Best Extreme Gaming PC Builds for Your Money: October 2017


(Recommended $1500 and $2000 Builds)


Last Updated: Oct 8, 2017

If you scoff at our recommended budget gaming builds and snicker at our suggested high-end gaming builds, you're in the right place: the following extreme gaming PC build examples are our current top hardware picks for building a monster system that will allow you to experience PC gaming at its finest and have your gaming buddies green with envy.

I've tapped into my years and years of PC hardware experience and knowledge to carefully research and tweak these extreme gaming builds to perfection to help you choose the very best components to fully maximize performance, reliability, cooling, lastability, upgrade-ability, and aesthetics for each build's price target (under $1500 and under $2000).

These extreme custom builds also double up as very capable workstations for demanding applications like high-resolution video editing/production, 3D rendering and animation, etc, and are also perfect for flawless VR gaming and streaming. They're also both well-equipped to include custom water-cooling should you want to venture down that path (check out our ultimate water cooling guide for guidance).

As always, don't just take my word for it and make sure to do your own research, especially if you'll be mixing and matching parts and tweaking these builds further for your own unique wants and needs. Let's cut the small talk and get into the first of these two killer custom rigs that are equipped with everything a hardcore gamer or enthusiast would ever want to game like a god and work like a wizard.



Best Extreme Gaming PC Build Under $1500 (October 2017)


Gaming Performance:

1080p (1920 x 1080):

1440p (2560 x 1440):

VR & 4K:

FLAWLESS

FLAWLESS

GREAT

The above is the average expected performance of this build at different resolutions when playing a typical, graphically-demanding modern game on high settings.


THE $1500 EXTREME BUILD
GPU EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 8GB
CPU Intel Core i7-7700K 4.2 GHz
Cooler Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO
Motherboard ASUS PRIME Z270-A (ATX, DDR4, SLI)
RAM Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB (2x8GB, DDR4, 3000MHz)
HDD WD Blue 1TB (7200 RPM)
SSD Crucial MX300 275GB
PSU EVGA SuperNOVA G2 750 Watts (80+ Gold, Modular)
Case Phanteks Enthoo Pro (ATX Full-Tower)
TOTAL COST: $1535 *

* Total cost is only an estimate as prices often fluctuate


This extreme gaming PC build packs serious punch for the hardcore gamers and enthusiasts out there who won't settle for anything less but flawless performance in either 1080p or 1440p resolution, and very good performance in 4K and virtual reality.

For discerning readers, this month's extreme build does crack a little over the 1500 dollar maximum target budget, but in this instance there's no little compromise I could make on this parts-list that would justify staying under the imaginary spending limit; this build is perfect as it is IMHO and I wouldn't change it, and is exactly how I would personally spend my money around this price range.

With these parts most modern games can be maxed out at 4K and will get over that holy 60FPS mark, but keep in mind that the small handful of super-demanding titles such as Witcher 3 won't get you to 60FPS on ultra settings in 4K (not even the 1080 Ti in the next $2000 extreme build would do that). But yeah, for most games this system is pretty much flawless or close to flawless in maxed-out 4K.

This extreme rig is not just about pure performance though, and all parts were carefully selected for both value and high reliability. It's a well-balanced build that will run nice and cool, and should last you a long, long time.

It's also easily upgradeable with plenty of wiggle room in terms of power, space, and expansion slots/ports. And for the enthusiasts, the CPU, GPU and RAM are all able to be overclocked, although the GPU is already clocked a little faster than its normal stock speeds.

Let's look at each component of the best extreme gaming PC build under $1500 in more detail:


$1500 Build GPU:

EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 8GB


We've got our priorities set straight so let's discuss the GPU first The GTX 1080 8GB is a beast and a clear winner in the $500 - $650 price range for gaming. As mentioned, with this card you'll get super fast performance in any resolution and it will last you many years playing the latest games in style.

The only reason to bump up to the slightly more powerful 1080 Ti would be for anyone wanting even better 4K and/or VR performance, or if you want to further future proof your rig, but for 98% of gamers a 1080 is more than enough.

Feel free to get any version of the 1080 from any brand, but I've gone for EVGA's SuperClocked model as it was well-priced at the time of writing and I think EVGA has solid support and overall reliability when it comes to GPUs.


$1500 Build CPU:

Intel Core i7-7700K 4.2 GHz


When building the best extreme gaming PC build, it's a tough call between getting an Intel i7 or an AMD Ryzen 7, as either are great choices. But if you care mostly about pure gaming performance, the i7 may be the better choice for you because it has the slightly better single-threaded performance which many games rely on, hence why we've given the i7-7700K the go-ahead for this $1500 build example.

But where AMD shines is for heavy multi-tasking and CPU-intensive workstation/production tasks such as video editing, rendering, demanding CPU-based streaming, 3D work, etc.

So if you care about demanding non-gaming tasks as much (or almost as much) as gaming then you'll want to seriously consider a Ryzen instead of an i7 (without forgetting to swap our recommended Intel motherboard with a suitable Ryzen one) as the Ryzen will have more cores and threads for the same price.

But yeah, when it comes to strictly gaming, those extra cores and threads aren't nearly as important and a good quad-core processor (like the i7-7700K) is enough cores for maximum performance in the games of today and into the foreseeable future.

Keep in mind that the i7-7700K, like most "K" rated Intel processors, does NOT come with a cooler (ie heatsink and fan) so you'll need to buy one separate (explained next).


$1500 Build CPU Cooler:

Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO


To keep your powerful i7-7700K cool and quiet you have the Cooler Master 212 EVO. This is a hugely popular cooler for this CPU, and for good reason as it's really affordable yet works very effectively.

You'd only need to invest in a more expensive cooler if you plan on doing some intense overclocking, or in the odd case that this one doesn't keep your chip as cool and quiet as you'd like when your i7-7700K is under load.

The 212 EVO comes with thermal paste too, which for anyone wondering is the paste you need to apply onto the top of your CPU before mounting your cooler.

The included paste is of good quality, meaning you don't need to buy your own thermal paste as you see some builders do, but feel free to do that if you want peace of mind that you're using the absolute highest quality paste possible for maximum cooling. 

Some people do report a slight improvement in cooling efficiency when using a separate paste such as the ever-popular Arctic MX-4 Thermal Paste. But overall I wouldn't worry about it if you're new, and I'd simply use the paste provided that should be shipped with your cooler, unless you're overclocking though where you do want every little bit of cooling help possible.


$1500 Build Motherboard:

ASUS PRIME Z270-A


A great choice for a modern i7 platform that is good value, sturdy, aesthetically-pleasing, and has all the features you need for a build of this caliber.

Keep in mind there's no built-in WiFi though, as most modern motherboards don't have this, so if you want wireless internet or networking you'll need to get a separate adapter (either a PCI/PCI-E card or a USB dongle; either will is fine).

This board also has 2x SLI support for the power-hungry who plan on potentially adding another GTX 1080 to the mix later down the track (or now). For anyone wondering, yes the 850 watt PSU included in this $1500 build is capable of handling 2 x 1080's in SLI without problems. A good quality 850w PSU goes a long way.


$1500 Build RAM:

Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB 3000MHz


Can't go wrong with Corsair memory, and at this price we've bumped up from the gaming sweet spot of 8GB to the "all-out" amount of 16GB to future-proof this system to maximize gaming and non-gaming performance over the next few years.

Although to be completely honest, you could get away with 8GB when you have such a powerful GPU and CPU and not see a flicker of difference when it comes to gaming in almost all situations over the next year or so.

So it comes down to whether or not you'd rather spend the extra amount on 16GB now, which makes sense if you like the idea of fully future-proofing your rig without having to upgrade later, or if you'll be doing memory-intensive tasks like heavy multitasking or high-resolution video editing, or whether you'd rather put the added cost of 16GB towards something else in your rig. 


$1500 Build HDD + SSD:

WD Blue 1TB (7200 RPM)

+

Crucial MX300 275GB


In terms of storage you have a standard 1TB hard drive from a reliable manufacturer in Western Digital (feel free to get more but 1TB is a lot) and a decent-sized solid state drive for your operating system and frequently-used games and programs for faster loading. Crucial SSDs offer a nice balance between speed and reliability versus price, and are a safe bet.


$1500 Build PSU:

EVGA SuperNOVA G2 750W


The EVGA SuperNOVA G2 750 is a high-quality 80+ gold-rated power supply that will fuel your top-of-the-range system reliably for years to come. EVGA produce some really top-notch PSUs these days and this model is no exception.

The last thing you want to do, especially when building a powerful gaming PC like this, is go too cheap on your PSU and put all your precious components at risk; don't underestimate the importance of a good-quality, reliable PSU that has high-quality rails and capacitors, and great efficiency with a gold 80-plus rating (80+ bronze at the absolute minimum).

750 watts of power is more than enough for this particular build, even taking into account the beast of a video card and any potential upgrades you may wish to make in the future. Yup, you'll be good even if you add another GTX 1080 for a multi-card SLI setup should you get power-hungry down the track.

To top it off the EVGA SuperNOVA G2 is fully modular which helps with making cable management easier and therefore in keeping your rig nice and tidy by minimizing excess cabling. Once you get a modular unit you'll never want to go back to a non-modular one with all those annoying extra wires.

For the uninitiated, a modular PSU simply means you can detach any wires that you don't need for your build, whereas with non-modular PSUs you can't detach any and you have to stash excess wires within your case.


$1500 Build Case:

Phanteks Enthoo Pro Full-Tower


You have quite a few great choices when it comes to choosing a quality case for a super-fast, long-lasting gaming computer like this, but the Phanteks Enthoo Pro is easily one of the better overall value picks.

This case is totally awesome, but make sure you have the room as it's a full-tower size. The extra rooms is great for cooling though, and also for accomodating pretty much any type of system you can imagine, including support for full custom water cooling loops.

Speaking of cooling, it comes with 1 extra-large front fan (200mm) and a nice 140mm in the back which is adequate for most people's needs, especially if you'll be sticking to the parts I've listed for this particular build. You only need extra case fans if you'll be overclocking or adding another GPU, etc. Or, if you simply want to and you'll be adding a set of cool LED fans or something like that.

Overall, it's a quality-constructed chassis with great cooling, excellent cable management capabilities, great looks, plenty of room - and usually very well-priced. Can't go wrong, but of course as mentioned you should pick the case that you like the most, as it will come down to personal preference.

If you drop down to a mid-tower case size, make sure it has enough room for your GTX 1080 and the 212 EVO cooler as they take up a fair bit of room. Plus, do your homework on things like cooling, cable management, sturdiness, etc. You don't want to pick a dud case for a build like this.

So that's the last part of the best custom gaming rig under $1500 right now, and is more than enough for most. But if you want to spend even more such as around $2000, the next DIY PC will be right up your ally and is exactly how I'd spend my own money if I were to drop around 2K on the dream gaming system.




Best Extreme Gaming PC Build Under $2000 (October 2017)


Gaming Performance:

1080p (1920 x 1080):

1440p (2560 x 1440):

VR & 4K:

FLAWLESS

FLAWLESS

GREAT / FLAWLESS

The above is the average expected performance of this build at different resolutions when playing a typical, graphically-demanding modern game on high settings.


THE $2000 EXTREME BUILD
GPU EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti FTW3 11GB
CPU Intel Core i7-7700K 4.2 GHz
Cooler Noctua NH-D15
Motherboard ASUS ROG Strix Z270E (ATX, DDR4, SLI)
RAM Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB (2x8GB, DDR4, 3000MHz)
HDD WD Blue 1TB (7200 RPM)
SSD Samsung 850 EVO 500GB
PSU EVGA SuperNOVA G3 850W (80+ Gold, Modular)
Case Cooler Master HAF X Full Tower
TOTAL COST: $1992 *

* Total cost is only an estimate as prices often fluctuate


Now we arrive at god-like gaming performance with our second extreme gaming PC build example of this month. This machine is capable of buttery smooth gaming in any game, in any resolution, and on any setting for years to come.

You'll note that the expected 4K performance listed above is "great/flawless", because the truth is the upper-echelon of demanding titles such as The Witcher 3 and Tomb Raider will still dip a little under the super-smooth 60FPS mark when maxed out in 4K (they still play smooth, though).

But for practically every other gaming scenario this PC will absolutely excel with ease, and will provide years of highly enjoyable flawless gaming without ever having to think about upgrading anything or toning down some in-game settings.

Whatever you do, if you build this computer then make sure to get some solid peripherals to go along with it to make the most of it and experience PC gaming at its finest.

Ok, let's get into the surreal specs of this killer battle station, excluding any parts that remain the same from the previous $1500 extreme PC (the CPU and RAM remain the same).


$2000 Build GPU:

EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti FTW3 11GB


The star of the $2000 show is the mighty GTX 1080 Ti which has no equal in this price range. It goes without saying this card is a monster that will eat up pretty much anything you throw at it.

4K performance is excellent, and excluding a handful of anomalies such as Witcher 3 and Tomb Raider which will dip under 60FPS, this card will produce a consistently super-smooth, 60FPS and above experience when playing any game in 4K on high/ultra settings.

A 1080 Ti is also perfect for flawless virtual reality performance in any VR title on either the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift, and you'll keep up with any advancements in VR requirements over the next few years (we've only seen the beginning but that's another story for another day).

I've gone for EVGA's "FTW3" version of the 1080 Ti which comes with a 3-fan cooling setup powered by EVGA's ICX cooling technology which does an excellent job at keeping temperatures nice and low even when under load during a hectic gaming session. This model also looks pretty epic with a slick design and customizable RGB lighting.

As for getting a SLI or CrossFire multi-GPU setup instead of this? I'd personally pick a single powerful GPU over multiple cards any day of the week, and I know I'm far from alone in my views on this. Multi-GPU rigs come with their own hassles and potential issues, and plus it's not like you're doubling your gaming performance as most games don't scale well and hardly utilize SLI/CrossFire as you'd expect them to.

Anyway, if you're looking for the single best gaming graphics card right now (besides a Titan which isn't cost-effective and unnecessary for 99.9% of gamers) to play games how the developers intended for them to be enjoyed, the 1080 Ti is your new best friend.


$2000 Build CPU Cooler:

Noctua NH-D15


The CPU remains the same from the previous extreme build, so check out the commentary there if you want to learn why the i7-7700K was chosen for these custom PCs, so let's skip to the cooler.

If you've been living under a rock or you just have better things to do than study the PC hardware market, Noctua are a household name in cooling and produce some of the absolute best, most effective heatsink and fan units around. Period. I'm still not a fan of the bland brownish color scheme, but boy do these little bad boys work well in keeping CPUs cool and quiet. The Cooler Master 212 EVO included in the previous build is good, but Noctua are the pinnacle of air cooling.

You may also want to consider an AiO (All-in-One) liquid cooler such as the Corsaor Hydro or NZXT Kraken series to further cool your CPU, especially if you'll be overclocking. Furthermore, if you have the time, money and interest you could go all-out and fit a custom loop which will provide the highest level of cooling and noise reduction. The case included in this rig is perfectly suited for that.

We wrote an eBook on how to design and build a custom water cooling loop which may give you the confidence you need to undertake this if you're a first-timer, but for most people you'll do just fine (and are probably better off) with an air-cooler or AiO. Custom loops are more for fun and looks than practicality to be honest, unless you're really overclocking a system to its absolute edge.


$2000 Build Motherboard:

ASUS ROG Strix Z270E


The board included in the previous $1500 build is good, but this one is even better and comes with all the extra bells and whistles including built-in WiFi, tons of expansion ports and connections, awesome design with customizable lighting, the highest quality on-board audio, and good overclocking utilities for enthusiasts.

Quality and durability is more than adequate for a top of the range 2K build like ours, and it also has 2-way NVidia SLI support (NVidia does not officially support more than 2 GPUs anymore) and 3-way AMD CrossFire support.


$2000 Build HDD + SSD:

WD Blue 1TB (7200 RPM)

+

Samsung 850 EVO 500GB


Same 1TB HDD as recommended across all our recommended builds, but with a large top of the line 500GB SSD from Samsung. Storage size will come down to personal preference, but with a health budget of 2K you can afford a nicely-sized SSD like this to speed up most of your games/apps. Yes, SSDs really do make a difference when it comes to booting and loading etc.


$2000 Build PSU:

EVGA SuperNOVA G3 850W


Another excellent quality and reliable unit that won't let your system down and that provides ample power for these parts. Can't go wrong with a higher-tier EVGA PSU such as this one, which rival other top-name power supply brands like Seasonic and XFX these days.


$2000 Build Case:

Cooler Master HAF X Full Tower


The HAF X is a case for the ages, and has long stood as one of the best full-tower cases out there, period. This chassis is something special that will please everyone from the budding PC building beginner who just wants a great case that's also easy to build with, all the way to the picky high-end PC enthusiast who appreciates all the finer details in a case that either help the overall system or make modifications and expansion a whole lot better.








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