Best PC Gaming Computer Desktop Build Under $1500 2016
1440p for $1500
In my opinion, the ideal gaming experience right now is in 1440p. In 2016, this can easily be achieved with a $1500 budget. With the release of NVIDIA's 1070 and 1080 GPUs, you'll get more performance than ever before for less.
With the release of these new graphics cards, there are sure to be a plethora of new pre-built gaming PCs that will come into the market. I highly suggest you avoid them. While some of them may seem enticing in terms of its performance, I've found that many of them use less than stellar parts.
If you build your own gaming PC, you're likely to get not only better performance but better quality parts as well.
Why You Should Build Your Own Custom Computer
Think about what kind of power supply you'd want if you were building your own PC for $1500. 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.
How about a motherboard? While you'd probably prefer a mid-range Z170 motherboard for some decent overclocking, a pre-built machine might just come with whatever is cheapest. Some of the brands of motherboards used for these computers are simply not desirable in my opinion, and definitely not worthy of all those high-priced components.
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.
I5-6600k vs I7-6700k vs I7-6800k
When it comes to gaming, a processor like the i5-6600k is all you need in order to maximize your in-game FPS and not have a bottleneck in-game performance in 1080p.
As you go up to 1440p and 4k this is even the more the case. Why? The additional strain from your GPU means it's even less likely.
That being said if you're budget is around $1500, then like me, you're most likely using your gaming PC for beyond just gaming. So, why consider an i7?
Intel's i7 processors add hyper-threading which leads to better streaming, rendering, editing, and more. Ultimately, it leads to a better multitasking machine. If you're going for an i7, you'll want to choose between the Broadwell-e i7-6800k and Skylake i7-6700k. The 6800k is a 6 core processor while the newer Skylake i7-6700k is faster in single-threaded performance but has only 4 cores. After overclocking that single-threaded performance difference is minimal.
Still, with the Skylake, you get to use the new Z170 platform as opposed to the enthusiast LGA 2011-v3 of the 6800k. It's a bit cheaper and more up-to-date.
If you don't care to overclock, see the i7 6700 and i5-6600 (no k) models for a savings of about $40.
Good Graphics Card Options for 1440p
If you're looking in the under $500 price point, there's really only two cards that make a lot of sense at this point in time. The NVIDIA Pascal GTX 1070 and 1080. NVIDIA's new cards give you unbelievable performance in 1440p and even 4k. If you're aiming for 4k, a dual configuration of 1080's should be more than capable of handling AAA titles.
If you're looking for a cheaper card or don't care to run in 1440p or 4k, I highly recommend you look for deals on NVIDIA's Maxwell 900 series of graphics cards. There should be especially good options coming up for the 980 Ti, 980, and 970.
With the Pascal release graphics cards from NVIDIA's 900 series should go down in price. Look for deals this year on the 980Ti, 980, and 970 as well as aftermarket 1080 and 1070 options.
Best Under $200 Haswell-e and Skylake Motherboards
Skylake Options for the i7-6700k or i5-6600k
If you're looking for a good Skylake 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 Z170-A.
If you don't need quite as many features you can spend even less and go with the Gigabyte GA-Z170-HD3 for around $125. It will work more than fine for most builds.
If you're looking for a motherboard with even more options, I like the Asus VIII Hero or EVGA Z170 FTW at around the $200 price point.
A Good Haswell-e 2011 v3 Motherboards for around $200
At this price point there's really only one motherboard I like a lot. The MSI Extreme Gaming X99A SLI Plus. It has a ton of features for less than other similar motherboards and more features for what you pay at the same price point.
Right now I like the Asus Z170-A. It gives me the reliability, quality, and features I look for in a build.
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 $100 of our overall budget to a CPU cooler. That being said you certainly don't have to spend that much. The Hyper 212 EVO does a great job at giving you a modest overclock for just under $30. 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.
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
i5-6600k (-$100), i7-6800k (+$100)
NZXT Kraken X61
Hyper 212 Evo (-$70), H100i (Same)
Gigabyte GA-Z170-HD3P (-$50), Asus Maximus VIII Hero (+$50)
Corsair Vengeance LPX 2x4GB 2666MHz
Corsair Vengeance LPX 2x8GB 3000MHz (+$40)
A-Data Premier SP550 240GB SSD
Hitachi Deskstar 2TB
GTX 1080 (+$250)
Phanteks Enthoo Pro (+$30)
EVGA SuperNova NEX 750W
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.