Build the ultimate gaming PC for less than $1200


UPDATE: 29th Nov, 2019 – In our recent poll, “Which GPU should we choose”, had the XFX Radeon RX 5700 winning. This means we will now add the GPU to the current build with the Seasonic FOCUS Plus 650 Gold to give it the required juice.

In my opinion, we currently have the “Ultimate PC Gaming Build for Under $1200”. This can change from personal preferences if you’d prefer to get a larger SSD instead of a HDD, for example, or you would get a weaker GPU and add a stronger CPU. However, at the moment we do appear to have the best price / performance setup.

Now that we currently have one of the best optimised and almost perfect PC gaming builds for $1200, let’s repeat this for a new price range. Please vote in the poll below for which gaming PC price bracket we should focus our collective skills on to build our next new PC. The price ranges are as follow: $600, $800, $1500, $1800, $2000, $2500

ORIGINAL: Building a gaming PC, while more expensive than your typical console, need not cost the world. Some will say you need to spend thousands upon thousands  in order to stay current with PC gaming but this is not the case.

The core of a PC is useful for just about everything. We all use PCs in our everyday lives, so we pretty much all need one. What separates an ordinary PC from a gaming PC is, usually, the graphics card. Your GPU will usually be the most expensive component of your PC build and it’ll also have the biggest impact on visuals and performance. But, it’s also important not to totally scrimp on the other components though, as the right hardware can last you for years.

With huge games like Cyberpunk 2077 and Red Dead Redemption 2 on the horizon, we figure it’s the perfect time to be thinking about a new PC build to enjoy these AAA games looking and running at their finest.

Ultimate PC Gaming Build for Under $1200

So we’ve set ourselves the target of $1200. All in. $1200, from scratch, and you’ll have a complete gaming PC with a capable GPU, CPU, plenty of RAM, both HDD & SSD storage, a monitor, mouse, keyboard, and headset. Everything you could possibly need to begin PC gaming with performance that exceeds consoles. 

We’ve settled on hitting under $1200 in order to provide the best price to performance we can find for our money. Now this isn’t about saving the pennies to get the absolute cheapest build possible, or spending ridiculous amounts of cash to get 4K running on Ultra with all the bells and whistles. This is for a PC build where you get what you pay for – quality performance for a reasonable price. We want to create the everyman PC build. So during this PC build guide for 2019 we will be aiming at the sort of PC most PC gamers, such as you and I, aim to have. 

  Component Current Price Why this component? 
CPU AMD Ryzen 5 2600 **$114.99 AMD’s Ryzen range is proving a top choice these days for its affordability versus Intel’s chips. The new Ryzen 3000 series means the previous gen CPUs can be picked up dirt cheap. The 6-core Ryzen 5 2600 is an absolute bargain right now at $118.
Graphics Card Radeon RX 5700 XFX DD Ultra 8GB **$299.99 The Radeon RX 5700 is the secret weapon in AMD’s locker. Available for around $300, the RX 5700 offers performance within a few percentage points of the RTX 2060 Super for around $100 cheaper. You lose out on raytracing support but very few games support this feature right now.
Memory Corsair 16GB 3200MHz DDR4 **$62.99 RAM is very cheap these days. We’ve come a long way from the sky-high prices in 2017. 16GB is more than enough for any modern game and 3200MHz memory can now be had for as low as $69.99.
Motherboard Asus TUF B450-Plus Gaming $110.99 Motherboards can easily be one of the most overwhelming components to purchase. For normal usage though, the Asus TUF B450-Plus Gaming is a great budget mobo that maximises value for money.
Case Fractal Design Focus G $55.88 The sky is the limit for case designs but in terms of great functionality for a low price, it’s tough to beat the Fractal Design Focus G. It’s small yet will house ATX motherboards and has plenty of space to tuck in extra storage and slots for up to five fans.
PSU Seasonic FOCUS Plus 650 Gold $109.99 The Seasonic FOCUS Plus 650 Gold is a great, inexpensive choice with plenty of headroom to power a RTX 5700 equivalent video card. 
SSD Crucial BX500 240GB $31.99 SSD storage can quickly become expensive but a small 240GB driver should be enough to get you up and running. Install your OS on this SSD for much faster boot times, and prioritise your most used game installs to this drive.
HDD Seagate BarraCuda 2TB $49.99 While far slower, traditional hard drivers are still much cheaper than SSDs for mass storage. A 2TB drive can be picked up for just $55 and it has room for around 40 or so 50GB games.
CPU Cooler Wraith Stealth Cooler $0.00 AMD’s Ryzen 5 2600 comes with a Wraith Stealth Cooler bundled in. If you’re just running at stock clocks this will do the job.
Display LG Ultragear 24GL600F-B **$159.99 Arguably the best 1080p monitor around for price to performance. The LG 24GL600F-Bpacks a 144Hz refresh rate, 1ms response times, and a 24″ TN display.
Keyboard Redragon K552 **$27.99 At $33, the Redragon K552 is very cheap for a mechanical keyboard. It’s also reliable though with a sturdy build quality, great feedback, and a simple, stylish design.
Mouse Cooler Master MM710 $49.99 With a unique hole-y design, the Cooler Master MM710 is the Swiss cheese of gaming mice. It’s lightweight yet offers excellent performance with its top-tier optical sensor.
Headset HyperX Cloud Stinger **$29.99 Proof that you need not spend a ton for a top quality gaming headset, the HyperX Cloud Stinger is ergonomic, has great sound quality and pro-grade condenser mic.
Total Price   $1,116.78  

** Special Offers – These items, marked with the ** in our build are currently on special offer. These are usually timed special offers, so it might be that we have to switch them out when their prices return to “normal”.

This is an ongoing project and this build will adapt and change based on newly released hardware and you. Yes, you. We’ll be running regular polls for which components you believe are the weak link, and then we’ll switch them out for something even better. Week by week, we’ll be building the ultimate gaming PC to be found at this price point.

The process of actually building a PC has never been easier, but picking from all the different components is still as tricky as ever. Do you go for a future-proofed graphics card? Does it matter if you only have a 400W PSU? We’re going to take these problems out of the equation by pooling all of our knowledge to ensure we’ve also got the best budget build you can get right now.

So this is everything you need for a gaming PC setup for under $1200. This build can play every game in the world today and includes a tower itself along with all the key components such as gaming monitor, mouse, keyboard, and headset. 

But this is just the start. It’s time for you all to get your heads together in order to identify the weakest point of Ultimate PC Gaming Build for Under $1200. 

Which of these components would you like to switch out for something else? Get voting for the component which you’d like to change and we’ll then run a further poll to decide what we’re going to replace it with.

We want your recommended hardware suggestions for this build so pop them in the comments section below and the hardware suggestions with the most up-votes will be considered for inclusion in the build!

UPDATE: 22nd Nov, 2019 – During our latest community vote on the topic of “Which area should we try to boost?”, it unsurprisingly showed the GPU won in a landslide victory. Upgrading the system specs (CPU, Motherboard, RAM) achieved 16.34% of the votes while also taking the place for the second most voted option.

The options for upgrading our GPU will require a PSU upgrade too and I have chosen a reliable / top of the line PSU to accommodate the update. Seasonic FOCUS Plus 650 Gold for $109.99, which is a bit more expensive than our current PSU.

This leaves us with around $360 to spare to spent on a graphics card. We don’t have to spend all of it on a GPU but this the upper limit based on the $1200 budget. The current build has a GeForce GTX 1660 Ti but, with the extra cash we now have, it could be possible to upgrade to a GeForce RTX 2060 or a Radeon RX 5700.

 UPDATE: 15th Nov, 2019 – After the recent poll, “Which headset is the best?”, the HyperX Cloud Stinger got voted for the best option at a price tag of $44. A lot of people have left great comments about the SteelSeries Arctis 3 too, so if you want a headset that’s a bit more premium then you can get pick that up for $60, provided you don’t mind spending a few extra bucks.

Okay, so we have shaved back around a $100 in savings on this build.

System [CPU+Motherboard+RAM] ($308.98) GPU ($279.99) Case+PSU ($122.87) Storage ($81.98) Display ($179.99) Peripherals ($126.98)
TOTAL: $1100.79

The upside is we now have around $100 to blow on upgrading whichever components we want. We could spend $100 on the graphics card, for example, or upgrade to a premium quality. We could even revisit the peripherals and the monitor and think about enhancing the quality. 

So our next poll is to choose which area we want to try and boost? For this one, you’ve got one vote to choose the priority area and this will then be used to decide which components should be switched out next as we look to even further improve the build.

UPDATE: 8th Nov, 2019 – The AOC Agon 24″ Gaming Monitor won our “Which new monitor” poll, however lots of people (me included) feel that the current GPU wouldn’t be enough for modern titles at 1440p.

With this in mind we will opt for the 1080p monitor LG Ultragear 24″ Gaming Monitor for $180 for now, unless you’re in the UK, then I would recommend going with the ASUS 24″ VG248QE because it is only £165 at the moment. We will take these monitor savings and also look to improving our headset option while increasing our savings further. Then with the extra cash saved we will then improve the GPU in our build so it can support 1440p.

So next up for review in our build will be headsets. Take a look at the options at the bottom of the page and then vote in the new poll. We will make the poll a blind poll this week to prevent people just voting on the most popular poll entry.

UPDATE: 1st Nov, 2019 – Following the recent, “Which storage solution is best?” poll, the option for a split hard drive (SSD+HDD) system to be used in our Best PC Build for $1200 won comfortably.

So let’s take a look at the best storage drive option for our $1200 PC. People today prefer the fast 240GB SSD paired with a cheaper, larger 2TB HDD storage solution. This allows our PC to use a fast Solid State Drive (240GB SSD) for our operating system and some choice games we are most interested in playing.

Solid state delivers a much quicker and smoother loading experience that’s very noticeable when loading between game levels or booting the PC or a game/application. The Hard Disk Drive (2TB HDD) provides us with a large chunk of storage space where we can put our downloaded games and movies.

Interestingly, the next popular option would have been to spend more on a larger 480GB SSD but with a smaller 1TB HDD. The reason for this setup is that some games are now as big as 175GB in size and so space on the 240GB SSD would be limited. Perhaps 20GB+ is taken up by an operating system and then we could probably only fit one or two of these massive games on the SSD at any one time. The typical gamer would have to do some shuffling and uninstalling to make room each time a new game was to be played on the SSD.

However, that game size issue only effects AAA games and it was the larger storage option with 2TB HDD that really got people to choose this option, because the majority of people still have relatively slow internet connections and don’t want to have to download their data/content more than once, if they can help it.Which do I go for, more of the cheaper HDD storage or more of the faster SSD? So if your internet connection is pretty fast and you don’t have data caps or pay for downloading GB’s of data, then we would still advise you to consider the larger 480GB SSD, with a 1TB HDD. You can always buy more HDD space drives later and hook them up quite easily as your budget and needs arise. But it is a little more tricky to move the operating system from the 240SSD to a bigger 480SSD.

But the majority of people in the world fall into the side of slower download speeds and data caps/costs. So if you want to download and leave your games/data/movies on a storage device then you will be better off with more HDD space available and should consider going with the way our build is put together below.

Next up our plan was to choose a better GPU this week, but the GTX 1660 Ti still seems like the best option so we will wait on the graphics card. AMD are making noises about the RX 5500 and perhaps we might hear mention of a RX 5300, which may well bring some juicy alternative GPU options to our $1200 build.

So for now we’re going to explore the options for a better monitor as I’ve noticed the current monitor is on the expensive side for a 144Hz monitor and I reckon we can do better. So pop down to the poll below and help choose which monitor we want for our build.

UPDATE: 25th Oct, 2019 – Following the recent, “Which component do you wish to upgrade next” poll, people seemed to be most interested in upgrading the CPU or GPU. However, almost no one suggested replacement components for these two hardware slots in our $1200 build. This is fine, as it means our current CPU/GPU choices are still pretty solid. But this is a community supported build so we are in this together, so let us all know in the comments below if you spot any good CPU or GPU replacements.

Through the discussions below it did look like the storage in our community PC build could benefit from a tweak. So the newest poll is for you guys to choose what should be added as our storage solution from some options I have hunted out. Feel free to offer your suggestions on Storage below and please vote in the new storage poll.

This Week’s Hardware Vote – What should our next price bracket be?