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Best Gaming PC: The ultimate PC building guide – October 2016



Building the best gaming PC for your budget isn't as hard as you might think. But with so many components to choose from, where do you start? Right here, that’s where. We’ve picked out the best bits to buy whatever your budget. So whether you’ve scrabbled together £500 or got £1,500 burning a hole in your pocket, read on to find out what you should be buying.

Each month we scour the online shops to find the best deals for the best combination of components to suit three main budgets: under £500, under £1,000 and Under £,1500. We’ve also included a VR-centric build that’s based on Oculus VR’s recommended specs, and it comes in around the £750 mark.

The components are all carefully balanced to ensure you’re getting the absolute best gaming performance possible for your money, but also without compromising too much in other key areas like day to day performance, power consumption and futureproofing.

The whole gaming PC market has been realigned recently thanks to the introduction of Nvidia's GTX 1080 / GTX 1070 and AMD's Radeon RX 480 graphics cards. Each is now the best choice at their respective price points so for us to include them in our systems we've had to change things around a bit.

In the case of our cheapest system that means we've freed up enough budget to move to the latest Intel CPU platform, leaving just our Oculus Rift/HTC Vive-ready PC as the only one using older tech (and even then that's only because it's the minimum spec Oculus specifies).

Elsewhere we've had to do the opposite, saving money elsewhere to squeeze the best graphics cards into our budgets.

Watch: Your graphics card questions answered

Note: Prices correct as of 03 Oct 2016

What else you’ll need to build your PC

Our recommended systems include all the key components you’ll need to put inside your PC case, but to fully get up and running there are a few other bits you’ll need and things you’ll have to consider before gaming glory is yours.

The Essentials

Although most motherboards and cases come with enough cables and screws to mount and connect everything you’ll need, it’s worth double-checking. If you can find the “what’s in the box” list for all the components you’ve chosen you should be able to see if they have enough for what you need.

Things to look out for are whether your motherboard includes enough cables for connecting your hard drives or optical drives. You may also have to buy a cable to connect your monitor, and you should also check if you have a mains cable or that one comes with the power supply you’re buying.

If you’re connecting up your computer to a network via an Ethernet cable also check that you have one or one that’s long enough. If you don’t want to trail cables everywhere you can always use Powerline networking instead.


Considering how complicated they look, PCs are actually fairly simple things to put together, with the minimum of tools required. Most components either slot into place or just require a few screws to be held down.

As such there are just a couple of tools you’ll want to have on-hand when building your system.

The first is a decent screwdriver, preferably one with a long shaft so that it can reach those awkward screw positions deep inside your case. Something like the Stanley Fatmax PH2x250mm is ideal.

Buy Now: Stanley Fatmaz PH2x250mm at Amazon.co.uk (£6) | Amazon.com ($8)


Next you’ll want a half decent set of fine pliers. They are great for fishing out dropped screws as well as threading cables through tight gaps and occasionally on cheap cases you may have to pry some metal sections off.

Buy Now: Long Nose Pliers at Amazon.co.uk (£2) | Amazon.com ($5.99)

You may also want to grab something soft to rest your case on to stop it getting scratched while you’re installing everything, and something to keep all your screws in is a must. There’s no need to spend money, though: a towel and a yoghurt pot (empty) will suffice.


Each of our systems is complete but if you want to kick things up a notch then there are a few upgrades you can invest in.

The first is extra fans. Most cases of any price only come with one or two fans but have mounts for many more. Generally, it’s diminishing returns to go above four but if your chosen case only includes one then you’re almost guaranteed to make a huge improvement to cooling, and thus the stability, noise and life of your PC, by adding a couple more.

Something else you might want to invest in is high-performance thermal paste. That’s the stuff that sits between your CPU and its heatsink/fan. It’s there to fill any air gaps and thus increase the flow of heat away from the CPU.

All CPU coolers include some form of thermal interface material (TIM – the technical name) but after-market solutions can help reduce CPU temps by up to 5C. You can even use it on your GPU too, if you dare remove the cooler from it.

The best-performing are literally like liquid metal and can be a nightmare to use but something like Artic Silver 5 is cheap, easy to use and should perform noticeably better than the stuff included with your CPU cooler.


If you are starting from scratch with your PC build then you’ll need to factor in a bit of extra budget for all the bits you actually use to interact with the machine – all the peripherals. The three essentials are a monitor, keyboard and mouse, but you may also want to buy some speakers, a gaming headset, and more.

Starting with those essentials, though, you can pick up a basic monitor for little more than £50 but realistically you’ll probably be looking to spend at least £150. We won’t dive deep into how to choose a monitor here but essentially each of our builds is roughly optimised for one of three resolutions. The cheapest will run most games at their maximum detail settings at 1,920 x 1,080 (Full HD), the £1000 system will run most at 2,560 x 1,440 (1440p), while the top end system will run many at 3,840 x 2,160 (4k).

Check our best monitors round-up for a list of the best from each category.


The worst setup you can imagine for a gaming PC, but you get the idea

So if you only have a 1080p monitor but have £1000 to spend on a system you may want to consider using some of that money to upgrade your display – say £250 for the monitor and £750 for the rest of the build.

We have various guides on the best gaming mice, gaming keyboards and gaming headsets, which should get you started.


One final essential you’ll need to get up and running is some software, namely an operating system of some sort. For gaming there really is no all-encompassing alternative to Windows so you’ll need to factor that into your budget. An OEM license that only works once – so if you upgrade all your components it’ll stop working – costs around £40 while a full license is around £100.

The 1080p Gaming PC – Best Gaming PC under £500 / $650

CPU: Intel Pentium G4400 – £55 at Amazon.co.uk | $57 at Amazon.com

Motherboard: ASRock H170A-X1 – £73 at Scan.co.uk | $73 at Amazon.com

RAM: Kingston Fury 8GB 2400MHz, 2 x 4GB – £39 at Ebuyer.com | $48 at Amazon.com

Graphics card: AMD Radeon RX 470 4GB – £175 at Amazon.co.uk | $199 at Amazon.com

SSD: 120GB Samsung 750 Evo £45 at Amazon.co.uk | $54 at Amazon.com

HDD: WD Blue 1TB – £43 at Amazon.co.uk | $50 at Amazon.com

Power Supply: Corsair VS450 – £34 at Amazon.co.uk | $50 at Amazon.com

Case: BitFenix Nova – £30 at Amazon.co.uk | $45 at Amazon.com

Cooler: Included with CPU

Total: £494 / $576

We've seen a raft of small prices rises compared to our last update in August. As such we've dropped our choice of graphics card down a notch from the RX 480 4GB to the RX 470 4GB, saving us around £25. That means we're precisely £6 lower overall than last time, though still over budget slightly.

Regardless, we've still managed to put together a nicely balanced system that's based on Intel's latest processor and socket, DDR4 RAM and a brand new graphics card.

Watch: AMD Radeon RX 480 graphics card review

Potential swaps: In terms of performance, there's actually very little to choose between the RX 470 4GB, RX 480 4GB, RX 480 8GB, Nvidia GTX 1060 3GB and Nvidia GTX 1060 6GB – there's only about 5fps difference on average between each step. However, there is a fairly big price difference, with the RX 480 8GB and GTX 1060 6GB hitting £250 or so.

As such you could pretty much choose any of those cards – and those looking to "future-proof" themselves might want to pick one of the ones with more VRAM – but to keep within budget we opted for the cheapest. It'll still comfortably get you 40-60fps in most games at 1080p and set to high detail settings.

Otherwise there's not too much you could change on this system without either dropping down another level in graphics performance or dropping back to an older CPU socket and DDR3 RAM.

The most obvious option would be to scrap the SSD and just go with a hard drive. Then that £50 could be spent on the CPU or graphics. However, we'd definitely recommend keeping things balanced and keeping the SSD. If you can find a spare £20, an after market CPU cooler would be a good addition to this system.

Video: Intel Core i models explained

The Quad HD Gaming PC – Best Gaming PC under £1,000 / $1,200

CPU: Intel Core i5-6400£154 at Amazon.co.uk | $179 at Amazon.com

Motherboard: ASRock Z170 PRO4S – £94 at Amazon.co.uk | $107 at Amazon.com

RAM: Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB 2666MHz – £76 at Amazon.co.uk | $82 at Amazon.com

Graphics card: KFA2 GTX 1070 – £350 at Overclockers.co.uk | $405 at Amazon.com

Storage: Samsung 850 Evo 250GB£85 at Amazon.co.uk | $100 at Amazon.com

HDD: Toshiba 2TB HDD – £55 at Amazon.co.uk | $66 at Amazon.com

Power Supply: EVGA Supernova GS 650W 80 Plus Gold – £96 at Amazon.co.uk | $85 at Amazon.com

Case: Corsair 400C Black Window£85 at Amazon.co.uk | $107 at Amazon.com

Cooler: CoolerMaster Hyper 212 Evo – £30 at Amazon.co.uk | $28 at Amazon.com

Total: £1,025 / $1,159

In our August update we opted for the GTX 1060 6GB GPU, as the step up to the £400 GTX 1070 was just too much. This month, however, we've managed to find a GTX 1070 for £350. That still means having to save £100 elsewhere, but you get a big leap in gaming performance.

Those savings have been made in the motherboard, which has dropped by about £15 and we've ditched the all-in-one liquid cooler for the CPU and instead opted for an air cooler, saving £50. We're still a touch over budget but close enough to call it.

This way you're getting a seriously powerful system with few compromises and consistent performance for gaming at 1440p.

Watch: Nvidia GTX 1070 review

Potential swaps: The obvious potential swap is to go back to a GTX 1060, although there's not necessarily anything we'd particularly recommend you immediately spend the money you've saved on. You'd get the liquid cooler back but that won't gain you a huge amount of performance – your machine will just run a bit cooler and quieter so might deal with heavier workloads slightly better.

Alternatively, if you really do want to stick with that graphics performance but want to keep under budget then you could opt for a Core i3-6100, which would save £60. However, it's not something we'd particularly advise unless you can see yourself quickly being able to afford to upgrade your CPU in the future.

Otherwise, the key to this build is that the motherboard is based on the latest Z170 chipset and so supports all Intel’s latest CPUs, and likely its next generation of chips too – based on the so-called Kaby Lake architecture. Plus, it includes support for the latest USB 3.1, has an M.2 slot for super fast SSD storage upgrades, and generally has masses of upgrade potential.

The 4K Gaming PC – Best Gaming PC under £1,500 / $2,000

CPU: Intel Core i5-6600K£203 at Amazon.co.uk | $204 at Amazon.com

Motherboard: Asus Maximus VIII Hero£187 at Amazon.co.uk | $254 at Amazon.com

RAM: Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB 3200MHz – £88 at Amazon.co.uk | $90 at Amazon.com

Graphics Card: Palit GeForce GTX 1080 – £560 at Amazon.co.uk | $670 at Amazon.com

SSD: Samsung 950 Pro 256GB – £176 at Amazon.co.uk | $185 at Amazon.com

HDD: Toshiba 3TB HDD – £70 at Amazon.co.uk | $88 at Amazon.com

Power Supply: EVGA GQ 80 Plus Gold 650W – £73 at Amazon.co.uk | $80 at Amazon.com

Case: Corsair 400C Black Window – £85 at Amazon.co.uk | $107 at Amazon.com

Cooler: Corsair Hydro H100i v2 – £95 at Amazon.co.uk | $101 at Amazon.com

Total: £1,537 / $1,779

Where in our last update this build had seen prices rises almost across the board, the picture's a little rosier this time round, with some rising and some falling. We're still over-budget a bit but only by £52 this time, not last month's £101.

Again, the heart of this system is the pairing of the Intel 6600K CPU and Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080, both of which have dropped a little in price. The latter is a heck of a lot of money but it's simply the fastest graphics card out there right now and will give you lightning fast performance for years to come.

Something to consider if you're looking to build a system of this calibre right now is the SSD. Samsung has just announced the 960 Pro and 960 Evo range of SSDs to replace the 950 Pro, so we can expect to see some bargains on the 950 Pro range. They're arriving in the next few weeks so keep an eye out for our review.

Otherwise this is a great hugely powerful system that'll play most games at 4K and run lightning fast at resolutions below that.

Watch: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 review

Potential swaps: If you're looking to make a few savings there are a couple of things you could do. First is drop from the Corsair liquid cooler to the CoolerMaster air cooler used in the £1,000 system. That'll save you £80. You could also drop to a slower SSD such as the Samsung 850 Evo, and save another £75

Asus Maximus VIII Hero

Otherwise, you're looking at downgrading that GTX 1080 to a GTX 1070, which will save around £200. We'd recommend the above savings first, though, before you take such a big hit in graphics performance.

Oculus Rift-ready PC

If you're looking to put together a new system or tweak your existing PC so that you can take full advantage of an Oculus Rift, thankfully Oculus has provided a handy guide to the minimum specs you'll need and, as of now, this is how much it'll set you back.

CPU: Intel Core i5-4590£180 at Amazon.co.uk | $199 at Amazon.com

Motherboard: MSi Z97-G43 Intel Z97 – £87 at Amazon.co.uk | $95 at Newegg.com

RAM: Kingston HyperX Fury White 1866MHz, 2 x 4GB – £39 at Amazon.co.uk | $40 at Amazon.com

Graphics Card: Nvidia GTX 970 £219 at Amazon.co.uk | $260 at Amazon.com

SSD: 120GB Kingston SSDNow V300£40 at Amazon.co.uk | $45 at Amazon.com

HDD: WD Blue 1TB – £42 at Amazon.co.uk | $50 at Amazon.com

Power Supply: Corsair VS450 / CX-M 550M – £34 at Amazon.co.uk | $60 at Newegg.com

Case: BitFenix Nova – £30 Amazon.co.uk | $45 at Amazon.com

Cooler: Included with CPU

Total: £671 / $794

It's eight months since the Oculus Rift was released so the company's recommended system is really starting to look a bit long in the tooth. Indeed this will likely be the last time we directly put together a system using the recommended specs, simply because stock of the GTX 970 in particular is drying up. From this point onwards we'll go straight to suggesting the best available alternative.

Oculus Rift

Potential swaps: As of now, the best alternative would be to jump straight to upgrading the core of this system to a Skylake, 6000-series Intel processor, Z170 motherboard and DDR4 RAM, so that you're much more future-proofed. The Intel Core i5-6600K from the top-end build plus the ASrock motherboard and RAM from the £1,000 system would fit the bill, which would bring the total cost of this Oculus system up to £970. If that's a bit much then you can go for the Intel i3-6100 or i5-6400 instead, saving £50-£150.

Otherwise, the most obvious swap would be to go for the AMD RX 480 of GTX 1060. Neither is a huge amount faster than the GTX 970 but both have VR-centric software optimisations, and more video memory that's better suited for the high resolutions.

If you’re looking for more advice on which graphics card, motherboard, or RAM to buy, check out our Best Graphics Card and Best Z170 Motherboard round-ups.

Neil Richardson

February 24, 2016, 4:34 pm

Never, ever, EVER scrimp on your PSU. Terrible advice above to save money on the PSU. The PSU is the only component that can make all the other expensive hardware go pop when the going gets tough and a good clean power source will support the best and most stable overclocks.

Also RAM speed has never been more important since the arrival of Skylake, especially if you plan on overclocking the non-K versions using the Base Clock overclocking method. Even without overclocking modern games see double-figure frame rate jumps between 1600mhz and 2666mhz RAM speeds.


February 24, 2016, 5:31 pm

All depends what you consider scrimp. Buy one from a reputable retailer like scan or overclockers and even their basic models will do the job, connections, power rating, etc notwithstanding. Admittedly those factors do realistically rule out most of the really budget models as they don't have sufficient power or connectors, which is why the £500 system still uses a known-brand PSU. Although having checked back I now realise the one I've recommended only has one 6pin cable for the GPU where the R9 380X requires two so I'll need to tweak that.

As regards overclocking, while I appreciate that gaming and 'enthusiast' and overclocking largely go together, at the end of the day the aim here is to get the best gaming performance. As such overclocking comes a distant second, particularly when you're talking about a really budget build. That's why the general advice is to save on RAM.

Nonetheless, it's also whey as we've moved up the scale all the components have been upgraded, as there's more headroom for assigning budget for those components.


February 24, 2016, 5:51 pm

Yes, poor wording on our part and I've tweaked that section. Point was not to overspend, rather than buy cheap no brand stuff.


February 25, 2016, 10:36 am

Assume you mean Core i5-6600K, not i7-6600K, right? Pretty sure there isn't an i7-6600K. You might point out that the key difference (between i7-6700K at £300 and the i5-6600K at £200), aside from a small clock speed delta, is the i7 has hyperthreading and the i5 doesn't. For gaming workloads this will make negligible difference. For some specific types of well threaded workloads (3D rendering being a prime example), however, the benefit may be significant.


February 25, 2016, 10:45 am

Yup, I literally just corrected that. Damn Intel and its confusing naming system.

Neil Richardson

February 26, 2016, 12:17 pm

The beauty of going with a budget build for me though is the potential for overclocking. Despite Intel's best efforts recently, the whole point of overclocking was to get expensive performance from budget components. Your budget system has plenty of potential for overclocking and anyone considering that build should definitely explore the possibility.


February 26, 2016, 12:46 pm

By all means people can explore it but at the end of the day, overclocking with a locked multiplier tends to provide modest results. So much so that pursuing the potential for higher overclocks by buying faster RAM is next to pointless. By all means spend an extra £10 on some 1866MHz stuff but going beyond that is a waste of time, compared to just putting the money towards a faster CPU.


March 29, 2016, 4:59 pm

The specs of the 'Oculus Rift Ready' PC could all be this-gen (Skylake i5 6600k, z170, DDR4) for near enough the same price, and it's not already 2 years out of date ;)
http://uk.pcpartpicker.com/p/8... - £672 as of today, and in my opinion a much more sensible way to spend your cash. You could tweak this setup a little to suit your needs, obviously, but the point is there.

Andrew Nicholson

March 30, 2016, 8:18 am

Great post, I'm sure eveyone will have their own suggestions...I'd always opt of the same make of power supply & case... just for an easier build, but other than that, love the 4k build!


May 15, 2016, 8:53 pm

Can the 500$ one run in 1080p 60fps anything with no problem??????


May 22, 2016, 5:48 pm

Great article. Any chance of adding in some options for folk wanting something more atuned to stuff other than gaming? I'd be more interested in something for running SketchUp (my PC struggles with rotating 3D rendered models, etc) and maybe editing photos and videos. For the same spend, how do the choices change?


July 8, 2016, 5:22 pm

Yup, pretty much. It's got some serious graphics power.


July 8, 2016, 5:26 pm

Sorry, only just seen this - good call, though. We'll have a chat internally and see what might be the best way of including that - this is an article called Best Gaming PC after all, so it might be that we do a second article.

Ιωάννα κούλ-σουν

July 10, 2016, 2:33 pm

Can you display the euro currency in your next articles please?It's a well-written article overall anyways!Hope i can get one pc for at least 500 this year!


July 11, 2016, 11:42 am

Unfortunately because prices vary across Europe it would be impractical to list prices in Euros - we'd have to do a list for each country.

Ryan Horton

July 17, 2016, 8:25 pm

For the under 500 build, it says the cooler is with the CPU but I think I'm going to go with the suggested upgrade there for the i3 or i5. Do those still have coolers in them (that are sufficient) or if I go with one of those is the additional cooler strongly recommended?

Also, since this will be my first build, any recommendations for guides on the physical building process?

Thanks for the tips at the beginning by the way. Great article.

Ryan Horton

July 18, 2016, 3:08 am

Also, will all of these builds support dual monitors and/or what would I have to change if I want to do that later (a few months or a year after the initial build).

Louie Skerrett

August 16, 2016, 4:36 pm

When will the article be updated for this month?


August 18, 2016, 7:32 pm

would this setup work, do all the parts fit each other? and is the case big enough?
please reply asap.

Dave Windley

September 2, 2016, 4:13 pm

looking at doing a simliar build to the 4k but want a b/ray drive/ sd slots what case would you recommend ??

Ben Coombe

September 3, 2016, 5:14 pm

No, the motherboard has the wrong socket. H170 motherboards have a lga 1151 socket (skylake) and your cpu has a lga 1150 socket (haswell).

Jose Antonio

September 19, 2016, 3:22 pm

Intel g4440 is good? I want play 1080 60fps


September 25, 2016, 10:00 am

Hi guys,

I already have a Asus Nvidia GTX750TI 2GB GDDR5 Overclocked Graphics Card, it's not currently in use as I want to build the £500 build suggested here. Would you advise I upgrade the graphics card or do you think the one I have would suffice?


October 10, 2016, 10:30 pm

In the $1200 build, would it be advisable to upgrade the CPU or would it be a waste without upgrading motherboard ect. ?

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