Budget 4K Gaming PC - January 2017
Two years ago, 4K Gaming was a matter of investing thousands of euros in video cards and hoping that multi-GPU would work decently in your favorite game. Anno 2017, 4K Gaming is possible in a more affordable way. GPUs are getting faster and 4K monitors are becoming cheaper: it's time for an advice on a budget!
Although we try to make this system as affordable as possible, there must be a solid foundation. Things like a good quality PSU and a solid chassis are required. The peripherals don't need to be of the highest level, but still decent. Getting good peripherals is perhaps even more important for the gaming experience than the inside of the computer.
For gaming at the highest settings, we have to refer you to the more expensive 4K Game PC, but most games will run fine with the graphics quality set to "medium" or "high".
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.
When choosing the CPU, we went a notch lower than in the more expensive 4K Gaming PC: no Core i7, but a Core i5. The chosen graphics card and the Core i5 6500 proved to be a well-performing combination in our tests, without bottlenecking each other.
To save costs, this system isn't overclockable by default. That could mean you need to upgrade your CPU sooner when upgrading your GPU in the future. If you are willing to spend some more, the unlocked i5 6600K costs around 30 bucks more - but you'll also need another motherboard if you want to go down that road.
Gigabyte keeps scoring with its relatively cheap Sniper series. It ticks all the boxes you'd want as a gamer: a good network controller, good audio and VRMs capable of smoothly powering your CPU even under heavy loads.
The manufacturer adds an M.2 slot to the feature set, which is quite unique in this segment. However, the most positive thing about the Sniper B7 remains its low price.
If you're planning to get an i5 6600K and start overclocking, you'll need an Z170 mainboard. The MSI Z170A PC Mate is an affordable choice in that class.
We don't save on the capacity of the memory - not a few games recommend 16 Gigs these days. However, we try to save some bucks on other aspects. We go with the lowest 2133 MHz speed, by example, since the B150 chipset limits the memory speed anyways. We selected this value kit from Crucial, which doesn't sport a heatspreader. That may be not as great-looking, but doesn't hurt the performance.
The Arctic Freezer i11 is a nice budget cooler, which fits to the required socket and performs quite well. It'll mostly be a lot quieter than Intels boxed cooler. If you don't mind some noise, you could save some more by leaving out the Arctic.
The GeForce GTX 1070 is the graphics card we have chosen for this build. We extensively tested it together with the Core i5 processor, and we concluded that it's an excellent combination for 4K gaming with medium to high settings. In some games that do not need as much horse power, you can even play at ultra settings.
Although really bad models are hard to find, we like the EVGA GeForce GTX 1070 Superclocked the most. It comes with a friendly price and combines good performance with whisper quiet operation: you almost don't hear it's there, even while busy gaming.
If you don't like the color, EVGA also offers a black version of this card.
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.
Nothing beats a hard drive in terms of price per gigabyte, but we wouldn't do that to our worst enemy. Crucial offers a competitively priced SSD with a lot of storage space with its MX300. If you don't have enough with half a terabyte, you could add a hard drive for data storage.
An affordable chassis that cools enough for a potentially overclocked and therefore warm PC, that's what we want. With the GX500, Antec released a well-performing and very affordable case. There's even a version with a side window, if you like viewing the inside of your pc.
This system won't consume much power, so a 450W power supply suffices. The Corsair CX450M is one of the best choices for cost-conscious buyers: the efficiency is okay and the voltages are stable. Of course, the PSU sports all the connect you need. Corsair offers a five year warranty on its CX450M: unprecedentedly long for a value power supply.
The Steelseries Apex M500 is a mechanical keyboard with a good typing experience, while being suitable for gaming too. Its price is relatively low, since the manufacturer left all unnecessary features out: no RGB lighting, no palm rest, no macro keys. If you don't need those extra features, the savings are very welcome.
With the G402 Hyperion Fury, Logitech sticks to the basics: a very fast sensor, adjustable DPI and a good grip. The only thing that may be a showstopper, is that the relatively small design won't fit really big hands.
One of the most underrated components of a gaming machine is a good mousepad. The QcK from Steelseries is a popular and affordable pad with a fabric surface.
The LG 27UD58-B is a very affordable 4K monitor. We called it 'almost absurdly cheap' in our review. You'll get it when you look at the pricing and the feature set of this display: of course 4K resolution, an IPS panel and AMD Freesync support. The only thing we didn't like as much was the color reproduction, but that's really only a problem for photo or video editors.
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.
|Processors||Intel Core i5 6500 Boxed||$197.00|
|Motherboards||Gigabyte G1.Sniper B7||$99.99|
|Memory modules||Crucial 16GB DDR4-2133 CL15 kit||$108.07|
|CPU coolers||Arctic Freezer i11||$16.99|
|Graphics cards||EVGA GeForce GTX 1070 SC ACX 3.0 8GB||$401.99|
|Hard disks/SSDs||Crucial MX300 525GB||$149.99|
|Power supplies||Corsair CX450M||–|
|Keyboards||SteelSeries Apex M500||$104.99|
|Mice||Logitech G402 Hyperion Fury||–|
|Mouse pads||SteelSeries QcK||–|
|PC speaker sets||Creative T3250W||–|
|Save as your own wish list||Average total price:||$1,478.02|