How To Build A $1,500 Gaming PC

Graphics, Finishing Up, Benchmarks results and Final Analysis

Graphics

All that's left is to install the graphics card. Begin by removing the screws holding down the 2nd and 3rd PCIe slot plates, which are accessible from the main chamber of the case (not on the exterior). Free the Zotac GeForce GTX 1080 AMP! graphics card from its packaging and peel off the protective stickers.

Lower the graphics card into position in the PCIe x16 slot closest to the processor, making sure the backplate tucks behind the motherboard properly and that the contacts are lined up. Apply pressure to insert the card into the slot. Replace the rear PCIe slot screws to secure the graphics card to the case and finish up by attaching the 6+2-pin PCIe power cable to the two 8-pin leads. You may need every bit of slack from the power cable to reach the connector.

Finishing Up

Now that all the components are installed, you just have to replace the PSU shroud by lowering it into the case guides (above the PSU) and sliding it towards the back of the chassis. Replace the thumb screw (on the rear panel of the case) that holds the shroud in place. Line up the left and right side panels with their respective guides in the case's edges and slide them towards the front of the case. Secure them with thumbscrews.

Connect your display, power plug, and peripherals to your new $1500 gaming rig (the Best $1500 PC Build) and enjoy!

Setup & Overclocking Tips

Make sure you download the latest BIOS and drivers from ASRock's website to ensure the best performance and compatibility. To update the BIOS, download and unzip the file on a different computer and place it on the root directory of a thumb drive. Place the USB storage into the Lobotomy and turn it on. Press F6 to access Instant Flash.

To overclock the Intel Core i7-6800K, we turned to ASRock's optimized CPU OC presets in the BIOS. Boot up the machine and press the F2 or DEL key to access the BIOS. Navigate to the OC Tweaker tab towards the top of the screen by clicking it with the mouse. Click on the Disabled box next to where it says "Load Optimized CPU OC Setting." A new menu will pop up with preset turbo boost frequencies. We selected the Turbo 4.0 GHz setting, but there may be room to push it further with the Deepcool Gammaxx 400 cooler.

To set the memory frequency and timings, click on the DRAM Configuration folder on the same OC Tweaker tab. This will bring you to a new page. Click on the box labeled Auto next to the Load XMP Setting bar. This will cause a pop up to appear. Click on XMP 2.0 Profile 1, then hit F10 to save the BIOS settings and exit.

Benchmark Results

The Intel Core i7-6800K is clocked at an all-core frequency of 4.0 GHz, and the 16GB (2 x 8GB) G.Skill Ripjaws V DDR4-2666 features CAS timings of 15-15-15-35. The Zotac GeForce GTX 1080 AMP! graphics card is factory-overclocked to a 1683 MHz base clock and a boost speed of 1822 MHz.

The 3DMark Fire Strike results portend gaming greatness, highlighted by high Physics scores across the gamut of Fire Stirke tests thanks to the Lobotomy's 6-core CPU. The Cinebench results also speak to the processor's higher core count, with multi-threaded performance that beats quad-core CPUs by about 200 points.

The storage test results are somewhat disheartening, with dismal sequential read performance and sequential write speeds similar to a standard HDD. The 4K random read and write IOPs make up for that somewhat, but this isn't a performance SSD by any means. It's still decidedly better (faster) than a traditional HDD for a main volume.

Memory bandwidth is similarly stunted, with the dual-channel kit of RAM not living up to the full potential of the X99's quad-channel controller, which results in lower total peak memory bandwidth in our single-threaded Sandra tests. The Lobotomy achieves lower-than-average scores (for a system with an SSD, 16GB of memory, a GTX 1080, and a 6-core Intel processor) in PCMark 8.

The memory and storage subsystems don't hold any weight in the gaming benchmarks, and the results are more on par with what you'd expect to see in a $1,500 PC Build. The Lobotomy achieves playable framerates at 2560 x 1440 in hardware-punishing games such as Rise of the Tomb RaiderGTAV, and Metro: Last Light Redux, and 4K can be achieved by backing off on some of the details and AA settings. There's no problem getting above 60 FPS in Bioshock Infinite at 4K, and DiRT Rally is quite playable (about 40 FPS) at the most demanding settings at 3840 x 2160.

Final Analysis

Our Best $1500 PC Build is the ground level budget point for an Intel Core i7-6800K and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080, placing its capabilities at the top of the enthusiast gaming heap. This rig goes by the name Lobotomy, a nod perhaps to the 16GB of G.Skill DDR4-2666 memory's dual channel operation, which discards the AsRock X99 Extreme4's quad-channel memory capabilities. We're sticklers for investing in the full potential of a platform, and would highly suggest going with both of the PC's proverbial frontal lobes (a quad-channel kit of RAM) in place of the suggested dual-channel configuration.

We are big fans of the Cooler Master Masterbox 5, which is the first entry in our series to feature a windowed side panel (finally), in addition to a PSU shroud, ample cable management options, and easy-to-use drive bays. It offers great expansion options (you can purchase additional components for the chassis) and plenty of room to work, and it's an ideal starting point for any build if you want a sleek and stylish case. The EVGA 650 GS PSU is also an ideal choice for the hardware's power requirements.

We're suspicious of how relevant the aging X99 platform (and Intel Core i7-6800K) is when X299 CPUs and motherboards are starting to hit the market, but we can't fault the community for voting for this rig at a time when AMD Ryzen, Intel X299, and the GTX 1080 Ti weren't available yet. However, pricing out an Intel Core i7 build with a GTX 1080 and 16GB of memory is a tough task at the $1,500 price point no matter which way you slice it, and we're impressed that our first Core i7 entry wasn't just a mainstream quad-core CPU, but a 6-core X99 platform.

If the newest generation of Intel products or AMD Ryzen platforms are readily available, we wouldn't blame you for looking at those as options if you can manage to find a motherboard/CPU pairing at around the same cost as this configuration. Indeed, you could get the top-of-the-line Ryzen 7 1800X for half the price of this Intel CPU, and an X370 motherboard for half the price of this X99 offering, and that $600 savings could practically buy a second graphics card . . . but we'd probably spend it on upgrading the memory and the SSD.

Indeed, the storage is almost a farce; the 120GB Sandisk Plus SSD feels like having a thumb drive for a primary boot partition. Sure, it's faster than a traditional HDD, and there is a 1TB HDD to house your game library, but the capacity and sequential read/write speed of the SSD leaves us wanting. We saw similar performance shortcomings with this particular SSD in our DRAMless SSD Roundup. However, the budget was tight enough that SR-71 Blackbird had to sacrifice capacity and speed for something that was simply adequate (and it is still better than just a 7,200RPM HDD). A larger, more performance-driven SSD would most certainly improve your overall experience with this build if you have more cash to throw at it.

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