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A Core i5-4670K And Radeon R9 290 Offer Big Value

System Builder Marathon, Q2 2014: Our Enthusiast PC
By

For the second quarter of 2014, I stepped down from a Core i7 and GeForce GTX 780 Ti to a Core i5 and Radeon R9 290. As a result, I used about $500 less in performance parts this time around.

Was the loss in performance compensated for by an increase in value? We need to run our numbers through a handful of calculations before we can tell you. I'll start with a look at the application performance, since this configuration isn't explicitly a gaming-oriented build.

Compared to a stock Core i7-4770K, the Core i5-4670K isn't too far off. Overclocked, the i5 almost achieves parity, in fact. Only the file compression tools we benchmark with really favor Intel's Hyper-Threaded Core i7.

Of course, the Core i7-4770K walks away again once it's overclocked as well. But when there's such a big cost disparity, we have to expect a corresponding performance delta.

How do those numbers compare to our gaming results? Let's look:

At 1920x1080, the GeForce GTX 780 Ti is incredibly strong. As we shift over to the triple-monitor resolution, Nvidia's GK110 is still faster, but seemingly less so. When overclocking is applied to the Radeon R9 290, it comes close to catching the GeForce-equipped system in stock form. Again, that's not bad for a build with less expensive hardware.

Comparing price and performance gives us a value determination that makes this quarter's mid-range machine look good. Are we surprised that cutting so much from our budget, yet retaining the overclockable Core i5 and Radeon R9 290, helps enable favorable speed for a little over $1000 worth of critical platform parts? Of course not. We've been recommending this Intel CPU and AMD graphics card for months (except for that bit where prices on Hawaii-based boards were out of control). 

The outcome would have been even more impressive if the Radeon wasn't still bouncing all over the place. We ordered it under $400. PowerColor's card then jumped up closer to $500. At least, for this very moment, it's back down to $430 on Newegg and includes a 250 GB Samsung 840 EVO SSD that instantly overcomes my configuration's biggest weakness. Talk about a roller coaster ride of emotions. Really though, the Core i5 and Radeon R9 290 represent the best bang for your buck when it comes to enthusiast-class hardware right now.

In a couple of days, Thomas is going to compare the value of my configuration to Paul's specifically budget-oriented setup and his own high-end PC. If the price on PowerColor's card holds, I think I have a pretty good chance at scoring an all-around win.

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Top Comments
  • 12 Hide
    Crashman , June 25, 2014 2:00 AM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    @BilinearCheese. I believe all parts for these toms' builds have to be from Newegg. So, try building that way.


    How is this the best suggested build for the money if you're only locking it to one retailer? That's...kinda silly
    Because if we get all our parts from Newegg, it's Newegg's money? Because, when Newegg pays for the parts, we can afford to give the entire systems away?
    :p 
Other Comments
  • 0 Hide
    BilinearCheese , June 25, 2014 12:32 AM
    I have to say guys, that enthusiast level build is terrible. Apevia case? Turbo Duo 290? NO SSD? Come on. For 16 bucks less I put together a system WITH an SSD, a decent case, a much better 290, and a better motherboard/cpu cooler. Hell, I even managed to get a color scheme together for it as well:

    http://pcpartpicker.com/p/FRyNgs

    [Answer by Cleeve:]

    "Terrible" = same CPU, cooler, graphics card, and equal benchmark performance?

    The case we chose really doesn't matter, as the first page of article points out. Case/optical drive is completely subjective. That's exactly why we've separated the performance parts price from case/optical/OS.
    By the way, are you just assuming Apevia its bad because you prefer other well-known brands? It did a fantastic job for the purposes of this article, so other than brand, what's your issue with it? Is brand the same problem you have with the 290? Because it's cooler is quite good.
    Speaking of coolers, the Hyper 212 EVO is virtually the 212 plus with a different fan. Is this really the huge difference you're implying it is?

    You're also specing it out two months after we did, with lower prices. An SSD would have been great, but two months ago when we ordered there was no room in the budget, and we weren't willing to sacrifice the 290.

    Bottom line, you're being a little sensationalist about picking nits.
  • 0 Hide
    itzsnypah , June 25, 2014 1:14 AM
    When overclocking the CPU are you leaving the uncore coupled to the core multiplier or uncoupled and set at x34/36? You averaging nearly 1.3v for only 4.3Ghz is very poor.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , June 25, 2014 1:15 AM
    I have to question the need for Z97 mobo. If you go with the Haswell and not the Haswell update and you do not include M.2 SSD, then why go with Z97? If you are choosing the Z97 to have a upgrade path, you should also go for the Devil's Canyon cpu. Budget-wise it is a really bad idea to even think about going for D.C. Haswell chip later on.

    The ssd gives you an easily felt sensation of speed every time you boot. Just got an ssd myself like 2 months ago. Any other go-fast parts come secondary. Ditch the Z97 and the ODD and you could squeeze in a SSD.
  • 0 Hide
    envy14tpe , June 25, 2014 1:28 AM
    @BilinearCheese. I believe all parts for these toms' builds have to be from Newegg. So, try building that way.
  • -7 Hide
    BilinearCheese , June 25, 2014 1:46 AM
    Quote:
    @BilinearCheese. I believe all parts for these toms' builds have to be from Newegg. So, try building that way.


    How is this the best suggested build for the money if you're only locking it to one retailer? That's...kinda silly
  • 12 Hide
    Crashman , June 25, 2014 2:00 AM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    @BilinearCheese. I believe all parts for these toms' builds have to be from Newegg. So, try building that way.


    How is this the best suggested build for the money if you're only locking it to one retailer? That's...kinda silly
    Because if we get all our parts from Newegg, it's Newegg's money? Because, when Newegg pays for the parts, we can afford to give the entire systems away?
    :p 
  • 2 Hide
    envy14tpe , June 25, 2014 2:15 AM
    Quote:
    Because if we get all our parts from Newegg, it's Newegg's money? Because, when Newegg pays for the parts, we can afford to give the entire systems away?
    :p 


    No one will ever question your parts selection ever again!! Maybe add a side note on price page that all parts are from/ must be bought on Newegg.
  • -6 Hide
    BilinearCheese , June 25, 2014 2:17 AM
    Quote:
    Because if we get all our parts from Newegg, it's Newegg's money? Because, when Newegg pays for the parts, we can afford to give the entire systems away?
    :p 


    All newegg, still cheaper with better components:

    http://pcpartpicker.com/p/pj7bCJ

    What's the next rule, no rebates?
  • 7 Hide
    Crashman , June 25, 2014 2:21 AM
    Quote:

    All newegg, still cheaper with better components:

    http://pcpartpicker.com/p/pj7bCJ

    What's the next rule, no rebates?


    No mail-in rebates because they usually disappear before we can publish and, because when you have $100 you can't buy a $149 part that has a $50 MIR :) 

    Instant rebates and sales are fine because when the discount on one part disappears, the discount on another part appears.

    BTW, I like the look of your case. I never understood what the deal was with don and ugly cases, but he's Canadian so I know better than to ask.
  • -3 Hide
    BilinearCheese , June 25, 2014 2:26 AM
    Quote:
    No mail-in rebates because they usually disappear before we can publish and, because when you have $100 you can't buy a $149 part that has a $50 MIR :) 

    Instant rebates and sales are fine because when the discount on one part disappears, the discount on another part appears.


    Even with that in mind, my second build without rebates totals 1178. Changing the motherboard to a z87 Extreme3 (because z97 isn't a benefit if you're not going for haswell refresh or an ssd) and it's 3 bucks more than the build listed.
  • 3 Hide
    Crashman , June 25, 2014 2:31 AM
    Quote:
    Even with that in mind, my second build without rebates totals 1178. Changing the motherboard to a z87 Extreme3 (because z97 isn't a benefit if you're not going for haswell refresh or an ssd) and it's 3 bucks more than the build listed.
    I like the Z87. I'm the guy who said that Z97 isn't a new chipset, it's at best a new stepping of Z87.

  • -4 Hide
    BilinearCheese , June 25, 2014 2:38 AM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    Even with that in mind, my second build without rebates totals 1178. Changing the motherboard to a z87 Extreme3 (because z97 isn't a benefit if you're not going for haswell refresh or an ssd) and it's 3 bucks more than the build listed.
    I like the Z87. I'm the guy who said that Z97 isn't a new chipset, it's at best a new stepping of Z87.



    The chipset isn't my concern to be honest. It's the idea that it's a sub par 290, no SSD, and a weaker cooler than you could fit into that budget.
  • 0 Hide
    mapesdhs , June 25, 2014 2:52 AM
    There does appear to be one additional advantage of Z97, at least in the
    UK anyway, namely pricing for equivalents boards seems to be slightly
    lower. Recently, before the Z97 launch, I was looking into options for a
    combined HTPC/mini-gaming build; the ASUS board I found (forget the
    model offhand) was about 130 UKP. The 'replacement' Z97 equivalent
    (Z97I-Plus) is about 15 cheaper. A small saving one might say, but
    often these amounts are cited as being critical in these SBMs.

    Ian.

  • -3 Hide
    alexandrosgr , June 25, 2014 3:16 AM
    I may have missed something but why are this quarter's builds weaker than the ones from the last quarter?
  • 3 Hide
    envy14tpe , June 25, 2014 4:25 AM
    Quote:
    I may have missed something but why are this quarter's builds weaker than the ones from the last quarter?


    You need to read the article. This current build Q2 2014 cost $986/$1166 whereas the Q1 2014 one had a higher budget of $1450/$1713. This new build is $460 less.
  • 2 Hide
    alexandrosgr , June 25, 2014 4:35 AM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    I may have missed something but why are this quarter's builds weaker than the ones from the last quarter?


    You need to read the article. This current build Q2 2014 cost $986/$1166 whereas the Q1 2014 one had a higher budget of $1450/$1713. This new build is $460 less.


    Wow, I'm surprised I missed that. Thanks !
  • -2 Hide
    Adroid , June 25, 2014 5:40 AM
    Sorry I'm gonna have to argue the methodology here a little. The Enthusiast build is always my favorite read of the trio of Tom's Sys Builder marathons for the following reasons:

    The entry level machine is never worth the money due to lack of future proofing, and the high-end system is past the point of reason, which I personally wouldn't waste money on even if I had an extra couple thousand laying around.

    My critiques :

    * Running memory at 1333 is an obvious bottleneck, even if it's small, it's measurable enough to be significant. I can't understand what you stand to prove by bottlenecking the system with the RAM. It's well understood that 1600 mhz DDR3 is the "entry" level for i5 systems.
    * The change in dollar value was unwarranted haha. This is just my one opinion, but an extra 200-500$ goes a long way at this sector, because the 1200$ price point allows more into the GPU/CPU which makes a huge performance bump.

    I'm just trying to give my constructive criticism because it's an exciting article to read and see what selection of core components for the 1200-1500 range can win out. This article you shaved 500$ off the build and the article suffers as a result because it has no chance to compete with last quarter's build, and thereby defeats the purpose of the article (I speak for myself).
  • 3 Hide
    Traciatim , June 25, 2014 6:33 AM
    Quote:

    I'm just trying to give my constructive criticism because it's an exciting article to read and see what selection of core components for the 1200-1500 range can win out. This article you shaved 500$ off the build and the article suffers as a result because it has no chance to compete with last quarter's build, and thereby defeats the purpose of the article (I speak for myself).


    No one will argue against a 1500 dollar machine will perform better than a 1000 dollar machine and the budgets for these builds was getting pretty crazy.

    For example, an SSD is really just a luxury item that doesn't actually change the performance of applications or games all that much once they are loaded, so it's probably one of the bests value items to cut out if you are on a budget and want the best performance per dollar. It's also one of the best things to spend extra money on to make your machine feel snappy because things start when you click on them.

    For the last round the mid range PC came in at $1459, but it was a 4770k and a 780ti. That's pretty much the top stuff you can possibly buy at the time without getting in to specialized situations. How is that in any way challenging to design a mid range system... or in fact, how is it even a mid range system?
  • 0 Hide
    Onus , June 25, 2014 6:38 AM
    I'm not going to niggle specific pricing, because that always varies, month to month. If a "better" R9 290 was available for less now, it may not have been then.
    But...
    Apevia is on my personal "Do Not Buy" list. What was your impression of the material quality on this one? To me it looked garish; that side panel has "cheesy" all over it. The one Apevia case I bought years ago was a great design (fit/finish was good too), but the material quality and QC on it were so bad I ended up tossing it into the grabbage after a couple months of fighting with a front panel grounding issue. While not as bad as the Chokemax case you tried a year or so ago, this is the second time you've gone with a cheap case, and I understand the ire it has provoked.
    The specific models have varied over the months and years, but I have never been unable to find a 120mm tower cooler offering similar performance to the Hyper212 EVO that was not notably cheaper (e.g. $8-$15); I might lose 1C on cooling, but gain a notch up somewhere else that will make a bigger difference. I'm not saying it is a bad cooler (I accept that it is not), but I don't know why so many people parrot a model that is such a bang/buck Loser.
    Even un-stressed, IMHO the Corsair "CX" with its inferior Samxon capacitors is not a valid choice for an enthusiast build.
    I hope this lays to rest the idea that an "enthusiast" build can skip the SSD.
    I like the pricing calculation changes, and the lowered budgets. Insofar as it affects cooling though, I think it would be good to include the case in the "Performance Parts" category, and count it against the "Performance" budget.

    *smashes head against desk* Hit wrong button; this should be two votes higher than it is. - SS
  • 0 Hide
    elbert , June 25, 2014 6:43 AM
    Every time I read these I have a desire to find the last quarters parts list. Could you please add last quarters spec's with this quarters parts list. Thanks!
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