System Builder Marathon Q4 2014: $1600 Performance PC

Memory, Drives, Case And Power

Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws X DDR3-2133 (8GB)

I’ve probably stated a dozen times my belief that G.Skill is selling a single type of DRAM at a bunch of different specs, all based on marketing. For example, DDR3-1600 CAS 7, DDR3-1866 CAS 8, and DDR3-2133 CAS 9 can all use the same DRAM ICs with different programs on the little ROM (SPD) chip. My own reviews have shown that when you find stuff thusly rated, you can expect identical overclocking results from all three. G.Skill will even market these with both medium-profile and low-profile heat spreaders, under the Ripjaws and Ares product lines, with identical ratings.

Read Customer Reviews of G.Skill Ripjaws X DDR3-2133 (8GB) (opens in new tab)

But what about DDR3-2133 CAS 8? Curious about the modules with the unusual rating, unable to recall my own 30-month-old review, and happy to find them for $5 less than the Ares kit I’d chosen, I bought a set.

System Drive: Plextor M6S PX-256M6S

Thanks to a recent price increase bump, Plextor’s M6S 256GB is no longer a contender for the Best SSDs For The Money value segment. Fortunately, I got mine while Newegg was still charging $135. Though the M6S is still faster than the Crucial MX100 that took its place in our December article, budget restraints would force me to side with Crucial’s $110 option were I to buy today.

Read Customer Reviews of Plextor M6S PX-256M6S (opens in new tab)

On the other hand, any performance loss would have violated my principle of not going backwards on any benchmark to pay for parts to boost another benchmark. I wanted everything that didn’t perform better this month to at least perform as-well. Maybe I’m just stubborn.

Storage Drive: Western Digital Blue WD10EZEX

Most people can’t “get by” with 256GB forever, especially after adding a bunch of games and a couple home movies to their drive. On the other hand, most people don’t need to transfer those movies at super-high speeds, at least not on a regular basis.

Read Customer Reviews of Western Digital Blue WD10EZEX (opens in new tab)

Excluded from benchmarks and added to this system exclusively to support the needs of its eventual owner, Western Digital’s “Blue” series 1TB drive was chosen for this quarter’s build for the same reasons as last quarter: It’s cheap and has a mediocre (2-year) warranty.

Optical Drive: Asus DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS

Our system includes a licensed Windows 8.1 installation on DVD, but you’ll need a drive to read the disk. Asus’ 24X DVD-ROM has that capability, and is highly recommended by Newegg customers.

Read Customer Reviews of Asus DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS (opens in new tab)

Case: Thermaltake Chaser A31

Nobody loves a cheap case, but everyone loves a good price. The budget crunch put me on the hunt for a medium quality case for under $60, nearly forcing me to break my own standards with Antec’s non-USB-3.0 Three Hundred. After waking from that nightmare, I began looking for any case that approached its quality whilst including USB 3.0.

Read Customer Reviews of Thermaltake Chaser A31 (opens in new tab)

At 14.4 pounds, Thermaltake’s Chaser A31 was one of the heaviest sub-$60 cases in Newegg’s stock to include USB 3.0. It also has a removable center drive cage, just in case anyone is silly enough to put one of those longer-than-stock triple-fan GTX 980s inside. You wouldn’t want to do that though, since it has no side vents our top fans.

The Chaser A31 does have fan mounts on the top panel, and even enough room (with most motherboards) to fit a liquid-cooling radiator. Better still, there’s room between the top of the chassis and the inside of its plastic top cover to install either a pair of fans or a radiator, making more motherboard space inside while installing that closed-loop liquid cooler. Unfortunately, the $24 discount has expired, and I don’t believe this case is worth $80.

Power Supply: Rosewill Capstone-750-M

How can I top the high-quality, semi-modular, 80-PLUS Bronze-rated 750W power supply of last quarter’s build, without breaking the bank? Rosewill has a solution.

Read Customer Reviews of Rosewill Capstone-750-M (opens in new tab)

I researched the Capstone 750-M fairly heavily before taking the plunge, noting things such as its 62A of 12V current, 80-PLUS Gold efficiency rating, 7-year warranty and reported Super Flower internals. Those last two details made me forget the rest and jump at its $90 price.

Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • cmi86
    With $60 for a case you could have done so much better than that atrocious smurf turd. If you want me to spend $1,600 on a PC it better look the part as much as it plays the part. NZXT source 210, Antec GX-500, Bitfenix Neo-100, Rosewill Redbone, Thermaltake CA1B2/Commander/Versa and the list goes on and on and on... and on.

    BTW, These were only $50 cases netting you $10 on your budget.
    Reply
  • Onus
    Never mind the atrocious color, how was the case otherwise? Sturdy? Any sharp edges? Front panel cable lengths? Cable management space?
    You addressed my thoughts on the oversized PSU; if 650W of similar quality were not cheaper, I might have done the same thing.
    I can't help but wonder how SLI of two lesser cards would have performed. Won't two GTX760s beat a GTX980?
    Reply
  • elbert
    I would have tried to wiggle around 2x 970's for about $660ish. Saved money on the heatsink with a CM 212 evo and a bit cheaper ssd.
    Reply
  • Onus
    It might have been hard to squeeze out that $60 without raising eyebrows, but perhaps that might have been done. Use the same cooler Don used though;'no reason to waste money on the Hyper EVO. It is almost certainly a better cooler, but not worth the price difference compared to Don's or one of the other 120mm competitors (including the older Hyper212+).
    Reply
  • UltimateDeep
    Disappointing, your could cut cost a bit more on the cooler or the case and go for a 128GB SSD and go for GTX 970s in SLI. You could get a LOT more with 970s in SLI.
    Reply
  • jasonelmore
    Honestly, the whole reason to get a 4790K is because it runs 4.4Ghz Stock. With no overclock. 99% of motherboards will automatically overclock all 4 cores to 4.4ghz using Multi-core enhancement setting.

    Why void your warranty for 200mhz OC? not needed for such small gains. 4.4 is fast enough even for 4k gaming
    Reply
  • Vorador2
    Spending almost 1000$ on the graphics card and CPU and pairing them up with just freaking 8 Gb of RAM is an insult. I know is the price to fit both on a 1600$ budget, but still...it feels completely unbalanced.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    14919563 said:
    Never mind the atrocious color, how was the case otherwise? Sturdy? Any sharp edges? Front panel cable lengths? Cable management space?
    It's a fairly mid-grade case with rolled edges and so forth, and reasonable room for cables. Thermaltake's window is a little hard and thin, which is mostly a shipping issue, and I was a little disappointed that it was too narrow to hold this RAM/Cooler combo in its intended orientation. It would make a very NICE $60 to $70 case, but there are many better options at $80+ (its original price).

    14920018 said:
    14919897 said:
    I would have tried to wiggle around 2x 970's for about $660ish. Saved money on the heatsink with a CM 212 evo and a bit cheaper ssd.
    It might have been hard to squeeze out that $60 without raising eyebrows
    But it wouldn't have been $60. Remember, I ordered a $560 card and ended up with a $600 card. So going back to the planning stage, 2x 970's would have been $100 more.

    14920879 said:
    Honestly, the whole reason to get a 4790K is because it runs 4.4Ghz Stock. With no overclock. 99% of motherboards will automatically overclock all 4 cores to 4.4ghz using Multi-core enhancement setting. Why void your warranty for 200mhz OC? not needed for such small gains. 4.4 is fast enough even for 4k gaming
    Intel isn't tracking whether-or-not you overclock...but the reason to pick a 4790k over a 4770k is that, in my experience, Intel is tossing a lot of heat-problem cores into the 4770K parts bin.

    Reply
  • Achaios
    @Onus: No, 2XGTX 760's in SLI do not beat a single GTX 980.
    Reply
  • bloodshotlol
    I enjoyed this article.
    Reply