$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 July 2017, we bring you a big upgrade in computing power thanks to Intel's Core i7-7800X six-core CPU, based on the brand-new Skylake-X archiecture. It runs at a 3.5GHz base clock, but can easily overclock well over 4GHz. But where you'll get your real gaming firepower is in this system's dual GTX 1080 Ti video cards running in SLI. To learn more about how this setup performs, check out our in-depth 4K Benchmarks featuring a GTX 1080 Ti SLI combo! Even with this huge video subsystem, you'll still have room in the budget for an ultra-fast SSD: the 960 Evo 1TB. Complete your rig using Corsair's 750D case and a fantastic 1000W Gold-rated power supply, and you'll definitely have the Ultimate Gaming system!

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.

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 - July 2017

    CPU:

    Intel Core i7-7800X

    The brand-new Core i7-7800X, based on Intel's advanced Skylake-X architecture, is the high-end CPU to beat. Combining the per-core efficiency of the mainstream Core i7-7700K quad-core CPU, but with six cores on board, it's an amazing value among high-end processors. It comes clocked at 3.5GHz, but should be able to overclock past 4.2GHz with the cooler we recommend later in this guide.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that the Core i7-7820X eight-core processor is also at option for an extra $200, but for gamers, it offers little benefit, especially given that it has the same 28 PCIe lanes as the 7800X. Prior Intel CPUs at the $600 pricepoint has 40 lanes.

    Motherboard:

    Asus TUF X299 Mark 2

    This new X299 board from Asus is among the least expensive X299 boards on the market. and yet it's packed with features. You get dual M.2 slots (one being vertical to save space), ten USB ports, six fan headers, RGB lighting, and the premium ALC1220 audio codec. It even includes a high-bandwidth SLI bridge right in the box, which will provide an extra 5-7% boost in gaming performance according to our tests.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Skylake-X processors use a new socket, Intel 2066, which is only available on X299-based motherboards. Don't try to use an older X99 board for this build!

    Video Card:

    EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti SC2

    Based on our recent 4K benchmarks featuring the GTX 1080 Ti in SLI, we know that running two GTX 1080 Ti cards in SLI provides up to 70% higher performance than any single card. That includes the Titan X, despite the 1080 Ti SLI combo coming in at a similar price.

    The Guru's Tip:

    If you're lucky, you'll be able to push your GTX 1080 Ti cards to over 2000MHz with overclocking!

    Video Card:

    EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti SC2

    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 opening up the driver control panel and checking to see that SLI is enabled. It sometimes takes a couple tries to get it to engage.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that you'll be using the HB SLI bridge included with the motherboard to connect your two 1080 Ti cards.

    Memory:

    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 16-18-18-36 timings at 1.35V, providing you quad-channel operation for mind-blowing bandwidth. Based on our testing of the Broadwell-E platform, we've found that DDR4-3200 is the best fit for this build. This was not true for previous Haswell-E CPUs, 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 Evo 1TB PCIe NVMe

    The 960 Evo offers amazing performance, nearly matching the performane of the previous king, the discontinued 950 Pro 512GB, but coming in at a much lower price. The 960 Evo 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! And after a recent price drop, it's by far the best buy among high-end drives.

    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!

    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.

    Case:

    Corsair Obsidian 750D Airflow Edition

    The 750D is stylish in an understated way, provides unbeatable airflow, and offers plenty of room to build a high-end system. It includes three 140mm fans and uses a meshed front panel for unrestricted cooling.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that if you're not using 3.5" hard drives, you can remove the internal drive cage, and just use the rear-mounted sleds for any additional SSDs you add.

    Power Supply:

    Corsair RM1000x Gold

    An overclocked Core i7-7800X paired with two overclocked GTX 1080 Ti cards will draw about 700-750W. While that means you could get by with an 850W PSU in this system, it would be running at the ragged edge under load. Instead, we suggest this Gold-rated fully-modular 1000W unit. It offers fanless operation under almost all loads, along with amazing efficiency, peaking at above 90% with a 50% load (right around where this system will be running!).

    The Guru's Tip:

    We previously recommended a Platinum-rated unit for this build, but to make room in the budget for the dual GTX 1080 Ti video cards, we've gone Gold here, which sacrifices nothing in terms of capacity or longevity.

    The 802.11ac PCIe Adapter:

    TP-Link Archer T9E AC1900

    The motherboard used for this build not have built-in networking, and because most builders buying in this price range will expect 802.11ac networking, we recommend adding this blazing-fast PCIe-based wireless card. It offers triple-stream 802.11ac throughput up to 1300Mbps, along with 600Mbps throughput on its 802.11n radio.

    The Guru's Tip:

    To learn more about how this card performs, see our hands-on shootout review!

    CPU Cooler:

    Corsair Hydro H115i Liquid Cooler

    To get the maximum possible overclock out of the hot-running Core i7-7800K, you want extreme liquid cooling. With dual 140mm fans, the H115i is more than a match, 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. We recommend Noctua NT-H1. To remove pre-existing paste, just use a paper towel dipped in rubbing alcohol.

    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.

    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!