Monday, November 14, 2016


The holidays are approaching, and though it might be a bit early to hang lights many are going to be thinking about building a new gaming rig or upgrading an existing one. So, today I want to go over my suggestion for three potential PC builds. These cover what I would consider pretty standard price ranges for people building a rig ($700, $1200, and $2000 respectively). Obviously, each rig is going to have different power limits, and upgrade options. NOTE: I do not include the Monitor, Keyboard, Mouse, or OS in these builds. Monitors and peripherals generally last through multiple PCs. And OS is highly subjective, some may want to go Linux while others will want Windows. And then there's the version or distribution question, so I leave that primarily at your discretion, just be aware you'll need to pick one. With that out of the way, I present...


The first build is going to be somewhat controversial, as it's an AMD based system. I chose this route specifically because it looks like better bang for the buck at this price range, though I concede that this is absolutely a dated platform, that actually isn't necessarily a bad thing. With the holidays approaching and Zen on the horizon, it's likely that we'll be seeing good deals on AM3+ hardware. Additionally, if you're really tight on the budget, you could go secondhand for the CPU, Board, and RAM and end up with a solid base for very little cash.

Having said that, you may want to look into an 8350 depending on pricing. But I wouldn't sweat it too bad if you can't find one at a reasonable price. In terms of upgrades, additional RAM and an SSD would really improve the overall performance. Additionally, picking up a second RX 480 would push this from being a solid 1080p gaming rig to something capable of 1440p. I seriously recomend stepping up to 16gb of RAM if you're going to add a second graphics card. And finally, you MAY want to consider upgrading the cooler if you want to seriously overclock this rig.

CPU: AMD FX-8320 3.5GHz Quad-Core Processor ($130.99 @ SuperBiiz)
CPU Cooler: CRYORIG H7 ($29.90 @ Newegg)
Motherboard: MSI 970A SLI Krait Edition ($85.00 @ Amazon)
RAM: Kingston HyperX Fury White 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1866 ($49.43 @ Amazon)
HD: Hitachi Deskstar 7K2000 2TB 3.5" 7200RPM ($43.99 @ Amazon)
GPU: XFX Radeon RX 480 8GB XXX OC ($229.99 @ Newegg)
Case: NZXT S340 (White) ATX Mid Tower ($66.69 @ SuperBiiz)
PSU: Corsair CSM 650W 80+ Gold Certified ATX ($59.99 @ Newegg)

Total Cost: $695.98
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Here is what I consider the real sweet spot, by now I think most people have been using a 1080p rig for a while and may be looking for something with a bit higher fidelity. Additionally, it's entirely possible to get a responsive 1440p screen with high refresh rates, from there it's all about having a rig that can power it. And VII does just that out of the box. With the added bonus of being able to push 4K after some upgrades.

Speaking of, there's a bit of room to grow with this rig, more than might be immediately obvious. For starters, there's an M.2 port which offers some super fast storage. Better still, it's positioned nicely, ASUS has opted to place this single port to the bottom right of the board, far away from the hottest parts of any GPUs that might be installed on the board. Whereas normally, these things are found between the PCI slots, meaning to install an M.2 chip you'll have to pull your video card to get to it.

And of course, one can always add a second graphics card to push 4k, additionally there's room to upgrade the RAM and processor. Over the weekend in fact I saw a sale on the 6700k for under $300, if budget allows and you find such a deal over the holiday it's definitely worth considering. The Skylake CPUs don't have nearly the thermal issues of previous chips, but you still may want to consider upgrading this cooler if you go hard on the overclocking.

Just be aware that full upgrading this thing will put it in spitting distance of a $2000 rig.

CPU: Intel Core i5-6600K 3.5GHz Quad-Core ($235.89 @ OutletPC)
CPU Cooler: CRYORIG H7 ($29.90 @ Newegg)
Motherboard: Asus Z170-A ATX LGA1151 ($144.99 @ Amazon)
RAM: Corsair Vengeance LPX 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR4-2133 ($49.99 @ Amazon)
SSD: PNY CS1311 240GB 2.5" ($64.99 @ Amazon)
HD: Hitachi Deskstar 7K2000 2TB 3.5" 7200RPM ($43.99 @ Amazon)
GPU: EVGA GeForce GTX 1070 8GB SC GAMING ($394.99 @ B&H)
Case: Corsair Carbide 400C White ATX Mid Tower ($99.99 @ B&H)
PSU: EVGA SuperNOVA P2 650W 80+ Platinum Certified ATX ($103.99 @ SuperBiiz)

Total Cost: $1168.72
PCPartPicker Part List:


So what differentiates this build from the upgraded version of the previous build? Productivity and room to grow. For starters, there's more cores for CPU instensive tasks like rendering and video editing. Quad channel ram allowing for HUGE amounts of onboard memory. Far more room for storage expansion. And of course, there's the 1080 graphics card, which on it's own isn't as powerful as a pair of 1070s, but it's not that far behind.

X99 chips tend to be quite a bit hotter than Z170, so I've started off with a good AIO water cooler. I've also gone with the previous generation 5820K rather than the new 6800K, the difference in price is really what kills it for me. $40-$50 extra for not a lot of extra performance. The advantage really is that the 6800K might overclock better, but frankly if you want faster clock speeds you should really be looking at the 6700K anyway.

As with the AMD build earlier, you might actually be able to find a second hand X99 platform at a bit of a discount, but I wouldn't hold my breath. It's more likely than it is with the Z170 build above, but still not very likely. If you're looking for something to game at 4k while having room for a heavy workload, this rig is the way to go.

In terms of upgrades, there's plenty but the cost gets really silly, really quickly. First, if you're thinking about upgrading you really need to have a serious think about whether you want to step up to a Titan or SLI 1080s. At $1200, the Titan's actually the more cost effective option. However, with the rumors of the 1080 TI being on the horizon, you may actually want to wait a bit.

Though there's already 32 gigs of memory on this build, you could easily double it (for another $240). There's also room for an M.2 chip, the scary upgrade though is the processor. I chose the 5820K as the budget minded shopper that I am, but this board will support all the way up to the 10 core 6950X, which sells for $1649 currently (I sincerely don't recommend going this route).

Honestly, if you need that many cores you're probably better off looking into a Xeon, clock speeds might not be as good but you gotta decide what you value more at this point.

CPU: Intel Core i7-5820K 3.3GHz 6-Core Processor  ($368.99 @ SuperBiiz)
CPU Cooler: Corsair H100i v2 ($96.99 @ Best Buy)
Motherboard: Asus X99-A II ATX LGA2011-3 Motherboard  ($219.99 @ Amazon)
RAM: Corsair Dominator Platinum 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR4-3000 ($119.50 @ Amazon)
RAM: Corsair Dominator Platinum 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR4-3000 ($119.50 @ Amazon)
SSD: Sandisk SSD PLUS 480GB 2.5" ($109.97 @ Amazon)
HD: Hitachi Deskstar 7K2000 2TB 3.5" 7200RPM ($43.99 @ Amazon)
GPU: EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 8GB Superclocked ($629.99 @ Newegg)
Case: Corsair 600T White Graphite ATX ($159.99 @ Amazon)
PSU: EVGA SuperNOVA P2 850W 80+ Platinum Certified ATX ($138.33 @ OutletPC)

Total Cost: $2007.24
PCPartPicker part list:


Disclaimer: All prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available. Additionally prices will vary, see relevant links for up to date pricing data.

Generated by PCPartPicker 2016-11-13

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