The Enthusiast's PC
The Enthusiast PC incorporates the perfect blend of the Entry-Level Rig and Luxury System, making this our most balanced build. The intent is to keep this system within the grasp of the average computer enthusiast, offering a fully loaded PC minus some of the unnecessary bells and whistles that could set you back another grand or so.
|Processor||Ryzen 5 1600 or Core i5-8400||$210 / $182|
|Motherboard||Gigabyte AX370-Gaming K3 or Gigabyte Z370-HD3P||$140 / $140|
|CPU Cooler||Cooler Master Hyper 212 LED||$30|
|Memory||G.Skill Flare X 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR4-2400||$157|
|Graphics||Gigabyte GTX 1060 Windforce OC 3GB||$220|
|Storage SSD||Crucial MX300 525GB||$150|
|Storage HDD||WD Blue 4TB||$110|
|Power||Seasonic M12II 620w||$60|
|Case||Fractal Design Define R5||$100|
Core System Total
Motherboard, Processor, Cooler, Memory
The Enthusiast's PC gets one of two "future proof" processors depending on your needs. The Ryzen 5 1600 is a multi-tasking beast on a budget with 6 cores and 12 threads, this chip also overclocks very well on the stock cooler, though for a very small price the Cooler Master Hyper 212 LED reduces temperatures dramatically, so we feel this is the way most enthusiasts should go. Using this aftermarket cooler the 1600 should be good for a 4GHz overclock on all cores, making it a very punchy CPU indeed.
Now, Intel's latest addition to their 8th-gen Core i5 is just as impressive and for $180 the i5-8400 is hard to beat. Depending on the application, the Core i5-8400 can be faster than the Ryzen 5 1600, though it can also be quite a bit slower, so choose wisely for your specific needs (more cores/threads vs. better single core performance).
The i5-8400 gets six high speed cores with no Hyper-Threading, however that's more than enough for the vast majority of gamers to play all the latest games without any frame hitches. In other words, Intel is the better choice for those primarily looking to play games.
Aiding the overclock on Ryzen's side is Gigabyte’s AX370-Gaming K3, an affordable X370 motherboard. The AX370-Gaming K3 offers a very high quality onboard audio solution, Killer E2500 networking, USB 3.1 Gen2, 110mm M.2 (up to 32 Gb/s) and Turbo B-Clock. Oh, and did I mention the board has a heap of fancy RGB lighting options?
While for the Core i5 we chose one of the best value Z370 motherboards you can get right now. The Gigabyte Z370-HD3P supports up to DDR4-4000 memory, plenty of PCI Express slots (two are x16), USB 3.1 Gen2 with Type-C, Intel GbE LAN, Dual M.2, RGB Fusion and Smart Fan 5 control.
Then for the memory G.Skill’s Flare X Series works extremely well and for this build we recommend the 16GB kit. Memory is quite pricey at the moment, but for this kind of system you will want no less than 16GB.
The Ryzen 5 1600 and Core i5-8400 are seriously capable CPUs and they deserves an equally powerful GPU. We'd normally recommend a cool GTX 1070 gaming card as a combo, however given current prohibitive GPU prices, our main pick has gone to a GTX 1060 3GB which should satisfy most while keeping the budget reasonable.
If gaming is your first priority, then spending the bigger bucks for a GTX 1070 is recommended, just make sure you are not overpaying too much. There are plenty of great GTX 1070 graphics cards available but Gigabyte's WindForce seems to be one of the more affordable ones and we know the cooler works well. With performance that matches the previous-gen Titan, the GTX 1070 is the perfect graphics card for tackling 1440p resolutions as needed.
Our mainboard of choice, the Gigabyte AX370-Gaming K3 features a remarkable onboard sound solution from Realtek and therefore we don't recommend purchasing a discrete sound card.
The 525GB Crucial MX300 is fast, roomy, and seemingly dependable, yet it manages to be one of the most affordable high-end drives around thanks to its use of Micron's in-house 3D TLC memory.
Most enthusiasts will want a larger hard drive complementing their SSD and if that's the case when we suggest the WD Blue 4TB. It's great value and performance isn't an issue here as it's probably just going to be used for multimedia content and backing up.
Although you could probably get by with a solid 500W PSU, that would be cutting it close with some multi-GPU configurations, so spending a few bucks more now to have headroom later makes the most sense. There are plenty of options to pick from but we really like the Seasonic M12II 620w. It's Bronze certified, offers ample power, and costs just $70.
Some passionate case builders will say you can’t get high quality cases for $100, but that simply isn’t true. No other chassis disproves this claim more than the Fractal Design Define R5. The size, weight, and visible construction quality of this case suggest its $100 price tag may be a mistake. The bitumen-based audio-damping material making up a good part of the R5’s hefty 11.2kg.
The 27-inch Dell U2715H topped our enthusiast recommendation list in our best of monitors last year and has made a repeat in 2017 as an excellent all-round display for less than $500. It uses the LG AH-IPS Neoblade panel featuring a borderless design that allows for a sleek thin bezel. With a native resolution of 2560×1440 and a 60Hz refresh rate, it's not a gaming-first monitor, however with factory calibration out of the box, amazing image quality, a five port USB 3.0 hub (1 with battery charging), good warranty, and a price that won't break the bank, it's our top choice here.
If gaming is your primary concern, Asus and Acer continue to fight it out in this category, with both companies producing amazing monitors that hit the sweet spot for gamers: 27-inch, 1440p G-Sync displays with a high refresh rate. The Asus PG279Q is just barely ahead of its chief rival’s Predator XB271HU, can't go wrong either way.
If you're after an affordable 4K monitor then we suggest the LG 27UD68-W which offers gorgeous 3840 x 2160 resolution on its 27-inch IPS screen. FreeSync support is a nice bonus.
Speakers are a tricky component to shop for because a higher price and wattage don't necessarily equal better audio, and if you are very picky about audio quality you may want to look beyond regular PC speakers (or look for higher-end options in the next builds).
As long as you don't expect studio-quality reproduction and you're not trying to rattle any walls, the ~$40 CA-3602 recommended for the Entry-Level Rig should be fine. For a little extra, the Creative T3250 2.1 provide a similar audio experience with a few more features, most notably Bluetooth support, which enables the T3250's to stream music wirelessly from most stereo Bluetooth devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops. The speakers also come with an audio control pod that includes power on/off, Bluetooth, and volume control for ease of use.
Finally, if you want the best PC speakers for under $100, the Bose Companion 2 Series III are a proven solution with fidelity that impresses at this price range. We've long-term tested the Companions and we can say they're almost a steal at $100.
Mouse & Keyboard
Between the number of possible keyboard and mouse combinations and the various uses you could be making of this system it's virtually impossible to recommend a single component. However when we looked for the value middle ground, three great options came up on top:
The CM Storm QuickFire XT is a solid mechanical keyboard with a sober look and proven record well under $100. The Logitech G413 is another great entry-level mechanical keyboard ($85) for those wishing to upgrade their typing experience. It’s aggressively priced, undercutting similar keyboards from competitors, while providing a solid feature set and the same tactile feedback as Logitech’s premium offerings.
On the mouse front, the Logitech G402 Hyperion Fury brings a familiar combination of quality, comfort and customization of premium Logitech mice for a mere $42.