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Gaming PC build guide

Gaming PC build guide header with multiple components and PC Gamer recommended badge
(Image credit: Future)

There comes a moment in every PC gamer's life when you have to build yourself a gaming PC. This gaming PC guide will serve as your faithful sidekick during this momentous occasion. Below is a list of curated PC parts and components that'll give your new PC killer performance while keeping costs manageable. 

Use this guide as a foundation for building your future rig, even if you don't pick up exactly what's on our shopping list. As long as all the parts slot together, you should do what feels right for you and your budget and, more importantly, have fun. 

Speaking of budget, the cost for this gaming PC build is $1,000, with around $400 reserved for an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti that should provide an excellent framerate for most games at 1080p (and even 1440p). And with the help of upscaling tech like DLSS, 4K gameplay is within reach on some games. 

The Ryzen 5 5600X is the best choice for a CPU for this build because of its price, performance, and overclocking potential. However, if you are strictly in an Intel camp, Intel Core i5 12400 and B660 motherboards are decent alternatives. 

The last thing you should know is that all the hardware is all things I'd want in my own gaming PC. Each component has been tested on our PC Gamer Test Bench and merits my full recommendation. If this isn't what you're looking for, check out our budget PC build guide and high-end PC build guide. Or skip the whole building part and get a cheap gaming PC.

CPU

Ryzen 5 5600X processor in box

(Image credit: AMD)
AMD's top affordable, and available, Zen 3 CPU today

Specifications

Cores: 6
Threads: 12
Base Clock: 3.7GHz
Boost Clock: 4.6GHz
Overclocking: Yes
L3 Cache: 32MB
TDP: 65W
PCIe 4.0 lanes: 20

Reasons to buy

+
Awesome gaming performance
+
Great value for money
+
Decent overclocking potential
+
Wraith Stealth included

Reasons to avoid

-
$50 more than 3600X
-
... 3600X came with a better cooler

When it comes to gaming, everything that's great about the 5900X rings true for this more affordable Zen 3 chip as well. There's nothing between any of the Ryzen 5000 chips in games, which means you'll hit the same frame rates with this chip as you will the much more expensive chip. Which is incredible when you think about it—top-tier performance from the most affordable Zen 3 CPU? We'll say yes to that every single day.

This does have half the core count of that top chip, rolling in as it does with 6 cores and 12 threads. This is only an issue with those more serious workloads, though, and this is more than sufficient for more reasonable stuff. You could argue that gaming could go beyond the 12-threads we have here, but there's no evidence that is the case so far, and that's even though the next-gen consoles are rocking 8-cores and 16-threads. 

The Ryzen 5 5600X also bucks the Ryzen 5000 family's trend by shipping with a Wraith Stealth cooler, so you don't have to drop extra money on a third-party chiller. You don't need to, but if you do, you'll hit higher clocks for longer and also open up the wonderful world of overclocking, which could make it worthwhile. This is a decent little overclocker, and while it won't affect gaming much, it'll help in other areas nicely.

Read our full AMD Ryzen 5 5600X review (opens in new tab).

Motherboard

Asus ROG Strix B550-E Gaming motherboard shot at an angle on a blank background

(Image credit: Asus)
The best B550 motherboard

Specifications

Form factor: ATX
Memory support: 4x DIMM, up to 128GB, up to DDR4-4600
Expansion slots: 2x PCIe 4.0 x16, 1x PCIe 3.0 x4
Storage: 2x M.2, 6x SATA 6Gbps
Networking: Intel WiFi 6, Intel 2.5Gb ethernet, Bluetooth 5.1
Rear USB: 3x USB 3.2 Gen 2, 4x USB 2.0

Reasons to buy

+
Extensive feature set
+
Build quality
+
Top-end networking

Reasons to avoid

-
Pricey for a B550 board
-
Stock-clock performance is unremarkable

Sure, the Asus ROG Strix B550-E isn't the cheapest motherboard for a Ryzen 5 5600X chip, but it offers a huge amount of potential room for your PC to grow in the future. It's a premium motherboard, with all the trappings you'd expect from Asus' Republic of Gamers stables, such as 14+2 power stage, M.2 heatsinks, and pre-installed backplates. You also get Wi-Fi 6 wireless networking as well as Intel 2.5Gb ethernet too. And RGB LEDs, of course.

At a glance it cuts a convincing enthusiast dash thanks to copious heat sinks and spreaders, including one for each M.2 slot, snazzy LED lighting, and three full-length PCI Express slots, two of which come in Gen 4 trim.

Impressively, those slots support dual-GPU graphics, each in eight-lane PCIe 4.0 configuration, ensuring the maximum currently available bandwidth for high end graphics. A niche concern? Perhaps, but it's indicative of the ambitions of this board. Similarly, the Strix B550 has not just an eight-pin but also a four-pin supplementary CPU power supply connector. Again, that’s an indication of a board designed for high performance. 

Performance too is typically good for a high-end Asus board, matching X570 motherboards for gaming performance without issue. The Asus ROG Strix B550-E Gaming is the whole package then, and right now is our all-around pick for the best B550 motherboard. 

Read our full Asus ROG Strix B550-E Gaming review (opens in new tab).

GPU

Nvidia RTX 3060 Ti graphics card shot from above at an angle

(Image credit: Nvidia)
A GPU that can take on the RTX 2080 Super... and win

Specifications

GPU Cores: 4,865
Base Clock: 1,410MHz
Boost Clock: 1,665MHz
TFLOPS: 16.2
Memory: 8GB GDDR6
Memory Clock: 14GT/s
Memory Bandwidth: 448GB/s

Reasons to buy

+
4K performance
+
Decent ray tracing performance
+
Great cooler

Reasons to avoid

-
Impossible to find...
-
...stupidly expensive if you do

The RTX 3060 Ti is the GeForce card that we want in our mid-range machine. That was true last year, when buying one was almost impossible, but it's true today for another reason. The next-generation of Nvidia and AMD GPUs are just around the corner, but history tells us the first to launch will be the high-end GPUs. That means that mid-range and budget GPUs, such as the RTX 3060 Ti down to the RTX 3050, will stick around a lot longer before being replaced.

So if you want a great gaming PC now, and one that doesn't break the bank, the RTX 3060 Ti is one of the cards out there we'd still recommend.

It marks the same incredible generational leap in performance that has come to epitomize the Ampere architecture, up until the non-TI GeForce RTX 3060 (opens in new tab), that is. With performance that can often outpace the RTX 2080 Super, for a nominal $399 price tag, it's the mid-range card to beat.

And, because of its RTX 2080 Super performance levels, that means you can nail 1080p and 1440p frame rates, but also that 4K at 60fps isn't beyond the realms of possibility for this GPU. The RTX 3060 Ti then delivers gaming performance that's rather stupendous when you look at generational gains over even the RTX 20-series—next to the 10-series, it's quite frightening, actually.

Read our full Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti review (opens in new tab).

Memory

Two Corsair Vengeance LPX 8GB memory modules on top of each other

(Image credit: Corsair)

Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB (2x8GB) DDR4-3200

The best value RAM you can get

Specifications

Capacity: 2x 8GB
Speed: 3200MT/s
Timings: 15-17-17-35
Voltage: 1.35V

Reasons to buy

+
High frequencies on a budget
+
Low latency too

Reasons to avoid

-
Lacks the RGB pretties

Memory is pretty straightforward these days, though if the price isn't much higher you can improve performance (opens in new tab) slightly with faster RAM. DDR4 prices have thankfully galvanized somewhat, with typical costs for 16GB often falling well below $100. There are many options to choose from: Adata, Ballistix, Corsair, Crucial, G.Skill, GeIL, Gigabyte, Hynix, HyperX, Micron, Mushkin, Patriot, PNY, Samsung, Team, and XPG are all good brands as far as we're concerned.

Our main goal for gaming memory is DDR4-3000 or higher, with as low a CAS latency as possible, but at a good price. It doesn't make a lot of sense to buy extreme memory for a mainstream build, but with DDR4-3200 only costing $10 more than basic DDR4 kits, it's worth paying a little extra for AMD builds (opens in new tab).

For more information, check out our guide to the best gaming DDR4 RAM (opens in new tab).

Primary Storage

WD_Black SN770 500GB model pictured

(Image credit: WD)

WD_Black SN770 1TB

Deent capacity and low cost makes the SN770 a winner

Specifications

Capacity: 1TB
Interface: M.2 PCIe Gen4 x4
Sequential IO: 5150/4900MB/s read/write
Random IO: 740K/800K IOPS read/write

Reasons to buy

+
Decent capacity
+
Gen4 without breaking the bank 
+
Easy installation

Reasons to avoid

-
500GB is a viable option to save cash

You could spend more on a high-performance PCIe 4.0 SSD, but you can get awfully close to top performance with this SN770 from WD.

An NVMe M.2 SSD offers swift access to your data, and the SN770 delivers that snappy response at an exceptionally agreeable price. Fitted with 1TB worth of NAND flash, there's enough space for your operating system, applications, and plenty of games. So feel free to go wild downloading your favourite games on Steam. Well, not too wild.

If you wanted to save some cash, you could opt for the smaller 512GB version here. It's more agreeable on price, and your secondary storage could make up for lost capacity later down the line.

Read our full WD Black SN770 review (opens in new tab).

Additional Storage

WD Black 1TB hard drive shot at an angle on a blank background

WD Black 1TB (Optional)

The quickest regular HDD, offering storage on a budget

Specifications

Capacity: 1TB
HDD speed: 7200RPM
Cache: 32GB
Connectivity: SATA 6Gb/s
Warranty: 5 years

Reasons to buy

+
A cheaper storage option
+
Great reliability for a HDD
+
High capacity for files less often accessed

Reasons to avoid

-
Slow compared to SSDs

Given the install sizes of most modern PC games, it's probably a good idea to get yourself a new drive for your gaming PC. While SATA SSDs are almost cheap enough to recommend as secondary storage (what a world we're living in), you'll probably look to a regular HDD to keep the cost down when you hit multiple terabyte demands.

We recommend the WD Black drive because it's a 7,200 RPM drive with a respectable 32GB cache, which offers 1TB of storage for about $70 or less. While you could get a WD Blue or Seagate Barracuda for less, the WD Black offers speed and reliability over capacity. Realistically, you'll appreciate that speed if you're planning to keep your HDD inside a gaming PC for more than a couple of years, as we already see load times creep up for the biggest games of 2022. 

PSU

Corsair TX650M 650W power supply shot at an angle on a blank background

Corsair TX650M 650W

Highly reliable and efficient power without going overkill

Specifications

Output: 650W
Efficiency: 80 Plus Gold
Connectors: 1x 24-Pin ATX, 1x 8-Pin (4+4) EPS12V, 4x 8-Pin (6+2) PCIe, 6x SATA, 4x Molex, 1x Floppy
Modular: Partial

Reasons to buy

+
Good efficiency and price
+
Sane output rating
+
All Japanese capacitors

Reasons to avoid

-
650W may not cover it for some super high-end GPUs down the line, but be realistic about whether that matters to you or not

Power supplies are not the most exciting part of a gaming PC build. After all, it can be hard to tell them apart in terms of features. Even so, you don't want to skimp on your PSU. Corsair has an excellent and well-deserved reputation for its power supplies, and the TX650M comes at a reasonable price and delivers 80 Plus Gold efficiency.

Most power supplies from the bigger names are generally good, but we wouldn’t recommend that you put your money in anything with a warranty of fewer than five years or an efficiency rating below 80 Plus Gold (maybe Bronze in a pinch). The $10 or $20 saved often isn't worth the risk (opens in new tab).

We also tend to go with modular PSUs where possible. It means less cable mess inside the case since you don’t have to stash unused cables somewhere. Instead, the remaining wires have to find a home in your closet.

Here's our guide to the best power supplies for PC (opens in new tab) gaming.

Case

NZXT H510 chassis shot from the side on a blank background

(Image credit: NZXT)

NZXT H510

Clean design and great cable management

Specifications

Type: ATX mid-tower
Motherboard Compatibility: ATX, Micro-ATX, Mini-ITX
Drive Bays: (Up to 7) 3.5/2.5-inch internal , 2x 2.5-inch SSD
Front Ports: 1x USB-C, 1x USB 3.0, Headphone, Mic
Fan Options: Front: 2x 120mm or 2x 140mm, Top: 120mm (included) or 140mm, Rear: 120mm (included)
Max GPU Length: 381mm
Dimensions: 460 x 210 x 428mm
Weight: 6.6kg

Reasons to buy

+
Tempered glass side panel
+
Plenty of expansion options
+
USB-C front panel connector

Reasons to avoid

-
Getting on a bit

Cases can be as stylish or boring as you want. We're going to go for the former rather than the latter, with the NZXT H510, a slick, tempered glass case available in white or black. The NZXT H510 is also reasonably priced, which is always a bonus. 

If you want other options, check our guide to the best mid-tower cases (opens in new tab). The clean look goes well on any desk and doesn't stand out like many so-called 'gaming cases.' There's also the pricier H510i that integrates some smart features if you like the look of the H510 but want a few more bells and whistles.

Picking a case can be an entirely personal choice, so for more options, here are the best PC cases (opens in new tab) you can buy right now.

Components

Dave James
Dave James

Dave has been gaming since the days of Zaxxon and Lady Bug on the Colecovision, and code books for the Commodore Vic 20 (Death Race 2000!). He built his first gaming PC at the tender age of 16, and finally finished bug-fixing the Cyrix-based system around a year later. When he dropped it out of the window. He first started writing for Official PlayStation Magazine and Xbox World many decades ago, then moved onto PC Format full-time, then PC Gamer, TechRadar, and T3 among others. Now he's back, writing about the nightmarish graphics card market, CPUs with more cores than sense, gaming laptops hotter than the sun, and SSDs more capacious than a Cybertruck.