Mid-Range Gaming PC Build Using Intel i5 & GTX 970 for $784

By Published August 18, 2015 at 4:25 pm
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Additional Info

  • Price: 784
  • Physical Size: Mid-Tower
  • Purpose: Desktop Gaming
  • CPU Preference: Intel

With the release of Intel’s Skylake, we built a gaming PC using the new LGA1151 chip, as it is the latest in Intel’s consumer CPUs. Intel only released their unlocked Skylake CPUs so far, so while Skylake is new (although it isn’t a game changer), the locked Haswell CPUs are still the best value for certain builds.

Speaking of which, it’s been a bit since we’ve assembled a gaming build with a mid-range budget. That’s what we’re doing today. This build includes a locked Haswell i5 CPU and GTX 970; it may not be a powerhouse capable of 4k at 120FPS, but for 1080p (and 1440p, to a lesser extent) the system will perform admirably for gaming.

$770 Mid-Range Gaming PC Build Using Intel i5 CPU & GTX 970

Gaming Parts List Name Price Rebates/etc. Total
CPU Intel i5 4460 3.2GHz $188 Free Shipping $188
Motherboard ASRock H97M Pro4 $80 - $80
Video Card EVGA Super Clocked 970 $320 Free Shipping $320
Memory G.Skill Ripjaws X Series 8GB DDR3 1600 $47 Free Shipping $47
Power Supply SeaSonic S12II 520 $55 Free Shipping $55
HDD Western Digital 1TB Blue $49 Free Shipping $49
Case Cooler Master N200 $45 Free Shipping $45
Total   $784 - $784

OS & Optional Extras 

Add-on Parts List Name Price Rebates/etc. Total
Operating System Microsoft Windows 10 Home 64bit $100 $3 Shipping $103
CPU Cooler Cryorig H7 $35 Free Shipping $35
SSD Samsung 850 Evo 250GB $90 Free Shipping $90

Graphics Card 

EVGA Super Clocked 970 ($320): The video card is one of the most critical build components for gaming. Something powerful is needed, but there has to be a reasonable balance between its power and the other components. In this case, we’ve chosen the EVGA Super Clocked GTX 970 for $320. It will perform well at around high and ultra settings for most games at 1440p and 1080p.

Our most recent benchmarks including the GTX 970 can be seen here. As a reference point, it generally performs a bit below a 290X/390, a bit above a 770, and decently below the GTX 980. The dual-fan design helps ensure that the card remains reasonably cooled during load -- although this isn’t incredibly hard due to the efficiency of Maxwell -- and retains silence. The GTX 970 comes with 4GB of VRAM, a core clock of 1.2GHz, and support for 4k.

CPU

Intel i5 4460 ($190): For this build, we’ve chosen a $190 i5-4460 CPU. Despite the recent release of the Skylake K-SKU CPUs (i5-6600K, for instance), there is short supply of Skylake CPUs and the locked Skylake CPUs are yet to be released. An unlocked CPU doesn’t work well in this budget, so we’ve instead chosen the 3.2GHz i5-4460. It may not have an unlocked multiplier (used for overclocking) or the highest base clock around, but it’ll perform admirably for gaming. In certain cases it can turbo up to 3.4GHz to provide a bit extra speed.

With it being an i5, the CPU has four cores and four threads (one per core). It comes with a stock heatsink that will adequately cool it, but for users wanting cooler and/or quieter operation, the Cryorig H7 is a good addition for $35. This will also improve longevity.

Motherboard 

ASRock H97M Pro4 ($68): The CPU needs a place to sit – life is demanding for a silicon die. The Asrock H97M Pro4 supports up to a Haswell i7, 4xDDR3 slots, 1xPCIe 3.0 x16 slot, 1xPCIe 2.0 x16 slot, 2xPCI slots, 6xSATA 6Gb/s slots, 2xUSB3.0 slots, and 4xUSB 2.0 slots.

It should be noted that the lower x16 PCIe slot is actually wired for x4. The board also has 4xUSB 3.0, 4xUSB 2.0, 1xPS/2, 1xDVI-D out, and 1xOptical on the I/O. The Pro4 is a good budget motherboard that will work fine for this micro-ATX build.

Memory

G.Skill RipJaws X Series 8GB DDR3 ($47): This build features G.Skill RipJaws Series 1x8GB DDR3 1600 RAM – quite a mouthful. This RAM is fairly standard in that it is DDR3-1600, has a CAS latency of 9, and runs at 1.5v. 8GB is enough for gaming currently, and having one stick allows for easy upgrading to larger RAM capacities if needed down the road. Currently, the G.Skill RipJaws Series 8GB RAM is available for $40 at Newegg. It also has a lifetime warranty.

Using a single stick of memory means that dual-channel operation is lost, but this is something we’ve found to have minimal impact on dGPU gaming performance. View our dual-channel and “single-channel” benchmarks here.

Power Supply

SeaSonic S12II 520W ($55): Next up is the power supply, for which we are going with the SeaSonic S12II 520W. 520 Watts is definitely enough for this build. This allows the PSU to be used in future builds if needed/possible. It has 1x6 and 1x6+2 pin connectors, which fits the EVGA GTX 970’s requirements. The SeaSonic S12II is 80 Plus Bronze Certified, so it is reasonably efficient. To top all this off, SeaSonic has a 5 year warranty for this PSU.

HDD & Optional SSD

Western Digital 1TB Blue ($52): For the regular user, this hard drive will provide adequate speed and capacity to start with. It’s not winning any speed awards, but the price per GB is still advantaged over SSDs, although read, write speeds, and seek times are worse. The WD Blue is a standard 7200 RPM HDD.

Samsung 850 Evo 250GB ($90): For users wanting a faster drive for the operating system, games, and commonly used programs, the Samsung 850 Evo 250GB SSD is a good addition to this build. SSDs provide substantially better read, write, and seek speeds compared to SSDs, and also uses less power. This SSD comes with a five-year warranty backing it, granting it a longer warranty compared to much of its competition.

Case

Cooler Master N200 mATX ($45): This build will use the Cooler Master N200 to house the components. It is an mATX case, making it a smaller and more compact case than many more  common ATX cases. The N200 supports graphics cards up to 355mm, so even long GPUs can fit with ease. The N200 has reasonably good watercooling support, which is nice addition to a case at this price point. It supports 3x3.5” bays, and 4x2.5” bays. Of course, as with any modern case, the N200 also has front USB 3.0 ports.

While the stock Intel cooler is pretty short and isn’t near this tall, the N200 supports CPU coolers up to 160mm. The Cooler Master N200 comes with 2xCooler Master XtraFlo fans.

While Skylake was recently released, the unlocked CPUs -- which are the only ones currently out -- aren’t a good fit for lower-budgeted builds. For this most recent ~$770 gaming PC build, we’ve gone for a locked Haswell i5 and GTX 970 combo to achieve satisfactory performance at 1080p and (to a slightly lesser extent) 1440p.

- Michael “The Bear” Kerns.

Last modified on August 18, 2015 at 4:25 pm
Michael Kerns

Michael Kerns first found us when GN's Editor-in-Chief was tirelessly answering questions on reddit pertaining to a new product launch, likely after the Editor had stayed up all night writing the news post. Michael offered a tired Editor reprieve, taking over the role of questions-answerer-extraordinaire when it was most needed. These days, Michael can be found pulling his mechanical keyboard collection apart and building Frankenstein's Monster-like monsters of keyboards. Michael wrote the vast majority of our mechanical keyboard dictionary and is an expert in keyboards.

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