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

Hardware Installation

My 2012 story Building With The NZXT Phantom 410 provides a general guideline for assembling today’s system, and 2013’s Installing Thermaltake’s Water 2.0 Extreme covers the cooler’s details. But this is my first system to combine those parts.

I installed the ASRock Z87 Extreme4 motherboard right away to check cooler clearance, but don’t recommend you following suit, since the motherboard's heat sinks block access to some fan screws.

The NZXT’s fan openings have bell-shaped extensions specifically designed to clear the coolant fittings of top-mounted radiators. Though the chassis appears to support a slim 280 mm (2 x 140 mm) radiator at its limit, Thermaltake’s thicker 240 mm (2 x 120 mm) system performed better in our ten-way comparison.

The 240 mm Water 2.0 Extreme radiator appears to be a particularly good choice, since it clears our optical drive in the top bay. A radiator this size can also be turned to place its fittings on the opposite side, while a 280 mm radiator would only fit in the shown orientation.

Remember the terms “slim” and “thicker” two paragraphs above? The Phantom 410’s top panel is tall enough in the middle to fit this 1.5” radiator, but would have limited wider 280 mm (2 x 140 mm) radiators to around 1.2” thickness.

Rather than use a separate power cable for the optical drive, I decided to move it to the bottom 5.25” bay and share a cable with the SSD and hard drive. Other cables are stuffed neatly behind the motherboard tray.

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    Top Comments
  • Crashman
    Anonymous said:
    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.
    10
  • Other Comments
  • Darkerson
    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.
    4
  • captain_jonno
    Looks good. Surprised only went with a 750w PSU though. Considering 2x 780 ti's and overlocking
    2
  • Crashman
    Anonymous said:
    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.
    3
  • YellowBee
    I dont get the "W" usage?680+237 = 917w. Not 802w as meation above?
    -5
  • Crashman
    Anonymous said:
    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.
    10
  • YellowBee
    Anonymous said:
    Anonymous said:
    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 :)
    2
  • bemused_fred
    Quote:
    Anonymous said:
    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.
    0
  • Crashman
    Anonymous said:
    Anonymous said:
    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?
    1
  • jabuscus
    wow. such performance. many ram. they should've put in 16gb of ram for real high-end specs. ;)
    -7
  • Versutia
    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.
    0
  • sea monkey
    Quote:
    G.Skill Ripjaws X F3-1866C9D-16GXM: DDR3-1600 C9, 16 GB (2 x 8 GB)


    Shouldn't that be DDR3-1866?
    2
  • vertexx
    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
  • Sparky4688
    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
  • Sparky4688
    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 $800-900 less after rebates. Can you add sound/noise dB monitoring and include in results? Multimedia machines and home office machines need to account for noise.
    1
  • ojas
    Note: Arma 3 is largely CPU bound, and seems to favour IPC.
    1
  • Treynolds416
    I enjoyed the article very much, and I appreciate the new direction you're going in for gaming value. However, you don't need to mention that the prices of the 290 spiked last year. Seriously, we get it and you only need to say it once or twice instead of seven or so. Aside from that, still a very informative and well-thought out article
    0
  • bigstonebang
    When can we expect to see Tom's switch over to 4K gaming benchmarks? This build should be able to handle it and I want to keep tabs on both hardware and driver updates.Furthermore I think it is safe to say an enthusiast that is going to buy a multi-monitor setup probably already has one, but there are probably other like me that are waiting for reasonably priced hardware to be capable of handling 4K before buying a new monitor. Even though I haven't seen a 4K monitor that preforms like a "next Gen" technology should.Also now that Tom's has been very though covering multi-monitor resolutions I understand (and I hope other readers do as well) how they typically scale.I don't want to be a jerk I'm just trying to ask for an ETA, and if I don't ask, how will you know what I want?
    2
  • Plusthinking Iq
    2400$ 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.
    -8
  • CaptainTom
    ^ An i5 with a 780 Ti? Come on you are asking to be bottle-necked! I bet you were one of the people that kept advocating a Pentium + 660 a couple years ago when people mistakenly thought dual cores would be the standard forever...
    -10
  • sea monkey
    Quote:
    3.5-3.9 GHz, Quad-Core, 8 B Shared L3 Cache
    8 B?
    3