It\’s upgrade time! If you\’re looking to build yourself a gaming PC of your dreams, our guide has got everything you need to find the best high-end components. Chances are, this isn\’t your first rodeo, but if you fancy taking a quick refresher course, here\’s our guide on how to build a gaming PC. The last thing you want to do is bricking your entire PC because you forgot to apply the thermal paste.
The rig we are building should easily let you play most games at 1440p and a stable framerate. Though, if you have dreams of 4K gaming, you\’ll need something a little more extreme (and expensive). We cost out at least $2,000 for this build since you\’re equipping one of the best CPUs and the best graphics cards on the market right now. If you\’re just upgrading, you can reuse some of your old parts like your power supply or case, which will help mitigate costs. If money is no option, take a look at our extreme gaming PC build guide.
Of course, make sure that any part you\’re reusing is compatible with our picks, or else it\’ll lead to a giant headache later on when you try to boot your system. This PC build guide puts together the best components available to make you a rock-solid high-end gaming PC that should keep you happy for a couple of years.
You should note that this list does not include peripherals like a keyboard and mouse. We will recommend that if you\’re still using a 1080p monitor to check out our picks for our favorite gaming monitor and score yourself a beautiful 1440p display that takes full advantage of your newly acquired hardware.
Intel Core i7-9700K
Excellent gaming performance at a lower price
Cores: 8 | Threads: 8 | Base Clock: 3.6GHz | Turbo Clock: 4.9GHz | Overclocking: Yes, 4.9-5.1GHz typical | L3 Cache: 12MB | TDP: 95W | PCIe 3.0 lanes: 16
$373.99View at NeweggPrime$395.42View at Amazon$448.99View at BHPhoto
Excellent gaming performance Eight high-speed cores No Hyper-Threading Limited overclocking
Intel\’s Core i7 line sits in an appealing middle ground, following the release of the Core i9-9900K—an eight-core, 16-thread chip. The Core i5 is still more budget-friendly, but this Coffee Lake Core i7 has the same number of cores as the Core i9, just without Hyper-Threading. If you\’re after a higher thread count you could consider a similarly priced Ryzen CPU, but they are slightly off the pace in terms of straight gaming performance.
Alternatively the new Intel Comet Lake range of processors are on the way soon, offering Hyper-Threading throughout the range, and potentially an eight-core, 16-thread Core i7 at the same price as the 9700K.
As for right now, the six-core i5-9600K clocks a tiny bit faster than the eight-core i7-9700K, but the i5 is about $140 cheaper, making it a more cost-effective option. We still rank the Core i7-9700K within our best CPU for gaming picks, so there\’s a good reason why we\’d put it in this high-end build.
Thanks to the removal of Hyper-threading, this CPU won\’t run as hot as the Core i9, so you can use a (potentially cheaper) air-cooling solution if you prefer that over liquid-cooling. You might not get as high of a maximum overclock, but the Core i7-9700K is still a pretty beefy CPU even at the base clock, so it\’ll last for years to come. Also, the difference in performance between the Hyper-Threaded i7-8700K and the non-Hyper-Threaded i7-9700K isn\’t an issue. The i7-9700K has additional cores over the i7-8700K that more than makeup for it.
If you\’re only concerned with building a new PC for gaming, and not live streaming or video editing, the Core i5-9600K might be the better alternative. You\’ll save some money and can still clock close to 5GHz with adequate cooling.
Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Ultra
Great gaming performance and features at a decent price
Chipset: Z390 | Memory: (4) DIMM, 64GB, DDR4-4266 | PCIe slots: x16, x16 (x8), x16 (x4), (3) x1 | Video ports: HDMI | USB ports: (10) rear IO, (7) internal | Storage: (3) M.2, (6) SATA | Network: Ethernet, 1733Mbps 802.11ac | Lighting: Heatsink and DIMM slots RGB, (2) RGBW headers
$340.05View at AmazonPrime$399View at Amazon
No-compromise features including triple M.2 slots Slick RGB package with two LED headers Potentially too much bling
We like a motherboard with great features, excellent overclocking support, and plenty of extras—especially for a high-end build—which for an Intel chip usually means looking around the $200 mark. The Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Ultra is our pick, with everything you need, and probably plenty of things you\’ll never use.
It overclocks as well as other Z390 boards we\’ve tested, and it comes with useful extras such as triple M.2 slots, Intel Wi-Fi Wave2, and Ethernet, along with flashy options like Aura-RGB lighting. There\’s room for more than one graphics card, and the built-in audio is top-notch. Note that you\’ll need a power supply with both an 8-pin EPS12V and 4-pin ATX12V power connectors for this board (which the CM850x has).
Other options include the MSI Z390 Gaming Pro Carbon AC and Asus ROG Maximus XI Hero (Wi-Fi), any of which should please any gamer. If this isn\’t for you, here are the best gaming motherboards.
Best gaming monitor | Best gaming mouse | Best gaming keyboard
Best gaming headset | Best gaming router | Best gaming chair
Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super
The second fastest GPU at a more reasonable price
GPU Cores: 3,072 | Base Clock: 1,650MHz | Boost Clock: 1,815MHz | GFLOPS: 10,068 | Memory: 8GB GDDR6 | Memory Clock: 15.5GT/s | Memory Bandwidth: 496GB/s
Prime$719.99View at Amazon$719.99View at Newegg$839.99View at Dell19 Amazon customer reviews
Ray tracing and deep learning features More RTX enabled games nowRay tracing is \’super\’ demanding
The Nvidia RTX Super cards are the new kings of graphics performance, and the new RTX 2080 Super will get you everything you need. Nvidia\’s Turing RTX GPUs support ray tracing, DLSS, and have other architectural updates that boost gaming performance. In the year since Nvidia first launched its RTX cards, we\’ve seen quite a few games adopt the technology.
Battlefield 5 was first, and then we had to wait a while before eventually getting Metro Exodus and a patch for Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Control and Call of Duty have now joined the list, and there are half a dozen more ray tracing enabled games slated to arrive before the end of the year. If you\’re looking for an excellent high-end graphics card, the RTX 2080 Super is the best option right now. As usual, deciding which RTX 2080 Super card to buy is mainly down to price and personal preference.
The Nvidia reference models at least don\’t carry a price premium this round, but if you want RGB lighting or a triple-fan cooling solution, you\’ll want to look elsewhere. Asus, EVGA, Gigabyte, MSI, Zotac, and other partners have options for every build, including at least one or two blower cards. For those that don\’t care about aesthetics, we generally recommend buying whatever 2080 Super card is cheapest.
G.Skill TridentZ RGB 2x8GB DDR4-3200
Fast memory with decent timings to maximize performance
Capacity: 2x8GB | Speed: 3200MT/s | Timings: 16-18-18-38 | Voltage: 1.35V
Prime$89.99View at Amazon1 Amazon customer review
Good timings and speedGood price for DDR4-3200Too much bling?Not CL14
There\’s a question that\’s frequently asked about RAM in high-end PC builds: do you go for clock speed or quantity? While memory capacity can be a factor up to a certain point, going beyond 16GB requires particular workloads before you benefit. Increased memory speed, however, can help performance and framerates. G.Skill\’s TridentZ DDR4-3200 RGB balances price with performance, and anything faster usually cost substantially more.
Compared to typical DDR4-2400 with CL15 timings, the TridentZ improves performance by 5-10 percent. It costs about 20-30 percent more on the memory side, but if you look at the entire system, it only increases the price by about one percent. And you\’ll never have to worry if your memory speed is slowing things down.
If you\’d rather have more RAM rather than higher performance RAM, be prepared for a much more significant increase in price—and the benefits of 32GB are only available if you\’re running workloads that need more than 16GB. There\’s no binary right/wrong answer to the question of speed vs. capacity, but most users will see more benefit from faster RAM, at least once we\’re at the 16GB level. For more tips, check our best DDR4 RAM article.
Samsung 970 Evo 1TB
Plenty of fast storage for your games and other media
Capacity: 1,000GB | Interface: M.2 PCIe | Sequential IO: 3,400/2,500MB/s read/write | Random IO: 500K/450K IOPS read/write
Prime$179.99View at Amazon$182.99View at Newegg$259.99View at Dell4 Amazon customer reviews
Excellent performance and reasonable pricePlenty of capacity and enduranceNot quite as fast as 970/960 ProStill quite expensive vs SATA
By moving to a full 1TB NVMe SSD, you\’ll have room for a vast gaming library in addition to your Windows folder and a few apps—watch out for those 100GB games, though! Once you get used to loading games off an SSD, it\’s painful to go back to a traditional hard drive. We don\’t want any of you to feel pain with a $2,000 PC.
The Samsung 970 Evo delivers sequential read speeds of up to 3,400MB/s and write speeds of 2,500MB/s (that\’s megabytes per second). It\’s not quite as fast as the more expensive 970 Pro line, or some exotic PCIe flash solutions, but you likely won\’t notice the difference. More importantly, you won\’t be spending a whole lot of time looking at loading screens.
You could save money by sticking with a slower SATA SSD—the Crucial MX500 1TB, for instance, costs about $80 less. If you\’re only worried about gaming performance, you generally won\’t notice the difference between a modest SATA SSD and an NVMe drive (until you verify a large game install in Steam).
Another option would be to stick with a 500GB 970 Evo as your boot drive and then use a large HDD for archival purposes, including games you aren\’t actively playing any longer. With utilities like Steam Library Manager, you can quickly move things back and forth between fast and slow storage over time. We\’d instead ditch spinning disks altogether, or at least avoid them as much as possible, which is sort of the point of a high-end build. You could also use PrimoCache to set aside part of your SSD as a cache, which is something we\’ll be testing in the future. If you need more, here is the best SSD for gaming guide.
A gold standard PSU to handle most builds
Form factor: ATX | Capacity: 850W | Efficiency rating: 80 Plus Gold | Modularity: Full | Warranty: 10-year
$159.99View at Newegg$159.99View at CORSAIR$165.78View at Amazon586 Amazon customer reviews
Gold standard efficiencyWill power all but extreme PCs10 year warrantyIt\’s not Titanium efficiency
With an 850W output and a Gold Plus rating, the RM850x is a sensible PSU for most builds. It can even handle multi-GPU rigs, providing you\’re not using top-top-end cards (if you are, we\’d probably recommend the Seasonic Prime 1000 Titanium). It\’s fully modular, comes with a nice quiet fan, and the price is very reasonable next to other PSUs that deliver the same kind of performance.
The only downside is that you might expect a slightly better efficiency rating for a potent gaming machine. Gold Plus is certainly enough, but you\’ll always be casting jealous glances as Titanium standard PSUs, which will also double (ish) the price of your power supply. What we like about the RM850x is that 10-year warranty that comes as standard, which lets you know how reliable it is and how much confidence Corsair has in the product. If you need more ideas, here are the best power supplies for PC gaming.
NZXT H500 / H500i
A stylish case that\’s easy to use
Type: ATX mid-tower | Motherboard Compatibility: ATX, Micro-ATX, Mini-ITX | Drive Bays: (3) 3.5\” internal, (3) 2.5\” SSD | Front Ports: (2) USB 3.0, (1) Headset | Fan Options: Front: (2) 140/120mm, Top: (1) 140/120mm (120mm included), Rear: (1) 120mm (included) | Max GPU Length: 381mm | Dimensions: 460x210x428mm (HxWxD) | Weight: 7.0kg
No price informationCheck Amazon1 Amazon customer review
Clean aesthetic and good coolingThoughtful design elementsNo support for optical driveSlightly limited radiator support
PC cases aren\’t simple gray boxes anymore; they\’ve become increasingly complicated. Modularity is excellent, and excellent cable management with a separate PSU partition is almost compulsory, as there\’s nothing like a tidy build with all the cables routed neatly out of the way. Things we don\’t like (other than for aesthetic purposes): small cases that are a pain to set up and run hotter.
NZXT\’s H-series has some exceptional cases, and the new H500 / H500i has nearly everything we could want. (Here\’s a breakdown of the H500 vs. H500i.) Not only does it have an understated kind of beauty, but it\’s available in white or black, with several color accent options. Airflow is decent, and there are plenty of options for routing cables, storing SSDs, and more, with room for up to a 280mm radiator in the front.
Cases are highly subjective, however, and our previous pick, the Cooler Master MasterCase 5, remains a great option that leans toward tweaking and liquid cooling. If you\’re looking for something a bit flashier, or just want other ideas, check our best mid-tower case and best full-tower case guides.
Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML240R RGB
A great solution to keep your CPU cool
Size: 240mm | Fan speed: 650-2,000rpm | Noise level: 6-30 dB(A) | Dimensions: 277x120x27mm | Socket support: LGA115x, LGA1366, LGA2011, LGA2066, FM1/2, AM2/3, AM4
Prime$114.99View at Amazon$117.28View at AmazonPrime$199View at Amazon112 Amazon customer reviews
Good cooling performanceCompatible with all major socketsRGB controller and softwareNeeds a midsize or larger case
oreWe\’re big fans (pun intended) of AIO liquid coolers, but want something a bit better than Cooler Master\’s Hyper 212 Evo for this build, so we\’ve opted for the MasterLiquid ML240R. It\’s reasonably easy to install as far as liquid cooling goes, and it works well.
We\’ve opted for a 240mm cooler with two fans, which should be more than enough for the Core i7-9700K processor\’s heat generation. That also gives us a bit of breathing room when it comes time to install the radiator in a case. Larger 280mm radiators would fit our case but can be a tight fit even in large and spacious cases, so the ML240R is more accessible.
Alternative AIO coolers are also plentiful: NZXT\’s Kraken X52 (240mm) and Kraken X42 (120mm), or Corsair\’s H80i v2, H100i v2, and H110i are equally viable. And, yes, if you need it, we had a guide to the best CPU coolers in 2020.
Components – best current prices
PC Gamer High-End BuildIntel Core i7 i7-9700K…Intel Core i7-9700KAmazon$395.42ViewSee all pricesAorus Z390 AORUS Ultra…Gigabyte Z390 Aorus UltraAmazon$340.05ViewSee all pricesEVGA 08G-P4-3081-KR, GeForce…Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 SuperAmazon$719.99ViewSee all pricesG.SKILL TridentZ RGB Series…G.Skill TridentZ RGB 2x8GB DDR4-3200Amazon$89.99ViewSee all pricesSamsung (MZ-V7E1T0BW) 970…Samsung 970 Evo 1TBAmazon$179.99ViewSee all pricesALIMENTATIONS CORSAIR 601-850…Corsair RM850xAmazon$165.78ViewSee all pricesCooler Master MasterLiquid…Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML240R RGBAmazon$114.99ViewSee all pricesView All Deals