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System Builder Marathon Q1 2015: Alternative $1750 PC

Power, Heat, Efficiency And Value

Today’s alternative build might have 50% more CPU cores, but it certainly doesn’t use 50% more power. The entire machine pulled only 551W max from the wall, which means its internal components required only around 500W.

Thermal readings from the CPU and GPU maxed out are far more unfortunate. Even at a CPU setting of 1.18V, heat rising from an internally-vented graphics card pushed the CPU over 100 °C.

Our Audio and Video encoding suite started down for today’s alternative build, since the CPU is clocked slower. But overclocking gave it a far bigger boost. The entire machine ended up better by 8% over Q4’s build and 2% over the SLI build. Overclocking gave it a wild 23% performance increase.

It still ended up less efficient than the miserly Q4 build, but its inefficiency wasn’t as great as that of my original SLI build.

That overall performance increase just means that the $1750 alternative build pays for its own upgrade compared to the Q4 $1600 PC, and overcomes the pricing inefficiencies of this quarter’s original $1750 build.

But then there’s the issue of 3D performance. A do-everything gaming machine that wants to be extra-fast across the board needs all of the upgrades from both of this quarter's machines. Add a higher-quality case and a storage drive to complete the system’s functionality, and we’re suddenly shopping for a $2000 PC.

Of course, most of us can’t afford a $2000 PC. I only get hardware this good because it shows up on my doorstep. Keeping in mind that a six-core processor really does have better value in a high-end PC compared to SLI graphics, I’d like to hear your thoughts on future hardware and budgets. I can certainly build a dream machine if requested, though I’m not sure how many of you would like to read about it.

Oh, and this does mean that I was wrong about graphics being the easiest place to find more bang for your extra bucks. Ouch. It appears that I passed the point of that being true several hundred dollars ago. My consolation prize is knowing that the majority of upgrade requests supported the same idea.

Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • Rancifer7
    Its great to see a build that shows just how much of a difference a good CPU and updated architecture can make within the same budget. Well done, thank you.
    Reply
  • zfreak280
    AAAAHHHH! Who spend $1750 on a PC and only puts 256 GB of storage in it!?!?!
    Reply
  • Grognak
    "A smaller but equally vocal group of enthusiasts suggested that a six-core CPU would be the true answer to overall system performance"

    Yeah because as everyone knows, higher definitions need more cores, right? And we don't have thousands of benchmarks showing that there's less than 1% improvement between a regular i7 and an hexacore one when it comes to games. We also don't have benchmarks showing that the 4770k outperforms the 5820k in just about every game thanks to the higher frequency. Clearly this is worth the $200 premium and weaker graphics.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    15392308 said:
    "A smaller but equally vocal group of enthusiasts suggested that a six-core CPU would be the true answer to overall system performance"

    Yeah because as everyone knows, higher definitions need more cores, right? And we don't have thousands of benchmarks showing that there's less than 1% improvement between a regular i7 and an hexacore one when it comes to games. We also don't have benchmarks showing that the 4770k outperforms the 5820k in just about every game thanks to the higher frequency. Clearly this is worth the $200 premium and weaker graphics.
    Er, wow, OK! Thanks for the input!

    Edit: Just to clarify, you think we should ditch the non-gaming benchmarks right?
    Reply
  • damric
    To properly showcase the 6 and 8 core Haswells you need to be gaming while recording/streaming in high quality. The lesser CPUs, especially the quads without HT simply can't keep up at this task. There is a rapidly growing market for making videos of gameplay. Not my thing, but it's something I might attempt if I had the hardware to do it.
    Reply
  • Gurg
    @Crashman Even though I don't know what most of the non-gaming benchmarks are used for, keep them for those for whom they are important. But from what I saw, in a pretty direct comparison, an overclocked 5820K beats a 4790k for ultra settings at higher resolutions.

    Seems like time to drop the 4790k and replace it with the 5820k in the March gaming CPU recommendations. The earlier Haswell E review also appears outdated as better bios, motherboards and ddr4 ram have become available. The cost difference between a 97 and 99 platform have also narrowed considerably.
    Reply
  • redgarl
    Point: Multigpu is the way to go.
    Reply
  • firefoxx04
    He we go with the "more cores suxxxxxx dude!!!" comments.

    Do you idiots really think that people who spend over $1500 on a system ONLY play games? Really?

    Some people do more than just game. They record their gameplay at top notch quality. Some people run lots of virtual machines. Some people like to run folding at home on a couple cores while gaming or doing other things. Video editors love lots of cores too.

    When quad cores became mainstream everyone said "pointless!!! Because games only use 2 cores!!! That statement has turned into, "pointless!!! Games only use 4 cores!!!!.

    The same thing was said about having lots of system ram. Remember when 64mb was the thing? Now im sitting here frustrated that my 8GB ddr3 set is not enough. Same thing with hard drive space. People always tell me, 500gb will take forever to fill up yet im sitting right here with 3TB of storage and I want more.

    This refusal to let better hardware become mainstream is frustrating, and a majority of the people against more cores (and other things) are the same people that watched mainstream go from 2 cores to 4 cores in only a couple years.
    Reply
  • caj
    @firefoxx4

    i cudnt agree without you less. people always refer that i7 are just a waste of money but they forget th endless opportunities that a pc can perform. till now a i7 870 hasnt yet failed me from 4 gpus goin from a 6850, 7850, 7970 and finally 280x. i often use my computer for many purposes. like they say its better to have and not need than to need and not have. the same people who kept saying that 8gb is more than enough while right now i feel more comfortable with 16 gb
    Reply
  • MasterMace
    I agree with your decision to go with a 6 core Intel and not SLI your graphics, although I am curious as to the lack of a HDD for storage. At this pricepoint, removing the HDD is not something I feel to be appropriate. Perhaps at the $1200 pricepoint, you could use the SSD in lieu of the HDD, but at $1800, it feels mandatory. The problem is between your graphics and CPU you're using over 50% of your budget (which is great for gaming, funny enough)
    Reply