The parts we're recommending in this guide add up to about $1,600, which is a big investment for a PC, so if you're wondering how you could build a respectable gaming PC for several hundred dollars less, check out our mainstream gaming PC build guide.
Best CPU: Intel Core i5-13600KF
When it comes to gaming, you actually don't need the best possible CPU, and this is because higher-end CPUs tend to offer greater amounts of things that simply don't increase performance in games. Instead of getting a Core i9-13900K or even a Core i7-13700K, we recommend the Core i5-13600KF (the 13600K also works, it's just more expensive). At $300, it's a great value CPU that provides at least 90% of the performance of the 13900K in most titles while also offering good multicore performance.
The 13600KF comes with six P-cores, eight E-cores, and 44MB of combined L2 and L3 cache. It's also identical to the regular 13600K but has its integrated graphics disabled; in a gaming PC, you won't ever use the integrated graphics so we recommend the KF model since it's about $20 cheaper than the K model. Compared to its 12th-generation Alder Lake predecessor the Core i5-12600K(F), it has the same number of P-cores but four more E-cores as well as significantly more cache.
In games, the 13600KF trails the 13900K by about 10% in most titles, which puts the 13600KF almost on the same level as last generation's flagship, the Core i9-12900K. And that's assuming you're playing at 200 FPS or more; at lower frame rates, you might not even be able to tell the difference between a 13600KF and a 13900K. In single-threaded applications (which are increasingly rare these days), the 13600KF is just as fast as the 12900K but is somewhat slower in anything that's multi-threaded.
The 13600K(F) is Intel's third fastest CPU, but realistically there's not too much of a point in buying the 13700K or the 13900K since they provide barely any additional performance in the vast majority of games. You may decide that paying a hundred dollars or so extra is worth it, but it's pretty unlikely you'll dislike the performance of the 13600KF.
Intel Core i5-13600KF
The Core i5-13600KF is a 13th-generation Intel CPU with six P-cores, eight E-Cores, and 44MB of combined L2 and L3 cache.
Best GPU: AMD Radeon RX 6800
While it is true that Intel has GPUs of its own at last, we won't recommend any of them simply because they're just not fast enough for a PC of this caliber. It's a bit challenging selecting the right GPU for this build since the market is in a very weird state at the time of writing; RTX 30 GPUs are way too expensive to be worth considering, some RX 6000 cards are in good supply while others aren't, and the latest GPUs from both Nvidia and AMD start at $800 to $900. With that in mind, we're giving a tentative recommendation to the RX 6800, which is priced more reasonably at $500 to $600.
The RX 6800 is one of AMD's higher-end GPUs from the RX 6000 series, which is last-gen but still good enough for a decently high-end PC. It has 60 Compute Units (or CUs, the basic building block of AMD GPUs), 128MB of Infinity Cache, and 16GB of GDDR6 VRAM. By comparison, the RX 6800 XT has 72 CUs and the 6900 XT has 80 CUs, but all three GPUs have the same Infinity Cache and VRAM. In the end, the 6800 is really only limited by its core count.
On average, the 6800 is about 90% as fast as the 6800 XT and 80% as fast as the 6900 XT at 1440, and it's also right in between Nvidia's RTX 3070 Ti and RTX 3080 10GB. The 6800's raw performance is pretty good, but it has to be said that it and other AMD GPUs fall behind Nvidia when it comes to features in general. DLSS is somewhat better than FSR 2, ray tracing is usually faster on Nvidia, and then there's also extra features like Nvidia Broadcast that AMD doesn't quite have an answer to. But if you're just looking for a typical gaming experience and don't care about ray tracing, then the RX 6800 is a good option.
One reason we can't give the 6800 a full thumbs up is the supply. We're not sure if this card will always be available in that $500 to $600 price range. The RX 6700 XT and 6750 XT are good alternatives but are slower and cheaper, while the 6800 XT and 6900 XT are significantly faster and more expensive. As for RTX 30 GPUs, it's hard to recommend them if you're concerned about value since they're just so expensive these days. The cheapest RTX 3070 Tis are more expensive than the RX 6800, which is a difficult purchase to justify unless you need Nvidia's exclusive features.
AMD Radeon RX 6800
The AMD Radeon RX 6800 is a great alternative to Nvidia's high-performance GPUs like the RTX 3070 or even the RTX 3080 if you don't necessarily care about ray tracing at 4K resolutions.
Best motherboard: Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Elite DDR4
If you want to maximize your bang for buck with Intel, you definitely want to buy a 600 series motherboard, not a 700 series board. The new 700 series chipsets bring very few, if any, improvements to the table while being more expensive than the 600 series. Alder Lake and Raptor Lake CPUs also benefit from using DDR4 memory, and although DDR5 is faster, it's also too expensive to make a ton of sense. With that in mind, we recommend Gigabyte's Z690 Aorus Elite DDR4, which hits both crucial points for $230.
The Z690 Aorus Elite has pretty much everything you need for a high-end gaming PC. It uses a 16+1+2 phase VRM, which is enough even for a 13900K if you ever want to upgrade. Additionally, it also supports PCIe 5.0 graphics cards (which don't actually exist yet) and has a slot for a PCIe 5.0 SSD, plus two more slots for PCIe 4.0 SSDs. There are other motherboards with higher-end VRMs and more PCIe 5.0 slots for SSDs, but realistically this is enough for a very competent gaming PC.
The rear I/O is a bit disappointing by contrast. There are six USB 3.2 ports, one of which is Type-C, and four more USB 2.0 ports, which isn't particularly amazing in respect to either quantity or quality. The Aorus Elite does have 2.5 gigabit Ethernet, but it uses a Realtek NIC rather than an Intel one, which is generally the superior brand for Ethernet. Gigabyte simply didn't put much of this motherboard's budget towards rear I/O, but that's probably fine if you're focused primarily on gaming.
There are better motherboards out there from Gigabyte and other companies, but they're more expensive and won't really add anything more to the gaming experience. Gigabyte's Z690 Aorus Elite DDR4 has pretty much everything you need for a great gaming experience, though the usage of DDR4 rather than DDR5 memory might be a problem if you want high framerates rather than high visual quality.
Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Elite ATX
The Gigabyte Aorus Elite AX motherboard is a top-tier Z690 chipset-based mainboard with DDR4 memory support.
Best CPU cooler: Noctua NH-D15 CPU cooler
Intel's most recent CPUs have come with higher performance and power consumption, which translates to more heat and hotter temperatures. For the 13600K(F) and higher-end chips, you're going to want a pretty good cooler, and here we're recommending Noctua's NH-D15 air cooler. It's generally considered the best air cooler on the market and costs $100.
By Noctua's own measurements, the NH-D15 is the company's highest-end cooler and can easily tame the 13600K(F). We don't have any reason to doubt Noctua on this; look at the size of the heatsink. Noctua also claims that the DH-15 should be able to handle the highest-end Core i9-13900K with no problems. Aside from performance, the NH-D15 is compatible with several sockets and comes with all sorts of extras like thermal paste, low-noise cables that reduce fan speed, and a screwdriver.
However, the NH-D15 isn't perfect. The main thing you'll notice is that it's huge, making initial installation and maintenance a bit more challenging. Additionally, it's the limit of how far air coolers can go, which means better cooling performance is exclusive to higher-end 360mm and 420mm AIO liquid coolers. The NH-D15 is definitely sufficient for even the 13900K, but you may get slightly higher boost clock speeds out of a liquid cooler. For the 13600K(F), the NH-D15 is as good as an AIO, however.
The Noctua NH-D15 is one of the most powerful air coolers on the market. It can handle high-performance CPUs and while it's large, it gets the job done. Oh, and it comes in a stunning brown color.
Best RAM: Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro 16GB DDR4 RAM
Although DDR5 is technically better for gaming than DDR4, the performance advantages are only apparent if you tend to play games at higher framerates, and even then we're talking about a 10% or so difference in performance at most. Not only is DDR5 much more expensive per gigabyte, it also starts at 32GB kits, which is overkill for gaming. For this build, we recommend Corsair's Vengeance RGB Pro 16GB (2x8GB) kit, which costs around $65.
Other than capacity, there are two things that you should care about when it comes to RAM: frequency and latency. You want your RAM to have high clock speeds and low latency (measured in CL). The Vengenace RGB Pro is rated at 3200MHz and CL16, which is basically the specs any good kit of DDR4 will have. There are faster models out there, but they're just not cost-effective enough to make sense to purchase over DDR5. By the way, the frequency and the latency are the primary indicators of performance, so if you see another kit of 3200MHz, CL16 RAM that you like more, then feel free to get that kit instead.
However, one thing to note about RAM is that the amount of sticks you have does matter. You either want two or four sticks so you can get access to dual channel memory. Without dual channel memory, you're almost certainly going to run into performance problems in games, and the potential of the 13600K(F) (or any CPU for that matter) will be wasted. The Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Elite has four slots so either two or four sticks will work.
Corsair Vengeance Pro RGB DDR4 RAM
The Corsair Vengeance Pro RGB DDR4 memory kit offers 3200MHz memory speeds out of the box with low latency. The Pro version of the kit also has RGB lighting on the heat-spreader.
Best storage drive: Western Digital Black SN850 PCIe Gen 4 M.2 SSD
When it comes to gaming, super fast storage isn't really necessary (even with DirectStorage coming onto the scene), but SSDs are so cheap that even the better models are available for less than $100. There's lots of options to choose from but we're recommending the WD Black SN850 PCIe 4.0 SSD, one of the most popular NVMe SSDs available today. At $85 for the 1TB model, it's pretty affordable and offers great performance inside and outside of games.
The SN850 has sequential read and write speeds of 7,000MB/s and 5,300MB/s, respectively, which isn't the fastest among PCIe 4.0 SSDs, but it's pretty close to the top. Its endurance is rated at 1,200TBW (how many terabytes it can write before the drive dies), which is in line with other high-end consumer SSDs like this.
It may be a bit tempting to opt for the 250GB or 500GB models and maybe get a lower end SSD or HDD to make up for the lack of capacity, but we strongly recommend against doing that because the lower-capacity drives have significantly lower performance. The smaller drives are also not that much cheaper anyway. The 1TB model is the best option, and you can get the 2TB model if you think you'll need the extra space.
WD Black SN850 NVMe M.2 SSD
The Western Digital Black SN850 is the best performing PCIe 4.0 NVMe M.2 SSD on the market right now with impressive sequential read/write speeds.
Best power supply unit (PSU): Corsair RM850e PSU
Since Intel CPUs are particularly power-hungry this generation and since GPUs are also trending upwards in power consumption, you're definitely going to want a power supply that can handle potential upgrades you might make in the future. 850 watts is a good power budget to aim for and we're recommending Corsair's RM850e PSU for the job.
When it comes to a power supply, there's not a ton to consider other than the brand, the power budget, the rating, and whether or not it's modular. Corsair is known for making quality PSUs, so we're not concerned on that point. 850 watts is also plenty for this kind of PC and with an 80 Plus Gold rating, it'll deliver all of those watts efficiently too. The RM850e is also modular, which is a nice quality-of-life bonus that is a must-have for any kind of build that's supposed to be premium.
At $115, the RM850e is pretty expensive but it's not overpriced and it's definitely worth the money. You might also want to check out competing PSUs from companies like EVGA and Seasonic, which are the other two big names in the power supply industry. Realistically, you can't go wrong with Corsair's RM850e and it can power your PC for generations to come.
Corsair's RM850e power supply has an 80 Plus Gold rating, uses moduler cables, and has a total power draw of 850 watts.
Best PC case: Fractal Design Meshify 2 Compact
It wouldn't really make sense for your premium PC to not look premium, so you'll want a nice looking case to house your components. There's a ton of options for PC chasses and it's impossible to say which one is the best. One of our favorites is Fractal Design's Meshify 2 Compact, which is a mid-tower case that's ideal for the kind of PC build we've put together.
Stylistically, the Meshify 2 comes in several flavors but the main ones are black, gray, and white. Some models come with glass side panels while others have a solid metal one, and there are even multiple kinds of glass side panels that have varying levels of tint. At the moment, however, it's the gray theme with the lightly tinted glass side panel that's cheapest at $105, with other models costing closer to $150.
The Meshify 2 is pretty competent in the airflow department thanks to its meshed front panel for better intake, and it comes with three fans included (two 140mm at the front intake and a 120mm at the back exhaust). The chassis has room for a CPU air cooler up to 169mm in height (which is more than enough for the NH-D15). It also has support for a 240mm radiator in the top and a 360mm radiator at the front if you prefer using an AIO liquid cooler. The Meshify 2 can accommodate a GPU that's 341mm long, which is enough room for almost all GPUs.
If you'd rather choose a different case for this build, we highly recommend getting at least a mid-tower like the Meshify 2 Compact and making sure it has plenty of room for both present components and future upgrades. Cases like the Meshify 2 Compact are great for the long term because of good compatibility and space, the lack of which can become a big problem in a smaller chassis.
Fractal Design Meshify 2 Compact
The Fractal Design Meshify 2 Compact is an excellent ATX case with plenty of space inside the chassis and a mesh front panel for airflow.
Price Summary: A quick breakdown
Here's a quick breakdown of the pricing for this particular build. It goes without saying the prices are subject to change based on the availability of the stocks. We're a bit unsure if the supply for RX 6800 GPUs will remain stable enough for you to get one for around $540, but at least at the time of writing, it appears there are plenty in stock. Other the other hand, other components on this list could get even cheaper. The i5-13600KF and the Z690 Aorus Elite still have some wiggle room left to drop; other components like the RAM and SSD are about as cheap as we can reasonably expect.
|Intel Core i5-13600KF CPU||$300|
|AMD Radeon RX 6800||$540|
|Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Elite DDR4 motherboard||$240|
|Noctua NH-D15 CPU cooler||$100|
|Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro 16GB DDR4 RAM||$65|
|Western Digital SN850 Black M.2 NVMe SSD||$85|
|Corsair RM850X PSU||$115|
|Fractal Design Meshify 2 Compact case||$105|
Assuming you're able to get all of these parts at the prices we recommend, you can put together a very competent Intel gaming PC for just about $1,500 to $1,600. Although this build doesn't use the highest-end parts, it's certainly upper midrange and can play pretty much any game at a good framerate and with high-quality graphics. We haven't added peripherals to the build here, so you'll have to consider the additional price for those items too.