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System Builder Marathon Q3 2014: Mainstream Enthusiast PC

Changing Focus For A Look At Processor Performance

System Builder Marathon, Q3 2014: 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 Budget Gaming PC
Day 2: Our Mainstream Enthusiast System
Day 3: The $1600 High-End Build
Day 4: Performance And Value, Dissected

This quarter, I decided to give my inner enthusiast a workout and focus on overclocking. A $950 hardware budget for performance-oriented parts didn't exactly leave me with the financial headroom to buy an open-loop liquid cooler though, so I had to pick my battles. Where should I allocate the majority of my funds, the CPU or GPU? In the interest of benefiting as much of the platform as possible, I went with the host processor. That also gives us the opportunity to see what a step up from Paul's Pentium G3258 can do in Intel's Core i5-4690K, benefiting from the Devil's Canyon improvements.

The last time around, my enthusiast-oriented build centered on a Core i5-4670K processor and Radeon R9 290 graphics card. That's a tried-and-true combo. And while I'm confident I could push the platform to the next level with a high-end CPU cooler and premium memory, it'd be difficult to live up to my previous effort after shifting focus to maximizing the platform.

Unfortunately, the new GeForce GTX 970 was not yet available when we ordered the parts for this build.

Enthusiast System Components
MotherboardASRock Fatal1ty Z97 Killer, LGA 1150, Intel Z97 Express$125
ProcessorIntel Core i5-4690K: 3.5 GHz Base Clock Rate, 3.9 GHz Maximum Turbo Boost, 6 MB Shared L3 Cache$240
Heat SinkNoctua DH-14$79
Memory8 GB G.Skill Trident (2 x 4 GB) DDR3-2400 F3-2400C10D-8GTD$87
GraphicsZotac AMP! Superclocked GeForce GTX 770 3 GB$280
Storage DriveWestern Digital Blue WD10EZEX 1 TB$60
Boot DiskAdata Premier Pro SP920 128 GB$75
PowerIn Win GreenMe 650 W 80 PLUS Bronze PSU$60
Price of Performance Hardware$1006
CaseCooler Master HAF XM Computer Case$120
OpticalAsus DRW-24B1ST OEM DVD Burner$20
OSMicrosoft Windows 8.1 64-bit, OEM$100
Price As Tested$1246

I sprang for Zotac's factory-overclocked GeForce GTX 770, hoping it'd be able to stand up to AMD's Radeon R9 290 from the prior build. Based on your feedback, I also made room for Adata's low-cost SP290 128 GB SSD.

Opting for In Win's GreenMe 650 W PSU helped keep costs down some, though I still wound up $56 over my $950 allotment. As for other expenses, Cooler Master's HAF XM case was on sale for $100 when we ordered and is up to $120 now. The total system price, including the operating system and DVD burner, lands under $1300, which is a reasonable target for this kind of system.