Exactly how much do you need to spend on a gaming PC to get a build that’s worth your time? Well, it really depends on if you plan to use that PC for anything other than basic stuff & gaming, and roughly how good you want those games to actually look.
Some people might be okay spending $500 on a budget build, but others might have to spend upwards of $1000 to meet their expectations. It’s all about what you need and the kind of experience you’re aiming for.
One thing to keep in mind is that I’m not considering the price of an operating system, monitor, keyboard, mouse or audio. If you don’t have any of these things (most people won’t have a copy of Windows laying around), expect to add roughly $350 to the cost of your build. Roughly $100 for your OS, another $150 or so for a decent monitor, $50 for a keyboard/mouse and then another $50 for either a headset or speakers.
Some of us only need a super basic & cheap PC capable of playing esports titles like CS:GO flawlessly and also allowing for some playable AAA gaming. To me, a “budget” build is anything that falls in the sub $600 bracket and generally includes an i3 processor or equivalent, a 4GB graphics card and 8GB of RAM.
These types of builds are perfect if you play lots of indie games that aren’t very hardware intensive, or if you’re big into CS:GO or a MOBA like League of Legends.
Generally speaking, a build at the budget level should be something that you can expand on with future upgrades, things like your processor, graphics card, and storage should all be upgradeable.
Keep in mind that builds at this level aren’t completely geared for graphically intensive AAA games, they will play them for sure, but the experience isn’t going to blow your console away by any means.
This is probably you
Most of us want a solid mid-range build capable of playing basically anything on high settings or better in 1080p at 60fps. But, what exactly does that mid-range build look like, how much is it going to cost, and what kind of performance will we get?
For starters, everyone’s going to have a different definition of what “mid-range” might be, but as far as I’m concerned, mid-range is around $700-$1000 USD. With that said, the best build will always be the one you customize for your own needs.
If you’re looking at mid-range builds, you should be getting an Intel i5 CPU (no, you don’t need an i7), at least 8GB of RAM, and a solid 3-4GB graphics card (GTX 1060 / RX 480). You’ll also need a good ~600W power supply, motherboard, storage and of course a case. Check out my $800 gaming PC build if you need an example.
A build like this would be great for 1080p 60fps gaming. Depending on the exact setup you choose, you’ll be getting 60fps or better in AAA games on high settings or better. Games like CS: GO will perform way better and you’ll be getting more like 200fps, again depending on your final system specs.
You could almost consider a good budget-level $500 build “mid-range” with the power you’re able to get for that much these days. A build like this won’t let you max out The Witcher 3 or GTA:V but you’ll be able to run them surprisingly well on medium settings. You’ll be able to run basically any 2017 AAA game on at least medium settings in 1080p while getting 60fps – better than your Xbox One or PS4 for sure.
Keep in mind that most builds in this range aren’t really the best for overclocking, and I really wouldn’t recommend it. If overclocking is your ultimate goal you should be planning to spend at least $1000 for adequate parts. You could definitely put together a cheap build for OCing for under $1000, but you’ll have to either buy cheap parts or sacrifice performance somewhere crucial.
If you’re the kind of person who expects the best performance in all scenarios possible, or you want to overclock the crap out of your PC, then you’re going to have to spend a little more to get a little more.
Starting at around $1000, you can get top-level 1080p performance and have the ability to run literally any AAA game maxed out in 60fps or more, plus have the ability to do some decent overclocking. Looking for even better performance, or to jump into 1440p? Then $1200-$1500 should get you set up perfectly with an i7 and at least a GTX 1070 graphics card.
Or, if you wanted to be really overzealous, for around $2500 you can build a complete behemoth running 2x GTX 1080 in SLI, an i7 7700K, 16GB of DDR4 RAM, over 2TB of storage and liquid cooling for your processor!
Most people aren’t really going to need a build like this, but it’s always nice to be able to run absolutely anything you want in buttery smooth 4k without dropping frames. Basically, if you’re spending this much it’s probably because you really enjoy the best games on the highest settings and can’t stand anything less, right?
By now I hope that I’ve been able to give you some kind of idea about how much you’re going to have to spend on a gaming PC. You don’t necessarily have to spend insane amounts of money to get great performance, and you can easily beat what a console offers for not very much more than the average cost of a PS4. Just stay away from those cheaper prefabricated builds, they usually suck.
- <$500 = Budget level
- $700-$1000 = pretty much what everyone needs to game in 1080p 60fps
- $1200-$1800 = “enthusiast level” 1080p @ 144fps or 1440p @ 60fps
- $1500+ = You want either 4k @ 60fps gaming, or bragging rights.
Have any questions? Feel free to ask me in the comments!