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System Builder Marathon, Q1 2014: Our New Enthusiast PC

System Builder Marathon, Q1 2014: Our New Enthusiast PC
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System Builder Marathon, Q1 2014: The Articles

Here are links to each of the four articles in this quarter’s System Builder Marathon (we’ll update them as each story is published). And remember, these systems are all being given away at the end of the marathon.

To enter the giveaway, please fill out this SurveyGizmo form, and be sure to read the complete rules before entering!

Day 1: The $2400 Reader's Choice PC
Day 2: Our New Enthusiast PC
Day 3: The $750 Gaming PC
Day 4: Performance And Value, Dissected

Introduction

We've been doing these System Builder Marathons on a quarterly basis for years. The premise is typically pretty similar, but we try to fold in variance whenever we can to keep the relationship spicy. This time around, we're switching things up a bit, largely based on your feedback, to hopefully improve our value analysis. We're focusing specifically on the prices of components that affect performance, leaving the parts that don't impact benchmark results out of the equation. In the final analysis, this means that the case, optical drive, and operating system have no bearing on price/performance (though we still list those prices for your reference).

In this way, we're freeing ourselves to experiment with more premium enclosures and include add-ons like Blu-ray drives without the negative impact on comparative value. You all know that it's possible to get by with a $40 case and $20 DVD writer, but now we can choose higher-end options more appropriate to our go-fast parts without hammering our critical analysis of the internals.

With that in mind, I went a different direction with this quarter's enthusiast-oriented build, opting for a Core i7-4770K processor (rather than a more budget-friendly Core i5) and single GeForce GTX 780 Ti (instead of dual GeForce GTX 770s in SLI).

Enthusiast System Components
MotherboardASRock Z87 Pro3, LGA 1150, Intel Z87 Express
$90
ProcessorIntel Core i7-4770K: 3.5 GHz Base Clock Rate, 3.9 GHz Maximum Turbo Boost, 8 MB Shared L3 Cache
$320
Heat Sink
Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO with 120 mm PWM Fan
$35
Memory8 GB Corsair Vengeance LP (2 x 4 GB) DDR3-1866 Model CML8GX3M2A1866C9B$103
GraphicsGalaxy GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3 GB GDDR5
$660
System Drive
Samsung 840 EVO MZ-7TE120BW 2.5" 128 GB SATA 6Gb/s SSD$90
Storage Drive
Western Digital Black WD5003AZEX 500 GB 7200 RPM, 64 MB Cache, SATA 6Gb/s
$71
PowerCorsair Enthusiast Series TX650 650 W 80 PLUS Bronze PSU
$90
Cost Of Components That Impact Performance
$1459
Case
NZXT Phantom 410 Series Orange Trim Computer Case$100
Optical
LG Black WH14NS40, 4 MB Cache SATA BDXL Blu-ray Burner, OEM$54
OS
Microsoft Windows 8.1 64-bit, OEM$100
Total Cost of System as Tested:
$1713

Armed with $1459 worth of parts that directly affect performance, the new build is surprisingly cheaper than last quarter's enthusiast-oriented configuration, which leveraged $1528 of gear to make it a gaming beast.

You could make it out the door for as little as $1519 if you purchased all of my platform parts, a $40 case, and a $20 DVD burner. I went with a more premium chassis and a Blu-ray writer, though, taking the total cost to $1713 (including a copy of Windows 8 for $100).

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  • 2 Hide
    envy14tpe , March 25, 2014 1:11 AM
    Why a Galaxy GPU considering the company pulled out of US market? btw, nice work on the build.
  • 7 Hide
    bemused_fred , March 25, 2014 1:45 AM
    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.
  • 5 Hide
    Drejeck , March 25, 2014 2:39 AM
    770 sli also nets better performance when gaming on 120/144hz monitors
  • 1 Hide
    Dark Oopa , March 25, 2014 3:25 AM
    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.
  • 2 Hide
    redgarl , March 25, 2014 4:30 AM
    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.
  • 1 Hide
    npyrhone , March 25, 2014 5:03 AM
    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.
  • 8 Hide
    vertexx , March 25, 2014 5:05 AM
    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.
  • 0 Hide
    DarkSable , March 25, 2014 5:09 AM
    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.
  • 2 Hide
    nekromobo , March 25, 2014 5:11 AM
    I would really like to see mATX and mini-itx versions of this article, pretty please :) 
  • 4 Hide
    vertexx , March 25, 2014 5:12 AM
    Quote:
    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?
  • 1 Hide
    cypeq , March 25, 2014 5:15 AM
    Fresh and new but feels like a deja-vu
  • 0 Hide
    npyrhone , March 25, 2014 5:15 AM
    "such a little difference in gaming"... You call 20fps in an fps game little? Thats like almost 30% in far cry.
  • 0 Hide
    Sparky4688 , March 25, 2014 5:21 AM
    How loud is it at idle? At max stress? Normal operaton?
  • 8 Hide
    cheesyboy , March 25, 2014 5:45 AM
    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.
  • -3 Hide
    quilciri , March 25, 2014 5:54 AM
    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 Hide
    clide005 , March 25, 2014 6:04 AM
    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.
  • 0 Hide
    keyrock , March 25, 2014 6:28 AM
    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.
  • 2 Hide
    vertexx , March 25, 2014 7:34 AM
    Quote:
    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.
  • 1 Hide
    cleeve , March 25, 2014 7:35 AM
    Quote:
    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.

  • 2 Hide
    cleeve , March 25, 2014 7:38 AM
    Quote:
    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. :) 
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