Comprehensive Gaming PC/Laptop Buying Guide

Games, Gaming and Hardware
1 2 3 26 Next
Last Updated: May 3rd - Wow, dat GTX 690


Since I personally recommended these boards to many of the users telling that they can use Ivy Bridge CPUs later down the road, and should just use these boards with cheap Celerons and Pentiums until then, I believe it is my responsibility to tell you that the BIOS updates for these boards are out, which allows usage of Ivy Bridge CPUs.

Note that you also need to update other drivers as noted by the download page. Don't just update the BIOS. Namely, you need to update the BIOS, Intel ME, Video drivers, and AXTU drivers.

** ASRock H61M/U3S3

** ASRock Z68M/USB

** ASRock Z68 Extreme3 Gen3

There's a bunch of "Need new PC" "what should I upgrade" and other similar topics here again and again, so why not create a single go-to guide for it? So I finally got to what I should have long time ago.

The laptop guide can be found at the Addendum, #3. So if you came in here looking for a laptop buying guide, scroll fast to the end of this guide!

The guide will keep it simple and to the point. I will give you the list of the best parts for the level of performance you need, then you choose which one will suit you the best for your budget.

You might wonder "Why not recommend X?". That is because they are not the best bang for the buck. For example, GeForce GTX 550 Ti. Absolutely terrible, overpriced graphics card that can only manage to match much cheaper Radeon HD 6770.

I recommend NewEgg for buying parts, but website may help you find deals from other sites, such as TigerDirect, MicroCenter,, Amazon, and few others. Also note that all prices are from NewEgg, and may fluctuate but not deviate too far from the price listed here. The prices here do NOT include rebates.

All the prices are based on the US dollars.

For actual instructions on building computers, check out YouTube / NewEgg for DIY guides. NewEgg in particular has really in-depth video guide on YouTube. You may still ask if you have a question stumping you though.


** Table of Contents **

CPU + CPU Cooler: This post.

Motherboard + RAM:

Graphics Card + Power Supply:

Hard Disk + SSD + DVD Burner:

Case + Monitor + Etc.:

* 1: ("When To Upgrade?" Advice)
* 2: (Recommended Builds for TL;DR Crowd)
* 3: (Recommended Gaming Laptops & Advice)

Bonus! Comprehensive Overclocking Guide by Mÿxxï of Korgath server:


* CPU *

Due to AMD CPUs performing poor vs. Intel in every price bracket right now, I cannot recommend to you any AMD CPUs. If you're a member of Team Red, you should hope that upcoming Piledriver doesn't suck anymore. :(

I did not mention Llano (AMD A-Series) APU here because it's really suited for budget laptops. Desktops have no real purpose for them as Intel setup will destroy APU's only advantage once a dedicated graphics card is installed into the Intel setup.

Intel i7 CPUs are not mentioned here because there is no benefits to using one for gaming purposes. People who buy i7 CPU are the types of people that deal with more professional stuff that takes advantage of multiple threads offered by i7 -- such as CAD, professional Photoshop / movie production, and such. No, doing FRAPs and editing it does not count as professional stuff. Stick to i5 unless you know exactly what multiple threads mean for you and your job.

If you have to get an i7 CPU, i7-2600 if you will not overclock, i7-2600k if you will. i7-2700k is not worth the extra money -- you could just overclock cheaper i7-2600k a 100 MHz more and there you have i7-2700k!

There's also Sandy Bridge-E CPUs, such as i7-3930k and 3960x... but really, you should only be buying these if you know what you are doing. For most gamers, this is just a pure waste of $.

== Ivy Bridge vs. Sandy Bridge ==

Now that the Ivy Bridge is out and about, there are many discussions on the merits and downsides of Ivy Bridge, vs. Sandy Bridge.

To put it simply, here are the cliff's notes on the differences, and my recommendation.

1. Ivy Bridge performs anywhere from 5% to 10% over Sandy Bridge, given same amount of clock, and threads. In addition, Intel HD 4000 is decent enough to actually play games with.

2. Ivy Bridge consumes a lot less power than the Sandy Bridge equivalent.

3. Contrary to the initial belief, Ivy Bridge CPUs are bit more costly than the Sandy Bridge equivalent.

4. Should you buy Ivy Bridge? If you won't OC or will keep the overclocking to 4.5 GHz or below, the answer is yes, but only if you can get one at a close price to the equivalent Sandy Bridge CPU. However, if you intend to overclock beyond 4.5 GHz range, then go buy a Sandy Bridge CPU, OR buy a high-quality cooling setup like Noctua NH-D14, Corsair H80, and other similar level of cooling.

Now that said, initially, only the flagship Ivy Bridge i5 and i7 CPUs will be available. i3, Pentiums and Celerons come much later.

Here is the recommended CPU lists reflecting it:

** Extreme Budget - Good enough for CPU-bound games in a pinch. If you are a casual gamer, this CPU will work for you just fine.

- Intel Celeron G530: $52

** Budget - Should be plenty enough for most people on budget. Sadly enough, in CPU-bound gaming, all current AMD CPU models compete with this $80 CPU.

- Intel Pentium G630: $80

** Good Enough - Most people should be happy with this level of performance. If you don't play CPU-bound games a lot, then don't go any further than this, and instead, invest more in a better graphics card.

- Intel i3-2120 @ $128

(Ivy Bridge equivalent, estimated arrival: Q3 2012)
- Intel i3-3220 @ ~$128

** Best - This is the best gaming CPU. Going any further than this will not grant you any gaming performance benefits.

- Intel i5-2500k @ $220, $180 if you buy locally at MicroCenter
- Intel i5-3570K @ $250, $190 if you buy locally at MicroCenter

If you will not overclock, get the following CPUs instead of the ones above. While above CPUs are slightly faster, when run at stock clocks, there is unnoticeable performance difference between them.

- Intel i5-2300 @ $180
- Intel i5-3430 @ $200, $160 if you buy locally at MicroCenter

Note that only Intel CPUs with -k suffix can be overclocked safely (IE) i5-2500k). All other Intel CPUs listed here can't be overclocked safely.


* CPU Cooler *

Needed if you will overclock your CPU. Stock fans are bad at dealing with heat when overclocking. If you will not overclock, skip this part -- stock fans are good enough in that case.

I recommend CoolerMaster Hyper 212+, or its EVO variant. It should cost somewhere around $30 at most.

If you want to go overkill, there is Noctua NH-D14, but it's a HUGE cooler, and definitely needs a lot of work / pre-planning. Oh, and it's very expensive. I wouldn't recommend this unless you absolutely must have the best air-cooling solution available at all costs.

There is also a closed-loop liquid cooling set for users that want to try out water cooling for their computer without going full water cooling setup. Examples include Antec Kuhler and Corsair Hydro series of coolers. Note that cheap Kuhler / Hydro coolers don't cool all that much better, if anything, worse than Hyper 212+ / EVO.


* Motherboard *

These motherboards are compatible with all CPUs listed above, unless otherwise noted.

You can go more expensive if you want. What you pay is what you get, but I don't really recommend it unless you NEED something specific these expensive motherboards offer you.

Z77 motherboards natively support Ivy Bridge CPUs from get-go. In addition, all Z77 motherboards also support existing Sandy Bridge CPUs. Z68 motherboards are supplanted by these, thus, no longer recommended.

If you live near a MicroCenter, buying an i5-2500k / i5-3570k along with a Z77 motherboard will give you a bonus $50 discount.

** Best Budget Motherboard - If you want budget board, but want to use USB 3 devices, or SSD, then this board will do for you. Best balanced in terms of features, expandability, and price. Only thing missing from here is the ability to overclock, and lack of SLi/CrossFireX support.

- ASRock H61M/U3S3 Motherboard @ $65

This motherboard supports Ivy Bridge CPUs after updates. But it can't overclock them.

** Best Z77 Motherboard - Has the proper SLi/CrossFireX support (2x PCI-E 3.0 slots, 8x/8x upon SLi/CrossFireX), and are the cheapest upon the writing of this article. All other currently cheaper Z77 motherboards only come with a single PCI-E 3.0 16x slot, and the other PCI-E 2.0 slot runs at 4x with SLi/CrossFireX, which makes it not suitable for a SLi/CrossFireX setup.

- BIOSTAR TZ77XE3 ATX Motherboard @ $125


- ASRock Z77 Extreme4 ATX Motherboard @ $135

*** Best Tri-SLi/CrossFireX Z77 Motherboard - Get this if you are going to try tri-SLi/CrossFireX. This motherboard has three PCI-E 3.0 slots, running at 16x/8x/4x. 4x on PCI-E 3.0 is fine, as that equates to 8x on PCI-E 2.0 specification.

- MSI Z77A-GD65 ATX Motherboard @ $190


* RAM *

There is no specific RAM product recommendation to make, except:

- Average cost of RAM sets for 2 x 2GB is ~$28, 2 x 4GB is ~$47.

- For H61 motherboards, DDR3-1333 is the maximum speed it supports. However, buying a faster RAM will still work -- they will just be downclocked to DDR3-1333 speed.

- For Z68 / Z77 motherboards, although they usually support faster RAM, there is virtually zero benefits going beyond DDR3-1600 speed. Stick to DDR3-1600.

- What does 'dual', 'triple', and 'quad'-channels mean? That means you should buy RAM in sets of two, three, and four respectively to maximize your RAM performance. Sandy Bridge systems covered in this guide, all AMD systems support ONLY dual-channel, which means you want to buy in pairs, not single sticks -- IE) Do not buy 1 x 8GB stick. Buy 2 x 4GB sticks.

- When buying, ensure that RAM operates at 1.5v for maximum stability.

- For gaming, going beyond 8GB of RAM has zero benefits for you. For those on extreme budget, 4GB will also serve just fine. 8GB is just an icing on the cake.

- Some RAM sticks have tall heatsinks. These may interfere when you install a custom CPU cooler with a fan. Only one that comes to mind of this is the Corsair Vengeance RAM sticks.

- RAM without heat spreader/heatsinks work just fine.


* Graphics Card & Power Supply *

Important note before we begin: ALL the graphics card listed here REQUIRES a proper mid-tower case or above. If you have a slim case, you are severely limited in what graphics card you can get -- with best being a low-profile Radeon HD 6670. If you want to get a better graphics card than that, you need a new case and a new power supply at minimum.

I automatically assume you are playing at 1920x1080 monitor resolution, and WoW with maxed out settings (except shadows set to high, and no anti-aliasing).

If you are looking to overclock your graphics card, look for specific brand sub-types -- as you need a good cooling for them. Some of these include:

MSi TwinFrozr
EVGA Classified
Sapphire Toxic

They will cost you though.

Graphics cards require a certain level of power supply wattage, so I recommended them here alongside the graphics card.

While I leave it up to you to buy the actual power supply, any power supplies you choose to buy must have 80 Plus Bronze certification. If the power supply you are looking at has no 80 Plus certification whatsoever, do not buy them. Even if your budget is small, never skimp out on a power supply quality. Bad ones will die faster, cause system issues, and ultimately, can destroy rest of your computer if it chooses to die.

The wattage I recommend you here automatically assume that you have a high-quality power supply, not crappy $30 500W DiabloTek piece of !@#$.

There are power supplies with higher level of 80 Plus certification, IE) Silver, Gold, Platinum. They are not necessary, and does add noticeable amount $ required to buy them. If power saving is absolutely paramount to you with regardless of up-front cost, by all means, go for them. Otherwise, don't.

When you choose a power supply, get one that will power the graphics card you plan to stay with, not for you are buying for now.

- Recommended power supply brands include:
Corsair (not including Builder series)
PC Power and Cooling (Silencer MK III series only)

- Note on SLi/CrossFireX: For most gamers, this is not a necessary feature, and it's much better to get a better-performing single card rather than trying to set up two mid-range cards. While performance improvement is there, SLi/CrossFireX has lot of extra headaches that do not come with a single GPU setup.

Consider SLi/CrossFireX only and only if, you want to do a multi-monitor setup (3x monitors minimum). 2 monitor setups are exempt from requiring CrossFireX / SLi, as you will still keep games on a single monitor anyway.

Because of the above reasons, cards like Radeon HD 6990 / GeForce GTX 590 will not be mentioned. GTX 690 is an exception as it seem to have fixed many of the common problems that plagued the previous dual-GPU-on-a-stick solution.

** Cheapest Minimum Recommended - If you have a terrible power supply, and would like to get a graphics card upgrade that will perform well without needing a good power supply, this is the only graphics card that will fit the bill. Accept no substitution.

The Radeon HD 7750 is slightly behind, or roughly equal to Radeon HD 6770, previously recommended budget card.

- Radeon HD 7750 @ $110 ~ $120

** Budget - Good enough to run most games with high details. Due to a price drop, Radeon HD 7770 is now the budget recommended card. HD 7770 performs at around HD 6850 level (wins some, loses some), but requires significantly less powerful power supply.

- Radeon HD 7770 @ $140
Accompanying power supply wattage: 400W

** Good Enough For Most - If you only play WoW, and other not-so-demanding games (such as Skyrim), stick to these. Don't go any further. Buck stops here.

- Radeon HD 6870 @ $170 ~ $190 ==OR== GeForce GTX 560 @ $170 ~ $200
Accompanying power supply wattage: 500W, 700W for CrossFireX / SLi

** Between High-End and Mid-Range - Much better than the previous choices, but not better than the next choice. Good balance and trade-off in wanting more performance, but don't want to spend megabucks.

- GeForce GTX 570 @ $295 ~ $330
Accompanying power supply wattage: 600W, 800W for CrossFireX / SLi

** High-End Best Bang for the Buck - This is for those that play demanding games such as Battlefield 3 at maximum settings, or want to push FPS way beyond comfortable 60 FPS in other games. Radeon 7870 should be overclocked, as doing so will make it match up to more expensive GeForce GTX 580 / Radeon HD 7950. GTX 570 can't be overclocked to match them, which is why HD 7870 has its own bracket.

- Radeon HD 7870 @ $350 ~ $360
Accompanying power supply wattage: 550W, 750W for CrossFireX / SLi

Alternatively, Radeon HD 7950 can now be recommended as a possible upgrade here. Due to a price drop, Radeon HD 7950 now costs $400. When overclocked, Radeon HD 7950 will match or overtake Radeon HD 7970, and match up to GTX 680.

** Absolute Best Single-GPU Graphics Card - If you want to run the most demanding games with absolute top graphics settings with fluent FPS, this is the card for you.

- GeForce GTX 680 @ $500
Accompanying power supply wattage: 550W, 750W for CrossFireX / SLi

Alternatively, Radeon HD 7970 can now also be recommended as a possible upgrade due to a price drop. It now costs $480. When overclocked, Radeon HD 7970 beats GTX 680, although GTX 680 can also do the same and beat HD 7970. However, many retailers have trouble stocking GTX 680, and many of them are gouging consumers with the price. If you want the best of the best right now, then HD 7970 is a good deal.

** First Worthwhile Dual-GPU-On-A-Stick Card - You get what you pay for. The GTX 690 has improved on the SLi design enough that its only true downside is 2GB of effective VRAM, and that it may not run as well on games where SLi is not supported. Microstuttering is virtually none, surprisingly enough. If you were thinking of going SLi GTX 680, give a GTX 690 a good look instead.

- GeForce GTX 690 @ $1000
Accompanying power supply wattage: 750W


* Hard Disks, SSD, and DVD drive *

Many users will be just fine with a single 500GB or 1TB mechanical hard disk, but more and more users are putting in extra dough for the SSD today. SSD (Solid State Disk/Drive) is worth the money if you can spare it; it does significantly reduce time you spend waiting for things to load (especially when you boot the system!).

SSDs are however, still too small for many users to be used alone, so it is recommended that you pair it up with a 500GB (or higher) mechanical hard disk as a data drive.

DVD burners should never cost more than $19. Any higher, you are getting ripped off.

It is notable that hard disks and DVD drives are often scrounged up from your old computer. It is recommended that you do so (unless if they are showing signs of dying), as it'll shave a good amount of $ total off your build -- leaving more money for you to either save, or to invest in a better part elsewhere.

** Here are the general tips on the hard disk:

- Average cost of 500GB drive is ~$85, 1TB is ~$110.

- Ensure that it runs at 7200 RPM, unless if it is being accompanied with a SSD as a data drive, then in which slower drives are OK (such as 5400 / 5900 RPM).

- More cache on the hard drive is good, but too much will cost too much. 500GB tends to come with 16MB, 1TB 32MB, and higher 64MB.

- SATA II / III distinction is worthless on a mechanical hard disk as they can't even come close to fully saturating SATA II interface anyway.

- Western Digital drives tend to be more expensive than the competition for no reason.

** Here are the general tips for the SSD:

- 120/128GB is the sweet spot of SSD you should buy. Smaller SSDs have performance penalty, while larger SSDs are 2x as expensive.

- The only SSD brands that you should consider buying:

Crucial m4 (cheapest)
Corsair Performance Pro (bit more costly, but faster than Crucial m4)
Plextor M3 Pro (costs only a little more than Corsair, faster still)
OCZ Vertex 4 (about the same price as Intel 520, beats 520 at some tasks, loses at some)
Intel 520 (fastest, but also the most expensive)

Crucial, Corsair, and Plextor uses Marvell controller (each with their own firmware).
Vertex 4 uses in-house Indilinx controller.
Intel 520 uses SandForce controller, but with Intel's custom firmware.

Intel 520 comes with its own SATA cable. Crucial m4 does not, nor Corsair Performance Pro. I mention this because most motherboards only come with -two- SATA cables. You will need to buy a separate cable if you buy either Crucial m4 or Corsair, if you can't get one from somewhere.

Crucial m4 is the most barebone of them all. It doesn't come with an extra SATA cable, nor a SSD bracket.

Corsair Performance Pro comes with a SSD bracket and screws, but no SATA cable.

Intel 520 comes with all that plus some more. For convenience purposes, I would buy Intel 520 if budget allows (not to mention it's the fastest of the bunch).

- Many cases have SSD brackets or places where SSD can be installed to. Some do not. If it does not, do not panic. Since SSD contains no moving parts, you can just lay it flat somewhere in the case and it will be OK. Just remember about the SSD when you move your PC. You could hold it in place using the duct tape or something.

** SSD optimization tips:

There are some extra work you have to do to ensure full performance on your SSD.

- Plug SSD SATA cable to a SATA III port on the motherboard. Plugging it to a SATA II port will gimp its performance.

- Enter the motherboard BIOS during boot, and ensure that SATA mode is set to AHCI (or RAID if you do RAID). Leaving it to IDE compatible will cause big performance penalty to SSD speed. Most modern motherboards today will have it at AHCI by default, but it doesn't hurt to double check.

- Always do a fresh install of Windows 7 on the SSD. This is because Windows 7 does bunch of extra tasks specifically designed for the SSD during the installation only. Do not copy over your OS as it is to the SSD.

- Once installed, disable Windows Search, and drive indexing on the SSD. Also fix Windows swap file (virtual memory) to fixed size (1GB~2GB) on the SSD.

- Never run any "SSD optimizers" nor "SSD defragmentation software" of any kind. These are not necessary and in fact, will hurt your SSD.

- Leave Windows 7 and programs + specific games you want to see speed boost on the SSD. All "data" such as music, movie, pictures, and all other games, should be on the mechanical hard disk.


* Case *

Before we begin: Never buy a case that comes with a power supply. These power supplies are absolutely atrocious and you WILL regret it if you do buy them.

** Best recommended: This case has the best balance of features and price. Good airflow in the case, SSD bracket, decent looks, and price. I would not go any cheaper than this to be honest.

- CoolerMaster HAF 912 @ $60

If you want any other cases instead, that is your choice. I simply recommend HAF 912 as it strikes the best balance in features and price.

When shopping for a different case, I'd look for features like how well the air can flow in the case, ease of use, SSD bracket, and whether it can hold long graphics cards or not.


* OS *

If you do not own a copy of Windows 7 or Vista 64-bit, you should get a copy of Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit OEM. They cost $100 a pop.

If you do own it, feel free to re-use it. You may be asked to get a new key from Microsoft. Do not panic if that happens. Call Microsoft, explain that you just built a new computer, and get a key.

If you own a 32-bit version of 7 or Vista, don't worry. 32-bit key can be used for 64-bit version. You just have to... acquire the 64-bit version of OS somewhere. If you can't / won't, bite the bullet and buy the 64-bit version.

HP/Dell/etc. never gives you an actual OS disc; they simply "bundle" it onto the hard disk as a recovery partition. So you still have to buy a new copy -- not to mention the keys used by HP/Dell/etc. are specific to an OEM -- they will only activate on HP/Dell/etc. computers.

If you own a copy of XP, I strongly recommend you to upgrade to Windows 7. Many games today take advantage of DirectX 11 effects, and WoW is one of them. For most users, using DirectX 11 in WoW will improve performance as well as including some new fancy graphics effects.


* Monitors *

Size is up to you. However, you should buy a monitor whose native resolution is at least 1920x1080. Also try to ensure response rate of below 5ms.

LED backlighting is optional. Some monitors will have backlighting leak out, but how bad that can be is totally RNG as each monitor is differently built.

ASUS monitors seem to be very popular for monitors. 24" ASUS monitors top out around ~$200, with smaller monitors costing less. If you want to go as cheap as possible for a monitor for whatever reason, you can find a full HD monitor with <5ms response rate for about $120.

IPS panels (such as Dell U2412M) are becoming more popular, but they are pricey. The advantage of an IPS monitor over typical LCD monitor (based on TN) is that color accuracy is much better on an IPS monitor than a TN monitor. The commonly stated disadvantage is that IPS monitors don't have response rate as good as that of a TN monitor -- especially if the IPS monitor is a true 8-bit color depth panel (professional models costing $500+).

The ~$300some IPS monitors such as Dell U2412M uses e-IPS technology, which is 6-bit + some trick, so it's not as accurate as true 8-bit color depth panels, but still way better than a typical TN monitor many people use. It also has decent enough response rate that you should generally not experience any ghosting.

Cheap IPS monitors are something you should not buy if possible -- with them, what you pay is what you really get.

If color reproduction is somehow important to you, look into an IPS monitor. If not, stick to a $200 or less monitors.


* Keyboard, Mouse, Speakers *

Up to you. Buy whatever fits your budget and needs.

Casual gamers should be fine with a $20 mouse and keyboard.

Gamers that do make use of extra function keys / buttons on the mouse can get them from usual shops.

However, it is important to note that these things don't improve your FPS nor make your system run faster. Never sacrifice main computer parts for a fancy keyboard, mouse, or speakers.

If you have some $ to spare, mechanical keyboards are considered the "ultimate" in gaming keyboard, such as Corsair's K60/90, and Razer's Black Widow keyboards.

As for the mouse, the usual Razer fare may work for you.

Here are the list of few "gaming" keyboard / mouse manufacturers:

Microsoft (Sidewinder X4)
Tt eSports

Speakers generally aren't bought since many users re-use their existing sets, or have a dedicated headset already, so it's not really worth mentioning.


* Addendum 1: When do I upgrade CPU / GPU? *

I realized I never really got into details on when you should upgrade. Here is a general guide when you should upgrade.

For CPU, if you have these CPUs, you do not have to upgrade yet. Otherwise, it's time for an upgrade -- you would replace CPU, RAM (if RAM is not DDR3. If DDR3, reuse), and motherboard:

* Intel:
- Second-and-half generation Intel Ivy Bridge i-series CPU, such as i5-3570k, i7-3770k
- Second-and-half generation Intel Ivy Bridge-based Pentiums / Celerons
- Second-generation Intel Sandy Bridge i-series CPU, such as i3-2120, i5-2500k, i7-2600k
- Second-generation Intel Sandy Bridge-based Pentiums / Celerons
- First-and-half generation Intel Westmere i-series CPU, such as i3-560, i5-680, i7-970
- First-generation Intel Nehalem i-series CPU, such as i5-760, i7-960

For the listed Pentiums and Celerons, if you feel that you want more CPU performance, upgrade to the same family i3 or i5 CPUs (no need to get a new motherboard/RAM). IE) Sandy Bridge Pentium G630 -> Sandy Bridge i3-2120. You can choose to go Ivy Bridge only if the motherboard supports it.

* AMD:
- First generation AMD FX "Bulldozer" CPU, such as FX-8150
- Phenom II CPU, such as Phenom II X4 955 BE, Phenom II X6 960T
- Athlon II CPU can work, but upgrading is recommended for this case.

Best upgrade for AMD CPU users is honestly at this point, going to an Intel build. This will change if upcoming Piledriver doesn't suck.

For GPU (graphics), if your graphics cards is equal or better than following, you're still good. Otherwise, it's time to upgrade your graphics (IF you want to), and also may require power supply upgrade:

* GeForce:
GeForce 500 models, of sub-model 550 Ti or above.
GeForce 400 models, of sub-model 450 or above.
GeForce 200 models, of GTX 280 or above.

* AMD:
Radeon 7000 models, of sub-model 7750 or above.
Radeon 6000 models, of sub-model 6770 or above.
Radeon 5000 models, of sub-model 5770 or above.
Radeon 4000 models, of sub-model 4870 or above.


* Addendum 2: TL;DR, Just Gimme a Good Build! *

Fine. But I put so much effort to the guide as whole! For you! You have to read it!... I'll make you read it... [Yandere eyes]

Oops! Ignore that! :) Anyway...

From any of these builds, customize or change things as you see fit, but do note that you need to add in price of OS / Monitor / Keyboard / Mouse / Speakers, if you need them.

You can take these as a guideline too (as well as the price), if you HAVE to get a pre-built system.

The estimated FPS for WoW listed here assume we are playing with following settings:
1920x1080 resolution
All ultra, except shadows set to high
DirectX 11 mode, WoW 64-bit client
Multisampling 1x, Anisotropic Filtering Trilinear
Playing in a 25-man raid / crowded cities. Anywhere else? Let's just say high enough FPS
These are all minimum expected FPS, but may fluctuate on various factors

Here you go:

** Build 1: Super-extreme budget

CPU: Celeron G530
Motherboard: ASRock H61M/U3S3
RAM: Any 2 x 2GB RAM while keeping my notes (DDR3-1333, 1.5v)
Graphics: Radeon 7750
Power Supply: Seasonic SS-300ET 300W
Hard Drive: Cheap 500GB
DVD Drive: Cheap DVD burner
Case: HEC Blitz Black Steel Edition ATX Mid-Tower

Estimated cost: ~$455
Estimated FPS in WoW: ~30

** Build 2: Best build for good gaming without spending big $

CPU: Pentium G630 or i3-2120
Motherboard: ASRock H61M/U3S3
RAM: Any 2 x 2GB RAM (or 2 x 4GB RAM) while keeping my notes (DDR3-1333, 1.5v)
Graphics: Radeon 6870 or GeForce 560
Power Supply: PC Power and Cooling Silencer MK III 500W
SSD: Optional
Hard Drive: Cheap 500GB
DVD Drive: Cheap DVD burner
Case: Either HEC case listed above, or HAF 912 case

Estimated cost: ~$557 ~ $655
+SSD cost if you choose to add an SSD. In this case, you MUST choose the ASRock board.
Estimated FPS in WoW: ~40+

** Build 3: Won't overclock. Give me a pretty good system just under 1k

Note: If you want the capacity to run SLi / CrossFireX, you will have to upgrade the motherboard to either ASRock Z68 Extreme3 Gen3, or Biostar TZ77XE3 / ASRock Z77 Extreme4.

CPU: i5-2300 / i5-3330
Motherboard: ASRock H61M/U3S3 (BIOS update -required- if taking i5-3330)
RAM: Any 2 x 4GB RAM while keeping my notes (DDR3-1333, 1.5v)
Graphics: Radeon 6870 or GeForce 560, or above if wanted
Power Supply: PC Power and Cooling Silencer MK III 500W or above if wanted
SSD: 120GB Intel 520
Hard Drive: 500GB or 1TB
DVD Drive: Cheap DVD burner
Case: HAF 912

Estimated cost: ~$900 ~ +++
Estimated FPS in WoW: ~45+

** Build 4: Yay overkill!

Note: This build assumes you will overclock the CPU. If you will not, replace CPU with i5-2300 / i5-3330, don't buy the CPU cooler, and get RAM with DDR3-1333 version. Motherboard can be kept if you NEED SLi/CrossFireX. Otherwise, get ASRock H61M/U3S3 motherboard. If i5-3330, and you want ASRock H61M/U3S3, BIOS update is required.

CPU: i5-2500k / i5-3570k
CPU Cooler: CoolerMaster Hyper 212+, or EVO, or above if wanted
Motherboard: ASRock Z77 Extreme4 or above if wanted
RAM: Any 2 x 4GB RAM while keeping my notes (DDR3-1600, 1.5v)
Graphics: Radeon 7950 or above if wanted
Power Supply: PC Power and Cooling Silencer MK III 600W or above if wanted
SSD: 120GB Intel 520 or above if wanted
Hard Drive: 500GB, 1TB or above if wanted
DVD Drive: Cheap DVD Burner
Case: HAF 912 or above if wanted

Estimated cost: ~$1310 ~ +++
Estimated FPS: Do we really need to say this?


* Addendum 3: Finding Gaming Laptops That Can Handle KEKEKE ZERG RUSH ^_^ *

I see "get me a gaming laptop plz" topic frequently enough, but since you can't really "custom build" a laptop from ground up, it only gets a small addendum section to itself. Sad, I know.

A lot of people either buy laptops that can barely handle the intense gaming sessions, or buy ones that can't do it at all. My goal here is to ensure that whatever laptop you choose to buy, is going to be a good performer for the price you pay.

** Users on budget less than $400 - Throw in $30 more and buy a laptop with an AMD A-Series APU in it, such as AMD A4 and A6. You can't really go below this. AMD A4 is the least I'd aim for.


** Budget range up to $550 ~ $650 - You can buy an AMD A-Series laptop with a dedicated graphics cards at this level. May occasionally find Intel i3 / i5 CPUs with a GT 630M or HD 7670M at this price range, but you'll have to look for them.

Most laptops here come with DDR3-1066 RAM. Some come with DDR3-1333. You want to get ones with DDR3-1333 if possible. Pretty much most hard drives here will be 5200 RPM. This cannot be helped.

Do not get a laptop with 17" monitor or ones with higher resolution than 1366x768. Laptop GPUs at this level aren't meant to power a higher-resolution monitor.


** Budget range up to $650 ~ $900 - You can buy an Intel i5 laptops with GeForce 540M / GeForce 630M here. Note that 550M is just a slightly faster clocked version of 540M, not worth paying more for it. Same with 555M found in Lenovos (gimped).

GT 640M / HD 7730M is the most powerful card you can possibly find at this level.

DDR3-1066 will be less common as you put in more money. Try to aim for DDR3-1333. You may find 7200 RPM hard drives here and there.

You can go with a laptop with a larger monitor / resolution here, but don't go for ones with 1920x1080 resolution. GPUs here can't cope with them.


** Budget range up to $1300 - It is notable that the laptops in between price of $650 ~ $950 does not really change in terms of graphics power. The next step up can be found in laptops costing more than $1000. Therefore, there's a gap between $650 and $1000.

Notably, these laptops at $1000~$1300 come with the following graphics cards:
GeForce 650M / 560M / 660M / 570M (670M is rebadged 570M, so do not pay more for this!)
Radeon 7770M / 7850M / 6950M / 7870M

RAM must be DDR3-1333 at this point, as with hard drives being 7200 RPM.

MSI-1761 and Sagers offer 1920x1080 resolution from get go. ASUS G74 models do not until you pay into more expensive versions.

Example 1 - MSI-1761 barebones builders like this website:

Example 2 - ASUS G74 / MSI GT series

Note: Many ASUS G74 with SX suffix come with gimped 560M. Double check the bus width of the GPU before you buy (you can do that through GPU-Z)! Standard 560M has 192 bit bus width, while gimped ones have 128 bit. This is pretty big in terms of performance difference.

** Any higher? Overkill.

Example graphics cards you can get at this level:
GeForce 580M / 680M + SLi if possible
Radeon 6990M / 7950M / 7970M + XFire if possible

You could throw in a bigger monitor, some offer 18".
You could buy an SSD as well as an extra data hard disk.
You could upgrade to a fancy lighted keyboard, or stuff like that...


Hope this guide is helpful in deciding what you want for your new gaming PC. Any questions can be posted in this topic.

Some leftover facts:

1. If you spend over $500 total, NewEgg, TigerDirect, etc. may offer you zero-interest financing options for you.

2. These websites may charge you tax depending on where you live. IE) NewEgg will charge you tax if you order in California.
Great Info, requested for sticky
This needs to be a sticky!

What an awesome guide. I didn't read all of it, but I did read quiet a bit. It is really good! This should really help all of those out there who need advice when it comes to computers used for gaming.

Kalganized, you are awesome. You must have taken a lot of time to write this up, and it shows. On top of that, you reply to nearly every thread in here, giving people helpful advice, while not being rude or mean, even when people may not listen or follow your advice, which is something I still struggle with. So thank you, for this thread and everything you do here! I'm sure you will have a great future in the IT field, if that's what you are going for.

Keep up the good work!
PLEASE sticky - this is a fantastic post thank you.
Requested a sticky some time ago.

Although, hanging out on the shaman forums has made it pretty obvious many people ignore stickies. Still, it's a resource for those smarter than a bag of hammers.
What do you think about water cooling?
Nice! Bookmarked for when I get some more money saved up.
Great guide! (requested sticky - others do the same!) Just a few comments/questions:

Intel 520 comes with its own SATA cable. Crucial m4 does not, nor Corsair Performance Pro. I mention this because most motherboards only come with -two- SATA cables. You will need to buy a separate cable if you buy either Crucial m4 or Corsair, if you can't get one from somewhere.

1) Can you clarify a bit on this? What are the other -two- SATA cables used for? If I'm only using an SSD and NO data drive, do I still need to purchase an additional SATA cable?

Also, you recommend getting a 128GB SSD + a data drive, but I think it's important to note that these two combined are not that much less (and may be more) than just going with a single, 256GB SSD. 256GB should be more than enough space for anyone who doesn't store mass amounts of movies on their computer.

1a) Following then - what brands would you recommend if going for the larger size SSD? Is it still the same match up (M4, corsair performance pro, intel, etc)? Don't these perform better the larger the size?

- Once installed, disable Windows Search, and drive indexing on the SSD. Also fix Windows swap file (virtual memory) to fixed size (1GB~2GB) on the SSD.

2) Can you clarify on this also? How is this done and where? I haven't seen this recommended on any guides that I've read so thanks for mentioning it (I wouldn't have done it had you not). If you say set swap files to fixed size (1~2GB), which size do you mean exactly? One, or two GB?

However, it is important to note that these things don't improve your FPS nor make your system run faster. Never sacrifice main computer parts for a fancy keyboard, mouse, speakers, or monitor.

3) I really think you should remove monitor from this statement. Isn't it import an to have a good, high-quality monitor (like with a good-sized and an IPS/LED display). Why pay extra for all these amazing PC components to only run the games -as that is the priority- on a crap monitor? The monitor is where you interact with the PC, the games, everything. Why get a skimpy one that's a small size and has bad quality to instead get a better GPU that you won't even see the full benefits of?

Thanks again for the write-up :)!
1. The two SATA cables that comes with motherboard would be used for a hard disk and a DVD drive. DVD drives are OEM and doesn't come with their own cable, nor the hard disk. Therefore, you need one more SATA cable if you buy an SSD and SSD doesn't come with its own.

256GB can be enough space for some users indeed. I would have thought some users might think on their own that "Hm, I never use beyond X amount of space, then I won't need a data drive" from the way I worded that section, and decide for themselves. However, I doubt most users reading this thread will be happy with just 256GB.

1a. Same matchup. Intel 520 is the way to go if you can spare $, then go Corsair if less, and Crucial m4 if want to save $$.

2. Windows Search can be disabled by going to the following:
(I use foreign locale of Windows, so it may be differently worded than yours)

Control Panel -> Programs and Features -> On the left pane of the window that just popped up, click Configure Windows Features. -> Scroll down on the new window, find Windows Search, untick it to disable the feature.

Drive indexing can be disabled by going to Windows Explorer, right clicking your SSD drive, clicking Property, and at the bottom of the new window, uncheck the bottommost box, where it says "Allow indexing of file content / type on this drive".

Swap file size is up to you. Either 1GB or 2GB works, although I personally use 2GB set size for both minimum and maximum.

3. You are right, I wrote it that way because it's much easier to replace a monitor than to replace something in your system. I will remove it though.
As sad as I am to say it, it does kind of suck to be team red right now. ;( Intel's offerings have just become too good for the desktop market, but at least AMD has the cpu/gpu combo market clinched.

Join the Conversation

Return to Forum