The $1200 Core i5 Gaming Build (May 2016)

(Intel, DDR4, overclockable, Blu-ray, wireless, SSD, Windows 10)

This is one of our reader-requested builds from our computer hardware help service. Check it out if you want us to thoroughly research and write-up a personalized build for your own specific budget and feature-needs.

Total Estimated Cost (minus any rebates or shipping): $1197 USD

Components & Accessories Wanted:

  • Tower (CPU, Motherboard, RAM, Graphics Card, Power Supply, Case)
  • Standard Hard Drive
  • SSD
  • DVD Drive/Burner
  • Aftermarket CPU Cooler
  • Operating System (Windows)
  • Wireless Card
  • Blu-ray Reader
  • Anti-static wrist band

Customer Requirements (in their words)


"I plan on using this computer mostly for gaming. I want to still be able to use basic programs and to be able to stream movies and use programs such as Adobe, Excel, and Powerpoint. I want to be able to run different programs (not necessarily games) at the same time on it. I do not plan on doing any kind of video editing or photoshopping it.

I plan on playing MMO's such as League of Legends and War Thunder. I also want to be able to play games anywhere from Rome II:Total War and Starcraft II to FPS titles. I want to be able to play these games on their top settings (or close to their highest settings) without noticeable degradation in performance and stability."


"I have a budget range. Anywhere up to $1500 I am willing to spend; however, I can go a little higher (+$200) if it's absolutely essential to stability/performance. I do not mind spending the extra money on a closed liquid cooling system (I dont want to have to worry about leaks)."


"From what I've gathered, I would like an SSD for the primary storage. I am not concerned with waiting an extra minute to load a game so a large HDD secondary storage is fine. I don't know how big a primary storage drive should be. Id prefer the secondary storage to be in the 1TB range.

I do not plan on overclocking. I might when I get more experience and knowledge on how to do it safely and efficiently. For the immediate future however (next 3+ years) I do not plan on overclocking.

I don't have a preference on panels. As far as size goes, Id prefer something that isn't completely over-sized. Blue, Green, or Indigo colors are preferred.

In general, I'd like to play current games on the highest to second-highest graphical settings without sacrificing performance or stability. I would also like to be reasonably future-proofed if possible (3 years at least if possible)."

$1200 Core i5 Gaming Build

$1200 Core i5 Gaming Build

Before getting into your build which I've dubbed the May 2016 $1200 Core i5 Gaming Build (for reference purposes, not really the coolest name :P) please keep in mind a couple things:

  • All prices listed below were correct at the moment I published and sent through your build, but note that prices may change at any time.
  • As well as price changes, components may go out of stock at any time as well. Any combo deals included may also expire by the time you get to look through your parts list. (please email us if one of these things occur and we'll assist you with a replacement ASAP if you need help with that).

The total cost comes in quite a bit under your maximum budget of $1500 because for the purposes you described, and the specific games you want to be playing maxed out, this is more than enough power. However, that's assuming you'll be playing these games at the common full HD (also known as 1080p, or 1920 x 1080).

If you wish to play in higher resolutions then a more powerful rig may be of interest to you, or if you simply want to future-proof this build even more if you have the money to spend. It's totally your choice, however the build as is will go a long way and will have you playing the latest games very well in full HD for years to come.

You also have overclocking ability with an overclock-able CPU (with included aftermarket cooler to help with cooling) and motherboard should you choose to get into that later (you mentioned you might do), ample extra power wattage and space to take into account any common upgrades you may wish to make such as adding another video card (yes your motherboard supports SLI aka having multiple GeForce graphics cards) or adding more RAM (which is a cheap way to add a performance boost - your motherboard supports up to 64GB by the way).

The included i5-6600K is without a doubt the best gaming CPU on the market right now in terms of best gaming performance for the money and good enough for literally ANY game on the market (and for a long time to come).

For all the games you mentioned such as League of Legends, War Thunder, Rome II:Total War, Starcraft II and popular FPS titles, the GeForce 970 I've included in the $1200 build is powerful enough to play all of these very nicely on maxed-out settings. That's assuming you'll be playing in FHD (aka 1080p aka 1920 x 1080) like the vast majority of gamers these days and not in even larger resolutions.

Although I'll just mention that even if you do go above 1920 x 1080, the GeForce 970 can still play those games on maxed-out settings quite decently - just perhaps not the most demanding PC titles on the market at a constant 60 fps (ie flawless performance. But all in all, having a GeForce 970 should be all you need from what you've told me. The next step up would be a GeForce 980 if you're wondering which may be overkill - but hey if you have the extra money to spend (since this build is well under your max budget) it could be a consideration to have your build last even longer than it already should. But don't get me wrong, the 970 is a beast.

8 GB of RAM all you need for gaming and the basic tasks you mentioned in your requirements - anything more is simply overkill as from what you said you won't be running any heavily-intensive programs. Sure, go for more RAM if you want to though, it's just not necessary for gaming at this point in time to be completely honest with you.

Since you included in your build request that you want a blu-ray drive, I've included the most cost-effective yet well-received blu-ray burner out there from what I gather (I don't use blu-ray myself), which also reads and burns DVDs.

Note that you actually need to buy additional software such as "PowerDVD" to play blu-rays (annoying, I know), however I have heard that you may be able to get it working for free by getting a plugin for VLC media player however I can't confirm that (I've never used blu-ray myself to be honest). If you don't want blu-ray anymore, I'd simply just get a DVD burner (the one I recommend is the one recommended in our Budget Gaming Desktop Builds on our site) and you'll save some money.

You've included wireless capability in your list of parts wanted, and so you have an internal wireless network card which fits into one of the spare 4 PCI-Express ports (your included motherboard has 5 ports) to get a very solid wireless signal. Note that this adapter does not support 5Ghz wireless signals, so if your router does support that then you'll want to get another adapter with support for that such as the TL-WDN380 or TL-WDN4800 models. Another choice if you don't want to install a network card is to get a USB dongle adapter which some people prefer - totally your choice but personally I prefer to install an adapter so you don't use up one of your USB ports.

You said you don't mind including a liquid cooling system, however based on the details you gave me and your budget I don't feel it's necessary at all. But of course, feel free to look into that if it's something you really want (having liquid cooling does sound cool.. :P). The awesome Rosewill case we've included in your $1200 build has support for a 240 mm Liquid-cooling Radiator in the front should you go down that path.

That's it for your personalized parts list and I hope this setup is what you're after. Feel free to get back to us with any further questions (Andrew), and for anyone else tuning in I hope you have either learned something or gained some insight for your own custom build. Enjoy : )