Gaming Upgrade Kit stub

$1244 Battlefield Hardline Gaming & Streaming PC Build - March, 2015

Posted on March 16, 2015

Now that tax season is upon us, many of you may have some extra money to put towards upgrading or building a new PC. Let's put that extra cash to good work.

Since our last $511 Budget HTPC Build focused on getting the best SFF system for the least amount of money, this time around we decided to put together an SFF build with a lot more to offer. With an i5 processor and GTX 970, this build will be able to play most games out at ultra settings and will make for a great video editing and rendering rig.

At just over $1000, this mid-range gaming PC build plays Battlefield: Hardline at near-max settings (1080p) while offering room for growth. The system is built for use in living room environments (small form factor, optional controller) and is capable of editing and rendering videos. At its heart, that makes this build a versatile beast for YouTubers and high-end gamers who seek portability.

$1244 Custom Gaming PC Build - March, 2015

Gaming Parts ListNamePriceRebates/etc.Total
CPUIntel i5-4690K CPU$236-$236
CPU CoolerCorsair Hydro H80i$90Free Shipping$90
Video CardMSI GTX 970 Gaming$340-$10$330
MemoryG.Skill Sniper 16GB 2400MHz$130-$130
MotherboardGigabyte GA-Z97MX$128-$10$118
Power SupplyCorsair 750W PSU$90-$20$70
SSDPNY XLR8 480GB SSD$190-$20,
Free Shipping
CaseXigmatek Aquila Black$110-$10$90
Total $1314-$70$1244

OS & Recommended Extras

Add-on Parts ListNamePriceRebates/etc.Total
Operating System
Windows 8.1$120Free Shipping$120
Gaming Controller
Xbox 360 Wireless PC Controller$42-$42

Graphics Cards

MSI GTX 970 Gaming ($330): While you could put just about any video card in this build, we feel the GTX 970 is among the most versatile GPU available at the price range (in spite of the 4GB matters). This MSI GTX 970 can play almost all games out at the highest settings. With 1664 CUDA Cores and 4GB of GDDR5 memory on a 256-bit memory interface, nVidia's Maxwell architecture boasts a forty percent increase in performance per core over previous iterations.

This particular model comes with a dual-fan heatsink that should do a great job keeping those temps down during intensive gaming sessions. It also is factory overclocked, but can be tweaked further via MSI's Gaming app that allows additional software-side OCs. If you have an extra $220 and want to upgrade here, this MSI Gaming GTX 980 would be great in this build. It has 2048 CUDA Cores and also has 4GB of GDDR5 memory on a 256-bit interface. This video card can easily play any game out at ultra settings without breaking a sweat. Those who favor AMD might consider opting for an R9 290X, priced almost equivalently to the GTX 970 while affording greater power (but consuming more power).


Intel Core i5-4690K ($233): This was the easiest component to select for this build. This Intel i5-4690k Devil's Canyon processor is arguably the best mainstream gaming CPU out today. Its billing as a quad-core processor clocked at 3.5GHz (3.9GHz Turbo) ensures sufficient threading for video games. The “K” SKU indicates unlocked overclocking of this CPU beyond the stock speeds, allowing some enthusiast tweaking where desired. It also has a hefty 6MB L3 cache and comes with Intel's HD Graphics 4600 integrated graphics, which is good for possible troubleshooting or just as a backup option.

CPU Cooler

Corsair Hydro Series H80i ($90): While the i5-4690k does come with a stock cooler, it really doesn't do a great job of anything. This Corsair H80i is a great water cooler that will not only offer superior cooling, but also make your PC much quieter compared to the stock cooler.


G Skill Sniper Series 16GB 2400MHz ($130): With this build being centered around not only gaming, but also video rendering, we decided to go with this 16GB kit of 2400MHz RAM from G Skill. G Skill's Sniper memory gets great reviews and will be great in this build. If you have no interest in video rendering, or if your budget is a little tight, this Corsair Vengeance 8GB 1600MHz kit would save you $71 and offer more than enough headroom for gaming.


Gigabyte GA-Z97MX ($118): Here we selected a loaded Z97 motherboard from Gigabyte. The board supports up to 32GB of DDR3 memory, overclocked up to 3100MHz. It comes with PCIe x 16, PCIe x8, PCIe x4 and PCIe x1 expansion slots. You also have video connections for DVI, VGA, and HDMI as well as old school PS/2 keyboard and mouse hook-ups on-board. The board has basic overclocking support for the CPU, in the event builders wanted to experiment.

Power Supply

Corsair 650W PSU ($60): We always tell our readers not to "cheap out" when selecting a power supply. This is the one component that, if it goes bad, could cause damage to the entire system. We selected a quality 80 Plus Gold certified PSU by Corsair that gets great reviews. In this build, 750W is way more than enough and gives room to grow. Since it is 80 Plus Gold certified, it also saves with the power bill. Sleeved, modular cables ensure that you only use the cables required. Most noteworthy is the included 10-year warranty, easily the life of two or three systems.


PNY XLR8 480GB SSD ($170): It looks like the days of using an HDD for primary storage are coming to an end. With SSDs becoming more and more affordable, we're seeing them transition into the primary storage drive in most builds. This 480GB SSD from PNY – although not the fastest SSD – is perfect for mid-range a gaming/rendering hybrid build. Thanks to an SSD, PCs boot up lightning fast and decrease load times in-game; overall responsiveness of input to the PC generally increase to the point that you'll wonder how you survived with an HDD.

Even though 480GB is great for an OS and some games, you may want to consider picking up this 1TB Western Digital Blue HDD for $45 as a secondary storage drive.


Xigmatek Aquila Black ($90): When it comes to selecting a case, we realize that this is the one component that you will have to look at every day. Personally, I love the look of this case and its small size; the form factor ensures it will not take up much space for those of us who are looking for a smaller case that still offers much of what larger cases do. The Aquila comes with a pre-installed 120mm fan as well as a 200mm fan for quieter airflow. You also have the option to install 2x120mm or 140mm fans on top.

The front panel comes with filters to keep the dust out of the inside as well as a bottom filter. You can also mount some of the larger GPUs up to 330mm in length. Xigmatek's case comes with 4 expansion slots and support of mATX and mITX motherboards mounted in a horizontal position. The large tinted side panel allows you to show off your inner components without being overly flashy.

The handles in top of the case makes it portable for those who like to carry it around. The PSU and storage drives are mounted below the motherboard tray, making for easy compartmentalized installation.

Please visit our forums for any questions or concerns, or feel free to post a quick question below! Until next time!

- Michael "Mikagmann2" Mann.