Building a $1,000 to $1,100 Gaming PC – Best Custom Computer Build

1,000 Skylake Gaming PC

Skylake finally starts to make sense in the $1,000 price range. Here’s a look at the parts we feel give you the most value.

Building a gaming computer isn’t difficult if you understand the compatibility of the parts. For those of you looking to upgrade to a Skylake-based gaming computer, here’s a build I put together that focuses on value and longevity so you can get the most out of your PC for years to come.

Whether you’re an experienced builder or a newcomer, this build is what I feel is ideal at this price point. While some may prefer to have more storage or a motherboard with more features, in general, it should still have a lot in common with the build you do.

After wrapping up our $700 to $800 gaming PC, I wanted to share a build that would utilize Intel’s new Skylake processors. While Skylake has several benefits, it is more expensive to incorporate into your build. For that reason, many people think that it’s not always practical for a budget build. For the most part, I’d agree with that assessment.

That being said, at this price point it begins to make sense. For those willing to upgrade you’ll get the benefits of not only a more efficient processor but all the new tech that Skylake has to offer. This includes USB 3.1, Support for DDR4, access to additional USB 3.0 ports, and more.

Is Skylake for Everyone?

Not yet. Currently, there are only two types of desktop processors available for Skylake; an i7 and i5 “k” or unlocked processor. The “k” designation is designed for those who want to tweak or overclock their processor and may not be the best for those wanting to build a machine they don’t have to touch again. If that’s you, our $800 build may more than suffice. Like other generations of processors, the Skylake CPU is being released with 6 different chipsets. Considering the Z170 has the most freedom for overclocking, it’s really the only one I’d recommend for most Skylake builds. Again, if you’re looking for a standard build, Haswell still has a lot to offer.

The Skylake i5 makes more sense than the i7 Right now:

For this build, we’ll be utilizing Intel’s new i5-6600k processor. Fantastic single-threaded performance and four cores for multitasking make it the ideal gaming CPU. While the i7-6700k has hyperthreading, a technology that allows these four cores to act as 8 when performance dictates, it’s hardly necessary for this build. What’s more is that Intel’s i7-5820k makes more sense at that price point as most enthusiasts find the i7-5820k to be the better deal with its additional 2 cores for just around $30 more.

A new Skylake compatible motherboard is a must. So, which one should you get?

Anyone making the upgrade to a Skylake processor is going to need a new motherboard as Haswell 1150 motherboards are not forward compatible. Instead, we have the 1151 pin motherboards. For this, I’m recommending a board that’s full of features but won’t break the bank. The MSI Z170A Krait Gaming motherboard should allow you to get a good overclock with very little effort, has good onboard audio, and enough storage and port options for most. Another solid value option here would be the Asus Z170 gaming motherboard. It’s on TopTenGamer’s list of the best value 1151 motherboards.

My personal preference of R9 390 cards would be the MSI 8G Gaming. That being said the Sapphire Nitro comes very close. If you can't find the one on rebate, get the other.

My personal preference of R9 390 cards would be the MSI 8G Gaming. That being said the Sapphire Nitro comes very close. If you can’t find the one on a rebate deal, get the other.

The Best Graphics Card Around $300

This is a bit of a tricky discussion because there are so many angles to it. And, while AMD continues to lose market share one section of the market that’s still very competitive is the $300 GPU. At around $330 we find both the R9 390 and the GTX 970. The R9 390 is the better-performing GPU all-around in 1080p and 1440p with 1440p being a bigger gap than 1080p. That being said, the performance difference still isn’t large enough for some looking for the more energy efficient option.

What’s more is that the GTX 970 generally comes with a $60 title. Despite making gains as of late, AMD’s R9 390 clearly isn’t the only option here and ultimately, you’ll have to decide whether you want a few more frames or a AAA title and energy efficiency. For specifically which $9 390 card I think is the best, I recommend the MSI Radeon R9 390 8G Gaming card.

DDR3 vs DDR4

Yes, it’s energy efficient and allows for higher capacities and speeds. No, it won’t give you more FPS in games. So, why switch to DDR4 now? Mostly because you’ll need to in order to run a Skylake system. While timings may tighten in the future, at least prices have come down for now. Anandtech recently said the sweet spot for DDR4 is 2400MHz in their article comparing DDR4 and DDR3 while TopTenGamer’s DDR4 article recommends getting something cheap like the Crucial Ballistix Sport 2x4GB kit. I agree.

A Good CPU Cooler for Overclocking Under $30

For under $30 I highly recommend the Hyper 212 Evo from Cooler Master. It gives you the performance of coolers twice its price and is relatively quiet inside your case. Don’t be fooled into believing anyone that says that Liquid coolers are always the way to go.

Often these models are louder and less efficient than their air counterparts. If you decide to go with that route, I recommend you go for the liquid coolers in the $100 plus range. The NZXT Kraken X61 or Corsair Hydro H100i would be a good step up from the 212 Evo.

A Solid-State Drive is Now a Must-Have

You don’t have to get a big one but having a solid-state drive will make your system feel so much faster I can’t imagine going without it. Something like Kingston’s SSDNow V300 works great for $50 and can hold your OS and most important programs. For a capacity drive, something quick like the 1TB Caviar Blue drive from Western digital would work perfectly here.

A Feature-Rich Gaming Case Under $50

For case, I’m recommending the Corsair 200R. It’s a good deal when you can find it around $50 and has the flexibility and cooling options that just about anyone needs. If it’s not on sale, you might want to find something else. Luckily, there are plenty of options to chose from.

Good Power Supplies Under $50 to $100

Going with something cheap here might be tempting. It would allow you to put more towards the other components of the build. That being said a good power supply will last you a long time. Go with something inexpensive like the Antec EarthWatt EA-650. It has plenty of power for the build and has been as low as $55 at Newegg after a rebate card in the past month. A good step up from this PSU would be the EVGA SuperNova 650 G2. It’s a tier one gold PSU that, for around $30-$40 more, will give you more efficiency for the life of the PSU and probably last longer as well.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, I’m very satisfied with the build. It has all of the must-haves without all the fluff. Gaming should be no problem at all in 1080p for several years to come while 1440p will be a solid option for many games.

Budget $1,000 to $1,100 Skylake Gaming PC Build Parts List

Parts ListPictureThoughts
i5-6600k1The Skylake i5 seems worth it but upgrading I'd still prefer Haswell-E X99 systems.
Sapphire Nitro R9 390Nitro R9 390The R9 390 is the better performer but the GTX 970 comes with a AAA title and is more energy efficient.
MSI Z170 Krait GamingNitro R9 390An alternative here would be the Asus Z170-A
Crucial Ballistix Sport 8GB KitCrucial Ballistix DDR4
Antec Earthwatt 650 80 Plus BronzeAntec EarthwattIf you want to splurge on your PSU, go with the EVGA GOld 650
Kingston Digital 120GB SSDNOW5
WD Blue 1 TB 7200rpm Hard Drive6
Corsair Carbide Series 200RCorsair 200R
Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO2Stay with air cooling unless you're willing to splurge with something like the Corsair Hydro H100i or the NZXT Kraken X61.