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.
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.
When you’ve got your new components in hand, be sure to read our guide on how to get started building your own PC. You’ll also need a 4K monitor if you don’t already have one.
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 frame rates. 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. We would dearly love to include the slightly more expensive; however, our budget is stretched to the limits, so the small amount of extra clock speed will have to remain out of our grasp.
In the future, we will doubtless recommend AMD Ryzen 5000 with Zen 3 architecture, but until we see cheaper models on sale, we will stick with the AMD Zen 2 family of CPUs.
The ASRock B450M Pro4 is a micro-ATX motherboard built on the B450 chipset platform that supports the essential features we require, and just as importantly, it comes in at a very low price. The ASRock supports the single PCIe 3.0 x16 graphics slot that lies at the heart of our gaming PC and also has an M.2 SSD slot and support for DDR4 memory speed running up to 3,200MHz. A quick glance at the rear I/O panel shows this motherboard is typically used with an APU that has integrated graphics; however, the VRMs that power the board dedicate six phases to the CPU core where many budget motherboards only provide four power phases. Realistically, you will run your AMD Ryzen 5 3600X on Auto settings, and we are confident the ASRock B450M Pro4 will be up to the job.
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 frame rates 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 frame rates 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 frame rates 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 3,200MHz kit from Corsair. In an ideal world, you would overclock your memory to the 3,733MHz sweet spot Ryzen 3000 CPUs enjoy; however, the ASRock motherboard we have chosen is unlikely to let you push beyond 3,200MHz. That’s not the end of the world, as a modicum of extra speed is merely desirable while stability is of critical importance.
High-speed storage is cheaper today than it’s ever been, so we’ve opted for a 1TB WD Blue SSD, and we have pushed beyond the old school 2.5-inch SATA drive to a proper, grown-up M.2 NVMe drive. This will give your gaming load times a useful boost, and 1TB is sufficient 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’s OK, we know what you’re thinking: Can a 450W power supply possibly be up to the job? It is perfectly true that 450W doesn’t sound much, but this PC will likely pull 250W at the wall socket under gaming conditions, so you have a fair amount of margin in hand. In an ideal world, we would select a; however, that would push the cost close to $100, and we simply do not have the budget to spare.
That’s why we opted for this EVGA — it will do the job we require, and while it offers little headroom for future upgrades, it should provide decent service for a few years.