System Builder Marathon, Q1 2014: Our New Enthusiast PC

Test System And Benchmarks

The following tables include the stock and overclocked settings for this quarter's enthusiast build. You'll also find the PC we built for Q4 of last year, which is used as a comparison point.

Under that are our benchmarks and settings, for reference. At long last we updated our gaming suite to include Arma 3, Grid 2, and Battlefield 4.

Q1 2014 Enthusiast PC Test Settings: $1459 of Performance Hardware
 Default Configuration
Overclocked
MotherboardASRock Z87 Pro3 LGA 1150, Intel Z87 Express
Unchanged
ProcessorIntel Core i7-4770K: 3.5 GHz Base Clock Rate, 3.9 GHz Maximum Turbo Boost, 8 MB Shared L3 Cache4.40 GHz @ 1.2 V
Memory8 GB Corsair Vengeance LP (2 x 4 GB) DDR3-1866, Model CML8GX3M2A1866C9B, 1333 MT/s, CAS 9-9-9-24-1T1866 MT/s 9-10-9-27 2T @ 1.5 V
GraphicsGalaxy GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3 GB 256-bit GDDR5, 875/928 MHz Base/GPU Boost, GDDR5-7000
+150 MHz GPU, GDDR5-7400
System Drive
Samsung 840 EVO MZ-7TE120BW 2.5" 128 GB SATA 6Gb/s SSDUnchanged
Storage DriveWD Black 500 GB, 7200 RPM, 64 MB Cache, SATA 6Gb/sUnchanged
OpticalLG Black WH14NS40, 4 MB Cache SATA BDXL Blu-ray Burner, OEMUnchanged
CaseNZXT Phantom 410 Computer CaseUnchanged
PowerCorsair 650TX 650 W ATX12V v2.3 80 PLUS Bronze Modular PSUUnchanged
Q4 2013 $1600 Enthusiast PC Test Settings: $1528 of Performance Hardware
 Default Configuration
Overclocked
MotherboardAsus Z87-Plus, LGA 1150, Intel Z87 ExpressUnchanged
ProcessorIntel Core i5-4670K: 3.4 GHz Base Clock Rate, 3.8 GHz Turbo Boost, 6 MB Shared L3 Cache
4.3 GHz @ 1.285 V
Memory8 GB Patriot Viper 3 (2 x 4 GB), DDR3-1600, CAS 9-9-9-24-1T1866 MT/s 9-10-9-27-2T @ 1.5 V
Graphics2 x MSI Gaming N770 GeForce GTX 770, 2 GB 256-bit GDDR5, 1085/1137 MHz Base/GPU Boost, GDDR5-70121150/1202 MHz Base/GPU Boost, GDDR5-7460
System DriveSamsung 840 Pro MZ-7PD128PW 128 GB SATA 6Gb/s SSDUnchanged
Storage DriveSeagate Barracuda 2 TB, 7200 RPM, 64 MB Cache, SATA 6Gb/sUnchanged
OpticalLite-On iHAS124-04: DVD BurnerUnchanged
CaseNZXT Gamma Black ATX Mid-Tower Computer CaseUnchanged
PowerCorsair TX750 V2 750 W ATX12V v2.3 80 PLUS Bronze-Certified PSUUnchanged

And here are the benchmark details:

Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
Battlefield 4
Version 1.0.0.0, DirectX 11, 100-Second Fraps "Tashgar"
Test Set 1: Medium Quality Preset, No AA, 4X AF, SSAO
Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Preset, 4X MSAA, 16X AF, HBAO
Arma 3
Version 1.6.89.06, Version 1.5.26.05 (June), 25-Second Fraps
Test Set 1: High Preset, FSAA Enabled
Test Set 2: Ultra Preset, 8x FSAA Enabled
Far Cry 3
Version 1.04, 50-Second Fraps "Ananaki Village"
Test Set 1: High Quality Preset, No AA, Standard Alpha, SSAO
Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Preset,  4X MSAA, Enhanced Alpha, HDAO
Grid 2
Version 1.2, Direct X 11, Built-in Benchmark
Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA
Test Set 2: Ultra Quality, 8x MSAA
Audio/Video Encoding
HandBrake CLIVersion: 0.98, Video: Video from Canon EOS 7D (1920x1080, 25 frames) 1 Minutes 22 Seconds, Audio: PCM-S16, 48,000 Hz, Two-Channel, to Video: AVC1 Audio: AAC (High Profile)
iTunesVersion 10.4.1.10 x64: Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 minutes, default AAC format 
LAME MP3Version 3.98.3: Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 min, convert WAV to MP3 audio format, Command: -b 160 --nores (160 Kb/s)
TotalCode Studio 2.5Version: 2.5.0.10677, MPEG-2 to H.264, MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG-2), Audio: MPEG-2 (44.1 kHz, Two-Channel, 16-Bit, 224 Kb/s) Codec: H.264 Pro, Mode: PAL 50i (25 FPS), Profile: H.264 BD HDMV
Productivity
ABBYY FineReaderVersion 10.0.102.82: Read PDF save to Doc, Source: Political Economy (J. Broadhurst 1842) 111 Pages
Adobe Photoshop CS6Version 13 x64: Filter 15.7 MB TIF Image: Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates
Autodesk 3ds Max 2012Version 14.0 x64: Space Flyby Mentalray, 248 Frames, 1440x1080
7-ZipVersion 9.28, LZMA2, Syntax "a -t7z -r -m0=LZMA2 -mx=5"
Benchmark: THG-Workload-2012
WinRARVersion 4.2, RAR, Syntax "winrar a -r -m3"
Benchmark: THG-Workload-2012
WinZipVersion 17.0 Pro, Best Method, ZIPX
Benchmark: THG-Workload-2012
Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
3DMark 11Version: 1.0.1, Entry, Performance, Extreme Suite
PCMark 7Version: 1.0.4, System, Productivity, Hard Disk Drive benchmarks
SiSoftware Sandra 2013Version: 2013 SP5c-1872, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / MultiMedia, Memory Test = Bandwidth Benchmark
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43 comments
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  • envy14tpe
    Why a Galaxy GPU considering the company pulled out of US market? btw, nice work on the build.
    2
  • bemused_fred
    I wish more builds would account for the cost of the OS. It can be a significant expense, especially when you're working with builds of $600 or less.
    7
  • Drejeck
    770 sli also nets better performance when gaming on 120/144hz monitors
    5
  • Dark Oopa
    wow, I didn't think there would be such a little difference in gaming.In fact, the difference is so small that with all the inherent problems of the SLI, the new rig is always the better choice.
    1
  • redgarl
    Multi-gpu problems are always overly exagerated. I am using multi-gpu platforms for almost 5 years and the gain in fps over the UNOTICEABLE and overly exagerated stutering sweep away any disavantages.Folks, don't lure yourself, higher resolution demand multi-gpus. Single card is fine for anything around 1080p, more or less, but at 4K or 3 1080p monitors... your system is going to choke even with a 780 ti.
    2
  • npyrhone
    Having 1600x900 resolution in the gaming charts serves only one purpose: to create the impression that there is not really a difference between the two builds, while in reality the later one is obviously inferior to the previous one.
    1
  • vertexx
    It's a shame to completely remove the non-core components from the competition, but I understand why it's done here. A couple of ideas to throw out there:

    (1) You could include temperatures and acoustics performance in the overall assessment, given I think that is a big part of the case buying decision, and
    (2) A way to factor in the intangibles (i.e. blu ray vs dvd, choice of SSD/HDD, etc), you could include a separate vote between this quarter's and last quarter's to see what the readers would choose for the best build given all the performance factors, aesthetics, and other components that do not contribute directly to performance. The reader's vote of this quarter vs. last quarter and/or an overall value winner for this quarter could be included in the final write-up.

    I would also 2nd the vote for starting 4K testing. And also, why not 1440p? It seems those two resolutions are more relevant now in 2014 at the level of this competition than 1600x900 and 4800x900 resolutions.
    8
  • DarkSable
    I'm sorry, Tom's, but...You really need to stop misinforming the general public who comes here for your articles and doesn't read the forums in depth.You go with an i7 for the "performance benefits," which are nonexistent for gaming... except that this rig is aimed at gaming. I would have much, much rather seen an i5, with a note explaining that an i7 is a good upgrade if you're doing these sorts of things, but isn't helpful if you're building a gaming computer.There are wayyyy too many new builders out there who think that the i7 is better than the i5 and who are just wasting their money, and you aren't helping them or correcting that misinformation - rather, you're just reinforcing it further.
    0
  • nekromobo
    I would really like to see mATX and mini-itx versions of this article, pretty please :)
    2
  • vertexx
    Anonymous said:
    I'm sorry, Tom's, but...You really need to stop misinforming the general public who comes here for your articles and doesn't read the forums in depth.You go with an i7 for the "performance benefits," which are nonexistent for gaming... except that this rig is aimed at gaming. I would have much, much rather seen an i5, with a note explaining that an i7 is a good upgrade if you're doing these sorts of things, but isn't helpful if you're building a gaming computer.There are wayyyy too many new builders out there who think that the i7 is better than the i5 and who are just wasting their money, and you aren't helping them or correcting that misinformation - rather, you're just reinforcing it further.

    Hmm.... What percentage of the performance measures in this article are for gaming?
    4
  • cypeq
    Fresh and new but feels like a deja-vu
    1
  • npyrhone
    "such a little difference in gaming"... You call 20fps in an fps game little? Thats like almost 30% in far cry.
    0
  • Sparky4688
    How loud is it at idle? At max stress? Normal operaton?
    0
  • cheesyboy
    Could we have one of these where you compare 3 or 4 different machines at a fixed budget of, say, $1,000 (or maybe up to $1,250) with a variety of CPUs.

    I'm thinking a selection of CPUs as a fixed starting point, and GPU decisions based on remaining budget. Maybe an i7, i5, FX-8, and an APU.

    Would be really interesting to see the performance differences across workloads by allocating budget between CPU and other components.
    8
  • quilciri
    I would prefer using a 3570k, hybrid drive and ddr-1600 (and maybe dropping the case to somewhere around a rosewill challenger) to fit 2x780's in the build instead. Other than that, looks tasty!
    -3
  • clide005
    I kind of feel like only focusing on the price comparison vs performance of the core performance parts is a little like cheating. I feel like we're getting away from what is awesome about these quarterly builds, and that is we're showing regular folks that you don't have to have giant budget to build a good pc. And I think switching the rules around so you can build it better without making adjustments to fit your budget is getting away from the point. Thats just me though for others it may not make any difference. I do like that you separated the costs though in your price breakdown.
    3
  • keyrock
    This is about the price range I'm anticipating I will have to spend when I build an all new rig later this year, but that won't be for at least 4 or 5 months. By then the Haswell refresh will almost definitely be out, and we may have a clearer picture of Broadwell. I'm still confused about when Broadwell is actually happening. Even if Broadwell launches this year, I have to think that it will only be the low power variants, because why launch a new desktop chip so soon after Haswell refresh? Anyway, back on track, this build is a fairly good comparison to what I plan to build when that time comes, substituting in Haswell refresh (please let them be soldered on) and potentially a Maxwell card for the 780Ti depending on how that all shakes out. I definitely want to go with one beefier GPU rather than 2 lesser GPUs for future proofing purposes. One 780Ti (or equivalent) should have me covered for pretty much anything at 1440p, but come a year or two down the line, if the Witcher 3s of the world are not letting me max out with that card at 1440p, I can always slap another 780Ti in there and then I should be good to go to tackle absolutely any game at 1440p for years to come.
    0
  • vertexx
    Anonymous said:
    I would really like to see mATX and mini-itx versions of this article, pretty please :)

    Already done for ITX. See here:
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/build-your-own-haswell-overclocking,3608.html

    I'd second the uATX. In fact, I'd really like to see Crash attempt a uATX dual-gpu setup.
    2
  • cleeve
    Anonymous said:
    Why a Galaxy GPU considering the company pulled out of US market? btw, nice work on the build.


    Frankly, it was the cheapest available card when the systems were ordered.
    1
  • cleeve
    Anonymous said:
    Having 1600x900 resolution in the gaming charts serves only one purpose: to create the impression that there is not really a difference between the two builds, while in reality the later one is obviously inferior to the previous one.


    Nope.

    The purpose is to have a resolution that the low-budget PC can operate at for the comparison article at the end of the week. :)
    2