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 (like the RTX 2070 GPU) 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, look no further.
Top Gaming PC Under $1200 For 2019
Updated: May 24, 2019
Click on the product images to view the product on Amazon, where you can see more images in high resolution and check the current price.
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 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 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 know that the 3rd gen Ryzen processors will use the same AM4 socket as the current and previous generation, so it’s safe to say that you’ll be able to upgrade to a better CPU if you happen to find this one lacking. However, we don’t see that happening within the space of a year – and we’ll elaborate on this below when we talk about the CPU – but the option is there. More likely, 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 7 2700
There are a number of reasons why the Ryzen 7 2700 made the list and not any other CPU. The biggest one is that it offered the best performance while fitting the overall budget like a glove. Granted, it doesn’t have as powerful a single-core performance as, say, the i5-9600K, but not only is it cheaper all things considered (especially since you’re getting a pretty good stock cooler as well), but fares much better in VR, which loves having the extra CPU cores, both physical and virtual.
Now we didn’t exactly have room in the budget for a Ryzen 7 2700X, which is, in essence, an overclocked 2700 but with better overclocking potential and a better cooler than the basic 2700. If you have an extra $30 to spend on this build then you can go ahead and make this upgrade, but we wanted to strictly stick to the budget for all of you who already feel that $1200 is plenty.
This isn’t to say in any way that the Ryzen 7 2700 is subpar. With 8 physical and 16 logical cores and a base clock speed of 3.2GHz with a boost speed of 4.1GHz, this processor will not leave you wanting. What’s more, you can overclock it a fair bit even with the stock cooler.
Cooler: Wraith Spire
We’ve said plenty about the cooler already but let’s reiterate. The Wraith Spire LED cooler is an incredible stock cooler, eclipsed only by the Wraith Prism of the Ryzen 7 2700X. Honestly, the Wraith Prism cooler is one of the biggest reasons why you’d want to upgrade to the 2700X for those extra $30 since it not only the best stock cooler period, but also features some slick RGB lighting which, let’s face it, is way cooler than the LED lighting you get with the Wraith Spire. If you want to bling out your gaming rig and improve the performance a bit, this is one of the most cost-efficient ways to do so.
But let’s not take anything away from the Wraith Spire – it is still very good in its own right, especially for gaming, where the biggest temperature difference between it and the Wraith Prism should linger between only 3 and 5 degrees Celsius. What’s more, it’s very capable of keeping the Ryzen 7 2700 overclocked at 3.8GHz cool and stable. So all in all, you’re getting some really nice value with this CPU.
GPU: Gigabyte GeForce RTX 2070 Windforce
But this is where the real fun begins – with the RTX 2070.
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 real-time ray tracing.
The only concern we’ve had with the RTX 2060 that we featured in the $1000 was the amount of VRAM, since 6GB may cause some issues in certain games. But the RTX 2070 is stacked with 8GB of 246-Bit GDDR6 memory, so it’s safe to say that this is a GPU that will not become obsolete in any way any time soon.
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 overclocked at 3.8GHz (a clock speed that the stock cooler can support) and 16GB of 3000 MHz RAM you’ll be getting just under 100 FPS in Rise of the Tomb Raider on 2K (very high preset) and just over 60 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 Windforce in particular?
Well, it’s got to be the most cost-effective RTX 2070 by far. It starts off with a higher clock speed than the base RTX 2070 rating, has some neat RGB lighting, and then, of course, there’s the excellent cooling. The Windforce name isn’t just there for show – the tripe-fans on this RTX 2070 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 Windforce will be inaudible when you aren’t putting it to the test.
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 way faster) with the RAM clocked at 3000MHz. 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 is no better option.
Motherboard: Asus Prime X470 Pro
And next up we have the motherboard. Now granted, the Asus Prime X470 Pro isn’t the most high-end solution, but it’s not just your basic motherboard either. For example, two of the three PCIe x16 slots are metal reinforced, 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.
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.
Power Supply: Corsair CXM Bronze 550W
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 550 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 550W also has some neat quality of life features, like the thermally controlled fan that’s very silent when it doesn’t have to deal with high loads, as well as the semi-modular build that you’ll appreciate immensely once you actually start putting the pieces together.
And you’ll certainly want to get rid of all the unnecessary cable-clutter once you get a load of the case we’ve found for this build.
Case: Corsair Carbide Spec-Delta
Introducing the Corsair Carbide Spec-Delta.
Just look at this case – simply magnificent! The angular design on the front is very gorgeous, but even more eye-catching are the three – that’s right, three – front-mounted RGB fans with three customizable LEDs each. Add to that the pre-installed fan on the back, and you’ve got yourself one of the best cases around as far as airflow is concerned. It may be a bit more expensive than the bare minimum you need to pay for a computer case that’s not garbage, but we think that it’s well worth the price, seeing as the preinstalled fans pretty much pay for themselves and then some.
Besides, there are few cases as visually impressive for this price, and with the tempered glass side panel window to place your hardware on full display, the Spec-Delta gives it a nice finish. Plus, it’s not like it places form over function either. We’ve already mentioned the stellar airflow, but this case also boasts a wholly separate PSU compartment, as well as incredible cable management. So to sum up, the Spec-Delta looks stunning, works phenomenally, and is convenient to build in. It doesn’t get any better than this.
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 are WINE – a program that lets you run Windows applications in 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.
Monitor: Acer Predator XB271HK bmiprz
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 bmiprz. 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 ay resent you for it, but you could get the G-Sync enabled 27-inch IPS Acer Predator XB271HU bmiprz 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 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.
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.
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.
Gamepad: 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.
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.
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.
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. And besides, nowadays there’s a step-by-step tutorial video for everything up on YouTube. Unsurprisingly, there are several excellent ones when it comes to PC building, like the one just below.
The only thing left to say is this: May your games be fun and your losses few. Good luck!