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System Builder Marathon Q3 2015: Gaming PC

How We Tested

Test System Components

Since this quarter's build looks to improve upon the Q1 2015 build's shortcomings, we'll be including that PC's results in today's lineup. Additionally, we're going to be comparing this build to last quarter's $1,600 gaming build to see how close we can come to premium performance on a modest budget.                                                                                                 

Q3 $800 Budget GamingQ2 $1600 Gaming PCQ1 $800 Gaming PC
Processor (Overclock)Intel Core i3-4170: 3.7GHz Two Physical Cores Stock SettingsIntel Core i5-4690K: 3.50 GHz - 3.90 GHz, Four Physical Cores O/C to 4.2-4.4GHz, 1.24VIntel Core i3-4150: 3.5GHz, Two Physical Cores, Stock Settings
Graphics (Overclock)Sapphire R9 380 985 MHz GPU,  GDDR5-5800 O/C to 1080 MHz, GDDR5-6520Gigabyte GTX 980: 1178 MHz GPU,  GDDR5-7010 O/C to 1335 MHz, GDDR5-8000Sapphire R9 280, 940MHz GPU, GDDR5-5000 O/C to 1080MHz, GDDR5-5400
Memory (Overclock)8GB G.Skill DDR3-1600 CAS 11-11-11-28, O/C to Applied XMP Profile16GB Team Extreme DDR3-2400 CAS 10-12-12-31, Applied XMP Profile8GB G.Skill DDR3-1600 CAS 11-11-11-28, Applied XMP Profile
Motherboard (Overclock)ASRock H97M Pro4: LGA 1150, Intel H97 Express Stock 100 MHz BCLKASRock Z97 Extreme6: LGA 1150, Intel Z97 Express Stock 100 MHz BCLKASRock H81M-HDS: LGA 1150, Intel H81 Express Stock 100MHz BCLK
CaseCorsair Carbide SPEC-03 Black, White LEDDIY Adventurer-9601GNZXT Source 210 Elite Black
CPU CoolerCooler Master Hyper TX3Zalman CNPS10X OptimaIntel Boxed Heat Sink and Fan
Hard DriveSamsung 850 Evo 250GB SATA 6Gb/s SSDSandisk Extreme Pro 240GB SATA 6Gb/s SSDWestern Digital Blue 1TB HDD, 3.5", 16MB Cache
PowerEVGA 100-W1-500-KR: 500W Non-Modular, ATX12V, 80 PLUSCrucial CSM Series CS750M: 750W, 80 Plus GoldEVGA 100-W1-500-KR: 500W Non-Modular, ATX12V, 80 PLUS
Software
OSMicrosoft Windows 8.1 x64Microsoft Windows 8 Pro x64Microsoft Windows 8 Pro x64
GraphicsAMD Catalyst 15.7.1Nvidia GeForce 353.06AMD Catalyst 14.4
ChipsetIntel INF 10.1.1Intel INF 9.4.0.1017Intel INF 9.4.0.1017
  • envy14tpe
    For gaming and for $800, this is an excellent build. As we saw in the AMD build, the 860k can limit in some games, and going i3 is a pure solid choice. Also, a 380 will max out most games at 1080p. Great choices and to hell with the whiners.
    Reply
  • RedJaron
    While many H81, 87, 97, and B85 boards support unofficial overclocking, they're primarily limited to just CPU multiplier and voltage. Only Z boards let you fiddle with the BCLK to take the locked i3 any higher. The ASRock Z97M Pro4 might have been an alternative if you put the TX3 money toward it. However, you are right that a few hundred MHz more don't make a big difference in most daily computing.

    Also, your particular board may "technically" support CFX, but that bottom slot is only PCIe 2.0 x4 and will severely handicap any second GPU you add.

    But still a good, efficient build nonetheless. Your build will definitely cream mine in the productivity benchmarks come Wednesday.
    Reply
  • Bossyfins
    The main reason the EVGA 500w get a lot of hate by users, including me, is because XFX makes a higher quality, made by seasonic to be exact, for about 10-15$ more. I would, and probably many others would choose to pay an extra mere 15$ than have a potential burn out of all components. Other than the PSU, solid part selections.
    Reply
  • Tomtompiper
    Is it just me or is the System Builder Marathon Q3 2015: AMD Mini PC faster than this in most games? This would fit in with the "save on the processor and go big on the GPU philosophy. Also I believe it is time to throw in a multitasking benchmark, seldom do I encode or game an leave the machine running that one task, I'm gaming while streaming videos or encoding while surfing the web or streaming videos or both.
    Reply
  • kinney
    This is good. I do love that i3 and 380 combo. Until AMD shows a rebound in their business though, I'd probably avoid them to reduce chances of ending up with unsupported product. A 970 would be ideal.
    A 380 or 970 is pretty much all most of us really need. The PC market is mature and has been for some time, spending on top end hardware doesn't make sense any longer. I'm waiting for KabyLake which should have enough graphics performance for my MOBA and other competitive gaming needs. Unless you're looking at buying into VR in which case a PS4+Morpheus needs to be considered.
    Reply
  • Marko Ravnjak
    Do we still need a dvd in each box? :)
    Reply
  • M515k4
    This is the way I build gaming PCs for friends. Agreed with HDD vs SDD part. I would only use some smaller case.
    Reply
  • ykki
    For gaming and for $800, this is an excellent build. As we saw in the AMD build, the 860k can limit in some games, and going i3 is a pure solid choice.

    Though in the AMD build you can get a cpu cooler later down the road and OC the 860k.
    Reply
  • filippi
    16696672 said:
    For gaming and for $800, this is an excellent build. As we saw in the AMD build, the 860k can limit in some games, and going i3 is a pure solid choice.

    Though in the AMD build you can get a cpu cooler later down the road and OC the 860k.

    This for me is the Intel main advantage: FM2 upgrade path is a 3rd party cpu cooler + overclock.
    Haswell upgrade path is an i5/i7/xeon.
    Reply
  • Math Geek
    i would love to see the amd build from yesterday overclocked just for the academics of it. give it away as is but since you don't normally have such a system in the comparisons, why not cool it right and oc it just to see how it does with the 970.

    again just for the academics of it more than anything. just curious how it would hold up to this i3 build.

    but overall nice build, i even don't mind the evga psu. it's not as bad as folks want it ot be. it has reviewed very well and is solid for it's proper uses. though i am not so sure about it being capable of a second 380. i'd go with a bit better psu for that.
    Reply