$3,500 Build

If you're looking for the ultimate gaming PC, then this build's for you. Sure, you could spend more, but in most games, you simply won't see better performance than what this system can provide. It's a showcase of the very best tech available in PC gaming today. There's no skimping here - this system isn't exactly a bargain, but it delivers flat-out extreme performance.

For April 2017, we continue with the Intel Core i7-6850K Broadwell-E CPU, the best all-around gaming CPU you can buy. Paired with dual GTX 1080 cards in SLI, you'll get absolutely mind-blowing performance. Don't think SLI is for you? Well, then you owe it to yourself to check out our recent Gamer's Bench article, pitting the GTX 1080 in SLI against the Titan X Pascal! There's just no question that 1080 SLI delivers far better performance, and thanks to a recent price drop, getting two GTX 1080 cards costs hundreds less than it did just a few months ago. In terms of storage, we go with the Samsung 960 Pro 512GB PCIe-based solid-state drive, which blows away every other SSD on the market, despite a very reasonable price. Paired with the still-potent 850 Evo 1TB SATA-based SSD, you're getting 1.5TB of combined solid-state storage. If you need more than 1.5TB of total storage, we suggest an optional 4TB hard drive you can add as well. Pack the system into Corsair's awesome 750D Airflow case, back it up with 1000W of Platinum-rated power, and you'll be in Ultimate Gaming wonderland!

Feel free to stop by our Reader Forum to share ideas about this build. And for extra help, follow our step-by-step Guide to Assembling an Ultra-High-End PC, which will walk you through the process of building a system a lot like this one. To see previous Ultimate Gaming PC builds, flip to the $3,500 Archive, and if you want to see how this build compares to all our other builds, check out the new TBG PC Build Comparison Page. By the way, if you're looking for a new 144Hz, ultra-wide, or 4K monitor to go along with your PC, check out our Monitor Buyer's Guide, and if you need some new gaming gear, see our Peripherals Buyer's Guide and Speaker/Headset Buyer's Guide for all the latest and greatest gaming accessories. Because we use real-time pricing engines, you'll always see up-to-date U.S. prices in our guides. We also provide direct links to Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, and Amazon Germany for each product, making regional substitutions when necessary. To help support the continued development of this guide, please use the links we provide if you purchase products we recommend.

The $3,500 Ultimate Gaming PC - April 2017


    Intel Core i7-6850K

    There is simply no better ultra-high-end gaming CPU than the Core i7-6850K. Featured six cores running at 3.6GHz, with Turbo to 4.0GHz, this Broadwell-E chip can handle the most demanding tasks, offering performance that's about 8% faster than the previous-gen Core i7-5930K on a clock-for-clock basis, while being much more efficient.

    The Guru's Tip:

    The main difference between the 6850K and the less expensive Core i7-6800K comes down to PCIe lanes. The 6850K enables 40 lanes (x16, x16, x8), versus the 28 lanes (x16, x8, x4) provided by the 6800K. When using one video card, that doesn't matter, but because this system uses two cards, you want as much bandwidth as you can get, as we found in our Z170 vs. X99 SLI comparison. Going with the 6850K also leaves you plenty of PCIe lanes for a high-speed SSD, which we recommend for this build.


    Asus ROG Strix X99 Gaming

    This X99 board from Asus builds on the success of its X99 line and adds next-gen components worthy of a Broadwell-E system. This includes onboard U.2 / M.2 slots, dual-stream 802.11ac wireless networking, and USB 3.1 Type C. It also features Asus Aura, a controllable RGB onboard lighting system. And this board delivers in the sound department too, with SupremeFX Audio and premium Japanese capacitors.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that many motherboards released alongside Intel's Broadwell-E processor lineup feature an unusual arrangement of both an 8-pin and a 4-pin CPU power connector, which provide added stability for overclocking the monster 10-core i7-6950X. While that kind of power isn't needed for this build, you still need to connect both power inputs to your power supply. Luckily, the high-end PSU we recommend later on this page has two 4+4-pin connectors, providing the capacity and flexibility to power up this board!

    Video Card:

    Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1080 Windforce 8GB

    Based on our in-depth benchmarks testing a wide array of games at 4K, running two GTX 1080 cards in SLI provides nearly 30% higher performance than the $1,200 Titan X Pascal, despite the similar price. And this particular Gigabyte model offers a big triple-fan cooler, which will help keep your GTX 1080 cards at maximum boost. Plus, thanks to a big price drop, it's now available at an amazing price!

    The Guru's Tip:

    If you're lucky, you'll be able to push your GTX 1080 cards over 2100MHz with overclocking, and the powerful cooler on this model will help keep it there.

    Video Card:

    Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1080 Windforce 8GB

    Two 1080s in SLI is what will help you achieve gaming nirvana! To set up SLI, we recommend you install one card first, run through your whole OS and driver installation. Then, once everything is set, shut your system down and install the second card, along with the power cables that come with the power supply and the SLI bridge, and restart your system. Nvidia's drivers should do the rest, but you can always confirm this by open up the driver control panel and checking to see that SLI is enabled.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that SLI will work fine with the SLI bridge included with the motherboard, but you'll get a serious boost if you use the HB SLI bridge described below.


    EVGA SLI HB Bridge (1-slot spacing)

    Nvidia released a new high-bandwidth SLI bridge specification for Pascal-based cards. It increases the link from single to dual, and increases the speed of each link from 400MHz to 650MHz, boosting overall speed from 400MHz to 1300MHz. And that all means one thing in the end: ultra-smooth SLI performance! In addition to high-bandwidth specs, EVGA's bridge has the added benefit of user-selectable white, green, blue, or red LED lighting. Read all about the performance boost it provides in our new hands-on 1080 SLI benchmarks!

    The Guru's Tip:

    With the motherboard we recommend for this build, you'll have one empty slot between the cards. EVGA calls this a 1-slot spacing, whereas other manufacturers confusting call this 2- or 3-slot spacing!


    Corsair 4x8GB Vengeance LPX DDR4-3200 White

    For the Ultimate Gaming machine, we go big time, with a high-end 32GB DDR4-3200 kit. It features four sticks running with 16-18-18 timings at 1.35V, providing you quad-channel operation for mind-blowing bandwidth. Based on our recent testing of the Broadwell-E platform, we've found that DDR4-3200 is the best fit for this build. This was not true of Haswell-E, which couldn't support this high speed quite as reliably.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that this kit will default to DDR4-2133 until the XMP profile is selected in the UEFI. By the way, we strongly discourage you from using DDR4-2800 or DDR4-3000 with this system, as it requires an odd memory ratio that throws off CPU overclocking.

    Solid-State Drive:

    Samsung 960 Pro 512GB

    The brand-new 960 Pro offers amazing performance, easily beating the previous king, the discontinued 950 Pro 512GB, in terms of performance, but coming in at the same price. The 960 Pro uses Samsung's 3D V-NAND design, the advanced PCIe interface for unmatched throughput, and the NVMe protocol for minimum overhead. In other words, it's ultra-fast!

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that to install this drive, you'll need a jeweler's screwdriver. If you don't have one handy, pick up this Stanley screwdriver kit!

    Solid-State Drive:

    Samsung 850 Evo 1TB

    On data duty, we recommend the 850 Evo 1TB. While it can't come close to matching the 960 Evo in sequential operations, for typical usage scenarios, it will perform very similarly, and offers quite a bit more capacity per dollar.

    The Guru's Tip:

    By the way, if you don't need more than 1TB of capacity, just go for a single Samsung 960 Evo 1TB. Having a single drive makes file management easier, and endows all your apps with the same massive PCIe speed boost.

    Hard Drive (Optional):

    HGST Deskstar 4TB (Opt.)

    If you have serious media or data storage needs, you'll probably need to add a mechanical hard drive to your system. We recommend HGST's huge 4TB server-grade Deskstar model, which offers a market-leading combination of speed, capacity, and reliability.

    The Guru's Tip:

    We recommend using a hard drive only for data and media. Loading games off of a hard drive is much slower than loading them off of an SSD. That's why we recommend that most users equip this system with dual SSDs.


    Corsair Obsidian 750D Airflow Edition

    The 750D offers a huge interior, sleek styling, and quiet operation, along with tons of airflow (hence the name). You simply cannot find a case that's a better fit for an extreme gaming rig. It has mounts for either a 240mm or 280mm liquid CPU cooler - we recommend a 280mm model in this guide. This case comes equipped with three 140mm case fans, the front two directly in line with the CPU and video cards. With its brushed metal exterior, the 750D Airflow Edition looks as good as it works!

    The Guru's Tip:

    We've found that cases with fully-meshed front panels are critical to keeping two high-powered video cards cool, which is why the Airflow Edition is the only case we recommend for this build.

    Power Supply:

    EVGA Supernova PS 1000W

    An overclocked Core i7-6850K paired with two overclocked GTX 1080 cards will draw about 550-600W, which actually isn't all that much considering the power these components pack in. You can thank big efficiency gains achieved by both Intel and Nvidia in their latest chips. While that means you could get by with an 850W or even a 750W PSU in this system, they'd really be running at the ragged edge under load. Instead, we suggest this Platinum-rated fully-modular 1000W unit designed for EVGA by Seasonic. It offers fanless operation under almost all loads, along with amazing efficiency, peaking at above 92% with a 50% load (right around where this system will be running!).

    The Guru's Tip:

    This is the very unit we chose for our Ultra-High-End Benchmarking PC!

    CPU Cooler:

    Corsair Hydro H115i Liquid Cooler

    For a fire-breathing processor like the i7-6850K, you want extreme liquid cooling. With dual 140mm fans, the H115i is quieter and more effective than any dual-120mm model, and offers great customization options through the CorsairLink software package. It might just let you hit a serious 4.4GHz overclock on your CPU!

    The Guru's Tip:

    While every Corsair cooler comes with thermal paste pre-applied, it's always a good idea to use the best product available for something you won't be changing often. The options we recommend are Noctua NT-H1Arctic MX-4, and Gelid GC-Extreme. To remove pre-existing paste, just use a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol.

    Optical Drive:

    LG 24x DVD Burner GH24NSC0B

    It's cheap and high quality, and makes the OS and other software installtion a whole lot easier!

    The Guru's Tip:

    After the departure of Sony and Samsung, LG is the last big company left in the optical drive business.

    Operating System:

    Microsoft Windows 10 Flash Drive

    Windows 10 has so many improvements versus both Windows 7 and Windows 8 that it alone will make your system feel more up-to-date. We particularly like the return of the Start Menu, the broader settings options, and the fact that it packs in DX12, which is already unleashing next-gen games with far greater complexity and performance. And Windows has just released its "Anniversary Update", with a host of new features.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Windows 10 will install in around 5 minutes, thanks to the speed of the USB 3.0 flash drive it ships on!