Building an £800 Gaming PC – Part 1 – the brief and specification!
As a person who has used an Apple Mac in various forms over the last 25 years, I have never needed to use a PC never mind buy one. I must admit that I was always arguing the merits of the Mac against a PC due to its ease of use, lack of viruses and constant operating system updates that Windows always seems to push out just when you didn’t need them to happen.
Fast forward to 2020 and things have changed a lot. I have a second-hand PC sitting under my desk, which is for the recording of game reviews (happening on our YouTube channel soon). My youngest son constantly uses a refurbished i7 PC that we got him for Christmas a few years back, and my eldest has a PC that was given to him a few months back that was more steam-powered rather than high powered.
While he has been using it for schoolwork, which it has been more than fine for, he wants to use Photoshop, video editing his game videos together, game streaming plus playing competitive AAA games in 1080p at higher frame rates. Unfortunately, his current i5 2nd Gen ex-office PC is nowhere near good enough for this. So I set myself the task of trying to get him a PC that could do all of the above plus be at a budget of around the £750-£800 mark. Don’t get me wrong £750-£800 is a lot of money, but when you are looking to build a PC from different components or prebuilt you will be surprised how expensive they can get for anything decent.
I looked at prebuilds from the likes of Currys (electronics store in the UK) and other electrical retailers and nothing seemed to get close to the spec that I was seeing YouTuber’s building for the price they were building it for.
So looking at what the PC needed to be able to do and that was AAA 1080p gaming at decent frame rates, video editing, streaming and of course homework, I came up with a list of components that I needed to build this custom PC – codenamed Logan’s Run (as his name is Logan).
As an aside the components you need to look for when building a PC come into the following categories which are: Graphics Card (GPU), Processor (CPU), Motherboard, Memory (RAM), Primary Storage, Case and finally Power Supply (otherwise known as PSU).
Please note: Please do not treat the below as a definitive guide to the specifying of components for building a custom PC, as it was the first time I had built a PC. Make sure you carry out enough research and obtain the correct amount of advice before carrying out the specifying of compatible components and the actual building of the PC with the components you have chosen, bought and paid for. If you are unsure then please get a professional/expert in the field to specify and build your custom PC for you or go the easy route and buy a pre-built PC as it will come with Windows 10, have a warranty and if you have any issues the company you have bought the pre-built PC from will always be able to help. We do not accept any responsibility for any issues, failures or problems that you may experience from the PC components we have specified below. Always be very careful when handling fragile electrical components and make sure when building your PC that the power supply to your custom PC is switched off and unplugged.
The first thing I specced out was a graphics card for the custom PC. As this would be the component to provide the power required for playing AAA games at high refresh rates with better graphics settings at 1080p plus it would be used for rendering out videos, then this would be the part of the PC build that would take a fair chunk of the budget. The money used on this element of the PC build would also determine what I could spend on the other components such as CPU (processor), storage, memory, case and power supply.
Out of the companies that manufacture graphics cards I looked to NVIDIA for my graphics card of choice.
Not only have I purchased one of their graphics cards for the i7 PC that my youngest son uses (the GTX 1050ti) and hasn’t had any problems with for the last three years, their newer versions of low to mid-range of graphics cards have a feature that allows for a better streaming experience which was one of the requirements of the PC build.
I allowed myself to spend up to £240 on a graphics card, so while this ruled out higher range graphics cards like the NVIDIA RTX range of graphics cards like the RTX 2060 or RTX 2080, it did allow me to get something that was a little more mid-range and still is good for what we needed. So I went for a ZOTAC GeForce GTX 1660 Super 6GB Twin Fan Graphics Card which was well-reviewed on Amazon with it being quiet underload plus I managed to snag it for only £209.99, which was a great price at the time!
The custom gaming PC’s processor (CPU)
Next, I looked into what would be the brains of the PC and that was the processor (CPU). After viewing what was an unhealthy amount of YouTube videos about what processor packed the most power to pound ratio I plumped with a Ryzen processor from AMD. Intel is good for gaming but bearing in mind what I was building the PC for which was not just for gaming but for a whole host of other things like streaming and video editing I wanted a CPU that could handle a bit of light multi-tasking and be good for a few years to come.
The choice I had from the processors on offer were as follows:
AMD Ryzen 3 3100 – which is a great entry point processor at around £99, but for me, it lacked the extra punch which I think that this PC needed.
AMD Ryzen 5 1600 AF – this is just slightly more than the Ryzen 3 3100 but has slightly more what is known as cores and threads which allow it to multi-task better while being budget-conscious.
AMD Ryzen 5 3600 – this processor is a bit more than the other two at £150, but for the money, it would suit our needs perfectly plus it had a bit more oomph than the others had.
So that is what I went for, the AMD Ryzen 5 3600 with the added bonus of getting Horizon Zero Dawn – Complete Edition for the PC bundled in with it, which alone is worth around £40 on Steam, so happy days!!
The custom gaming PC Case
I then looked for a case in which the PC was to be housed. After scouring various PC building YouTuber videos for an ideal case that looked good, was easy to build into and came with a few fans to boot I settled on this very sleek-looking case from GameMax called the GameMax F15 Mesh (F15M).
The reasons for my choice were simple. It had a mesh front that allowed for great airflow throughout the case with the added bonus of magnetic dust filters included for the front, top and bottom of the case. It would easily accommodate a full ATX sized motherboard, which gave me loads of options to choose from for a motherboard as full-sized ATX is quite large. It had a tempered glass side panel, so you can see the inside of the PC whirring away, and as well as the multitude of 2.5″ and 3.5″ drive bays (future-proofing the build for added storage) it also came with two large 200mm fans on the front and a 120mm fan at the reverse pre-installed which had RGB lighting, got to love a bit of bling with your PC! The price was also agreeable at £66 from amazon (link below) which made it very budget-friendly!
The gaming PCs’ Motherboard of choice
Now that the case, processor and graphics card were bought and delivered (quickly may I add via Amazon Prime) my next decision to make was for a Motherboard for the custom gaming PC. Now there are so many different types of motherboards out there for different processors with different features and of varying quality. As we had singled down our case and CPU (processor) it was a little easier. Again YouTube was my friend here and after watching a few videos on motherboards that would be compatible with the AMD 3000 series of processors I went for an MSI B450 Tomahawk MAX.
The MSI B450 Tomahawk MAX was reviewed really well by a lot of YouTubers whose PC building was their specialisation, as the board can cope with heat dissipation really well plus it has a lot of features which proved it to be a motherboard worth using on a lot of their builds. The Tomahawk also features some RGB lighting plus it can cope with up to 64GB of fairly fast memory (RAM) which Ryzen CPUs really work well with. Overall it was a motherboard that would work well with what I was after and while I did entertain the option of looking at a cheaper motherboard I felt that for the extra that it cost it was well worth shelling out for plus with the option of adding extra storage later on in the PCs life it could accommodate it with ease.
This was a little easier to choose from as I wanted memory that was compatible with the motherboard and therefore looked at what is known as DDR4 memory. I also wanted memory that was better suited to getting the most out of the processor and therefore looked at RAM that had a speed of over 3200mhz. Finally, and this was more for that added bling factor than anything else, it had to have some RGB lighting built into it.
After those considerations, I whittled it down to about two or three RAM options and went for a brand name more for quality and reliability than anything, plus it was on offer which was a bonus and that was for the Corsair Vengeance RGB PRO 16 GB (2 x 8 GB) DDR4 3200 MHz C16 XMP 2.0 Enthusiast RGB LED Illuminated Memory Kit in Black.
Not only does the colour of the chosen memory work well with the whole colour scheme of the build, but the added bright RGB light will also give it that added zing to the inside of the case and make it all look a little more futuristic.
With the top end of my budget rapidly approaching, my next consideration was for storage. The older PCs I have been using all came with a mechanical hard disk drive of around 1TB (Terabyte) but they are slow by today’s standards plus the one in my youngest’s i7 PC is really showing its age and taking forever to boot up and is just playing up in general.
There are a few more modern routes that you can take with PC storage and they involve what is known as Solid State Drives (SSD) which can easily be ten times faster than a mechanical hard drive.
ROUTE ONE – would be to buy a cheaper SATA SSD that would have a small amount of storage, of say 240GB, which would be enough to store just the operating system and a few other applications or games. Then buy a larger mechanical hard drive that could be 1TB or more and that would store the majority of your games, documents or applications. This would allow for the system to boot up quickly and be snappy in its operation, as it is reading and writing to the SSD while having a comprehensive library of games and applications on the slower hard drive. It is quite a nice solution and isn’t that expensive in the long run for the storage capacity you get.
Suggestion for Route One:
ROUTE TWO – would be just a 1tb SATA SSD and put everything on there. The advantage of this is that with everything stored on an SSD it will all load up quickly, including games and applications plus there are no moving parts within the system other than the fans enclosed within the case, so it is a bit quieter in its operation.
As a matter of interest, this is the route we had chosen for upgrading my youngest son’s PC from an old slow internal hard drive to a much faster SSD. You should see how quick it boots!
Suggestion for Route Two:
ROUTE THREE – is again using a 1TB SSD for storage but using what is an M.2 NVME type of storage that fits straight onto the motherboard. This is definitely the quicker of the three and there are plenty of YouTube videos that can show you the loading times between mechanical hard drives (HDD), off-board SSD and M.2 NVME SSDs with M.2 beating all of them.
Out of all of them, I went for route three as it was the easiest to install, quickest and had fewer cables to manage.
Out of all of the NVME M.2 SSD drives we plumped for WD Blue SN550 1TB High-Performance M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD via Amazon. There are other variants from different manufacturers but from the reviews I had read regarding the different ones you could choose from this seem to be an ok choice for the money.
Finally, Power Supply (PSU)
The final consideration on this list was for a power supply to power all of the components that we have mentioned above. Now for this build, I did place all of the components on a website called PCPartpicker, the UK version, which allowed me to get an idea of the power draw that the system would have. In my case, it was around the 300-watt mark but I wanted to make sure that it would be futureproofed. So if we needed more storage, memory, a better processor or even a better graphics card then, in theory, the power supply I wanted would be a bit more than what is specified by PCPartpicker plus if I ever wanted to overclock the CPU then I wanted to make sure that there was some headroom with the power available. With all those considerations in mind, I went for a 600-watt power supply which is double what was potentially required but I know that it would be more than up to any task thrown at it with the current build in mind. I also went for an 80+ Bronze rated power supply which admittedly isn’t the best but it is certified to be efficient to use.
So what did I end up with? Well, I ended up buying an Aerocool Integrator 600W Power Supply which was rate 80 Plus Bronze and had a power efficiency rating of 85%. It might not be the power supply that you would choose but for me, it works well for what I need with the PC plus it had a few good reviews and was only £50 so it was the one I went for and kept me below my budget.
There are plenty of other power supplies you can choose from and I would suggest you research the one that would be ideal for your setup.
And that’s it for Part 1!
That’s everything specified for part one of this build. It did take a few months of research to get to this point plus waiting for prices to eventually go down as being in lockdown in the UK, while I was specifying and purchasing for this build, the prices did go up as everyone was looking to do the same.
I did buy all the components specified above and there may be some reviews down the line. The above article will also feature on our YouTube channel as a video in the next few weeks so keep your eyes peeled for the brief and specification video by visiting our YouTube channel and subscribing.
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In the next part of building a custom PC, even though I have never built one before, will be the actual build with how it went and any snags along the way plus if the article isn’t too long I will hopefully give you the outcome of the build specified with some performance stats for you to have a look at and consider.
Cheers – Tony WTA!
Please note: As mentioned above, please do not treat the above as a definitive guide to the specifying of components for building a custom PC, as it was the first time I had built a PC. Make sure you carry out enough research and obtain the correct amount of advice before carrying out the specifying of compatible components and the actual building of the PC with the components you have chosen, bought and paid for. If you are unsure then please get a professional/expert in the field to specify and build your custom PC for you or go the easy route and buy a pre-built PC as it will come with Windows 10, have a warranty and if you have any issues the company you have bought the pre-built PC from will always be able to help. We do not accept any responsibility for any issues, failures or problems that you may experience from the PC components we have specified above. Always be very careful when handling fragile electrical components and make sure when building your PC that the power supply to your custom PC is switched off and unplugged.