The Ethereum Merge is upon us! Actually, from the earlier price crashes of Summer and Spring 2022, it is already very possible to build a gaming PC at reasonable prices again for quite some time. No longer does a GPU cost an entire system (for now), and with lower demand for other components such as power supplies, we may even get sweeter discounts to make our purchase even more efficient.
This guide will show you three different gaming PCs under $1,500, taking into account things like gaming performance, storage space, GPU, RAM, and much more. Remember that a prebuilt gaming PC tends to be considerably more expensive, so these PCs are all custom builds, with all components coming in at under $1,500. Our target? The best price-to-performance that we can get.
Gaming PC Target Build Under $1500 Objectives:
Here are some of our objectives when creating these best gaming PCs under $1500:
- Must use brand new components – We want to try to use brand-new parts. If you have a good deal for a used GPU of the same performance tier in this list, feel free to adjust the total price of a particular build.
- Latest architecture as possible – for CPUs, we are looking at AMD Zen 3 Ryzen 5000 “Vermeer” SKUs, and then Intel Alder Lake 12th Gen. For GPUs, we have AMD RDNA 2.0 (RX 6000), or Nvidia Ampere (RTX 30-series). Should preferably be DDR4 memory, as DDR5 is still just a tad bit more expensive.
- Preferably 32GB total memory, (also preferably) at 3600Mhz CL16 – 16GB DDR4 is still very plentiful for most standard builds, supported by a very fast SSD-based page file that you most likely would never notice switching. But, with the growing multi-tasking needs of faster PCs, 32GB is slowly creeping up to be the next desktop standard.
- The boot drive is an NVMe PCIe 4.0 SSD – current prices for PCIe 4.0 drives have significantly lowered down to the point that they already make sense to buy for a price-to-performance build.
- A budget case is preferred, but only to a degree – Something like the LanCool 215 should at least be the bare minimum. Much better if more fans are available by default, so the choice should naturally be airflow-optimized.
- A nice, reliable B-tier power supply – many of the best power supplies that have complete protection systems start at B-tier. We’ll choose the lower-cost ones, and have a field day with them.
- High-refresh-rate 1080p, good-refresh-rate 1440p, stable 60 FPS 4K – the standard enjoyment level for triple-A gaming today. Settings can get lower depending on user tweaks, of course. “Cheating” via temporal upscales like DLSS or FSR is also fair game.
Build 01: AMD Black n’ Gunmetal – $1,381
Good do-it-all build that keeps up with the latest technology, uses the latest (possible) architecture and is set to perform very competitively for the foreseeable future. Visually themed so that the silvery accents of all components blend seamlessly with the black parts. It performs absolutely well on any game that you throw at it for 1080p and 1440p, usually at maxed settings. Though you may want to tweak the settings down to optimize frames further, or if playing at 4K.
Expect triple-digit frame rates for most games at 1080p resolution. A good chunk of this performance goes down when climbing to 1440p resolution, but the numbers should mostly still be at the triple digits if settings are optimized. Don’t expect anything grand in 4K, although it can still be easily tweaked to perform well at such resolution if you need to.
- The AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D might be a worthy upgrade to push performance limits further, though most likely not worth the price of a brand new one.
- Add more storage drives as necessary. (At least one more NVMe drive can be installed)
- You can install one more 120mm fan as a rear exhaust if you don’t want to move one of the three pre-installed ones at the bottom.
- If not using wired Ethernet, WiFi is added via PCIe card/USB dongle add-on.
- With the expected good power efficiency of the upcoming Radeon 7000 series GPUs, you can safely switch from the RX 6700 XT to an RX 7800 XT without power supply issues.
- Two more DIMM slots allow for additional (DDR4) RAM if ever you still need them.
Build 02: Big Blue Graphics Push – $1,515
An Intel-based graphics workstation plus gaming build that pushes almost all the funds towards getting the best (brand-new) GPU for the budget. Without sacrificing the rest of the components, of course. The AK620 cooler is a bit too beefy by default, but it is there for a potential upgrade. Its visual theme was not the central focus, although made uniform enough to look decent. Can play anything up to 4K resolution with respectable frame rates and near-maxed settings throughout.
Super overkill for 1080p. It is recommended to use either an ultrawide 1440p or 4K monitor to witness its true potential. Well, if you have a 360Hz 1080p monitor, then such a use case probably works as well. Keep in mind that the higher the resolution you work at, the lesser the strain would be on your CPU (the work would mostly be GPU-bound).
- “True” Raptor Lake CPUs like the upcoming Core i5 13600K might be a worthy upgrade for this build (yes, even if this is a B-chipset board). Don’t forget to update to the required BIOS!
- MSI’s Ventus product line isn’t the best when it comes to cooling, but it does the job. If you feel too uneasy with its temps, undervolt it to your preferred efficiency level.
- This build also has an additional x4 PCIe slot, so add another NVMe drive as necessary.
- Although very, very robust in VRM performance, the MSI PRO B660M-A motherboard is pretty barebones when it comes to wired connectivity. If you are a USB power user, you might want to go for a Gigabyte Aorus board instead.
- If not using wired Ethernet, WiFi is still available by default since it is built into the motherboard.
- Raptor Lake is Intel’s next-generation CPU architecture that is still compatible with the LGA 1700 socket. While we don’t recommend stuffing a Core i9 into the build, a Core i5 13600K or Core i7 13700K should be your next target. Non-K 13th Gen is not bad, but they’ve just refreshed Alder Lake chips, so it wouldn’t really be the ideal architectural upgrade for the system.
- Skip the RTX 40-series. Your GPU should remain relevant for a very long time.
- Feel free to populate the other two DIMM slots for 32GB RAM max, as you see fit.
Build 03: Build it and Leave it – $1,484
(WARNING: double-check if the motherboard supports DDR4 memory. You might accidentally buy the one that uses DDR5 instead. If that’s the case, then you have to match the memory modules to DDR5 ones as well.)
A PC build that is optimized for a one-time-build purpose. This means that the components are chosen so that no other upgrades are (practically) necessary, only additions. Aside from the overclocking headroom of the CPU+motherboard combo, it also banks its performance on the pure rasterization performance of the RX 6800 XT. If you think that the RX 6700 XT is already a well-oiled machine for 1440p, then the RX 6800 XT will extend performance further quite considerably.
This is yet another system overkill for 1080p. However, it might not be able to crunch as many frames as a 3080 when it comes to 4K. Due to its architecture, it also suffers from poorer performance in raytracing. But, that is only if you fancy the optional feature. For all practical purposes, this PC will perform just as nicely as with any other higher-end machine out there, especially with good use of FSR 2.0/2.1.
- The Z690 UD has two more extra x4 PCIe slots, so you can install a total of three M.2 NVMe drives for this system.
- This is the non-WiFi version. However, since it’s an ATX motherboard anyway, you should have too much trouble installing an additional PCIe-based WiFi card at the bottom.
- Probably more RAM? Though not sure what you would do with 64GB of RAM if you don’t have any professional use case with it.
Tips For Choosing Gaming PC Components
- Cross-check component compatibility, particularly the CPU and motherboard.
- For CPUs, four cores and eight threads are the competitive minimum. Six cores and twelve threads are the standard mainstream. Consider eight core and sixteen threads only if you intend to actually max out the CPU’s performance often.
- High-end CPUs should not be paired with entry-level motherboards. These motherboards typically have poor VRM quality and don’t have VRM heatsinks.
- Boot drives are always SSDs. And in today’s modern world, NVMe SSDs.
- Aesthetics (RGB and other fancy stuff) should, in practice, be the last thing on the menu.
- Never skimp out on a PSU, but don’t overspend either.
- Always consider potential future upgrades when buying PSUs, even when it doesn’t seem like it’s important or possible right now.
Prebuilt Gaming PCs vs Building Your Own: Which is Best?
The truth is that there isn’t much difference. Everything that you can get in the very best prebuilt gaming PC, you can also put into your own. Of course, it’s more convenient to buy a prebuilt machine because it’ll save you the time required to build your own. That said, you will pay significantly more for the pleasure.
It’s almost impossible to get a prebuilt gaming pc under $1,500, and you can get a lot more for your money by doing it yourself. Higher spec means a more powerful graphics card, CPU and GPU, so an better gaming experience. Also there is something super satisfying about creating your own gaming PC build that you just don’t get from something that comes complete in a box.
The truth is that it all comes down to personal preference, but we are on the side of building from scratch.
- What Does The Average Gaming PC Build Cost?
- What You Need For The Perfect Gaming Desk Setup
- How Long Does a Gaming Laptop Last?
- What is latency in gaming?
Christian enjoys knowing what’s coming up in the computer hardware and tech industries. Combining his professional and hobby PC experience with his writing career, he strives to simplify the complicated and provide the best advice for tech fans.