Christmas has been and gone, so if you’re reading this in the New Year with a splattering of Scan or Amazon vouchers waiting for their calling, you might decide it is time to upgrade your battlestation to take advantage of the years’ new tech. It’s a year which has seen Nvidia, rather controversially, release their new ray-tracing enabled cards, and AMD have surprised us all with Ryzen, becoming the better bang for buck in the CPU space that they haven’t had for several years.
If you need a helping hand for your PC upgrades, or perhaps an entirely new build, then you’ve come to the right place.
Please note that I won’t be including the cost of a Windows 10 licence in these builds. If that is required, you’re looking at approximately an extra £60 to acquire one.
Do remember that Microsoft will not support Windows 7 on these CPUs. It will also stop offering security updates to Windows 7 after 14th January, 2020.
The Budget Build
For those that don’t have stacks of cash, this build is for you.
I tried with all my might to take down the price as much as possible to under £500, but I just couldn’t do it without some major sacrifices. In most cases though, you should end up with games looking better than their PS4 Pro equivalents, although perhaps not the Xbox One X.
For that reason I would highly recommend upgrading to a 1050 Ti, as the extra £40 or so will net you improvements of around 30% in most games. The extra VRAM will also help, with the stock 1050 limited to 2GB; the Ti variant pushes up to 4GB.
Elsewhere, I have favoured the Ryzen 3 over an Intel Core i3, mainly because of the price per performance. You won’t find an i3 for cheaper, the Ryzen 3 1200 is still quad core and isn’t a significant drop off from Intel’s cheapest i3 (newest of which is the 8100).
Keep Windows installed on the 120GB SSD for fast boot times, which is plenty alongside any other applications that you need, and put all your games onto the hard drive.
The Mid-Range Build
Got a bit more money to spend? Have a gander at this one below.
This build is plenty powerful, and the Ryzen 5 2600 provides plenty of future proofing for a very competitive price. The data drives I’ve kept the same from my previous build, but you could opt for a 2TB hard drive for not a great deal more than the one I’ve listed here.
The RX 580 is touted as the king of 1080p, along with the Nvidia 1060. I have preferred the AMD option here mainly so you can use a FreeSync monitor, which I’ve included. That £192 monitor gets you 1080p at a silky smooth 144Hz, with FreeSync ensuring that screen tearing is a thing of the past. If you want to save some money though, you can get a standard 1080p 60Hz monitor for about £100 less.
400W is plenty, and of course the case, mouse and keyboard are all personal preference. If you can go to £900, you could bag another SSD, say 250 or even 500GB, just for those games that benefit from a faster drive. Battlefield V and GTA V (all the V’s) run best from a faster drive.
The High(er) End Build
Now we’re getting into serious money. See what you make of this one below.
I’m still keeping the Ryzen 5 2600 in there, but upgraded pretty much everything else. A better, and bigger, motherboard in the MSI X470 has 6 SATA ports and will easily fit the 2070 GPU. I know I have chosen a FreeSync monitor, so for some of you, it may make more sense to opt for a Vega 64. I have stuck with Nvidia though because of everybody’s new favourite technology, RAY-TRACING! It may be all but useless at the moment, but that may change. For those unaware – no, Nvidia will most likely not support FreeSync. They have G-sync, which is wildly more expensive.
Elsewhere, there’s a larger case to be had here and a good sized 500GB SSD for Windows and a select few games. 2TB of other storage is available too.
This PC will be great at 1440p, with the AOC monitor I’ve chosen running at 144Hz. You can downgrade the memory slightly if you want to save some pennies to Corsair’s non-RGB option, but don’t forget that LEDs add on at least 20-25% of a performance boost. This set also runs at 3000MHz, but remember with memory speeds that run at anything over 2133MHz, you will need to go into the BIOS to get it to actually run at those higher speeds. Otherwise, it will sit at 2133MHz. Basically, a waste.
The GameGrin Hermit Build
a.k.a. Livin in a box’s PC
The build below is pretty much the PC that I have now. I’ve changed some bits to adjust for newer components (some parts of my PC are 7 years old), or where newer tech is quite obviously worth the higher price.
I’m pretty sure I’ve not actually paid this much for it though…I blame cryptocurrency.
It is a shame the 1080 Ti is still so expensive, in fact my AORUS card featured in this build, I only paid £642 for. OK, yes, that’s still a lot of money but it’s not £802. For me, the upgrade the 2080 is not worth it – performance in traditionally rendered games is pretty much identical, and it’s not worth it just for ray-tracing. The 2080 Ti is too much for little gain.
Liquid cooled 1800X means that I have never had my CPU get over 60 degrees, currently running on stock clocks. I have managed to get it running at 4.2GHz, but that was on an older AGESA firmware, so whether I could get it stable at higher remains to be seen. In reality though, I don’t need it. Those 16 threads are never maxed out, and will do me (hopefully) long into the future. Or when I feel the itch to buy a 3800X next year, or whatever the upgrade will be.
Personally, my next upgrade will likely be my monitor, as currently I don’t have the AOC that is suggested by the build, rather a Crossover 2795QHD. Never heard of it? That’s because it’s Korean. For approximately £260 in 2015 I purchased it, which at the time was significantly cheaper than anything else. 1440p, AH-IPS, overclocked to 96Hz…I just want G-sync, but I’m not currently prepared to pay the huge premium.
If 4K 144Hz ever becomes affordable, then I’ll jump. But then I’ll need a new GPU too…
The Ultimate Build
Get your wallet ready…
I even held back on some bits.
Most people aren’t going to spending this much on a PC. I know that. But it’s still interesting to see what all this money will get you. The i9-9900K is simply the fastest mainstream desktop CPU you can buy right now. You might be thinking, oh but it’s the same clock speed, and the same cores as the 1800X or the 2700X…
Well, there was a lot of controversy when Intel revealed this chip, as the tests they ran had pegged back AMD’s Ryzen chips back by a good margin. They wanted to claim that it could perform 50% faster to justify the 50% markup. Is this the case? Well, not exactly. But it is faster. So, if you have four grand burning a hole in your pocket, and you want the fastest, the 9900K is the way to go. Or you could splash out and get a Xeon…ignore me. For your own sake.
The 2080 Ti is another piece here that is probably not worth the admission fee. But the alternative? Err…nowhere to be seen. AMDs Vega 64 is not a patch on the performance the 2080 Ti offers, and don’t forget ray-tracing capability too that I mentioned in the High(er) End Build.
I really like that tempered glass case though. It would look fantastic with a full custom loop in there. Don’t forget your mechanical keyboard too so your household knows full well when you’re making the most out of your grand purchase.
But wait…what do I want?!?
So now you’re probably looking at ways you can finance the purchase of The Ultimate Build. You know what the most popular GPU is currently, according to Steam? The GTX 1060. That’s a 1080p card, offering similar performance to the RTX 580 in the Mid-Range Build. Put simply, most of the PC gaming population don’t run 2080 Tis or Vega 64s, contrary to what you might hear from some places like Reddit.
If you’re looking for a PC to run CS:GO, Team Fortress 2 and a couple of other older games of that ilk, The Budget Build will suit you just fine. If you have the cash to go up a level, The Mid-Range Build will be your go-to. That PC will deal with most games at 1080p with much higher quality than what you’ll find on consoles. Even at 1440p, the RX 580 is certainly no slouch.
As soon as you’re wanting Battlefield V at high settings in 1440p, that’s where The High(er) End Build comes in. VR will also command power at this level too, otherwise you will suffer from framerate issues. The higher up you go from there, the better your performance will be.
Of course, you could also stay on the hunt for good deals or second hand components for good prices. I’ve even seen 980 Tis going for £250, Nvidia’s flagship from 2015, that will still run pretty well at 1440p.
It won’t be long now until the cryptocurrency fad dies down and returns prices to normality. We’ve only been saying it for a year, this time it might actually be true.