System Builder Marathon, Q3 2013: $1300 Enthusiast PC

System Builder Marathon, Q3 2013: The Articles

Here are links to each of the five 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 $650 Gaming PC
Day 2: The $1300 Enthusiast PC
Day 3: The $2550 Performance PC
Day 4: Performance And Value, Dissected
Day 5: The $350 Bonus Entry-Level PC


Last quarter I was given $1300 to build my mid-range enthusiast-oriented system, but I also had to create a capable configuration in a mini-ITX form factor. Since smaller components tend to be more expensive than their standard-sized counterparts, our dollars didn't go as far as they could have. This time around, we're expecting more in an ATX mid-tower chassis.

You're also going to see us go with a larger and more expensive 120 GB SSD, though there's still a conventional disk drive in there for user data. We think the investment is a good one; 128 GB is about right for your operating system and applications, even if it isn't going to score me any bonus points when Thomas tallies up performance at the end of our series.

In the three months since our previous System Builder Marathon, Intel introduced its Haswell architecture, while Nvidia added a number of GeForce GTX 700-series graphics cards. So, the previous build's Core i5-3570K and GeForce GTX 680 are going up against the new Core i5-4670K and GeForce GTX 770 today. In fact, here's the complete list of components you'll find in the third quarter's $1300 enthusiast-oriented machine:

$1300 Enthusiast System Components
MotherboardGigabyte Z87X-OC, LGA 1150, Intel Z87 Express
ProcessorIntel Core i5-4670K: 3.4 GHz Base Clock Rate, 3.8 GHz Maximum Turbo Boost, 6 MB Shared L3 Cache
Heat Sink
Corsair H50 Liquid Cooling System
MemoryCorsair Vengeance 8 GB (2 x 4 GB) DDR3-1866 Model CMZ8GX3M2A1600C9R$70
GraphicsGigabyte GeForce GTX 770 2 GB 256-bit GDDR5
System Drive
Samsung 840 MZ-7TD120BW 2.5" 120 GB SATA 6Gb/s (SSD)
Storage Drive
WD Blue WD10EZEX 1 TB, 7200 RPM, 64 MB Cache, SATA 6Gb/s
OpticalSamsung SH-224DB/RSBS DVD Burner
CaseAntec GX 700 ATX Mid Tower Computer Case
PowerCorsair 650TX 650 W ATX12V v2.3 80 PLUS Bronze Modular PSU
 Total Cost

Good news! This capable collection of components lands very close to the $1300 I was allotted (I'll toss in the extra $2 if I really need to). And prices haven't changed all that much since we placed our order for these parts a month ago.

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  • rolli59
    Keep them coming.
  • chaospower
    I think this just shows that you don't really need more than a GTX 760 if you play on the most popular resolution of 1080p. Look how small the benefits of an Haswell are, compared to the 650$ build (HALF THE PRICE!) in games that mainly rely on GPU power.
    Overclocking haswell is a waste of money considering the amount of money you need to invest in a good MB and a good cooling, only to reach a rather tame 4.3ghz OC...
    Just buy the cheapest I5 you can buy and pair it with a GTX 760, if you play on 1080p, I doubt you'll be disappointed.
  • DelightfulDucklings
    The more I look at these the sadder I am about the overpriced parts I have to pay for in New Zealand :( Nevertheless, another good article, keep it up
  • silverblue
    "64 GB of cache"

    I'd have that hard drive for $70 if it was true. :P
  • bemused_fred
    267802 said:
    "64 GB of cache" I'd have that hard drive for $70 if it was true. :P

    I thought it was only....32 on the blue models. :p
  • cmartin011
    Can't wait to see a new amd gpu in these builds got me all giddy inside!
  • Larry Bob
    This is a complete waste of money. You spend way more on the 4670K than you would on a 3570K, and a really expensive motherboard, then you pair it with a crappy CLC where even a 212 Evo or Respire T40 would do better. You then WAY overpay on the graphics card when a 7970 offers exactly the same performance (according to Tom's research) for $60+ less.
  • persuse
    the vengence ram Worst chip in all the model and brands !
    Team Vulcan 8GB (2 x 4GB)DDR3 2400 best P/p memory with same price better choice.
    and corsair H50 not is better whan aircooler.
    the Phanteks PH-TC12DX or V6GT with same price range the beat performance.

    for ssd i,m recomend Kingston HyperX 3K 120G with same price and beter speed.
  • Novuake
    Good choice in PSU. Odd choice in motherboard. Does not provide THAT much for 200$.
    But most importantly, HORRIBLE choice in cooling. But ok...
    This is old tech... We nee some new stuff! Can't wait to see amds new cards, and nvidias response. Also Intel supposedly has an eight core haswell-e coming:)
    Oh and 2gb of vram is only a starting point if you are serious about gaming even @ 1080p.
  • ojas
    Dudes. Whatever happened to BestConfigs?
  • BulkZerker
    Oh look! Its the same system as last quarter :p
  • slomo4sho
    It would have been a much better use of funds to buy a cheaper motherboard and use the funds towards a better cooler...
  • drul
    Would love to see what a XEON 1230 V2 (or even V3) with a sli of GTX760 (saved money on cheaper motherboard and cooling system should allow it) would do in your test
  • Amdlova
    lol mine 3470 its running at 107mhz fsb and i get 4.2ghz two cores 4.0ghz 4 cores and i pay for this chip 170us 120us mobo.... this Enthusiast PC is only about spend money! harder!
  • cknobman
    No way I would have chosen a 770 over a 7970GE that could be had for $30+ less.
  • cknobman
    I consider this build a wash compared to last quarters and think your skewed gaming value chart is very misleading. You chose a resolution no one plays at because it just so happens to hide this build memory bandwidth issues and makes it look better than it really is at more common playable resolutions.

    Not a terrible build, but no better. Should have saved some cash by skipping haswell for the cpu and getting a 7970ge for the gfx card.
  • TeraMedia
    The superiority of this build over the last one is more deeply marred by the cheap memory than the author admits, once that memory is OCed. Given the supposed IPC arch improvements of Haswell and the higher clock of the 770, this system should be consistently faster.. but it's not. F1, Adobe, synthetics... all testing areas exhibited at least some cases in which last Q's specialized ITX build was faster while using older products and less power. To me, that paints this Q's generalized ATX build in a bad light. It's not that it wasn't good; it's that it wasn't as much better as it should have been.
  • JamesSneed
    Im assuming TH had various spare parts from vendors and decided wth lets toss um into the system builder. Seems like a rather random choice of parts to pair together. I cant help but think if you downgraded the motherboard and used a cheaper CPU cooler you could have went SLI with two gtx 760's for only $100 more than the gtx 770 they chose. They certainly had enough power supply to do it as most systems with 2x gtx 760's are only pulling 450 watts at load.
  • envy14tpe
    You had me until I saw the H50. Noooooooo! Why did you ruin this build?

    A $200 mobo is meant for great overclocking. A H50 is nowhere near adequate for this. If you put a $50 Dark Knight on this build I'm sure you would have gotten to 4.5GHz. It's a shame seeing a $200 mobo and only overclocking to 4.3GHz.
  • fat_panda
    With Haswell, I would not invest in a $200+ MB since the overclocking is completely dependent on whether you win the silicone lottery. Not to mention UD3H and UD4H overclocks the same for less.
  • KelvinTy
    I thought Toms released an article not long ago explaining how "high performance" ram yields negligible performance gain... and now a 1866MHz ram? Given that it's "only" $70, still...
    And do people still buy DVD-burner thingy? I haven't put any optical media in my PCs for well over 3 years... and the last one I use, was to reinstall Win7.
  • mapesdhs
    Yet more proof if any were needed that a used 2700K is still far better value
    when it comes to an oc'd setup. 5GHz no problem, no need for water
    cooling, leaves the 4670K way behind. Ditto 2500K (I notice there are
    loads on eBay US); why anyone would buy a 3570K or HW is beyond me.

    I'll consider a newer quad-core when Intel finally releases something that's
    worth bothering with. Heh, 4.3 with a newer chip... what a farce.