Switching to PC from console and have no idea where to start? Trying up upgrade from an old build? Look no further than my guide below.

For this guide, I've recruited the help of a few individuals in order to pool together some knowledge and advice. Alex (my Community Manager) and Brockzilla (a legend on my Discord server who is always super helpful in the #techsupport channel) are very knowledgeable on all things PCs, and will assist in walking you through what you need to know.

This guide will give justifications on why to choose a specific part at each price point, as well as how you could potentially save money without losing any gaming performance. At the end, I've included a list of reputable pre-built PC companies if building isn't your thing.

If you want/need to know how to physically put the parts together before purchasing anything, I suggest watching two videos from two prominent creators in the YouTube tech sphere. JayzTwoCents' video is a traditional step-by-step video with every process explained, and Linus Sebastian's (LinusTechTips) video is a POV (point-of-view) angle on how to put the parts together.

With that out of the way, let's get to the parts lists!

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List last updated March 26, 2021

Alex's disclaimer at the time of last update: At the moment, the world is experiencing a worldwide semiconductor shortage. This is making a lot of computing parts hard to find or scarce. Ultimately, graphics cards from NVIDIA and AMD, as well as newer AMD Ryzen CPUs (as well as other parts) will be extremely difficult to find. Contrary to what I would usually say, you may have better luck with a pre-built system if the GPU or CPU you want is impossible to purchase. NEVER pay scalper prices for PC parts, unless you ABSOLUTELY need the part now. Wait to pay MSRP when it comes back in stock. Tag me (Alex K#0001) or Brock (Brockzilla#3577) in our Discord server if you ever want more advice on this.

Notes: all prices in $USD, before tax. We don't currently have plans to price out parts for other regions of the world. Motherboards are subjective and offer features you may want that other boards don't. Amazon affiliate links are used below, which helps out the content, but we encourage you to shop around and find one for the best price (MSRP if possible) from other retailers if necessary. PCPartPicker.com is great for this.

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The bare minimum spec: $600

At the very bottom tier, your experience most likely on-par with a current-gen console (PS5/Xbox Series X). Those consoles will run triple-A titles just fine, but they're consoles and can't be taken any further. This could be considered the "stream PC" tier, if you want to build a dedicated system to encode a stream for a dual-PC setup or console, but with that setup you could use the cheapest GPU you can find (only needs CPU to encode). Capture card not included here, though.

For 1080p gaming you are in the medium to high settings, at 60-100fps. Very graphcially intensive games might have trouble reaching 60fps. However, for esport titles such as League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive or Rocket League, you would still see very playable frame rates. Old games/emulation would also run fine on this entry-level system. Warzone would hit 100fps on medium-high settings.

One of the cheapest 3rd-gen AMD Ryzen CPUs was chosen for its great price to performance numbers. The quad-core chip shines in entry level builds. The motherboard was chosen because it's a no-frills barebones part that will get the job done. Extra RAM/storage is a luxury, so some of that will be left out at this price point; small boot drive SSD with a 2TB HDD for other files is all you will get here. Your SSD will fill up FAST. The GPU is on the edge of destitute-tier here, but the RX 570 from AMD is the cheapest you'll get to play esport titles at acceptable frame rates.

If you want to go between this tier and the next one, look for an additional 8GB of RAM (buy the same identical stick), or try and find an NVIDIA GTX 1650 Super GPU.

 Part Type Part Name Price ($USD, MSRP)

CPU

AMD Ryzen 3 3300x $138.99
CPU Cooler Included stock cooler $0
Motherboard MSI B450-A PRO MAX $86.99
RAM Team Group 8GB (1x8GB) 3200MHz CL16 $44.99
Storage (SSD) 240GB Kingston A400 SATA $34.99
Storage (HDD) 2TB Western Digital Blue $49.99
GPU AMD RX 570 $139.99
Power Supply Seasonic S12III 500W 80+ Bronze $54.99
Case Cougar MX330-G $44.99
TOTAL COST $595.92

 

The below-average spec: $800

By raising the budget up an extra $200, you will start to see better framerates and a few more creature comforts for the medium to long term.

For the previously-mentioned easy-to-run esport titles, you will definitely see an uptick in your frame rate, mainly thanks to the faster GPU. Expect to see 10-15fps extra. Graphically intensive triple-A titles (Cyberpunk 2077, Red Dead 2, etc) will still be difficult to run at 1080p on higher settings at high-refresh-rate-monitor frame rates, but it's certainly doable. Emulators will most likely run without any hitches whatsoever.

As mentioned above, we've left the realm of quad-core CPUs and now are into 6-core territory. The AMD Ryzen 5 3600 is an insane value proposition, and is still super relevant in budget systems in early 2021. The 3600 won't give better game performance, but frees up your system to not be bogged down while in-game. With the addition of $200, we can finally step up to 16GB of RAM (at a faster 3600MHz CL16 spec), arguably the minimum needed for a comfortable experience on Windows 10 in 2021. The motherboard is upgraded to one with better I/O (ports).

We've also doubled our SSD space to allow for possibly installing a game onto the drive. We've slightly stepped up our GPU, to the NVIDIA GTX 1650 Super, which will give us double-digit percentage improvements over the RX 570 in the lower tier. Lastly, we've upped our power supply wattage to 650W, giving us some more breathing room.

To upgrade this tier between this spec and the next, you will want to arguably find an SSD that runs on the "NVME" spec, which has write/read speeds up to a gigabyte/sec faster than the SATA spec drive chosen here.
 Part Type Part Name Price ($USD, MSRP)

CPU

AMD Ryzen 5 3600 $199.99
CPU Cooler Included stock cooler $0
Motherboard MSI B450 TOMAHAWK MAX ATX $114.99
RAM G.Skill Ripjaws V 16GB (2x8GB)
3600 MHz CL16
$99.99
Storage (SSD) 480GB Kingston A400 SATA $54.99
Storage (HDD) 2TB Western Digital Blue $49.99
GPU NVIDIA GTX 1650 Super 4GB $170.00
Power Supply Seasonic S12III 650W 80+ Bronze $64.99
Case Cougar MX330-G $44.99
TOTAL COST $799.99
 

The just-about-average spec: $1,000

By by jumping up another $200, you will finally enter the realm of high-refresh-rate 1080p gaming, as well as low-settings RTX gaming. Additionally, Windows is going to feel a lot snappier now that we can include a good SSD boot drive

The previous esport titles will run flawlessly (achieve monitor refresh rate) at almost any resolution you choose, at almost any setting. Emulation? No problem. You could even start to get into 1440p 60fps gaming on some triple-A titles. At 1080p, however, this tier will most likely hit at least 120-144fps on most games with medium settings at a minimum in triple-A titles. 

We're using a lot of the same parts from the previous tier, with a very important upgrade: jumping to a 20-series RTX GPU from NVIDIA. We're talking about a 25-40fps increase in most titles. At long last, we've upgraded the boot drive to an NVME SSD, which gives up to 3GB/s sequential read/writes. Windows really flies on an NVME boot drive. Lastly, the final change is an upgraded case. As is in all tiers, the case is subjective and one isn't necessarily better than the other.

To upgrade this tier between this spec and the next, you will again want to look for an NVME SSD of higher capacity. 1TB is a good starting point to hold a lot of games. Additionally, you could look into an upgraded air cooler, like the Noctua NH-U14S. A better/higher-end case could also do the trick here.
 Part Type Part Name Price ($USD, MSRP)

CPU

AMD Ryzen 5 3600 $199.99
CPU Cooler Included stock cooler $0
Motherboard MSI B450 TOMAHAWK MAX ATX $114.99
RAM G.Skill Ripjaws V 16GB (2x8GB)
3600 MHz CL16
$99.99
Storage (SSD) ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro 512 GB M.2 NVME $64.99
Storage (HDD) 2TB Western Digital Blue $49.99
GPU NVIDIA RTX 2060 6GB $320.00
Power Supply Seasonic S12III 650W 80+ Bronze $64.99
Case Phanteks Eclipse P360A $69.99
TOTAL COST $984.92
 

The 2021 average spec: $1,200

After increasing the budget another $200, we find ourselves at the middle of the bell curve when it comes to parts. This tier will absolutely crush 1080p gaming at any refresh rate, ultra settings, RTX (with DLSS), and will able to play almost any triple-A title at a great framerate (120-144+ fps on Warzone).

Increasing to 1440p, it will still hold respectable frame rates even at medium to ultra settings (although you may have to decrease settings to achieve your refresh rate). How does 50-60fps on Cyberpunk 2077 sound? Or 144+ fps on Doom Eternal?

At this spec, we've ditched the older Ryzen 5 3600 in favor of the brand new Ryzen 5 5600x. This new chip jumps 25% in performance over it's previous iteration, and is more efficient. Next, we've upgraded to the B550 chipset on our motherboard, even splurging on built-in WiFi. The NVME SSD is kept here, to keep our fast read/write speeds up. Finally, we've jumped up to NVIDIA's 3000-series, with the RTX 3060. That's an easy 10-20% improvement over the RTX 2060 in most games.

To upgrade this tier between this spec and the next, you have a ton of options. AIO liquid cooler for the CPU; higher-capacity SSD/additional SSD; case with more features; or even a Ryzen 7 5800x CPU (ignoring all other mentioned upgrades).
 Part Type Part Name Price ($USD, MSRP)

CPU

AMD Ryzen 5 5600x $299.99
CPU Cooler Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo $39.99
Motherboard Asus TUF GAMING B550-PLUS (WI-FI) $179.99
RAM G.Skill Ripjaws V 16GB (2x8GB)
3600 MHz CL16
$99.99
Storage (SSD) ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro 512 GB M.2 NVME $64.99
Storage (HDD) 2TB Western Digital Blue $49.99
GPU NVIDIA RTX 3060 12GB $329.00
Power Supply Seasonic S12III 650W 80+ Bronze $64.99
Case Phanteks Eclipse P360A $69.99
TOTAL COST $1199.91
 

The "this is a great PC" spec: $1,500

Once you increase your budget to $1,500, the high-refresh-rate 1440p gaming sphere starts to be achieved. This tier of PC is almost not worth wasting on 1080p, but if you play games with a 240hz monitor, this tier would be the sweet spot for that. 

At 1440p you're talking 120-144fps+ in most Triple-A titles, even at ultra settings. You're still in respectable-frame-rate territory even with ray tracing enabled in some titles (games like Cyberpunk 2077 are an outlier, due to their poor optimization; this spec would get 50-60fps in that title with ultra ray tracing settings).

The Ryzen 5 5600x is still perfect for this tier, as well as the same Hyper 212 Evo CPU cooler. We've upgraded our motherboard to include some more creature comforts. In addition to jumping up to the 1TB NVME boot drive, we also added 1TB of storage to our HDD, totaling 3TB just to hold some more games. As mentioned in the first paragraph of this spec, we can crush 1440p thanks to the addition of the NVIDIA RTX 3070. Literal 30-50fps boost in most titles at 1440p over the RTX 3060. Lastly, we've upgraded to a semi-modular 80+ Gold power supply from Seasonic, at 750W.

To upgrade this tier between this spec and the next, you have even more options: Ryzen 7 5800x; any tier of AIO liquid CPU cooler; jumping to a more expensive X570 chipset motherboard; adding 16GB more RAM to total 32GB; more SSDs or HDDs; a better/nicer case; or a fully modular power supply.
 Part Type Part Name Price ($USD, MSRP)

CPU

AMD Ryzen 5 5600x $299.99
CPU Cooler Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo $39.99
Motherboard Asus ROG STRIX B550-F GAMING (WI-FI) $199.99
RAM  G.Skill Ripjaws V 16GB (2x8GB)
3600 MHz CL16
$99.99
Storage (SSD) ADATA XPG SX6000 Pro 1 TB M.2 NVME $102.99
Storage (HDD) 3TB Western Digital Blue $69.99
GPU NVIDIA RTX 3070 8GB $499.99
Power Supply SeaSonic FOCUS Gold 750 W 80+ Gold Semi-modular $119.99
Case Phanteks Eclipse P360A $69.99
TOTAL COST $1502.91
 

The 1440p144 ultra-settings crusher spec: $2,000

This spec absolutely destroys 1440p in any game it encounters. Cyberpunk 2077 all maxed out, ultra ray tracing (with DLSS)? 65-80fps. Microsoft Flight Simulator, all ultra/maxed out? 55-65fps. Any other triple-A title that's not notoriously hard to run? Easily 120 to 144fps, without breaking a sweat, completely maxed out. We went over by $20 here, but, oh well.

It's at this tier we can even start discussing getting into playable 4k gaming at tolerable frame rates. Expect to see 60fps+ in most titles at 4k, although you may need to turn some settings down. In games that support DLSS, you may have to set that feature to "performance" to see good/more-playable frame rates.

With $2,000, we can now jump up to the Ryzen 7 5800x, an 8-core CPU that does more work at once than the 5600x. We've also ditched the air cooler for an AIO (all-in-one) liquid CPU cooler. Our motherboard is now on the X570 chipset, offering us more M.2 slots and PCI-E slots/lanes, as well as other I/O and features. Our boot drive is the same, but we now have 4TB in our HDD (with faster 7200RPM speed). The NVIDIA RTX 3080 makes its appearance at this spec; it's the enthusiast-class GPU that's built to crush 1440p gaming. Another 25-45fps boost over the 3070 in most titles. Lastly, our power supply has upgraded to an 850W 80+ Gold fully-modular unit from Seasonic to handle the massive power draw of the 3080 and 5800x. 


To upgrade this tier between this spec and the next, we're getting into the upper echelon of parts, so your options are plentiful: Ryzen 7 5900x; any tier of 360mm/420mm AIO liquid CPU cooler; RGB parts for everything; jumping to a more expensive X570 motherboard; adding 16GB more RAM to total 32GB; more SSDs or HDDs; a better/nicer case; or an 80+ Platinum power supply.
 Part Type Part Name Price ($USD, MSRP)

CPU

AMD Ryzen 7 5800x $449.99
CPU Cooler Fractal Design Celsius S24 AIO $119.99
Motherboard Gigabyte X570 AORUS ELITE WIFI $219.99
RAM  G.Skill Ripjaws V 16GB (2x8GB)
3600 MHz CL16
$99.99
Storage (SSD) ADATA XPG SX6000 Pro 1 TB M.2 NVME $102.99
Storage (HDD) 4TB Toshiba X300 7200RPM $107.99
GPU NVIDIA RTX 3080 10GB $699.99
Power Supply SeaSonic FOCUS Gold 850 W 80+ Gold Fully modular $149.99
Case Phanteks Eclipse P360A $69.99
TOTAL COST $2019.92
 

The extreme enthusiast/productivity/streaming spec: $2,500

Have a 4k monitor/TV and need a rig to play 4k games? Want to stream to Twitch/Facebook/YouTube all on one PC? Need an absolutely blazing-fast video-editing rig? This build will do all of that and more. We went over by about $27, but at this price point, does it really matter?

At this tier, you don't actually see a ton of framerate improvement in gaming over the previous tier (the 5900x and 5800x are pretty similar in most games). Where you see a difference is in applications that utilize all/multiple CPU cores, like streaming+gaming/video editing/scientific/programming applications. This is a tier of system that popular streamers most likely have.

The biggest change at this tier is the addition of the Ryzen 9 5900x, a 12-core beast of a CPU that's, unquestionably, a multitasking machine. You can probably have 200 chrome tabs open on this CPU.  Our motherboard has been upgraded to one with essentially every creature comfort you would need. At $2,500, we can finally splurge on RGB RAM, and 32GB of it at that. Our boot drive has been upgraded to a 2TB NVME drive with TLC NAND flash. The case has been upgraded to a roomier part from Corsair. Lastly, we've jumped up to a 1000W PSU in case you want to futureproof.


To upgrade this tier between this spec and the next, you can literally do whatever you want: Ryzen 7 5950x; any tier of 360mm/420mm AIO liquid CPU cooler; jumping to a more expensive X570 motherboard; adding 32GB more RAM to total 64GB (hugely overkill for 99.9% of people); more SSDs or HDDs; a better/nicer case; or an 80+ Platinum power supply. You have the money to spend, so do it. Might as well buy an RGB SSD, RAM, CPU cooler, PSU cables, etcl, whatever you need. Might as well switch to an RTX 3090 instead to be like me!
 Part Type Part Name Price ($USD, MSRP)

CPU

AMD Ryzen 9 5900x $549.99
CPU Cooler Fractal Design Celsius S24 AIO $119.99
Motherboard Gigabyte X570 AORUS PRO WIFI $219.99
RAM  G.Skill Trident Z Neo RGB 32GB (2x16GB)
3600 MHz CL16
$229.99
Storage (SSD) ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro 2 TB M.2 NVME $239.99
Storage (HDD) 4TB Toshiba X300 7200RPM $107.99
GPU NVIDIA RTX 3080 10GB $699.99
Power Supply SeaSonic FOCUS Plus Gold 1000 W 80+ Gold Fully modular $149.99
Case Corsair 4000D Airflow $89.99
TOTAL COST $2526.92
 
  

The "I am unbelievably filthy rich and you are not" spec: $infinite

Have your $GME or crypto gains padded your bank account? Trust fund account accessible with the touch of a button? Won the lottery? Mid-life crisis? Extra $100 bills burning holes in every pocket of every article of clothing you own? No problem, this build will satisfy all of those situations. This is the best PC money can buy for the average consumer, period. 4k gaming is a reality with this build.

With infinite money, the only option for a CPU is the AMD Ryzen 9 5950x. You could stream 1080p60, Play Crysis 3 Remastered, render a 4k video in Adobe Premiere, and have 300 Chrome tabs all open at the same time and still have CPU power to spare. Our motherboard is the most feature-rich and expensive X570 board available, the Asus Crosshair VIII Dark Hero. Our RAM is the best Samsung B-Die (translation: it's really good) kit you can buy: 64GB of G.Skill's Trident Z Royal 3600MHz CL14. 

The storage situation on this build would make a data-hoarder's mouth water. Want a shiny, new PCI-E Gen 4 SSD? With 4TB, and 4.9/3.5 GB/s sequential read/write speeds? Sure, let's do it. Actually, let's do 2 of them, because we can. Have a ton of memes about rich people being better than poor people? You can store them on the 18TB HDD from Seagate that's included on this build.

The most expensive part on this build is the NVIDIA RTX 3090 GPU. Its eyewatering price easily justifies its "best graphics card money can buy" moniker. This graphics card costs more than most of the builds on this page.
To finish up with the standard stuff, we increased our power supply to an incredible 1600W 80+ Platinum unit, and then upgraded our case to a part from Phanteks in order to have a ton of space for our...


...fully custom watercooling loop from EK Water Blocks. When you get to the infinite-money level of PC building, you can cool your CPU and GPU on the same loop of water. It comes with a waterblock for the GPU (you will have to disassemble your 3090's cooling shroud and install the block), a waterblock for the CPU, custom soft tubing, and a pump. It's also RGB. This is super advanced stuff, not recommended for people new to PC building.


So, where to go from here? It's hard to say. You have infinite money. Buy some more RAM, or some more SSDs. Maybe a 2nd 3090 to SLI (although gaming on SLI isn't always a great experience in 2021). Buy custom RGB lighting. Or, even, buy your friends/family this same PC as a gift, or maybe purchase 15 of a cheaper tier and donate them to a LAN center in your town. The edge of the atmosphere isn't even the limit!
 Part Type Part Name Price ($USD, MSRP)

CPU

AMD Ryzen 9 5950x $800.00
CPU/GPU Custom Water Loop EK Waterblocks Quantom Power kit $549.99
Motherboard Asus ROG Crosshair VIII Dark Hero ATX $849.99
RAM G.Skill Trident Z Royal 64 GB (4x16GB)
3600 MHz CL14 Samsung B-Die
$649.99
Storage (SSD) 4 TB Sabrent Rocket Q4 M.2 Gen 4 NVME $689.98
Storage (SSD) 4 TB Sabrent Rocket Q4 M.2 Gen 4 NVME $689.98
Storage (HDD) 18TB Seagate IronWolf Pro $579.95
GPU NVIDIA RTX 3090 24GB $1500.00
Power Supply Corsair AXi 1600W 80+ Titanium Fully Modular $149.99
Case Phanteks Enthoo Pro 2 $139.99
TOTAL COST $6899.86
 

The "I want to buy a pre-built system and not build a PC" spec

You've finally made it down to the pre-built systems. To start, it's important to note that in most cases, you are probably going to pay what's called the "pre-built tax" when choosing to not build your own system. This is an upcharge on a computer that a company charges on a prebuilt PC. Usually, it's a few hundred dollars over buying separate parts and building it yourself. But sometimes, that difference really isn't that much. 

The main reason folks buy a prebuilt system is for the convenience. You won't have to spend an entire evening putting together a system if you haven't done it before. It shows up to your door, you plug it in, you plug your keyboard/mouse/monitor in, and it just works. No driver issues, no BIOS issues, etc., everything works out of the box. Additionally, in early 2021, the other big reason to buy a prebuilt is to actually buy NVIDIA 30-series GPUs, or AMD 6000-series GPUs. System integrators get access to those parts and include them in prebuilt systems, while consumers buying them separately are out of luck.

One very crucial point about pre-build PCs is that some manufacturers cheap out on certain parts to keep costs as low as possible. That prebuilt you found that includes a Ryzen 7 3700x and 3060Ti for a decent price? It may have a 550W 80+ White power supply from a company you've never heard of before, or a cheapo mini ITX sized B450 motherboard in a full ATX case (usually the cheapest motherboards you can find, with the least amount of slots/ports/features). 

In our opinion, if you really have your mind set on a prebuilt system, you will want to look for a few things. First, if the power supply in the specs mentions "80+ white" or "80+ efficiency", without including the words "bronze" or "gold", it is almost certainly a garbage tier power supply. Going along with that, if your parts are similar to the more expensive tiers listed above (including a GPU like an RTX 3070 and above) and the power supply on the prebuilt is 500W-600W, it is absolutely too small of a wattage amount. One other thing to watch out for is the use of a "mini ITX" form-factor motherboard being used in an ATX form factor case. Mini ITX motherboards are tiny, and have minimal or no room for further expansion. It's a cost-cutting measure that the consumer bears in the end.

With that all said, here's a list of some reputable prebuilt manufacturers where you can price/customize a system. Each link should take you to the place to start configuring a system. We recommend sticking to the parts we've identified in the tiers above; in early 2021, AMD really has the edge over Intel at almost every price point for CPUs.

 

With the tiers all out of the way, I want to thank you for reading my guide about PC builds/parts. And thank you to Alex and Brock for spending the time to compile all of this info for me and help organize everything for you guys to digest. I hope you're able to learn something from this guide!