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

System Builder Marathon, Q2 2014: Our Enthusiast PC

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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