1. Choosing the CPU
Analysis of the best Intel and Ryzen processors for the best 1080p gaming experience
5. The $800 build
The standard 1080p gaming computer for those who really want the best out of their money
How to Choose the Best PC Parts
When it comes to building a gaming PC you have to decide which will be the central component. This choice will define certain aspects of the build, such as size (mini ITX, micro ATX, ATX) or the motherboard's chipset.
Personally, I like to start by choosing the most optimal processor in terms of quality/price for my budget. Once I know the CPU I want to use, you can choose the motherboard, RAM, the appropriate GPU to avoid bottlenecks, the CPU fan if necessary and a case compatible with all these components. Finally, knowing which CPU and GPU you are going to use, you can calculate the maximum power that your computer will need and choose the appropriate PSU.
This is the process that we are going to follow in this guide.
We are going to define a specific CPU+GPU combination that we will use to design different builds within the range of $500 to $800. You don't know which one is the best for your needs? Or what to expect from each one? Keep reading!
The Best CPU For 1080p Builds
Analyzing the Core i5 and Ryzen 5
The Core i5-9400F, currently priced at around 150 bucks, is the safe bet nowadays to get the best results in 1080p gaming computers. It doesn't even bottlenecks the most powerful GPUs! Keep reading to learn why this processor is hitting the CPU market so hard.
First off: budget. For 1080p builds we want to focus on the processors that offer better performance per dollar within the range of $180 - $275 (RRP), since they are the ones that will give us the ability to squeeze out the full potential of the best graphic cards to play at 1080p and, more importantly, stable 60 to 120 FPS.
In this case, we have two pairs of Intel-AMD CPUs competing in two prices levels. In the lower budget level we have the Ryzen 5 1500X/2600 and the Core i5-9400F, with a RRP of around $180. The second pair is formed by the Ryzen 5 2600X and the Core i5-9600K with a RRP of around $250.
Keep in mind that the RRP begins to fall once they reach the market, especially after the first months or when the release date of the new generation approaches.
To have an idea of how the prices evolved for these processors, here you have the prices at Amazon in 2019:
- Core i5-9400F: $150 vs RRP $182
- Ryzen 5 1500X: $128 vs RRP $189 (this is the oldest one from the list after all)
- Ryzen 5 2600: $146 vs RRP $199
- Ryzen 5 2600X: $180 vs RRP $249
- Core i5-9600K: $260 vs RRP $262
In terms of price, we could say that we have four differentiated levels and only one Intel-AMD pair that would be competing at the same level: the Core i5-9400F and the Ryzen 5 2600.
For the rest of this guide, we will focus on these two processors and try to find out which is best to create the most powerful gaming computer while keeping the highest quality/price ratio.
Core i5-9400F VS Ryzen 5 2600
They both are really good processors but Intel wins the match this time with its Core i5-9400F averaging a positive difference of 5 to 10 FPS in most of the games for an extra cost of $20 compared to the Ryzen 5 2600. Let's dig deeper into the technical analysis.
- Ryzen models can be overclocked relatively easily, while only the i5-9600K can overclocked
- The Ryzen 5 2600X has 6 extra threads compared to its direct competitor, the i5-9600K. This can be decisive in some games that make use of all the cores/threads
- Higher performance per core, which leads to a better performance in almost every current game
This table accurately reveals which is the best processor for gaming computers and should dispel any doubt you might have about whether to choose AMD or Intel.
We can see that the Core i5-9400F is superior in all games except for Watchdogs 2, where it remains 3 FPS behind its direct competitor: the Ryzen 5 2600.
But, in the rest of games the i5 is consistently above the Ryzen, squeezing between 5 and 10 extra FPS out of the graphics card. It even performs better than the Ryzen 5 2600X in some games!
What I would choose
Like many of you, I not only use the computer to play. I work as a software developer and I'm also a data science practitioner, therefore I need a balanced general purpose computer, with a good GPU and a lot of RAM. And this is precisely what gives you a build based on Ryzen thanks to the extra threads.
Still, I can't get out of my head those 10 extra FPS that the Intel gives you... And this may be an attempt to convince myself, but all the applications that needs a high processing power use the GPU instead of the CPU. So, is there really a situation where I can take advantage of the 6 extra threads of Ryzen?
After all the analysis, it’s pretty clear to me that the wise decision would be to go for the Intel Core i5-9400F. It's the clear winner in both price and performance.
The Best GPU For 1080p Builds
GeForce Or Radeon?
As we will soon figure out, the GTX 1660 wins the title closely followed by the RX 590, which gets the second place mainly due to the high temperature it reaches under heavy load and because, despite the extra power, it's unable to perform better than the its competitor.
In this section we are not only interested in finding out which is the absolute winner. We are also going to try to define which GPU is the right one according to our budget.
Recall that at this point, we already know what CPU we are going to use. This decision sets a set of restrictions that we will drag for the rest of the design, such as the chipset on the motherboard, or the range of graphics cards we can use.
In our case, the Core i5-9400F sets the lower limit at the RX 570. With anything lower than that we would be oversizing our CPU, which basically means that we'll be paying extra money for something we are not going to use.
As for the upper limit, our processor barely causes a bottleneck to an RTX 2080, a GPU used in builds of + $ 1500. So it seems that the upper limit will be on the most powerful graphics card that fits in our budget, presumably the GTX 1660.
What can we deduce from this? The GPU is going to be the piece that will vary between the designs that I am going to present here, being the most notable difference between $500- $1000 builds. Remember this. The rest of the components will be practically the same.
So, what models are available between the RX 570 and the GTX 1660? As we did in the CPUs section, let's take a look at the launch vs current prices of this range of models, ordered by RRP:
- Radeon RX 570: $130 vs RRP $169
- GeForce GTX 1660: $219 vs RRP $219
- Radeon RX 580: $180 vs RRP $229
- Radeon RX 590: $229 vs RRP $279
First of all I want to outline something: where is the GTX 1060? Do not look for it, do not buy it: it is obsolete. This model was replaced by the GTX 1660, which is more powerful and also cheaper. So the GTX 1060 is automatically discarded.
Looking at the current sale prices, we can group these models into three different tiers. In the top one we have two competing models: the GTX 1660 and the RX 590. Which is better? Which should I choose? Let's check some tables...
Nvidia GTX 1660 VS Radeon RX 590
The GTX 1660 has the perfect balance between price, performance and temperature. Not in vain, of the models that we have seen above, this one has been the last one in going out to the market and Nvidia perfectly managed this opportunity to lead the table of the 1080p cards.
Special care must be taken when jumping to conclusions when comparing technical specifications of GPUs. As a general rule it only makes sense to make comparisons between models of the same type (GeForce vs. GeForce or Radeon vs. Radeon).
So, there is little to highlight from this table, other than the TDP. Is it worth even paying attention to this parameter? We'll see soon enough.
Let's get into what really matters: the performance in games.
Now we are talking!
In order to run accurate GPU benchmarks we have a fixed component, one of the most powerful processors of the moment: Core i9-9900K. Why this model? Just to make sure that the CPU does not interfere with the GPU performance. In other words, we only want to have a single variable: the graphics card. The rest of components, is a constant.
As you can see, there is an infiltrate on this table: the GTX 1060 Ti. This model would be positioned between the GTX 1060 and the GTX 2060. Although it's out of the 1080p scope, I've added it so we can easily see the gap between the GTX 1660/RX 590 tier and the next one.
Back to the topic: GTX 1660 vs RX 590. If we look at the FPS we see a certain trend in favor of Nvidia, but they perform fairly even in most games. The most notable difference is found in the results of Assassin's Creed Odissey, where the GTX outperforms the Radeon by 8 FPS. But in general there is a 3 FPS +/- difference between them, in favor of the Nvidia card.
Based solely on the FPS we can not draw any conclusion: the GTX 1660 has a slightly better performance, that's clear, but at the cost of an extra $20.
Do you remember the difference in power consumption that we saw in the table of technical specifications? The GTX 1660 has a TDP of 120 W while the RX 590 consumes 225 W. Almost twice as high.
Do you know what effect those extra 105 W can have? According to data from the reputed website anandtech.com, this extra consumption translates into an increase of 10ºC under heavy load. If you intend to keep your computer in a room (as most of us do), this temperature difference can have a very unpleasant impact in the overall room's temperature, especially in summer.
What I would choose
Wrapping up this section, this is what I'd do depending on the budget:
- From $500: the RX 570
- From $600: the RX 580
- From $800 up to $1000: the GTX 1660
We already know which CPU we are going to use and which GPU to choose according to our budget, so we are ready now to choose the rest of the components of our PC... finally!
The Best Gaming PC Under $500
What Can You Expect From This Console Killer?
From my point of view, the game experience is determined by three factors: resolution, quality settings and FPS.
This build mounts an RX 570, a really powerful and economical graphics card that will allow you to play most games in 1080p, High quality settings and between 30-60 FPS. You could also choose to the quality settings to medium to get stable 60 FPS. The results you can get will depend on each game, so take this data for reference only.
How does this compare to the performance of a console? The consoles usually work with dynamic resolutions and rarely reach stable 1080p. As for quality settings, they are usually capped at medium or medium-high levels at most. And finally, the FPS that you can get in a console usually leaves much be desired.
The RX 570 will outperform consoles in EVERY game. And why I am so sure about that? The PS4 equivalent GPUs are the AMD 7870/GTX 660. You can google “AMD 7870 vs RX 570” or “GTX 660 vs RX 570” and check for yourself if a PS4 is more powerful than the build I’m recommending here… I’m pretty sure this is what you will find: the RX 570 is far better.
This 500 dollar build will perform better than current consoles, even better than the PS4 Pro.
Not to mention that consoles comes with other drawbacks like that they don’t come with an SSD, console gamers have to pay to play online, and they probably will need to spend more money on a computer either way for work, college or whatever… Do you know anyone that doesn’t currently have a computer or laptop? Do yourself a favor and invest the console money in a real gaming machine. You won’t regret it!
The Best Gaming PC Under $600
Better GPU -> More FPS!
It may seem that a budget difference of $100 can't make a difference, but sometimes that's what we need to have a well-rounded build.
And that's what we can achieve by improving the GPU to a Radeon RX 580. The main difference compared to the RX 570 we used in the previous build is the VRAM. In this case we are doubling it from 4 GB to 8 GB.
This improvement of VRAM along with an increase of 1.07 TFLOPs translates into an average improvement of 3-4 FPS and a looser performance, which will help us achieve those 60 stable FPS in High settings in more demanding games where the RX 570 did not.
As we all know, with great power comes more demanding power supplies. This change of GPU implies an increase of 35 W of power, which forces us to change the PSU for a 500 W model.
The Best Gaming PC Under $800
The Ultimate 1080p Build
You will be able to play all the current and future games at 1080p and Ultra settings at stable 60 FPS. Can also run games at 1440p with mid or high settings.
Builds within the $700 – $900 are usually the best investment in terms of quality/durability as you will be able to play the latest games at Ultra settings for the coming four years before you need to upgrade any component.
This $800 computer is, in my opinion, the most balanced build in terms of price/performance you can find, as it should meet the needs of 90% of the gamers.
For this build, I’ve chosen a beautiful ATX case with an acrylic side window: the AeroCool Cylon. It has a flawlessly and elegant design, it is spacious enough to hold large graphics cards and coolers and also liquid cooling options. It also features a backslash LED with 13 lighting modes on front panel with six RGB lighting modes plus seven solid color modes.
The main improvement of this build compared to the previous one is the GPU. In this case we use an Nvidia GTX 1660, the most powerful model for 1080p according to the analysis we did earlier in this guide. When combined with the Core i5-9400F they form an unstoppable pair offering superior performance at an unmatched cost.
But the improvements do not stop there. In this build the RAM is doubled to 16 GB and the power of the PSU is increased to 550W, things that you will need to squeeze every FPS out of the graphics card and processor.
Need Help Assembling The Parts?
There are tons of tutorials and video tutorials out there about how to build your own computer.
If you want a video-based tutorial, the Newegg guys did a great job with a series of video tutorials which I highly recommend. It’s an easy task if you follow the process step by step.
If you have never built a computer before don’t worry, I know that getting the parts list, putting them all together and doing the cable management ritual can be overwhelming. That’s OK. If I can do it you can as well. So, if you don't really know where to start, I'd recommend you to have a quick look at the following video so you can get an idea of the building process.