, but it remains an excellent after-market CPU Cooler that I’ve been recommending for years.
Thermal Interface kit:
Note that the CPU Coolers that I recommend already include thermal compound, so you don’t need to buy any.
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.
Get the ASUS Xonar DGX 5.1 PCI-Express Sound Card from Amazon
I suggest installing the sound card in the bottom PCI-Express 1x slot of the motherboard.
While integrated audio has improved a lot over the years, it’s still no match for the sound quality of a dedicated sound card.
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 DGX?
It offers great sound quality at a reasonable price.
Considering that audio is a big part of your PC experience, I believe that more or less $40, 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 appreciate higher-quality sound, there are better sound cards that are available. See the alternatives below.
- Get the ASUS Xonar DSX 7.1 PCI-Express from Amazon, $64.99 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping) or $53.99 at Newegg – If you want a 7.1 sound card, with higher sound quality than the Xonar DGX.
- Get the Creative Labs Sound Blaster Z from Amazon, $79.95 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping), $119.95 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping) or $119.99 at Newegg
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:
- Creative Inspire T12 2.0 18W: Click here to get the price on Amazon
- Behringer MS16 2.0 16W: $79.99 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
- Mackie CR3 3-Inch 2.0 28W: Click here to get the price on Amazon or $99.99 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
- Cerwin Vega XD3 2.0 30W: Click here to get the price on Amazon or $99.00 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
2.1 speakers: 2 satellites and a subwoofer:
- Genius SW-G2.1 1250 2.1 38W: Click here to get the price on Amazon
- Logitech Z523 2.1 40W: Click here to get the price on Amazon
- Logitech Z623 2.1 200W: Click here to get the price on Amazon
- Harman Kardon Soundsticks III 2.1 40W: Click here to get the price on Amazon or $169.95 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
5.1 speakers: 5 satellites and a subwoofer:
- Logitech Z506 5.1 75W: Click here to get the price on Amazon
- Logitech Z906 5.1 500W: Click here to get the price on Amazon or $379.95 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
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.
- Koss KSC75 Clip on headphones: Click here to get the price on Amazon or $13.20 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
- Koss PortaPro: Click here to get the price on Amazon or $39.99 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
- Superlux HD668B: Click here to get the price on Amazon
- AKG K240: Click here to get the price on Amazon or $79.00 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
- Audio Technica AUD ATHAD500X: Click here to get the price on Amazon or $129.95 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
- Grado SR80e: Click here to get the price on Amazon or $99.00 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
- Sennheiser HD558: Click here to get the price on Amazon or $104.99 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
- Audio Technica ATH-AD700X: Click here to get the price on Amazon or $179.00 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
- Sennheiser HD 598: Click here to get the price on Amazon or $159.95 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
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.
- Koss UR-20: Click here to get the price on Amazon or $19.00 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
- Panasonic RP-HTX7 (In Black, Blue, Red, White, Cream, Pink or Green): Click here to get the price on Amazon or $42.79 to $49.99 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
- Audio-Technica ATH-M30x: Click here to get the price on Amazon or $69.00 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
- Audio-Technica ATH-M40x: Click here to get the price on Amazon or $99.00 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
- Audio Technica ATH-A700: Click here to get the price on Amazon
- Audio Technica ATH-M50x Black, Brown or White: Click here to get the price on Amazon
- Sennheiser HD25-1 II: Click here to get the price on Amazon or $249.95 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
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.
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.
- Panasonic RPHJE120K Black, Blue, Green, Orange, Pink, Red, Silver or Violet – Click here to get the price on Amazon
- Panasonic RPTCM125K Black, Blue, Pink, Purple or White: Click here to get the price on Amazon or $13.17 B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
- Symphonized NRG Premium with Mic (Wood + White) – Click here to get the price on Amazon
- Symphonized NRG Premium with Mic (Red + Black) – Click here to get the price on Amazon
- Bose SoundTrue: Click here to get the price on Amazon
- Yamaha EPH-100SL: Click here to get the price on Amazon or $149.95 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
- Shure SE315-K (Black or White): Click here to get the price on Amazon or $199.00 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
- Shure SE315-K (Black or White) with Mic & Remote Cable Kit: $242.99 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
- Shure SE535-V (Bronze, Clear or Red): Click here to get the price on Amazon or $499.99 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
- Shure SE535-V (Bronze) with Mic & Remote Cable Kit: $528.99 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
I recommend going for a pair of headphone with a 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: Click here to get the price on Amazon / $7.99 at B&H (Worldwide 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: Click here to get the price on Amazon / $44.99 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping) which offers excellent sound quality and is available in many colors.
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.
- Yapster TM-YP100A: Click here to get the price on Amazon
- Koss SB-45: Click here to get the price on Amazon or $23.19 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
- Sennheiser PC 151: Click here to get the price on Amazon / $51.49 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
- SteelSeries Siberia V2 Available in 9 colors: Click here to get the price on Amazon or $89.99 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
- Logitech 7.1 Surround G35: Click here to get the price on Amazon
- Logitech Wireless 7.1 Surround G930: Click here to get the price on Amazon
- Audio Technica ATHADG1 Open-Back Gaming Headset: Click here to get the price on Amazon
- Audio Technica ATHAG1 Closed-Back Gaming Headset: Click here to get the price on Amazon
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.
Need a WiFi adapter, router or Bluetooth adapter?
See our article on The Best WiFi Routers, Best WiFi Adapters and Bluetooth Adapters.
Recommended Operating System (OS):
Note that you need to install the 64-bit version, as 32-bit systems are limited to 4GB of memory, which is not enough.
I recommend the Full retail version, which allows you to install your Windows 10 on another computer (it can only be used on one computer at a time) or to upgrade your PC as much as you’d like.
I also recommend getting the USB Flash Drive version, seeing as the PC has no DVD drive and anyway, installation is far faster from a USB Flash Drive.
Windows 10 Full retail version, USB Flash Drive 64-Bit
Click here to see the price on Amazon or $119.00 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping) or
If you have your own USB key (at least 4GB), you can also download your copy of Windows with your activation key.
- Get the Windows 10 Home Retail Download from Amazon, $119.99 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping) or $119.99 at Newegg
For the best gaming performance, I recommend Windows 10.
It includes DirectX 12, it boots and shutdowns faster than Windows 7 and 8 as well as uses less resources.
Visually, it is a big improvement over Windows 8.1
Microsoft has been optimizing Windows 10 to improve performance. If you want the best performance, especially with Intel’s Skylake or future processors from Intel and AMD, Windows 10 is the way to go.
Launched on July 29th 2015, Windows 10 is Microsoft’s latest version of the popular Windows operating system.
The Start Menu is back, you get DirectX 12, the search function is improved, it boots faster, using it is a lot simpler than Windows 8.
It basically improved on what Windows 7 offered.
For more details on Windows 10, I recommend that you find a review of it online.
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.
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.
Steam is more Linux friendly than ever, with many games that have been or will be ported to run on Linux.
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.
While Linux does not offer the wide compatibility of Windows with video games, gaming on Linux is still possible, through projects such as Wine, . For more on the topic of Linux Gaming, I invite you to read this excellent article from AnandTech: Linux Gaming: Are we there yet?
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.
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.
- Consult our: FAQ: How to Build Your Own Computer
- Also, if this is your first build, here are 10 Quick Tips for 1st Time Builders to get you started.
- Finally, if your newly built computer won’t start, I invite you to read Help me: Why won’t my newly assembled PC start or boot?
Leave a comment!
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this article, feel free to leave a comment below to discuss the computer that you’re planning to build and ask any question.
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 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.
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