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Best Gaming PC: The ultimate PC specs from £500 to £2000 – May 2017

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BestGamingPC

Building the best gaming PC for your budget isn't as hard as you might imagine, but with so many components from which to choose, where do you start? Right here: we’ve picked out the best items to buy, whatever your budget. So whether you’ve scrabbled together £500, or have £1500 burning a hole in your pocket, read on to find out how you can build the best gaming PC for your money.

Each month, we scour online shops to find the best deals for the best combination of components to suit three main budgets: £500, £1000 and £1500. We’ve also included a VR-centric build that aims to provide the cheapest gaming PC for a great VR experience, based on Oculus VR’s recommended specs.

At all three price categories, the components are carefully balanced to ensure you’re getting the absolute best gaming performance possible for your money, but also without compromising too much in key areas such as day-to-day performance, power consumption and future-proofing.

What's new?

After the arrival of AMD's Ryzen 7 processors in March, April saw the more affordable Ryzen 5 processors launch. The Ryzen 5 1600X and 1500X both make for excellent choices if you have £180-£250 to spend on a CPU. That said, neither is the fastest choice for gaming at their respective prices - although it's a close run thing - so we've stuck with the Intel 7350K and 7600K for our £1000 and £1500 builds.

Where we have gone with AMD is in our VR build, as Oculus' recommended specs specify having at least quad-core processor. So we've swapped out the non-overclockable quad-core Intel Core i5-7400 for the overclockable, quad-core, eight-thread, AMD Ryzen 1500X.

So far that means AMD Ryzen has successfully managed to shake up the top and mid-range of the PC market but with Ryzen 3 yet to launch, the lower end is as it was. Nonetheless, we've slightly upgraded our cheapest build's CPU, and we think it's worth it.

Elsewhere, we've seen the launch of AMD's RX 500-series graphics cards. Refined versions of the company's previous RX 470 and RX 480 cards, the RX 570 and RX 580 both offer excellent performance for their price, and the former has made its way into our VR-centric build.

Related: Best CPU Coolers

Meanwhile, there have been few other major changes in other sectors of the market, with just the odd price fluctuation here or there. All except the cost of Windows. This has jumped by £20/$20 to £90/$90, if you want to buy a proper retail license from Amazon.

Note: Prices correct as of 10 May 2017

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

Component Name UK Price UK Supplier US Price US Supplier
CPU Intel Celeron G4560 £65 Amazon.co.uk $84 Amazon.com
Motherboard Gigabyte H270M-DS3H £93 Overclockers.co.uk $87 Newegg.com
RAM Corsair Vengeance 8GB 2666MHz, 2 x 4GB £63 Amazon.co.uk $70 Newegg.com
Graphics card Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1050 £108 Amazon.co.uk $110 Amazon.com
SSD Kingston 120GB SSDNow UV400 £53 Overclockers.co.uk $61 Amazon.com
HDD N/A £0

$0

Power Supply Corsair VS450 £35 Amazon.co.uk $50 Amazon.com
Case Aerocool 300 £29 Overclockers.co.uk $41 Amazon.com
Cooler Included with CPU £0

$0

Software Windows 10 £90 Overclockers.co.uk $92 Amazon.com

Total: £536

$595

We've made a couple of key changes to our £500 build this month. The first is an upgrade to the CPU, from the G3930 to the G4560. This is a faster processor for not a huge amount more money, and we think it's worth the change.

The other big change is swapping the BitFenix Prodigy case for the Aerocool 300. The prodigy is a great case but its older-style layout is less and less suited to a modern gaming system, especially one like we have here that includes no hard drives. The Aerocool 300 offers and more modern layout and much better cooling for only a pound more. You do miss out on a clear side panel, though.

Watch: AMD Radeon RX 480 Graphics Card Review

Potential swaps: The most obvious potential swap is dropping the SSD and opting for a hard drive instead. This will get you much more space to store all your files, but your PC will be slower at booting up, loading apps and copying files.

Otherwise, there's very little you can do to this build to save more money, apart from buying second-hand gear or compromising more on graphics power. Allow yourself an extra £100 to spend and you can get both a slightly larger SSD and a hard drive.

Crucially, the motherboard used here is able to accommodate much faster Intel CPUs so you can easily upgrade every component of this build later on, without having to swap the motherboard.

Video: Intel Core i models explained

VR-ready PC - Best Gaming PC for £800 ($900)

Oculus provides an optimum spec for a PC that will provide a great VR experience, but it's long since been superseded, so this is our recommended build instead:

Component Name UK Price UK Supplier US Price US Supplier
CPU AMD Ryzen 5 1500X £180 Overclockers.co.uk $190 https://www.amazon.com/AMD-Processor-Wraith-Cooler-YD150XBBAEBOX/dp/B06XKVNRSM/
Motherboard MSI B350M Gaming Pro £80 Overclockers.co.uk $80 Amazon.com
RAM Corsair Vengeance 8GB 2666MHz, 2 x 4GB £63 Amazon.co.uk $70 Newegg.com
Graphics card Gigabyte Aorus RX 570 4GB £180 Overclockers.co.uk $220 Amazon.com
SSD Kingston 120GB SSDNow UV400 £53 Overclockers.co.uk $61 Amazon.com
HDD WD Blue 1TB HDD £42 Amazon.co.uk $50 Amazon.com
Power Supply Corsair VS450 £35 Amazon.co.uk $50 Amazon.com
Case Aerocool 300 £29 Overclockers.co.uk $41 Amazon.com
Cooler CoolerMaster Hyper 212 Evo £25 Overclockers.co.uk $29 Amazon.com
Software Windows 10 £90 Overclockers.co.uk $92 Amazon.com

Total: £777

$883

Our VR build is essentially our cheapest build but with a quad-core CPU, a larger, faster SSD, and a slightly upgraded graphics card. Combined they make for a system that's better able to cope with the demands that VR places on a PC.

However, this time we've swapped out our previous choice of CPU - the Intel Core i5-7400 - for the far more powerful AMD Ryzen 5 1500X. We've also swapped the motherboard and upgraded from the AMD RX 470 to the RX 570. These changes have not only made for an even faster system but saved £50 too.

Oculus Rift

Potential swaps: This build is ripe for upgrades with the case, CPU cooler, SSD and hard drive all being about as low as you can go, so spending an extra £30-£50 on any of those would be worthwhile.

Otherwise you're looking at jumping up to an even faster graphics card such as the RX 580 (£270) or GTX 1070 (£330).

The Quad HD Gaming PC – Best Gaming PC for £1000 ($1000)

Component Name UK Price UK Supplier US Price US Supplier
CPU Intel Core i3-7350K £160 Overclockers.co.uk $150 Amazon.com
Motherboard ASRock Z270 Pro4 £115 Overclockers.co.uk $120 Amazon.com
RAM Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB 3000MHz £120 Amazon.co.uk $126 Amazon.com
Graphics card Gigabyte GTX 1060 £260 Overclockers.co.uk $300 Amazon.com
SSD Samsung 850 Evo 250GB £120 Overclockers.co.uk $108 Amazon.com
HDD WD Blue 1TB HDD £42 Amazon.co.uk $50 Amazon.com
Power Supply Corsair CX650 £69 Overclockers.co.uk $70 Amazon.com
Case NZXT S340 £64 Amazon.co.uk $70 Newegg.com
Cooler CoolerMaster Hyper 212 Evo £25 Overclockers.co.uk $29 Amazon.com
Software Windows 10 £90 Overclockers.co.uk $92 Amazon.com

Total: £1,065

$1,115

This is the only build that has remained completely unchanged this month. With each component still being the best choose for its price, we've left it alone. The only change is the total price which has risen by £20 due to the usual fluctuations.

The combination of a GTX 1060 and the fast dual-core, hyper-threaded Intel Core i3-7350K is ideal for gaming up to 1440p resolutions, and the rest of the system offers a good balance that will provide plenty of performance for years to come.

Watch: Nvidia GTX 1070 review

Potential swaps: One area that's a compromise in this system is the size of the SSD. Its 250GB is only really large enough to fit two or three of today's AAA games. Swapping it out for a 500GB drive would offer some peace of mind about installing and uninstalling games all the time. You'll have to double your outlay, but you could always drop the hard disk and then add one back in when you begin to run out of space – and if you're upgrading your system then you can keep your old hard drives.

The other obvious swap is to spend the extra £100 and get a GTX 1070. It's around 40% faster that the GTX 1060 so makes for a good-value upgrade if you can afford it.

If multi-thread CPU performance is important to you (if you do video editing or streaming, for example) then consider swapping out the Intel CPU and motherboard for the AMD Ryzen 5 1500X and AMD motherboard such as the MSI B350M Gaming Pro.

The 4K Gaming PC – Best Gaming PC for £1500 ($1500)

Component Name UK Price UK Supplier US Price US Supplier
CPU Intel Core i5-7600K £218 Amazon.co.uk $240 Amazon.com
Motherboard MSI Z270 Gaming Pro £146 Amazon.co.uk $183 Amazon.co.uk
RAM Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB 3000MHz £116 Amazon.co.uk $126 Amazon.com
Graphics card Zotac GTX 1080 £500 Overclockers.co.uk $518 Amazon.com
SSD Samsung 960 Evo 250GB £119 Amazon.co.uk $128 Amazon.com
HDD Toshiba 3TB HDD £74 Amazon.co.uk $90 Amazon.com
Power Supply Corsair CS650M 80 Plus Gold £70 Amazon.co.uk $77 Amazon.com
Case NZXT S340 £64 Amazon.co.uk $70 Newegg.com
Cooler Noctua NH-D14 £65 Overclockers.co.uk $65 Amazon.com
Software Windows 10 £90 Overclockers.co.uk $92 Amazon.com

Total: £1462

$1589

As with our £1000 build, the overarching story of our £1500 build is that little has changed. These are still the best components to buy if this is your budget. The only tweak we've made is to swap the Corsair 400C for the NZXT S340. That's simply because there's no real need to spend the extra on the 400C, and the S340 is a better looking case. The 400C is a potential upgrade if you need more cooling options.

Elsewhere, this system combines the superb quad-core Intel Core i5-7600K and Nvidia GTX 1080 to make a seriously powerful gaming system that'll easily be able to play most games at 100fps+ at 1440p and get smooth performance at 4K resolutions too.

A fast Samsung 960 Evo SSD will keep boot-up, app startup and file transfer times to a minimum, while you've plenty of budget for a big 3TB hard drive for all your bulk data.

Watch: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 review

Potential swaps: There's very little in this build that would be sensible to swap out if you're after a well-balanced system. However, there are a few tweaks you could make.

If you want a tidier-looking build then you could replace the large Noctua CPU cooler for a more compact all-in-one liquid cooler such as the Corsair H110i. It's louder and slightly more expensive, but it will keep the CPU even cooler as well as freeing up space inside your case.

Alternatively, if you don't have a 4K monitor, then the GTX 1080 might be overkill, so you could opt for the GTX 1070 and save £200 or so. That could then be spent on getting the i7-7700K CPU (ideal for those who also need more power for tasks such as video editing) or a larger 500GB SSD. Or you could drop to a slower SSD, but get even more capacity with the Samsung 850 Evo 1TB for £390.

If you fancy an even more extreme change, or particularly need extra multi-thread performance then you could swap the Intel CPU and motherboard for the Ryzen 5 1600X and an AMD motherboard such as the Asus Prime X370-Pro.

Asus Maximus VIII Hero

AMD Ryzen PC – Best Workstation/High-end Gaming PC

Component Name UK Price UK Supplier US Price US Supplier
CPU AMD Ryzen 7 1800X £429 Overclockers.co.uk $464 Amazon.com
Motherboard Asus Crosshair VI Hero £249 Overclockers.co.uk $255 Amazon.com
RAM Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB 3000MHz £239 Amazon.co.uk $260 Amazon.com
Graphics card Zotac GTX 1080 £500 Overclockers.co.uk $518 Amazon.com
SSD Samsung 960 Evo 250GB £119 Amazon.co.uk $128 Amazon.com
HDD Toshiba 3TB HDD £74 Amazon.co.uk $90 Amazon.com
Power Supply Corsair CS650M 80 Plus Gold £70 Amazon.co.uk $77 Amazon.com
Case NZXT S340 £64 Amazon.co.uk $70 Newegg.com
Cooler
Noctua NH-U12S SE-AM4
£54 Overclockers.co.uk $58 Amazon.com
Software Windows 10 £90 Overclockers.co.uk $92 Amazon.com

Total: £1,899

$2,019

Our AMD Ryzen/Workstation build centres around the huge multi-core power of the AMD Ryzen 7 1800X, which we've paired with the feature-packed Asus Crosshair VI Hero motherboard and 32GB of RAM. That lot will power through heavy workloads such as video encoding, scientific calculations and 3D rendering.

The rest of the system is based on our £1500 gaming PC build with a fast main SSD and a secondary hard drive for bulk data, plus a quality power supply and case. We've swapped out the CPU cooler for one that's compatible with the AMD's AM4 socket.

We've chosen the Nvidia GTX 1080 graphics card rather than the GTX 1080 Ti as this not only keeps the build price inside £2000 but it reflects the fact that this sort of system isn't necessarily all about the best gaming performance; it's aimed more at those who need a powerful system for business as well as pleasure.

Potential swaps: If you really do want the ultimate in gaming performance then the GTX 1080 Ti is the obvious upgrade. You can also run SLI/CrossFire on this system, although it's less capable than Intel's rival LGA2011 platform when it comes to multiple graphics cards.

The other alternative is to drop things down a gear by opting for the AMD Ryzen 7 1700. This chip still gets you eight-core performance but for just £330. Similarly, drop the motherboard to a £150 X370 and the RAM to 16GB and you'll still have a very powerful system that costs closer to £1500.

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

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