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System Builder Marathon, Q2 2014: A Balanced High-End Build

Mass Storage, OS, And Optical Drive

Hard Drive: Western Digital Blue WD10EZEX

This is where we get into the parts that we don't need in the lab, but you probably will once you get this machine home. Western Digital’s 1 TB Blue drive offers a bunch of capacity to store your photos and media without busting my budget.

Read Customer Reviews of Western Digital's Blue WD10EZEX

The WD10EZEX has a 7200 RPM spindle to improve response time and a SATA 6Gb/s interface for speedy accesses to 64 MB of data cache. But really, I only bought this disk to store information that doesn't need to live on the precious solid-state storage.

OS: Windows 8.1

One of the first questions our contest winners ask is whether we give them software to go along with their new PCs. Up until now, we haven't taken operating system cost into account. But at your request, this expense is factored in for the first time.

Read Customer Reviews of Microsoft's Windows 8.1 Operating System

New systems qualify for the OEM version of Windows 8.1, which costs $100. And we can now put to rest those complaints from readers who were trying to compare pre-built systems, which typically come bundled with operating systems, to our builds.

Optical Drive: Lite-On iHAS124

Many readers claim that they no longer want or need an optical drive, but our operating system shipped to us on optical media. Besides, I'm willing to bet that you have something precious stashed away on a DVD or CD that you’d like to read someday.

Read Customer Reviews of Lite-On's iHAS124 ODD

The iHAS124 also burns DVD media at 24x, just in case you have a few blank discs laying around. Plus, it's great for loading an unrecognized GbE controller driver...since you can't exactly download that until the network connection is up and running.

  • mrmike_49
    Only 8GB RAM for a high end PC? Just plain too much money spent on graphics card. Also, too much money spent on "yuppie" power supply/case
    Reply
  • wabba
    kidding me, hdd and windows 8, pls, read up on hardware toms hardware.....and software.
    Reply
  • de5_Roy
    thermaltake nic L32 doesn't seem well suited for the cpu for stock operations. at stock settings, the cpu's load temp is 57c over ambient according to the temp. chart. the q1 $1600 pc has a hyper 212 evo and it ran the stock i7 4770k under 40c over ambient. from the looks, the tt nic cooler seemed a better performer than the hyper 212 evo.
    was multicore enhancement enabled for both the q1 $1600(asrock z87 pro3) and this quarter's high end pc(asus z97-a)? did it affect the heat output? asus keeps m.c.e. enabled by default. i can't see any other factors atm.

    all 3 builds look very well-performing this quarter. looking forward to the perf-value analysis.
    Reply
  • Taintedskittles
    Reading the reviews on newegg about that PowerColor 290x you chose was hilarious. So whoever win's this thing can look forward to many many rma's in the future. Apparently its plagued with artifacts, bad fans, bios issues, & performance degradation. I would have chosen another brand at the very least.
    Reply
  • pauldh
    To be fair though, look at the dates of those negative Newegg reviews. All but one of the complaints appeared after this system was ordered mid-May. Prior available feedback WAS almost all positive. And a manufacturer rep jumped in to resolve that one.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    13586826 said:
    Only 8GB RAM for a high end PC? Just plain too much money spent on graphics card. Also, too much money spent on "yuppie" power supply/case
    A yuppie power supply...OK...

    13587011 said:
    kidding me, hdd and windows 8, pls, read up on hardware toms hardware.....and software.
    The last time I checked the "Samsung 840 EVO MZ-7TE250BW" wasn't an HDD, and nobody wanted us to run OS/2 on a modern gaming system. Please read the charts, wabba

    Reply
  • crisan_tiberiu
    Make this "competition" global please... :( You have "Tom's Hardware" in every major region in the world... :) Also FedEx and DHL ships everywehere in the world :) make all readers happy :) Our traffic is good for your site, but we never get something special :((
    Reply
  • rush21hit
    If I had a specs like this, I don't want it to be encased. I'd stick it to my wall even if it means I had to figure out how to do it.
    Reply
  • SessouXFX
    If aesthetics doesn't play a role, this is a pretty damn good build...
    Reply
  • Realist9
    I think the author hit his mark for the intent of the build/article based on the budget limit and provides a good starting point for us. However, if I was actually building and buying for myself, I would make some changes to add headroom and compatibility.

    I would go with 16 GB of memory for $85 more, since that’s only $85/$1600=5% more cost. I’d also go ahead and get the Asus 780 for $520. (Side note: I disagree that most would go AMD in a 780 vs 290x, but I know better than to open that can of worms). SLI was mentioned but not used, and I also would not get SLI unless I KNEW it worked with the game I was most interested in. The posts on various forums about SLI causing problems in most games, along with SLI “issues” dating back to 3dFX Voodoo2 cards, keeps me away from SLI.

    I also would stay away from “generally stable, but usually not stable in the games I want to play most” (not quoting the author here) overclocking of the system/video card. It’s nice to see it in the charts, but I read about way too many problems in games caused by overclocking for me to rely on it to get my ‘value’.

    Lastly, I think the pendulum has swung too far towards “value” for the high end build. I suggest tweaking that a little for future high end builds (eg..780Ti, 16 GB memory, 500GB SSD, but continue to stay away from $1000 CPU, $1200 SLI, etc).
    Reply