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System Builder Marathon Q1 2015: $1750 Performance PC

Benchmark Performance

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 PCQ4 2014 $1600 PCQ3 2014 $1600 PC
Processor (Overclock)Intel Core i7-4790K: 4 - 4.4GHz, Four Physical Cores O/C to 4.6-4.8GHz, +20mVIntel Core i7-4790K: 4 - 4.4GHz, Four Physical CoresO/C to 4.6GHz, 1.26VIntel 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, GDDR5-7312PNY GeForce GTX 980: <1216MHz GPU,GDDR5-7012 O/C to <1456MHz, GDDR5-7972PowerColor 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, 1.60V8GB G.Skill DDR3-2133 CAS 9-11-10-28, O/C to DDR3-2400 CL 10-12-12-28, 1.60V8GB 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 BCLKBiostar Hi-Fi Z97WE: LGA 1150, Intel Z97 ExpressStock 100MHz BCLKMSI Z97 Gaming 5: LGA 1150, Intel Z97 ExpressStock 100MHz BCLK
CaseCorsair Graphite 230TThermaltake Chaser A31Enermax Ostrog GT
CPU CoolerCorsair H100i Closed-LoopPhanteks PH-TC14PE 140mmPhanteks PH-TC14PE 140mm
Hard DriveCrucial MX100 256GB SATA 6Gb/s SSDPlextor M6S PX-256M6S 256GB SATA 6Gb/s SSDPlextor M6S PX-256M6S 256GB SATA 6Gb/s SSD
PowerRosewill Capstone-750: 750W, 80 PLUS GoldRosewill Capstone-750-M: 750W, 80 PLUS GoldEVGA SuperNOVA 750 B2: 750W, 80 PLUS Bronze
Software
OSMicrosoft Windows 8 Pro x64Microsoft Windows 8 Pro x64Microsoft Windows 8 Pro x64
GraphicsNvidia GeForce 347.25Nvidia GeForce 344.75AMD Catalyst 14.4
ChipsetIntel INF 9.4.0.1026Intel INF 9.4.0.1026Intel INF 9.4.0.1026

Synthetic Benchmarks

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.

3D Games

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.

Non-Gaming Tasks

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.

Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • dish_moose
    GTX 970 SLI - I cannot see how this would be a proper config given that the 970 VRAM is gimped over 3.5G. That being said with potentially that much gpu power, you would think this would make a great system - I've seen too many threads where hitting the 3.5G limit cause very bad stuttering.
    -Bruce
    Reply
  • Crashman
    15379466 said:
    GTX 970 SLI - I cannot see how this would be a proper config given that the 970 VRAM is gimped over 3.5G. That being said with potentially that much gpu power, you would think this would make a great system - I've seen too many threads where hitting the 3.5G limit cause very bad stuttering.
    -Bruce
    Too many of which configurations? At this point I'd rather be running 5760x1080 than 4k, if that's where you're going.

    This happens when I build based on reader feedback. Guess what? I ordered the day 5 bonus build in anticipation of these responses, even though the 3.5GB barrier wasn't known until after I placed my orders. Enjoy!

    Reply
  • jezus53
    I love that color scheme of the case. Reminds me of me my 73' Nova with the 350 small block painted black and Chevy orange. Makes me want to paint my case with the same theme...CURSE YOU TOM'S HARDWARE!!!!! I though I was done with my pc...
    Reply
  • Onus
    My eyes!!!

    Actually, other than the case being an eyesore (IMHO, the high-end build should be at-home in a high-level corporate or engineering office), I might only grumble about the non-modular PSU. On a build like this, a larger data drive is a nit; such a machine could be intended for a networked environment and won't need it anyway.
    This brings back a point I've brought up before. For this machine in particular, I think it is important to identify the user, and design a build that meets that person's needs, whether or not it necessarily wins benchmarks.
    Reply
  • redgarl
    Multi-GPU without 4k benches is ridiculous. People are more likely to run at 4k than with three 1080p monitors.

    Also, 4k is a game by itself. AMD and Nvidia cards act really differently at UHD.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    15379845 said:
    Multi-GPU without 4k benches is ridiculous. People are more likely to run at 4k than with three 1080p monitors.

    Also, 4k is a game by itself. AMD and Nvidia cards act really differently at UHD.
    Is that an offer? I'd LOVE to have a 4k display. I'm sure my colleagues would as well. PM me for the shipping addresses :)

    Reply
  • Grognak
    Your own benchmarks showed that the 8GB versions of the R9 290X performed better than the 970 at higher resolutions, I know DX12 is coming with stacked memory and all but that's still the logical choice until Nvidia releases an 8GB 970.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    15380062 said:
    Your own benchmarks showed that the 8GB versions of the R9 290X performed better than the 970 at higher resolutions, I know DX12 is coming with stacked memory and all but that's still the logical choice until Nvidia releases an 8GB 970.
    Wait...you're blaming me for picking the cards? Did you even read the article? Your colleagues picked the cards in the previous SBM response thread :)

    Not sure about the higher resolutions situation though, since I only have a single 2560x1600 and a bunch of 1920x1080 displays. Given that 5760x1080 had already been determined as the limit, I think other readers chose fairly well!
    Reply
  • dark_lord69
    ugly case...
    Nice hardware.. but I'd add a few drives for mass storage.
    Reply
  • cknobman
    So personally if I am building a high end machine like this it is going to be for 4k gaming.

    With that said I would have:
    Ditched the k processor for a regular and used the box cooler.
    Take the extra money and buy a storage HDD and faster RAM.

    Also it would be really nice if on the high end builds we could get just a few 4k gaming benchmarks.
    Reply