The best 4K PC gaming build for under $1,000 thumbnail

The best 4K PC gaming build for under $1,000

In recent times, Digital Trends has successfully guided you in building a 4K gaming PC for less than $1,000, but in 2021 that’s a tall order. Many components are in short supply, graphics cards in particular. You can take a look at the recent launch of the AMD RX 6700 XT, which has a nominal price of $479 and is best suited to 1440p gaming rather than 4K — it’s already out of stock or selling in excess of $800.

Still, if you get lucky at a retailer as stock comes in, or if you can find a great secondhand deal, it’s not impossible. Here’s how to build the best 4K gaming PC you can in 2021.

Further reading:

The build and what it can do

We’ll go into more detail about the different components we’ve chosen below, but here’s a quick summary of the parts we’ve picked.

When you’ve got your new components in hand, be sure to read our guide on how to get started building your own PC. You’ll also need a 4K monitor if you don’t already have one.

CPUAMD Ryzen 5 3600X$240
MotherboardASRock B450M Pro4$83
GraphicsBuy what you can get$???
Memory16GB Corsair Vengeance LPX 3200MHz$87
StorageWD Blue SN550 1TB M.2 NVMe SSD$105
CaseCooler Master Masterbox Q300L$48
Power SupplyEVGA 450 BR Bronze$46
Total$1020

Looking at the above list of hardware might leave you wondering why there are so many budget components listed. After all, this is a 4K gaming rig. Surely we should have a superpowered CPU and boatloads of storage space too? Actually, when it comes to 4K gaming, the most important component is the graphics card, and everything else, even the CPU, isn’t going to hold it back unless you’re aiming for the highest possible frame rates. For a build on a budget, we’re not.

This system is not going to play all the latest AAA games at 4K and Ultra detail settings at 100 fps. That’s not what we’re targeting. We’re looking at more midrange settings at the 30 to 60 fps mark, all at crisp 4K resolution.

As much as 4K gaming is cheaper today than it has been in the past, there is only so much we can get for $1,000. If you don’t need to be quite as strict as us, though, we’ll provide additional options in each category so you can spend a bit more cash for an improved experience.

AMD Ryzen 3600X

CPU

Arguably the best bang-for-the-buck gaming processor in the world right now, the AMD Ryzen 3600X gives you six cores, 12 threads, and a single-core boost clock of up to 4.4GHz. It also comes with its own cooler, helping us keep costs down. We would dearly love to include the slightly more expensive AMD Ryzen 5 3600XT; however, our budget is stretched to the limits, so the small amount of extra clock speed will have to remain out of our grasp.

In the future, we will doubtless recommend AMD Ryzen 5000 with Zen 3 architecture, but right now the Ryzen 5 5600X sells for $300 so until we see cheaper models on sale, we will stick with the AMD Zen 2 family of CPUs.

ASRock B450M Pro4

Motherboard

The ASRock B450M Pro4 is a micro-ATX motherboard built on the B450 chipset platform that supports the essential features we require, and just as importantly, it comes in at a very low price. The ASRock supports the single PCIe 3.0 x16 graphics slot that lies at the heart of our gaming PC and also has an M.2 SSD slot and support for DDR4 memory speed running up to 3,200MHz. A quick glance at the rear I/O panel shows this motherboard is typically used with an APU that has integrated graphics; however, the VRMs that power the board dedicate six phases to the CPU core where many budget motherboards only provide four power phases. Realistically, you will run your AMD Ryzen 5 3600X on Auto settings, and we are confident the ASRock B450M Pro4 will be up to the job.

The only downside to this board is that it doesn’t support third-generation Ryzen processors out of the box, so you’ll need to perform a BIOS update to get it to work. If you don’t have a first- or second-generation Ryzen processor to help you do so, AMD can send you a “Boot Kit” for free. Find out more about that process here.

Whatever you can get

Graphics card

Saphire 5700 XT Pulse

By far the most important component in any 4K gaming rig, the graphics card does the bulk of the heavy lifting and is the most expensive part for that reason. As we mentioned at the top of the page, we have a double problem as graphics cards are both expensive and very difficult to find. So while we would like to suggest an AMD RX 6800 or Nvidia RTX 3070, you will spend $800 or more, which blows the concept of a $1,000 build to pieces.

Your best bet for finding a GPU right now is to hope you get very lucky and refresh a retailer just as stock comes in. Look out for RTX 3060 Ti or RTX 3070 cards — those appear to be in the greatest numbers at somewhat reasonable prices for the few seconds they remain in stock. There are also some retailer lotteries and queue systems you can sign up for, which may make the process a little easier.

We have to hope that supplies of graphics cards will recover, but that doesn’t seem likely any time soon. If our pessimism is proven correct, we may be forced to give up on the idea of 4K gaming at $1,000 and instead stretch the budget to $1,250 or even $1,500.

16GB Corsair Vengeance LPX 3200MHz

Memory

As much as most gaming PCs might get away with 8GB of RAM, our 4K gaming rig could struggle with less than 16GB. But we can’t opt for size over speed either, because Ryzen CPUs really benefit from faster memory. Fortunately, memory prices have come down dramatically in recent months, so we opted for this 3,200MHz kit from Corsair. In an ideal world, you would overclock your memory to the 3,733MHz sweet spot Ryzen 3000 CPUs enjoy; however, the ASRock motherboard we have chosen is unlikely to let you push beyond 3,200MHz. That’s not the end of the world, as a modicum of extra speed is merely desirable while stability is of critical importance.

WD Blue SN550 1TB M.2 NVMe SSD

Storage

High-speed storage is cheaper today than it’s ever been, so we’ve opted for a 1TB WD Blue SSD, and we have pushed beyond the old school 2.5-inch SATA drive to a proper, grown-up M.2 NVMe drive. This will give your gaming load times a useful boost, and 1TB is sufficient space to install Windows and a number of AAA games.

If you prefer, you could combine a smaller SSD with a large hard drive and use AMD’s StoreMI technology. That lets you turn any two drives (typically an SSD and HDD) into a single storage solution — as least far as Windows is concerned. That way, you get the best of both worlds: A fast, larger storage drive. It won’t be as fast as this drive though, so if you can make do with 1TB (for now at least), then this is the best drive you can get for your money.

Cooler Master MasterBox Q300L

Case

For $45, you aren’t going to find a better case than the Cooler Master MasterBox Q300L. This case is under $50 and still features a clear side panel and dust filters while looking sleek. It’s also lightweight and has adequate cooling — though you may want to add an additional fan yourself somewhere down the line.

We can’t believe they can sell it for that price, but it’s worth it. This mATX case is perfect for our budget 4K gaming rig.

PSU

It’s OK, we know what you’re thinking: You’re wondering if a 450W power supply can possibly be up to the job. Indeed, 450W doesn’t sound like much, but this PC will likely pull 250W at the wall socket under gaming conditions, so you have a fair amount of margin in hand. If budget isn’t an issue, you’d want to get the Seasonic Focus 650 Gold, which is closer to $100. The EVGA manages to offer everything you need at a lower price point.

In our testing, we found that the EVGA does everything we asked of it. One downside is that there’s not much space for it to upgrade in the future, but it will still last you for a few years.

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