Can loose budgets help tighten the course on high-performance, mid-priced gaming? We put aside several of last-quarter's compromises to find out.
System Builder Marathon Q4 2015
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!
- $1184 Gaming PC
- $1055 Prosumer PC
- $895 LAN Box PC
- System Value Compared
- $912 AMD LAN Box PC
$1184 Gaming PC
Although it managed to come in second-best in overall value, last quarter's build ended up being a good general "compromise" build, rather than a good gaming or workstation build. As it turns out, it's much harder than you'd think to build something that's good at everything when you're saddled with a budget that forces you to make tough choices. In the end, each of us walked away regretting some of our choices in one way or another. However, all is not lost, as the three of us are getting a shot at redemption this quarter.
One of the biggest issues with last quarter's budget is that it forced each one of us to stick to a hard $800 limit, which in turn lead to having to make some unrealistic choices instead of exceeding the budget by a small margin. Well, this quarter we've taken that annoying budget and effectively thrown it out the window. With a $2600 spending limit in hand, the objective is to go back and fix everything we wish we could have fixed back then, while also still trying to achieve the best performance-per-dollar ratio possible.
Regarding the various value benchmarks for the System Builder Marathon, some of us like to ride a fine line when it comes to picking some of the cheapest parts in order to end up with the absolute best value overall. While there's nothing intrinsically wrong with that, it does sometimes lead to part choices that don't always align with the spirit of the build, or with what any self-respecting person would pick. That said, my main focus is solely going to be on the platform value benchmark, which in a way, will allow me to spend a little extra money on some of the non-performance parts and stay true to the gaming spirit of my build.
- Platform Cost: $926
- Total Hardware Cost: $1064
- Complete System Price: $1184
There is one last thing that I should probably mention: one of the nice things about the 4th Quarter System Builder Marathon is that Newegg is usually offering some pretty hefty discounts on many of its computer parts. I chose to take advantage of many of those discounts, so the prices in the table above are going to be a bit lower than what you would normally pay.
Unlike the Cooler Master Hyper T4 that Thomas is using, the Hyper 212 Evo attaches to the motherboard a bit of a differently. The 212 Evo includes a similar support plate and pins for the same sockets as the T4 (LGA 775, 115x and 1366) but the cross-bracket mounts to the top of the base of the cooler's heatsink. The whole thing is then placed on top of the CPU and four screws are used to tighten the entire assembly.
As I mentioned earlier, there was a bit of a concern as to whether the Hyper 212 Evo would fit in my choice of case, since its height is approximately 159mm and the maximum cooler height for the Carbide SPEC-03 is 157mm. I did some quick online research to see if I could make this work and there happened to be several individuals that used this particular cooler/case combination without issue. In the end, everything worked out well, albeit with no room to spare.
I'm not sure if it's just me, but almost every computer that I've built recently seems to suffer from a single power cable that's so short that it almost won't run the distance from the PSU to the motherboard. Usually it's the 4/8 pin CPU power connection, but I've also experienced this issue with the 24-pin ATX power cable. I'm not sure if it's some change motherboard manufactures have made, or if the PSU manufactures are just including shorter cables. If it were any other part it wouldn't be an issue, since I could just move it to a different spot in the case, but you can't exactly relocate the motherboard at will.
In this particular build, it happened to be the 8-pin CPU cable, that had enough room to run the distance, but no more. While I could have just bought some sort of extension cable, it would be nice if this weren't an issue in the first place.
After installing the motherboard, CPU/cooler and PSU, I moved on to the rest of the case. The optical drive, SSD and hard drive all mount in tool-less drive bays, making them a breeze to just slide in to their respective places. Next, after quickly retrieving a screwdriver I unscrewed the over-torqued thumbscrews that were holding the expansion slot covers in place and installed the graphics card. Finally, after a bit of quick cable management to get everything fitting behind the motherboard tray, I put the right panel back on the case and ended up with smooth, clean build.