High-End Gaming PC Build Using i5 CPU & GTX 980 Ti for $1552

By Published September 24, 2015 at 12:35 pm
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Additional Info

  • Price: 1552
  • Physical Size: Mid-Tower
  • Purpose: Desktop Gaming
  • CPU Preference: Intel

This $1560 gaming PC is meant to play most games at high and ultra settings on 1080p and 1440p. The high-end gaming PC build offers long staying power through future game launch cycles, but it’s also got the ability to run rendering operations for streamers and YouTube content creators. The 980 Ti and i5-6600K enable playability of The Witcher 3 on ultra settings (1440p) at 60FPS+, leaving plenty of headroom for 1080p gamers; some upcoming titles, like Fallout 4 and Battleborn, will be playable at 1440p through 4K, given their relatively low requirements.

Today’s ~$1500 DIY system build uses an Intel i5-6600K -- the new Skylake CPU -- alongside an nVidia GTX 980 Ti. The two in tandem offer one of the most powerful combinations for a gaming PC right now, short of entering the ultra high-end enthusiast range (which is largely unnecessary).

Custom Gaming PC Build at $1552 Using i5 CPU & GTX 980 Ti

Gaming Parts List Name Price Rebates, Promos, etc. Total
CPU Intel i5-6000k 3.5GHz $260 - $260
CPU Cooler Cryorig H5A Universal $47 Free shipping $47
Motherboard Gigabyte GA-Z170MX Gaming 5 $150 Free shipping $150
Video Card EVGA GTX 980ti FTW ACX 2.0+ $680 Free shipping, Amazon Prime $680
Memory Crucial Ballistix Sport 8GB (2x4GB) DDR4-2400 $60 Free shipping, Amazon Prime $60
Power Supply SeaSonic M12II 520W 80+ Bronze $75 -$5 MIR $70
SSD Samsung 850 Evo 500GB $174 Free shipping, Amazon Prime $174
HDD Western Digital Caviar Blue 1TB $53 Free shipping $53
Case Thermaltake Core V21 $58 Free shipping, Amazon Prime $58
Total    $1557 -$5  $1552

OS & Optional Extras

Add-on Parts List Name Price Rebates, Promos, etc. Total
Operating System Microsoft Windows 10 $100 Free shipping, Amazon Prime $100
Fan Corsair SP120 Fan $18 Free shipping, Amazon Prime $18

Graphics Card

EVGA GTX 980 Ti FTW ACX 2.0+ ($680): The 980 Ti is currently among the most powerful GPUs available. It competes with the Fury X, trading blows depending on game, setting, and resolution. This GPU provides a satisfying experience at 1080p and 1440p – 4K isn’t quite there yet, but it’s close; some games are more friendly with 4K than others. The EVGA 980 Ti FTW ACX 2.0+ has a base clock of 1190MHz and a boost clock of 1291MHz, along with a 7010MHz effective memory clock. The reference 980 Ti uses a 1000MHz clock, making for a 190MHz pre-overclock that actually does impact FPS quite a bit. The card also comes with a dual-fan design to help keep it cool under load. Reflecting its high-end pricetag, the EVGA 980 Ti FTW comes with a backplate.

CPU

Intel i5-6600K ($260): Intel’s latest architecture update is Skylake, as reviewed here. Considering the price of this build, it would be a little strange to not use the latest i5 available. The i5-6600K has 4 cores, each with a single thread. It comes in at 3.5GHz but, depending on heat, load, and voltage, the processor can turbo up to 3.9GHz. It has a TDP of 91W and supports dual-channel memory. The i5-6600K is unlocked, allowing for its multiplier to be changed for overclocking.

Since unlocked CPUs like the 6600K are best used for overclocking, it doesn’t come with a CPU cooler, so we’ve included one below.

The below chart saw each card coupled with a GTX 980 Ti reference card.

i7-6700k-witcher

CPU Cooler

Cryorig H5A Universal ($47): The new unlocked Skylake CPUs don’t come with a stock CPU cooler anymore, getting one is required. For the CPU cooler this go-around, we have chosen the Cryorig H5A Universal. It is made out of aluminum and copper, uses a 140mm fan that spins up to 1600RPM, and is 160mm tall. The Cryorig H5A fits in the case and provides reasonable cooling performance for basic overclocking. The H5A Universal also uses a black / silver color scheme and has a three-year warranty when unregistered, which doubles to six years when registered.

Motherboard

Gigabyte GA-Z170MX Gaming 5 ($150): For this build, we have opted to use an mATX Z170 motherboard that’ll do well for overclocking. The Gaming 5 is Z170, allowing the i5 CPU to be overclocked and fully tapped-into. Other chipset differences are covered in our Skylake chipset comparison, but for this build, the most significant is OC support. For overclocking, the Gaming 5 has a heatsinked 8-phase VRM and unlocked UEFI tuner.

The Gaming 5 has 3xSATAe, 6xSATA 6Gb/s, and 1xM.2 slot -- which are becoming more desirable. It also has 3xPCIe x16 slots, with the top slot being x16, the middle x8, and the bottom x4. There is also 1xPCIe x1 slot. Other than this, connectors and slots are fairly standard: 4x DDR4 DIMMs, 2x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0, 3x system fan, and front panel slots. Interestingly, there is also 1x Thunderbolt add-in card slot, for those who desire Thunderbolt. The theme is the reasonably common gamer-esque red, black, and white (mainly red and black). The Gaming 5 is also an mATX motherboard, so this PC build is a smaller form factor.

Memory

Crucial Ballistix Sport 8GB (4GBx2) DDR4-2400 ($55): With Skylake comes the inevitable standardization of DDR4 RAM. While this makes my collection of DDR RAM even more outdated, DDR4 RAM is ultimately more power efficient, dense, and faster, providing greater bandwidth.

The Crucial Ballistix Sport 8GB comes with 2x4GB sticks, which run at 2400 MT/s. They have a CL16 latency. Overall, pretty standard. A kit of 2x4GB sticks means it has the ability to run in dual-channel on the platform (benchmarked here). The RAM also has a plain and attractive heatspreader, and to add to all this, Crucial provides a lifetime warranty.

HDD

Western Digital Blue 1TB 7200RPM ($53): I was hoping for SSDs to have replaced them by now, but hard drives are still a necessity for most gamers. A significantly large storage medium with low cost-per-GB is needed, and for this we’ve opted for the WD Blue 1TB HDD. The 7200RPM allows for relatively uninhibited gameplay and game storage, though the drive won’t be breaking any speed records (so non-I/O intensive programs/files should be put on it), but it is much cheaper $/GB compared to SSDs.

SSD

Samsung 850 Evo 500GB ($175): Speaking of SSDs, our next item is the Samsung 850 EVO 500GB. While the HDD is meant for mass storage, this SSD is better suited for more intensive I/O operations – such as the operating system, Adobe applications, your few favorite games (keep the rest on the HDD), and core applications (browsers, office software). The Samsung 850 EVO comes in a 2.5” form factor with sequential reads up to 540MB/s and sequential writes up to 520MB/s. Random read speeds are rated at 100k IOPS and random write speeds at 90k IOPS. The Samsung 850 EVO series is also among the first SSDs to use the 3D VNAND NAND type, which is denser than TLC and offers greater durability. To reflect the added durability, Samsung has a fairly lengthy five-year warranty on the 850 EVO.  

Power Supply

SeaSonic M12II 520W Evo Edition ($75): To power this gaming build, we’ve chosen the SeaSonic M12II 520W Evo Edition. Providing 520 watts, the M12II is 80 Plus Bronze certified, helping to ensure it remains at least partially efficient during operation. Furthermore, it is fully modular, which eases cable management and makes cable replacement possible. The PSU has the usual 6-pin and 6 +2 pin PCIe power connectors, conveniently what the EVGA 980 Ti requires. SeaSonic’s M12II 520W Evo Edition has a five-year warranty.

Case

Thermaltake Core V21 ($58): Gaming PCs need not be hulking behemoths – although my case doesn’t put out that idea, and neither does the B2 Spirit we just reviewed. For this build, we’ve gone with the Thermaltake Core V21, an mATX case. The case has a front I/O of 2xUSB 3.0 and 2x 3.5mm. The Core V21 supports 3x2.5”/3.5” bays. One minor downside is the inclusion of only one fan, a 200mm fan placed at the front of the case. Our CPU & GPU cooling solutions ensure that the intake from the included fan will sufficiently dissipate heat within the case. The Core V21 supports CPU coolers up to 185mm tall, GPUs up to 350mm long, and PSUs up to 200mm. Interestly, the V21 allows for the motherboard to be placed both vertically and horizontally. The Thermaltake Core V21 comes with a three-year warranty.

Our first high-end Skylake based gaming PC build has arrived and includes an unlocked i5 and 980 Ti. This PC build will provide a powerful gaming experience at 1080p and 1440p.

Post a comment below for quick help or questions! For more in-depth, one-on-one support, check our PC build forums for expert, free PC build advice.

- Michael “The Bear” Kerns.

Last modified on September 24, 2015 at 12:35 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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