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System Builder Marathon, Q1 2014: The $750 Gaming PC

Assembling My Gaming Box

Opening up the Line-M requires removing a pair of black thumb screws from each side of the enclosure. Inside, we're greeted by an all-black interior parts and a surprisingly roomy layout. The front panel can be snapped off with a tug from the bottom lip, if you need to get under it.

Rosewill only taps eight of the nine mounting holes used by microATX-compliant boards. That's not a problem if you're using a full-width 9.6”x9.6” motherboard, but the case lacks the lower right-hand “S-positioned” standoff used by narrower platforms like ours. Although I could have gotten by with the five screws that line up, I grabbed a plastic standoff from my stockpile to support the board's corner.

The rear slots are basic knock-outs, found on many other budget-oriented enclosures. Rosewill adds a bit of value by including a pair of vented replacement covers in case you want to cover a slot back up later on. The three external drive bays include mounting clips, and extra screws are provided for those as well. Either method works for us; this build will be broken down after the Marathon and shipped to one of our contest winners anyway. I had the option of mounting my hard drive up above, keeping the interior a little cleaner-looking, or fastening it to the case's floor, which arrived outfitted with vibration-dampening grommets.

The front LED-equipped fan is outfitted with three- and four-pin plugs. But since Asus' motherboard only has one header, which I reserved to control the rear exhaust fan, I could either leave the cooler disconnected, get creative in dropping its voltage myself, or generate more noise by running the front intake at full-speed all of the time.

More problematic is that Asus' H81M-K lacks a front-panel USB 3.0 header. At least the case includes a pair of front-panel USB 2.0 ports compatible with our motherboard.

Lastly, Rosewill does include a few black tie straps with its case, but there's otherwise very little to help facilitate cable management in the Line-M. The chassis more than covers our basic needs in a modest build, though, and the modular power supply does help prevent clutter by eliminating unneeded power cables.

  • blackmagnum
    This is the everyday Joe sort of gaming PC... cheap and workable. Why not Core i5 quad-core?
    Reply
  • hmp_goose
    "The games we just added are unquestionably less processor-bound." This sounds like a major oversight, I fear …
    Reply
  • ingtar33
    nice build, and a good example of how even modern multi-threaded games are STILL at their heart primarily single or dual threaded games. We see this in BF4 most clearly, as the advantage of MOAR CORZ vanishes once you pass the 3rd core on the cpu... meaning a dual cored and hyperthreaded intel is still a viable gaming option; and though you can get an fx8320 for the same price as that i3, almost nothing truely makes use of 8 cores yet. I say yet, because the next gen game consoles will force games to become truly multithreaded in the future. Purhaps down the road the old piledriver chips will start to look like a great gaming value, but the situation today is still largely the same problem facing AMD 3 years ago... which is games simply don't really need MOAR CORZ. Not really anyway. I'm sure some people will have issues with using an i3, but really i think it was a fantastic read; and quite informative. Its important we keep things in perspective... and as things stand now you really don't need much more cpu power then a dual cored pentium or i3... or i guess quad core phenomII or piledriver fx.it all comes down to what you can afford to build around it.
    Reply
  • lostgamer_03
    The i3 was a bad choice, why not get an i5-3330 which is about the same in price and it offers 2 more fully enabled cores, which really would help in applications and the 'newer' games.The MOBO would also be cheaper as it is last gen.
    Reply
  • de5_Roy
    the psu was a smart choice for the case, imo. modular cabling prevented the usual clutter seen in cases like these. the resulted unusually clean look of the inside. 80+ gold efficiency is also welcome. i don't think clean cable management can be measured in charts, but it's an added bonus.
    Reply
  • pauldh
    That's what I thought too de5_Roy. Modular and 80 PLUS Gold was well worth spending an extra $15.
    Reply
  • bemused_fred
    The i3 was a bad choice, why not get an i5-3330 which is about the same in price and it offers 2 more fully enabled cores, which really would help in applications and the 'newer' games.The MOBO would also be cheaper as it is last gen.

    When I first saw the parts list for this build, I expected myself to be in full agreement with you. I mean, can you imagine someone suggesting paring a GTX 680 with an I3? Ludicrous. They'd be laughed out the forums. However, looking at the benchmarks for the highest settings in 1920x1080 and 4800x900, I found there were 2 types of results

    1. Those where the I3 and the GTX 770 build beat, or were within a few FPS of the I5 and R9-280X build:
    Battlefield 3
    Battlefield 4
    Arma 3
    Far Cry 3
    2. Those where the I5 and R9-280X beat the I3 and GTX 770 build by a significant margin, but where all frame rates were well above 60FPS:
    F1 2012
    Grid 2
    Skyrim

    So, while overall performance percentage charts might put the I3 and GTX 770 behind the I5 and R9-280X behind in certain games, in a real-life setting, it seems that the I3 and GTX 770 is an equally good build. Which is really not what I was expecting.
    nalmost nothing truely makes use of 8 cores yet. I say yet, because the next gen game consoles will force games to become truly multithreaded in the future.

    Citations desperately needed. The XBOX 360 had 3 hyper-threaded CPUs and the PS3 had a 7-core cell CPU, but this didn't push PC games during this period beyond dual cores. Indeed, as late as January 2012, Tom's hardware was finding it impossible to recommend any Quad-core AMD processors over intel Dual-core processors and as late as December 2012, dual-core Intel pentiums were taking the low-end recommendations, as they were still better at gaming at this point than 4-core AMD processors. Indeed, it wasn't until February 2013 that they reversed this recommendation, so any assumption that consoles having more cores will result in P.C. games using more cores doesn't really stand up to scrutiny, I'm afraid.
    Reply
  • pauldh
    The i3 was a bad choice, why not get an i5-3330 which is about the same in price and it offers 2 more fully enabled cores, which really would help in applications and the 'newer' games.The MOBO would also be cheaper as it is last gen.
    As explained on page 1, the whole idea here with this build was to spend less on the platform, more-than covering the premiums on graphics, RAM, and ODD vs. our last purchase.

    Sure we'd go i5 if priced the same. But the -3330 is $60 more @ $190, just like the -3470 used last quarter. The -3350P saves $10 off that. H61 doesn't save much, starting $5-10 below H81, and then we'd give up capitalizing on the i5's limited overclocking.
    Reply
  • pauldh
    @bemused_fred - Yes, exactly! Good post.

    I was surprised to see i3 didn't yield any meaningful drop in minimum fps, at all! In fact, minimums often appeared GPU-bound, and the new GTX 770 rig won out, especially OC'ed. System bound at 70+ fps and up full-time in Skyrim or F1 2012 is hardly a loss, but an extra 3-8 fps consistently down low in ARMA III and Far Cry 3 could come in handy.
    Reply
  • redgarl
    CPU choice is really overated with a single graphic card. The conclusion proves it. I would even stretch to go AMD to cut some money to fetch up two 750ti-760 GTX or 2 R7 graphic card.CF or SLI of two low tier graphic cards provide really good performances for a budget.
    Reply