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Graphics, CPU, And Memory

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

The most cogent criticism of our previous machine was that its Radeon R9 290 graphics cards were overpriced, ill-tempered, and noisy. When I ordered them, though, 290s were still $400 each. It's only unfortunate that we can't go back in time to lock down pricing on AMD's second-fastest single-GPU board. This time around, however, we know better. 

Graphics Cards: Two EVGA GeForce GTX 780s in SLI

Tom's Hardware readers recommended Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 780 to replace the previous build’s Radeons, and picking EVGA as the supplier was as easy as selecting “Sort By: Lowest Price” from Newegg’s list of models.

Read Customer Reviews of EVGA's GeForce GTX 780


I love blower-style coolers for their ability to remove GPU heat from the case, but concede that many of those coolers are too noisy to satisfy a majority of our readers. Nvidia put a great amount of effort into developing a radial fan cooler that could deliver the best of both cooling and noise, and EVGA’s part number 03G-P4-2781-KR employs it.

CPU: Intel Core i7-4770K

CPU selection is always contentious, especially when some of our benchmarks effectively utilize more than four cores and others don't. Fans of the Core i5-4670K's value rightly point out that part's excellent overall performance and overclocking headroom, while proponents of the Core i7-4930K have more cores, cache, and Intel's Hyper-Threading technology on their side.

Read Customer Reviews of Intel's Core i7-4770K


Between those extremes, the Core i7-4770K has four cores, a little more shared L3 cache, and Hyper-Threading to schedule up to eight threads concurrently. Those features do improve core utilization however, and the performance boost in a few applications is enough to garner support in the high-end space.

System RAM: G.Skill 8 GB Dual-Channel DDR3-1866 C9

Based on a ton of testing, it appears that G.Skill uses only a few DRAM ICs across a wide variety of products. Of them, the company's most value-oriented overclocking modules are usually labeled DDR3-1866 C9 or DDR3-1600 C8 at 1.50 V. Available in a variety of colors and heat spreader styles, and I usually opt for the lower-profile Ares version.

Read Customer Reviews of G.Skill's Ripjaws X F3-1866C9D-16GXM


But Ripjaws X was a little cheaper than Ares on the day my parts were ordered, so I went that route instead. Likewise, DDR3-1866 C9 was a little cheaper than DDR3-1600 C8. And the cheapest color was blue.

The specific part number I went with is F3-1866C9D-16GXM. If you know what to look for, though, you might find a better deal on the same RAM under a different part number on a different day.

Display all 37 comments.
Top Comments
  • 10 Hide
    Crashman , March 24, 2014 1:06 AM
    Quote:
    I dont get the "W" usage?680+237 = 917w. Not 802w as meation above?
    It's not calculated power, it's measured power for the entire system (at the power plug). No addition or subtraction was used.

    1.) Start the system, wait for all processes to load, take a measurement (Active, but idle)
    2.) Load the CPU using eight thread of AVX-optimized Prime95, take a reading (CPU Load).
    3.) Load GPUs with 3DMark 11 Test 1 in loop, take max reading as it heats up (GPU Load).
    4.) Load both applications (CPU+GPU Load).

    The "math problem" is that any program used to fully load the GPU also partly loads the CPU. So when test 4 is Prime95+3DMark, Prime95 can only use whatever CPU resources are left with 3DMark running.

    So the most accurate system power reading is with "CPU+GPU Load" applied. The system measurement for "CPU Load" still includes the power of an idle GPU. And the system power measurement for "GPU Load" still includes the amount of CPU energy it takes to run the GPU's test application.
Other Comments
  • 4 Hide
    Darkerson , March 24, 2014 12:18 AM
    Interesting move, showing the nicest build 1st instead of last. Cant wait to see all the builds compared and see what you all come up with as the budget goes down.
  • 2 Hide
    captain_jonno , March 24, 2014 12:18 AM
    Looks good. Surprised only went with a 750w PSU though. Considering 2x 780 ti's and overlocking
  • 3 Hide
    Crashman , March 24, 2014 12:40 AM
    Quote:
    Looks good. Surprised only went with a 750w PSU though. Considering 2x 780 ti's and overlocking
    Yessir, two 780s and a bit of experience in part picking lead me to expect around 700W of required system power. And, it came out just a little less than 700W.

    Power supplies of greater capacity and similar reliability at this price tend to be lower-efficiency units. And we like efficiency too.

  • -5 Hide
    YellowBee , March 24, 2014 12:54 AM
    I dont get the "W" usage?680+237 = 917w. Not 802w as meation above?
  • 10 Hide
    Crashman , March 24, 2014 1:06 AM
    Quote:
    I dont get the "W" usage?680+237 = 917w. Not 802w as meation above?
    It's not calculated power, it's measured power for the entire system (at the power plug). No addition or subtraction was used.

    1.) Start the system, wait for all processes to load, take a measurement (Active, but idle)
    2.) Load the CPU using eight thread of AVX-optimized Prime95, take a reading (CPU Load).
    3.) Load GPUs with 3DMark 11 Test 1 in loop, take max reading as it heats up (GPU Load).
    4.) Load both applications (CPU+GPU Load).

    The "math problem" is that any program used to fully load the GPU also partly loads the CPU. So when test 4 is Prime95+3DMark, Prime95 can only use whatever CPU resources are left with 3DMark running.

    So the most accurate system power reading is with "CPU+GPU Load" applied. The system measurement for "CPU Load" still includes the power of an idle GPU. And the system power measurement for "GPU Load" still includes the amount of CPU energy it takes to run the GPU's test application.
  • 1 Hide
    YellowBee , March 24, 2014 1:08 AM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    I dont get the "W" usage?680+237 = 917w. Not 802w as meation above?
    It's not a calculation, it's a reading for the entire system (at the power plug). Load the CPU using eight thread of AVX-optimized Prime95, take reading one. Load GPUs with 3DMark 11 Test 1 in loop, take max reading as it heats up.

    The "math problem" is that any program used to fully load the GPU also partly loads the CPU. So when test 3 is Prime95+3DMark, Prime95 can only use whatever CPU resources are left with 3DMark running.

    So the most accurate system power reading is with "CPU+GPU Load" applied. The system measurement for "CPU Load" still includes the reading of an idle GPU. And the system power measurement for "GPU Load" still includes the amount of CPU power it takes to run the GPU.


    Very much appreciated and satisfying answer.
    Thanks Crashman :) 
  • 0 Hide
    bemused_fred , March 24, 2014 2:19 AM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    I dont get the "W" usage?680+237 = 917w. Not 802w as meation above?
    It's not calculated power, it's measured power for the entire system (at the power plug). No addition or subtraction was used.1.) Start the system, wait for all processes to load, take a measurement (Active, but idle)2.) Load the CPU using eight thread of AVX-optimized Prime95, take a reading (CPU Load).3.) Load GPUs with 3DMark 11 Test 1 in loop, take max reading as it heats up (GPU Load).4.) Load both applications (CPU+GPU Load).The "math problem" is that any program used to fully load the GPU also partly loads the CPU. So when test 4 is Prime95+3DMark, Prime95 can only use whatever CPU resources are left with 3DMark running.So the most accurate system power reading is with "CPU+GPU Load" applied. The system measurement for "CPU Load" still includes the power of an idle GPU. And the system power measurement for "GPU Load" still includes the amount of CPU energy it takes to run the GPU's test application.
    Any chance of including these calculations in all future articles, so that we know exactly how the power graph is calculated? Ta.
  • 1 Hide
    Crashman , March 24, 2014 3:05 AM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    It's not calculated power, it's measured power for the entire system
    Any chance of including these calculations in all future articles, so that we know exactly how the power graph is calculated? Ta.
    Which calculations?

  • -7 Hide
    jabuscus , March 24, 2014 3:28 AM
    wow. such performance. many ram. they should've put in 16gb of ram for real high-end specs. ;) 
  • 0 Hide
    Versutia , March 24, 2014 4:43 AM
    As I'm into quiet enclosures, I'd go along this route:

    http://pcpartpicker.com/p/3fuGw

    Wondering how much of a difference would non-reference cards make. Obviously, CPU cooler and RAM could be different, BR drive optional, storage drive as well.
  • 2 Hide
    sea monkey , March 24, 2014 5:25 AM
    Quote:
    G.Skill Ripjaws X F3-1866C9D-16GXM: DDR3-1600 C9, 16 GB (2 x 8 GB)


    Shouldn't that be DDR3-1866?
  • 1 Hide
    vertexx , March 24, 2014 5:47 AM
    Nice comparisons to last quarter's build. All things considered, I think this is the best build I've seen in this series for quite a while.
  • -1 Hide
    Sparky4688 , March 24, 2014 6:30 AM
    I like the new focus and high end review first. This build mirrors my own approach except I don't play games so save on multi-GPU costs and no need to water cool as no overclocking either – stability is key to me. My similarly parted machine in November less the water cooling and multi-GPU cost almost $800-900 less after rebates. Can you add sound/noise dB monitoring and include in results? Multimedia machines and home office machines need to account for noise.
  • 1 Hide
    Sparky4688 , March 24, 2014 6:31 AM
    I like the new focus and high end review first. This build mirrors my own approach except I don't play games so save on multi-GPU costs and no need to water cool as no overclocking either – stability is key to me. My similarly parted machine in November less the water cooling and multi-GPU cost almost $800-900 less after rebates. Can you add sound/noise dB monitoring and include in results? Multimedia machines and home office machines need to account for noise.
  • 1 Hide
    ojas , March 24, 2014 6:52 AM
    Note: Arma 3 is largely CPU bound, and seems to favour IPC.
  • 0 Hide
    Treynolds416 , March 24, 2014 7:02 AM
    I enjoyed the article very much, and I appreciate the new direction you're going in for gaming value. However, you don't need to mention that the prices of the 290 spiked last year. Seriously, we get it and you only need to say it once or twice instead of seven or so. Aside from that, still a very informative and well-thought out article
  • 2 Hide
    bigstonebang , March 24, 2014 7:33 AM
    When can we expect to see Tom's switch over to 4K gaming benchmarks? This build should be able to handle it and I want to keep tabs on both hardware and driver updates.Furthermore I think it is safe to say an enthusiast that is going to buy a multi-monitor setup probably already has one, but there are probably other like me that are waiting for reasonably priced hardware to be capable of handling 4K before buying a new monitor. Even though I haven't seen a 4K monitor that preforms like a "next Gen" technology should.Also now that Tom's has been very though covering multi-monitor resolutions I understand (and I hope other readers do as well) how they typically scale.I don't want to be a jerk I'm just trying to ask for an ETA, and if I don't ask, how will you know what I want?
  • -9 Hide
    Plusthinking Iq , March 24, 2014 7:58 AM
    2400$ and hdd... pls
    my fix is get a 700gb ssd, 780ti no sli problems, and a i5 4670, this is a much better gaming pc, and can go quiet build.
  • 3 Hide
    sea monkey , March 24, 2014 10:31 AM
    Quote:
    3.5-3.9 GHz, Quad-Core, 8 B Shared L3 Cache
    8 B?
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