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System Builder Marathon, Q2 2013: $2500 Performance PC

Motherboard, Graphics, And CPU

Motherboard: Asus P8Z77-I Deluxe

Managing editor Chris Angelini was first to suggest that my relatively high budget might allow this highest-priced SBM PC to outperform Falcon-Northwest’s super-expensive Tiki. Of course, we wouldn’t have access to the compact case that helps justify Tiki’s price premium. But we could use its motherboard.

Read Customer Reviews of Asus' P8Z77-I Deluxe

Asus’ P8Z77-I Deluxe came incredibly close to winning our highest honor and, upon reconsideration, probably should have. Using it now helps remind our readers of its technical supremacy.

Graphics: Asus GTX690-4GD5 GeForce GTX 690

We also weren’t able to buy the GeForce GTX Titan graphics that Chris managed to wedge into the Tiki, because it wasn't in stock. Instead, we needed to shift our goals to gaming and outperform the Titan with a dual-GPU GeForce GTX 690. Of course, I'd also need to prove capable of picking the right case in order to cope with the 690's waste heat. This is a perfect opportunity to show Chris that Nvidia's dual-GPU flagship can work in a small form factor case, after all.

Read Customer Reviews of Asus' GTX690-4G GeForce GTX 690

Graphics guys know that even though the GeForce GTX 690 is advertised with 4 GB, each GPU only has access to 2 GB of usable capacity. Game settings that demand more than this will exhibit the same behavioral issues as if they were running on a card with just 2 GB.

CPU: Intel Core i7-3770K

Don mentioned in his story that all of our parts were picked prior to Intel launching its Haswell architecture earlier this month. Had Haswell on the desktop proved impressive, we would have been stuck with a bunch of previous-gen Ivy Bridge stuff for the Marathon. Instead, the introduction was wholly uninspiring. And while Intel tries to sell Core i7-4770K for about $30 more than the -3770K, we're still plenty happy with the now-previous-gen part in today's small form factor configuration. Of course, if you'd like to burn through more of your budget for the slight per-clock speed up (and a likely-disappointing overclocking experience), that's certainly an option, too.

Read Customer Reviews of Intel's Core i7-3770K

Besides being 100 MHz faster than its Core i5 sibling, the Core i7’s added L3 cache and Hyper-Threading technology give it noticeable performance benefits in a few of our benchmarks. Any lesser part would be too large a compromise for today’s system budget.

  • sherlockwing
    Interesting $2500 MITX build, granted most people(including me) would have built a $2500 rig around 780 SLI in a ATX case.
    Reply
  • burnley14
    This just might be my favorite SBM ever, and this particular build my favorite machine of all time. Even if the relative value is slightly lower, many people including myself are willing to pay a small premium for a smaller footprint. Well done!
    Reply
  • nvidiamd
    this is the best build on toms ever! no substandards and overkills. two thumbs up!
    Reply
  • slomo4sho
    Seems I was pretty close in my initial guess:

    11002870 said:
    PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks
    CPU: Intel Core i7-3770K 3.5GHz Quad-Core Processor ($319.99 @ Newegg)
    CPU Cooler: Corsair H110 94.0 CFM Liquid CPU Cooler ($119.99 @ Newegg)
    Motherboard: Asus P8Z77-I DELUXE/WD Mini ITX LGA1155 Motherboard ($207.55 @ Newegg)
    Memory: Corsair Dominator Platinum 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-2133 Memory ($149.99 @ Newegg)
    Storage: Samsung 840 Series 500GB 2.5" Solid State Disk ($353.98 @ Newegg)
    Storage: Western Digital Caviar Black 2TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($159.99 @ Newegg)
    Video Card: Asus GeForce GTX 690 4GB Video Card ($999.99 @ Newegg)
    Case: BitFenix Prodigy (Black) Mini ITX Tower Case ($95.98 @ Newegg)
    Power Supply: SeaSonic 660W 80 PLUS Platinum Certified ATX12V / EPS12V Power Supply ($148.54 @ Newegg)
    Optical Drive: LG WH14NS40 Blu-Ray/DVD/CD Writer ($59.99 @ Newegg)
    Total: $2597.99
    Reply
  • Madn3ss795
    Assembling part reminds me of LEGO...
    Reply
  • agnickolov
    I wish the build had a 512GB SSD, but I understand the builder's value sentiment. The fast HDD is pure waste, however. A 2TB HDD can be found for under $100.
    Reply
  • sarinaide
    Still struggling to get my mind on a high performance ITX system, to me its more a case of how much high end you can chuck into a psuedo M-ITX chassis which for all intents and purposes are not small form factor by any stretch of the imagination. Having owned a Prodigy they can hardly be said to be SFF when their total surface area is as much as a ATX chassis, it is like calling a HAF XB M-ITX.

    The main point of the article is that diminishing returns are high at that price point, only a overclocked system (again not a fan of in the confineds of a ITX system) give it value.
    Reply
  • csf60
    I would take a 770 and water-cool that rig any day, but I suppose that's personal preference.
    Reply
  • sarinaide
    It is safe to say that the purpose of the machine is gaming, for that is there any particular reason to go with the i7 other than to say you maxed the platforms highest capable chip but in terms of true benefits there is little over an i5 yet over a $100 been dropped on it. The next question is why not a GTX Titan, most of a 690 's performance but on less power and heat which is quite punishing in a Prodigy's confinds.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    11028708 said:
    Still struggling to get my mind on a high performance ITX system, to me its more a case of how much high end you can chuck into a psuedo M-ITX chassis which for all intents and purposes are not small form factor by any stretch of the imagination. Having owned a Prodigy they can hardly be said to be SFF when their total surface area is as much as a ATX chassis, it is like calling a HAF XB M-ITX.

    The main point of the article is that diminishing returns are high at that price point, only a overclocked system (again not a fan of in the confineds of a ITX system) give it value.
    At the initialization's initiation, SFF meant "Shuttle Form Factor". The term has since been abused for everything from Micro ATX gaming cubes to book-sized PCs. Book-sized system builders would argue that Shuttle's fairly big traditional boxes aren't true SFF because they're too big, even though the term originally referred to these! If you remove the handles, this case is roughly the size of Shuttle's old 2-slot boxes (it's around 2 inches taller and 2 inches shorter in length)
    11028926 said:
    It is safe to say that the purpose of the machine is gaming
    Gaming only? Then when the Core i7?
    11028926 said:
    is there any particular reason to go with the i7
    Read pages 16 and 17
    11028926 said:
    other than to say you maxed the platforms highest capable chip but in terms of true benefits there is little over an i5
    Did you see the overclocking section? Three mediocre i5's in a row and i7 leads to O/C victory, in addition to the gains on pages 16 and 17.
    11028926 said:
    The next question is why not a GTX Titan, most of a 690 's performance but on less power and heat which is quite punishing in a Prodigy's confinds.
    Did you see a heat issue? I did not. Why would someone want to spend more money for less gaming performance? Or are you now saying that this is not a gaming PC?

    Reply