High-End Gaming PC Build for $1500 - 1440p & Light 4K Gaming

By Published January 14, 2016 at 7:30 am
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Additional Info

  • Physical Size: Full Tower
  • CPU Preference: Intel

With CES just past, there’s a move in the market to introduce new computer hardware through Q1 and Q2, making for a prime buying time of existing stock.

For this PC build, we’ve chosen the price point of $1500 as it allows for the inclusion of a high-end GPU, CPU, and SSD without costing an arm, leg, and kidney. Then again, no one needs two kidneys when they have a high-end gaming PC, and arms are of negligible value as VR iterates.

This PC is primarily meant for high and ultra graphics at 1080p and 1440p, and should even be usable for low-load games at high and medium settings at 4K. The PC build uses the latest Intel Skylake i5, the i5-6600K, along with a GTX 980 Ti GPU. This combination allows for high-end performance and overclocking to push the system into the future.

$1500 Gaming PC Using i5 & 980 Ti

Gaming Parts List Name Price Rebates, Promos, etc. Total
CPU Intel i5-6600k 3.5GHz $264 Free Shipping $264
CPU Cooler be quiet! Dark Pro 3 $90 Free Shipping $90
Motherboard MSI Z170A Krait Gaming $135 Free shipping $135
Video Card Gigabyte GTX 980 Ti Windforce $600 Free Shipping $600
Memory Corsair Vengeance LPX 8GB (1x8GB) DDR4-2400 $48 Free Shipping $48
Power Supply EVGA 850W 80+ Gold $105 +$6.67 Shipping $112
SSD Sandisk Ultra II 480GB $134 Free Shipping $134
HDD Seagate Barracuda 1TB $48 Free shipping $48
Case Fractal Design R5 $90 Free shipping $90
Total       $1511

OS & Optional Extras

Add-on Parts List Name Price Rebates, Promos, etc. Total
Operating System Microsoft Windows 10 $97 Free Shipping $97
Fan Corsair SP120 Fan $18 Free shipping $18

Graphics Card

Gigabyte GTX 980 Ti Windforce ($600): The 980 Ti is currently one of the most powerful single-GPUs on the market. It allows for high-end performance at 1080p, 1440p, and decent performance at 4K with some games – normally on a mix of medium and high. It features 6GB of GDDR5, a core clock of 1120MHz, and a boost clock of 1190MHz. The Gigabyte 980 Ti Windforce uses Gigabyte’s tri-fan Windforce cooler to keep it cool under load. Feel free to check out our benchmarks of the 980 Ti in against the Fury X and in Star Citizen, Fallout 4, and Star Wars Battlefront. The Gigabyte 980 Ti Windforce comes with a three-year warranty, which is fairly standard for PC components.  

CPU

Intel i5-6600K ($264): Currently the newest CPU architecture, Intel’s Skylake may not have had a huge improvement over Devil’s Canyon, but it is better and brings newer technologies like DDR4 closer to being commonplace. The i5 performs admirably for gaming, especially when overclocked. It features 4 cores, DDR4 dual-channel memory support, a TDP of 91W, and is clocked at 3.5GHz stock. An unlocked multiplier allows for easy overclocking for additional performance.

CPU Cooler

be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 3 ($90): Starting with Skylake, unlocked Intel CPUs no longer come with a stock heatsink. The logic is that aftermarket coolers will be used overclock anyway, so a stock cooler finds its way into the trash. To keep the CPU cool while overclocking, we’ve chosen the Be Quiet! Dark Rock Pro 3. The cooler uses two of Be Quiet!’s 135mm Silentwings fans with fluid dynamic bearings. The Dark Rock Pro 3 has a cooling capacity of 250W, allowing for the i5 to be overclocked without getting too hot. Read on Be Quiet!’s latest announcements from CES over here.

Motherboard

MSI Z170A Krait Gaming ($135): To connect all of these parts together, we’ve picked the ATX MSI Z170A Krait Gaming motherboard. It features 4xDDR4 slots that allow for up to 64GB of RAM along with RAM OC support up to DDR4-3600. The MSI Z170A Krait Gaming also includes 6xSATA ports, 1xSATAe port, 1xM.2 slot, 1xPCI slot, 3xPCIe x1 slots, and 3xPCIe x16 slots. The PCIe x16 slots support 2-way SLI in x8/x8/x0 mode. This allows for the option to potentially buy another 980 Ti later down the road, though we find almost no one upgrades to SLI later.

With a single GPU, the PCIe x16 slots run at x16/x0/x4. The M.2 slot supports PCIe 3.0 x4 and the SATAe port supports PCIe 3.0 x2 and is backwards compatible with SATA. The combination of these ports helps ensure that the MSI Z170A Krait will be compatible with high-performance SSDs. The Z170 chipset allows for Intel’s i5-6600K to be overclocked, otherwise buying a K-CPU and cooler would be unneeded. We cover the differences between the Z170 and other Skylake chipsets in our Skylake chipset comparison article, for those interested. The MSI Z170A Krait Gaming has a warranty of three years.

Memory

Corsair Vengeance LPX 8GB (1x8GB) DDR4-2400 ($48): The 100-series motherboards and Skylake are helping to make DDR4 RAM commonplace in PCs. The primary advantages of DDR4 are lower power draw, larger RAM capacities, and greater memory bandwidth. The DDR4 RAM in this build is Corsair’s Vengeance LPX 8GB DDR4-2400 RAM. It uses a black PCB and heat-spreader – fitting the rest of the black-and-white components – and is fairly short, allowing for many CPU coolers to fit above it. It also has a reasonably low CAS latency of 14, and due to it being a single 8GB stick, there is large potential for future RAM upgrades. While dual-channel isn’t possible with only one stick, dual-channel platforms have minor performance effects on games. Corsair also offers a lifetime warranty.

HDD

Seagate Barracuda 1TB ($48): SSDs may be increasingly commonplace, but we haven’t reached the day at which they compete with HDDs in price/GB. For mass storage – things like music, videos, photos, etc – the Seagate 1TB is a solid choice. 1TB is generally plenty of space for most users, 7200 RPM ensures it isn’t painfully slow (although it will still be slower than an SSD), and it has a two-year warranty.

SSD

SanDisk Ultra II 480GB ($134): When buying a high-end PC, nobody wants to wait for a hard drive to slowly load Windows or spin-up for games. To ensure snappiness and fast loading, we’ve included the SanDisk Ultra II 480GB as this build’s SSD. The Ultra II is rated for sequential read speeds of up to 550MB/s and write speeds up to 500MB/s. It has a MTBF (mean time between failure) of 1.75 million hours, along with a warranty of three years. The SanDisk Ultra II is large enough to hold Windows along with a fair bit of programs and games, and will ensure that they load quickly.

Power Supply

EVGA GQ 850W 80+ Gold ($105): The EVGA GQ 850 is 80 Plus Gold rated, so it will be efficient at both high and low loads. It is semi-modular, which aids cable routing. Because the EVGA GQ 850W is rated 850W, in the future, another 980 Ti can be bought and put into SLI with the original. A high-capacity PSU also allows for overclocking, upgradeability, and the potential for being reused in future builds. The EVGA GQ 850W also includes a five-year warranty.

For those uninterested in SLI, a lower wattage (and cheaper) power supply can be chosen. A good alternative is the Seasonic G 550W. Like the EVGA GQ 850W, it is 80+ Gold. The primary difference is that it is only rated for 550W, which is fine for a standard PC, but would be insufficient for SLI. The Seasonic PSU is semi-modular and has a five-year warranty.

Case

Fractal Design Define R5 ($90): The Fractal Design Define R5 is a good choice to house all of these components. It is Fractal Design’s fifth revision of their Define case and features a minimalistic style, ATX support, sound-damping foam, dust filters, 8x3.5” bays (removable), and 2x2.5” bays.

The R5 fits graphics cards up to 310mm with the top HDD cage installed, and up to 440mm without it. Fractal’s Define R5 includes 1x140mm fan in the front and 1x140mm fan in the rear. One of its other prominent features is extensive water cooling support, up to a 420mm radiator in the top and up to 360mm radiator in the front. The R5 has a warranty of one year.

Feel free to post any comments or questions below! Or go to our forums for more in-depth help.

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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