It seems like only yesterday that building a good gaming PC was not something many considered due to how inflated the price of hardware had got thanks to the accursed crypto mining trend (may it never rise from its grave and the memory of its existence fade into oblivion!).
But to say that now is the best time to build your PC may be an understatement. After all, we said this exact same thing when we made the best $1500 build, and we’re already seeing many of its prominent parts migrate to this $1200 build. Needless to say, this PC is a powerhouse like no other in its price range.
So if you’re looking for the best gaming PC $1200 can buy, then look no further.
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Top Gaming PC Under $1200 For 2020
Updated: January 16, 2020
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So, taking a quick glance at the table, what can you expect from a PC like this?
Well, the short of it is – you can expect to game like you never before could at this price. But to expand upon that, there are three points this PC excels at: 4K gaming, streaming and VR, and upgradeability.
Without a doubt, the first point we’ve made has to be the most compelling one in favor of this build: 4K. It’s the gamer’s dream, and this PC can deliver it.
The raw gaming performance of this PC is immense, to say the least, and it’s easily able to deliver even a 60FPS experience with only some of the graphics settings turned down a bit. At ultra presets you should be getting an average of around 45FPS in most games, and this number will not dip below 30FPS even in the most demanding AAA titles.
So all in all, if you’re looking to take your gaming to the next level, this is definitely the PC that will get you there.
VR and Streaming
Needless to say, a PC that can handle 4K can handle streaming without any hiccups (so long as you’re not trying to stream your games in 4K). And while we’ve mentioned that other, less expensive PC builds we’ve made can let you get a feel for what VR is, we always emphasized that that is the extent of what you’re getting – just a feel, a lay of the land if you will.
But the CPU and GPU combination of this build, not to mention the fast RAM, can turn VR into more than just a tech demo. Granted, you’ll need at least an RTX 2080 in order to crank the graphics up to eleven in VR and not have to worry about anything, but the RTX 2070 Super still does an exceptional job of rendering an immersive virtual world.
And finally, there’s upgradeability, something we always like to take into account when building for any price range.
So how upgradeable is this PC?
Well, we don’t know whether 4th gen Ryzen processors will use the same AM4 socket as the current and previous generations or not, so there’s no guarantee that you’ll have an easy avenue for making further CPU upgrades without also getting a new motherboard.
However, this shouldn’t bother you since, as you’ll see, the CPU in this build is a genuine monster and it won’t be getting obsolete anytime soon. It’s much more likely that you’ll want to overclock the CPU, which is something that both it and the motherboard are well-equipped to handle.
The PC Build
So now that we’ve got our expectations in order, let’s take a look at all of the hardware pieces that fit together to meet them. Each of the components here was hand-picked through laborious research to bring you the best gaming experience $1200 can offer.
Fair warning, though, the monitor is not included in the budget, so if this is a problem for you check out the $1000 build, or even the $800 build. We keep all our PC builds up to date so that they always present the best value. So once you account for the price of the monitor, one of these two builds should fit your budget just right.
So without any further ado, let’s begin.
CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 3600X
The Ryzen 5 3600X is one of the most incredible CPUs AMD has ever made. As far as multi-core performance is concerned, AMD has had the ball firmly in their court ever since the release of the 1st-gen Ryzen CPUs. But this new offering also has the single-core performance to match it, eclipsing even Intel’s i5-9600K CPU in terms of in-game performance, if only barely.
Related: Best Ryzen CPU For Gaming
Now, these two CPUs cost exactly the same, but AMD is able to inch ahead not only due to the slightly better performancecloc (double the number of logical cores and a base clock speed of 3.8GHz to the Intel’s 3.7GHz) but also due to its sheer cost-efficiency. Namely, while all unlocked Intel CPUs come without a stock cooler of any kind, the Ryzen 5 3600X comes with the rather well-performing Wraith Spire cooler, but more on that later.
So all in all, the choice to go with the Ryzen 5 3600X was very simple: first of all, it fit the budget like a glove. But even beyond that, no CPU in this price range can offer better in-game performance, and thanks to the high core count, it’s also able to offer excellent VR performance.
Related: Best CPU’s For Gaming
Cooler: Wraith Spire
The Wraith Spire cooler may not be the best stock CPU cooler out there, but it’s not far from it either. It offers significantly better cooling than the lower-ranked Wraith Stealth cooler, while not lagging too far behind the absolute monster that is the Wraith Prism.
In fact, the temperature difference between the Wraith Spire and the Wraith Prism lingers just between 3 and 5 degrees Celsius. The lack of RGB lighting is a shame, but with how well this cooler is able to manage this build just out of the box we really can’t complain too much.
And best of all, it’s free!
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GPU: Gigabyte GeForce RTX 2070 Super Gaming OC 3X 8GB
But this is where the real fun begins – with the RTX 2070 Super.
Now, we know that the RTX GPUs generally weren’t received all too well, and we understand why this is. Their price was (and still is) significant, but real-time ray tracing was scarce in games at the time of launch. But now that we know PS5 games are going to feature ray-tracing, we can expect to see this feature implemented in pretty much all upcoming AAA games. So now is the time to get excited about it.
The only concern we’ve had with the RTX 2060 before was the amount of VRAM, since 6GB may cause some issues in certain games. But the RTX 2070 Super is stacked with 8GB of 256-Bit GDDR6 memory, so it’s safe to say that this is a GPU that will not become obsolete any time soon.
Related: Best RTX 2070 Graphics Card
We’ve already given an overview of what kinds of framerates you should expect at which resolution (45 FPS average on 4K at ultra-settings and way past 60 FPS for 1440p), but let’s give a concrete example:
With the CPU at 3.8GHz (a clock speed that doesn’t require any overclocking in this case) and 16GB of 3200 MHz RAM you’ll be getting around 90 FPS in Shadow of the Tomb Raider on 2K (very high preset) and just over 50 FPS on 4K (high preset). As you can see, the preset needed to be reduced from very high to high, but this is still nothing short of extraordinary considering that this is 4K we’re talking about!
And why the Gigabyte Gaming OC in particular?
Well, it’s got to be the most cost-effective RTX 2070 Super by far. It comes with a higher clock speed than the base RTX 2070 Super rating, has some neat RGB lighting, and then, of course, there’s the excellent cooling.
The Windforce fans aren’t just there for show – the three fans on this RTX 2070 Super graphics card spin in alternate directions, further increasing the airflow for better heat dissipation. What’s more, they provide a nice semi-passive cooling experience by remaining off when the GPU is barely doing anything. Having a triple-fan solution is already easy on the ears, but the RTX 2070 Super Gaming OC will be inaudible when you aren’t pushing its limits.
Related: Best Graphics Card For Gaming
RAM: Corsair Vengeance LPX 16 GB
Opting for the Corsair Vengeance LPX as our RAM of choice yet again may feel a bit unimaginative, but hey – if it ain’t broke… And the Vengeance LPX certainly is not, offering builders like us the most cost-effective RAM sticks to work with.
Just as we did with the $1000 build, we’ll be arming this PC with no fewer than 16GB of RAM, only the guns on this build are way bigger (or should we say faster) with the RAM clocked at 3200MHz.
Speed isn’t generally the most important aspect of RAM memory, but there’s no reason not to get it if the budget has enough room to accommodate it, and this time it did. Plus, if you’re going to be turning up the graphics settings in VR, this will definitely be appreciated.
As always, our advice is to go dual-channel, meaning you get two 8GB RAM sticks. It’s overall faster and it has a nice fail-safe since you can rely on just one stick in times of emergencies if the other should fail you.
It won’t be as easy to upgrade to 32GB of RAM as it would if you were sporting only a single 16GB stick, but 32GB is excessive and there’s no reason to spend money on it, so just get the 2x8GB deal. There really isn’t a better option.
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Motherboard: Asus TUF B450-PRO Gaming
And next up we have the motherboard. Now granted, the Asus TUF B450-PRO GAMING isn’t the most high-end solution, but it’s not just your basic motherboard either.
For example, the two PCIe x16 slots are the so-called SafeSlots featuring fortified metal for a sturdier slot, which is nice to have when installing a triple-fan heavyweight graphics card. Also, the four RAM slots are color-coded so you can’t mess up setting up a proper dual-channel configuration. It’s not a huge deal, but it is something that first-time builders will appreciate.
There is a whole slew of other ports and features that won’t be listed here since this isn’t a motherboard review, but you’re more than welcome to check them out following the link above. What’s important is that you’re getting a high-quality motherboard that can support all your gaming needs, looks awesome, and even has some nice RGB lighting for good measure.
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SSD: Samsung 970 EVO Plus 500GB
And maybe even best of all, this PC is stacked with not just any SDD storage, but the ludicrously fast NVMe SSD in the form of 500GB of the Samsung 970 EVO Plus.
Granted, 500GB can feel a bit cramped if you’ve never used a laptop, but the performance more than makes up for it. On average, the 970 EVO Plus is at least four times faster than SATA III SSDs! So if you’re sick and tired of loading screens, well, nothing gets rid of them quite like this.
SSDs are soon to become a necessity for gaming since developers will be working with SSDs as a baseline starting with the next generation of consoles, but taking it that extra step further is still good to assert your hardware dominance, which we as PC gamers like to do.
Of course, you could instead get the Samsung 860 EVO. It’s still the best SATA III SSD for gaming and you can get twice the storage capacity for pretty much the same price. But we’d still argue it’s better to get the 500GB NVMe SSD now and then get another storage device or some cloud storage if you need more than 500GB. If nothing else, you’re securing some genuinely future-proofing.
Related: Best SSD For Gaming
Power Supply: Thermaltake SMART 650W
The two most important things you need to take into consideration when buying a power supply for your gaming rig are the Wattage and the quality. The second often gets neglected.
Now 650 Watts is more than enough to run this configuration even with some overclocking on the side, but more importantly, we want to highlight the 80 Bronze + certificate on this PSU. It’s there to guarantee that this PSU adheres to some rather reassuring standards, which are also reflected in the 5-year warranty.
The Thermaltake SMART Bronze 650W also has some neat quality of life features, like the temperature control fan that’s very silent when it doesn’t have to deal with high loads.
Unfortunately, this PSU is completely non-modular, but, with the case we’ve chosen for this build that won’t be a problem.
Related: How To Choose A Power Supply
Case: Cooler Master MasterCase H500
Introducing the Cooler Master MasterCase H500.
This case is simply magnificent! While there are prettier cases out there, if we’re looking at features and functionality, in this price range this case is without equal.
First of all, the MasterCase H500 is quite spacious, and has astonishingly good airflow, all the more so because it comes with three pre-installed fans, two of which are 200mm RGB fans! This was the thing that we were sold on, honestly, since good airflow is the single most important thing to look for when choosing a case, especially one that’s supposed to house such expensive components like the RTX 2070 Super, and the Ryzen 5 3600X.
But great airflow is not the only thing this this case has going for it. The MasterCase H500 also boasts a wholly separate PSU compartment, as well as incredible cable management which will both come in handy since the PSU for this build is non-modular. Besides this on the top of the case you will find no fewer than four USB ports – 2x USB 2.0 and 2x USB 3.0.
Related: How To Choose A PC Case
Like we’ve said before, there are prettier cases out there, but this one is nothing to scoff at either. It has a full-size tinted tempered glass window, and not one, but two front panels, one mesh, one transparent that you can change depending on your mood. Not to mention that the two huge front-mounted RGB fans look awesome once they start spinning.
Keep in mind, however, that this case is on the pricier side. However, while some of you may be tempted to skimp on the case in favor of some other “more important” components, we urge you to reconsider. Not only is the case the first thing people notice, it’s also the thing that, depending on the case you pick, may increase or decrease the performance and life-span of your components.
So to sum up, the Spec-Delta looks great, works phenomenally, and is convenient to build in. It doesn’t get any better than this.
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Now as always, we’ll also share our thoughts on which peripherals would best complement this PC. Just remember, none of these are included in the price, and if you’ve already got peripherals that you’re perfectly happy with, there’s no need to change them. But for those looking to buy a whole new set of everything, here are some excellent peripherals to go hand in hand with this $1200 build.
Operating System: Windows 10
First up, you’ll need an operating system. While not a peripheral per se, you won’t get any further along without it than you would without a monitor. And as always, we have to recommend Windows over Linux.
Now, Linux is making some real strides to offer better and better gaming experiences, not least of which is WINE – a program that lets you run Windows applications on Linux – and Steam’s very own support for certain games that don’t otherwise have Linux support. But you can’t help but notice a recurring trend here – Windows mimicry.
So if you can’t afford Windows at the moment, you’ll have a better time gaming on Linux now that you would have had a couple of years ago, but Windows 10 is still the way to go if you want to make the best use out of your hard-earned PC.
Related: What Is The Best OS For Gaming?
Monitor: Acer Predator XB271HK
Now when it comes to the monitor, we simply cannot present only a single model, since the hardware in this thing can cater to many profiles of gamers, most notably the 4K crowd and the high refresh rate gamers.
However, deciding on a single 4K monitor isn’t an easy task, mainly because one of the best aspects of 4K – stunning imagery – is best augmented by an IPS panel, and IPS panel monitors are more expensive than TN ones. So if you’ve got an arm and a leg to spare after already purchasing all the hardware pieces for this PC, you’ll love the Acer Predator XB271HK.
The monitor is quite genuinely eye-candy incarnate. However, if this price is a bit too excessive for you but you’re still dead set on 4K, then try the Asus VP28UQG. The Asus is actually larger than the Acer by an inch, standing in at 28-inches diagonally, but it is a TN monitor, which means the colors won’t look nearly as good.
So seeing as the biggest benefits of TN monitors are their high-performance capabilities, it’s somewhat of an off pick for relatively low FPS gaming on a 4K monitor. But hey, if you want a good and affordable 4K monitor, this is the one.
As for the high-performance demanding gamers out there, we recommend the Dell S2417DG YNY1D. It’s not the most overtly gaming monitor, but it’s one that has the kind of performance that can satisfy anyone. Naturally, it uses a TN panel, so the colors won’t be the best, but not only does it come with the 1ms response time that competitive gamers crave, but also a 165Hz refresh rate.
What’s more, while its size may seem a bit disappointing at first – after all, 24-inch monitors are a staple of 1080p gaming – this will help you cap out the FPS is you so desire, since rolling back to a 1080p resolution won’t look bad in the least on a monitor of this size.
And speaking of capping out your FPS, this monitor also comes equipped with the Nvidia G-Sync, so you don’t need to worry about screen tearing which, seeing how powerful the RTX 2070 is, could have otherwise been a problem.
But what happens if you want an uncompromisingly stunning image quality with great performance?
Well, your wallet may resent you for it, but you could get the G-Sync enabled 27-inch IPS Acer Predator XB271HU with a 144Hz refresh rate. At full price, it costs just as much as the 4K version of the monitor we’ve mentioned above, but powerful as it is, the RTX 2070 Super cannot handle such excessive framerates at 4K anyway. So this really is your best bet. The only reason not to get it would be if you have a mind to upgrade the graphics card in the near future, at which point you’ll really want to make good use of 4K. But if not, there’s no monitor that’ll make your games more immersive and enjoyable than this one.
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Keyboard and Mouse: Razer Blackwidow Elite + Deathadder Elite
Now with a PC as impressive-looking as this $1200 rig, you’ll want to have a mouse and keyboard that matches it – ideally both in terms of aesthetics and performance. And no keyboard and mouse do this better than the Blackwidow Elite and Deathadder Elite by Razer.
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The Blackwidow Elite is a very impressive mechanical keyboard, with even some features that are present here but not on the more expensive Huntsman Elite, like the USB and audio passthrough. If you want to avoid some of the cable clutter than inevitably ends up clogging every gamer’s desktop, this passthrough is a real lifesaver.
Then there are the standard features you should expect in such a premium keyboard – RGB lights, multimedia keys, the very handy knob that starts of controlling volume but can be assigned to other things as well, and the choice of switches (green, yellow, and orange). But one of our favorite features has got to be the magnetic wrist rest that you can attach to the keyboard. As far as wrist rests go, this one is amazing; so amazing, in fact, that we can see users sticking with it even once they’ve switched to a different keyboard.
And the mouse is no worse for wear either. The build quality here should be evident at a glance, but if not then the feel of your palm on the Deathadder Elite will put all your worries to rest.
The rubber grips, in particular, feel great. And the mouse sports the same stylish RGB-lit exterior as the Blackwidow Elite, which you can customize to your heart’s content. In fact, the only thing that could be construed as a downside is how precise the sensor is, matching your movement perfectly even in the most intense clutch situation.
Why is this bad?
Well, some of us like blaming the mouse for our missed shots, and the Deathadder Elite does not allow for this in good conscience.
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Controller: Xbox One Controller
We’ve said it many times and we’ll see it again: you need a good controller even if you’re gaming solely on a PC. Unless you’re strictly playing FPS, MOBA or RTS games, chances are that the games you’ll be playing will have been developed with the controller in mind. Now some of them get magnificent PC ports that really do the mouse and keyboard justice, but the keyword here is some.
If you want to enjoy most AAA-titles the way developers intended you to enjoy them, then a controller is mandatory, and there’s no better choice than the Xbox One Controller.
The Dualshock 4 is a great alternative. In fact, they’re pretty much on par, but the Xbox One Controller does have the benefit of plug-and-play compatibility if nothing else. Plus, it fits really nicely into your hand and has phenomenal triggers.
The only thing about it that’s sort of meh is the D-pad, so if that’s something that’s going to be instrumental in most of the games you play, then, by all means, get a Dualshock 4. An Xbox 360 controller will also do in case you don’t really need the controller much, but non-console controllers are best avoided since they generally lack the durability and longevity of controllers made for consoles.
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VR Headset: HTC Vive
And of course, how can talk about the appropriate peripherals without mentioning VR Headsets. After all, while this PC can’t max out the graphics in VR titles, it stills fares exceptionally well in them. So much so that not trying them out feels almost like a waste.
In any case, if you are interested in VR games, then there’s no VR Headset we can recommend over the HTC Vive. On a technical level, it’s not all that superior to the Oculus Rift, and both headsets have some exclusive titles to their name, but the Vive is Steam-compatible, and we’re guessing most of you have dozens if not hundreds of games in your Steam library, and most likely zero games bought from the Oculus Store.
What’s more, SteamVR even lets you play certain non-VR games in VR, so you can get some extra mileage out of games you may have thought you were done with.
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Headset: Turtle Beach Elite Atlas
Now regardless of whether you need a VR Headset or not, you probably still need a regular old headset. Of course, fan-favorites like the HyperX Cloud II and the Razer Kraken Pro 2 are good options, as always, but there’s a new kid on the block whose name deserves to be spoken in this company and that’s the Turtle Beach Elite Atlas.
It’s one of the most comfortable, most durable, and most exciting headsets we’ve seen in recent times, with an awesome microphone that does online multiplayer games justices. What’s more, it’s compatible with not only the PC but also all the current-gen consoles, so if you aren’t exclusively a PC gamer, this is a great multi-purpose purchase.
Just do keep in mind that the Elite Atlas is a gaming headset first and foremost, and its frequency response and features are all fine-tuned to gaming, so if you want a headset that you can use for other things as well, then consider the Creative Sound BlasterX H6.
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Wrist Rest: GoldenClaw WR1
A very useful accessory is a wrist rest as they provide health benefits too. Lots of keyboards now come with their own hand wrist rest too, but if your keyboard does not have it, we highly recommend getting the very comfortable GoldenClaw WR1 Wrist Rest, which costs just shy of $10.
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And that about does it for this build. Now all that’s left is to put to pieces together. We know that this is the part that most of your first-time builders find the most daunting, so much in fact that the benefits of building your own PC get outweighed by the anxiety of it all.
But if you want to enjoy the best possible gaming performance $1200 can buy just know that no prebuilt solution can match this rig.
The only thing left to say is this: May your games be fun and your losses few. Good luck!