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System Builder Marathon Q4 2014: $1600 Performance PC

How We Tested Our $1600 Performance PC

Test Hardware Configurations
Q4 $1600 Performance PCQ3 $1600 Performance PCQ2 $1600 Performance PC
Processor (Overclock)Intel Core i7-4790K: 4.00 GHz - 4.40 GHz, Four Physical CoresO/C to 4.60 GHz, 1.26VIntel Core i7-4790K: 4.00 GHz - 4.40 GHz, Four Physical CoresO/C to 4.60 GHz, 1.25VIntel Core i7-4770K: 3.5 GHz - 3.90 GHz, Four Physical CoresO/C to 4.20 GHz, 1.29V
Graphics (Overclock)PNY GTX 980: <1216 MHz GPU,  GDDR5-7012 O/C to <1456 MHz, GDDR5-7972PowerColor 290X: 1050 MHz GPU,  GDDR5-5400O/C to 1082 MHz, GDDR5-5600PowerColor 290X: 1050 MHz GPU,  GDDR5-5400O/C to 1100 MHz, GDDR5-6200
Memory (Overclock)8 GB G.Skill DDR3-2133 CAS 9-11-10-28, O/C to DDR3-2400 CL 10-12-12-28, 1.60V8 GB G.Skill DDR3-1866 CAS 8-9-9-24, O/C to DDR3-2400 CL 10-12-12-28, 1.60V8 GB G.Skill DDR3-1866 CAS 8-9-9-24, O/C to DDR3-2133 CL 9-10-10-27, 1.60V
Motherboard (Overclock)Biostar Hi-Fi Z97WE: LGA 1150, Intel Z97 ExpressStock 100 MHz BCLKMSI Z97 Gaming 5: LGA 1150, Intel Z97 ExpressStock 100 MHz BCLKAsus Z97-A: LGA 1150, Intel Z97 ExpressStock 100 MHz BCLK
CaseThermaltake Chaser A31Enermax Ostrog GTCM Storm Scout 2 Advanced
CPU CoolerPhanteks PH-TC14PE 140mmPhanteks PH-TC14PE 140mmThermaltake NiC L32
Hard DrivePlextor M6S PX-256M6S 256GB SATA 6Gb/s SSDPlextor M6S PX-256M6S 256GB SATA 6Gb/s SSDSamsung MZ-7TE250BW 250GB SATA 6Gb/s SSD
PowerRosewill CAPSTONE-750-M: 750W, 80 PLUS GoldEVGA SuperNOVA 750 B2: 750W, 80 PLUS BronzeRosewill  HIVE-750: 750W Semi-Modular, 80 PLUS Bronze
Software
OSMicrosoft Windows 8 Pro x64Microsoft Windows 8 Pro x64Microsoft Windows 8 Pro x64
GraphicsNvidia GeForce 344.75AMD Catalyst 14.4AMD Catalyst 14.4
ChipsetIntel INF 9.4.0.1026Intel INF 9.4.0.1026Intel INF 9.4.0.1026

I compared this quarter's $1600 machine to my previous two $1600 builds, in both overclocked and baseline (as-rated) configurations. The baseline Q3 machine sets the comparison baseline.

Benchmark Settings
3D Games
Battlefield 4Version 1.0.0.1, DirectX 11, 100-sec. Fraps "Tashgar" Test Set 1: Medium Quality Preset, No AA, 4X AF, SSAO Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Preset,  4X MSAA, 16X AF, HBAO
Grid 2Version 1.0.85.8679, Direct X 11, Built-in Benchmark Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA Test Set 2: Ultra Quality, 8x MSAA
Arma 3Version 1.08.113494, 30-Sec. Fraps "Infantry Showcase" Test Set 1: Standard Preset, No AA, Standard AF Test Set 2: Ultra Preset, 8x FSAA, Ultra AF
Far Cry 3V. 1.04, DirectX 11, 50-sec. Fraps "Amanaki Outpost" Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA, Standard ATC, SSAO Test Set 2: Ultra Quality, 4x MSAA, Enhanced ATC, HDAO
Adobe Creative Suite
Adobe After Effects CCVersion 12.0.0.404: Create Video which includes 3 Streams, 210 Frames, Render Multiple Frames Simultaneosly
Adobe Photoshop CCVersion 14.0 x64: Filter 15.7MB TIF Image: Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates
Adobe Premeire Pro CCVersion 7.0.0 (342), 6.61 GB MXF Project to H.264 to H.264 Blu-ray, Output 1920x1080, Maximum Quality
Audio/Video Encoding
iTunesVersion 11.0.4.4 x64: Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 minutes, default AAC format
Lame MP3Version 3.98.3: Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 min, convert WAV to MP3 audio format, Command: -b 160 --nores (160 kb/s)
Handbrake CLIVersion: 0.99: Video from Canon Eos 7D (1920x1080, 25 FPS) 1 Minutes 22 Seconds Audio: PCM-S16, 48000 Hz, 2-Channel, to Video: AVC1 Audio: AAC (High Profile)
TotalCodeStudio 2.5Version: 2.5.0.10677: MPEG-2 to H.264, MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG-2), Audio: MPEG-2 (44.1 kHz, 2 Channel, 16-Bit, 224 kb/s), Codec: H.264 Pro, Mode: PAL 50i (25 FPS), Profile: H.264 BD HDMV
Productivity
ABBYY FineReaderVersion 10.0.102.95: Read PDF save to Doc, Source: Political Economy (J. Broadhurst 1842) 111 Pages
Adobe Acrobat 11Version 11.0.0.379: Print PDF from 115 Page PowerPoint, 128-bit RC4 Encryption
Autodesk 3ds Max 2013Version 15.0 x64: Space Flyby Mentalray, 248 Frames, 1440x1080
BlenderVersion: 2.68A, Cycles Engine, Syntax blender -b thg.blend -f 1, 1920x1080, 8x Anti-Aliasing, Render THG.blend frame 1
File Compression
WinZipVersion 18.0 Pro: THG-Workload (1.3 GB) to ZIP, command line switches "-a -ez -p -r"
WinRARVersion 5.0: THG-Workload (1.3 GB) to RAR, command line switches "winrar a -r -m3"
7-ZipVersion 9.30 alpha (64-bit): THG-Workload (1.3 GB) to .7z, command line switches "a -t7z -r -m0=LZMA2 -mx=5"
Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
3DMark 11Version: 1.0.5.0, Benchmark Only
3DMark ProfessionalVersion: 1.2.250.0 (64-bit), Fire Strike Benchmark
PCMark 8Version: 1.0.0 x64, Full Test
SiSoftware SandraVersion 2014.02.20.10, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / Multimedia / Cryptography, Memory Bandwidth Benchmarks
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