Recommended Enthusiast Gaming Builds: Dec 2015 ($950 and $1300 Builds)

The following “enthusiast” gaming build examples are here to help you pick the very best bang for your buck components on the market right now when putting together a new gaming PC build. My assistant and I have carefully researched and optimized these builds to show you how to maximize gaming performance firstly for a budget around ~$950, and then for a budget of around ~$1300.

Although gaming performance is the top priority, we haven’t sacrificed on overall quality, stability and reliability as every component in a custom desktop build is important. You can either use these builds exactly as they are, or as a base and make your own modifications to suit your needs. Let’s get into the first enthusiast build which offers amazing performance for under 1000 dollars that will truly blow a pre-built PC in the same price range out of the water.


 

The $950 Enthusiast Gaming Build

ComponentModelPrice
CPUIntel Core i5-4570 Quad-Core 3.2GHz$180
MotherboardASUS Z97-A LGA 1150$135
RAMCrucial Ballistix Sport 8GB 1600Mhz$45
Video CardEVGA GeForce GTX 970 Super Clocked 4GB$380
Hard DriveWestern Digital Blue 1TB$50
CaseCooler Master HAF 912 Mid Tower$60
Power SupplyXFX ATX 550 Watts$84
DVD DriveSamsung DVD Burner 24x$18
TOTAL$952

Let’s take a look at each component in more detail. For this build I’ve opted for the powerful yet well-priced Intel Core i5-4570 which is a perfect mid-range processor for gamers who aren’t planning on overclocking (if you want to overclock you’ll need an unlocked ‘K’ processor such as the one included in the next build). The stock fan that comes with this processor is all you need to keep it nice and cool. I’d recommend the i5-4570 over AMD’s closest equivalent (FX-8350) simply because its been proven to put out slightly better gaming performance overall.

Now to the motherboard and the ASUS Z97-A ATX is an affordable and reliable motherboard that has everything you really need. You can’t really go wrong with an ASUS mobo. I’ve included 8GB of fast 1600MHz RAM which is the optimal amount for gaming these days, and Crucial is always a reliable choice for memory. To be honest anything more than 8GB would just be an added luxury when it comes to gaming.

best enthusiast gaming buildThe $950 Enthusiast Gaming Build

As for the all-important choice of video card, I believe the EVGA GeForce GTX 970 Super Clocked 4GB is your best bet for a high-end gaming card. It makes up a chunky amount of the overall budget for this build but for good reason as graphics is obviously your #1 priority when it comes to gaming performance.

A 970 will absolutely tear through any of the latest games with ease and allow you to play nicely with maxed out settings. It also comes with a large 4GB of on-board video memory which makes it future-proof. On top of that it’s got a decent built-in cooler.

This enthusiast gaming build is also nicely balanced with a good quality yet well-priced Cooler Master case, and a sturdy 550 watt power supply from XFX who produce some of the very best PSUs going around. XFX power supplies are actually made from Seasonic power supplies, and for those out of the loop the names Seasonic and quality go hand in hand when it comes to PSUs.

550 watts is more than enough for all of these components with plenty of spare power for future upgrades believe it or not (many beginners overestimate how much power they actually need).

So that makes the $950 enthusiast custom build which packs a punch for the price. You’ll be very hard-pressed trying to get a pre-built desktop for this price with the same amazing gaming performance that this machine has. Ok, let’s get into the next enthusiast build which brings even more performance for those lucky enough to be able to fork out over a grand for their new gaming beast.


 

The $1300 Enthusiast Gaming Build

ComponentModelPrice
CPUIntel Core i5-4690K 3.5GHz $210
CPU CoolerCooler Master Hyper 212 EVO$32
MotherboardASUS Z97-A LGA 1150$135
RAMCorsair Vengeance 16GB (2x8GB) DDR3 1600 MHz$90
Video CardEVGA GTX 980 SC 4GB$490
SSDCrucial BX100 250GB Solid State Drive$85
Hard DriveWestern Digital Blue 1TB$50
CaseCorsair Carbide 400R Mid Tower$90
Power SupplyXFX PRO 650W TS Series Bronze$75
DVD DriveSamsung DVD Burner 24x$18
TOTAL$1298

Now we’re really getting into the powerhouse builds. This beast can max out even the most demanding games out there, and is great for high resolution gaming too. It’s a great mix of amazing gaming performance, reliability, great looks, and lastability (is that even a word…you get what I mean though). Let’s take a look at some of the important components and why they were chosen.

As for the CPU, I’ve included the i5-4670K processor which is super fast whether you overclock it or not. You don’t really need anything more powerful than this, such as an core i7, when it comes to a build around this price. Core i5’s do very well for themselves and the difference between an i5 and an i7 isn’t worth the price jump when it comes to gaming (if you’re running intensive 3D/editing programs though it may be a different story).

The Cooler Master 212 EVO cooler is the best value heatsink you can get your hands on these days and will do an excellent job of keeping your i5-4670K very cool and quiet even when overclocked. I’d highly recommend it and for those who have never used an aftermarket CPU cooler before – it’s a breeze to install.

I’ve included 16GB of Corsair Vengeance DDR3 1600 MHz RAM because whilst you could get away with 8GB for gaming these days, for a build of this calibre you may as well future-proof your build even further and get 16GB. RAM isn’t that expensive. But if you want to cut 50 or so dollar off this build and not really experience a noticeable difference in performance, by all means keep the same 8GB as in the previous enthusiast parts list.

The Corsair Carbide 400R case is well-priced and quality throughout. It not only looks great but has all the functionality you need, including excellent cooling and a very upgrade-friendly feature list. It’s a great find amongst all of the cases out there with all the features and quality of a high-end case for the price of a mid-range case.

As for the video card, the EVGA GTX 980 SC 4GB is an absolute powerhouse and the best single card on the market right out, having recently taken over the crown from the 780ti. For those wondering, yes this build can accommodate another 980 running in SLI mode if that’s something you want to do later down the track, but I’m sure most of you will find a single 980 more than enough (that’s a bit of an understatement).

I’ve also included a solid state drive, specifically the Crucial BX100 250GB SSD (which is well priced), for blazingly fast loading of your operating system and other programs, and an additional 1TB standard storage drive for all your other programs and data which should be more than enough for most people.

For operating system and peripheral recommendations for these enthusiast PCs, keep reading below.

Next up are the mighty Recommended Hardcore Gaming Builds which are sure to satisfy the appetite of those seeking luxury and out-of-this-word performance. Just a warning – they’re not for the feint of heart and if you’re not a true hardcore gamer who absolutely thirsts for insane performance then just stick with these enthusiast builds for your wallet’s sake. : )

best enthusiast gaming build 2The $1300 Enthusiast Gaming Build


 

Recommended OS and Peripherals

The following are my top picks for operating system software and accessories for the above enthusiast builds, but feel free to choose your own based on preference:

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