Most important parts for gaming PC are: CPU and Video Card. These two components have the most influence on gaming performance.
CPU - If you do not want to spend much - look at AMD APU and Intel Dual Core processors, they have good value in low-midrange segment, cheaper ones are AMD APU A6 and A8 or Intel Pentium and i3 series that will provide reasonable performance in low priced gaming machines, Intel i3 can be very capable with good GPU. Next step up are AMD FX processors. AMD FX can be overclocked easily and they are quite fast, very good price/performance ratio. Such machines with good GPU can run any games with adequate settings. Another step up are Intel i5 processors and AMD FX x8 (Eight Core editions). Such CPUs are best for gaming computers in terms of performance for the price paid. They can be paired with fastest video cards without fear of bottlenecking CPU. Such computers are best when accompanied by lots or RAM, good CPU coolers, SSD drive and mid-high end GPUs. Top CPU end is Intel i7 processors and AMD FX 9370 and 9590. Intel i7 are very good not only in gaming but also in professional software for video/photo/audio processing and editing, software development and more. Available in LGA 1150/1151 sockets - for more mainstream machines, or LGA 2011-v3 for top end high-performance configurations which benefit from DDR4 RAM and all the newest features. AMD FX 9370 and 9590 require best motherboards and CPU coolers as they consume 220W under load (2x more than next top CPU) and the put a lot of stress on other components such as PSU, but - up to 5GHz 8-core CPU is impressive.
Separate category - Intel “K” processors, there are a few - like i5 4690K, i7 4790K, all i7 5xxx. These have unlocked multiplier, which means that it’s very easy to overclock them. Such processors achieve highest overclocks by just changing the multiplier value in BIOS, with some other minor adjustments (like voltage). PC enthusiasts favor these processors for that easy extra speed boost you can get out of them. In order to overclock 4690K and 4790K you need Z97 motherboard, all i7 5xxx CPUs can be overclocked on any X99 board. Overclock is only possible if you pick good aftermarket CPU cooler.
Video Card / GPU - serious gamers do not look at cheap cards or integrated GPUs - they are barely good for anything.
You will see HUGE performance increase if you get at least a mid-range card designed for gaming. If you want highest resolutions and settings then check out more expensive video cards – Nvidia GTX 980, 980 Ti and AMD Fury X or at least R9 390X, these are greatest cards that offer excellent performance but with a price premium. If you want to run 4K resolution you can't get anything less, more likely you will need a couple of those cards.
If you want more balanced machine with lower price tag but still capable of running all games with 1080p/1440p and highest settings - look for GTX 970 or AMD R9 380 - very good cards that offer around 80% of more expensive cards but with much lower price tag.
Mid-high range is were the very good value is - Nvidia GTX 960 and AMD R9 380. These cards offer excellent performance in all games with 1080p resolution and high settings, you should be able to run all heavy titles well above 30-40FPS, while most games will run better than you need.
Below them are Nvidia GTX 750 Ti and 750, older AMD R7 260 and 260X, also new R7 370 - all those cards still can run games on 1080p resolution, though some games may need settings adjustment for comfortable FPS levels, still - GTX 750 Ti and R7 370 are very capable and you will not be disappointed with them, considering affordable price. Nvidia GTX 750 and R7 260/360 are small cards that run most games just fine, consume little energy, do not produce much heat or noise - very good for lower priced computers and casual gamers.
Everything below cards mentioned above - is not really a gaming field, but that depends on what you want to run. If its World of Warcraft - it will run fine on GTX 740 and AMD R7 250, with medium-high settings it will run above 30FPS even on AMD APU or some cheaper cards. But you will not be able to run latest games with such GPUs, at least you will not enjoy them as you should. AMD APU and cheap video cards are valued just for that - they are cheap, when you get some extra money you can easily upgrade them, just make sure your power supply is adequate.
CPU Cooler - do not underestimate it!!! If you leave stock (free) cooler you will get higher temperatures, more noise and usually no overclock (Free speed boost). Do you think that spending extra $30 on a good cooler is too much to drop temps about 15’C for more stable operation, hear less noise if any at all and bump up CPU frequency at around 10-20%? That is way too much value to skip CPU cooler upgrade, it is money spent wise. Even cheapest Cooler Master T2 cooler is much better than stock one. CM Hyper 212 EVO is one of the best air coolers (our favorite) - good to overclock almost any CPU. Liquid coolers that we offer are CLC (closed loop) that do not require maintenance and never leak (unless broken). Liquid coolers tend to be the best performing ones and also usually are quite. They move heat via liquid in two tubbes from CPU socket to radiator attached to the back of the case, dissipating heat outside using fan attached to it. AMD 9370 and 9590 will only work good with liquid cooler.
Power Supply - Very important if you are planning on upgrading video card or any other components. PSU that are selected by default with all our configurations are sufficient for them with default options. If you upgrade video card you should select better power supply to accommodate increased power requirements. For example GTX 750 or Radeon R7 250 will work with any standard PSU (even 350W), but adding two powerful cards in SLI or CrossFire will require at least 750W SLI ready PSU. Please refer to the PSU help page link next to the PSU options. Some video cards like AMD R9 390X require 600W alone, if you pair them with power-hungry CPU like AMD 9590 you need no less than 750W, please contact us if you are not sure what PSU to get. You will not make mistake by getting better power supply, your computer will always benefit from more reliable and consistent power it needs under heavy loads when you play games!
Memory - important component that in importance goes right after CPU and Video Card. Basically, as long as you get at least 8GB DDR3-1600 you are good to go. You will see incremental performance increases if you upgrade to 8GB DDR3 1866MHz or faster memory. If you are getting AMD APU (integrated graphics) then you should get fastest memory - it will affect graphics speed directly. Going up to 16GB will benefit many applications, mostly games and professional apps that do take advantage of every extra bit of hardware you throw at them. 4GB RAM is a bare minimum, you can run all games with it but it will become a bottleneck with any average CPU/GPU. New DDR4 RAM has higher frequency and other improvements, you should consider systems with DDR4 if they fit your budget. Since DDR4 is considerably faster than DDR3 you can expect system with 8GB DDR4 2800MHz perform as good as one with 16GB DDR3 1600MHz, or even better. New DDR4 also come in quad-channel kits often, suitable for super-fast setups in X99 boards.
Motherboard - pretty simple, more money you spend here - more features you are going to get as well as small speed bump. For example AMD 990FX will have SLI support but AMD 970 will not. Intel Z97 have at least 2 PCI-e 16x slots for video cards, 4x RAM slots and USB 3.0 support, but H81 will have only one PCI-e 16x, two RAM slots and no USB 3.0. Some motherboards come with integrated video, while others are designed for discrete videocards only, which actually you will use mostly anyway. More expensive boards usually have more USB ports, front USB 3.0 headers, M.2 or SATA-E, UEFI BIOS and more modern features.
Hard Drive / SSD - most users rarely need more than 500GB SATA-III HDD. But price difference between 500GB and 1TB is very small so you should go with bigger drive. If you need more storage - 2/3/4/6 TB options are available, though in our experience 1TB drives are most reliable. The biggest improvement you can make here - add SSD drive (solid state drive). It does not have any moving parts (more reliable), its small and produces almost no heat, its something like big fast USB flash drive. It will improve overall system performance significantly compared to regular spinning drives. For example SSD can cut Windows start-up time from average 1 min on HDD to just 15-20 seconds or less. Games will load faster, applications like Photoshop will receive tremendous increase in processing speed. Solid State Drives are smaller and more expensive than HDD but they provide such incredible speed boost that no modern PC should be built without one. Best setup in most cases would be 250GB SSD for Windows and most of the software and some games with 1TB or bigger HDD for bigger games and less used or very big files. SSD is best thing that happened to computers in the last 10 years some say.
Fans, Cooling & Fans, Cabling - Heat is the worst enemy of computer components and cooling upgrades help reduce heat by moving air more effectively inside of the case and out of it, cooling important components like CPU, Video Card, Motherboard and RAM. Cheap upgrades that can make big difference! Also improved cabling and LED fans will look cool if you have clear side window! Most computers should have at least 2x 120mm fans. It’s better when one is intake on the front and one is exhaust on the back. Top fans configured as exhaust improve heat removal a lot since heat is moving up naturally where top fans get rid of it. Front fans usually bring cool air in and cool hard drives and video cards. Some cases have side vents for video card and motherboard.
It is very important to clean your computer on a regular schedule, at least once every 6 month inside and every month outside. Some cases have filters that can be removed for cleaning, or cleaned with vacuum cleaner. Wipe dust from top and side panels, don’t forget to clean bottom of your case where power supply sucks air in. When cleaning computer inside remove side panels and use vacuum cleaner to remove big chinks of dust but don’t touch any components as you can damage them, don’t use wet cloth inside. Its best to use cans with compressed air - dust PC off on the inside - take your PC outside because there will be a lot of dust coming out. Most important is to clean heatsinks (CPU, GPU, motherboard) and fans.
Case - if you care only about looks, then get whatever you like. If you are concerned with cooling capabilities, then select some more expensive cases - they will have better cooling options, more default fans, more space inside. Smaller cheap cases also usually have lower quality materials, sides that bend, louder fans, small space inside that can not accommodate bigger coolers and video cards. When you spend more on the case you get more features, better quality and better cooling. High-end cases offer similar cooling performance and quality, difference is in the looks and small details. Some better cases have more USB (3.0) ports, or fan controllers. Most cases come with at least 2 fans, more is better if you go high-end on hardware. Some cases have fans with LED lights, on some you can pick which color yo want, when case comes with side window it looks very cool with LED fans (or even cold cathodes).
Windows 7 - most expected operating system of the past, Windows 7 is everything that everybody wants - fast, reliable, easy to use, compatible with most of the old software and hardware.
Windows 8.1 is somewhat controversial - while it has many great features and is generally faster than Win 7 it has kind of interface that not everybody likes. It may be hard for you to get used to, but once you do, it becomes clear and easy to operate, especially after 8.1 update and some other tweaks.
Windows 10 - is what “8” should have been from the beginning. This all new Windows 10 version takes all the best features of Windows 7 and 8.1 and makes them even better. Its very fast, with low requirements, it has real and functional Start Menu from 7 but at the same time incorporates features from Start Screen of 8.1. It also comes with Cortana (digital assistant), DirectX12 and more great features. With Windows 10 release its very hard to recommend older versions any more, unless you need something (like compatibility) from Windows 7.
Please note that both Windows 7 and 8.1 have an opportunity to upgrade to Windows 10 for free until approximately summer 2016.
All other components are optional and less influential on performance. When you pick options for your PC you can click on links on the left from options drop down menus to read more.