A high-end gaming PC will cost $2000 or more if you need top-end processing power and want to splurge on luxuries like liquid cooling. But that’s not a necessity, and you can build a perfectly capable gaming PC for around $1000 or even less.
How do you find out how much a gaming PC will cost you? Step one is determining how much money you have to spend and what kind of performance you expect from the system. Based on those guidelines, you can begin buying parts and putting everything together.
We’ll cover some common questions about the cost of building a gaming PC, compare the pros and cons of building your own vs. buying a prebuilt gaming PC, and offer advice on buying parts for a custom build.
Better Question: How Much Can You Spend?
Step one is figuring out your budget and the level of performance you’re aiming for. These go hand-in-hand, and you have to be realistic about what you can achieve on your budget. For example, $1000 for a gaming PC is more than enough to play modern PC games at 1080p or 1440p. But that’s not enough if you want to max out your games and run them at 144 Hz or higher.
Building on any sort of budget requires trade-offs and compromises. You might have to sacrifice raw CPU power to get a faster graphics card or select a cheaper case to afford a quality power supply. It’s not fun, but it’s the reality if you have limited spending power. It’s all about making reasonable sacrifices to get the most out of your money.
Build or Buy?
Another major decision is whether to assemble a gaming PC yourself or buy a prebuilt gaming PC. There’s no right or wrong here, and both are valid options. However, you can often get a better deal by assembling a computer yourself especially as you can pick and choose parts to squeeze as much out of your budget. However, the downside is the time and effort you’ll spend sourcing the parts and assembling your gaming PC.
On the other hand, prebuilt gaming PCs eliminate most of the assembly and maintenance headaches. You also get easily accessible tech support and a one-stop shop for warranty issues if components go wrong. The latter takes much of the sting out of dealing with RMAs yourself.
However, you often pay more than you would for the individual parts. You also don’t have as much freedom to choose your components, although that’s probably not an issue for a first-time buyer.
A prebuilt PC is probably your best option if you want a gaming desktop that works immediately out of the box. You’ll pay a small premium, but the convenience and warranty support might be worth it. If that sounds appealing, check out our list of the best custom PC builders for great options.
“Budget” vs. High-End Gaming PCs
Most gaming PCs are “budget” builds because we build them around a certain budget. However, what we mean by a “budget” build here is one that costs less than $1000 or so.
A brilliant way to save as much money as possible is to build your own gaming PC and take advantage of as many discounts (sales, coupon codes, combo deals) as possible when shopping for parts. But you can also reuse parts from an old PC to help keep costs down.
Building a new gaming PC involves getting a new processor, motherboard, and graphics card. But that doesn’t mean you must upgrade everything: you can often carry over old components like hard drives, peripherals, monitors, the case, and maybe even the PSU. Just ensure everything’s compatible and in working condition before doing this.
Of course, not everyone will have the luxury of an old gaming PC with parts they can reuse. So we’ve put together a table with all the parts you’ll need to build a gaming PC from scratch.
Our table has suggestions on what you might want to buy at various prices. We also have dedicated sections for each component with more in-depth advice afterward.
|Budget to Mid-Range Gaming PC||“Enthusiast” to High-End Gaming PC|
|Component||Purchase||Price Range||Purchase||Price Range|
|Motherboard||mATX board with a lower-end chipset||$80 - $110||Full-sized ATX board with a high-end chipset||$150 - $350+|
|CPU||4-6 core CPUs (non-K for Intel||$75 - $150||6-16 core CPUs (including overclockable Intel CPUs)||$200 - $600+|
|Cooler||Bundled cooler or budget air cooler||Free - $50||Air or liquid cooling||$50 - $300+|
|RAM||16GB of DDR4 RAM (3200 - 3600 MHz)||$50-$70||≥ 16 GB of DDR4 (3600 MHz CL16 or better) or DDR5||$80 - $300+|
|GPU||Low-end to mid-range Nvidia or AMD card (new/used)||$150 - 500||High-end Nvidia or AMD card||$800 - $1200+|
|Storage||500 GB SSD||$40 - $70||A combo of M.2 (NVMe), 2.5" and 3.5" storage drives||$150-$300+|
|PSU||~500 watts, 80-Plus Bronze rating||$50 - $75||500 watts and above, 80-Plus Gold rating||$100 - $300+|
|Case||Budget mid-tower case||$50 - 60||Good-quality mid-tower||$100 - $150+|
|Monitor||1080p or budget 1440p display||$100 - $200||144 Hz 27" 1440p display or larger/faster||$225 - $1000+|
|Keyboard||Membrane or budget mechanical keyboard||$10 - $50||Mid-range to high-end mechanical keyboard||$80 - $300+|
|Mouse||Budget gaming mouse (wired)||$20 - $50||Higher-end modern gaming mouse (wired or wireless)||$80 - $150|
|Audio||Integrated audio with gaming headset and/or USB mic for voice||$0 - $90||High-quality USB mic or dedicated audio interface setup||$150 - $250+|
|Total||$625 - $1,475||Total||$1865 - $5,200+|
- The starting price is around the minimum we’re comfortable recommending for budget gaming PCs with dedicated graphics cards.
- You’re entering mid-range territory once you start spending around $1300 or more. This lets you build a respectable gaming PC capable of playing most modern games at 60 FPS, albeit at reduced settings.
- An “enthusiast” rig is the starting point for high-end gaming. Here, high-refresh-rate 1440p at high graphics settings is the norm, and 4K 60 FPS gaming becomes a reality.
- Any rig that sets you back around $3000 or more is a bonafide high-end PC, where you can crank graphics settings and resolution up and still maintain excellent framerates north of 60 FPS.
Let’s look deeper into each category and evaluate how and where to spend your money best when building a gaming PC.
Motherboard Shopping Advice
Two factors usually determine the price of motherboards. First is the chipset. Motherboards with lower-end chipsets (such as AMD’s B650 or Intel’s B760) will cost less than the top-end chipsets (X670E and Z790 for AMD and Intel, respectively). The main differences between chipsets include specs such as the number of PCIe lanes, maximum USB ports, maximum SATA ports, and overclocking support (for Intel).
The motherboard form factor also matters, as Micro-ATX motherboards are usually cheaper than full-size ATX motherboards. You will lose out on RAM slots and some SATA and USB ports by going with an mATX board, but the price savings might be worth it for a more budget-oriented build.
As of July 2023, Intel is the better option for budget builders given its cheaper motherboards, backward compatibility, and support for DDR4 RAM. You can buy an older mATX Intel board like the ASRock B660M Pro RS for around $120 and have everything you need to build an affordable gaming PC. You can save more by buying a motherboard with an even older chipset, but we don’t recommend that unless you’re on a really tight budget.
Of course, if you need many USB ports or want to run four sticks of RAM, a full-sized ATX board is the only option. Expect to pay anywhere from $150 to $300 (or more) for one, depending on the chipset and features.
Read our complete guide on choosing a motherboard to learn about all the key considerations when shopping for a motherboard.
CPU Shopping Advice
For most gamers, raw CPU performance isn’t the be-all-end-all of a gaming PC. While some simulation-heavy games like Civilization or city-builders like Cities: Skylines rely heavily on CPU power, most games prioritize the GPU over the CPU. This means that most gaming PCs can safely compromise on CPU power in exchange for more GPU performance.
Modern budget CPUs in the $100 to $150 range, like the Intel Core i3-12100, should suffice for most mainstream gaming PCs. They’ll even do a decent job for high-framerate gaming, although you may want to spring for a higher-end CPU if you need guaranteed performance there.
Even then, you won’t need to spend too much: a roughly $300 CPU like the Intel Core i5-13600K will do the job for gaming, even at ultra-high framerates or resolutions. You’ll only need top-tier chips like the AMD Ryzen 9 7950X if you regularly run CPU-heavy productivity tasks that benefit from high core and thread counts. There’s no need to spend that much if you’re just playing games.
We have an exhaustive guide to choosing a CPU covering all the core topics; check it out if you need help with your CPU choice.
CPU Cooler Shopping Advice
Choosing a processor that comes bundled with a heatsink will save you money on an aftermarket cooler. Most of AMD’s current Ryzen CPUs come bundled with a cooler, as do Intel’s non-K CPUs. If you’re trying to build a value rig, go for one of these and use the stock cooler. They’re not amazing, but they’ll do the job.
Decent aftermarket air coolers like the Arctic Freezer 34 eSports can be had for around the $50 mark and will generally run cooler and quieter than the stock options. Affordable air coolers have improved significantly over the past few years, so most of you might only need to spend that much on your CPU cooler.
In fact, budget air coolers are so good now that they’ve rendered $100 coolers like Noctua’s
If you’re interested in liquid cooling, most good-quality 280 mm AIOs sell for between $100 and $150. They’ll offer your CPU the best out-of-the-box cooling possible, often at lower noise levels than comparable air coolers. However, they’re likely overkill for most users.
Graphics Card Shopping Advice
Ideally, you’ll want to dedicate the biggest chunk of your budget to your graphics card (or GPU). It’s the defining component of all gaming PCs and determines how much FPS you’ll get and how high you can crank those graphics settings. But it’s all a matter of balance, and you’ll want to choose a GPU that suits the rest of your components to prevent bottlenecking.
As of July 2023, new graphics card prices are a mixed bag. AMD and Nvidia’s best new cards are expensive, with Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080s selling for around $1200 and AMD Radeon RX 7900 XTX cards not far behind at about $1000. They’re amazing cards, of course, but that doesn’t make the prices any easier to swallow.
But retailers have been slashing prices to move stock, so watch for deals. We’ve seen certain RTX 4080 cards sell for below $1000, which is a steal if you’re looking for a high-end GPU.
The “mid-range” has also increased considerably in price, with $400 cards like the RTX 4060 Ti now considered “mid-tier” cards. Gone are the days of $300 GPUs like the Nvidia GTX 970 offering amazing bang-for-buck, console-beating performance. You’ll have to spend more to get equivalent performance, which makes building a competent gaming PC pricier than it used to be.
PC builders shopping for a budget graphics card will likely have to go for an AMD card, as the lower-tier Nvidia cards are still on the pricier side at the time of writing. You can get AMD Radeon RX 6600 like this MSI Radeon RX 6600 for less than $250, which a good deal for a capable 1080p gaming card.
If you’re on an ultra-tight budget, your best option is to forego a dedicated GPU and get an AMD CPU with integrated graphics instead. The AMD Ryzen 5 5600G costs less than $200 and will be good enough for esports titles at lower settings.
Buying previous-generation graphics cards can also be a way to stretch your dollar and get more performance at a given price point. For instance, most Nvidia RTX 3060 Tis have dropped below the $350 mark since the launch of the RTX 4060 Ti, making the older card a compelling purchase.
Sure, it’s slower than the RTX 4060 Ti, but not by much—besides, the price difference more than makes up for the slower performance in our book.
Check out our guide to choosing a GPU for the low-down on this all-important component.
RAM Shopping Advice
How much your RAM will cost depends on how much memory you want. Although you could build a budget gaming PC with 8 GB of RAM, 16 GB has become the standard recommended capacity. Thirty-two gigabytes is a bit overkill for most users but is a valid option if you want to “future-proof” your rig and not worry about adding RAM later.
Buying RAM is relatively straightforward: get at least 16 GB of the fastest RAM that your motherboard and CPU support. Low-latency RAM is a bonus but not worth paying over the odds for. For example, CL18 DDR4 RAM will perform identically to CL16 DDR4 RAM in most consumer and gaming scenarios.
If you need to keep costs down, look for basic RAM kits that don’t have fancy heat spreaders or RGB lighting. These features are purely aesthetic, adding to the price without offering any performance benefit. No matter how tight your budget, though, make sure you get a dual-channel kit. Gaming performance will suffer if you only run a single stick of RAM.
Choosing between DDR4 and DDR5 will come down to your rig and whether you want to use the latest technology. DDR5 is faster, and some games will benefit from the newer memory standard. If you’re building a high-end Intel system, we recommend buying a DDR5 motherboard and DDR5 RAM, preferably with the fastest speeds you can afford. AMD Zen 4 buyers won’t have a choice, as the new chipsets and CPUs are DDR5-only.
Check out our guide to choosing RAM for more information, including comparisons between single- and dual-channel RAM configurations.
Storage Drive Shopping Advice
Budget builders may only want to buy one drive with enough space for Windows and everything you plan to install on the machine, including your games. Given the ballooning size of game installs (175 GB for CoD: Warzone, anyone?), we recommend at least a 500 GB SSD. Expect to pay around $50 for an entry-level SSD, whether SATA or M.2.
If you need more storage, we recommend multiple-drive setups. Have one or more SSDs for games and programs that benefit from faster load times, and pair them with high-capacity 3.5” hard drives for bulk storage of media that doesn’t require quick loading times. The only limits here are your budget and how many SATA and M.2 slots your motherboard has.
Head over to our SSD vs. HDD article for more info about both types of storage and why you’d want to use one over the other.
Case Buying Advice
PC case prices are currently quite volatile, likely due to logistical and geo-political issues. So expect most cases to retail slightly above MSRP. That said, you can still get some great cases for around the $100 mark, which is where we recommend you start.
That will get you a good mid-tower case from a reputable brand with good airflow and enough stock fans to cool most gaming hardware. Avoid full-tower or Mini-ITX cases unless you have the budget and know you need what they offer.
Micro-ATX cases are also an option if you’re buying an mATX motherboard. However, they generally cost as much as mid-tower cases and limit your future expansion options, so we’re not that keen on them.
Can’t stretch to $100? You can find budget PC cases for around $50, which will work if you’re trying to keep a tight lid on your rig’s total cost. You’ll have to compromise on thermal performance and build quality, but they can be a valid option if you need something affordable. Try not to go any lower than $50, though, as those ultra-budget cases are quite rough.
Need advice? We have a guide to choosing a PC case that covers all the pertinent information to be aware of when shopping for one.
Power Supply Unit Shopping Advice
Power supplies aren’t the most glamorous part of building a PC, so you might be tempted to skimp and get a cheap one. But that’s not a great way to go about things, as a bad PSU can result in system instability or, even worse, damaged components.
A reliable 500- to 650-watt power supply will cost between $50 and $100, with modular or higher-wattage units costing upwards of $150. You only need enough total wattage to power everything in your system (plus a little extra to be safe), so don’t waste money by buying a 1000-watt PSU for a mid-range gaming rig.
You can use PSU calculators like this to estimate how much power your gaming rig will need, then get a power supply with 50 to 100 watts more output than the calculator’s numbers. PSUs with higher 80-Plus ratings are ideal, as they often feature better components. However, an 80-Plus Bronze PSU will be fine if it’s all you can afford.
No matter what 80 Plus rating or price point you’re shopping at, try to opt for units that sites like TechPowerUp have reviewed. This ensures that your chosen PSU performs as it should, without significant issues in its power output. PSU tier lists can also be handy here as a general guideline for which PSUs to buy and which to avoid.
Monitor Shopping Advice
Most budget builders will want to set aside between $100 and $200 for a monitor. The lower end of that range will get you a 75 Hz 1080p monitor while spending closer to $200 will open up the option of getting a faster 144 Hz monitor like the ASUS VG24VQ. Even if you’re on a budget, make sure you get an IPS or VA monitor, as TN panels have significant color and viewing angle issues.
If you’re on an ultra-tight budget, you could also look for a used monitor on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. Of course, you’ll want to test it thoroughly beforehand, which can be a slight hassle. But the upshot is the possibility of saving $50 or more vs. buying new, which helps when every dollar counts.
For high-end builds with more resources to spare, the (monitor) world is your oyster. A high-refresh-rate 1440p IPS monitor is a solid all-around option. Almost every monitor manufacturer has a great one available. If you’re a competitive gamer, you could go even further and get 240 or 360-Hz monitors like the 1080p BenQ XL2566K or 1440p Asus ROG Swift PG27AQN.
But if money’s really not an issue, check out the new generation of high-end OLED monitors like the Alienware AW3423DW or the Samsung Odyssey G85SB. These high-refresh-rate HDR monitors offer excellent brightness, deep blacks, and rich colors, making them perfect for games and movies. They cost a pretty penny, but you get what you pay for and then some.
Keyboard Shopping Advice
If you just want something basic to type and game on, there’s nothing wrong with spending $10 or $20 on a basic membrane keyboard. You can spend more on a membrane keyboard, which will add gamer-friendly features such as backlighting, macro keys, and spill-proof construction. Whether any of these justify the extra cost is up to you.
However, if you’re willing to spend around $50 for a keyboard, we recommend getting a mechanical keyboard over a fancy membrane. These are becoming more affordable, with budget mechanicals like Redragon’s K552 available for less than $50. These won’t have the best construction or switches, but they’re a great way to get your foot in the door cheaply.
Mechanical keyboards will cost you anywhere from $50 or so for decent mainstream options to well above $300 for high-end or custom products. We feel that $100 is the ideal price point for most users, with $200 or so being the point of diminishing returns in terms of typing feel or features. However, that’s where many enthusiasts start, so it all depends on how invested you are (or want to be) into the hobby.
Gaming Mouse Shopping Advice
There are a ton of ultra-budget $20-and-below mice from no-name brands available on Amazon, but these can have wildly varying quality and be unpleasant to use. Instead, we recommend spending around $20 to $30 on a budget gaming mouse from a name brand such as Razer or Logitech.
These are generally older mice repacked for the budget shopper, but they’ll at least have reliable sensors and working software, which is more than we can say for some cheap options. You can also check out our list of the best gaming mice under $50, all of which are solid picks that will do a good job.
Modern high-end gaming mice will have the latest sensors and often feature ultra-light construction targeted toward FPS gamers. These mice will set you back anywhere from $80 to $150, with high-end wireless options like the Logitech G Pro X Superlight or Razer Viper V2 Pro at the high end of that range.
Not sure what you should be looking out for? Our guide to choosing a gaming mouse has you covered.
Audio Shopping Advice
Most gamers can get by fine with onboard audio, so there’s no huge reason to spend money on your rig’s audio setup if you only want to play games. However, you’ll probably want a microphone, especially if you play team-based multiplayer games.
The most accessible and budget-friendly options are getting a sub-$100 gaming headset with a built-in mic or a USB mic connecting directly to your computer. The latter option has become much more affordable, with decent microphones available for less than $40. However, you will need to spend on a headset and mic if you opt for a USB mic.
A simple USB microphone (or gaming headset) will suffice for most users who only want voice chat and the occasional Zoom call. However, if you have streaming aspirations, a pricier setup with a dedicated audio interface and XLR microphone will offer much better audio quality. Expect to spend a few hundred here, even for a basic setup. But the sound quality you’ll get can outclass most affordable USB microphones.
An all-in-one package like this Focusrite Solo bundle is a good starter option if you want to go down this route.
Note that there’s a whole world of hi-fi DACs (digital-to-analog converters) that you can get into if you’re serious about sound. These can range from $100 up to $1000 or more. However, they’re not that relevant for a gaming rig. Thus we won’t go into them here.
Unless you’re dead set on maxing out the latest triple-A games at high framerates, PC gaming doesn’t have to be a ruinously expensive and inaccessible hobby. Choose your components well, and you should be able to build a decent gaming PC for around $1000 that’ll be enough for 1080p gaming at decent settings.
You can certainly spend much less than that, of course. A $500 budget gaming PC build is entirely possible, but it’ll require some planning and knowledge to get the most bang for your buck. But no matter your budget, make sure you know how to pick your gaming PC parts so that you don’t end up with the wrong hardware for your needs.