Let The (System Builder) Games Begin
System Builder Marathon, Q4 2013: 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.
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Getting into gaming is rarely cheap, but Paul Henningsen thrives against the struggle to get top performance for bottom dollar. That stuggle was threatened this month by stagnation in the low-cost gaming hardware market. His choices were to rebuild the same machine he presented last quarter, to step down to an even cheaper machine that would give up more performance than cost, or spend extra money on a few mid-range parts. Paul is typically not interested in boring, so we were all on-board with his decision to cram a high-end Radeon R9 280X into a mainstream-priced $800 machine.
We like to use budgets that facilitate easy comparisons. So, we could have stretched Don in one of two directions: build a $1200 machine at 1.5 times the cost of Paul’s or really step things up and use $1600 to try building twice the machine. The $800 system's specs are so impressive that nothing short of a $600 graphics subsystem represents a higher market class. We made the call to give Don $1600 for his effort.
The decision was made easier by my own desire to piece together a configuration faster than last quarter's flagship System Builder Marathon box for less money. At 1.5 times the cost of a $1200 PC, an $1800 machine wouldn’t have packed in enough performance. At twice the cost of Don’s machine, a $3200 build would have forced me to waste money chasing miniscule gains. By splitting the price structure into three multiples of $800, a $2400 budget was just what I needed.
The final line-up shows two gaming machines and a configuration optimized for general-purpose computing, which should be capable of doing everything exceptionally well. Games are one of its strengths. Crypto-currency mining could be another, if you're willing to run your R9 290s at 100% load all of the time. And the six Ivy Bridge-based x86 cores should take care of everything else.
|Q4 2013 SBM Components|
|Row 0 - Cell 0||$800 Gaming PC||$1600 Enthusiast PC||$2400 Performance PC|
|Processor||Intel Core i5-3570: 3.4 GHz, Quad Core, 6 MB Shared L3 Cache||Intel Core i5-4670K: 3.4 GHz, Quad Core, 6 MB Shared L3 Cache||Intel Core i7-4930K: 3.2 GHz, Six Cores, 12 MB Shared L3 Cache|
|Graphics||Gigabyte GV-R928XOC-3GD: Radeon R9 280X 3 GB||2 x MSI N770 TF 2GD5/OC: GeForce GTX 770 2 GB (SLI)||2 x Asus R9290-4GD5: Radeon R9 290 4 GB (CrossFire)|
|Motherboard||ASRock Z75 Pro3: LGA 1155, Intel Z75 Express||Asus Z87-PLUS: LGA 1150, Intel Z87 Express||ASRock X79 Extreme6: LGA 2011, Intel X79 Express|
|Memory||Team Vulcan TLBD38G1600HC9DC01: DDR3-1600 C9, 8 GB (2 x 4 GB)||Patriot PV38G186C9KR: DDR3-1866 C9, 8 GB (2 x 4 GB)||G.SkillF3-14900CL9Q-16GBXL: DDR3-1600 C9, 16 GB (4 x 4 GB)|
|System Drive||Western Digital WD10EZEX:1 TB SATA 6Gb/s HDD||Samsung MZ-7PD128BW: 128 GB, SATA 6Gb/s SSD||SanDisk SDSSDHP-256G-G25: 256 GB, SATA 6Gb/s SSD|
|Storage Drive||Uses System Drive||Seagate ST2000DM001: 2 TB SATA 6Gb/s HDD||Western Digital WD20EZRX: 2 TB, SATA 6Gb/s HDD|
|Optical||Lite-On iHAS124-04: 24x DVD±R, 48x CD-R||Lite-On iHAS124-04: 24x DVD±R, 48x CD-R||Pioneer BDR-208DBK: 15x BD-R, 16x DVD±R|
|Case||Xigmatek CCC-AE37BS-U02||NZXT GAMA-001BK||Fractal Design Define R4|
|Power||EVGA 100-B1-0500-KR: 500 W, ATX12V v2.3, 80 PLUS Bronze||CORSAIR TX750 V2: 750 W, ATX12V v2.3, 80 PLUS Bronze||Seasonic SS-850AM: 850 W, 80 PLUS Bronze|
|CPU Cooler||Intel Boxed Cooler||Enermax ETS-T40-TB||Thermaltake CLW0217|
|Row 11 - Cell 0||$800||$1600||$2409|
The prices above represent what we paid for these parts back in November. All of us were able to find our hardware within the budgets we defined for ourselves, though a $10 discount expired between the time I picked my parts and when the order went through. Short-term specials are the least of anyone's worries today, though. As a result of big price hikes, Paul’s machine jumped by $125 and mine went up $300 after the orders were placed. I’ll go over how this affects each builder in my conclusion.