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System Builder Marathon Q4 2013: System Value Compared

System Builder Marathon Q4 2013: System Value Compared
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System Builder Marathon, Q4 2013: 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 $800 Gaming PC
Day 2: The $1600 Enthusiast PC
Day 3: The $2400 Performance PC
Day 4: Performance And Value, Dissected

Introduction

Getting into gaming is rarely cheap, but Paul Henningsen thrives against the struggle to get top performance for bottom dollar. That stuggle was threatened this month by stagnation in the low-cost gaming hardware market. His choices were to rebuild the same machine he presented last quarter, to step down to an even cheaper machine that would give up more performance than cost, or spend extra money on a few mid-range parts. Paul is typically not interested in boring, so we were all on-board with his decision to cram a high-end Radeon R9 280X into a mainstream-priced $800 machine.

We like to use budgets that facilitate easy comparisons. So, we could have stretched Don in one of two directions: build a $1200 machine at 1.5 times the cost of Paul’s or really step things up and use $1600 to try building twice the machine. The $800 system's specs are so impressive that nothing short of a $600 graphics subsystem represents a higher market class. We made the call to give Don $1600 for his effort.

The decision was made easier by my own desire to piece together a configuration faster than last quarter's flagship System Builder Marathon box for less money. At 1.5 times the cost of a $1200 PC, an $1800 machine wouldn’t have packed in enough performance. At twice the cost of Don’s machine, a $3200 build would have forced me to waste money chasing miniscule gains. By splitting the price structure into three multiples of $800, a $2400 budget was just what I needed.

The final line-up shows two gaming machines and a configuration optimized for general-purpose computing, which should be capable of doing everything exceptionally well. Games are one of its strengths. Crypto-currency mining could be another, if you're willing to run your R9 290s at 100% load all of the time. And the six Ivy Bridge-based x86 cores should take care of everything else.

Q4 2013 SBM Components
 $800 Gaming PC$1600 Enthusiast PC$2400 Performance PC
ProcessorIntel Core i5-3570: 3.4 GHz, Quad Core, 6 MB Shared L3 CacheIntel Core i5-4670K: 3.4 GHz, Quad Core, 6 MB Shared L3 CacheIntel Core i7-4930K: 3.2 GHz, Six Cores, 12 MB Shared L3 Cache
GraphicsGigabyte GV-R928XOC-3GD: Radeon R9 280X 3 GB2 x MSI N770 TF 2GD5/OC: GeForce GTX 770 2 GB (SLI)2 x Asus R9290-4GD5: Radeon R9 290 4 GB (CrossFire)
MotherboardASRock Z75 Pro3: LGA 1155, Intel Z75 ExpressAsus Z87-PLUS: LGA 1150, Intel Z87 ExpressASRock X79 Extreme6: LGA 2011, Intel X79 Express
MemoryTeam Vulcan TLBD38G1600HC9DC01: DDR3-1600 C9, 8 GB (2 x 4 GB)Patriot PV38G186C9KR: DDR3-1866 C9, 8 GB (2 x 4 GB) G.SkillF3-14900CL9Q-16GBXL: DDR3-1600 C9, 16 GB (4 x 4 GB) 
System DriveWestern Digital WD10EZEX:1 TB SATA 6Gb/s HDDSamsung MZ-7PD128BW: 128 GB, SATA 6Gb/s SSDSanDisk SDSSDHP-256G-G25: 256 GB, SATA 6Gb/s SSD
Storage DriveUses System DriveSeagate ST2000DM001: 2 TB SATA 6Gb/s HDDWestern Digital WD20EZRX: 2 TB, SATA 6Gb/s HDD
OpticalLite-On iHAS124-04: 24x DVD±R, 48x CD-RLite-On iHAS124-04: 24x DVD±R, 48x CD-RPioneer BDR-208DBK: 15x BD-R, 16x DVD±R
CaseXigmatek CCC-AE37BS-U02NZXT GAMA-001BKFractal Design Define R4
PowerEVGA 100-B1-0500-KR: 500 W, ATX12V v2.3, 80 PLUS BronzeCORSAIR TX750 V2: 750 W, ATX12V v2.3, 80 PLUS BronzeSeasonic SS-850AM: 850 W, 80 PLUS Bronze
CPU CoolerIntel Boxed CoolerEnermax ETS-T40-TBThermaltake CLW0217
 $800 $1600 $2409

The prices above represent what we paid for these parts back in November. All of us were able to find our hardware within the budgets we defined for ourselves, though a $10 discount expired between the time I picked my parts and when the order went through. Short-term specials are the least of anyone's worries today, though. As a result of big price hikes, Paul’s machine jumped by $125 and mine went up $300 after the orders were placed. I’ll go over how this affects each builder in my conclusion.

Display 31 Comments.
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  • 5 Hide
    swordrage , December 31, 2013 1:29 AM
    Since it appears that the 4930k is such a great "value", if one can put it into proper use, that 2400 pc with a single gpu seems to be a good idea. That way, one can upgrade the gpu after 2 or 1.5 years or get a second one after 6 months or so if he feels the need, while the cpu will still be going really strong. Comparing the pace of cpu vs gpu progress, I would always second the idea of getting a really good cpu and 2nd or 3rd fastest gpu. Also the 40 pcie lanes make it even more future proof. But of course for tripple monitor setups or 4k dual is the way to go, at least for now.
  • 7 Hide
    Crashman , December 31, 2013 1:43 AM
    Quote:
    Since it appears that the 4930k is such a great "value", if one can put it into proper use, that 2400 pc with a single gpu seems to be a good idea. That way, one can upgrade the gpu after 2 or 1.5 years or get a second one after 6 months or so if he feels the need, while the cpu will still be going really strong. Comparing the pace of cpu vs gpu progress, I would always second the idea of getting a really good cpu and 2nd or 3rd fastest gpu. Also the 40 pcie lanes make it even more future proof. But of course for tripple monitor setups or 4k dual is the way to go, at least for now.
    I would have no problem recommending the system with a different graphics configuration, even a single GTX 780 Ti with room for later SLI upgrades.

  • 5 Hide
    Amdlova , December 31, 2013 4:15 AM
    put the same graphic card on these 3 system and show to us the results
  • 1 Hide
    Yuka , December 31, 2013 6:49 AM
    Thanks for another great SBM, but I want to ask if there's a way to include some metrics in a gaming context for SSDs or RAID configs so they weight more for the overall system value.

    The first one I can think of, being kind of boring as it might be, its the most obvious one to have: loading times. There are games that load a bazillion things on the fly and are some-what storage sensitive (MMOs basically) and we all hate waiting for everything to load, right? It can be clocked with a 10% error margin (thinking it usually takes around 200ms for human response).

    I'm asking this, because RAID0 could become important if we see the value it adds to our builds. I know they're nowhere near SSDs, but Steam + other games take a LOT of space. My own Games folder racks up 410GB, where Steam is 300GB alone. You could slap 2x500GB HDDs in RAID 0 for half the value of a 240GB SSD if memory serves right and 2x1TB HDDs are just a tad more expensive. You can even use notebook HDDs if you want, haha.

    Cheers!
  • -2 Hide
    redgarl , December 31, 2013 8:00 AM
    The problem with these Marathon is that they rely too much on the budget and refuse to show us what we really want. In this case, two R290X with non-reference cooler. The overclocking is not what we know this card can accomplish.

    Also, I would have cut the memory by half and remove the SSD for getting these 2 cards. Also... you really needs to change your SBM... it is ridiculous at this point.
  • 1 Hide
    redgarl , December 31, 2013 8:04 AM
    Yuka, If you have simple games, putting on your HDD instead of your SSD will make barely any difference. If you are like me and have some indie games, then save your space on your SSD for the big titles. I don't know many people can claim not having enough space with 256GB of SSD due to the amount of games they have.
  • 5 Hide
    doomtomb , December 31, 2013 8:34 AM
    All benchmark results below 1080p should be excluded and discontinued. What gamer is going to buy or build one of these monsters and play on a 19" 1600x900
  • 0 Hide
    cangelini , December 31, 2013 8:52 AM
    @redgarl: There are exactly two non-reference 290X cards listed on Newegg right now, one of which is out of stock. The one that's available wasn't there when we ordered parts for the SBM, but even if it was, it sells for $650. Two of them at $1300 aren't even an option for two of these three builds.
  • 3 Hide
    jlanger , December 31, 2013 9:02 AM
    Problem with SSD's is that the big titles are getting massive. BF3 took up nearly 65g of my HDD, and BF4 is already at 58gb. I have a 240gb SSD coming and with Windows 8 and BF4 I'm not going to ahve much alternative room left!
  • 1 Hide
    Crashman , December 31, 2013 9:11 AM
    Quote:
    The problem with these Marathon is that they rely too much on the budget and refuse to show us what we really want. In this case, two R290X with non-reference cooler.
    They weren't available when the cards were ordered.
    Quote:
    The overclocking is not what we know this card can accomplish.
    Au contraire, this is EXACTLY what THESE cards could accomplish with good cooling. I know that by the temperatures, but I understand that the temperature charts are easily overlooked.

  • 0 Hide
    poik , December 31, 2013 12:48 PM
    If you have an SSD and are not using compression you're losing/wasting a lot of space.
  • 0 Hide
    coolitic , December 31, 2013 2:09 PM
    I strongly disagree with the choices made for the 2400 one.
  • 1 Hide
    Crashman , December 31, 2013 2:30 PM
    Quote:
    I strongly disagree with the choices made for the 2400 one.
    I'm actually very happy you didn't just throw out a bunch of gaming machine specs with that statement. So, keeping in mind that:
    1.) The $2400 PC was built with the entire benchmark set in mind, not just games
    2.) The graphics cards were $400 at the time and nobody knew that they'd be capped in Far Cry 3
    3.) Top-mounting the radiator would have further boxed-in the voltage regulator sink
    4.) The NH-D14 had been found slightly-insufficient in the previous high-end build

    What would you have liked to see changed?

  • 0 Hide
    TheOnlyPenguin , December 31, 2013 3:15 PM
    I enjoy these articles, but since am not into gaming as much as others I personally would like to see one along the lines of a workstation build off. Not really sure what the budget ranges would be, etc. But I feel it could be a nice change up from the norm on the site.
  • 1 Hide
    spentshells , January 1, 2014 7:06 AM
    Interestingly, 800 dollars will get you ultra settings @ 1080P 60 fps for 90% of games.
  • 1 Hide
    rolli59 , January 1, 2014 7:13 AM
    My favorite series on here and really there is a build for everyone though I believe we should still have an Entry level build in the $500-650 range included!
  • 0 Hide
    brenro , January 1, 2014 7:14 AM
    Just curious. Why don't we test at 2560X1600 any more? I'm sure a lot of us doing a $2400 build have a big monitor to go along with it.
  • 1 Hide
    spentshells , January 1, 2014 7:22 AM
    I must agree with Rolli 500-600 is a popular build price. certainly more so than mid priced build.
  • 1 Hide
    SessouXFX , January 1, 2014 2:14 PM
    Quote:
    Problem with SSD's is that the big titles are getting massive. BF3 took up nearly 65g of my HDD, and BF4 is already at 58gb. I have a 240gb SSD coming and with Windows 8 and BF4 I'm not going to ahve much alternative room left!


    Compression, dude! It's your best friend in digital gaming. And if all else fails, get an external drive. They're still pretty useful and cheap...

    And I think the only thing I can disagree with the $1600 build is the case. OMG!! My eyes! Ughhhhh!
  • 0 Hide
    jasonelmore , January 1, 2014 3:56 PM
    Compression is not your friend, it adds overhead to the CPU and SSD. Honestly if these guys would have bought ASUS boards on these systems, RAM DISK is a solution to look at.

    Whatever popular game your playing at the time, load it into the ram disk, when you grown tired of the game, unload it from RAM disk and back onto the HDD. Speed when you need it, storage when you dont.
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