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System Builder Marathon, Q2 2013: $2500 Performance PC

System Builder Marathon, Q2 2013: $2500 Performance PC
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System Builder Marathon, Q2 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 $650 Mini-ITX Gaming PC
Day 2: The $1300 Mini-ITX Enthusiast PC
Day 3: The $2500 Mini-Performance PC
Day 4: Performance And Value, Dissected
Day 5: The $400 "True Spirit of Mini-ITX" PC

Introduction

Your feedback plays an important role in determining the direction our System Builder Marathons take. When we've exhausted every other way to spend our budgets trying to build conventional-looking boxes, we turn to the comments section for inspiration. Compact gaming systems seem to come up regularly, particularly at a time when more efficient computing architectures and lower-power graphics cards inspire creativity. So, when Don and Paul put their support behind a mini-ITX-themed Marathon, I hopped on-board as well.

Knowing that mini-ITX is particularly popular right now, I suppressed the cynicism that you know and love. My only complaint was that I'd pay $50 more for a motherboard with $50 less worth of features. Then again, I’m the guy who reviews all of our motherboards. I'm really picky about this stuff. Rather than argue the technical superiority of micro-ATX, I embraced the convenience of DTX.

In spite of what my colleagues might believe, this isn’t a mini-ITX system round-up. VIA's single-slot mini-ITX form factor limits its motherboard, but a system's form factor is that of its enclosure. AMD’s DTX form factor adds the second slot needed to support a majority of high-performance graphics cards, and that explains why the majority of ITX gaming cases are actually DTX-compliant. Though motherboard makers aren't taking advantage of the added depth available to true DTX motherboards—supporting larger voltage regulators and more DIMM slots—the empty motherboard space is still available in DTX-based “ITX gaming cases”.

This $2500 "mini-ITX" system is big, even by the larger DTX standard. Yet, its internal components dictated case selection. The combination is as close as a home builder can get to a custom-engineered assembly using retail parts.

Q2 2013 $2500 Performance PC Components
ProcessorIntel Core i7-3770K (Ivy Bridge): 3.5 GHz Base Clock Rate, 3.9 GHz Max. Turbo Boost, Quad-Core, 8 MB Shared L3 Cache$330
GraphicsAsus GTX690-4GD5 GeForce GTX 690 4 GB (2 GB per GPU)$1000
MotherboardAsus P8Z77-I Deluxe: LGA 1155, Intel Z77 Express$185
MemoryCrucial Ballistix Tactical BLT2K8G3D1608ET3LX0: DDR3-1600 C8, 16 GB (8 GB x 2)$115
System DriveMushkin MKNSSDCR240GB-DX: 240 GB, SATA 6Gb/s SSD$185
Storage DriveWestern Digital WD2002FAEX: 2 TB, SATA 6Gb/s Hard Drive
$160
OpticalAsus DRW-24B1ST: 14x BD-R, 16x DVD±R$99
CaseBitFenix Prodigy BFC-PRO-300-RRXKR-RP$90
Prodigy Mesh Front Panel C-PRO-300-KRFXA-RP$25
BitFenix 140 mm Fan BFF-SCF-14025WW-RP$12
SilverStone FF143B 140 mm Dust Filter$10
PowerSeasonic SS-660XP2: 660 W Modular, ATX12V v2.3, 80 PLUS Platinum$140
CPU CoolerNZXT Kraken X40 RL-KRX40-01
$100
  Total Cost $2451

Originally I was given $2600 to spend (that's four times Paul's budget and two times Don's). But I wasn't able to come up with a performance justification for spending any more than I did. I gave up at $2450 and made the unilateral decision to call this a $2500 build.

Display 79 Comments.
  • 2 Hide
    sherlockwing , June 23, 2013 10:03 PM
    Interesting $2500 MITX build, granted most people(including me) would have built a $2500 rig around 780 SLI in a ATX case.
  • 6 Hide
    burnley14 , June 23, 2013 10:07 PM
    This just might be my favorite SBM ever, and this particular build my favorite machine of all time. Even if the relative value is slightly lower, many people including myself are willing to pay a small premium for a smaller footprint. Well done!
  • 5 Hide
    nvidiamd , June 23, 2013 10:31 PM
    this is the best build on toms ever! no substandards and overkills. two thumbs up!
  • -2 Hide
    slomo4sho , June 23, 2013 11:03 PM
    Seems I was pretty close in my initial guess:

  • 0 Hide
    Madn3ss795 , June 23, 2013 11:37 PM
    Assembling part reminds me of LEGO...
  • 0 Hide
    agnickolov , June 23, 2013 11:47 PM
    I wish the build had a 512GB SSD, but I understand the builder's value sentiment. The fast HDD is pure waste, however. A 2TB HDD can be found for under $100.
  • -1 Hide
    sarinaide , June 23, 2013 11:50 PM
    Still struggling to get my mind on a high performance ITX system, to me its more a case of how much high end you can chuck into a psuedo M-ITX chassis which for all intents and purposes are not small form factor by any stretch of the imagination. Having owned a Prodigy they can hardly be said to be SFF when their total surface area is as much as a ATX chassis, it is like calling a HAF XB M-ITX.

    The main point of the article is that diminishing returns are high at that price point, only a overclocked system (again not a fan of in the confineds of a ITX system) give it value.
  • -2 Hide
    csf60 , June 24, 2013 12:47 AM
    I would take a 770 and water-cool that rig any day, but I suppose that's personal preference.
  • -3 Hide
    sarinaide , June 24, 2013 1:07 AM
    It is safe to say that the purpose of the machine is gaming, for that is there any particular reason to go with the i7 other than to say you maxed the platforms highest capable chip but in terms of true benefits there is little over an i5 yet over a $100 been dropped on it. The next question is why not a GTX Titan, most of a 690 's performance but on less power and heat which is quite punishing in a Prodigy's confinds.
  • 3 Hide
    Crashman , June 24, 2013 1:43 AM
    Quote:
    Still struggling to get my mind on a high performance ITX system, to me its more a case of how much high end you can chuck into a psuedo M-ITX chassis which for all intents and purposes are not small form factor by any stretch of the imagination. Having owned a Prodigy they can hardly be said to be SFF when their total surface area is as much as a ATX chassis, it is like calling a HAF XB M-ITX.

    The main point of the article is that diminishing returns are high at that price point, only a overclocked system (again not a fan of in the confineds of a ITX system) give it value.
    At the initialization's initiation, SFF meant "Shuttle Form Factor". The term has since been abused for everything from Micro ATX gaming cubes to book-sized PCs. Book-sized system builders would argue that Shuttle's fairly big traditional boxes aren't true SFF because they're too big, even though the term originally referred to these! If you remove the handles, this case is roughly the size of Shuttle's old 2-slot boxes (it's around 2 inches taller and 2 inches shorter in length)
    Quote:
    It is safe to say that the purpose of the machine is gaming
    Gaming only? Then when the Core i7?
    Quote:
    is there any particular reason to go with the i7
    Read pages 16 and 17
    Quote:
    other than to say you maxed the platforms highest capable chip but in terms of true benefits there is little over an i5
    Did you see the overclocking section? Three mediocre i5's in a row and i7 leads to O/C victory, in addition to the gains on pages 16 and 17.
    Quote:
    The next question is why not a GTX Titan, most of a 690 's performance but on less power and heat which is quite punishing in a Prodigy's confinds.
    Did you see a heat issue? I did not. Why would someone want to spend more money for less gaming performance? Or are you now saying that this is not a gaming PC?

  • 3 Hide
    tomate2 , June 24, 2013 1:44 AM
    Quote:
    It is safe to say that the purpose of the machine is gaming, for that is there any particular reason to go with the i7 other than to say you maxed the platforms highest capable chip but in terms of true benefits there is little over an i5 yet over a $100 been dropped on it. The next question is why not a GTX Titan, most of a 690 's performance but on less power and heat which is quite punishing in a Prodigy's confinds.


    For future reference: you should read an article before posting so that you don't make a fool of yourself.
  • 0 Hide
    de5_Roy , June 24, 2013 2:17 AM
    really enjoyed reading the article, reading the assembly part was fun. the build looks great imho.

    i think this build wins in terms of performance per heat or temperature per volume(size of the pc). i know the metric sounds weird but that is a Lot of performance crammed into that small case. a titan would possibly improve temperature and still be a lot faster than 7870xt(comparing past q's enthusiast pc) even though it was unavailable during ordering the parts). for example, you can't squeeze an fx8350 (no mini itx mobo) in that case, and trinity only goes up to 2module/4threads.
    edit: just realized how unfortunate gtx780's launch timing is... it coulda been a good candidate for the high end performance pc. may be next quarter....
  • 3 Hide
    ehanger , June 24, 2013 4:45 AM
    Nothing that couldn't be built a year ago.
  • 0 Hide
    Onus , June 24, 2013 5:47 AM
    It was interesting to see specific mods / add-ons called out in this build; I'm not sure I've seen that done before, but the results were certainly worthwhile.
    I'd love to win this one. My own games (especially at 1920x1080) don't need a GTX690 so I might swap in a lesser card in order to use the drive cage, but this would be one sweet system to sit on my desk.
    How loud were the fans?
  • -4 Hide
    antemon , June 24, 2013 6:41 AM
    why in the world did no one use the HAF XB or the A30?
  • 2 Hide
    sarinaide , June 24, 2013 7:01 AM
    Quote:
    why in the world did no one use the HAF XB or the A30?


    I am assuming its because its for M-ITX only albeit that the HAF XB could take ITX and is as big as a Prodigy.

  • -2 Hide
    ojas , June 24, 2013 7:11 AM
    Very interesting build! At least predicted a Platinum PSU correctly :p 

    I was expecting a Titan or a 780, though. CPU choice was pretty much a given.

    And no one's hating your PSU choice, so far too :D 

    Quote:
    Quote:
    It was harder to notice with the previous build’s lower frame rate, but both configurations hit a snag at 2560x1600 and the Ultra quality preset. That snag is memory, where 2 GB of graphics RAM simply isn’t enough. The new build's so-called 4 GB card only gives 2 GB to each GPU, and that proves to be a problem.


    Um... no? There is no justification for this. 2560x1600 almost twice as demanding as 1920x1080, and you are just seeing the expected performance drop from the resolution increase. There is no evidence of VRAM limitation.

    Yeah i was thinking the same thing...had it been due to VRAM i'd expect the FPS to be closer together for both builds.
  • -1 Hide
    Amdlova , June 24, 2013 7:22 AM
    i will do sli 670 on micro atx mobo... LOL 520W power supply will suport
    mini cases (Y) epic win
  • -1 Hide
    Fokissed , June 24, 2013 7:37 AM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    It was harder to notice with the previous build’s lower frame rate, but both configurations hit a snag at 2560x1600 and the Ultra quality preset. That snag is memory, where 2 GB of graphics RAM simply isn’t enough. The new build's so-called 4 GB card only gives 2 GB to each GPU, and that proves to be a problem.


    Um... no? There is no justification for this. 2560x1600 almost twice as demanding as 1920x1080, and you are just seeing the expected performance drop from the resolution increase. There is no evidence of VRAM limitation.


    Crysis 2 uses 1800MB+(normally) of VRAM at 1920x1080 on my GTX 680 4GB. It peaks at 3GB usage at times. I have no doubt that modern games at high resolution are limited by 2GB of VRAM.
  • 2 Hide
    frillybob101 , June 24, 2013 8:09 AM
    This is the one I want to win!
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