Last updated: February 1st, 2023
Build a sim racing PC or grab a high-powered pre-built machine that nails iRacing and Assetto Corsa Competizione without breaking a sweat with our latest update to our sim racing PC buyer’s guide.
Sim racing has enjoyed a significant boost in popularity over the last few years, and while you do need to make a pretty sizeable upfront investment in your equipment, thankfully it’s a fraction of the expense associated with motorsport in real life. In the past few months, gaming PCs with really high specifications have become cheaper, while for the DIY crowd, GPUS are more available than they have been for a long time
Best Pre-built sim racing PCs // our Ultimate gaming PC build
Thankfully, we’re getting past that weird place where PC components have been really hard to get hold of. We can thank that all too familiar story of a global pandemic and crazy Bitcoin pricing for the shortages we all know about.
It took me a good 6 months to acquire the NVIDIA 3090 GPU featured in the build we’re looking at today – but since, stocks have been very forthcoming, particularly variants of the RTX 4080s which are reported to not be selling at the rate expected by the market.
At the heart of your set-up, you’re going to need a PC powerhouse to run your simulation software. However, in the multifaceted and somewhat perplexing world of CPUs, GPUs, motherboards, and so on, it’s sometimes hard to know which parts to choose. Sim racing and gaming equipment move at such a pace that today’s equipment is nearly obsolete within 2 years.
That’s the reason why we’ve decided to put this guide together on building the ultimate sim-racing PC to inform you about the best components for your racing rig.
Your gaming PC might also be your daily driver for work, too. So one moment you’re piloting an F1 car through the curves at Eau Rouge/Raidillon then the next, you’re building a spreadsheet for work. So, it’s important to make sure that when you decide to switch from gainful employment to running a simulator, you will have enough processing power in the tank to run your racing-game titles smoothly.
Why you need a powerful PC for sim racing
Rendering a simulated environment leans heavily on the performance potential of your PC hardware. For me personally, I love to use my equipment to its fullest. That means iRacing settings on max, and things getting hot! Running iRacing is a walk in the park for our ultimate sim-racing PC spec but I do appreciate that it’s not achievable for everyone in the room. So, as a rule of thumb, try to acquire a motherboard, case, and PSU that will support later hardware upgrades and focus mostly on getting your hands on the most powerful GPU you can find.
There are a few golden rules worth noting in the gaming world. Firstly, you should consider pushing your limits in terms of your budget when it comes to choosing parts for your PC. When buying PC hardware, it’s good practice to invest in the future, so don’t automatically choose the cheapest part, as after a few years you might need to replace it again. If you buy with this strategy in mind, you’ll be able to upgrade economically in the future, and you should aim to purchase something that will last you at least five years, or preferably up to ten years.
Secondly, there’s the question of whether to buy a pre-built gaming PC or source the components individually and build the PC yourself. Both options are acceptable for sim racing PCs, with the main advantages of going down the DIY route being that you can decide which parts go into the build, you might be able to save a little bit of cash, and some people simply enjoy the process of putting the rig together themselves.
Apart from that, you’ll just be splitting hairs trying to find out which way is better, and the truth is, as long as your PC performs well enough to run your sim software smoothly, it doesn’t matter much who put it together.
Finally, you need to consider what kind of strain a sim game puts on your PC hardware. For many modern PC games, the graphics processing unit, or GPU, is king. It’s what handles all the heavy lifting of making games look great. However, for driving simulators such as iRacing, Assetto Corsa Competizione, rFactor 2, etc., the CPU is also significant, as it handles the calculations to make the cars feel true-to-life.
So, when you’re selecting your PC parts, keep these kinds of things in mind as what’s often needed to play RPG or FPS games doesn’t exactly translate into what’s required for a racing sim.
What PC spec should I aim for to run iRacing or Assetto Corsa well?
Since iRacing and Assetto Corsa are among the most popular, realistic, and competitive simulators currently available, I’ll be using them as a benchmark for the specs you should aim for with your new PC.
Looking at the quoted system requirements from both developers, you’ll notice a minimum, recommended, and high-end set of requirements. So, with what I just mentioned about futureproofing your PC, I strongly suggest using the recommended requirements as a baseline and the high-end if your budget allows it.
So, here are my recommendations for the minimum system requirements for a PC spec that will provide smooth gameplay with almost no compromises on the settings side, unless you’re running extremely high-resolution settings on your triple monitors:
|Operating System||Windows 10 64-Bit|
|Processor (CPU)||Intel Core i9-10980XE or AMD Ryzen 9 3900X|
|Memory (RAM)||32 GB|
|Graphics (GPU)||NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 12 GB or AMD Radeon RX 6700 XT*|
|Storage (HDD and SSD)||500GB|
Pre-Built Sim Racing PCs
If you decide you’d rather buy a ready-built PC, there are a few choices that stand out that are suitable for sim racing rigs. Going down this route is recommended if you are either unable or unwilling to build your own PC, and let’s face it, it saves you all the time involved with the building process. It’s also a great choice if you are buying a PC as a gift.
A lot of sim racers simply don’t want to build their own PC, and that’s absolutely fine! Especially if you’re looking to max out your iRacing FPS with a 3080 RTX equipped PC it might be easier to find stock from pre-built gaming PC vendors. In fact, it’s the larger PC builders who can get the stock and funnily enough they want to sell GPUs as part of a ready-built package.
The same is also true of certain CPUs and power supplies that are in high demand, so buying a PC that already has all these parts included could be the way to avoid long waiting times for parts to come back into stock.
Of course, all of these pre-builds allow you to tailor the components to your budget, but just bear in all that I’ve mentioned about futureproofing the PC when selecting the components.
Thermaltake Reactor 380 Liquid-Cooled PC
Priced at around $1900, with the NVIDIA RTX 3080 GPU. This CPU water-cooled gaming desktop computer is a very individual item, with the cases custom-built in such a way that it really looks the part in a budding gamer’s bedroom. As a pre-built machine, it needs no updates and will handle the most complex of racing sims for years to come:
Our take is that this is a very decent purchase – with scope and space to update the GPU at a later date. With that said an RTX 3080 is more than enough to get a fast framerate in sims like iRacing.
Budget iRacing PC: Thermaltake Glacier 360 Liquid-Cooled PC
This PC from Thermaltake is an excellent prebuilt gaming PC which would run iRacing without breaking a sweat. It’s water-cooled and loaded with RGB to make it a very aesthetically pleasing PC indeed.
Thermaltake are a very well known and popular brand, known for their AIO coolers and PSUs, so you know it’ll have a warranty that covers everything, and price-wise, it’s good at $1600 in the US and a similar price in the UK.
CyberpowerPC Luxe Gaming PC – Intel Core i9-11900KF
This extreme gaming PC (their words) is a really nice and upgradeable package featuring an Intel Core i9 11900KF 3.5GHz processor with a GeForce RTX 3060 GPU installed. For the money, it’s a bargain, with watercooling and it’s available in stock:
While the 3070 is now considered a mid-range GPU, the CPU is really on the money and with the standard ATX case, would make a machine that could be easily upgraded with a newer GPU in a few years.
MSI Aegis RS (Tower) Gaming Desktop
This tower gaming desktop PC comes from well-known manufacturer MSI. It’s called the Aegis RS and features an Intel Core i7-12700K – an excellent gaming CPU and one that will easily cope with an upgraded GPU in a few year’s time.
Speaking of the GPU, like several of the other picks in our list this machine comes fitted with a GeForce RTX 3080 GPU, 32GB of dual channel memory, a 1TB SSD and a 2TB HDD. It also supports WiFi 6E and features a liquid cooler for the CPU.
Building a new gaming PC
While building a new PC may not be for everyone, it does have the advantage of letting you decide which parts go into the PC, which for sim racers may be of interest given the specific requirements needed for this type of gameplay.
So, if you’re a bit handy with a screwdriver and have sufficient patience, building your PC is the way to go. Plus, with services like PC Part Picker helping you figure out which components fit together, it’s never been more accessible to self-build.
If you’ve never built a PC before and would like to give it a try, I highly recommend watching this video from Linus Tech Tips. In this tutorial, he takes you the entire way through the build process, and by the end, you’ll know how to assemble your own gaming PC successfully:
As for the parts required for your futureproof sim racing PC, let’s go through each component, and I’ll explain why it makes sense to add them to your build.
Our sim racing PC build: specification
As I mentioned in the intro to this article, we’ve recently put together an amazing new gaming PC to hopefully, futureproof our sim racing efforts for a few years:
The brief was put together during a heatwave here in the UK, so, as you might imagine, cooling was a huge priority. I’ve also noticed that new GPUs are so power-hungry – the recommended minimum PSU rating for an NVIDIA 3090 RTX is around 850 watts. So it stands to reason that when NVIDIA releases their 40 series GPU range, we might be looking at closer to a minimum power requirement of 1kw. Who knows, but having had to upgrade the PSU in an older gaming PC, it’s really not an experience I’d care to repeat for a while.
On that note, I’ve put a 1200w PSU in this build.
Case: CORSAIR 7000D AIRFLOW Full-Tower ATX PC Case
When it comes to housing the components inside your PC, the more space you have for future expansion, the better. More space also means better cooling (note my comments about the heatwave earlier). I really like this new case from Corsair – it is absolutely huge as a full tower case which means it has fantastic cooling potential.
There are 3 large fans in total (one at the rear and two at the front) with enough space inside for two huge GPUs (just in case you fancy a bit of mining at the weekends…).
A word of caution, this case is super heavy! I found myself moving it into position by sliding it around on my office floor on a towel!
Motherboard: MSI MPG Z590 GAMING CARBON WIFI
Choosing a cutting-edge motherboard will allow you to attach the best and most up-to-date components, so I chose the MPG Z590 GAMING CARBON WIFI motherboard which features multiple PCIe 4.0 slots allowing for the best performance from other crucial components, especially the 3090 GPU.
I chose this motherboard because, for the spec, it’s a really reasonable price and it’s rated as one of the best motherboards you can buy for gaming:
If you would like to go down the AMD chipset route rather than Intel, both of which have their pros and cons, I would suggest taking a look at the ASRock X570 Phantom Gaming X.
Complimenting the motherboard, I added an Intel Core i9-11900K and some Corsair Vengeance RGB PRO SL 32GB (4x8GB) DDR4 DRAMs:
GPU: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3090 Founders Edition 24GB
This card took so long to get at retail. I just kept checking the NVIDIA shop until a card became available, and didn’t order any other components for this PC build until the GPU became available. At this point, I wish I’d bought two, but that just seems greedy.
The 3090 barely notices iRacing, even at 240hz on my Samsung G9. It is an absolutely astonishing thing – it runs a little hot, with the VRAM temps around 90 to 95c, but apparently that’s about right.
There are modifications to improve cooling too, like this one – if you’re feeling brave enough to disassemble one.
SSD: Samsung 980 PRO PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSD 1TB
I’m a fan of Samsung’s super-fast SSD’s and with the full support offered by the MSI motherboard, I couldn’t really resist the 980 Pro.
You might remember I did a walkthrough of upgrading a gaming PC to a slightly earlier version of this SSD so check out that tutorial if you want to clone your old hard drive to SSD.
Gone are the days where SSDs are too unreliable to be the main disk of a gaming PC – if you want the fastest possible boot and load times, then an NVME SSD that runs on PCIE 4.0 is the way to go. Another good reason to justify the investment in the MSI motherboard!
Cooling: CORSAIR iCUE H150i RGB PRO XT Liquid CPU Cooler
With the bigger case came the opportunity for a bigger liquid CPU cooler. At a very reasonable price point comes the Corsair iCue H150i – if you want even more RGB lighting oozing out your case, go for it. I’ve always owned Corsair coolers – it just feels like I can really trust them. This particular one doesn’t let the CPU get much over 60c even under heavy loads.
Update: I added an RTX 4090
Just out of curiosity I added a Zotac 4090 GPU, which as you would expect handles sim racing games without breaking a sweat!
The 4090 runs so much cooler than its 30 series brethren. However – until iRacing updates its graphics engine, a 4090 is overkill. If, on the other hand, you’re maxed out on your Assetto Corsa Competizione graphics settings, a 4090 will be an astonishingly powerful improvement and set you up for many, many years to come.