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Best Gaming PC: The ultimate PC specs from £500 to £2000 – April 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 £1,500 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, £1,000 and £1,500. 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. It comes in around £750.

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.

Related: The best CPUs for gaming, tested

What's new?

There have been two big stories this month. The first is the arrival of AMD's new Ryzen CPUs, which have shaken up the CPU market at the high-end. The AMD Ryzen 7 1800X, in particular, offers performance that beats the £1,000 Intel Core i7-6900K, but at half the price. Meanwhile, for the same price the AMD Ryzen 7 1700 bests the Intel Core i7-7700K for heavy-duty multi-threaded workloads such as video editing.

This is exciting, and in recognition of its place as the new performance champion, we've added a new AMD Ryzen build to our lineup. This can be considered either a high-end gaming PC or more a workstation build, depending on which graphics card you partner with the system. The eight-core performance is most useful for high-intensity work as opposed to gaming, but a Ryzen 1800X build remains a great foundation for a gaming PC.

Otherwise, Ryzen doesn't actually affect our builds too much – for several reasons. The first is that, at the moment, AMD has yet to release cheaper processors that compete with the Intel chips used in the rest of our gaming PC builds. The most expensive CPU we've been recommending is only £220; the cheapest Ryzen 7 chip costs £330.

Related: Best CPU Coolers

Similarly, this lack of competition at the lower end of the market means prices haven't changed, so it isn't even that we're recommending different Intel chips, for the most part. Third, Ryzen 7 chips are all eight-core and so are great for heavy multi-threaded workloads; however, for most games it's still clock speed that counts and as such Intel still retains an advantage with its dual- and quad-core chips.

Later this year will see the arrival of cheaper AMD Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 3 CPUs, and then there's a very good chance we'll see a shake-up in the market.

The second big change is the arrival of the GTX 1080 Ti. Although too pricey to make it into any of our systems, its launch has seen a knock-on effect on the prices of slower cards. For instance, the GTX 1080 has dropped from £570 to £450.

Add to this the fact that we've now decided to include the cost of a full Windows licence in each build – to reflect the fact that most users will need to account for this – and all our builds have had quite a shake-up.

Watch: Your graphics card questions answered

Note: Prices correct as of 3 April 2017

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

Component Name UK Price UK Supplier US Price US Supplier

CPU Intel Celeron G3930 £43 Overclockers.co.uk $48 Amazon.com
Motherboard Gigabyte H270M-DS3H £93 Overclockers.co.uk $87 Newegg.com
RAM Corsair Vengeance 8GB 2666MHz, 2 x 4GB £62 Amazon.co.uk $69 Newegg.com
Graphics card Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1050 £106 Amazon.co.uk $110 Amazon.com
SSD Kingston 120GB SSDNow UV400 £53 Overclockers.co.uk $51 Amazon.com
HDD N/A £0

$0

Power Supply Corsair VS450 £39 Overclockers.co.uk $30 Amazon.com
Case BitFenix Nova £27 Overclockers.co.uk $41 Amazon.com
Cooler Included with CPU £0

$0

Software Windows 10 £75 Amazon.co.uk $75 Amazon.com

Total: £498

$511

The big story with our cheapest system is that we've had to drop from an AMD RX 470 4GB to an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 to accommodate the cost of adding in Windows 10 to our build price. We've also had to completely drop having a hard drive, relying solely on a 120GB SSD.

Both are fairly drastic changes, but this setup will offer good performance at 1080p in most eSports and older games, and is a decent platform for later upgrades. In particular, upgrading to a sixth-or seventh-generation Intel Core i processor is possible without any hardware changes. In addition, you can reuse any old hard drives you may have if you need more storage.

The Celeron processor is fine for lots of games, but it won't meet the minimum system requirements for titles such as Battlefield 1, and will be a bit of a performance bottleneck. You'll need to spend more on a quad-core processor if you want to play games that have a minimum specification that mentions four-core processors.

Bitfenix NOva

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. Crucially, games won't be any slower (slower to load, maybe, but not slower to run).

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

Video: Intel Core i models explained

VR-ready PC for around £800 ($800)

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 Intel Core i5-7400 £171 Amazon.co.uk $200 Amazon.com
Motherboard Gigabyte H270M-DS3H £93 Overclockers.co.uk $87 Newegg.com
RAM Corsair Vengeance 8GB 2666MHz, 2 x 4GB £62 Amazon.co.uk $69 Newegg.com
Graphics card Asus Strix RX 470 8GB £180 Overclockers.co.uk/ $230 Amazon.com
SSD Samsung 850 Evo 250GB £110 Overclockers.co.uk $94 Amazon.com
HDD WD Blue 1TB HDD £42 Amazon.co.uk $50 Amazon.com
Power Supply Corsair VS450 £39 Overclockers.co.uk $30 Amazon.com
Case BitFenix Nova £27 Overclockers.co.uk $41 Amazon.com
Cooler CoolerMaster Hyper 212 Evo £25 Overclockers.co.uk $30 Amazon.com
Software Windows 10 £75 Amazon.co.uk $75 Amazon.com

Total: £824

$831

Not only is this a decent VR build, it's also a handy PC for Full HD gaming on Medium and High settings. The quad-core chip and AMD RX 470 make for a system that's better able to cope with the demands that VR places on a PC. The cost of Windows 10 has pushed the price of this build to well over £800, rather than the usual £750.

Oculus Rift

Potential swaps: The big upgrade here would be to jump to the GTX 1060 graphics card – a move that would cost you the better part of £100 but will provide a significant jump in gaming performance.

The next obvious upgrade would be a better cooler for the CPU, a slightly nicer case, and a bigger or even faster SSD.

The Quad HD Gaming PC – Best Gaming PC for £1,000 ($1,000)

Component Name UK Price UK Supplier US Price US Supplier

CPU Intel Core i3-7350K £170 Overclockers.co.uk $170 Amazon.com
Motherboard ASRock Z270 Pro4 £115 Amazon.co.uk $115 Amazon.com
RAM Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB 3000MHz £117 Amazon.co.uk $119 Amazon.com
Graphics card Gigabyte GTX 1060 £260 Overclockers.co.uk $284 Amazon.com
SSD Samsung 850 Evo 250GB £110 Overclockers.co.uk $94 Amazon.com
HDD WD Blue 1TB HDD £42 Amazon.co.uk $50 Amazon.com
Power Supply Corsair CX650 £65 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 $30 Amazon.com
Software Windows 10 £75 Amazon.co.uk $75 Amazon.com

Total: £1,043

$1,002

We've again had to drop down a level in graphics power to keep within budget and still afford a copy of Windows 10. Rather than a GTX 1070, we've opted for a GTX 1060. That's still a mighty fast card, and it should be good for 60fps in most games at 1440p resolution.

We've also gone with the faster-clocked dual-core Intel Core i3-7350K, rather than the slower-clocked quad-core Intel core i5-7400 of last month. The big boost in clock speed – 3GHz compared to 4.2GHz – is better for gaming and the quad-core chip has only a 10% advantage in multi-threaded workloads. Plus, the Core i3-7350K is easy to overclock, boosting performance further.NZXT S340

The rest of the build provides a step up from the basics, but there's nothing too extravagant here. A simple case, powerful PSU, a reasonably speedy but modestly sized SSD, and a 2TB hard drive for all your bulk media.

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.

The 4K Gaming PC – Best Gaming PC for £1,500 ($1,500)

Component Name UK Price UK Supplier US Price US Supplier

CPU Intel Core i5-7600K £232 Amazon.co.uk $235 Amazon.com
Motherboard MSI Z270 Gaming Pro £146 Amazon.co.uk $149 Amazon.com
RAM Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB 3000MHz £117 Amazon.co.uk $119 Amazon.com
Graphics card Zotac GTX 1080 £455 Overclockers.co.uk $550 Amazon.com
SSD Samsung 960 Evo 250GB £130 Amazon.co.uk $130 Amazon.com
HDD Toshiba 3TB HDD £78 Amazon.co.uk $94 Amazon.com
Power Supply Corsair CS650M 80 Plus Gold £85 Overclockers.co.uk $90 Amazon.com
Case Corsair 400C Black Window £95 Amazon.co.uk $99 Amazon.com
Cooler Noctua NH-D14 £65 Overclockers.co.uk $65 Amazon.com
Software Windows 10 £75 Amazon.co.uk $75 Amazon.com

Total: £1,478

$1,531

The introduction of the GTX 1080 Ti has meant that prices for the GTX 1080 have dropped. As a result, we can continue to include one in this build, despite the added cost of Windows 10. In fact, we've managed to save £30 or so and come in under budget.

Elsewhere, this system is identical to the last. It's based on the superb, quad-core Intel Core i5-7600K, which, along with 16GB of speedy RAM and that GTX 1080, will make mince meat of most things you throw at it. You'll easily be able to play games at 100fps+ at 1440p and get smooth performance at 4K resolutions too.

Corsair Carbide 400C

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 huge monitor (over 27-inch) 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.

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 £500 Overclockers.co.uk $500 Amazon.com
Motherboard Asus Crosshair VI Hero £260 Overclockers.co.uk $255 Amazon.com
RAM Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB 3000MHz £230 Amazon.co.uk $260 Amazon.com
Graphics card Zotac GTX 1080 £455 Overclockers.co.uk $550 Amazon.com
SSD Samsung 960 Evo 250GB £130 Amazon.co.uk $130 Amazon.com
HDD Toshiba 3TB HDD £78 Amazon.co.uk $94 Amazon.com
Power Supply Corsair CS650M 80 Plus Gold £85 Overclockers.co.uk $90 Amazon.com
Case Corsair 400C Black Window £95 Amazon.co.uk $99 Amazon.com
Cooler Noctua NH-U12S SE-AM4 £54 Overclockers.co.uk $58 Amazon.com
Software Windows 10 £75 Amazon.co.uk $75 Amazon.com

Total: £1,962

$2,036

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 £1,500 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 stick with the Nvidia GTX 1080 graphics card. This not only keeps the build price inside £2,000, 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 £1,500.

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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