Taking the plunge: be the first to build a high-end gaming PC

I’m in a strange position when it comes to the idea of ​​building a computer for gaming. After writing about computer hardware for years, I would like it to think I have a good handle on what the best components are for the job. However, I have never built a PC, despite wanting to for years. After years of using an older HP Envy machine with some pretty outdated components, I decided it was time for a change and that I wanted an all-in-one gaming PC that would last as long as this previous option.

A combination of excitement and inexperience meant that I ended up going a tad over-the-top – and it was an eye-opening experience, as it instilled a lot more fear in me about getting things right. Building a high spec rig as your first ever isn’t the easiest, given the overarching thought of cost in your mind when building, and how every mistake can be costly.

Still, I feel like I learned a lot along the way as theory collided with reality, and I hope you find my chronicle useful – or at least interesting! Scroll on to read the piece front to back, or use the links below to skip ahead to the build, benchmarks, and final lessons.

PCPartPicker screenshot

PCPartPicker is great for narrowing down component choices and controlling your build.

The first thing I quickly learned after starting to build a PC for the first time was that the website PCPartPicker is your best friend when it comes to choosing your components. The databases contain a large number of components to choose from, as well as up-to-date prices and a system that helpfully filters out incompatible parts as you make your choices – there’s no point in considering Intel motherboards if you’ve opted for an AMD system, because or liquid coolers of 360 mm if your housing just fits a 240 mm.

The tool also offers a seriously powerful filtering system, which is useful for sorting components by respective markers, such as for RAM timing or transfer speeds, or the speed of an SSD. so you can really drill down to finding the exact components you’re looking for. For smaller form factor builds, you can even sort GPUs by their overall length to make sure everything fits.

It’s not perfect though, as there are some physical limitations that even PCPartPicker can’t pass on to you, such as CPU cooler and RAM cleanup, an issue I stubbornly faced in my choice of components, but more on that in a moment. Nevertheless, it’s a useful tool for choosing components, as well as budgeting to see how much you’ve spent and how much you have left if you’ve set yourself a certain price ceiling.

It's one big, happy (and expensive) family.

It’s one big, happy (and expensive) family.
Category Element Justification
GPU Asus ROG Strix Gaming OC GeForce RTX 4080 16GB The 4080 is a powerful card capable of 4K at high framerates, and this Strix variant has a touch of stylish RGB and is a ridiculously heavy beast.
CPU AMD Ryzen 7 7800X3D It is simply the best gaming CPU money can buy.
RAM 32GB Corsair Vengeance DDR5-6000 CL36 6000MT/s RAM offers a nice performance boost on AM5, and this Corsair kit is reasonably priced.
Storage Lexar NM790 4TB NVMe SSD A fantastic gaming SSD with a lot of speed and a large capacity.
Case NZXT H9 Flow (black) I wanted to try a dual-chamber case, and the H9 Flow is a great-looking option with functional touches.
Motherboard NZXT N7 B650E (black) A nicely specified AM5 motherboard that matches the sleek aesthetic of the case.
Cooler Noctua NH-D15 (modified) I wanted to get Noctua somewhere in this build, and the NH-D15 comes highly recommended, even if it did require a little tweaking to get it to fit.
Fans NZXT F120 RGB core (black) They match the other components and I wanted a little RGB for my troubles.
PSU NZXT C1200 Gold 1200W 80+ Gold 1200W provides more than enough power for the current components inside, and provides headroom for later.

All told, I wanted this build to come in around £2200-£2500, and that’s about where I set myself when choosing components based on recommended reviews, personal choices and other guidelines. I had an idea of ​​the components I wanted and filled in the gaps in recommendations from elsewhere, especially the range of Digital Foundry reviews I could lean on.

The big standout about this specific configuration is of course the graphics card. It’s there for all to see: it’s a £1500 4080, while an RRP 4090 is only ten percent further in cost. Asus very kindly sent this particular 4080 setup for a loan for a few weeks while I built and tested this PC, and while it’s a nice card with plenty of power, I couldn’t justify spending so much on a 4080 to give. My current GPU going forward is an Nvidia RTX 4080 Super Founder’s Edition, as it’s an MSRP card, which brings the cost of the build down to target price – I just haven’t benchmarked it yet.

So that’s my component picks and the joy of PCPartPicker for you – now to explain my tales of woe and manual labor in putting this thing together.

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