It seems like only yesterday that building a gaming PC was something many shied away from due to how inflated the hardware prices had gotten because of 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 very same thing just a few months ago, and the build we created back then can’t begin to compare to this one. That said it’s probably clear to you that 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 Build Under $1200 For 2020
Updated: October 26, 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 dream of every gamer, and this PC can deliver it.
The raw gaming performance of this PC is immense, 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 50FPS 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 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.
And as for VR, it’s true that the less expensive PC builds we’ve made can let you get a feel for what it is, but we want to emphasize that that’s more or less exactly what you’re getting – just a feel, or the lay of the land if you will, compared to what this machine will be able to pull off.
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, since now we know that future AMD processors won’t be compatible with the 400-series motherboards, we made sure to account for that by choosing an X570 model. With this, you can rest assured that even if you decide to upgrade to a better AMD CPU in the future, you won’t have to change your motherboard along with it.
If you decide to switch to team blue, however, then that’s on you!
We want to note that even a B550 model would offer you the same upgradability path, but the X570 models have other advantages we’ll talk about later on.
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.
The Ryzen 5 3600 is one of the most incredible CPUs AMD has ever made. Not because it’s the most powerful, but because it offers incredible performance for the price you’re paying.
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 processor also has the single-core performance to match it, going toe to toe with Intel’s i5-9600K in terms of in-game performance, if only barely.
Now, as we said, these two CPUs perform fairly similar, with Intel having the advantage in some titles and AMD in others, but AMD can inch ahead not only due to its 12 logical cores compared to Intel’s 6 but also due to its price and sheer cost-efficiency.
Namely, while all unlocked Intel CPUs come without a stock cooler of any kind, the Ryzen 5 3600 comes with the pretty decent Wraith Stealth cooler (especially considering its price – $0), but more on that later.
So all in all, the choice to go with the Ryzen 5 3600 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.
Cooler: Wraith Stealth
The Wraith Stealth may not be the best stock CPU cooler out there, but it can keep up with the Ryzen 5 3600 just fine. And best of all, it’s free!
Of course, an aftermarket solution is highly recommended if you’re into overclocking, but for casual users, this should be plenty, at least for a while.
The CPU temperature depends not only on your CPU cooler but on the general airflow in your case as well. This means that some people may have zero problems running the Ryzen 5 3600 with the Wraith Stealth for years, while others may encounter some unpleasant issues very quickly.
To avoid any surprises we suggest taking a look at your CPU temperatures from time to time to determine if you require a better cooler or not. However, if you want to be safe and not think about CPU thermals ever again, then check out some of the aftermarket solutions in the link below.
This is where the real fun begins – with the RTX 3070.
Have you ever heard anything as satisfying as: “stronger than the RTX 2080 Ti for less than half the price”?
– Neither have we.
While it’s not as powerful as Nvidia’s new flagship, the RTX 3080, it’s still more powerful than anything we’ve had so far, and for a fraction of the price. The RTX 3070 can push 4K gaming to the max in most modern AAA titles.
Basically, anything an RTX 2080 Ti could do, the RTX 3070 can do it better!
Now, the general consensus is that if you’re already splurging on a PC, you might as well go all out and get an RTX 3080 as it’ll definitely pay off in the long run, kind of like a good pair of leather shoes. However, this doesn’t mean that the RTX 3070 is bad, far from it, but simply that the price difference isn’t that great compared to the difference in performance, so if you have the patience and means to save up a little more, it’s worth giving it a try.
On the other hand, if you’re on a strict budget you definitely won’t regret getting the RTX 3070. With its 8GB of VRAM and boost clock of 1.73GHz, this GPU will plow through any game you launch, including Crysis Remastered!
It should be safe to say that there won’t be a single title that will force you to lower your resolution under 1440p any time soon. In fact, there shouldn’t be any titles that are unplayable in 4K, lowering the resolution will only result in a better-looking game in which case you’ll have to ‘settle’ for 60FPS in 1440p. However, with the new and improved DLSS, this won’t happen too often either.
We hope you have plenty of time on your hands because once you get this PC we guarantee you’ll be losing sleep.
The Corsair Vengeance LPX is our RAM of choice for this build because it comes from a reliable manufacturer and it has proven its worth to us time and time again. Seeing as there was no room in the budget for any fancy RGB, there was no need to look any further than the tried and true Corsair Vengeance LPX.
We’ll be arming this PC with no fewer than 16GB of 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. Plus, if you’re going to be turning up the graphics settings in VR, this will definitely be appreciated.
Our advice is to go dual-channel. 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 for gaming anyway, and there’s no reason to spend money on it if you absolutely don’t have to.
The first thing you should know about the ASUS Prime X570-P is that it’s not a high-end motherboard, and for a build such as this one, this is no surprise. It’s a very basic X570 board without any of the additional features like Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, unfortunately. But in any gaming build, the GPU is the priority, so costs had to be cut somewhere.
Nevertheless, this is still a good piece of hardware, albeit simple. It has 2 M.2 slots, plenty of USB ports, supports 128GB of RAM, and PCIe 4.0. In fact, this is one of the major reasons we went with an X570 model – future-proofing.
Now, we know this term is being flaunted around a lot, but it can be really helpful to have a plan or at least an idea of what you want to do down the line instead of rushing into the future blindly. This is why we wanted an X570 mobo that will give you the option to upgrade to a new-gen Ryzen processor if you want, but also offer you PCIe 4.0 support for that extra boost in performance and bandwidth.
PCIe 4.0 may not play a major part in your overall user experience today unless you are a specific kind of user, but it’s very likely that in the near future it will become the norm, and when it does, you’ll be ready.
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 new generation of consoles, but taking it that extra step further is still good to assert your hardware dominance.
Of course, you could instead get the Samsung 860 EVO. It’s still one of the best SATA III SSDs 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 later if you need more than 500GB. After all, the difference between a regular 2.5 SSD and an NVMe is quite noticeable.
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 750 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 Corsair CXM Bronze 750W 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, and on top of that it’s semi-modular, so you won’t have to worry about excess cables crowding your case.
The Phantex Eclipse P400A is everything a case should be – stylish, spacious, and breezy.
When we say stylish, we don’t mean it has an abundance of RGB or a crazy design, we mean that it boasts a classic all-black exterior with a slightly stylized front panel, and a tempered glass side panel.
It doesn’t have any RGB, but that’s not a negative point, If anything, we respect the customizability options. For example, if RGB is something you absolutely must have, you can easily get RGB fans and/or LED strips for the inside of the case and it will instantly tranform your whole setup.
Speaking of fans, the P400A comes with 2 pre-installed ones, which is not bad by any means, especially considering how great the airflow of this case is, but it’s not ideal either. We suggest adding at least one more fan to help with the cooling since this PC will be housing the RTX 3070 after all.
And finally, this is quite a roomy case with enough space for an EATX motherboard, and even the most robust GPUs out there. It’s also one of the easiest cases we’ve ever worked with in terms of ease of installation and cable management which is always a huge plus.
Additionally, the I/O panel contains the power and reset buttons, headphone, and mic jacks, 2x USB 3.0., and a controller to regulate the fan speed.
All in all, this case is a DIY PC-builder’s dream come true.
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.
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 for offering 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.
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 clearest 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 if you desire so, 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 roughly around $500. It’s a 1440p monitor, so it won’t be able to make the best out of what the GPU can offer, but everything else about it is top-notch.
And finally, if you really have some serious $$$ burning a hole in your pocket, the LG 32UD99-W may be a good option.
There are a bunch of other great options, but we can’t possibly list them all here. The important thing is to be aware of what your PC can do, and shop accordingly. Otherwise you might end up limiting your other hardware.
Now with a PC as impressive-looking as this $1200 rig, you’ll want to have a keyboard that matches it – ideally both in terms of aesthetics and performance. And no keyboard does this better than the Blackwidow Elite.
The Blackwidow Elite is a very impressive mechanical keyboard, that boasts features like the USB and audio passthrough that are not present even in some more expensive keyboards such as the Huntsman Elite. 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 that we can see users sticking with it even once they’ve switched to a different keyboard.
Having a good mouse is a given when you’re a PC gamer. This is obviously one of those peripherals that will depend on your personal preferences, so not everyone might agree with our pick here, but we tried our best to find a mouse that is objectively so good that it will fit a majority of people, and that’s Razer’s Deathadder V2 gaming mouse.
Style-wise it’s no different than most of Razer’s mice, but that’s by no means a critique. It’s the style we’ve known and loved for 14 years and there’s no need to change it. It fits any type of grip and despite its fairly large build it can also fit a wide range of hand sizes.
It’s fairly lightweight considering its size, so it will be perfect for competitive gamers, but those who prefer heavier mice might not enjoy this feature so much, especially since it doesn’t have any additional weights you can add.
What it does have are 8 programmable buttons and rubber grips.
The rubber grips, in particular, feel great. And the mouse sports the same stylish RGB-lit exterior you can customize to your heart’s content. In fact, the only thing that could be contemplated 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 V2 does not allow for this in good conscience.
You need a good controller even if you’re gaming solely on a PC.
Unless you’re strictly playing FPS, MOBA or RTS games, the 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.
VR is slowly but surely improving, and recently the industry giants have released some very interesting new hardware that we were eager to review. The ones that stood out to us the most were the HP Reverb G2 (which hasn’t made it to this list due to its price tag), and of course, the Oculus Quest 2.
Facebook’s recent launch has stirred up the VR gaming community and for a good reason. This is a phenomenal headset with an even better price. We don’t know how they did it, but for $399, you can get a headset that trumps more or less everything else on the market except for the Valve Index, and now the Reverb G2.
To make it even more compelling, the headset also comes in a $299 variant whose only difference compared to the $399 version is the amount of storage it contains (64GB vs 256GB)
The Quest 2 has a single LCD panel with an 1832×1920 resolution per eye, and a supports up to 90Hz. It also has 6GB of memory and uses the XR2 Qualcomm chipset which makes this headset nearly twice as powerful as the previous Quest.
The headset is completely standalone, meaning that you can download any game you want and play it directly from the headset itself, or you can connect it to the PC, and enjoy any of the games you have in both your Oculus and Steam library.
As for the controllers, there aren’t any major differences compared to the original Oculus Touch, but the battery should last up to 4 times longer which is in itself improvement enough.
Now, as great as this headset is, it’s definitely not perfect.
First of all, although it’s lighter than the previous model, it has flimsy straps that make the front feel heavier. There is an option to purchase a sturdier strap separately, but this just feels like cheating since it will turn out that the headset is actually more expensive than advertised. Most people won’t even bother gaming with the cloth strap because it makes the headset feel clunky.
And the second gripe we have with this piece of hardware is the fact that you have to have a Facebook account to use it. For some people, this might not seem like a big deal, but many others might find this requirement uncomfortable raising the question ‘why’.
Nevertheless, this is a great headset and a significant improvement compared to both the original Quest and the Rift S for a lower price, and if you don’t mind the details mentioned above, you’ll have a great time gaming on this toy.
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.
Finally, there’s the wrist rest. If you’re used to spending hours gaming away on your PC, you know how uncomfortable it can get, even if your keyboard already has a wrist rest.
Wrist rests that come with keyboards out of the box are usually there just for show, unless you’re using a very high-end keyboard. They can even be just a shiny piece of plastic without any padding.
This is why we wanted to suggest this alternative for all of you out there struggling to position your wrists right while gaming.
The HyperX Wrist Rest is a simple piece of incredibly soft, gel-infused memory foam covered with stylish black cloth with a red thread detail around the edges. Nothing fancy, nothing flashy, but once you try it you’ll never want to use anything else.
It’s a rare way to improve your gaming experience without tearing a hole in your wallet.
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 that $1200 can buy, then you will be pleased to know that no prebuilt solution can match this rig.