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System Builder Marathon, Q1 2014: Our New Enthusiast PC

Taking The SBM Down A Different Road

System Builder Marathon, Q1 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 $2400 Reader's Choice PC
Day 2: Our New Enthusiast PC
Day 3: The $750 Gaming PC
Day 4: Performance And Value, Dissected

Introduction

We've been doing these System Builder Marathons on a quarterly basis for years. The premise is typically pretty similar, but we try to fold in variance whenever we can to keep the relationship spicy. This time around, we're switching things up a bit, largely based on your feedback, to hopefully improve our value analysis. We're focusing specifically on the prices of components that affect performance, leaving the parts that don't impact benchmark results out of the equation. In the final analysis, this means that the case, optical drive, and operating system have no bearing on price/performance (though we still list those prices for your reference).

In this way, we're freeing ourselves to experiment with more premium enclosures and include add-ons like Blu-ray drives without the negative impact on comparative value. You all know that it's possible to get by with a $40 case and $20 DVD writer, but now we can choose higher-end options more appropriate to our go-fast parts without hammering our critical analysis of the internals.

With that in mind, I went a different direction with this quarter's enthusiast-oriented build, opting for a Core i7-4770K processor (rather than a more budget-friendly Core i5) and single GeForce GTX 780 Ti (instead of dual GeForce GTX 770s in SLI).

Enthusiast System Components
MotherboardASRock Z87 Pro3, LGA 1150, Intel Z87 Express$90
ProcessorIntel Core i7-4770K: 3.5 GHz Base Clock Rate, 3.9 GHz Maximum Turbo Boost, 8 MB Shared L3 Cache$320
Heat SinkCooler Master Hyper 212 EVO with 120 mm PWM Fan$35
Memory8 GB Corsair Vengeance LP (2 x 4 GB) DDR3-1866 Model CML8GX3M2A1866C9B$103
GraphicsGalaxy GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3 GB GDDR5$660
System DriveSamsung 840 EVO MZ-7TE120BW 2.5" 128 GB SATA 6Gb/s SSD$90
Storage DriveWestern Digital Black WD5003AZEX 500 GB 7200 RPM, 64 MB Cache, SATA 6Gb/s$71
PowerCorsair Enthusiast Series TX650 650 W 80 PLUS Bronze PSU$90
Cost Of Components That Impact Performance$1459
CaseNZXT Phantom 410 Series Orange Trim Computer Case$100
OpticalLG Black WH14NS40, 4 MB Cache SATA BDXL Blu-ray Burner, OEM$54
OSMicrosoft Windows 8.1 64-bit, OEM$100
Total Cost of System as Tested:$1713

Armed with $1459 worth of parts that directly affect performance, the new build is surprisingly cheaper than last quarter's enthusiast-oriented configuration, which leveraged $1528 of gear to make it a gaming beast.

You could make it out the door for as little as $1519 if you purchased all of my platform parts, a $40 case, and a $20 DVD burner. I went with a more premium chassis and a Blu-ray writer, though, taking the total cost to $1713 (including a copy of Windows 8 for $100).

  • envy14tpe
    Why a Galaxy GPU considering the company pulled out of US market? btw, nice work on the build.
    Reply
  • bemused_fred
    I wish more builds would account for the cost of the OS. It can be a significant expense, especially when you're working with builds of $600 or less.
    Reply
  • Drejeck
    770 sli also nets better performance when gaming on 120/144hz monitors
    Reply
  • Dark Oopa
    wow, I didn't think there would be such a little difference in gaming.In fact, the difference is so small that with all the inherent problems of the SLI, the new rig is always the better choice.
    Reply
  • redgarl
    Multi-gpu problems are always overly exagerated. I am using multi-gpu platforms for almost 5 years and the gain in fps over the UNOTICEABLE and overly exagerated stutering sweep away any disavantages.Folks, don't lure yourself, higher resolution demand multi-gpus. Single card is fine for anything around 1080p, more or less, but at 4K or 3 1080p monitors... your system is going to choke even with a 780 ti.
    Reply
  • npyrhone
    Having 1600x900 resolution in the gaming charts serves only one purpose: to create the impression that there is not really a difference between the two builds, while in reality the later one is obviously inferior to the previous one.
    Reply
  • vertexx
    It's a shame to completely remove the non-core components from the competition, but I understand why it's done here. A couple of ideas to throw out there:

    (1) You could include temperatures and acoustics performance in the overall assessment, given I think that is a big part of the case buying decision, and
    (2) A way to factor in the intangibles (i.e. blu ray vs dvd, choice of SSD/HDD, etc), you could include a separate vote between this quarter's and last quarter's to see what the readers would choose for the best build given all the performance factors, aesthetics, and other components that do not contribute directly to performance. The reader's vote of this quarter vs. last quarter and/or an overall value winner for this quarter could be included in the final write-up.

    I would also 2nd the vote for starting 4K testing. And also, why not 1440p? It seems those two resolutions are more relevant now in 2014 at the level of this competition than 1600x900 and 4800x900 resolutions.
    Reply
  • DarkSable
    I'm sorry, Tom's, but...You really need to stop misinforming the general public who comes here for your articles and doesn't read the forums in depth.You go with an i7 for the "performance benefits," which are nonexistent for gaming... except that this rig is aimed at gaming. I would have much, much rather seen an i5, with a note explaining that an i7 is a good upgrade if you're doing these sorts of things, but isn't helpful if you're building a gaming computer.There are wayyyy too many new builders out there who think that the i7 is better than the i5 and who are just wasting their money, and you aren't helping them or correcting that misinformation - rather, you're just reinforcing it further.
    Reply
  • nekromobo
    I would really like to see mATX and mini-itx versions of this article, pretty please :)
    Reply
  • vertexx
    12959893 said:
    I'm sorry, Tom's, but...You really need to stop misinforming the general public who comes here for your articles and doesn't read the forums in depth.You go with an i7 for the "performance benefits," which are nonexistent for gaming... except that this rig is aimed at gaming. I would have much, much rather seen an i5, with a note explaining that an i7 is a good upgrade if you're doing these sorts of things, but isn't helpful if you're building a gaming computer.There are wayyyy too many new builders out there who think that the i7 is better than the i5 and who are just wasting their money, and you aren't helping them or correcting that misinformation - rather, you're just reinforcing it further.
    Hmm.... What percentage of the performance measures in this article are for gaming?
    Reply