Gaming PCs might not be as far ahead as everyone would like - the fabled 4K, 60fps machine with all settings maxed out still costs an awful lot - but if you're looking to build a new rig, there's never been a better time.
It's not just because we're in a massive sales window, although that certainly helps. It's primarily because, moreso than ever, there has actually been a solid amount of competition across the board. The RTX 2080 Ti will still cost you the equivalent of a rental bond, but if you're just looking for something to smash out games efficiently at 1080p, or smooth frame rates at 1440p, that's super easy to right now.
Let's walk through what you could get over the next couple of days across a few tiers: an entry level gaming PC, something a little higher end that can handle higher resolutions and frame rates, and a beefier rig that would double up for video editing/recording/streaming.
The good thing about the competition in the CPU wars - which AMD has been supremely successful at over the last two years - is that it's made entry level gaming CPUs much, much more affordable.
What's especially handy is the B450 motherboard line that supports all Ryzen CPUs from the first generation to the latest 3000 series this year. These motherboards are relatively cheap and if you're not particularly interested in overclocking - and most who spend $1000 or less aren't - they do the job just fine.
Parsing some of the major Australian PC retailers, here's a entry-level gaming rig you could build for under $1000, with a bit of headroom for adding more storage/better components later. For the purposes of this, and the other rigs, we'll assume that you already have a monitor and the keyboard/mouse/peripherals of your choice. I'll do a separate breakout on monitors in another piece, since that's a whole other equation.
The Entry Level Rig: $972.96
- Ryzen 5 2600: $188.88 (Amazon)
- ASRock B450M Pro4 m-ATX: $126.46 (Amazon)
- Corsair Vengeance 16GB DDR4-3000Mhz: $95.25 (Amazon)
- Kingston A400 480GB SSD: $69 (Center Com)
- Seagate Barracuda 1TB 7200RPM: $49 (Computer Alliance)
- MSI Radeon RX 570 8GB: $265.42 (Amazon)
- Corsair VS 650W ATX Power Supply: $109.95 (Amazon)
- Cooler Master MasterBox Q300L: $69 (PC Case Gear)
There's a decent mix of options here. You've got enough storage that you can download a few of the biggest games without worrying. Not enough space is one of the biggest killers for laptops and a lot of entry level rigs, and it's worth making sure you've got some extra space from the off.
The RX 570 and Ryzen 5 2600 are well priced right now - you could save an extra $60 if you went for the 4GB version of the RX 570, but a lot of games even at 1080p will use all of that memory. The RX 570 is also a better option than the RX 560, and there's more stock of it locally too. And sure, the Ryzen 5 3600 is substantially better in games, but it's also an extra $130 or so. You could squeeze that into the current rig with the same components, and if you could fork out the extra, I'd recommend it. (You might need to upgrade the BIOS, however, so double check.)
RAM is relatively cheap these days compared to a year or two ago, so $95 for 16GB of RAM instead of 8GB is a good investment. And having the second SSD as the main drive for Windows and other system critical files makes a world of difference to the start-up and the general "feeling" of how fast a machine is.
Something A Bit Beefier: $1555
- Ryzen 5 3600: $315 (Center Com)
- ASUS B450-F Gaming ATX AM4: $199 (Center Com)
- Corsair Vengeance LPX 16 GB (2 x 8 GB) DDR4-3000 Memory: $95.25
- Seagate BarraCuda 1 TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive: $49 (Computer Alliance)
- Kingston A400 480 GB 2.5" Solid State Drive: $69 (Center Com)
- Crucial P1 1 TB M.2-2280 NVME Solid State Drive: $156 (Amazon)
- Gigabyte RTX 2060 WINDFORCE 6GB: $492 (Center Com)
- Corsair 270R ATX Mid Tower: $89.90
- Corsair VS 550W ATX Power Supply: $89.95
The Ryzen 5 3600 is, hands down, the best value chip you can buy if you're going to do a ton of gaming. The performance delta between that and the 3600X is too small to justify paying for the 3600X, and the 6 cores / 12 threads means you won't be left in the woods if you have some intensive non-gaming workloads on the side.
Like the earlier build, this is running on air cooling with AMD's supplied Wraith cooler. That's fine for a lot of gamers - overclocking isn't everyone's domain, and if you're building a PC for the first time it's certainly not the first thing you want to be doing. You can get better performance with a better air cooler or a liquid-based solution, but if you're going to do that then you'd also want to invest in a vastly better motherboard, which this rig isn't build for.
Storage solution is a little bit better here, although something worth noting is the M.2 NVMe drive here. When you use the M.2 slot on the ASUS ROG B450 motherboard, it'll disable two of the six SATA ports, since it shares their bandwidth. But you've got six ports and you're still only using three drives.
The RTX 2060 will give you plenty of grunt if you want to play games at 1440p, and older "esports" titles (games that people tank all the settings in to run at super high frame rates). The rest of the parts are good at what they do at bargain prices, and if you keep your eyes peeled tomorrow, chances are a fair few of them will be even cheaper.
I Need Geralt's Hair At 4K/60, Please: $3980
Some people want to go all out. You're still paying way over the odds - GPU prices will be far more interesting next year when AMD finally enter the ray-tracing game with a 7nm GPU that can actually go toe to toe with the RTX 2080 Ti.
But if you want to build one of those rigs now? Well, it's still not a bad time given where the price of everything else is at.
- Ryzen 3900X: $789 (Amazon)
- Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO: $53.76 (Amazon)
- ASRock X570 Phantom Gaming 4 AM4: $248 (Umart)
- Corsair Vengeance 32GB LPX DDR4-3200 MHz: $209 (Amazon)
- Kingston A400 240GB SSD: $43 (Umart)
- Intel 660p 2TB NVMe: $339 (PC Case Gear)
- Crucial P1 1TB NVMe: $156 (Amazon)
- EVGA RTX 2080 Ti 11GB GPU: $1799 (PLE Computers)
- Cooler Master H500P Mesh ATX Mid Tower: $189 (Umart)
- Corsair RM 750W 80+ Gold PSU: $155 (Mwave)
Going again with AMD here. You will theoretically get the best performance in games across the board if you stick to Intel, but everyone I've ever met, especially gamers that like to spend thousands on their rigs, always do other work on the side. The 3900X is banger on that front, but it's a couple of hundred dollars more than the 3700X.
I'll use the 3900X for the purposes of this build, which ups the price on the motherboard side but is absolutely worth it. It holds its own in gaming against Intel's 9900KS and their 9900K CPUs, which have higher frequencies, but it absolutely obliterates the 9900K (which costs about the same as the 3900X) in everything else. It's a cracking all-rounder, and it'll serve any gamer well for the next few years at least.
As for the cooler, you can get more performance if you want to go a closed loop cooler like the Corsair H100i RGB. That's completely up to you, but your mileage may vary.
Similar deal with the storage solution: one drive just for the Windows install, another fast drive for game installs and an extra drive that can be used either as a scratch drive (in case you wanted to do a ton of recording/editing) or just as a backup for files and other work. The 3900X has enough grunt to handle streaming without dropping a beat in games, and paired with the RTX 2080 Ti you should have zero problems playing games at buttery smooth resolutions with most settings on High or Ultra. (You'll have to turn them down in some games, but that's a case by case basis.)
Ray tracing is all well and good, but how many frames for your buck do you actually get from Nvidia's new RTX 2080 Ti and RTX 2080 cards?
With what PC's cost today, it's usually good to lowball one or two areas with a view to upgrading them in 12 or 24 months. The GPU is one where I'd probably get something a bit cheaper now - or reuse an older part - if only because extra competition from AMD next year, or a new generation from Nvidia, should shake up the prices nicely. Monitor upgrades are another thing to consider as well, with prices on the high refresh rate 4K/IPS screens coming down substantially. (They're still super expensive, but about half the price of what they used to be. This Acer Nitro XV3 is really solid for the price, and even something like the Viewsonic 2K 144Hz IPS screen is pretty affordable.)
So those are some of the options for building gaming PCs today at different price points. Keep in mind a ton of these parts will probably fall in price tomorrow and over Cyber Monday - PC retailers often keep their discounts going for a while. But if you've been saving up for a new rig around Christmas, the above is at least a little guide of what you can do with how much, and what options you have.