Build a 4K-ready PC

Summary:Want a PC that's capable of 4K gaming and be a total powerhouse no matter what task you throw at it? Read on ... but I warn you, the price tag will bring tears to your eyes!

Want a PC that's capable of 4K gaming and be a total powerhouse no matter what task you throw at it? Read on.

Ever since a raft of affordable 4K displays – that is, panels that have a native resolution of 3840 by 2160 pixels – were announced at CES earlier this year, there's been a spike in interest in PCs that are ready to take screen resolution to the next level. But 4K gaming is going to stress a PC like almost nothing else, and to be able to pump out this torrent of pixels, the PC is going to have to be built from top quality parts.

ASRock 990FX Extreme9
(Source: ASRock)

Let's take a look at what we need.

Processor

Right off the bat we're thrust into making a tough choice – do we go with Intel or AMD?

Here I'm going to go with the underdog and pick AMD silicon for the job. The processor I'm going for here is the AMD FX-9590 Black Edition. This is an 4.7GHz, 8-core CPU that's fully unlocked so you can overclock it to squeeze out even more power.

This is an amazing processor that you can pick up for $299.

Motherboard

We need an 990FX compatible motherboard to go with the processor, and while there are a few you can choose from, here I've gone for the ASRock 990FX Extreme9. Why? Well, there's a lot to like about this board.

  • 64GB RAM support
  • 8 x SATA 6Gb/s ports
  • 4 x USB 2.0, 4 x USB 3.0
  • Premium quality components
  • Support for NVIDIA 3-Way SLI and AMD 3-Way CrossFireX

It also looks great!

This board comes at a compelling price – only $170.

Graphics card

Here's where I start a war – Nvidia or AMD?

I've thought about this long and hard, weighted up a number of pros and cons and gone with an AMD GPU in the form of ASUS R9290X-DC2OC-4GD5 Radeon R9 290X. Why AMD? While there's benchmark evidence to suggest that Nvidia has faster GPUs, overall I prefer the stability and cooling offered by AMD's newer R9 cards.

We're also keeping the CPU and GPU matched.

A single card will set you back $750, but remember that you have the option of putting three of these inside this machine, which gives you an insane level of performance. But this does come with a price tag that will bring tears to your eyes.

Display

A 4K system needs a 4K display. I'm going to give you two options – jam today, and jam tomorrow.

  • If you want a 4K display today then go for the Dell UltraSharp 24-inch Ultra HD display. An absoutely stunning display that will set you back $1,299.
  • However, if you are willing to wait until April, then you can pick up the Lenovo ThinkVision Pro 2840m that only costs $799.

RAM

Two things you want from the RAM:

  • You need at least 8GB of the stuff
  • You want it to be DDR3 1866

I don't like my RAM to come with too much fanfare (or crazy coolers and the like) so I'd go for something conservative such as Kingston HyperX, which will set you, back around $100.

Storage

Only you know how much storage you need (and I bet you don't know how much you really need, which is why I recommend taking what you think you need and doubling it), but I'd recommend going with the following layout:

  • SSD boot drive – Something like the Samsung 840 EVO for $90
  • HDD storage drive – Like the Western Digital WD Black 2TB for $155

Power supply

We need something beefy here, especially if you think you might go as far as adding three Radeon R9 graphics cards.

I've chosen to go for the Zalman 1250 Platinum 1250W, which is not only a great PSU, but it is 80 PLUS Platinum certified, so you're getting an ultra-high power efficiency part, which reduces your power bills and doesn't harm the planet as much as an inefficient PSU.

This sort of output doesn't come cheap, and this unit will set you back $280.

Ancilliary

A few other bits:

  • Chassis – Budget $100
  • Windows 8.1 – That'll be another $100

Total cost

The total cost of this system comes in at $3,340, plus change. This is for a rig with a single Radeon R9 290X card and the Dell 4K display. Waiting until April and the price of this rig falls to $2,840 based on the change of display alone. The Lenovo display is nowhere near as good as the Dell display, but it does give you an extra $500 in your pocket. 

Topics: Hardware, Processors, Storage

About

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes is an internationally published technology author who has devoted over a decade to helping users get the most from technology -- whether that be by learning to program, building a PC from a pile of parts, or helping them get the most from their new MP3 player or digital camera.Adrian has authored/co-authored technic... Full Bio

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