If you’re like me and holding on to that Ivy Bridge or Sandy Bridge gaming PC, building a new gaming PC just got a lot more interesting. Skylake and Kaby Lake make very good options. In addition, new offerings from NVIDIA and AMD in the form of the GTX 1080, 1080, and RX 480 give us a lot to look at and a lot of value where previously little was to be had.
Specifically, in this post, we’re looking at what I’d consider the middle to high-end PC builders in a $1250 and $1500 build. These builds are one of over 10 that we update every quarter to bring you the latest information here and on our YouTube channel. If the price range is too steep or you want to avoid a cheap gaming computer, additional information for our other builds can be found here.
The Best Graphics Cards from $400 to $600
Contents at a Glance
With everything going on right now, let’s talk about graphics cards first.
GTX 1070 vs 1080
Admittedly, we were able to fit a GTX 1070 in our $1,000 Gaming PC review. Fitting that budget with that card was difficult and we even made the assumption that you could find a GTX 1070 for around $379. That price should be available once aftermarket cards become more plentiful.
Keeping that same GTX 1070 for our $1250 build would certainly be easy and allow us to add capacity and overall flexibility to our build. Still, it’s awful tempting to take that full $250 of extra budget and throw it at a graphics card. Assuming (yes, we’re doing that again) that aftermarket custom GTX 1080s will eventually be available for as low as $599, we should technically be able to jam a GTX 1080 in this build.
The choice is ultimately up to you. A GTX 1070 will give you what you need to play in 1440p but a GTX 1080 has substantially better performance and longevity and will allow you to play in 4k.
With all that being said the case could be made that you simply don’t need a 1080 and that a GTX 1070 will do fine in 1440p. That’s definitely the case in 1080p. So, if you’re in that boat, I’d take your extra money and put it towards capacity, a better case, fans, or even additional RAM.
Benchmarks of the GTX 1070 vs 1080
Here are a few benchmarks from the folks over at Guru3d.
Fallout 4 1080p Ultra Detail + Godrays + Shadow HIGH, DirextX 11, Windows 10:
GTX 1070: 129 Frames
GTX 1080: 134 Frames
Fallout 4 1440p Ultra Detail + Godrays + Shadow HIGH, DirextX 11, Windows 10:
GTX 1070: 85 Frames
GTX 1080: 85
Rise of the Tomb Raider 1080p Very High Details, Pure Hair, HBAo+, Direct X 12, Windows 10:
GTX 1070: 108 frames
GTX 1080: 131 frames
Rise of the Tomb Raider 1440p Very High Details, Pure Hair, HBAo+, Direct X 12, Windows 10:
GTX 1070: 71
GTX 1080: 90
While there are certainly more benchmarks to take into consideration these two games give you a decent idea of the different type of performance you can expect from these two cards. Ultimately, this may be enough to know whether you really need the higher-end 1080 or should stick with the 1070. We’ll be posting our own benchmarks shortly as more cards become available.
$1250 to $1350 Build
$1500 Build (Changes Only)
|Intel i5-6600k 3.50 GHz CPU||The Sixth generation i5-6600k is a good overclocker and fantastic overall performer. Those who don't plan on overclocking may opt for the i5-6500 and i5-6400 while skipping the CPU cooler below altogether.||i7 6700k 4GHz Processor
Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO
|I use the Hyper 212 EVO on pretty much any build I do. It gives me all the overclock I need, is easy to install, and still a lot quieter than many liquid cooling solutions on the market.||NZXT Kraken X61 280mm Liquid CPU Cooler
|Asus Z170-A DDR4 Motherboard||The Z170-A gives you all the modern features you need while not paying for the "gaming" tag. It's reliable and allows you to get a solid overclock.|
|Corsair Vengeance LPX 8GB Black RAM||While I'm not particularly sold on any memory kit, this one is on for a great price this month and gives you the better speeds for just about the same amount of money.||Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB DDR4 3000MHz
|Kingston Digital 120GB SSDNow V300||The SSDNow V300 series from Kingston is fast and super cheap for the capacity you get. There is a newer model out, but this one still fits the bill for your OS and favorite games. The 240GB model is the clear winner here at just $20 more for double the capacity of the 120GB model.||Kingston Digital 240GB SSDNow V300
|WD Blue 1TB Caviar Blue||This is a great hard drive and one I've used several times before. Double capacity with the Hitachi Deskstar for around $15 more.||Hitachi Deskstar 2TB 7200RPM Hard Drive
|NVIDIA GTX 1080 Graphics Card||The 1080 is the new king right now. I don't see anything, save a new overly priced Titan offering from NVIDIA, taking it's place in the near-distant future. At this price point, it should be your number one option. ***The $1250 and $1500 price tag above assumes you can get an aftermarket model for around $600.|
|Corsair Carbide 200R Compact ATX Case||This is a great case that can typically be found from $40 to $60. If you want a full tower, I recommend the Phanteks Enthoo Pro at around $100.||Phanteks Enthoo Pro Full Tower Chassis
|EVGA SuperNOVA 650 Watt Fully Modular Power Supply||This build shouldn't put out more than 400 watts. This power supply is a tier one model that gives you a little room to work with.|
Good Gaming Processors for around $200 in 2017
While AMD may have some interesting offers later on in the year, there are really only a couple of CPUs that make sense at this price point right now. Go with the Skylake i5-6600k if you want to overclock or the i5-7500 or i5-7400 if you plan on keeping everything at stock. Either CPU won’t really bottleneck you in games; however, you may be able to get some additional performance from running at a higher clock speed.
If you go with the i5-7600k, you’ll need a CPU cooler and a Z270 motherboard in order to overclock. For the cooler, I like the Hyper 212 EVO for around $25. It gives a ton of performance and stays relatively quiet.
If you don’t plan on overclocking, you could certainly get the 212 EVO to keep everything cool, but the stock fan should work alright.
Skylake Motherboards Under $200
Even if you don’t plan on overclocking, you might want to consider getting a Z170 motherboard for the additional RAM speed as other Skylake motherboards don’t go above 2133MHz. If it didn’t affect your in-game FPS I wouldn’t even be mentioning this; however, the RAM speed does seem to give you a significant boost.
The tricky part about finding a motherboard is getting all the features you need without paying for the features you don’t. For a good mid-range motherboard, I like the Asus Z170-A motherboard the $150 price range. You can find it as well as my other picks in my post on the best Skylake motherboards for the money. The board itself looks great, is reliable, easy-to-use, and is a decent overclocker as well. It also includes Multiple M.2 slots, dual USB 3.0 internal headers, support for up to four 16GB DDR4 modules, and USB Type-C.
Overall, these are the computers I’d build for PC gaming as of right now. While the options may change for some, in my opinion, this build gives you the best overall value for your money. Questions, comments, and feedback are appreciated here as well as on our facebook page. You can see more builds like this one here as well as on YouTube.