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A Gaming Build That Works Hard

System Builder Marathon, Q1 2014: The $2400 People’s Choice PC

A broad focus across our entire benchmark suite has caused many of my previous machines to look like workstations with gaming graphics cards. At least, that's what the feedback indicates. Occasionally, they end up behaving like gaming boxes with professional-class CPUs. A number of you asked for a change, and so today's effort was designed to facilitate a fresh perspective.

Slowed by Intel's enterprise-oriented storage driver, the previous build still managed to provide similar overall value to the game-centric replacement I pieced together today. Removing that stumbling block as I overclocked, the previous build’s less aggressive overclock manages to convey super value anyway.

But I still wouldn’t recommend the Q4 2013 setup today after what happened in the graphics market. Prices on Radeon R9 290s have shot up, and then dipped down a bit. But I'd only stand behind my choices if you could still find the Hawaii-based card for its original $400.

Comparing the prices of components today puts last quarter's top-end build at a huge disadvantage. If I were to choose my own multi-purpose performance-focused PC today, I’d need to figure out a combination of Ivy Bridge-E processor and Nvidia graphics cards that fit within a $2400 budget.

Gamers like gaming, and there are professionals who mix work and play. Although the previous build didn't please everyone, I can at least say that the new one caters to a crowd not dependent on business-class applications for making money. I don't even need consider price spikes on AMD's cards to see the current Intel/Nvidia-based build's gaming leadership.

Volatile pricing sounds the swan’s song for the previous PC’s Radeon R9 290 CrossFire configuration. I’m unlikely to revisit any AMD-based configuration until those cards can be purchased at October 2013 levels. Regardless of the reasons, your feedback driving my choices results in a better value this quarter.

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