4k Monster Gaming Computer for Less than $3,000? Here’s How
by Stephan Jukic – November 16, 2014
4K gaming PCs are one of the latest technological innovations to hit the world of gameplay and with good reason, they’re gaining an increasing amount of attention from a lot of circles, both amateur and professional.
After all, we’re talking about display platforms that offer the kind of resolution which almost looks like a real window into another world, especially when viewed from a PC screen whose much smaller size (relative to a full blown 60+ inch 4K TV) creates a far greater pixel density at ultra HD resolution.
However, as any gamer who’s gone ahead and investigated 4K gaming on their PC quickly realizes, there are two major sets of problems that can present themselves right away. The first of these is the problem of processing all those extra dots on the screen and the second is a problem of forking over the money needed to have a PC that can actually do that processing.
Neither of these problems is insurmountable but each one of them requires a bit of advance planning and yes, some spending above and beyond what you’d normally throw down for a more regular gaming PC.
However, don’t think you’re going to need to spend a fortune either. Maybe if somebody had told you that you could you build a relatively cheap 4K gaming PC in 2013, you could laugh in their face, but like usually happens with game and entertainment technology, costs have been trending downhill and they’re continuing to do so.
Today, 4K gameplay is more than affordable to a lot of gamers with $2,000 to $3,000 dollars to spare and that’s what we’re going to go over now, the main parts you can get for a budget that doesn’t need to exceed $3000.
Before we go on, bear in mind that the categories below include suggestions for lower priced and higher priced components, so the ultimate price of your PC can vary considerably based on which you choose.
Alright, let’s get down to business.
Setting up you 4K PC
When it comes to 4K gaming, the big items are RAM, processing power, GPU power and the internal connection between your GPU and your UHD screen itself. These are where you’re going to have to focus the majority of your investment and shirking on them will only produce inferior, slow results when you load your newest 4K ready game and want to play.
Here we’re going to show you how to set up a fast, effective 4K gaming PC for less than $3,000 dollars and pack it with heavy duty GPU power along with a hefty processor, motherboard and power supply. This machine should be able to handle 3840 x 2160 pixels of high speed graphics at least 30 frames per second and even 60 fps in many cases with 4K ready games set to normal or medium detail levels.
You’ll be able to go higher still, because this is an upgradable PC and adding a couple more Nvidia graphics cards beyond those suggested here will even let you run your 4K adventures at something close to the highest detail levels and at 60 frames per second.
The CPU: The AMD FX-9590 4.7GHz 8-Core Processor
A lot of 4K gamers who build their own rig go for the still popular Intel Core i5 and i7 line of CPUs. And while these are great, they do get edged out somewhat by the AMD FX-9590. This 4.7 GHz 8.core processor definitely beats both of the Intel models and if you also include its streaming capacity, it becomes an even better option.
The FX-9590 gives you plenty of extra space for overclocking, performs wonderfully and can even do 5.0 GHz in turbo speed. This is definitely the fastest CPU AMD has on sale and is your best choice for a 4K gaming PC. However, it only runs on select brands of motherboards and really does need a decent cooling rig to keep from overheating, but we’ll get to both features shortly.
For an alternative CPU that’s cheaper but also powerful enough to deliver the goods, you can also try the AMD FX-8350 4.0GHz 8-Core Processor or the more expensive but also powerful Intel Core i7 series, which is however considered slightly inferior to the AMD FX-9590.
CPU Cooling: Corsair Hydro Series H90 liquid CPU cooler or Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO
For CPU cooling, you’ve got several very good options on your hands. All of them however do fulfill the basic but crucial necessity of keeping your CPU’s thrumming engine running at a temperature that doesn’t induce a problem or two (everything melting and dying).
Our first option is the Corsair Hydro Series H90 liquid CPU cooler. Depending on your final PC case, it should fit just fine and it will definitely provide the needed processor cooling you want for the beastly FX-9590
Next choice on the list is the Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO. This machine has received some solid ratings on newegg.com and for an air cooling machine is legendary for its ability to deliver temperature control. It’s also well priced in comparison to many liquid powered coolers. Finally, if you want a dead silent cooling unit that also performs admirably, consider the Noctua NF-F12 CPU cooler. It’s also air cooled and has a 120mm size for easy fitting in most cases.
Motherboard: Sabertooth 990 FX
Like we’d already covered, the motherboard you choose for your 4K gaming PC has to mesh properly with your CPU. Since we’re recommending the AMD FX-9590 4.7GHz 8-Core Processor, then the ideal go-to motherboard is going to be the rugged as hell Sabertooth 990 FX. This baby is built from military grade parts and can handle wear and tear It also packs a number of cool features such as the ability to flash the BIOS with nothing but a memory stick and power supply. It also has a MemOK button that lets you resolve memory problems without having to completely reboot.
The GPU (Graphics Card): AMD Radeon R9 290X or Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti
Now we come to one of the most crucial components of a powerful 4K gaming rig. Yoyr GPU is going to be the deal maker or deal breaker when it comes to rendering those games at the right kinds of smooth frame rates.
Here we again have two options you can choose from. Both are great, both are less costly than other models such as the Nvidia Titan Z series that run better but also come at a much higher price tag and both will deliver the ultra HD resolution effectively.
Your first bet is the Radeon R9 290X. This GPU was at one point the top of the line when it came to game cards and through it runs quite hot, it doesn’t do so in a way that will murder the unit. Besides, your cooling system should handle whatever heat does built up and keep things going smoothly. Furthermore, according to AMD, it’s designed to run games at Ultra HD resolution, at least at medium or normal settings. Best of all, the Radeon R9 290X, at about $350 on Amazon.com, is considerably cheaper than the GTX 780 Ti below
Next up is the Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti. This is a classic, standard GPU from the company that’s making some of the most innovative and powerful 4K inclined game cards on the market today. And though there are certainly now much more powerful GTX GPUs going for sale, the 780 Ti is still a very solid and very affordable piece of hardware, though it does cost more than twice as much as the R9 290X at between $600 and $1000.
The 780 Ti is definitely a better unit than the Radeon 290x despite the fact that it only comes with 3 GB of built-in RAM vs. the R9 290X’s 4 GB. However, running any 4K ready game, like Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes or Crysis 3 for example, on this unit at full detail will likely give it a serious jolt and bring you to a sad 1 to 2 frames per second, so while your UHD gaming will run smoothly, you’ll have to keep things at the middle end of the detail settings.
Best of all the Nvidia GTX 780 Ti comes with a guaranteed base clock speed that it almost always exceeds.
For both of these GPU choices, one unit will work but it won’t be enough if you want truly smooth 4K gaming, so your best bet for more serious gameplay is a dual setup for either model.
PC Memory: 8 GB G.Skill Sniper Series 1866MHz card or AMD Radeon Gamer Series 16GB DDR3 2133 RAM
Your PC memory is going to be pretty straightforward. You can go for an 8 GB G.Skill Sniper Series 1866MHz card that is a definite winner in terms of speed and reliability. It’s also very affordable and the 1866MHz offer some great speed.
However, if you want a bit more kick, you can also try out the AMD Radeon Gamer Series 16GB DDR3 2133 RAM unit. It offers a big boost in power over the G.Skill and its designed to handle some very high overclocking, though it might cost you a fair bit more than our 8 GB choice.
Power Supply: Corsair AX860
The Corsair AX860 is a very powerful and very nicely modular power supply unit, which is great for easy setup and for managing cables without getting everything tangled up. It also makes this last trick easier by coming with a set of stealthy black wires that easily install.
Overall, the AX860 is a fine power unit that can handle several video cards and will manage light power loads without its fan even activating. There are better, beefier models on the market but this one will do great for the time being.
SSD Drive: Samsung Evo 128 GB SSD
This is an optional addition to your entire 4K Ultra HD gaming rig but tis also highly recommended if you want some extremely fast PC load times and memory retrieval. For a cheaper but very reliable unit, go for a Samsung Evo 128 GB SSD. It will provide your basic load and retrieval memory for both games and your Windows OS system files.
However, if you want something much more complete (and much costlier) you can also go for a Samsung 840 Evo 500GB SSD. It’s going to cost you but it will also make buying a massive 1 TB HDD drive unnecessary.
HDD Drive: Anything
For your HDD drive, pretty much anything with 750 GB to 1 TB of memory will do. Some great brands are Western Digital, Seagate, Samsung and Kingston. Or if you opted for a havey duty 500+GB SSD drive, you don’t even need to bother with HDD memory.
Your 4K Monitor: Several Options
Finally, we come down to the single most important part of this entire gaming rig, the 4k monitor itself. You can pretty much go for a wide selection of currently sold models on this front but a couple of basic conditions are recommended.
First of all, don’t fall for the hype of ridiculously expensive (by 4K standards) models. Monitor prices are dropping as quality improves and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to get your hands on a solid 4K display for well under $1000. Screens like the Dell UltraSharp 27 inch 5K monitor are awesome but their $1200+ price tag is not worth the hassle.
Second, your monitor absolutely needs to be capable of rendering at a rate of 60Hz, which means that it should be able to display Ultra HD at 60 frames per second. If it’s only designed to handle 30 fps, all the effort you put into your PC rig itself will be wasted. Also, in order for the 60 Hz/60 fps aspect to work, the monitor you choose will absolutely have to have a DisplayPort 1.2 connection. HDMI 2.0 would work as well but virtually no GPUs can connect to a monitor via HDMI so far.
Some excellent monitor brands that all have DisplayPort 1.2 and cost below $1000 are: the Lenovo ThinkVision Pro 2840m, the Dell UltraSharp UP2414Q 24 inch monitor or the Acer 27 inch S277HK. This last one isn’t going on sale until mid-December but it is possibly the best of the bunch. It not only comes with HDMI 2.0 but also includes DisplayPort 1.2 and Mini DisplayPort 1.2 while costing only $864 USD
Some Final Tips
Now that you’ve got all your parts covered, we can roll this up with some final construction tips that might be useful and/or keep you from frying yourself or your new rig.
First: try to wear soft, thin gloves while building your PC components together. They’ll protect your skin and protect your shiny new components from the corrosive oils on human skin.
Second: assemble over surfaces with minimal friction, ideally, over a wooden or plastic desktop. Why risk frying a part due to silly static?
Third: This should be obvious, but try to avoid assembly while anything is plugged in or running power. You need to test parts but don’t go putting things together or taking them apart with live current running.
Story by 4k.com