See Also: Best $2000 PC Build for 4K and VR Gaming
Last Updated: August 5, 2018
With this instalment of our monthly-updated recommended PC builds for gamers, things start getting real interesting as this type of price tier really gives you some options to assemble a very capable gaming machine to last for many years, and with many cool features.
The following custom PC build example is our best shot at the current best high end gaming computer build for under $1500 right now to assemble a seriously impressive system powerful enough for high-end 1080p gaming (to get super high frame rates like 144FPS+ for use with a high refresh-rate monitor) and excellent 1440p performance (60FPS maxed or even 144Hz/144FPS depending on the game and your settings: more detail in our GPU discussion below).
Note that this parts-list is strategically designed for maximum gaming performance first and foremost, as well as overall build balance, component reliability, airflow/cooling, lastability, and aesthetics as well. If you have other more specific needs such as building a workstation PC for things like high-end video editing, streaming, 3D rendering/animation, etc, make sure to do further research on your requirements. We have guides on all these topics (see our menu above) which can aid you in this process.
Heck, even if you're just building for gaming purposes, still do your own research to ensure this sort of build is what you want and need. Don't ever just blindly take someone's opinion on a build on the internet without doing your own investigating; that obviously applies to any of our builds as this is simply our objective opinion based on our own experience and analysis of the current market.
The "best" build for any price tier is more subjective the higher the price tier you go, and there are many different ways to go when planning a high-end gaming PC build so I just wanted to make it clear that we don't claim to be hardware gods who know what's best for every gamer or power user out there; that's just not possible. Recommended product X and there will always be some who disagrees and will try to shame you for not including product Y instead. Case in point, we'll get some heat for favoring Intel in this month's high-end gaming PC over AMD - either have great options in this range though so it'll come down to your exact requirements and preference.
Anyway, spiel aside, you can rest assured that we do thorough due diligence on any of our recommended monthly builds though, to bring to you the very best bang for your buck, balanced PC builds that we possibly can to better help you navigate the current market. Alright, let's get into the best high-end gaming computer (IMHO) that 1200-1500 bucks can buy right now and why each part made the cut for this beast that'll have you gaming in full graphical glory for years to come.
VR and 4K:
The above is the average expected performance of this build at different resolutions when playing a typical, graphically-demanding modern PC game on high/ultra/maxed settings.
|CPU||Intel Core i5-8600K (8th Gen, 6/6 Cores/Threads)|
|CPU COOLER||CRYORIG H7|
|GRAPHICS CARD||EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 8GB SC|
|MOTHERBOARD||ASUS ROG STRIX Z370-E GAMING (M.2, ATX, 802.11ac WiFi)|
|RAM||Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB (2x8GB, DDR4, 3000MHz)|
|HDD||Seagate Barracuda 2TB (7200 RPM, 64MB Cache)|
|SSD||Samsung 860 EVO 250GB|
|POWER SUPPLY||EVGA 650 SuperNOVA G3 (80+ Gold, 650 Watts, Fully Modular)|
|CASE||Phanteks Enthoo Pro (ATX Full-Tower)|
Note: Keep in mind hardware prices fluctuate often, so the current total cost could slightly exceed our target budget of $1500 at any given time. To check current pricing, clicking "Build This PC" quickly and conveniently shows all exact prices for these parts on Amazon.
In terms of pure gaming performance, Intel still marginally holds the crown in the high-end tier even despite AMD's latest offerings. Although don't get me wrong, as a Ryzen 5 (or Ryzen 7 although 5 is the better bang for buck for gaming in this tier) will provide almost the exact same gaming performance and is in fact likely the better choice if you're also building a PC for heavy workstation use (depends on the specific application).
But we've given the nod for an Intel i5-8600K for this month's best high-end gaming PC build under $1500, as in most gaming situations it endsup slightly as the winner and these monthly builds are focused fire and foremost on squeezing out the highest frame-rate possible in most gaming situations.
The 8600K is an unlocked, overclockable CPU, meaning you can tweak it to run quite a bit faster than its intended speeds, but if you're perhaps a first-time builder or you're just not interested in overclocking at all, you can save around 50 dollars or so by opting for a locked, non-overclockable i5 such as the i5-8400 recommended in the best gaming PC build under $800 which would be better overall bang for your buck for non-overclockers.
However, the 8600K does run faster at stock speeds than the 8400, so if you're absolutely sure you won't want to overclock your CPU later on to get a nice performance boost the 8600K is still an option to consider. As a non-overclocker, whether you spend the little extra on the slightly faster (a few extra FPS here and there) and more flexible 8600K rather than the 8400 will come down to personal preference.
As for the whole issue of getting an i5 vs i7, you absolutely don't need an i7 to maximize gaming performance despite what anyone tells you, even in high resolutions. You're best off putting your money towards your GPU instead of kinda wasting it on getting an i7 over an i5 - in this price tier that is. If you have a little more to spend than around $1500, by all means get an i7 (or Ryzen 7 if you wanna go AMD). An i5 is all the processing power you need for maximum gaming in 1440p (assuming your GPU is up to the task of course).
Only reason to get an i7/Ryzen 7 in my opinion is if you're putting together a more serious workstation that will benefit from the extra cores and threads. If you're wondering, no the i5 will not have bottlenecking issues when paired with a top-tier GPU, and you can pretty much pair it with any top card and your GPU won't be held back. So, the 8600K and 1080 pairing for this month's best gaming PC build under $1500 makes sense in terms of gaming bang for buck, and a solid choice for any gaming orientated build $1000 to $1500 ish.
When getting an unlocked "k" model Intel CPU such as the 8600K we've gone for, you NEED to get a CPU cooler as they don't come with one (for good reason as Intel's stock coolers are not too flash performance and looks-wise).
The Cryorig H7 is a trusty choice to keep your 8600K real cool and quiet even during demanding gaming and other applications, and is even suitable for mild overclocking as well. You really don't need a better, more expensive aftermarket cooler unless you'll be doing more intense overclocking, as even a low-cost cooling solution like the H7 is going to work really well for the majority of gamers and semi-enthusiasts.
If you will be overclocking your 8600K quite a lot though, that's when investing in a better cooler makes practical sense, and you also have the option of water cooling (All-in-One CPU liquid coolers, not custom water cooling which is a whole different beast) although a high-quality air cooler is still all you need for overclocking.
Speaking of water cooling, you could of course still go for a closed-loop liquid cooler (different way of saying All-in-One/AiO liquid cooler) if you're not overclocking, or not overclocking too intensly, but keep in mind this option would be more to spruce up the look of your build and isn't necessary to keep an 8700K super cool and quiet under normal circumstances.
The Cryorig coolers also look good and fit well with the other components in this parts-list (aesthetically speaking), but there are other great value picks out there such as the ever-popular Cooler Master 212 Evo which will do as good a job at cooling your 8600K and is essentially the same price. Cryorigs are a safe bet though, and just as popular as the 212 Evo, so pick whichever cooler you like the look of most (again, unless you plan to really push your CPU in which case you should probably invest further).
For this price tier, both NVidia and AMD have their good choices, but personally if I was putting together the best high-end gaming PC build for under $1500 right now I would get a 1080 (or 1070 or 1070 Ti if your budget falls a bit less than $1500 and you know that their performance is all you want/need). The EVGA model we've included is currently the best priced 1080 at the time of writing, and it's slightly overclocked which means it'll run a tad faster than a stock-standard 1080.
The common question for high-end builders right now though is should you wait for the new NVidia cards to be released at some point later this year, or should you just get a current generation card such as the 1070/1080/etc? It's the same debate we always hear with practically every new CPU/GPU release and the answer is and will always be the same: it depends.
Want or need a new build right now? Just get a current gen card as even though they're ~2 years old, they're still beasts that will last and won't be going anywhere soon just because a new card is released. Plus, personally I don't think the jump from this gen of NVidia cards to the new ones later this year will be as big of a jump as the whole GTX 980/970 to 1080/1070 jump was (for those new to the DIY world, the difference from say a 980 to a 1080 was seriously attractive). Although don't get me wrong; of course the new cards are gonna be slightly better, faster, stronger, but you also gotta keep in mind that they'll likely release for higher costs, so the current gen cards (1080, 1070, etc) will still be great buys for a while to come even after the new GPUs are released.
But if you're in no rush to build or upgrade your system and you're willing to wait it out - do that and either wait for the new cards or wait till this gen goes down even further in price. As always, there's no right or wrong answer, and there's always going to be a new update around the corner whether that's your GPU, CPU, or your car/phone/house/girlfriend. Don't tell your girlfriend we said that - if you're not too busy gaming, winning and grinning to have one that is (wouldn't blame ya).
So, remember that a 1080 is recommended for great 1440p (or super smooth high refresh-rate 1080p in demanding games), and whilst it'll provide a good experience for the monster res that is 4K...if you want to play at that level and you're picky about frame-rate (as you should be; we understand) you're going to have to look into your specific games. Truth is, for 4K stepping up to the 1080 Ti would be ideal for the best experience. See the August 2018 extreme gaming PC build for a good 1080 Ti example build..
Ok, so what exact performance are we looking at for a GTX 1080 in 1440p? Can you max out a 144Hz screen (ie get 144FPS)? Depends on the game, but in many games - yes. For example, you're not gonna get 144FPS on maxed settings in 1440p with a 1080 in Witcher 3. But that is Witcher 3 after all, the most demanding title I can think of right now (along with Tomb Raider and the new Dues Ex not too far behind), and even though its besides the point there's no real reason for a slower-paced game like Witcher to run on 144Hz (high refresh rate screens really only make a nice difference in fast-paced games).
So with a GTX 1080 in 1440p on a 144Hz screen to get 144FPS high/ultra settings (if you're confused don't worry you won't be the only one) you're pretty good to go for the most part with this $1500 build unless you're running ultra settings in a highly demanding game. Remember that even if you dip under 144FPS on a 144Hz screen, you're still seeing those extra frames. So if you get 110-120 FPS in a certain situation or game, that's still a smoother experience than 60FPS on a 60Hz screen. So overall a 1080 is essentially the perfect card for super smooth 1440p gaming.
However, for super picky gamers, note that 144FPS 1440p is super tough on your system and so in some games you would need to a 1080 Ti to get the job done in all situations (AFAIK - check benchmarks for your particular game). You might even need an i7 as well, as high frame-rates can be real taxing on CPUs as well. Yeah, 144FPS is no joke, and whilst fairly easy for 1080p, 1440p is a beast for that refresh-rate when it comes to the most demanding games.
Asus along with Gigabyte would have to be your best bet for a high-end gaming computer as they generally produce the most reliable, high-quality boards on the planet (depends on the model though). The Rog Strix is a good example and an excellent selection for a build of this nature with sturdy quality, amazing design, endless features including WiFi, RGB lighting, many expansion options, and I could go on. Highly recommended and should not let you down over the next few years (touch wood).
For a high-end gaming build you may as well go for a fairly high speed set of memory modules such as 3000MHz or 3200MHz (assuming your motherboard supports this which our Asus pick does) because whilst the performance difference between 2400MHz, 2666Mhz, 3000Mhz and 3200Mhz (or even higher) won't make a noticeable difference when it comes to gaming, the price difference between 2400 and 3000 is not huge.
Therefore, you might as well get 3000Mhz and be done with it, because in some cases it will make a slight difference overall (especially if you'll be doing demanding non-gaming stuff). But if you do find a great deal for 16GB of RAM at a slower speed, don't fret and feel free to include it instead of a super speedy 3000MHz kit if you want to cut costs on your high-end build.
As for the amount of memory, which I logically should have mentioned first as it's much more important that speed when selecting the best memory for your gaming computer, 16GB is a no-brainer in this price tier and the ideal amount for high-end gaming. 8GB is the sweet spot in terms of value for builds under $800-$1000 or so, but 16GB makes a whole lot of sense for top-tier builds. Any more than 16 is overkill for gaming though, and 24 or 32GB is not going to make any difference whatsoever. Only reason to go higher than 16GB is for things like high-quality video editing, 3D rendering/animation, high-quality streaming of demanding games, and so on.
Corsair Vengeance RAM is also very safe bet and hugely popular for a reason; great reliability and quality from a top memory manufacturer. Crucial, GSkill and Patriot are also great brands too. The particular model chosen for this month's best high-end gaming computer is the "LPX" version which is at a solid price and has a nice design that'll fit with your motherboard and overall build design nicely (although these modules will look great in pretty much any setup to be honest). They're also not huge sticks like some others which can interfere with larger CPU coolers etc, so they're versatile and will fit most setups without issues.
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 chassis is totally awesome, but make sure you have the room for it in your room or office as it's a full-tower size. The extra room 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 should you wish to undertake that challenge (not recommended for your first build, if ever for most gamers: it's just not that practical overall and pretty much mainly for aesthetics).
Speaking of cooling, this chassis has good overall airflow as-is and comes equipped 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 case with great cooling, excellent cable management capabilities, great looks, plenty of room - and usually very well-priced. Can't go wrong with it, and it also comes in a tempered glass version if that tickles your fancy, but of course pick a case you resonate with most as there are plenty of great options $80 and over that'll serve you well. Building the best PC for your budget is part art, part science, with your case selection most definitely falling a lot more into the former, and one of those parts that not everyone will agree on.
Just keep in mind if you drop down to a mid-tower case size make sure it has enough room for your GTX 1080 as it's a triple-fan long-form edition. Plus, do your homework on things like cooling, cable management, sturdiness, etc. You don't want to pick a dud case for a quality, long-lasting $1500 gaming build.
When assembling a top-tier, powerful high-end gaming system you really want to get a high-quality power supply, and the 80-Plus Gold EVGA unit included in this setup is definitely that. EVGA produce some of the best value PSUs around these days, and the G3 unit we've picked is no exception. It's also a fully modular PSU which means less messy cabling and better cable management when it comes time to build.
650 watts, when coming from a reliable good-quality unit like the G3 EVGA, is actually plenty for a build like this packing powerful parts like the 1080 and 8600K and still has room for more upgrades later believe it or not. However, not that we recommend SLI (doesn't scale well) to 99% of gamers, in the odd case that you're considering that as a potentiality for your build down the track - get a bit more power such as 750 watts. Otherwise, even with upgrades, 650 watts of good power is fine.
As for storage, not much to say there except a 2TB standard 7200RPM HDD from Seagate, and a nicely sized SSD for super fast loading of your OS and other frequently used programs and games you put on there. Feel free to get a larger SSD if you value storage/loading speed and want to stack a whole heap of stuff on there.
Continue Your Build Research
That wraps up the current best PC build under $1500 for August for top-notch 1080p and 1440p performance, decent 4K, and good virtual reality performance too. See our Gaming Computer Builds Hub/FAQ for all our build tiers and answers to common questions. Also see our individual hardware and peripheral guides for more detail about picking each component (see the top menu).
Get 1 on 1 Help With Your Build
If you want specific, detailed 1 on 1 help choosing the right parts and accessories for your exact budget (or to get a critique of your parts list) and you don't want to play the waiting game of posting in a forum and praying for an answer (or praying that whoever replies actually know what they're talking about), our comprehensive PC building beginner's eBook comes with unlimited email help and support for 90 days where you can ask us anything and we'll take the time to help you specifically and thoroughly.
Want Us to Research the Best Specific Build for You?
Alternatively, if you want us to plan, research and optimize a fresh new build for you based on your exact wants and needs, we can also research the best specific build for you with our Personalized Parts-List Research Service. Simply send in your exact feature and performance wants, your ballpark budget and whichever peripherals you want, and we'll take the time to thoroughly plan and tweak the very best bang for your buck build for your exact situation by tapping into our extensive build design experience.
Feedback & Comments Welcome
Unlike many big companies who may not really care to listen and take onboard what you have to say, we're an open book here at BGC and we encourage any and all feedback (good, bad, ugly) as it may help us to further improve our monthly builds and help the site become the best beginner-friendly hardware resource it can be. Feel free to share your feedback by emailing us or share your thoughts on our Facebook Fanpage. Cheers.