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System Builder Marathon, Q2 2013: $1300 Enthusiast PC

Mini-ITX For The Enthusiast: Smaller Size, Bigger Budget

System Builder Marathon, Q2 2013: The Articles

Here are links to each of the four 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 $650 Mini-ITX Gaming PC
Day 2: The $1300 Mini-ITX Enthusiast PC
Day 3: The $2500 Mini-Performance PC
Day 4: Performance And Value, Dissected
Day 5: The $400 "True Spirit of Mini-ITX" PC

Introduction

We've been hammering away at these System Builder Marathon machines for a while now. We have a pretty good idea how most combinations of hardware are going to perform. And now that Intel's Haswell architecture is available, we're pretty confident that the status quo won't be changing in a meaningful way anytime soon.

So, instead of picking another set of arbitrary budget points and piling in the same old tired parts, as you already know, we picked a new theme: mini-ITX-based boxes. Fitting components into a smaller form factor requires components made for the job, and that necessitates a bigger budget. As a result, we upped the price tag for this PC to $1300. 

Naturally, performance records aren't going to be broken. Because we're dealing with pricier parts, it's probable that the full-sized machine I built last quarter is going to be faster. But if this quarter's configuration at least proves comparable, while also offering increased portability, I'll be calling my contribution satisfactory.

Now that you know what we're going for, let's have a look at the components I picked for this round.

$800 Enthusiast System Components
MotherboardMSI Z77IA-E53, LGA 1155, Intel Z77 Express$150
ProcessorIntel Core i5-3570K: 3.4 GHz Base Clock Rate, 3.8 GHz Maximum Turbo Boost, 6 MB Shared L3 Cache$220
Heat SinkAntec Kuhler H2O 620 Liquid Cooling System$58
MemoryG.Skill RipjawsX Series 8 GB (2 x 4 GB) DDR3-1866 Model F3-14900CL8D-8GBXM$78
GraphicsSparkle GeForce GTX 680 2 GB 256-bit GDDR5$420
System DriveAdata XPG SX900 ASX900S3-64GM-C 2.5" 64 GB SATA 6Gb/s (SSD)$80
Storage DriveWestern Digital Black WD1002FAEX 1 TB, 7200 RPM, 64 MB Cache, SATA 6Gb/s$95
OpticalLite-On iHAS124-04: DVD Burner$18
CaseLian Li PC-Q08B Black Aluminum Mini-ITX Tower Computer Case$100
PowerCorsair CX750M 750 W ATX12V v2.3 80 PLUS Bronze Modular PSU$95
Total Cost$1314

When we placed our orders a while back, I was just slightly over budget. Since then, however, a couple of the sales I was counting on expired, and now my list of hardware costs closer to $1350 on Newegg.

  • Madn3ss795
    I'm against using Corsair CX PSU in a mid-end build. You also admitted that 750w is overkill. 90$ can get you a SeaSonic M12II 620 Bronze with much better components.

    Additionally, Samsung 840 120gb only costs 20$ more than the Adata XPG SX900 64.
    Reply
  • itzsnypah
    Anymore these days all SBM gives me is a good laugh. Maybe it's because I've gone more elitist as my component knowledge increases or mabye that SBM builders don't have free reign on what brands they can buy.

    Did you know that a 250gb Samsung 840 has been holding at ~$180 for months and that a 750w PSU in a mITX system makes you look unintelligent? Or that 2133 ram costs the same as 1866?

    I think it's time you guys start building machines you would actually own and not ones that tops the charts but are horridly flawed.
    Reply
  • tomate2
    its nice to see Toms trying something new like a mini itx build on the system builder marathon
    Reply
  • Someone Somewhere
    So, ways I think this is dumb:
    ■DDR3-1866. Save $20 and get -1600.
    ■WD Black as a storage drive. I'd consider it overpriced as a boot drive. Save $35.
    ■Geven the 770 and 680 are basically the same card (in fact the 770 may be slightly better), save $30 and get the 770.
    ■More than $1 per GB on an SSD. For $10 more you can get a 120GB 840.
    ■750W PSU. You're trolling me. That could run two of them.
    And yeah, title on page 3 refers to a non-existent Sapphire 680.
    Reply
  • vmem
    Awesome idea picking the mini ITX theme btw, we're long overdue for one :)

    just a thought, while we're on themes, maybe a pure number cruncher/work-horse for the next SBM? could be fun for the "all work and no play" folks out there :P
    Reply
  • agnickolov
    Personally I'd save money on the HDD with a cheaper 1TB for $60 and use the money for a larger 128GB SSD. Considering you can get one for as low as $90-$100, that would even balance the budget...
    Reply
  • cangelini
    10997565 said:
    So, ways I think this is dumb:
    * DDR3-1866. Save $20 and get -1600.
    * WD Black as a storage drive. I'd consider it overpriced as a boot drive. Save $35.
    * Geven the 770 and 680 are basically the same card (in fact the 770 may be slightly better), save $30 and get the 770.
    * More than $1 per GB on an SSD. For $10 more you can get a 120GB 840.
    * 750W PSU. You're trolling me. That could run two of them.

    And yeah, title on page 3 refers to a non-existent Sapphire 680.

    GTX 770 wasn't an option when Don placed his order--says so right on the same page three where you found the Sapphire typo ;-)

    Don will have to defend his other component choices (against you guys *and* Paul/Thomas).
    Reply
  • agnickolov
    A question on the Visual Studio benchmark - is it run from the SSD for this build? That would explain the significant performance delta at stock clocks...
    Reply
  • CaptainTom
    This build is a total joke. So much could be done better. A 680 really? That card has been a joke since the 670 and 7970 GHz, but now the 770 has made it completely irrelevant...
    Reply
  • Crashman
    10997500 said:
    Did you know that a 250gb Samsung 840 has been holding at ~$180 for months and that a 750w PSU in a mITX system makes you look unintelligent? Or that 2133 ram costs the same as 1866?
    Did you know that the $180 SSD would have blown his system even farther out of budget, that readers have spoken out against both DDR3-1866 AND DDR3-2133 as unimportant to real-world performance, or that power supply size is dictated by components and not case size? What were you saying about intelligence?
    10997861 said:
    This build is a total joke. So much could be done better. A 680 really? That card has been a joke since the 670 and 7970 GHz, but now the 770 has made it completely irrelevant...
    While I probably would have gone with a 7970 or 670 to save money, the 680 isn't really that bad by comparison. And the 770? I'm surprised you didn't read any of the previous comments. These systems were ordered in April. As an experienced commenter you knew these articles take weeks to prepare, but you opened up about parts that weren't available weeks ago anyway? For shame Captain, I expected so much more from you...

    To the both of you: I'm a little rough on Don for not pushing his RAM even though it doesn't make much performance difference, but only because he's a competitor. And his power supply might be over-rated, but he's probably just trying to dodge the complaints of other readers who demand excessive capacity. All in all he's only wasted what, 10% of his budget? I'm sure most of you would find some other way to waste 10% of your budgets.

    BTW, if you hate his power supply for being ridiculously over-capacity and somewhat middle-quality, you're going to have a love/hate relationship with mine :)
    Reply