While 1080p is still the norm for both PC gaming and console, many PC gamers are making the push towards higher resolutions. These higher resolutions used in conjunction with 1440p 144Hz monitors with FreeSync or G-Sync provide a lag-free and tear-free experience that didn’t exist a few years ago.
That push is a result of strong graphical and processing improvements in the last couple of years and makes 1440p, in my opinion, achievable in the $700 to $800 price range.
What limited our $500 to $600 Build, was the overall budget we had for the graphics card. With this build, we have a substantially higher budget for the GPU as well as other components. The GPU will be our main focus for this build and use up to 35% of our overall budget.
Is Buying a Skylake Processor Worth It?
Contents at a Glance
Before we go on, it’s important to discuss what processors are out there and whether newer Skylake CPUs are really worth it. Skylake processors are currently more pricey than their Haswell options and require a small premium for compatible 1151 motherboards. What you get for your extra money is DDR4 compatibility and a slightly faster processor with little to no effect on PC games.
For that reason as well as budget constraints, we’re going with the i5-4690k here.
What Type of CPU do you need for 1440P?
While it may be counterintuitive to many, the higher the resolution, the less your CPU will be the cause of the bottleneck. As you go up in resolution and your GPU bottlenecks, it matters less.
For that reason, the i5-4690k is more than fine here for the single R9 390 or GTX 970 we have in mind. It should be a stellar performer for years to come.
The Skylake Alternative: If you want a Skylake processor, consider the i5-6600k and a compatible 1151 motherboard in the Asus Z170-P. I’ve listed it as one of my favorites in our post on the best Skylake motherboards for the money.
Those who go with the cheaper Haswell alternative can either upgrade the BIOS on a board like the Asus Z87-PRO or go for an inexpensive Z97 board like the MSI Z97 PC Mate.
Good 1440p 50 FPS Gaming PC Build and Skylake vs Haswell
|CPU||i5-4690k or Optional i5-6600k (not within budget)||You'll have to decide whether you're willing to spend the extra money to go with Skylake as opposed to Haswell for minimal gains and significantly more money.|
|Graphics Card||R9 390 or GTX 970||Both graphics cards perform well, but the R9 390 edges out the 970 in 1440p gaming.|
|Motherboard||Asus Z87-PRO (Use USB BIOS to update if necessary), MSI Z97 PC Mate, or for Skylake the Asus Z170-P||The Z87 Pro is a great choice here. If it doesn't already come with the BIOS updated, it's easy to use Asus' USB BIOS.|
|Memory||Kingston HyperX Fury||For less than $50 this is a great deal. Keep in mind you'll need DDR4 for a Skylake build.|
|Storage||Western Digital Caviar Blue 1TB / Optional Kingston V300 120GB SSD|
|Power Supply||Antec NeoEco 620W PSU or CX 500||Find something reliable that happens to be on rebate for a good deal here.|
|Case||Antec Three Hundred Two||A great case with easy-to-install bays and a couple of fans for cheap after rebate this month.|
R9 390 vs GTX 970
The Graphics Card Battle for $300 Supremacy:
Both EVGA and AMD have competitive cards in this space in the R9 390 and the GTX 970. Which one you choose may have a little bit to do with personal preference with the 970 supporting G-Sync and the 390 supporting AMD’s FreeSync.
That being said, in terms of performance the R9 390 clearly beats the GTX 970 in various games at 1440p. Guru 3D showed the following results:
Tomb Raider 2560 x 1440 with Ultra/FXAA:
R9 390: 96 FPS
GTX 970: 83 FPS
Battlefield Hardline 1440p Ultra 4x MSAA
While Battlefield Hardline numbers for both the R9 390 and 970 are below the 60FPS threshold, it would be easy to slightly tweak the settings to get you there. Simply drop the MSAA and some of the textures.
R9 390: 48
GTX 970: 40
Witcher 3 Wild Hunt Ultra Quality:
One exception to this data is the Witcher 3 Wild Hunt which shows the 970 edging out the R9 390 at 1440p. Keep in mind that this was an NVIDIA Gameworks title.
R9 390: 39
GTX 970: 42
Grand Theft Auto V 1440p 2xMSAA High / Very High Settings:
R9 390: 58
GTX 970: 55
Conclusion: Overall, the R9 390 provides a substantial FPS upgrade vs the 970 in most titles. That being said overclocking these cards would change these results considerably. Jay’s thoughts and benchmarks on this are worth hearing as the two cards are within a couple frames of each other once overclocked.
Still, I wonder if based on his benchmarks most would prefer the 970 for a few frames less on each game. In addition, with free game deals from NVIDIA that card becomes more attractive. Ultimately, you’ll have to decide. The 290X should also be a consideration here if found for less money as it will give similar performance.
If you end up going with a Skylake motherboard and processor, keep in mind you’ll want to go ahead and go with DDR4 memory. With recent price drops it’s worth upgrading now to not have to worry about Unidimm or upgrading down the line. If you go with a Haswell processor, find some cheap DDR3 memory like the Kingston HyperX Fury 1866 Memory for less than $50.
Our storage options are a cheap but effective Western Digital Caviar Blue 1 TB drive. Of course, going for a $50 128GB Solid state drive for your OS here is more than tempting here as well, but I’ll leave that up to you.
A Good Gaming Case Under $50
There are lots of good gaming cases that fall under the $50 price range from time to time. Right now, the Antec Three Hundred TWO is a great value at around $45 after rebate. It has a spacious interior and comes with a 1 x 120mm rear Two Cool Fan as well as a front 1x 140mm. This, along with the tool-less design, makes it a sturdy case you can use for years to come with enough cooling and cooling expansion for overclocking.
Good Power Supplies Under $50
On sale for $40 at Newegg after a $25 rebate the Antec NeoEco 620W Power Supply should be more than enough power for both the R9 390 and the GTX 970. It’s bronze certified, has relatively good quality, and up to 87% efficient. The CX 500 would also make for a good option here if this PSU goes on sale. Alternatively, you can take a look at our list of the best power supplies for the money for more options.
Overall I’m pleased with the build. With slight tweaks, it’d be easy to get 60 FPS in even the most demanding titles of the year. If you go for the Skylake route, expect to spend about $75 more on this build.