System Builder Marathon Q1 2015: Mainstream Enthusiast PC

Building A Well-Balanced Enthusiast PC

System Builder Marathon Q1 2015: The Articles

Here are links to each of the five articles in this quarter’s System Builder Marathon (we’ll update them as each story is published). And remember, these systems are all being given away at the end of the marathon.

To enter the giveaway, please fill out this SurveyGizmo form, and be sure to read the complete rules before entering!

Day 1: The Budget Gaming PC
Day 2: The Mainstream Enthusiast PC
Day 3: Our $1750 Performance PC
Day 4: System Value Compared
Day 5: Alternative $1750 PC

My Q4 2014 System Builder Marathon build was the victim of a faulty motherboard that kept me from generating overclocked results. So, this time, I'll draw comparisons to a system I put together the quarter prior. That PC sported a Core i5-4690K and GeForce GTX 770.

This also gives me an opportunity to see what the GeForce GTX 970 can do pushed beyond its factory clock rates.

As for the CPU, an increased performance budget of $950 let me step up to a powerful Core i7-4790K instead of the Core i5-class processors I usually use in my mid-range builds. I was also able to squeeze in a 240GB SSD, rather than the 120GB drives I typically select.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Enthusiast System Components
MotherboardMSI Z97 PC Mate, LGA 1150 Intel Z97$90
ProcessorIntel Core i7-4790K: 4GHz Base Clock Rate, 8MB Shared L3 Cache$320
Heat SinkZalman CNPS9900MAX-B$50
Memory8GB G.Skill Ares (2 x 4GB) DDR3-2133, F3-2133C9D-8GAB$74
GraphicsAsus Strix GeForce GTX 970 4GB$340
Storage DriveWestern Digital Blue WD10EZEX 1TB$55
Boot DiskPNY Optima 240GB Solid State Drive (SSD)$90
PowerEVGA 600B 80 PLUS Bronze PSU$55
Price of Performance Hardware$925
CaseCooler Master HAF XB Evo Computer Case$95
OpticalPioneer Black Blu-ray BDC-207DBK OEM$45
OSMicrosoft Windows 8.1 64-bit, OEM$100
Price As Tested$1314

Even with a quality enclosure, Blu-ray Drive and Windows x64 operating system, the total price of my PC falls under $1350. On paper, it's one of the most balanced enthusiast-oriented builds I've ever put together, with no glaring weaknesses. Let's cover the component choices in detail.

  • hausman
  • Grognak
    Your builds are getting more and more expensive.
  • tom10167
    Looks pretty good but get a Black Series for $20 more
  • g-unit1111
    Honestly I would go optical drive less and get a H440 or something similar. Was it a requirement to spend $50 on the blu-ray burner?
  • damric
    Dear God, why another junk Compucase PSU?

    And why a PNY SSD? Save the packaging for that. You will need it for RMA.

    With a budget that large there is no room for parts with high failure rates.
  • de5_Roy
    nice build. my only nitpick is about the motherboard. would choosing a xeon e3 12xx v3 have led to better mobo and/or gfx card and/or psu?
  • cknobman
    Waiting for the day one of you SBM folks take your panties off and skips the optical drive.

    We have reached the day and age where optical drives are really not necessary and just eat into budget for more useful things.
  • des99
    how does the math add up?
    $925 Performace hardware +
    $240 case, os and optical $240
  • pepsimtl
    I think cpu I5 K whill do the same job for gamer and least expensive :)
    This motherboard color is so ugly ( same color 1985 pc ) and all the component except for memory . Just look inside the computer depress me
  • Onus
    Given the power numbers (which I think you know enough to have anticipated), even a 450W Rosewill Capstone would have sufficed. I just don't see an EVGA "B" series making it into an enthusiast build; ever.
    I also really don't like seeing 1.65V RAM. Perhaps 1.6V, but allowing for how different motherboards may tweak RAM for stability, already running at 1.65V seems like more of a risk to the Intel IMC than is worthwhile. I'd really prefer to keep at the standard 1.5V.