Yeah, yeah.. but can it run Crysis?
Last Updated: Dec 13, 2018
In this guide we'll look at how to build the best gaming PC under $2500 for the ultimate 4K and VR experience for 2019 and beyond
If your custom PC budget is around the magical $2500 mark, you're one lucky cat because in your hands (ok, wallet) you hold the keys to building the absolute best 4K gaming PC build possible right now (with a single GPU, that is) capable of a flawless 60FPS even on high/ultra/maxed game settings, and even in the most demanding AAA games on the market. Plus, whilst you can obviously build a VR-Ready gaming PC for WAY less than this, with a budget around 2500 dollars for your custom gaming PC build you can guarantee optimal VR performance using the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive throughout 2019 and beyond into the unknown exciting ether that is VR gaming (get ready 'cause we ain't seen nothing yet).
In this guide we explain exactly how we would strategically approach maximizing $2500 for maximum VR and 4K gaming performance now and into the future by choosing the best parts on the current DIY market, whilst not just aiming for the best gaming performance but simultaneously covering all the bases that makes a good custom PC build: overall build balance, flexibility (upgrade-friendly), component quality, and of course choosing awesome-looking matching parts: when you build a gaming computer for $2500 there's little chance you'll be wanting to assemble a dud-looking eyesore of a machine, and this month's recommended 4K battlestation below is truly a sight to behold once fully operational.
Let's cut the small talk and get into the full breakdown of the best gaming PC build under $2500 (IMHO), including all specs and features to know about, 4K gaming performance benchmarks aggregated from trusted sources around the web (as in, what average frame-rate you can expect from these parts in specific AAA titles in 4K Ultra), and a full breakdown of exactly why each carefully-considered component was selected for this build example. Use this carefully-designed, well thought-out setup exactly as is, or as a base for your own more customized 4K PC build.
Best Gaming PC Build Under $2500 (December 2018)
|Graphics Card||MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Ti 11GB Duke OC
EVGA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti 11GB XC Ultra
|CPU||Intel Core i7-9700K (3.6GHz, 9th Gen, 8 Cores, 8 Threads, Unlocked)|
|CPU Cooler||Corsair Hydro H100i Pro RGB (All-in-One Liquid Cooler, 240mm Radiator, 2 x 120mm Fans)|
|Motherboard||ASUS ROG Strix Z390-E (Intel 9th Gen, ATX, 4 DDR4 Slots, SLI, WiFi)|
|RAM||Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB (2x8GB, DDR4, 3000MHz)|
|SSD (system drive)||Samsung 860 EVO 250GB|
|HDD (secondary drive)||Seagate Barracuda 2TB (7200 RPM, 64MB Cache)|
|Power Supply||EVGA SuperNOVA 850 G3 (80+ Gold, 850 Watts, Fully Modular)|
|Case||Corsair Graphite 780T Full Tower|
Estimated Total: *
$2450 - $2550 (US Dollars)
(Orders Parts on Amazon, Our #1 Recommended Store)
* Total estimated price range was only correct at time of writing and may change at any time as hardware prices fluctuate often.
The above is the average expected performance of this build at different resolutions and refresh-rates when playing a typical, graphically-demanding modern PC game on high/ultra/maxed settings. If you're not sure what refresh-rate your gaming monitor is, chances are it's a standard 60Hz screen. See PC gaming refresh rates explained for more.
Average Frame Rate for 4K ULTRA
(i7-9700K, RTX 2080 Ti, 16GB 3000MHz)
|Fortnite||75 - 85 FPS
|PUBG||65 - 75 FPS|
|Far Cry 5||65 - 75 FPS|
|Forza Horizon 4||75 - 85 FPS|
|Shadow of the Tomb Raider||60 - 70 FPS|
|Star Wars Battlefront 2||70 - 80 FPS|
|The Witcher 3||60 - 70 FPS|
|Rainbow Six Siege||130 - 140 FPS|
|Quake Champions||120 - 130 FPS|
|F1 2017||80 - 90 FPS|
|World of Tanks||110 - 120 FPS|
A Note on How We Calculate the Average FPS
The average FPS ratings are an aggregated estimation based on carefully studying multiple online benchmark sources. Note these are averages, meaning that in the most action-packed scenes the frame-rate will go lower. For example, if we list the Witcher 3 average as 50-60FPS, your FPS may drop to 30-40FPS in the most intense scenes, so take that into account in your build planning.
Whilst we do everything we can to make these as accurate as possible, please note there's no guarantee you'll get this exact average as there are different factors that could affect your frame rate such as other hardware differences, software differences (OS, drivers, game patches/versions, etc), cooling/airflow of your build, enabled game features/settings such as Anti-Aliasing, different RAM setups you might be using, and so on.
We always err on the side of being conservative with our numbers though, so we'll round things down if we need to instead of rounding up, so you can rest assured our averages are pretty safe bets in terms of what performance you can expect from a certain setup.
Confused About Frame Rates & Game Settings?
New king of the gaming GPUs that dishes up a flawless 60FPS Ultra 4K experience
No surprises here. The recently released 2080 Ti is now the single most powerful gaming GPU on the planet, and while the price is out of reach for most, it's a no-brainer if you want the latest and greatest card for the best 4K gaming performance possible, as well as the current best virtual reality performance you can get your hands on.
With this beast you can expect 60FPS on ultra settings in practically any AAA title, which is a first as the previous king of gaming GPUs (1080 Ti) fell a little short in that regard, and for the VR heads among us you can expect to run any current or upcoming title as smooth as is possible right now from a single card.
But even though it's not the most cost-effective card around, you'd still be wise to be wary of what price you buy at because they're selling for vastly different amounts due to the limited stock at the moment. The MSRP of the 2080 Ti starts at $1199, so don't pay too much more than that, although do keep in mind that the beefier models that are factory-overclocked (ie run faster out of the box) and that have bonus features may cost a little more.
The previous EVGA model included in last month's $2500 build goes out the window as it's near impossible to find them in stock let alone at a good price, but there are plenty of good 2080 Ti models to choose from, and the MSI Duke OC triple fan I've included is the cheapest available option I could find on the market at the time of writing. It's hard finding any RTX 2080 Ti at the $1200 MSRP price though, so try not to pay too much over that if at all possible and if you value getting bang for your buck, although at this extreme level of PC gaming the truth is some builders don't mind overspending and just want the cream of the crop. You've been warned though, so whatever you do don't get royally ripped off by paying too excessively over 1200-1300 bucks.
tough to recommend in terms of value, but money is no object and you just wanna go all out, you don't have a choice as there is no competition in this price range.
The i7-9700K processors stays from the recommended $2000 gaming PC setup, as it's hands-down the best gaming CPU on the market right now, taking the position of the top dog from the previous-gen i7-8700K. Besides the even faster i9-9900K, which would only make sense if your budget is some sort of craziness beyond $3000, if you're planning the best gaming PC build under $2500-ish the i7-9700K is a no-brainer and will not hold back your RTX 2080 Ti from doing its thing.
You could opt for the now-older 8700K instead of the latest 9700K if you really wanted to, which would save you some bucks and get you essentially the same performance (hardly noticeable difference in FPS between the two), but the logic here is that if you're forking out 2500 dollars for an epic new computer then you may as well get the latest and greatest processor. The motherboard, RAM, HDD and SSD also stay from the previous tier as they're excellent components that are also ideal choices for this price range.
As for the CPU cooler, we've gone for the Corsair Hydro H100i Pro as the previous $2000 build, which is a high-end cooler capable of keeping a high-end chip like the 9700K super cool even under load, and even under decent overclocks. Even though it is a liquid cooler, if you're a beginner building your first PC there's no need to panic, as it's an all-in-one cooler meaning that assembly is straightforward and it's absolutely nothing like building your own custom water cooling loop which is another thing entirely in terms of difficulty. The H100i Pro also has cool RGB lighting.
850 watts from a quality PSU is enough power for a monster single GPU build like this
To power a gaming PC you always want to choose a good-quality PSU, and the more you're spending on your components the more important this becomes. Risking a $300 set of PC parts by throwing in an average PSU is nothing like having a dodgy unit in an extreme setup like this. Therefore, for our current recommended 4K gaming PC under $2500 - a true beast of a system - we've once again gone for a very high-quality PSU in the EVGA SuperNova G3 80+ Gold which is also fully modular. As you'll see from the estimated power draw of this custom parts-list, this rig won't even use over 500 watts of power in the worst case, so 850 watts is way more than you need giving you a nice buffer to accommodate all sorts of future upgrades.
Yes, even buying an extra RTX 2080 Ti graphics card to run them both in SLI for a significant boost in GPU power should you want to do that later on, although if would personally get a 1000 watt unit for that sort of monster setup. So, if 850 watts is easily more than enough for the $2500 gaming PC build as is, if you're not planning on many if any upgrades for your setup, you could get away with a 750 watt unit (heck, even a 650W if you're absolutely sure you won't be adding much to your system).
While top of the range EVGA power supplies are great, and not just high-quality efficient units but good value for money too, another very safe choice in a PSU manufacturer would be Seasonic. Their Focus models are excellent and won't let you down either, and are worth considering for an extreme 4K rig of this nature. I've only included the EVGA for the current recommended 4K gaming build as it's currently at a better price at the time of writing. Therefore, if you find the Seasonic for cheaper, I'd opt for it instead.
For a top of the range 4K system, skimping on your PSU is not something to ever consider even if someone held a gun to your head persuading you to buy a dud unit, but when it comes to choosing your case it's the same - you need something that's going to hold you in good stead and serve your expensive new combination of hardware well. And for many, many years to come - unless you're Tony Stark, nobody builds a $2500 monster rig and upgrades in only a year or two. Especially with the endless upgrade options that a setup like this allows you, you want this thing running long and strong until your dying days. Okay, perhaps that's overstating it, unless you're 95 and building a PC (in which case, you sir are a hero amongst men), but having your build for a decade is definitely in the realm of possibility.
The Graphite 780T is a great high-end case for first-timers and demanding enthusiasts alike. There's also a cool white edition which you may prefer and also looks just as awesome
To serve our $2500 4K gaming computer build we have a classic chassis, the Corsair Graphite 780T. A safe bet with excellent cooling, expansion options, and stunning looks, whilst also being beginner-builder-friendly with (gasp) clear instructions. Not something you always see with cases and computer components in general, but like all our recommended gaming PC builds we always favor cases that aren't just high-quality and value for money, but user friendly too.
Don't be fooled by the striking, impressive design of this full tower as it's not just all show and no go, but a very well-constructed, thought-out chassis that will please even the most picky hardware enthusiast out there, yet is also easy to work with as a first-time builder and makes for the perfect base of an extreme gaming battle station.
Just keep in mind it's a Full Tower, meaning you'll need the space on/under/around your desk/office to fit this beast, but the extra room is worth it for an extreme gaming PC build as it allows for the best airflow and full compatibility with practically any type of custom setup your imagination can conjure. Yes, there are such a thing as Super Towers, the next level up in size from a Full Tower, but a Full Tower is more than enough for a build like this. Could you get away with using a smaller Mid Tower case instead? Depends on the model, as some Mid Towers are real roomy such as the Corsair Crystal 570X (great case btw), but you want to lean to a full-tower for a top of the range custom rig like this for maximum airflow and flexibility for the future. Who knows, perhaps in the future you'll throw in another RTX 2080 Ti or even a custom water cooling loop which aren't as scary to execute as they may sound.
The Graphite 780T only comes with the 1 x 140mm built-in fan, so you're gonna need to stock up on a handful of solid fans as for a high-end gaming rig like this you'll need good cooling within your case to keep things running cool and quiet, and to prolong the lifespan of your computer. Pick 3-4 non-LED fans or LED fans of your favorite color, and whilst 120mm fans will be just fine, 140mm are ideal as they have the potential to run the quietest. As this parts-list is, you'll only 3-4 fans for optimal cooling and noise, but feel free to get more if you are tweaking this $2500 gaming PC build further and will be running even faster components than is included here.
Whilst the Graphite 780T truly is hard to beat for the price and will serve a top of the range 2080 Ti build like this well, these are other solid case alternatives that get the BGC stamp of approval for this month's best gaming PC build under $2500 and are well worth considering if you prefer their style/features instead.
As with all our current recommended custom PC builds, 64 bit Windows 10 is what we recommend for the $1500 custom gaming build unless you have a seriously good reason to get another operating system like Linux. You have a few options with buying and installing Windows for your new PC:
As for accessories to go along with a 4K build like this - besides being limited by how much more your wallet allows you to throw down on an already expensive system, you're only limited by your imagination in this price tier and building the ultimate 4K computer would be a bit of a letdown when paired with subpar peripherals like a dud headset, keyboard, or mouse.
You'll probably want some RGB case fans first and foremost for the Corsair Graphite 780T case, as it only comes with the one built-in fan anyway. One thing you definitely don't want to skimp on is audio, as it does make a huge difference in gaming, so whatever you do get a good gaming headset or quality pair of gaming headphones and a good gaming monitor at the very least. No, you don't need a sound card, as built-in audio on good modern motherboards like the Asus Z390 is of high-quality. For those taking the plunge into the epic unknown waters that is VR for the first time, see our guide to building a virtual reality PC which covers choosing the right VR headset for you.
This wraps up our guide to building the best gaming PC build under $2500 for hardcore gamers wanting 4K 60FPS Ultra performance and the perfect VR-Ready PC build to maximize the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift throughout 2019 and beyond. Speaking again on virtual reality just quickly; you may not be on the VR bandwagon just yet, but if you've tried some of the very best VR titles and experiences that are available so far in 2018, you'll know what I mean. It's a total blast, and the future of VR gaming holds endless exciting possibilities. A custom PC of this nature will hold you in good stead to make the most of it now and over the next few years.
As for putting this $2500 parts-list together, it really is no more difficult than say, assembling an entry-level or cheap gaming PC build. Only difference is that it takes a little more time to complete installation, as you also have the CPU cooler to install which is typically one of the longer parts to put together as you want to make sure to do it slowly and properly if it's your first time, and there are a few steps involved. But building your own system isn't complicated; even when assembling a killer 4K gaming system like this. For actual instructions see our step by step PC building tutorial for beginners or see the video tutorial recommended in our newbie 101 guide to your first PC build.
Anyway, if you have questions about planning the right 4K gaming rig and tweaking these suggested parts for your own more tailored wants and needs, leave a comment (or message us) on the BGC Facebook Page or send us an email using our contact form here. Feedback on our builds is also always welcome and appreciated (good, bad or ugly; we're always all-ears if you feel we could improve something about the site).
Good luck my friend and may the force of this build be with you for a long time. Enjoy, and remember that while VR is ridiculous fun and I cannot talk it up enough based on my experiences, there is a real world out there so come out of the Matrix every now and then for some fresh air and food. Eating in VR isn't real calories.. at least not yet.
(Orders Parts on Amazon, Our #1 Recommended Store)
Whilst we're all about building your own system here at BGC, and wholeheartedly recommend it to all PC gamers even if you're a complete hardware beginner who's a little intimidated as it really is easy to do, some gamers will still want to get a pre-assembled PC for whichever reason. Maybe you simply don't have the time or patience to assemble it yourself and you don't mind spending a little more money.
Whatever the case, the following are the closest-specced pre-built gaming desktops for 4K gaming that we can recommend instead of the custom parts-list above. As you'll see, these pre-builts aren't as good overall as the custom build, but are worth considering if you just absolutely cannot go the DIY route for whatever reason (we won't judge :P). Even if you're still building your own, looking over and comparing these systems to the custom setup is interesting as you'll clearly see the advantages of choosing all the parts yourself.
ZOTAC Gaming MEK Ultra Gaming Desktop (RTX 2080 Ti 11GB, Z370 Motherboard, Liquid-Cooled i7-8700K, 32GB DDR4, 500GB NVMe SSD, 2TB HDD, Windows 10)
CYBERPOWERPC Gamer Xtreme VR Gaming Desktop (RTX 2080 Ti 11GB, Liquid Cooled i7-8700K 3.7GHz, 16GB DDR4, 480GB SSD, 3TB HDD, 802.11AC WiFi & Windows 10)
CUK Mantis Gaming Desktop (RTX 2080 Ti 11GB, Liquid Cooled i9-9900K, 32GB RAM, 500GB NVMe SSD + 1TB HDD, 600W PSU, Windows 10)
SkyTech Legacy Gaming Desktop (RTX 2080 TI, Liquid Cooled i7-8700K, 500GB Samsung 970 Evo, 2TB HDD, 16GB DDR4)
A hobbyist game programmer turned hardware enthusiast, Julien "cyberjulz" is the founder of BGC and has kept a keen eye on the latest in DIY gaming ever since starting BGC back in '06 as an almost laughably-basic and brief 20 page site with the aim to make building PCs more accessible to the average gamer since most resources weren't too noob friendly. Over countless reinventions and reiterations to the quality, depth and usefulness of the content over many years the site has steadily grown into the expansive, comprehensive and ever-updated first-time PC builder resource that it is today that now reaches and helps thousands of gamers and power users each month to more easily plan optimal setups for their exact needs. You can learn more about the BGC mission and ways to support it here.
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