One of the questions we get asked a lot as PC enthusiasts is “hey I have the following budget, please tell me what parts to choose for my gaming PC”. This question can have various answers for the exact same budget, depending on what kind of work you plan to do with your new computer. Even if you are only going to game on it, the optimal hardware configuration can vary based on the type of games you want to play. There are some games which are much more CPU heavy, while other games have a tendency to put more load on the GPU. These days however, more and more games are starting to take advantage of 4 or more CPU cores, with new releases such as Battlefield V capable of leveraging up to 12 CPU threads if you have them. Modern games are mostly balanced in terms of how much load they share between the CPU and GPU, and as you go higher in resolution, usually the graphics card will start to bear the brunt of the workload.
There are several types of gamers- those who like to play the newest and greatest single player story driven games, and competitive gamers who crave insane amounts of fps to dominate in their online multiplayer games. If you are going after maximum FPS and plan on getting a 144Hz or even a 240Hz monitor, we can safely recommend Intel 8th and 9th generation processors such as the Core i5 8600k, Core i7 8700k, and the soon to be released Core i9 9900k. But remember that you will get fewer cores and threads for your money compared to an AMD processor, and you will probably have to invest in a new motherboard when Intel releases their next generation CPU. Although for now, it has been confirmed that 9th gen Intel CPUs will be backwards compatible with Z370 boards, so you can use your ultra expensive i9 9900k on a Z370 board, although you will still need a Z390 board to get the most out of it.
Intel or AMD?
If you are primarily interested in single- player story driven games, RPGs, and do a bit of content creation on the side, an AMD Ryzen CPU is the best choice for you. Not only is Ryzen offering more cores at a lower price, but it isn’t that far behind Intel in terms of FPS. In fact, as you increase the resolution to 1440p or even 4K, games will rely more on the GPU and you will notice that the 10 to 15 percent gap between AMD Ryzen and Intel CPUs decreases down to 1 or 2 percent in most games. At that point, your eye can’t even tell the difference and the experiences are completely identical on both platforms. With Ryzen you can save some money on the CPU and get a higher tier graphics card instead.
But if you are a competitive gamer primarily interested in esports titles such as Overwatch, CS GO, Dota 2, League of Legends, etc. Intel might be a better option for you. Keep in mind the price gap- an Intel 6C/12T processor will cost nearly 25 percent more than the best mainstream CPU that AMD has to offer- the Ryzen 2700X which is a 8C/ 16T chip. You will get 500 FPS in CS GO with the Intel processor, compared to 380 on the AMD. Is more than 380 fps a requirement for you, even though the best gaming monitors these days are 240 Hz? The Intel chip will also perform better in titles like Dota 2, which really loves single core IPC and high clock speeds. If you play these kinds of games, and absolutely need the best FPS figures- Intel is for you.
Remember that the i7 8700k will get obliterated by the AMD Ryzen 2700X in most productivity based workloads like video encoding, file compression, 3D modelling, etc. Ryzen also outperforms Intel in streaming builds, thanks to the extra cores. So if you plan to stream yourself playing video games, consider the red team. They also give you a free low profile CPU cooler which is much weaker than aftermarket liquid cooling options, but is better than having no CPU cooler. Intel “k” series chips are overclockable, and you need to pay a price premium for them. In contrast, all AMD Ryzen chips are unlocked from the factory and you can overclock them even on mid-range B350 motherboards which cost much less than any Z series Intel motherboard.
Prebuilt or custom?
If you asked this question a couple years ago, we would definitely have recommended a custom build. But these days graphics cards prices have shot up tremendously thanks to the mining craze, and even though GPU prices are gradually returning back to MSRP levels they are not quite there yet. One of the advantages that a system integrator or PC building company has, is that they don’t have to pay a premium for their graphics cards. Instead they get these cards at MSRP from the GPU maker. Which is why, for the first time in history a prebuilt system can cost as much or even less than a custom built PC.
Another benefit of prebuilt systems is the warranty- they cover the entire PC in their warranty, whereas with a custom built system you will have to personally reach out to the manufacturer or dealer of each individual part when it breaks down. This warranty provides ensures peace of mind for your average Joe who doesn’t know much about PC components. Most of the time, issues in your computer are software related and can be fixed if you know how to search up stuff on the internet. But if you are too lazy to do that, prebuilt systems come with a customer service number that you can call for assistance regarding any issue. Be warned- these customer service hotlines can be hit or miss, and some of the time you will find yourself in a conversation with someone who may not even speak proper English.
One really cool option you have when it comes to prebuilt gaming computers is the NZXT BLD program. You can visit their site, select the types of games you want to play, choose a budget, and they will provide you with a list of budgets for the build. They even guarantee a certain amount of FPS for each build, and provide you with multiple color schemes. NZXT makes some of the best CPU coolers and gaming PC cases on the market, their cases are famous for the intricate cable management options and neat looks. So you can rest assured that your prebuilt system from NZXT will look amazing, and arrive with really good cable management.
How hard is it to build a custom gaming PC?
This is the part where most people get intimidated- they see all these parts, and can’t make any sense of what goes where. But honestly it isn’t that hard at all. Yes, you will need to dedicate a few hours of time and look up some videos on YouTube in order to prepare for the installation of the components. But that’s about it, as long as you don’t do something really dumb and use common sense while assembling your PC it should all work out in the end. Some websites and tech channels will tell you that a whole bunch of tools are needed to assemble the PC, but that isn’t true either- all you need is a Philips head screwdriver and some zip ties, maybe a plier or scissor to chop off the ends of the zip ties. That’s it, and if you don’t have an anti- static wristband or ankle strap, just use the PSU to discharge your body of any potential static electricity. You hook up your power supply to a wall socket that is grounded, don’t turn on the power supply or the socket, and just place your hands on the metal housing of the PSU. This will drain any static charge on your body down into the ground. Don’t have a big table like the ones you see on PC hardware channels? Well no problem, just use the box that your motherboard came in since that is a non conducive surface. Or if you need something bigger, use the monitor box.
Trust us, the hardest part of building a gaming PC is choosing the components that go into it. You don’t have to be scared of the assembly process, just watch a couple of videos like this one before you assemble the PC into your computer case. When choosing the components, you have to be careful- not all parts will be compatible with one another. For example, you can’t pick up an AMD processor and fit it into an Intel motherboard. That should be common sense, but a more complicated issue would be when you choose a certain CPU cooler like a tower cooler and don’t have enough clearance around the cooler for your RAM kit.
Also make sure you get the motherboard form factor correct with respect to your case. Check out our mATX gaming case article for more info. Briefly speaking, you cannot fit an ATX motherboard into a mini ITX or micro ATX case. However, you can do it the other way around- by fitting a micro ATX or mini ITX motherboard into an ATX case. Mid towers and Full towers are for ATX builds, Mini towers and SFF/ cube cases are for mATX and mini ITX builds. Also check for PSU compatibility because ATX boards and cases will require an ATX certified power supply. Most SFF cases and mini towers will accommodate a full length ATX PSU, but some small cases might require you to purchase a SFX power supply. Learn more about power supply form factors here.
This is one of the few prebuilt gaming PCs that provides great power for the price. We tried to create our own custom build for the same price, and barely managed to do so. And our custom build did not include a free keyboard or mouse, like this prebuilt system.
If you want an all rounder that does gaming and productivity- this IBUYPOWER system is perfect for you. Not only does it look really cool with the blue LED fans and tempered glass side panel, but also comes with a free gaming keyboard + mouse combo.
Not everyone cares about 8 cores and 16 threads, sometimes you just want to dominate your opponents in online multiplayer titles. For that, you need the maximum possible FPS and Intel still holds the title of fastest gaming CPU manufacturer. This IBUYPOWER prebuilt system is for gamers who want the most FPS, and own 144Hz monitors.
Our Custom 1000 Dollar Gaming PC Build
Since we have reviewed prebuilt systems based on both Intel and AMD processors, we decided to build two different custom PCs- one of them uses an Intel CPU while the other one uses AMD. PC part picker was used to create and save our build lists. On this website, you can view a wide range of computer parts currently being sold in online retail platforms such as Newegg or Amazon. The prices are updated on an hourly basis, and they even factor in shipping costs as well as discounts from mail- in rebates. The best feature of PC part picker is its system compatibility checker- if a particular CPU, motherboard, or RAM kit is incompatible with the rest of the system, you will be notified and told to change the specific part that is causing the issue. The compatibility checker doesn’t stop there, it even checks the case, power supply, cooler, and pretty much any component that you have selected to fit inside your gaming PC.
You can also check reviews from verified users, as well as build guides and custom parts lists from other users across the world. When creating our custom builds, we tried to see how much performance we can get by staying in the same price range as the two premium IBUYPOWER prebuilt computers that we reviewed. Both of those cost a shade under 1000 bucks, so our goal was to stay within the 950 to 1000 dollar range. And this is the AMD Ryzen build that we came up with. It features the Ryzen 7 2700X CPU which is currently the most powerful desktop gaming processor AMD has ever released, and it completely trounces the Intel Core i7 8700k in productivity based workloads. If you want to game and live stream at the same time, we highly recommend this AMD Ryzen gaming PC. As for the GPU, we chose a RX 580 Armor OC from MSI, this is the complete 8GB version of the RX 580 unlike the cut down 4GB models that were used in both the prebuilt PCs that we reviewed. The 8GB RX 580 will perform marginally better in some games, and significantly better in any application that requires a lot of video memory. If you start adding high resolution textures and a bunch of mods to your game, you will really appreciate the fact that you have 8GB of VRAM instead of 4GB. And when you are unpacking all the mods from their compressed files, you will really love the Ryzen 2700X and its insane 7-zip performance compared to Intel CPUs.
We also managed to squeeze in a 2TB 7200 rpm hard disk drive from Seagate, in comparison both the AMD and Intel prebuilt systems by IBUYPOWER use 1TB disk drives. The RAM kits we used are much faster compared to the RAM kits you will find inside the IBUYPOWER View21 035A, or pretty much any prebuilt gaming PC for that matter. We went with G.Skill Ripjaws 2x 8GB 3200 MHz DDR4, which should pair really well with the Ryzen 7 2700X processor. Because of the way Ryzen architecture works, it really loves high speed RAM. You will notice better performance in games and productivity with faster RAM if you are using a Ryzen CPU. Intel chips also benefit from faster memory, but not nearly as much as Ryzen. The performance gains with faster memory in Intel systems is minimal in most games, and only a handful of productivity based software shows significant gains with higher memory speeds on Intel systems.
Unlike the prebuilt systems which use stock CPU coolers provided within the box, we went with a premium tower cooler from Cryorig- the H7 Quad Lumi. It rivals some 120mm AIOs in terms of performance, and is equipped with RGB lighting controlled via the CAM software. This cooler will comfortably fit inside our NZXT H500 colored case, and its black top plate + silver heatsink matches up nicely with the white colored case that we are using. With the H7 Quad Lumi our Ryzen 7 2700X can run really cool even under load, and much quieter than it would with a stock CPU heatsink and fan. You also have some room for overclocking, we believe this cooler is enough to take the 2700X up to 4.0 GHz on all 8 cores. Any higher than that, and you might want to invest in an AIO liquid cooler like this one.
Finally the power supply- we went with a Corsair CXM 550W semi- modular bronze rated PSU. It isn’t the best by any means, but is good enough for some mild overclocking and runs relatively quietly compared to some of the cheaper PSUs out there. The 550 watt rating is perfect for our system which shouldn’t be drawing any more than 500 watts even with a bit of OC on the processor.
So in summary, with the same budget as the IBUYPOWER View21 035A, we managed to build a custom PC that has a better CPU (Ryzen 7 2700X vs Ryzen 7 1800X), faster memory (DDR4 3200MHz vs DDR4 2400MHz), a better graphics card (RX 580 8GB vs RX 580 4GB), more storage (2TB vs 1TB), and a much better CPU cooler (Cryorig H7 Quad Lumi vs stock AMD cooler). And we even have a better case in the NZXT H500. If you want to experience the joy of building and customizing your own PC, we encourage you to give it a try. You can do your research online, and edit our list based on your needs. For instance, we have another version of this build in which we went with a Ryzen 5 2600 hexacore 12- thread CPU. It costs 10 dollars over budget, but we managed to cram a NVIDIA GTX 1080 8GB (the Gigabyte Windforce OC edition) in there! For reference, the GTX 1080 is one of the most powerful gaming graphics card on the planet, and is capable of 1440p, 144Hz gaming. It can even handle 4k at 60 fps with a couple settings turned down.
We also created an Intel build to compete with the IBUYPOWER AM8510i. And guess what? We easily beat it with a total cost that turned out to be cheaper than the prebuilt system. But keep in mind that prices of parts may vary, a couple dollars here and there, and suddenly our custom build is a bit more expensive than the prebuilt. As for now, you can go to pcpartpicker and try out our version of an Intel Corei5 8400 gaming PC. While the prebuilt uses a stock cooler, we have a Cryorig H7 Quad Lumi. And we have faster memory (3000MHz), along with more memory- 16GB in our system vs 8GB in the prebuilt.
The IBUYPOWER AM8510i lacks an SSD, while our custom build features the Kingston A400 240GB SSD as a boot drive along with a massive 3TB Ultrastar 7K3000 7200rpm disk drive from Hitachi. The prebuilt also has a 7200 rpm HDD, but with a third of the capacity (1TB). Thanks to the SSD, our custom gaming PC will boot up several times faster, and loading times on software will be reduced significantly. We can also store a lot more movies, games, photos, etc. on our system compared to the prebuilt because we have a 3TB disk drive. Our CPU will run cooler, and games will run faster because of the EVGA GeForce GTX 1060 6GB video card. The 6GB version of the GTX 1060 has more CUDA cores and twice the VRAM of the 3GB version. We also have a much better case with superior cable management and options for future expansion. Our EVGA SuperNova G3 power supply is fully modular, and 80+ Gold rated. This is better than any power supply you will find on a prebuilt gaming PC that doesn’t cost at least 1500 or 2000 dollars.
Like with the AMD build, we created a slightly tweaked version of our custom Intel gaming PC. This time, we went with a Core i5 8600K instead of the Core i5 8400. The 8600k is unlocked, which means we can pair it with a Z370 board and overclock the chip to get significant performance gains. These performance gains will be noticeable mainly in titles such as CS GO and Dota 2, where you can get massive fps boosts with overclocking. We spent more on the CPU and motherboard, as well as the power supply. However to stay within our 1000 dollar budget, we chose a slightly more affordable case and a smaller SSD. The power supply is a SuperNova G3 fully modular unit like before, but this time it is rated for 650 watts since we need a bit of extra headroom for overclocking the CPU, as well as future storage expansion. The cooler we used this time is the Noctua NG-D15s. It has a slightly beefier heatsink with a more silent fan compared to the Cryorig H7 Quad Lumi.
Which One Should You Buy?
This one is completely up to you. As we have demonstrated, you can build yourself a more powerful system with better cooling and faster memory for less price compared to a prebuilt. But you do trade away the full computer warranty for that, and need to get your hands dirty (not in the literal sense, as you would while working on a car). Prebuilt systems are convenient, and come in handy when you want to gift a gaming PC to someone but don’t have the time to research about the latest hardware and assemble the whole thing yourself while also waiting for parts to arrive as you order them. But with a custom build, you can get more for your money and choose parts that fit the overall aesthetics of the build. You will notice that almost all prebuilt systems use reference GPUs and stock CPU coolers. They don’t score very high in the PSU quality category, while our custom builds use EVGA and Corsair PSUs that are either semi or fully modular with 80+ gold rating. Some prebuilt systems don’t even have dual channel memory, and use single 16GB sticks instead. Now you might say “but what about the OS? Prebuilt systems have Windows 10 preinstalled”. Well, there is a solution for that too. You can find several OEM keys for Windows 10 on eBay for under 20 bucks. And with a little bit of creativity, you can get Windows to run for even less money than that.
Want to check out more detailed reviews on individual parts for your custom build? See our PC Parts review list here.
Or perhaps you prefer the simplicity of a pre-built desktop, but want something cheaper than the ones we gave above? In that case here are several prebuilt gaming PCs for less than $500!