Continuing the series I started last week, I thought I would put together a build guide for a High-End 4K AMD Gaming PC. I am classifying a high-end gaming machine as costing above $1500.00 for the main components. You can easily spend significantly more than that if you really want to.
Any desktop machine is going to need these basic components from seven different categories, broken down below.
- CPU and cooler
- Power supply
High-End 4K AMD Gaming PC Build
This is intended to be a high-end mainstream desktop machine that can easily play nearly any modern game at 4K (3840×2160) resolution using very high graphics quality settings in the game at high frame rates. It also has enough CPU/memory capacity and storage performance to handle much more demanding desktop usage scenarios with very good performance. It should be significantly faster than nearly any high-end mainstream desktop machine from years past. Here are the main components:
AMD Ryzen 9 3900X 3.8 GHz 12C/24T Processor
This is currently the high-end processor in the mainstream 7nm AMD Ryzen 3000 series line. It has 12C/24T, and has a TDP of 105 watts. Even though the base clock speed is 3.8 GHz, most of those cores will spend most of their time running at a significantly higher clock speed. This is especially true if you do all of the right things to help your CPU boost speeds, such as having the latest BIOS, AMD chipset drivers, and Windows 10 Version 1903.
You also want a case with good thermal performance and possibly an aftermarket CPU cooler. The temperature of your CPU cores is one of the variables that helps determine your max boost clock speed. This processor does come with a Wraith PRISM cooler, which does a good enough job that you probably don’t really need an aftermarket cooler. If you do want an aftermarket cooler, I really like Noctua air coolers. They are reliable and easier to install than most liquid coolers. They also do a better job of cooling the CPU than many AIO water coolers.
If you can wait until November, AMD will release the 16C/32T AMD Ryzen 9 3950X, with a slightly lower base clock speed of 3.5GHz. This will give you more total CPU capacity for non-gaming tasks, but won’t help your gaming performance in most games. One notable exception would be Civilization 6, where turn times are reduced with higher core counts. One downside of this processor is that it so popular that it is hard to find at most retailers.
This is just an example of a higher-end Noctua cooler. Depending on what case you choose, and how tall your RAM is, you might have to choose something different, to make sure that everything fits in the case and over your DIMMs.
This is a pretty high-end X570 motherboard that has some additional features that are suitable for a high-end gaming rig and also for workstation usage. These include an onboard AQUANTIA 10G LAN port, Intel Wi-Fi 6 802.11ax, three PCIe 4.0 x16 slots, two M.2 PCIe 4.0 x4 ports, and two Thunderbolt 3 Type–C ports. PCIe 4.0 support is nice to have as a future-looking feature, but it is not that useful right now.
Video cards don’t yet actually need the extra bandwidth from PCIe 4.0, and the first generation M.2 PCIe 4.0 NVMe storage cards are limited by the Phison controller they use to “only” about 5000MB/sec for sequential reads. Sequential read performance is not super important for a gaming PC, but it can be very useful for content creation work.
This is faster memory with tighter timings that helps AMD Ryzen 3000 processors perform better. There are plenty of detailed articles and videos that show that DDR4-3600 memory with tight timings (low CL numbers) are another sweet spot where you get a decent performance boost without spending significantly more money.
To be honest, most games I am aware of don’t need more than 16GB of memory. If you are going to do other work besides gaming, you might want to have more memory depending on your needs and budget. Officially, these processors only support 64GB, but I have seen people running 128GB with four 32GB DIMMs. Luckily, DDR4 RAM is very affordable now compared to a couple of years ago.
Despite the SSD designation, this is not the same as conventional NAND-based flash storage. It uses 3D XPoint technology for non-volatile storage, which has many advantages over NAND-based flash storage. These include higher endurance, much lower latency, higher throughput at low queue depths, and steady performance under a heavy load. You will see noticeably faster performance for many common tasks, like installing software, loading games, booting, and shutdown. These drives are more expensive per GB than NAND-based flash, but they are much faster for many workload types.
This is the largest capacity drive from the 970 EVO Plus line. This would give you enough space quite a few different games and enough space for some video editing work.
I am a big fan of Samsung for consumer storage. Their products consistently do well in benchmarks, and they are not much more expensive than other brands. The Samsung 970 EVO Plus is the latest generation of their budget-friendly EVO line that actually beats the 970 PRO models in some benchmarks, for a lot less money. As always, make sure to get a model that is at least 500GB in size or larger.
Larger capacity NAND flash drives have more NAND channels, so they usually perform much better than smaller capacity drives from the same family. If you are used to SATA flash drives, you will be pleasantly surprised by how much better M.2 PCIe NVMe drives can perform. One weak point of M.2 drives is thermal throttling.
If you do a series of large sequential reads, back-to-back with no breaks, M.2 drives will get hot enough to severely throttle their performance. This is more of a problem in a laptop compared to a desktop, but it can still happen in a desktop machine. Some motherboards come with heatsinks for the M.2 slots, and you can buy aftermarket M.2 heatsinks that usually help.
This component is the single most expensive part in this build, which is usually the case for a gaming PC. Once you go to 2K or 4K gaming, your video card becomes your bottleneck for getting high FPS in most games. Once you get below 40-50 FPS, most people tend to notice that the game seems slow. On the other hand, unless you have a good gaming monitor that supports 144 FPS or more (and has G-SYNC or FreeSync), you won’t get the full benefit of extremely high frame rates in your games.
The NVidia RTX 2080 Ti line is the current “top of the line” for gaming performance, with pricing to match. If you want high frame rates at 4K resolution on the latest games, you will want this level of performance. If you are playing at lower resolution with older games that are not as demanding, you can save quite a bit of money with a lower-end video card.
I left this case as is from the mid-range gaming build. You can obviously go with a larger, fancier case with more tempered glass and RGB lighting if that is your thing. I would caution you that the thermal performance of a case will become more important with a higher core count CPU and a higher-end video card.
Since this case has a mesh front panel (rather than tempered glass) and lots of ventilation in the rest of the case, it has very good thermal performance. This is very important if you want to avoid thermal throttling from your components. The downside with mesh and lots of ventilation and fans can be increased noise.
You can minimize this by picking components that have better passive cooling features such as heat pipes and heat sinks. You can also add additional case fans and/or replace the stock case fans with better case fans if you so desire. This case has gotten many great reviews from sites that I respect like GamersNexus.
Seasonic PRIME Ultra Titanium 750W 80+ Titanium ATX Power Supply
In my opinion, Seasonic is the Tesla of power supply makers. Their high-end models get great reviews, and Seasonic is the actual OEM for some power supply lines from other brands, such as Corsair. Unless you are running multiple video cards, you probably don’t need an 850W or 1000W model.
This is a quiet, high capacity 80+ Titanium certified power supply that has gotten great reviews. It is fully modular, so you can minimize your cable clutter. This model has two EPS connectors (which are required with some X570 motherboards). I have used this power supply in a couple of my machines, and I have been very happy with the results.
This machine has a total price (as of this writing) of about $5100.00. That does not include sales tax or an operating system. If you live near a Micro Center, and buy all of the parts at one time, you can usually save around $100 with their bundle discounts (which is not as significant at this budget level)!
I’m not saying that you need to spend $5100.00 on a gaming computer, but you certainly can easily spend that much, or even more if you so desire. I think most people would be very satisfied with the level of performance they would get from my Mid-Range 1440P AMD Gaming Build. This guide is just a small window into some upgraded components that you might add to a lower budget build, depending on your workload and budget.
Unless you are gaming at 1080P, your main performance bottleneck is going to be your video card (as long as you have a “decent” CPU). If you are doing other work besides gaming, then having more CPU cores, more memory, more PCIe lance and overall storage performance can be very useful.
I think you will want Windows 10 Home or Professional. If you do use Windows 10, make sure to get version 1903 so that you get the AMD scheduler and CPPC improvements. You also want to make sure you get the latest BIOS version and the latest AMD chipset and All-In-One Driver versions.
Please let me know if you are interested in more posts like this. Thanks for reading!
The PCPartPicker parts list for this machine is here.