$3,500 Build

If you're looking for the ultimate gaming PC, bar none, then this build's for you! Sure, you could spend more, but you simply won't see better performance in any game than what this system can provide. It's a showcase of the very best tech available in PC gaming today. And while this system isn't exactly a bargain, it's custom-tailored to deliver flat-out extreme gaming performance. We have plenty of other builds that optimize for size, productivity, or home theater use, but for gaming, this is absolutely the best PC we profile. If you have the budget for it and want to game, this is what you buy!

For March 2019, this system continues to feature Intel's Core i9-9900K, an absolute monster of a processor, offering eight cores, 16 threads, and a Turbo speed of 5GHz! It's backing up Nvidia's fastest GPU ever, the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti 11GB, which will unleash a whole new generation of video games utilizing ray tracing effects. Also on board to ensure a smooth gaming experience is 32GB of DDR4-3200 RAM (in a 2x16GB configuration to leave room for that inevitable upgrade to 64GB!), and dual 1TB solid-state drives, one being the ultra-fast Samsung 970 Pro, ideal for the OS and apps, the other being the Crucial MX500, which is perfect for games! Complete your system with the stunning Thermaltake View 71 case, add in a powerful 280mm Thermaltake liquid cooler, power it up with a 1000W Platinum-rated power supply, and you'll be ready to rock! By the way, if you decide building a high-end PC isn't for you, don't worry, we have you covered: featured in the guide below is our top pick for an ultra-high-end pre-built PC, the Corsair ONE i160, which also happens to be among the smallest PCs on the market!

Note that we list a number of "Optional Components" at the end of this guide that highlights the accessories we think best match a system of this caliber, including our favorite keyboard, mouse, and monitor picks. To browse even more options, check out our Monitor Buyer's Guide, Peripherals Buyer's Guide and Speaker/Headset Buyer's Guide, which provide our picks for the best accesories at every pricepoint. For extra help, follow our step-by-step High-End PC Assembly Video, which will walk you through the process of building a system just like this one. To see previous Ultimate Gaming PC builds, flip to the $3,500 Archive.

Because we use real-time pricing engines, you'll always see up-to-date U.S. prices in our guides. We also provide direct links to Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, and Amazon Germany for each product, making regional substitutions when necessary. To help support the continued development of this guide, please use the links we provide if you purchase products we recommend.

The $3,500 Ultimate Gaming PC - March 2019

The Pre-Built Option

    The Ultimate Gaming PC:

    CORSAIR ONE i160 Compact Gaming PC

    As much as we hate to admit it, there are some things you just can't do yourself, and Exhibit A is Corsair's new One i160. It's simply mind-blowing what Corsair has accomplished with this system, which comes in at just 12 liters and yet packs in nearly everything we recommend in our DIY build. That includes a Core i9-9900K and a GeForce RTX 2080 Ti 11GB GPU (both liquid-cooled, by the way), plus 32GB of RAM. If you want the fastest, quietest, and smallest PC possible at the $3,500 pricepoint, you really have to check this thing out!

    The Guru's Tip:

    The only areas where Corsair cuts back in this build are in terms of SSD space (just 480GB, versus the 2TB in the DIY build below), plus the fact that it uses DDR4-2666 RAM versus the DDR4-3200 RAM we recommend below. We actually asked Corsair about the low RAM speed at CES during the i160's launch event, and they told us that spec'ing an OEM system with anything over DDR4-2666 amounts to factory overclocking from Intel's point of view, and Corsair would need to market these systems differently (and at higher prices) if it used an overclocked component.

The Build-Your-Own Option

    CPU:

    Intel Core i9-9900K

    You want the best? Then this is the CPU you've been waiting for. Built on the same architecture as the previous-gen Core i7-8700K, the Core i9-9900K take it up a couple notches with a massive 8 cores and 16 threads, along with a top Turbo boost speed on two cores of 5GHz. In fact, it will easily overclock to 5GHz on all cores using the robust motherboard and massive cooler we recommend in this guide.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Due to massive production shortfalls, Intel processors have been sold out for weeks at Amazon. If you see it in stock, don't hesitate to grab it!

    Motherboard:

    Gigabyte Z390 AORUS Ultra

    This Z390 board is an awesome ultra-high-end pick. You get triple (!) M.2 slots, ten USB ports including USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C, the Fusion RGB controller, built-in WiFi, the premium ALC1220 audio codec, and most importantly, an absolutely-massive 12-phase power delivery system, which is critical for overclocking the power-hungry 9900K CPU.

    The Guru's Tip:

    You cannot use Z370 boards with the Core i9-9900K unless they have a BIOS update... which you need an older processor to install. And even if you do have an updated Z370 board, it's almost sure to have insufficient power delivery for the 9900K.

    Video Card:

    ZOTAC Gaming GeForce RTX 2080 Ti AMP Maxx

    For the ultimate gaming experience, there's only one GPU to consider: the RTX 2080 Ti. With Nvidia's Ray Tracing and DLSS tech on board, along with 11GB of VRAM, it's as future-proof as they come, easily powering any game today at 4K/max!

    The Guru's Tip:

    This is one of the very best values among the 2080 Ti models on the market today, featuring a big 120MHz factory overclock and a high-powered but quiet cooler to allow full boost potential.

    Memory:

    Corsair 2x16GB Vengeance RGB Pro DDR4-3200

    For the Ultimate Gaming machine, we go big time, with an ultra-high-end 32GB DDR4-3200 kit that provides a combination of capacity and speed that will never bog your Core i9 system down. And with this 2x16GB kit, you'll still have two slots available to upgrade to 64GB down the line!

    The Guru's Tip:

    This kit offers RGB lighting and a high-speed rating at a price that's lower than most standard DDR4 kits! You can even sync it with the motherboard's RGB software.

    Solid-State Drive:

    Samsung 970 Pro 1TB PCIe M.2

    Thanks to a massive SSD price war over the past few months, we've been able to fit a truly awesome storage solution into this build. Offering an amazing combination of performance and capacity, the mighty 970 Pro 1TB will provide space for all your games and applications.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that the 970 Pro is the only drive on the market today that still uses high-endurance MLC NAND flash.

    Solid-State Drive:

    Crucial MX500 1TB M.2

    Thanks to continued price drops on nearly every component in this build, we can add an additional 1TB of solid-state storage while still hitting our target budget. So for all your games that don't fit on the 970 Pro (and if you have a big game collection, that's going to be a lot of them!), we recommend you pick up the MX500, which is a great SATA-based model that will load games nearly as fast.

    The Guru's Tip:

    You can use either of the motherboard's long M.2 slots for this drive. The short slot does not support SATA drives.

    Case:

    Thermaltake View 71 RGB

    This awesome new case has everything you want in a "prestige" PC. You get four tempered glass panels, triple 140mm RGB fans, and space for all your high-end gear! 

    The Guru's Tip:

    If you want to use the vertical GPU mount that this case provides, pick up the Thermaltake premium PCIe riser cable. Don't go for the cheaper $30 from Thermaltake or anyone else, as they bottleneck performance and break easily.

    Power Supply:

    Corsair HX1000 80+ Platinum

    An overclocked Core i9-9900K paired with an overclocked RTX 2080 Ti will draw in excess of 600W at peak load when fully overclocked. That means you need more than quantity, you want quality too. We recommend this awesome Platinum-rated fully-modular unit, which offers exceptional efficiency and low noise levels in addition to its extreme 1000W capacity.

    The Guru's Tip:

    The price on this 1000W model has dropped significantly in recent months, making it an exceptional deal.

    CPU Cooler:

    Thermaltake Floe Dual Riing RGB 280

    To get the maximum possible overclock out of the hot-running Core i9-9900K, you need extreme liquid cooling (seriously, don't even bother air cooling this CPU!). With dual 140mm fans and a 280mm radiator, this model is more than a match, providing exceptional cooling and ultra-low noise levels. It also has some of the best RGB effects of any cooler on the market!

    The Guru's Tip:

    This cooler comes with thermal paste pre-applied, but if you'd like to upgrade it or just want some spare paste on hand, we recommend Noctua NT-H2, which includes three alcohol cleaning wipes to safely remove pre-existing paste.

    Operating System:

    Microsoft Windows 10 Flash Drive

    Windows 10 has so many improvements versus both Windows 7 and Windows 8 that it alone will make your system feel more up-to-date. We particularly like the return of the Start Menu, the broader settings options, and the fact that it packs in DX12, which is already unleashing next-gen games with far greater complexity and performance.

    The Guru's Tip:

    This is the USB 3.0 version of Windows, which loads in under 5 minutes!

Optional Components

    The Ultimate Gaming Keyboard:

    Corsair K70 RGB MK.2 Rapidfire Low Profile

    For the very fastest gameplay, the latest K70 RGB Rapidfire has no equal. Harnessing Cherry's brand-new low-profile MX Speed switches with an ultra-short 1mm throw, you can't possibly miss a keystroke with the board. And unlike every other mechanical keyboard on the market, this one is nearly silent!

    The Guru's Tip:

    Learn more about this awesome keyboard in our full hands-on review!

    The Ultimate Wireless Gaming Mouse:

    Logitech G903 Lightspeed

    If you want the very best gaming mouse available, this is it. Offering responsiveness that matches or beats every wired mouse on the market, this wireless model allows you to game without the tether, which is just so much more better than being tied to your desk!

    The Guru's Tip:

    One of the very cool features of the G903 is Logitech's "PowerPlay," which when combined with its forthcoming wireless charging mat, allows the mouse to be continuously charged while in use, without ever need to plug it in!

    The 35-inch Widescreen Monitor:

    Acer Predator Z35P

    Yes, we know that "4K gaming" is what everyone's talking about, but for a truly exceptional gaming experience, enthusiasts in the know are picking up ultra-wides. Featuring a resolution of 3440 x 1440, this monitor provides an awesomely-wide view on your gaming environment. And the big benefit it offers over just about every 4K monitor currently on the market is a refresh rate of 120Hz, which translates to far smoother gaming than the 60Hz that most 4K monitors are limited to. And with its G-Sync technology, this monitor can actually vary its refresh rate when framerates drop below 100fps to makes sure there's no tearing or lag.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Most ultra-wides top out at 100Hz, but this one can overclock to 120Hz via a menu setting, which provides a significant boost in smoothness.