Drives And Installation
Installation: SSD and Hard Drive
The universal 3.5-inch hard drive bays can be used for 2.5-inch SSDs and notebook hard drives as well. The larger form factor is installable without tools, using pins. This setup also enables reasonable sound dampening. You'll need to screw 2.5-inch drives in to a tray.
Inserting drives is as straightforward as it gets. They slide in and snap into place. Even heavy disks sit securely, without any of the give that'd cause you to question the Prodigy's quality.
Installation: Optical Drive
Installing an optical drive takes a bit more work. First, the front and top covers need to be removed.
Second, the cover for the 5.25-inch drive bays needs to come off. Simply unfasten two small screws.
Finally, an optical drive slides in through the front of the case and is manually screwed in place, as shown. There’s no tool-less mechanism, unfortunately.
Caution: Memory Module And CPU Clearance
Normal-profile memory modules fit under the Raijintek Themis without a problem. But the Avexir DDR3-1600 kit we used requires that you push the cooler's fan up a bit so the two components don't collide. Modules any taller would be a problem, and we'd expect this to be true on most small form factor platforms.
Installation: Graphics Card
Thick electrical tape on the side of the CPU cooler helps avoid potential short circuits, should the heat sink and back of the graphics card PCB touch each other. Really, the 3 to 4 mm of space between them should be enough, but better safe than sorry.
It's easy to see how tightly everything fits together. Still, all of the components work well together, even if the optional side window squeezes the parts even more. BitFenix's original side panel has small holes to provide air for the graphics card, but the company doesn't give the windowed version the same treatment.
We have $315 spent on eye candy, SSD and a little bit more thermal headroom, which is 76% of the 'cheap' budget.
Personally, I would only get the SSD. Maybe the MB with Wifi if I'm building something really small and would like to avoid cable clutter. Definately not gonna spend $50 on a bit more mhz, neither $55 on a case for cheap hardware,
For bonus points it would be nice to compare the budget build to a console in the same price range, but alas an Apples to Apples comparison isn't possible.
I would have liked to have seen the bottom dollar build done first, followed by a discussion of what upgrades or enhancements might be substituted.
Also, at least a few benchmarks are needed, if only to show that yes, this is a competent gamer, especially if "good" but less-than "UltraMaxOhWOW" settings are used.
I think you handled the "baseline" vs. "Red Devil" options well. The great thing about a budget build is not necessarily being a race to the bottom, but it's all about saving money so you can spend some on smart components that will add to the enjoyment of building and running the PC. With the case selection, that's a smart selection. Who wants to build a PC in a case that you're going to want to replace in 6 months? Perhaps you could have offered a cheaper alternative, but I like the choice to spend the extra $$ on the case.
The only letdown I have is on memory scaling. There is a very long thread of debate in the Best CPUs for the $$ article about how strongly memory scaling impacts the 760K CPU because of its lack of L3 cache. The key seems to be that you also need to overclock NB freq. Because there are simply no reviews out there with a fully overclocked 760K platform, I was really hoping when I saw this article that the memory scaling would have been included.
@Damric - if you're reading this article, perhaps you can chime in.
Overall though, this is a great read! I can't wait to see a OC'd 760k vs. the upcoming OC'd Pentium in a budget shootout. If this is done, you really need to look at game selection and analyze games that optimize for more cores vs. the single-threaded performance in which the Pentium will excel.
Also, is there a reason we completely dismissed the r7 265?
In fact it seems like you looked over a LOT of good value choices for a budget system.
Tom's Hardware selections for a lot of their tests lately have had weird hardware choices....