For gamers who have a good-sized budget, this guide is going to take you through everything you need to know in order to build a top gaming computer. Throughout the sections in this guide, you’ll literally get a look at all of the components that are necessary for your top gaming PC.
With modern PC games advancing at such a rapid rate, there is no surprise that there are multiple games on the market that most standard cookie-cutter computers can barely handle.
And, as PC gamers we like to have and experience the best… We like to play our games on the highest settings possible, with the highest framerate possible.
Fortunately, top gaming computers have never been more affordable…
Especially when you take it upon yourself to build your own gaming computer, which will ultimately save you a ton of money on the markup prices that you would’ve paid for a pre-built computer.
The good news is that building a computer is a very doable thing for just about anyone. Seriously… if you can operate a screwdriver and read, then I’m pretty confident that you can build your own gaming computer.
In this guide I’ll be going over all of the different options you have for each component if you’re building a high-end system. In the end, you’ll have a plan of action, as well as a number of different components to choose between, and you’ll be well on your way to building a top gaming computer that is capable of delivering excellent levels of performance.
To get started, let’s take a look at some pre-made part lists you can use as is or modify to your own needs…
i.PRE-MADE PART LISTS
For those of you who just want to get right into building your system, I’ve put together five different pre-made part lists so that you can bypass the component selection process and get right into playing on your new self-built gaming computer.
These part lists are updated with the top components at the best prices on a regular basis. So, if you’re looking at these builds you can bet they’ll give you maximum performance for the budget you’ve set.
*It should be noted that these builds do not include a monitor, keyboard, mouse, or operating system. However, I have made some peripheral recommendations for each build. You will definitely need an operating system to get your computer up and running. Also, if you’re building a high-end system, make sure you pick up a high resolution monitor so that you get the most out of your gaming experience.
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I. HOW TO USE THIS GUIDE
This guide is going to cover many of the components that enthusiasts use in their gaming computers. With so many components on the market, there are a ton of options you have. Therefore, this guide is ridiculously long.
In order to make this guide more readable I have included a Table of Contents (which can be found below) and each component has its own navigational guide. You can skip jump to the component section you’re most eager to read about, or you can skim through the entire guide using the scroll function on your mouse/keyboard.
At the end of the guide, I have put together five different high-end builds, ranging from $1,000 on the low-end to $2,000 on the high-end. These builds can be used as is, or they can be customized to your liking.
The amount of money that you are planning on spending on your top gaming computer is going to determine the kind of performance you get out of it. Obviously, the more you spend, the more games you’ll be able to play on higher settings and the higher the framerates you’ll get.
Setting your budget will give you a price to work with when selecting your components and it will make it easier to make decisions on each part. So, set a budget that you are comfortable with and use that as a guideline for which components you can choose. For this guide, we’ll be looking at systems that come in over $1,000.
By building yourself a top gaming computer, you’ll have a machine capable of playing all today’s top games on the highest settings. However, it’s important to note that if you’re looking for the most performance for the least cost, there is such a thing as spending too much on your system.
If you’re looking for a top gaming computer that can max out most of today’s games, you can easily achieve that with around $1,000.
*Although, that price point will change depending on the type of resolution you want to play on (1920×1080, 2560×1440, etc.) The higher the resolution you want to play on, the more you’ll have to spend.
So, while it may be fun to tack on money to your budget by setting up fully customized liquid cooling loops, running 4-way SLI/CrossFire setups, spending $500+ on your case, or adding any other expensive items/features, if it’s ideal in-game performance that you’re looking for, you don’t need to spend money on all of the extras. In my opinion, staying between $1,000-$2,000 on your build is a good idea if you’re main concern is maxing out today’s top games.
However, (and as previously mentioned) if you want to run your games on higher resolutions or run multiple monitor setups, you should expect to spend a littler more.
Ultimately, though, there is nothing wrong with going all out and building the baddest gaming computer around. If you do choose to build a ridiculously high-end gaming computer, just know that the difference in conceivable performance between a $2,000 gaming computer and a $4,000 gaming computer is not nearly as noticeable as the difference in conceivable performance between a $500 gaming computer and a $1,500 gaming computer.
Let’s Get Started Choosing Components
In the rest of this guide, we’ll take an individual look at each component category and go over the different options you have if you’re building a top gaming PC. Each component is going to be broken down into a separate section.
First up, we’ll look at the best high-end gaming processors and then we’ll proceed to look at all of the other components you’ll need.
In this part of our Top Gaming Computers guide, we’re going to take a look at all of the different CPU options you have for your top-of-the-line gaming PC.
The processor you choose for your gaming computer is going to play a big role in how well your system performs.
It’s true that the video card is going to have the biggest impact on your in-game experience.
However, if you don’t choose a good enough processor, it won’t matter how awesome your video card is, because a low-quality processor will actually hold your entire system back.
The good news is that there are plenty of high-end processor options you have if you’re building a top-notch gaming computer. Typically, for a top gaming computer, you’ll want to spend at least $200 on your processor.
In this guide I will take a look at all of the CPU options you have for your top gaming PC.
Any of the processors listed in this article will give you ideal in-game performance and will not bottleneck your video card.
While AMD’s AM3+ socket has been the subject of much scrutiny over the past couple of years, it does support one capable high-end gaming processor: the FX-8350.
While there are definitely other capable processors in the AM3+ socket (FX-4130, FX-6300, FX-8320), those processors are better suited for budget gaming computers.
So, if you do want to go with a top gaming computer based off of AMD’s AM3+ socket, then the FX-8350 is your best bet. And, while I’d definitely recommend the Intel alternatives for new system-builders, the FX-8350 does bring some unique performance to the table.
Intel’s latest CPU micro architecture, Haswell, has completely changed sockets. Whereas the previous lines of processors used the LGA 1155 socket, Intel has now moved to the LGA 1150 socket.
While Haswell processors were ridiculed when they were first released for not offering as much overclocking potential as Ivy Bridge or Sandy Bridge, their ~10% performance increase still makes them the better option for anyone putting together a new system.
There are four different LGA 1150 processors that I recommend looking at if you are building a top gaming computer. They are listed below.
Despite the fact that Intel has come out with the newer Haswell architecture and the LGA 1150 socket, Ivy Bridge processors on the LGA 1155 socket are still very viable options for gamers looking to build a top gaming computer.
While Haswell CPUs tend to operate, on average, at a rate of about 10% higher than Ivy Bridge CPUs, the Ivy Bridge processors are known for having more overclocking headroom due to the fact that they operate at lower temperatures (and so they can close a little bit of that 10% performance gap), they are priced lower, and they are still plenty capable of running any game at max settings.
So, if you’re not interested in squeezing out every ounce of performance and you want to redirect a little bit of money to other parts of your build, then these four LGA 1155 processors will definitely do the trick.
In this section of the Top Gaming Computers guide I’m going to list all of the viable motherboard options you have if you’re going to be building an awesome gaming computer. These motherboards are top quality and they have all the bells and whistles.
The motherboard you choose for your gaming computer will have a big impact on the overall quality of your system.
Your motherboard basically sets the table for your whole system.
It determines what parts you can and cannot choose and it dictates what kind of performance you can get out of your components.
So, if you’re looking to build a top gaming computer, you need to make sure that you get a motherboard that is capable of supporting the features and performance you want.
The good news is that there are a ton of different motherboard options you have if you’re looking to build a high-end system.
This section has been broken down to give you the best motherboards for the following sockets: AM3+, LGA 1150, and LGA 1155.
While the AM3+ socket may not be the first choice among gamers, that doesn’t mean that you can’t go with an AM3+ build and not get ideal in-game results.
Despite the fact that Intel’s LGA 1150 and LGA 1155 sockets get all the love, an AM3+ build with an FX-8350 (and a high-end video card) is definitely good enough to max out any game on the market.
And, while I ultimately recommend an Intel-based build if you have a large budget, there’s definitely nothing wrong with going AMD.
If you’re looking for the most performance as humanly (or computerly) possible out of your high-end gaming computer, without going into the realm of ridiculous prices, then Intel’s LGA 1150 socket is what you should be looking at.
As the newest microarchitecture from Intel, Haswell currently offers the most processing performance for gamers (outside of the extreme CPUs on the market). However, there are two downsides to Haswell CPUs.
First, due to running a little hotter than Ivy Bridge processors, they don’t have as much overclocking headroom. And, secondly, they do cost more than Ivy Bridge processors (which is to be expected).
Haswell does bring a ~10% performance advantage over Ivy Bridge, but since that advantage is not drastic in terms of the in-game experience, it doesn’t make the new architecture a must-have. With that being said, I’d still recommend Haswell for any new setups, with Ivy Bridge being a close second. It really all depends on if you want to spend a few extra bucks for the new architecture and small performance gain.
Despite the arrival of Intel’s new Haswell architecture, Intel’s older Ivy Bridge line of CPUs are still very relevant gaming processors. And, due to heat issues with Haswell chips, Ivy Bridge CPUs can bridge some of the performance gap (but not all) that exists between the two architectures.
The main reason why you’d want to choose an LGA 1155 CPU over a similar LGA 1150 CPU is price. A few of the high-end Ivy Bridge CPUs can be had for $20 less than their Haswell equivalents. And, with LGA 1155 motherboards being cheaper, on average, than LGA 1150 motherboards, you can save a good chunk of change by sticking with an Ivy-Bridge-based build.
Either way you choose, though, you can’t go wrong, as both architectures have processors capable of giving optimal in-game performance.
Next up in the Top Gaming Computers guide is video cards. In today’s article I’m going to take a look at all of the high-end video card options that you have for your extreme gaming PC.
There is no component that dictates your overall in-game performance like your video card does.
The video card you choose is incredibly important and it’s essential that you take your time to ensure that you get the best one possible for your budget.
Fortunately, there are a ton of different video card options you have. And, each one brings its own benefits.
One question that most first-time builders will ask is whether they should go with an AMD or NVIDIA. For a detailed answer on that question, check out this post.
Ultimately, though, for cards over $200, the two manufacturers are so close on performance that it doesn’t make sense to say that one company is better than the other.
Now we’ll take a look at the RAM options you have if you’re building a top gaming computer. The memory options in this section are all capable of doing their part to help you secure an ideal in-game experience.
One thing that gamers who are building a top gaming computer often ask, is whether or not faster memory has any effect on in-game performance. The answer to that question is pretty simple: no, it does not.
There are plenty of benchmarks all over the world wide web that point to the fact that, in gaming, faster memory just doesn’t offer any significant performance advantage.
Now, of course, there is an exception to that. And, that exception has to do with systems that are using integrated graphics. In systems that utilize integrated graphics (especially AMD’s APUs), faster memory does actually have an effect.
However, since you’re building a top gaming computer, you will be using a discrete video card and therefore will not gain any real advantage by choosing faster memory.
So, how then should you choose your memory?
Well, that’s actually pretty easy… choose the most affordable memory from a reputable brand that offers a good warranty and has a color scheme you like. You’ll also want to choose enough RAM to suit all your needs.
In the past, I would usually avoid recommending more than 8GB of RAM unless you were doing some video editing or carrying out other intensive operations. There just aren’t any games out there that are going to use more than 8GB of RAM. However, with the growing popularity of RAM discs and the cool benefits they offer, it may be time to ditch the popular notion that 8GB is all you need for gaming…
With that being said, I recommend at least 8GB of RAM and if you are planning on doing any video editing, or you want to setup a RAM disc, then I recommend going with either 16GB or 32GB. Below you’ll see all of the brands of memory I recommend buying.
*On a side note, some kits of memory have tall heat spreaders on them and, as such, can get in the way of your CPU cooler. So, make sure to take that into consideration when choosing your RAM. (For the most part I’ve only chosen memory kits without tall heat spreaders.)
Top Memory Options
Next we’ll take a look at some hard drives. Hard drives aren’t the most difficult components to choose as there are really only two main decisions you have to make: what brand you want and how much storage space you need.
After that, you just need to decide whether you want 1TB, 2TB, 3TB, or more of storage space. And, with the rise of SSDs, choosing a faster hard drive (like the Velociraptors) is kind of pointless.
Ultimately, your best bet is to get enough storage to hold all of your files and then get an SSD to store all of your important programs/games. Below is a look at the two hard drive manufacturers you have to choose from…
Gaming Hard Drive Options
Not only is the case you choose the first thing anyone will see of your system, it’s also critical in the cooling process, and it dictates the size and the amount of components you can use. Therefore, it’s important that you take time in order to ensure that you choose a case that meets the demands of the system that you want.
The good thing about having a large budget when building a gaming computer is that you will likely have enough to spend on a nice-looking high-end case.
Cases serve multiple purposes…
A case’s size will dictate what kind of components you can have and how portable it will be.
Cases also play a huge role in the cooling process and the better they are designed to promote airflow and the more options they give you for a cooling system, the cooler and better off your system will be.
Cases are also what makes your gaming computer stand out. So, if you want to show off how awesome your gaming computer is, there is no better way to do so than to put your system into a badass looking case.
In this section, I’m going to take a look at all of the high-end case options you have. Some of these cases are monstrous, while others are portable, making them perfect for LAN gamers. No matter what kind of style you like, there is definitely a case here for you.
I’ll go by each high-end case from the different reputable and well-known case manufacturers. I’ll feature two cases from each manufacturer and link to all of the other viable case choices each manufacturer presents.
More Antec Cases
Antec P280 Black ATX Mid Tower (~$100)
More Cooler Master Cases
CM Storm Enforcer Mid Tower (~$90)
Cooler Master HAF XM Mid Tower (~$110)
Cooler Master HAF X Full Tower (~$160)
CM Storm Stryker Full Tower (~$170)
More Corsair Cases
More Fractal Design Cases
Fractal Design Core 3000 (~$70)
Fractal Design Arc Midi R2 (~$110)
Fractal Design Define XL R2 (~$130)
More Lian Li Cases
Lian Li PC-K59 Mid Tower (~$70)
Lian Li PC-9F ATX Mid Tower (~$110)
More NZXT Cases
NZXT Phantom 410 Mid Tower (~$85)
NZXT H2 Classic Silent Mid Tower (~$100)
NZXT Phantom ATX Full Tower (~$100)
NZXT SWITCH 810 Full Tower (~$145)
NZXT Phantom 530 Full Tower (~$130)
NZXT Phantom 630 Full Tower (~$175)
More SilverStone Cases
In this section we will cover the different high-end power supply options you have if you’re building a top gaming computer. I’ve broken down the power supplies by price range. For each price range you’ll see two features power supplies and a list of others below it.
If you’re building a top gaming computer, you’re going to need a lot of power to ensure that it runs at its full capacity.
Unfortunately, power supplies are the least understood and most wrongly picked components.
A lot of gamers end up picking cheap power supplies that have high wattage ratings thinking they got a steal of a deal…
This couldn’t be further from the truth…
More often than not, the no-named manufacturers of cheap power supplies put much higher wattage ratings on their units than the unit actually deserves. They do this, of course, to sell more of their product.
However, for anyone expecting to power a top gaming computer with a cheap power supply, you run the risk of seriously damaging your system.
If you’re going to build a top gaming computer, you need to use a high-quality power supply to power it.
And, while better quality power supplies do cost more upfront, they are much more efficient, and fail far less often than cheaper units. So, in the long run you save money by buying a better power supply now.
Listed below are a number of power supplies I recommend if you are building a top gaming PC.
Antec NEO ECO 520W (~$65)
OCZ ModXStream Pro 600W (~$70)
OCZ ZT Series 650W (~$75)
Antec NEO ECO 620W (~$80)
OCZ ZT Series 750W (~$80)
OCZ Fatal1ty 750W (~$90)
XFX XXX Edition 750 Watt (~$110)
Corsair RM Series 750 Watt (~$130)
SeaSonic X650 650 Watt (~$130)
XFX XXX Edition 850 Watt (~$135)
Corsair RM Series 850 Watt (~$155)
Corsair RM Series 1000 Watt (~$195)
Seasonic X-Series 1250 Watt (~$290)
Antec HCP-1000W PLATINUM (~$290)
Enermax MaxRevo 1350 Watt (~$305)
Enermax MaxRevo 1500 Watt (~$335)
For gamers with a higher budget, optical drives are just more of throw-in components due to their convenience. In all reality, optical drives are slowly dying. With games and software moving to a digital download format, the optical drive isn’t nearly as important as it once was.
However, that doesn’t mean that you won’t need an optical drive for your system. If you have older games in disc format that you’ll want to put on your new system, or if you want to use your PC as a home theater where you can play Blurays/DVDs from Red Box, or from your home collection, then you’ll need an optical drive.
And, while it’s not 100% necessary, having an optical drive makes installing your operating system a little easier. If you don’t choose an optical drive for your build, you’ll have to install your operating system from a USB drive. This actually isn’t that difficult of a process and you can read a guide on how to do it here.
The bottom line, though, is that if you have a larger budget, throwing in a $15-$20 optical drive isn’t going to hurt you any. So, you might as well include one.
Here are a few options:
There’s really nothing fancy you need to look for when choosing an optical drive. The only thing you might want to consider is the color of the front plate of the optical drive. If you’re going for style points, you’ll want to match the optical drive to your case.
If you’re choosing a Blu-ray drive just remember that you’ll need software to go along with it. In some cases the BD-ROM will come with the necessary software. However, in other scenarios (like with both of the BD-ROMs above) the software is not included. You can always download and install VLC for free. Or, if you don’t get the software with the BD-ROM you buy software like Cyberlink PowerDVD.
You have to have an operating system if you want to actually use your gaming computer. Currently there are really only a couple of viable options for operating systems if you’re building a gaming computer: Windows 7 and Windows 8.1.
Both options are suitable for gaming, but both also have a couple of aspects that you might want to consider before buying…
Windows 8 launched to quite a bit of criticism. It had a ton of bugs, it completely changed its interface (which confused people), and it had upset Valve (who owns Steam) by releasing some restrictive licensing rules.
Now that the smoke has cleared a little bit and Microsoft’s new operating system has been out for over a year, there’s a couple reasons why you might want to choose Windows 8 for your next gaming computer.
First, off, with the 8.1 update a lot (not all) of the nuisances of Windows 8 have been fixed. 8.1 fully supports DirectX 11.1, while Windows 7 does not (at least not fully). And, in games like Battlefield 4, there is actually a noticeable performance increase when using Windows 8.1
Microsoft’s reluctance to provide updated support for Windows 7 is another sign for concern. It’s clear Microsoft wants everyone to be using Windows 8. This isn’t good news for Windows 7, as it is likely that in the future, Microsoft will stop updating it to support the latest advancements.
Ultimately, despite it’s many annoying problems, I’m now recommending Windows 8.1 for all new gaming computer builds, simply because I believe Windows 7 is going to be left behind in future updates. However, Windows 7 is still not a bad choice, and if it gets to the point to where your performance is being limited, you can always upgrade.
Windows 7 is definitely the more popular decision for operating systems among enthusiasts. It’s stable and much more familiar than the new Windows 8. And, in terms of performance, there aren’t many (but there are some, see above…) instances where Windows 8 clearly pulls ahead. At least not as of yet.
As of right now, Windows 7 is still, perhaps, the best choice for an operating system. Though, that’s likely to change in the future, as it looks like Microsoft is going to stop releasing important updates for Windows 7 in an effort to get more people to switch to Windows 8.
In the end, the decision comes down to you. Do you prefer an easier-to-use and more comfortable operating system? Or, are you concerned about the future and want to make sure you have the best OS (performance-wise) going forward?
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