A Good $700 to $800 1440p Gaming PC Build 2015

This PC build aims to spend money where necessary to achieve 60FPS 1440p gaming at the $700 to $800 price point.

This PC build aims to spend money where necessary to achieve 60FPS 1440p gaming at the $700 to $800 price point. We also discuss the advantages and disadvantages of graphics cards for this build, the R9 390 and the GTX 970.

While 1080p is still the norm for both PC gaming and console, many PC gamers are recognizing the shift towards higher resolutions.

These higher resolutions used in conjunction with 1440p 144Hz monitors with FreeSync or G-Sync provide a lag-free and tear-free experience that didn’t exist a few years ago.

With strong graphical and processing improvements in the last couple of years building a PC in order to game in 1440p has gone in cost down substantially over the last couple of years.

What limited our $500 to $600 i5 Build, was the overall budget we had for the graphics card. With this build, we have a substantially higher budget for the GPU as well as other components.

Is Buying a Skylake Processor Worth It?

While the Skylake processors have already been released, they’re more pricey than their Haswell options and require a small premium for compatible 1151 motherboards. For that reason, we’re going with the i5-4690k here.

Skylake Core i5 and i7 options are superior to their Haswell counterparts but are they really worth it?

Skylake Core i5 and i7 options are superior to their Haswell counterparts but are they really worth it?

While it may be counterintuitive to many, the higher the resolution, the less your CPU will be the cause of the bottleneck. As you go up in resolution and your GPU bottlenecks, it matters less.

For that reason, the i5-4690k is more than fine here for the single R9 390 or GTX 970 we have in mind. It should be a stellar performer for years to come.

Motherboard Options: If you want a Skylake processor, consider the i5-6600k and a compatible 1151 motherboard in the Asus Z170-P.

Those who go with the cheaper Haswell alternative can either upgrade the BIOS on a board like the Asus Z87-PRO or go for an inexpensive Z97 board like the MSI Z97 PC Mate.

1440p 50 FPS Gaming PC Build for a Budget of Under $700 to $800

PartModelNotes
CPUi5-4690k or Optional i5-6600k (not within budget)You'll have to decide whether you're willing to spend the extra money to go with Skylake as opposed to Haswell for minimal gains and significantly more money.
Graphics CardR9 390 or GTX 970Both graphics cards perform well, but the R9 390 edges out the 970 in 1440p gaming.
MotherboardAsus Z87-PRO (Use USB BIOS to update if necessary), MSI Z97 PC Mate, or for Skylake the Asus Z170-PThe Z87 Pro is a great choice here. If it doesn't already come with the BIOS updated, it's easy to use Asus' USB BIOS.
MemoryKingston HyperX Fury 1866 FuryFor less than $50 this is a great deal. Keep in mind you'll need DDR4 for a Skylake build.
StorageWestern Digital Caviar Blue 1TB / Optional Kingston V300 120GB SSD
Power SupplyAntec NeoEco 620W PSU or CX 500Find something reliable that happens to be on rebate for a good deal here.
CaseAntec Three Hundred TwoA great case with easy-to-install bays and a couple of fans for cheap after rebate this month.

R9 390 vs GTX 970

The Graphics Card Battle for $300 Supremacy:

Both EVGA and AMD have competitive cards in this space in the R9 390 and the GTX 970. Which one you choose may have a little bit to do with personal preference with the 970 supporting G-Sync and the 390 supporting AMD’s FreeSync.

That being said, in terms of performance the R9 390 clearly beats the GTX 970 in various games at 1440p. Guru 3D showed the following results:

Tomb Raider 2560 x 1440 with Ultra/FXAA:

R9 390: 96 FPS

GTX 970: 83 FPS

Battlefield Hardline 1440p Ultra 4x MSAA

While Battlefield Hardline numbers for both the R9 390 and 970 are below the 60FPS threshold, it would be easy to slightly tweak the settings to get you there. Simply drop the MSAA and some of the textures.

R9 390: 48

GTX 970: 40

Witcher 3 Wild Hunt Ultra Quality:

One exception to this data is the Witcher 3 Wild Hunt which shows the 970 edging out the R9 390 at 1440p. Keep in mind that this was an NVIDIA Gameworks title.

R9 390: 39

GTX 970: 42

Grand Theft Auto V 1440p 2xMSAA High / Very High Settings:

R9 390: 58

GTX 970: 55

Conclusion: Overall, the R9 390 provides a substantial FPS upgrade vs the 970 in most titles. That being said overclocking these cards would change these results considerably. Jayz’s thoughts and benchmarks on this are worth hearing as the two cards are within a couple frames of each other once overclocked.

 

Still, I wonder if based on his benchmarks most would prefer the 970 for a few frames less on each game. In addition, with free game deals from NVIDIA that card becomes more attractive. Ultimately, you’ll have to decide. The 290X should also be a consideration here if found for less money as it will give similar performance.

Ram

If you end up going with a Skylake motherboard and processor, keep in mind you’ll want to go ahead and go with DDR4 memory. With recent price drops it’s worth upgrading now to not have to worry about Unidimm or upgrading down the line. If you go with a Haswell processor, find some cheap DDR3 memory like the Kingston HyperX Fury 1866 Memory for less than $50.

Storage Options

Our storage options are a cheap but effective Western Digital Caviar Blue 1 TB drive. Of course, going for a $50 128GB Solid state drive for your OS here is more than tempting here as well, but I’ll leave that up to you.

A Good Gaming Case Under $50

There are lots of good cases that fall under the $50 price range from time to time. Right now, the Antec Three Hundred TWO is a great value at around $45 after rebate. It has a spacious interior and comes with a 1 x 120mm rear Two Cool Fan as well as a front 1x 140mm. This, along with the tool-less design, makes it a sturdy case you can use for years to come with enough cooling and cooling expansion for overclocking.

Good Power Supplies Under $50

On sale for $40 at Newegg after a $25 rebate the Antec NeoEco 620W Power Supply should be more than enough power for both the R9 390 and the GTX 970. It’s bronze certified, has relatively good quality, and up to 87% efficient. The CX 500 would also make for a good option here if this PSU goes on sale.

Final Thoughts: 

Overall I’m pleased with the build. With slight tweaks, it’d be easy to get 60 FPS in even the most demanding titles of the year. If you go for the Skylake route, expect to spend about $75 more on this build.