The Best Extreme Gaming PC Builds
for the Money: April 2018 Edition



(Recommended Top-Tier 1440p and 4K PC Builds for $1600 and $2500
to Maximize Gaming Performance, Reliability & Lastability)


The $1600 and $2500 April 2018 Extreme PCs


Last Updated: Apr 8, 2018

If you scoff at our budget PC builds and snicker at our high-end lineup, you're in the right place for the pinnacle of DIY PC gaming. Our following best extreme gaming PC builds for April 2018 (in our humble, objective opinion) are our best attempts at tweaking healthy spending amounts of around $1600 and $2500 to aid you with choosing the best parts for a top-of-the-range custom computer build this month.

These extreme gaming computer builds are intended to be used as starting points for your new dream PC: as always, obviously don't just take our recommendations blindly and always do your own research into whether or not a particular build is suitable for your particular wants and needs and specific situation.

However, if you do decide that either extreme build matches your exact requirements, rest assured we've done the hard yards in ensuring full compatibility between the below list of parts and fine-tuned these recommendations to the best of our ability.

Also, let's discuss the elephant in the room: current GPU price inflation. That article explains what you need to know about the situation (also see our April good news about the situation), but to sum it up just know that if you do decide to buy a new GPU in this current age of cryptocurrency, and especially if you're building a high-end to extreme system where inflated GPU prices are felt by your wallet a lot more, know that you'll be paying quite a bit more than the standard retail price.

For example, if you a buy a top-tier GPU right now like a 1080 or 1080 Ti, you're probably gonna pay a bare minimum of $100-$200 over the normal price. That's just a reality of the industry right now, so weight that up in your purchasing decisions and tread carefully.

Let's cut the small talk and get into the two best extreme gaming PC builds for $1600 and $2500 which provide blazing-fast gaming, VR and workstation performance, effective cooling, flexibility of upgrades, amazing looks, and top-quality reliability that'll have you gaming/working/taking-over-the-world for years to come. These builds are also suitable for a custom water cooling loop should you want to venture into those waters (not recommended for beginners building their first PC though).


Important to Know: Our suggested extreme builds don't include the OS or accessories which are required if you don't already have these items. We suggest Windows 10 and for peripherals see our buying guides on gaming monitors, keyboards, mice, and headsets. Also, if you want a CD/DVD drive in your build, make sure you choose a case that has at least one drive bay and this is the drive we would pick.

Plus, for gaming purposes wired internet access is ideal (all motherboards have a LAN port for this) but you may want wireless capability for general use as well which you'll need to get a wireless network adapter for as the majority of motherboards do not come with wireless built-in (note: the current April 2018 $2500 build DOES indeed have built-in Wifi). You have two choices for making your gaming PC wireless: getting a network card (this is a good choice or this one for faster routers) which you install on your motherboard, or buying an external USB dongle like this one - your call as either works well.





The Best Extreme Gaming PC Build
~ $1600 for 
April 2018


Gaming Performance:

1080p (1920 x 1080):

1440p (2560 x 1440):

VR and 4K:

FLAWLESS

FLAWLESS

GREAT

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


BEST PC BUILD ~ $1600
GPU EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 8GB SC
CPU Intel Core i7-8700K
Cooler Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO
Motherboard ASUS PRIME Z370-A (ATX, DDR4, SLI)
RAM Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB (2x8GB, DDR4, 3000MHz)
HDD WD Black Performance 2TB
SSD Crucial MX300 275GB
PSU EVGA SuperNOVA G2 750 Watts (80+ Gold, Modular)
Case Phanteks Enthoo Pro (ATX Full-Tower)
TOTAL COST: $1784 *

* Total cost is only an estimate at the time of writing as hardware prices fluctuate


April 2018 Note: This build is quite a bit over our normal target price due to the GPU crypto issue.

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. 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 $2500 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 super gaming rig is not just about pure performance though, and all parts were carefully selected for both value for money at the time of writing and the highest 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 for what it's worth note the GPU is already clocked a little faster than its normal stock speeds.


$1600 Build GPU:

EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 8GB


We do have our priorities set straight so let's first discuss the most crucial component in any gaming system. In this price tier buying a GTX 1080 is a clear choice that dominates 1080p, 1440p, and offers great 4K performance in most instances. This card is also perfect for a virtual reality PC build (see that guide if you want to go deeper with your understanding of VR requirements).

The only reason to bump up to the 1080's big brother (the monstrous 1080 Ti that boasts an incredible 11GB of video memory) would be for even better 4K performance, dual-display setups, or if you're one lucky cat and simply have the money to burn and wish to further increase the longevity of your shiny new rig (even though a 1080 will last most gamers a real long time).

As usual, feel free to get any version of the GTX 1080 from any brand: we've picked out EVGA's SuperClocked model for this month's $1600 extreme build simply due to it having the best price at the time of writing compared to similar models. EVGA is always quality, and their cooling and tech support is typically some of the best around, but to be honest any brand is going to be just fine and performance between the various models is negligible in most cases (even the typically cheaper GPU brands like MSI or Zotac).


$1600 Build CPU:

Intel Core i7-8700K


Intel's latest 8th generation of processors are finally here (codenamed "Coffee Lake") and we've gone and replaced our previously recommended i7-7700K for the all-new i7-8700K. The 8700K is now hands-down the best bang for your buck high-end gaming CPU for top-tier rigs like this, and it has superior single-thread performance (important for gaming) over competing chips such as AMD's Ryzen 7.

However, it doesn't lack in core and thread count either with the 8700K having 6 cores (2 more than the quad-core i7-7700K) and 12 threads making it an excellent multi-tasking/production CPU too. Don't get me wrong, a Ryzen 7 is also a solid choice for an extreme gaming deskop, but head to head the i7 wins when it comes to pure gaming.


$1600 Build CPU Cooler:

Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO


Like most unlocked "K" rated Intel processors, the 8700K does NOT come with a cooler so you'll need to bring one to the party; the Cooler Master 212 EVO gets the nod here and for most people will cool your chip adequately at stock levels (ie if you won't be overclocking).

The 212 EVO is a very popular choice and for good reason as it's really affordable yet works really well, and is enough cooling power for non-overclockers in the majority of situations.

If you plan on pushing your i7-8700K though, even with a basic overclock, you'll want to get something better such as a bigger air cooler or a liquid cooler.

The 212 EVO cooler 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.


$1600 Build Motherboard:

ASUS PRIME Z370-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 SLI support for the power-hungry enthusiasts who plan on potentially adding another GTX 1080 to the mix later down the track (or now). For anyone wondering, yes the 750 watt PSU included in this system is capable of handling 2 x 1080's in SLI without problems; a good quality 750w PSU goes a long way.


$1600 Build RAM:

Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB 3000MHz


Whilst 8GB is the sweet spot for gaming performance, when you start getting into this sort of extreme price tier it makes sense to get 16GB to fully maximize the overall speed and longevity of your PC, and the extra mount will help when it comes to non-gaming applications and multitasking etc. We've stuck with Corsair RAM again as you really can't go wrong with them, and 3000MHz is a fast enough speed.


$1600 Build HDD + SSD:

WD Black Performance 2TB

+

Crucial MX300 275GB


In terms of storage we have a fast 2TB HDD from Western Digital (feel free to get more but 2TB is a ton) 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.


$1600 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.


$1600 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 accommodating 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 piece of the puzzle of our current recommended gaming rig for around $1600. This desktop is more than enough for most, but if you're a PC gaming god and wish to drop even more moolah, the next DIY PC will be right up your ally and is exactly how we'd spend our own money right now when building the ultimate dream system.




The Best Extreme Gaming PC Build
~ $2500 for 
April 2018


Gaming Performance:

1080p (1920 x 1080):

1440p (2560 x 1440):

VR and 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 PC title on high/ultra graphics settings.


BEST GAMING BUILD ~ $2500
GPU EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti SC 11GB
CPU Intel Core i7-8700K
Cooler Noctua NH-D15
Motherboard ASUS ROG Maximus X Hero (ATX, DDR4, SLI, WiFi)
RAM Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB (2x8GB, DDR4, 3000MHz)
HDD WD Black Performance 2TB
SSD Samsung 850 EVO 500GB
PSU EVGA SuperNOVA G3 850W (80+ Gold, Modular)
Case Cooler Master HAF X Full Tower
TOTAL COST: $2520 *

* Total cost is only an estimate at the time of writing as hardware prices 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 and any resolution 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 extreme PC (CPU and RAM remain the same).


$2500 Build GPU:

EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti SC 11GB Black Edition


The star of this show is of course the mighty GTX 1080 Ti which has no equal. It goes without saying this card is a monster that will eat up 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). This month we've opted specifically for EVGA's SuperClocked version simply due to it having the best price at the time of publishing.

As for getting a SLI or CrossFire multi-GPU setup instead of the single GPU? 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 unfortunately hardly utilise the full power of SLI/CrossFire.

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 99.9999% of gamers) the 1080 Ti is your new god.


$2500 Build CPU Cooler:

Noctua NH-D15


The CPU for this build remains the same from the previous extreme build, so check out the commentary there if you want to learn why the i7-8700K is king of the gaming CPUs right now.

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, but for most people an air-cooler or AiO is fine. Custom loops are honestly more for fun and looks than practicality, unless you're really pushing a monster system to its absolute edge and need every little bit of cooling help on your side as possible.


$2500 Build Motherboard:

ASUS ROG Maximus X Hero


The board included in the previous parts-list is good, but this one is even better and comes with all the extra bells and whistles including built-in WiFi so no need to buy a separate wireless adapter/dongle, tons of expansion ports and connections, customizable RGB lighting, the highest quality on-board audio, and good overclocking utilities for enthusiasts.


$2500 Build HDD + SSD:

WD Black Performance 2TB

+

Samsung 850 EVO 500GB


Same fast 2TB HDD as recommended in our previous build, 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, loading, etc and are a nice touch to a top-tier system.


$2500 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.


$2500 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.

That wraps our coverage of the best custom gaming PC builds for around/under $1600 and $2500 for this month. Hopefully this helps you more wisely choose the right parts and good luck out there. If you're a hardware nut and have feedback about these builds, we've love to hear from you as it's always interesting to hear from readers (constructive criticism is also always welcome and encouraged). Happy gaming, friend.



Questions or Feedback?

If you want help choosing parts and/or mixing and matching parts around, feel free to email us or alternatively you can ask a question on our Facebook fan-page.

However keep in mind that maintaining the site keeps us super busy, and we give priority email support to our customers first and foremost, so please keep any questions straight to the point for the highest chance of a reply. We may be able to give you a quick critique of your parts-list, but don't expect to be spoon-fed a personalized build.

Also, if you're a hardware pro and ever have constructive feedback on a build we're all ears as our #1 priority is to always keep these builds as on-point as humanly possible for the DIY community. Thanks and all the best.