Intel Gaming PC - December 2016
This computer system is specifically geared towards gaming at WQHD resolution. That means a PC with a high-end graphics card and a processor that is fast enough to support the GPU, but also a fast monitor to display the rendered frames in the best way.
Because there is much discussion about whether an AMD or an Intel processor should be inside a gaming rig, we split up our system advices. You're now reading the Intel-based advice, the AMD version can be found in a different article.
The rest of the configuration needs to be balanced as well. Since many gamers also enjoy overclocking their PC to improve performance, it is also important to choose a motherboard and memory that is suitable for this. Keep in mind that you will pay extra for that overclocking potential.
Having the right accessories is also important. The goal of our gaming PC is to be able to run virtually all new PC titles on the highest settings. That means high resolution, high graphics quality, a good frame rate, and surround sound. And let’s not forget a good gaming mouse and a decent keyboard with features to enhance your PC gaming experience.
A dedicated gaming PC is pretty expensive, but we try to make sure that our recommended system isn't over-the-top.
Please note: the PC Buyer’s Guide is compiled based on independent component tests performed by Hardware.Info. If no new, superior products are released that should replace one or more of the components, then the component(s) will remain the same as the previous month.
If you want to know more about how we compile our PC Buying guides, have a look at this article.
For the time being, a Core i7 with HyperThreading provides almost no benefit in games. That's why we choose a Core i5 for our Gaming PC. The i5 6600K is part of the brand new Skylake generation and we called it 'the must-have desktop CPU' in our review.
Many gamers will upgrade the graphics card during the lifetime of their pc, but with a nice overclock, you probably won't have to upgrade your CPU in the future. If you are sure you won't overclock, you can also go with a cheaper i5 and a B150 motherboard.
The switch to DDR4 memory is necessary with the Skylake platform. Most kits are already cheaper than DDR3. We choose a basic set with two 8 GB modules, which together form a 16 GB kit. Do consult our price comparison engine: as long as you look at the bigger brands, it matters little which kit you buy if price is the main concern. 8 GB tends to be enough for just gaming, but more demanding tasks, running a game server or video editing by example, can use the extra memory. Compared to a year ago, you now get double the amount of memory for the same price.
We invest a few bucks extra in a Crucial Ballistix kit with heatspreaders, which look nicer than Crucials budget dimms for example. Technically, there is no reason not to choose the cheaper ones.
For the past years, different models of the Scythe Mugen coolers dominated our round-up tests. They combined good cooling performance, low noise production and a friendly price again and again. With the introduction of the Fuma, a new model with two fans and two towers, the rule of the Mugens comes to an end. In our review, the Fuma defeated almost all other tested CPU coolers and the Noctuas that sometimes had a little leap, are considerably more expensive.
While the fans have a low minimal speed of approximately 300 rpm, they can spin all the way up to 1,400 rpm for excellent cooling. In short, no matter if you want to have a silent PC or want to get the maximum overclock out of your processor, the Fuma can do it both and is highly recommended.
The ASRock Z170 Extreme4 is the most complete Skylake motherboard around 110 pounds/135 dollars, as we found out in our comparison test with boards from ASUS, Gigabyte and MSI. ASRock offers more power phases, more faster USB ports and better PWM fan control than other boards in this range. Of course the Extreme4 has Realtek ALC1150 based audio, Intel LAN and Nvidia SLI support. The big differentiator is the price: ASRock asks ten to twenty bucks less for its mainboard than the competition.
Furthermore, the Z170 chipset also offers many advantages above the old Z97 by itself. Due to the higher PCI-Express bandwidth, manufacturers are able to put advanced features like M.2 x4 slots on the board way more easily.
The GeForce GTX 1070 is the new best choice for a Gaming PC. AMD won't offer a GPU with this kind of performance in the coming months, while CrossFire is a bad alternative for a single faster GPU, in our opinion. With the GTX 1070, you can game at WQHD without any compromises on graphics quality.
Although really bad GTX 1070s are hard to find, we surely have a favorite. The Superclocked version from EVGA has a friendly price and combines good performance with whisper quiet cooling. Due to the silent cooling, you almost won't hear the graphics card, even under full load.
If you don't like the color scheme, you can also get this card in black. If you have some more to spend, the FTW edition is even higher clocked and has a custom PCB.
In cases with little airflow, the VRMs of the EVGA cards could overheat. EVGA released new BIOS'es that make the fans rotate faster. We retested the 1070 SC, and while the card makes a little more noise than before, the effect is limited and doesn't affect our verdict. New cards have extra cooling pads, that fix the problem.
There isn't much difference in performance between SATA600 SSDs these days. Due to its 'weird' capacity of 525 Gigs, you get more storage for the same price as the competition with the Crucial MX300. That's more than enough for all your software and games.
The 250 GB version offers enough storage for a sizeable game library. With cloud services such as Steam, Origin, Uplay and others you no longer need to keep tons of games installed at the same time. If you don't play more than a few games at the same time, you could even consider leaving the extra harddisk out.
In our latest comparison review, Seagate's 7200.14 again came out on top, being the best choice if you're in the market for a relatively fast HDD. We chose the 2TB version, which has plenty of space for games.
Optical drive - None
We're finally at the point we don't think an optical drive is needed anymore. All games are available from online platforms like Steam and Origin.
We were very excited about the Phanteks Enthoo Pro in our review. The case offers features which we usually only see in enclosures that cost way more, while the build quality and finish are simply excellent. Due to its good cooling, the fan noise became a bit high on full speed, but that's easy to fix by setting up some fan profiles. Phanteks managed to dethrone the CM 690 and all its successores: if you are a gamer, the Enthoo Pro is the case you want to have.
By the way, a version with a side window also exists. If you prefer a silent pc most of all, you should take a look at the Fractal Design Define R5.
The Corsair RMx series is an excellent choice in every respect, as our review has proved us. We also tested the 550W model since then and again, it offers an attractive mix of performance, silence and price. The Cooler Master V-Series is a good alternative, but a bit more expensive at the moment.
If you want to keep a future SLI configuration possible, a heavier power supply is needed. The RM750x is a good choice in such a case.
For a friendly priced mechanical gaming keyboard, we need to shop at Corsair. Its Strafe keyboard won an Excellent Choice award in our review. Of course, it uses the popular Cherry MX Red switches, but also things like macro's, lighting and game profiles are included.
The Corsair K70 however, is an excellent alternative. It's a sturdy mechanical keyboard with an aluminium frame and full-key rollover. It lacks macro keys, the availability of models with multiple types of Cherry MX-switches is a pro.
If you want a so-called tenkeyless keyboard, we would recommend the CM Storm NovaTouch TKL.
The Logitech G502 is one of the most popular gaming mouses in our price comparison engine. After our test, we know why: the buttons are extremely easy to press and very well-positioned. The scroll wheel can be used as a flywheel for fast movements, but also for low-sense usage with clear steps. Logitech's Gaming-software is very comprehensive and you can change the weight of the mouse by using the supplied weights.
The Zowie FK2 could be an alternative if you are looking for a mouse with less frills.
Not only should you get a quality mouse for a gaming PC, but the mousepad matters as well. Everyone has different preferences in material choice, so you should really try a few pads both in a store. The SteelSeries QcK is one of the candidates for your shortlist and a really popular store.
For 3D audio, a headset is the best choice - and gamers overwhelmingly prefer a headset to determine by ear what is going on. It is possible to convert 3D audio to surround audio, but this requires a bigger investment in a Dolby Digital Live or DTS connect capable soundcard, a decoder and 5.1 speakers.
We opt for 2.1 speakers, as a separate subwoofer is an added value in conveying bass-heavy effects and you still can have a 3D audio experience, albeit in a limited size 'sweet spot'.
Our chosen model is Creative's T3250W, which has Bluetooth, enabling you to listen to some tunes from your mobile phone, for example.
As a gamer, you want a fast display, so you will end up with a TN panel. The ASUS MG278Q (144 Hz) surprised us with its good color accuracy for this panel type and its fast response times. Those make this monitor an excellent choice for gaming. The high WQHD resolution offers a sharp image while gaming and leaves you with a lot of desktop space for doing other stuff. ASUS packed the MG278Q with a lot of features, like a built-in USB 3.0 hub and a Vesa mount, although the standard stand already has ergonomical customization.
If you're willing to spend 100 euros more, the ASUS MG279Q enters the arena. It combines a better quality IPS panel with the high 144 Hz refresh rate.
Are response times and refresh rates less important to you, and do you care more about the image quality? We've got you covered with the Dell UltraSharp U2515H, a good but cheaper alternative.
For a long time, we recommended the Kingston HyperX Cloud. While it continues to be a good choice if you want to do more than gaming, like listening to music, we liked the surround of the new Corsair Void a lot better. The combination with a very good microphone makes it our new first choice.
The Void Surround Hybrid is available in 'gaming red' and with carbon accents, for those who prefer a more neutral look.
|Processors||Intel Core i5 6600K Boxed||$230.90|
|Memory modules||Crucial Ballistix Sport LT 16GB DDR4-2400 CL16 kit||–|
|CPU coolers||Scythe Fuma||–|
|Motherboards||ASRock Z170 Extreme4||–|
|Graphics cards||EVGA GeForce GTX 1070 SC ACX 3.0 8GB||$459.99|
|Hard disks/SSDs||Crucial MX300 525GB||$149.99|
|Hard disks/SSDs||Seagate Barracuda 7200.14 2TB||$74.99|
|Cases||Phanteks Enthoo Pro||$89.99|
|Power supplies||Corsair RM550x||–|
|Keyboards||Corsair Strafe MX Red||$99.99|
|Mice||Logitech G502 Proteus Spectrum||–|
|Mouse pads||SteelSeries QcK||$9.99|
|PC speaker sets||Creative T3250W||–|
|Headsets||Corsair Void Surround Hybrid||–|
|Save as your own wish list||Average total price:||$1,115.84|