Who says 4K gaming has to be expensive? Well, it isn’t cheap, but if you’re willing to do the building yourself, you can make a perfectly capable 4K gaming PC for less than $1,000, and we’re here to show you how. We’ve scoured the digital bargain bins and crunched the numbers to put together a gaming PC that can handle 4K resolution in a wide variety of games.
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The build and what it can do
We’ll go into more detail about the different components we’ve chosen below, but here’s a quick summary of the parts we’ve picked.
Looking at the above list of hardware might leave you wondering why there are so many budget components listed. After all, this is a 4K gaming rig, surely we should have a superpowered CPU and boatloads of storage space too? Actually, when it comes to 4K gaming, the most important component is the graphics card and everything else, even the CPU, isn’t going to hold it back unless you’re aiming for the highest possible framerates. For a build on a budget, we’re not.
This system is not going to play all the latest AAA games at 4K and Ultra detail settings at 100 fps. That’s not what we’re targeting. We’re looking at more midrange settings at the 30 to 60 fps mark, all at crisp 4K resolution.
As much as 4K gaming is cheaper today than it has been in the past, there is only so much we can get for $1,000. If you don’t need to be quite as strict as us, though, we’ll provide additional options in each category so you can spend a bit more cash for an improved experience.
Arguably the best bang-for-the-buck gaming processor in the world right now, the AMD Ryzen 3600X gives you six cores, 12 threads, and a single-core boost clock of up to 4.4GHz. It also comes with its own cooler, helping us keep costs down. Thanks to the entire Ryzen 3000 range enjoying automated overclocking features, it is only a little faster than the 3600, but with there being a mere $10 difference between the two, it’s a worthy upgrade for our system.
If you’d rather go Intel, a Core i5-9600KF is a comparable performing alternative, although it is around $230. If you do go down that route, make sure you opt for a compatible motherboard, as the one below won’t work with an Intel CPU.
MSI’s B450M Bazooka V2 is one of the best micro-ATX motherboards built on the B450 chipset platform. It only has a single PCIe 3.0 x16 slot (with “armor” to avoid GPU sag), but we wouldn’t recommend multiple graphics card set ups outside of benchmarking anyway. It supports memory speeds up to 3,466MHz out of the box and more with overclocking and has a single M.2 storage slot for when you want to upgrade your storage in the future.
It has a decent, 4-phase VRM for all the automated overclocking your new Ryzen 3600X needs, too.
The only downside to this board is that it doesn’t support third-generation Ryzen processors out of the box, so you’ll need to perform a BIOS update to get it to work. If you don’t have a first or second-generation Ryzen processor to help you do so, AMD can send you a “Boot Kit” for free. Find out more about that process here.
By far the most important component in any 4K gaming rig, the graphics card does the bulk of the heavy lifting and is the most expensive part for that reason. AMD cards aren’t often talked about in the same breath as 4K, but the 5700 XT is perfectly capable of handling entry-level 4K gaming at reasonable detail levels. You can’t expect the framerates you would see with anor one of the other high-end Nvidia cards, but this is the best bang-for-the-buck card you can get without breaking our budget.
In our review of the 5700 XT, we found it more than capable of delivering playable framerates in a variety of games. With all settings maxed out and at 4K resolution, it managed an average of 51 fps in Fortnite, 60 fps in Battlefield V, 81 fps in Civilization VI, and just over 30 fps in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey. This third-party option from Sapphire has better cooling and higher clock speeds, so will output higher framerates at 4K and work far more quietly than the AMD reference design.
The most modern of games will need you to play with settings if you want a smooth 60 fps experience at 4K, but there are few cards outside of the $1,000-plus monsters that can do that reliably.
As much as most gaming PCs might get away with 8GB of RAM, our 4K gaming rig could struggle with less than 16GB. But we can’t opt for size over speed either, because Ryzen CPUs really benefit from faster memory. Fortunately, memory prices have come down dramatically in recent months, so we opted for this super fast kit from Corsair. At 3,600MHz stock, it can likely overclock to the 3,733MHz sweet spot Ryzen 3000 CPUs enjoy and its timings aren’t bad either.
We could save a little money by going single module — providing an easier upgrade path in the future — but dual channel has its benefits. RGB lights are nice additions you can pay for too, but they dramatically increase prices.
High-speed storage is cheaper today than it’s ever been, so we’ve opted for a 1TB Samsung 860 Evo SSD, which is one of the better makes and models of solid state drive available today. It’s not the biggest drive out there, but 1TB gives you plenty of space to install Windows and a number of AAA games.
If you prefer, you could combine a smaller SSD with a large hard drive and use AMD’s StoreMI technology. That lets you turn any two drives (typically an SSD and HDD) into a single storage solution — as least far as Windows is concerned. That way, you get the best of both worlds: A fast, larger storage drive. It won’t be as fast as this drive though, so if you can make do with 1TB (for now at least), then this is the best drive you can get for your money.
For $45, you aren’t going to find a better case than the Cooler Master MasterBox Q300L. Somehow Cooler Master has created a case with a side panel, and dust filters for under $50 that actually looks good.
We don’t know how it’s done it, but it has. This mATX case is perfect for our budget 4K gaming rig.
It might be tempting to scrimp on your PSU, but you shouldn’t do it. If it blows up because it’s made with cheap components, it could take the rest of your PC with it.
That’s why we opted for this Corsair model. It’s part of the excellent CX range, guaranteeing a strong build quality with reliable components. Its wattage is a little weaker than AMD recommends for the 5700 XT, but considering the rest of our build, we’re not concerned about hitting a wall with this unit. We’d rather a quality PSU than one with a greater wattage. This PSU is perfect for our 4K build.
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