How To Build A $1,000 Gaming PC

The $1,000 Best PC Build is proof positive that you can outfit a platform with an Intel Core i5 processor, a GeForce GTX 1070 graphics card, 16GB of RAM, and a modular 80 PLUS Gold-certified PSU for a moderate price.

The locked CPU saves money on the build with its included heatsink, but the performance ceiling is noticeably lower than the potent and unlocked Core i5-7600K we’ve seen in other builds. The graphics card is definitely powerful for the total cost of the build (it’s almost 40% of the total budget), and that GPU is the cornerstone of this rig.

The ASRock B250M Pro 4 is a sturdy platform with which to build a non-overclocked gaming rig, with a feature set that allows for upgrades down the line (although some features, such as the two Ultra M.2 slots, go to waste with this particular build). The memory is a perfect fit, matching the CPU’s stock memory controller speed. 16GB is also more than adequate for any AAA game title currently available.

However, that’s not to say that Provost’s Pick doesn’t fall flat with a few of its components. The case is decidedly plain and uncooperative, with a flimsy feel and weight that doesn’t portend gaming greatness underneath the hood. At least it has USB 3.0 front ports. However, Damric was well aware of its shortcomings (it's better than a shoe box) when he selected it, but a few concessions had to be made in order to have enough budget for a GTX 1070.

The 480GB SSD is definitely better than a traditional HDD, but the OCZ Trion 150 is sandbagged with TLC flash, which is generally less durable than slightly pricier MLC SSDs. However, the capacity and speed would be difficult to match at this price, and we’re thankful for the flash storage over a slower (sometimes painfully) HDD.

Despite those few shortcomings, you would be hard pressed to get a system with these specs for anything less than this price, and we applaud the sheer tenacity of going for big gaming performance without breaking the bank.

Specifications

"Provost's Pick" by Damric
Case Zalman T2 Plus ($34.99 On Newegg)
CPU Intel Core i5-7500 ($199.99 On Newegg)
Graphics Zotac GeForce GTX 1070 Mini 8GB GDDR5 ($374.99 On Amazon)
Memory Mushkin Enhanced Backline 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR4 RAM ($122.70 On Newegg)
Motherboard ASRock B250M Pro4 ($73.99 On Newegg)
Power Supply EVGA SuperNOVA 550 G2 220-G2-0550-Y1 ($89.99 On Newegg)
Storage Toshiba OCZ Trion 150 480GB TRN150-25SAT3-480G ($144.99 On Amazon)

Now let's assemble the Best $1000 PC Build.

The Case

Remove the Zalman T2 Plus micro-ATX case from its box and unscrew the thumbscrews holding the panels in place (slide 2 in the album below). They aren’t particularly tight, so you should be able to use your hands. Detach the side panels and set them aside. Take out the hardware and silica bags by untwisting the tie wraps holding them to the case. Free the internal cables (front I/O, USB 2.0, USB 3.0, audio) in the same fashion (slides 5 - 7).

In order to properly attach all of the motherboard standoffs to the chassis, you’ll have to remove the 3.5” drive bay at the front of the case. Begin by tugging on the bottom lip of the case’s front panel until it comes free (see the first picture in the album below). A swift, quick motion works best. You can leave the panel somewhat ajar of the main chassis without fully removing it (and its front panel I/O wiring). You just need to get to the four screws holding the bay in place, which can be accomplished by pivoting the panel left and right (you can see this in pictures 2 and 3 below).

Remove the four screws beneath the 3.5” drive bay. Grab the bay from either side and slide it upwards to release it from the chassis (4th picture above). At this point, we’d recommend finding a permanent home for the bay and its screws in a closet somewhere; we won’t need it for this particular build. If you decide to add some hardware to the machine later on, it could come in handy, but even then you’d have to wait until after you install the motherboard to replace the cage. Refasten the front panel to the chassis and pull the case wiring away from the internal chassis.

Now that you have a clear avenue in which to work, locate and attach the motherboard standoffs to the appropriate spots in the case (there are no labels, so check out the last photo in the album above, or eye it up with your motherboard). Tighten the posts with your fingers at first. Use a pair of pliers to make them snug after they are mostly tight (there isn’t an included tool, unfortunately).

The Power Supply

Remove the EVGA Supernova G2 550W power supply from its box. It’s fully modular, so you don’t have to worry about any of the cables yet. Line up the PSU and set it on the cushions and above the ledges near the back panel (see picture 2 in the album below).

We found it quite difficult to get the PSU to fit properly in this particular case. The ledges were angled upward (lifting the power supply), so we had to apply some considerable pressure downward to bend the ledges enough to line up the screw holes. You may want to start with the bottom right screw when you attach the PSU to the case; we found that the easiest to get started, and the rest fell into place after tightening the first one. After you secure all four of the provided screws, set the case aside and get ready to prepare the motherboard.

The CPU & Motherboard

Remove the ASRock B250M Pro4 motherboard from its box, along with its rear I/O backplate and SATA data cables (set both aside for now). The board comes with a foam padding, which is a perfect place to rest it as you attach the next few components.

Take the Intel Core i5-7500 out of its box, but keep it in the plastic cover for now. Also remove the CPU cooler and set it aside. Raise the retention arm on the motherboard’s CPU socket to raise the clamp and expose the socket (see the 4th and 5th picture below). Carefully remove the processor from its plastic cover, line up the notches in the CPU and socket (6th picture below), and lower it into the motherboard. Remove the clamp’s plastic protective cover and position it over the CPU and under the retention bolt (see 7th picture). Lower the retention arm and attach it to the hook to keep it down.

The Cooler & Memory

Guide the CPU cooler’s fan cable out of the fan blades and loosen it so that the fan spins freely. You can keep the wire hooked to the side of the cooler as is; it will easily reach the fan port without changing it. Line up the heatsink’s posts to the motherboard’s holes (so that the fan cable can reach its ports on the motherboard) and press down, two at a time (diagonally, illustrated in the 4th picture below), to secure the cooler to the processor. Plug in the CPU fan cable to the CPU FAN 1 leads (slide 5 below).

Remove the 16GB (2 x 8GB) kit of Mushkin Blackline DDR4-2400 RAM from its packaging. Unlock the clips at the top of the second and fourth DIMM slots from the left, line up the notches in the module with the memory slot, and press down to secure the RAM to the motherboard (see the 9th picture above). The clips should lock in place by themselves.

Component Installation

Next, we’ll install the motherboard and remaining components. Attach the motherboard’s rear I/O plate to the case (see slide 2 below). The sidewall of the chassis is somewhat flimsy, and it may be difficult at first, but we found that persistence is key with this particular case.

Carefully lower the motherboard into the chassis (the CPU cooler makes an adequate gripping point; see the 3rd picture above) and line up the case’s stand offs with the holes. Also make sure that the rear I/O ports are lined up properly, with nothing bending or out of place. Use the thin-threaded, rimmed screws from the hardware bag to secure the motherboard to the case (see slides 4 and 5 above).

Guide the case’s internal wiring around the memory and let it all hang down (there’s not much that can be done about the mess). Run the USB 2.0 and Audio cables under the bottom right edge of the motherboard (see the 3rd picture below) and towards their respective pins. Attach them both to the motherboard.

Run the front panel I/O wiring down the case and plug the leads into the appropriate pins (it's printed really small on the motherboard, or refer to your manual). Let the excess hang; there’s still not much to be done about the cable mess. Plug in the USB 3.0 cable (3rd picture below) and let the slack loop naturally into the lower part of the chassis.

Untie the rear 80mm case fan cable and connect it to the CPU FAN 2 port on the motherboard. You can use a tie wrap through one of the fan’s mounting holes to secure the wire under the fan and up the side to reduce the slack (as seen in the last picture above).

The SSD

Remove the 480GB OCZ Trion 150 SSD from its packaging. Thanks to the modularity of the PSU, we can plug in the cables before mounting it to the case. Grab a SATA power cable from the PSU box, in addition to the angled SATA data cable (see slide 2 below). Plug in the SATA power cable using the very last plug on the line, then connect the SATA data cable with the angled plug attached to the SSD.

Slide the SSD into the 2.5” bay residing below the 5.25” bay at the top of the case (the 7th picture above). There are two notches in the small hanging bay that hold the left side of the SSD in place, and you may need to convince the SSD to sit properly in the slot. Once you get the SSD over the hump, line up the visible (right) side with the case’s screw holes and secure the drive to the case with two of the thin-threaded, rimmed screws. Plug in the SATA data cable to the SATA_3 0 port on the motherboard (right next to the ATX power plug, as seen in the last picture in the album above) and loop the excess into the cable jungle. Let the SATA power plug hang for now.

The Graphics Card

To install the graphics card, we’ll have to first remove the PCIe lane plates on the rear of the case. Remove the two screws that secure the angled plate and set it aside. Unscrew the first PCIe lane plate and use a flathead screwdriver to wrench the second plate from the chassis (see 4th picture below).

Remove the Zotac GeForce GTX 1070 Mini from its box and lower it into the chassis, lining up the PCIe x16 slot and rear panel. Push down to secure the GPU to the motherboard. Replace the PCIe lane screw to secure it to the case (as seen in the 8th picture above), then replace the angled PCIe lane cover and screw it back in.

Cable Management

All that remains is the CPU, ATX, and PCIe power cables, which are incredibly easy to install thanks to their modularity. Start by plugging in the 8-pin (4+4-pin) CPU connector to the motherboard, then run the cable through the hole above the motherboard so that there’s not excess cable in the chassis (see the 4th picture below). Run the cable down the backside of the case and through the hole leading to the PSU. Plug in the CPU cable to the power supply and loop the excess wiring at the bottom of the case. Tie the cable down to the chassis using a tie wrap so that it’s as flush as possible with the case (see the 7th picture below).