Build an Intel i7 or Ryzen 7 Gaming PC for Under $1,500 2017
Whether you're part of team AMD or Intel this year, the type of build you can get for a budget of $1,500 in 2017 is nothing short of amazing. Improvements over the last several years mean that ultra settings gaming in 1440p can be achieved at this price point.
If you're planning on building a computer for $1,500, here's a look at the parts we'd choose along with an explanation for each. You can either build a PC exactly like this one or modify it to fit your needs. Either way, we'll get you updated with all the latest information you'll need along the way.
Why You Should Build Your Own Custom Computer
When you think about the parts you'd want to put in your PC with a budget of $1500, there's a lot of expectations. You'd expect a quality 80 Plus power supply with room to upgrade and overclock if you wanted. The manufacturer of a pre-built machine wants to give you the bare minimum of what you need.
For the motherboard, you'd pick exactly what you wanted. Either a motherboard with plenty of features, overclocking headroom, or perhaps one that didn't cost a lot.
If you let someone else take over, then you're allowing them to make all the big decisions. In terms of quality, it's a bit of a crap shoot on what you'll get.
With all of this being said, my point is that you should just build your own PC. If you've never done it before, then hopefully I can help you pick out the parts that will give you the best overall value. Putting the parts together is actually rather simple. The best way to get going is to just order the parts, get started, and grab a friend if you need help. I can answer any other questions you may have below.
I7-7700k vs Ryzen 7 1700
At this price point, I recommend you go for a processor in the $300 range. So, it really comes down to the Ryzen 7 1700 and the i7 7700k. A colleague of mine did a comparison of these two processors and I was somewhat shocked with the result.
First of all, if you're going with a Ryzen CPU, there's not a ton of difference between the Ryzen 7 1700 model and the 1800x in terms of gaming. This is especially true if you overclock it.
Against the i7-7700k the Ryzen 7 1700 does lose a few frames in games. So, if you're only purpose is to game, the i7-7700k is probably the better choice. That being said, the more cores that games utilize going forward, the better the Ryzen 7 1700 will do. In addition, the 8 cores and 16 threads of the Ryzen 7 1700 make it a better workhorse CPU than the i7-7700k and its 4 cores and 8 threads.
In terms of Ryzen, a few people have written it off because it has slower Instructions per clock than Kaby Lake. That being said, it's still very fast. So, if you could use the extra cores, I'd definitely go that route. Additionally, the higher the resolution you play it, the smaller the gap between it and the i7 Intel CPU.
If this is strictly a gaming PC for you, go with the i7 Kaby Lake processor.
The i7-7700k is monstrously fast and does a fantastic job of not bottle-necking your GPU.
For those who do a lot of multitasking, go with the Ryzen 7 1700. It's a workhorse CPU that's great for editing and still really good for gaming.
Good Graphics Card Options for 1440p
If you're simply playing in 1080p, then a 1080 Ti might be more than what you need. However, a higher frame rate in 1440p or 4k still requires the best. Right now, that's the 1080Ti which is up to 35% faster than the GTX 1080.
This graphics card is nearly half of our $1,500 budget. So, if you'd prefer to save a little bit and go with something less expensive, you can certainly add more storage and cooling options to the build.
A good Z270 Motherboard around $150
If you're looking for a Good Z270 Kaby Lake Motherboard, I've written an in-depth post on my favorites. At around $150 you get good reliability, overclocking potential, and a ton of features in the Asus Z270 Prime.
If you don't need quite as many features you can spend even less and go with the Gigabyte's GA-Z270XP-SLI for around $130. It will work more than fine for most builds.
If you're looking for a motherboard with even more options, I like the Asus IX Hero or any of the Aorus boards around $200.
A Motherboard for the Ryzen 7 1700
If you end up going with the Ryzen 7 1700 processor, you'll need an AM4 compatible motherboard. Most likely, you'll want to go with an X360 board like the Asus Prime. Like the Kaby Lake board, it has a proven track record for quality, features, and overclocking headroom.
The Prime Z270 gives you a good combination of quality and features for around $150.
A Good Power Supply Under $100
Regardless of what you end up doing for your build, I highly recommend you spend a bit more on your power supply to get one that I'd consider to be in the top tier. EVGA has the most reasonable option in this tier in its SuperNova G2 Gold Series.
With good value options from 550W to around 1600W, you're more than likely to find what you're looking for.
If you're looking for an option at a different price point, take a look at my post on the best power supplies for the money by budget.
Best Air and Liquid CPU Coolers Under $100
We've only allocated around $30 of our overall budget to a CPU cooler. The Hyper 212 EVO does the best job of giving you a decent overclock at that price point. It gives you most of the performance of the most expensive water and fan coolers, but without the inflated price.
If you want to get more performance, then I recommend you jump up to another high-performance cooler like the NZXT Kraken X6. It's a proven winners in many benchmarks.
Overall, I think most are happy with the moderate overclock of the Hyper 212 EVO. It'll get you to 5GHz on the i7 Kaby Lake 7700k and that's probably what most are looking for.
2 Good PC Cases for the Money
I recently wrapped up my post on the best mid-tower gaming cases. Clearly there are a plethora of different case options that would work really well here. Looking at budgets and value for the money you pay, I'll narrow it down to two that I like right now.
If you go with a full-tower Case I'd go with the Phanteks Enthoo Pro. For a smaller case, that's about half the price, I like the Corsair Carbide 200R.
Phanteks Enthoo Pro Full Tower CaseClick thumbnail to view full-size
If you're looking for a full tower case with a ton of features that doesn't cost a lot, this is the one to get. While it's a couple of years old now that simply means that it's more tested, more refined, and all for less money than day 1.
The case itself is made of steel and plastic and has a side window for viewing all your hardware.
Expansion and Flexibility
For expansion it has 8 slots and can hold up to 10 120mm fans, 7 140 mm fans, or 2 200mm fans. That's a lot of air! Included with the case are 1 200mm fan in the front and a 140mm fan in the rear. For flexibility the SSD bracket is on a drop and lock system that can be placed in two different locations. Both HDD cages are removable as well.
Corsair Carbide Series 200R Case
If you prefer to go with something cheaper and more compact than a full-sized tower, I like Corsair's Carbide model 200R. It's a black steel and plastic case with plenty of airflow and expansion slots.
Corsair makes it Easy
I've done several builds in Corsair cases over the years and they always make it easy. Knowing the build doesn't take very long makes it easier to setup and upgrade in the future. The 200R has thumbscrews for the SSD, hard drive, an optical drives making it a tool-free setup.
Expansion and Compatibility
The 200R has seven PCI-E slots all with thumbscrews and allows for a GPU of up to 430mm long. CPU Coolers up to 160mm in height fit and the side panels can hold up to 8 fan mounts. The case comes with 2 x 120mm fans.
Overall, this is one of the better cases you'll find in the $50 range. It's sturdy, makes it easy to install, and has plenty of expansion. Find it on rebate for sub $50 pricing.
In the past, I'd skimp on storage options to get every bit of raw performance I could out of my gaming PC. Now, I opt for a good amount of storage as I understand just how important it is.
A solid state drive here is a must here. If you play multiplayer it loads maps faster and in real life performance, it's just about as important as any component I can think of.
I've gone with the Kingston SSD Now V300 series for its reliability, speed, and low price. I've purchased several of these over the last year and typically go with this model unless the Samsung EVO series is cheaper.
For Hard drive, we're going with the Hitachi Deskstar 7200RPM 2TB hard drive. It's regularly on sale for around $60 and for $10 more than the popular Caviar Blue 1 TB model from WD, gives you twice as much storage. If you store as many videos, shows, photos, and files as I do on your PC, then that extra storage will be something you're glad to have.
DDR4 Memory Options
If you're moving from a DDR3 rig, unfortunately, you won't be able to use what you already have. Still, you should be able to use what you buy here in your next few upgrades.
With how cheap memory is these days, I can't imagine building a PC at this price range and not throwing at least 16GB of memory at it.
With either the Haswell-e or Skylake versions of this build, you'll need DDR4. Having done some testing on overclocking and performance, I can tell you that anything around 2400MHz is going to get the job done in terms of gaming performance and DDR4.
I especially like the Corsair Vengeance LPX series. It's inexpensive, good quality, and overclocks super well.
$1250 to $1500 PC Build With Options
*$1500 Build Upgrade and Downgrade Options
Hyper 212 Evo
Hyper 212 Evo, H100i (+$70)
Asus Z270 Prime
Asus Z270 Prime
Corsair Vengeance LPX 2x4GB 2666MHz
Corsair Vengeance LPX 2x8GB 3000MHz (+$40)
A-Data Premier SP550 240GB SSD
A-Data Premier SP550 240GB SSD
WD 1 TB Caviar Blue
WD 1 TB Caviar Blue
GTX 1070 or 1080
GTX 1080 Ti
Phanteks Enthoo Pro (+$30)
EVGA SuperNova NEX 650W
EVGA SuperNova NEX 650W
Final Thoughts, AMD vs NVIDIA in 2016, and Summary
Whether this is your first PC or you're simply looking to upgrade, hopefully I've helped you along the way in your decision process. I strongly feel that NVIDIA's Pascal is the way to go this year.
That being said AMD is releasing their Pascal based GPUs in time for the back to school rush of August and September. With NVIDIA striking first in 2016, it's possible that AMD will have a solid answer. Then again, I can't help but think of the GTX 980 and the way it used the 980 Ti when it needed to respond to a potential threat from AMD.
Here's hoping that in 2016 we'll get some better competition.
If you'd like more options and more builds, I highly recommend you take a look at my build a gaming PC series on YouTube. Some of it gets a bit out of date from time to time but I typically redo all of my builds each quarter.
My $1500 Build YouTube Video:
You can go to my YouTube Channel for an alternate version of this build where I do a little more of a mainstream build. I've also posted my $300 to $2000 builds there as well as here.
If you're looking for an always up-to-date version of the build above you can also see my page on the top gaming computers for 2016. It includes 10 builds from $200 to $2500 that are frequently updated.
Should you Go SLI?
Potential Advantages of SLI
Better performance for your money. While this may not have completely been true in years past it's definitely true right now. The reason for this is that scaling has gotten better. By that, I simply mean that if you use two cards in SLI you can get closer to double the performance of a single card than ever before. In addition, it works really well with multiple monitor configurations.
Disadvantages of SLI
There are still a lot of disadvantages to SLI in 2016. When you have two graphics cards side by side in a case it uses more power and can get a bit hot from time to time. Also, not every game supports dual card configurations. That being said, most graphically intense games like Battlefield 4 provide support for this and AMD and NVIDIA provide driver updates regularly. In addition, micro stuttering can occur on occasion although, this is very limited on NVIDIA's newer cards.
Thoughts about Dual Card Configurations:
Starting out with a single card can also be advantageous if you want to SLI or Crossfire down the line. For example, if I bought a GTX 1070 today, then I could purchase another GTX 1070 years from now for a discount and save myself from having to upgrade.
That being said if you go with a dual card configuration for a similar budget, you're likely to get better performance right now. Either way, it's really a matter of personal preference, but with SLI configurations getting simpler, it'll probably become a more popular option over the next couple of years.