Tech News – Boutique PC builders' best work: the experts' top custom case builds


When it comes to the best gaming PCs, there are two approaches you can take. You can either pick up the best processor, best graphics card and others, and piece them together like high-tech Legos – or, you can buy a pre-built computer. While we generally prefer the former option, we can totally understand why you’d rather just buy the latter.

However, if you are going to fork over your hard-earned money for a pre-built machine, why not check out the case builds that the best boutique PC builders have to offer. While they might charge a premium (sometimes a very high premium) for their services, they offer fantastic build quality and custom PC cases that are simply awe-inspiring.

Beyond that, the best boutique PC builds are completely configurable. You can have a humble rig with modest performance, or you can pretend you’re Xzibit and pimp your PC up to obscene levels. 

However, because they’re all configurable, and this market can get really confusing to the casual consumer, it can be a bit confusing to find the right boutique build for your needs. 

Don’t worry though, in true TechRadar fashion, we did the heavy lifting for you, and found the best boutique PC builds on the market right now. From slick frag boxes to gigantic towers that look like an art installation, these boutique PC builds will give you the power you need to dominate the best PC games and they’ll look good while they do it.

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First published June 2018

In 2018, small form-factor gaming PCs are becoming more and more popular, and the Origin PC Chronos is a perfect example of why. Small, rigid and beautiful, this mini-ITX machine is configurable with up to an Intel Core i9 processor and a Nvidia Titan V (not that you’ll actually need that for running games). It even has a reasonable price considering the build quality and components.

As for the actual case build, you can completely customize it. And, instead of just giving you a selection of colors and patterns, you can contact Origin PC and they’ll design it however you choose. You can customize it with any artwork or finish your heart desires. Just keep in mind: this option isn’t cheap.

How much does it cost, though? Well, it starts out around $1,490 (about £1,116, AU$1,970). That’ll get you an Intel Core i3-8100, 16GB of RAM and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti – not exactly shaking the walls with raw performance. However, you can go all in to make Xzibit proud, by packing this thing with an Intel Core i9-7900X, 64GB of RAM and an Nvidia Titan V for $6,928 (about £5,190, AU$9,153). It might not look like it now, but that’s actually the best value on this list.

Falcon Northwest has made a name for itself over its nearly 30 years of existence for making amazing desktop PCs, and it rocks the micro PC game as well. With the Tiki, Falcon Northwest crammed as much power as physically possible into the smallest package it could. Just like the Chronos listed above, this tiny behemoth can be configured with the most powerful CPU you can imagine, but where it sets itself apart is the fact that you can configure it with Nvidia Quadro graphics. This transforms the Tiki from one of the best gaming PCs into a workstation that you can hide behind your monitor so that you can focus on the work you need to do. 

Not that you’d want to hide it, though. With Falcon Northwest’s Exotix paint jobs, the Tiki looks absolutely gorgeous. It’s probably the most expensive micro PC you can buy today, but once you take it out of the packaging and behold it with your own two eyes, It’s totally worth it.

This small, powerful and costly machine starts at around $2,402 (around £1,799, AU$3,175) and includes an AMD Ryzen 5 2600X, 16GB of RAM and an Nvidia GTX 1060. Then, if you really beef it up, you can configure it with an Intel Core i9-7980XE, 64GB of RAM and an Nvidia Quadro P6000 for the most beautiful workstation that you’ve ever seen. We just wouldn’t recommend that particular GPU for gaming.

Maybe you don’t want a PC case at all. Perhaps you’d like something that resembles an iMac on steroids. The Xotic PC G34 Phantom is a gaming all-in-one that will make you wonder why everyone isn’t using one. All-in-one Windows PCs have got a bit of a bad reputation over the last couple decades – usually being shoddily constructed computers that your parents would buy. The G34 Phantom, however, is able to pack the latest high-end components into the back of a monitor, so you can have a space-saving desktop without having to give up on Core i9 processors and workstation-class graphics.

As far as exterior customization goes, you can not only pick the color of exterior paint, but you can also add interior colors to really make the internals stand out, even though no one would likely see inside of this particular machine. What’s more, you can also add graphic and textured wraps to really bling out your rig.

Starting out at the low, low price of $2,199 (haha) – or about £1,647 or AU$2,900 – the G34 Phantom starts off with a modest build – featuring an AMD Ryzen 3 2200G, 8GB of RAM and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050. Kind of expensive for those specs, but you’re paying for the WQHD (3,440 x 1,440) screen as well.  When you max this thing out for $10,247 (about £7,675, AU$13,540), you get an Intel Core i9-7980XE, 64GB of RAM and an Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan V. Believe it or not, that’s actually a better deal than the entry model.

This thing looks like something out of a sci-fi movie. And, because it’s Razer-branded, everything is green. That might sway you one way or the other, but Razer has essentially mastered the ‘gamer aesthetic’ over the last few years – and it shows. Maingear has taken this partnership with Razer to an amazing place with the Maingear R2 Razer Edition. Configurable with up to the latest Skylake X chips and a Titan V, the R2 Razer Edition backs up its gamer swag with gaming performance that will knock your socks off.

There isn’t much you can do to customize the way this computer looks, but it’s safe to assume you signed up for this look. With its liquid cooling pipes and tempered glass side panels, the Maingear R2 Razer Edition will leave your jaw slack every time you look at it.

This particularly “gamer-y” build starts out at $1,079 (about £809, AU$1,425), and that’ll get you a Ryzen 3 1200, 8GB of RAM and a GTX 1050 Ti. When you consider the pro-level watercooling that’s packed into this rig, that’s not a bad price at all. However, when you max it out with a Intel Core i9-7980XE, 64GB of RAM and a Nvidia Titan V, you’re looking at a $11,659 (around £8,734, AU$15,122) investment. Who needs a car when you have a tricked-out, Razer-themed gaming PC?

Enough of those tiny PCs. What about the gigantic rigs with four of the best graphics cards and room for all the expansion you could ever want? Well, we saved the biggest for last with the Digital Storm Aventum. The best word we could think to describe the Aventum is ‘titanic’. Measuring 28 x 25.7 x 10 inches (H x L x W), this PC will take center stage in whatever room you place it. And, with the amount of performance you can configure into this PC, it honestly deserves to be the center of attention.

Plus, this case definitely looks the part. While it may not offer as much customization as some of the other PCs on this list, its attractive red paint job and optional laser engraving really make this beast pleasant to look at. You can, however, customise what it looks like inside (which you can peer into from a tempered glass side panel) – and with all the RGB lighting and clear tubing, its guts are gorgeous.

The Digital Storm Aventum starts out at the steep price of $3,669 (about £2750, AU$4,750), which will get you a Ryzen 7 2700X, 32GB of RAM, a 500GB NVMe SSD and a GTX 1060. Not exactly what we’d call a ‘low-end build,’ but wait until you see what it’s like when  maxed out. When you crank up all the knobs to 11, you get an AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X, 128GB of RAM, 4TB of NVMe storage, four Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan Xps for more performance than you’ll theoretically ever need. It all comes in at $16,485 (about £12,350, AU$21,774). So, the way we look at it, you can either put a down payment on a house, or have one of the best gaming PCs ever created – choice is yours.

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