Repeating the tests from our previous System Builder Marathon allowed us to include a couple of previous machines without retesting them. We know today’s $1750 build will outperform the previous efforts, and question only whether it can overcome its price increase in our performance-to-price calculations.
|Test Hardware Configurations|
|Q1 2015 $1750 PC||Q4 2014 $1600 PC||Q3 2014 $1600 PC|
|Processor (Overclock)||Intel Core i7-4790K: 4 - 4.4GHz, Four Physical Cores O/C to 4.6-4.8GHz, +20mV||Intel Core i7-4790K: 4 - 4.4GHz, Four Physical CoresO/C to 4.6GHz, 1.26V||Intel Core i7-4790K: 4 - 4.4GHz, Four Physical CoresO/C to 4.6GHz, 1.25V|
|Graphics (Overclock)||2x PNY GeForce GTX 970: <1178MHz GPU, GDDR5-7012 O/C to <1328MHz, GDDR5-7312||PNY GeForce GTX 980: <1216MHz GPU,GDDR5-7012 O/C to <1456MHz, GDDR5-7972||PowerColor Radeon R9 290X: 1050MHz GPU,GDDR5-5400O/C to 1082MHz, GDDR5-5600|
|Memory (Overclock)||16GB G.Skill DDR3-1866 CAS 10-11-10-28, O/C to DDR3-2133 CL 11-12-11-24, 1.60V||8GB G.Skill DDR3-2133 CAS 9-11-10-28, O/C to DDR3-2400 CL 10-12-12-28, 1.60V||8GB G.Skill DDR3-1866 CAS 8-9-9-24, O/C to DDR3-2400 CL 10-12-12-28, 1.60V|
|Motherboard (Overclock)||Gigabyte Z97X-Gaming 5: LGA 1150, Intel Z97 ExpressStock 100MHz BCLK||Biostar Hi-Fi Z97WE: LGA 1150, Intel Z97 ExpressStock 100MHz BCLK||MSI Z97 Gaming 5: LGA 1150, Intel Z97 ExpressStock 100MHz BCLK|
|Case||Corsair Graphite 230T||Thermaltake Chaser A31||Enermax Ostrog GT|
|CPU Cooler||Corsair H100i Closed-Loop||Phanteks PH-TC14PE 140mm||Phanteks PH-TC14PE 140mm|
|Hard Drive||Crucial MX100 256GB SATA 6Gb/s SSD||Plextor M6S PX-256M6S 256GB SATA 6Gb/s SSD||Plextor M6S PX-256M6S 256GB SATA 6Gb/s SSD|
|Power||Rosewill Capstone-750: 750W, 80 PLUS Gold||Rosewill Capstone-750-M: 750W, 80 PLUS Gold||EVGA SuperNOVA 750 B2: 750W, 80 PLUS Bronze|
|OS||Microsoft Windows 8 Pro x64||Microsoft Windows 8 Pro x64||Microsoft Windows 8 Pro x64|
|Graphics||Nvidia GeForce 347.25||Nvidia GeForce 344.75||AMD Catalyst 14.4|
|Chipset||Intel INF 18.104.22.1686||Intel INF 22.214.171.1246||Intel INF 126.96.36.1996|
3DMark shows a small gain in CPU performance as well as the anticipated big GPU performance increase for this quarter’s SLI-equipped high-end build. Sandra doesn’t agree however, and the deficit in Sandra appears to be caused by poor memory bandwidth.
Moreover, PCMark’s hard drive scores are also down a little, and this is the test we use to gauge storage performance in our overall scoring. Based on actual program access times, it’s the closest thing we have to a “real world” hard drive metric.
As with Sandra, the new system’s slow memory puts it behind in both Arma 3 and Grid 2 at the low settings where CPU and memory performance matters. Battlefield 4’s 200 FPS cap also diminishes the return on investment sought in this quarter’s higher-priced graphics configuration when set to Medium-quality defaults.
High-quality gaming is where the new build shines, particularly at Battlefield 4’s Ultra quality preset and in Far Cry 3 at Ultra quality and high resolutions. Even if this machine loses the overall value comparison, quality-seeking gamers will appreciate its value in the most demanding situations.
The current build’s higher single-core overclock barely nudges the performance needle in audio transcoding (Apple iTunes and LAME), but nowhere else. WinZip likes the new graphics cards in OpenCL mode, though this could be the result of extra system memory capacity.
Anyone looking for a big bang from that extra (slow) memory capacity will find it in Adobe After Effects, where twice the RAM equals half the encoding time.