System Builder Marathon Q2 2014: System Value Compared

How We Tested Our Q2 2014 SBM Builds

The following tables include the stock and overclocked settings for this quarter's three System Builder Marathon configurations.

At the very bottom, you’ll find the programs and games used for benchmarking.

Test Hardware Configurations
 $600 Gaming PC$1200 Enthusiast PC$1600 Performance PC
AMD Athlon X4 750K: 3.4 to 4.0 GHz, Quad-Core
O/C to 4.20 GHz, 1.27 V
Intel Core i5-4670K: 3.4 to 3.8 GHz, Quad-Core
O/C to 4.3 GHz, 1.285 V
Intel Core i7-4770K: 3.5 GHz to 3.9 GHz, Quad-Core
O/C to 4.20 GHz, 1.29 V
Radeon R7 265: 955 MHz GPU,  GDDR5-5600
O/C to 1050 MHz, GDDR5-5800
Radeon R9 290: 975 MHz GPU, GDDR5-5000
O/C to 1100 MHz, GDDR5-5600
Radeon R9 290X: 1050 MHz GPU,  GDDR5-5400
O/C to 1100 MHz, GDDR5-6200
8 GB DDR3-1600 CAS 9-9-9-24, O/C to DDR3-1866 CAS 9-9-9-24, 1.63 V8 GB DDR3-1600 CAS 9-9-9-24, no O/C8 GB DDR3-1866 CAS 8-9-9-24, O/C to DDR3-2133 CL 9-10-10-27, 1.60 V
ASRock FM2A75M: Socket FM2+, AMD A75 (CPU internal O/C 2000 MHz HT)ASRock Z97 Pro3: LGA 1150, Intel Z87 Express
Stock 100 MHz BCLK
Asus Z97-A: LGA 1150, Intel Z97 Express
Stock 100 MHz BCLK
CaseRosewill Redbone U3Apevia X-HermesCM Storm Scout 2 Advanced
CPU CoolerAMD Athlon Boxed Fan (included)Cooler Master Hyper 212 PlusThermaltake NiC L32
Hard DriveWD Blue WD10EZEX 1 TB, 7200 RPM, 64 MB CacheWD Blue WD10EZEX 1 TB, 7200 RPM, 64 MB CacheSamsung MZ-7TE250BW 250 GB SATA 6Gb/s SSD
PowerEVGA 100-W1-0430-KR: 430 W, ATX12V v2.31, 80 PLUSCorsair CX750: 750 W, 80 PLUS BronzeRosewill HIVE-750: 750 W Semi-Modular, 80 PLUS Bronze
OSMicrosoft Windows 8 Pro x64Microsoft Windows 8 Pro x64Microsoft Windows 8 Pro x64
GraphicsAMD Catalyst 14.4AMD Catalyst 14.4AMD Catalyst 14.4
Chipset Intel INF INF

You’d expect at least 4.3 GHz from a Core i7-4770K, right? That average is what, around 4.4 GHz? And our own samples frequently reach 4.7 GHz. It's tempting to blame the previously-untested CPU cooler for my $1600 machine’s poor results, but that mid-priced part still managed to support the CPU to our previous limit voltage. And voltage is the biggest variable in heat, particularly when most of that heat is trapped under a layer of sub-par thermal interface material that Intel previously used between its die and heat spreader.

Overclocking issues are virtually non-existent for any of the other parts in this competition. Don usually reaches 4.3 GHz on his Core i5s, and usually leaves his memory underclocked for initial testing whenever standard clocks require XMP (since this was supposed to be an overclocking technology). Paul reached only 4.2 GHz where he might have hoped for 4.4 GHz. But he didn’t spend any money on CPU cooling, so he doesn't fare badly at all.

Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
Arma 3
V. 1.20 Current PC, V.1.08 Q1 PC
30-sec. Fraps "Infantry Showcase"
Test Set 1: Standard Preset, No AA, Standard AF
Test Set 2: Ultra Preset, 8x FSAA, Ultra AF
Battlefield 4Version, DirectX 11, 100-sec. Fraps "Tashgar"
Test Set 1: Medium Quality Preset, No AA, 4x AF, SSAO
Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Preset, 4x MSAA, 16x AF, HBAO
Far Cry 3V. 1.05, DirectX 11, 50-sec. Fraps "Amanaki Outpost"
Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA, Standard ATC, SSAO
Test Set 2: Ultra Quality, 4x MSAA, Enhanced ATC, HDAO AMD/ HBAO NVidia 
Grid 2Version, Direct X 11, Built-in Benchmark
Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA
Test Set 2: Ultra Quality, 8x MSAA
Audio/Video Encoding
HandBrake CLIVersion: 0.99, Video: Video from Canon EOS 7D (1920x1080, 25 frames) 1 Minutes 22 Seconds, Audio: PCM-S16, 48,000 Hz, Two-channel, to Video: AVC1 Audio: AAC (High Profile)
iTunesVersion x64: Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 minutes, default AAC format 
LAME MP3Version 3.98.3: Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 min, convert WAV to MP3 audio format, Command: -b 160 --nores (160 Kb/s)
TotalCode Studio 2.5Version:, MPEG2 to H.264, MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG-2), Audio: MPEG-2 (44.1 kHz, Two-channel, 16-bit, 224 Kb/s) Codec: H.264 Pro, Mode: PAL 50i (25 FPS), Profile: H.264 BD HDMV
Adobe Creative Suite
Adobe After Effects CCVersion Create Video, 3 Streams, 210 Frames, Render Multiple Frames Simultaneously
Adobe Photoshop CCVersion 14 x64: Filter 15.7 MB TIF Image: Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates
Adobe Premiere Pro CS6Version, 6.61 GB MXF Project to H.264 to H.264 Blu-ray, Output 1920x1080, Maximum Quality
Adobe Acrobat XIVersion 11.0.0: Print PDF from 115 Page PowerPoint, 128-bit RC4 Encyption
ABBYY FineReaderVersion Read PDF save to Doc, Source: Political Economy (J. Broadhurst 1842) 111 Pages
Autodesk 3ds Max 2013Version 15.0 x64: Space Flyby Mentalray, 248 Frames, 1440x1080
BlenderVersion 2.68a, Cycles Engine, Syntax blender -b thg.blend -f 1, 1920x1080, 8x Anti-Aliasing, Render THG.blend frame 1
Visual StudioVersion 10.0, Compile Google Chrome, Scripted
7-ZipVersion 9.30 alpha, LZMA2, Syntax "a -t7z -r -m0=LZMA2 -mx=5"
Benchmark: THG-Workload-2012 (1.3 GB)
WinRARVersion 5.0, RAR, Syntax "winrar a -r -m3"
Benchmark: THG-Workload-2012 (1.3 GB)
WinZipVersion 18.0 Pro, Syntax "-a -ez -p -r"
Benchmark: THG-Workload-2012 (1.3 GB)
Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
3DMark ProfessionalVersion:, Fire Strike Standard and Extreme
PCMark 8Version: 1.0.0 x64 Full Test
SiSoftware Sandra 2014Version: 2014.02.20.10, Processor Arithmetic, Cryptography, Memory Bandwidth Benchmarks
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  • TechyInAZ
    It's interesting how the $1200 build actually beats the $1600 build at 1080P. I can see at ultra wide resolutions but it surprises me at 1080P.
  • revanchrist
    Are you sure it's 770 rather than a R7 265 inside that $454 budget build?
  • Herr_Koos
    On page 2 it says you used a GTX770 for the $600 budget build. Surely this is a typo? The GTX770was from last quarter.
  • Crashman
    Anonymous said:
    It's interesting how the $1200 build actually beats the $1600 build at 1080P. I can see at ultra wide resolutions but it surprises me at 1080P.
    I think your expectations are reversed. Most readers expect a higher CPU clock to boost performance at lower resolutions where the graphics card isn't stressed, and to have little effect at triple monitor resolutions where the GPU limits the frame rate.
    Anonymous said:
    On page 2 it says you used a GTX770 for the $600 budget build. Surely this is a typo? The GTX770was from last quarter.
    Thanks, fixed!
  • de5_Roy
    awesome sbm, awesome articles, all of them. awesome job, guys. this quarter's was a lot of fun. no shortage of interesting stuff, excitement. or drama, lol.
  • abbadon_34
    should give the winner his choice of $100 cash or OS
  • envy14tpe
    One thing I notice is that overclocking, even with $30 coolers, seems to give an overall boost in performance of 10%. Not too shabby.
  • Crashman
    Anonymous said:
    should give the winner his choice of $100 cash or OS
    Do you think any of us wants to buy your prize? If we didn't ourselves pay for these OS's, what makes you think we would pay for these OSs?

    I got my two licenses for like, $20. Though I probably couldn't get any more like that, I don't need any more at the moment, thanks. If you don't want the OS, and you win my PC, just tell me and I'll keep it. Thanks!
  • firefoxx04
    The mid range beating the high end in 1080p make sense considering it had a higher cpu clock and only 2-4 threads utilized most likely. I'm sure both gpu were in the 50-70% range
  • Onus
    Ok, with the final article, time to enter the contest!
    Disposition should I be a fortunate winner:
    1. Having not messed with a "new" Athlon, I might put a 92mm cooler on it and see what I can get out of it for a week or three. I'd almost certainly contribute a SSD to it, then most likely donate it to a startup I know of that actually is more in need of office-type PCs (but they do play some games).
    2. If the motherboard were micro-ATX, I'd probably use most of these parts to upgrade / replace my Phoenix PC, as they represent a platform upgrade. It would be a substantial upgrade to my Omega PC, but I like the idea of maintaining that AM3+ system due to the overall quality of the parts in it. If the Apevia case surprises me due to its quality, I may use it anyway. One way or another, this would lead to another complete system donation though.
    3. The parts in this one appear to be of sufficient quality / durability that I would probably end up forsaking the Omega PC for this one. I'd put its 990FX onto my test bench though to keep it around, and donate that one (MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming) as above.
  • Patrick Tobin
    Too bad the article wasn't done just a little later so they could put in a 4790K :(
  • dgingeri
    I find it quite funny that clock for clock and core for core, the Intel architecture is between 3 and 4 times as fast as the AMD architecture. AMD really needs to step up their game, badly.
  • Crashman
    Anonymous said:
    Too bad the article wasn't done just a little later so they could put in a 4790K :(
    You do realize that you get a new one in September, right?
  • Amdlova
    why we not have a mini itx config with 1600 bucks ? 4770k arock z97 itx noctua d14 bitfenix prodigy and a nice and heavy gtx 780ti. maybe a raid 0 samsung pro with 4 tb storage ? i think will be better than this one.
  • allanitomwesh
    Get's real hard to justify $2000 plus worth of hardware unless you'll actually do some powerful stuff with the rig. Go go budget rig,liked it from the start.
  • Duckhunt
    I really appreciate the article using AMD. I ought to go the AMD route for a NAS.
  • Duckhunt
    I wish they talked more the RAM prolonging the live of the SSD.

    Id also want system build for NAS and UPS and things. If you want to put your swap file in your memory. Get a UPS and link it so if the power fails you computer will shut down correctly. I wish they would of put that in this article.
    Power outage is a b+ch. I have not done this but i wish there would be an article on UPS's that work well and turn off everything orderly.

    It would be good if we had load shedding and other particulars to make the reliability higher. Id like a solar system with load shedding :P. So much fanciful thinking.
  • Duckhunt
    I wish they talked more the RAM prolonging the life of the SSD.
  • SirTrollsALot
    Forum Hijack Alert!!!
    I really wish they make more articles on upgrades or recycling, that would coexist with these new builds. I believe most Tom viewers, correct me if I am wrong, are not new to computers. For instance, I had an aging OC'd i7930 x58 with triple channel memory, the mobo died after many years, but tracking down a x58 board new is impossible today. So I had about $300 at the time to spend on a new CPU/MOBO (Im saving up for X99 btw) and wanted to use my old DDR3 1600 memory, SSD , HD, video card, and case.... Now what would be a good recommendation for that scenario? I went the following specs on my signature... $270 + about $30 shipping to Hawaii... :|
  • chucklepard
    I always love the System Builder Marathons, as they are targeted exactly to me and my price/performance/usage model. Have you ever considered occasionally including other types of builds? Such as the "My parent/sibling/spouse/friend" has asked me to build the cheapest basic web-surfing/music/photo uploading build I can make them. What's the lowest-cost, stable-running CPU/MB/RAM/SD/Optical/PS/Case actually worth using? Or ""I need to run virtual machines with Linux/XP/8.1 simultaneously. What are the best virtualizing MB/CPUs/HDs at specific prices points?" Your focus on gaming is admired and appreciated and is definitely the right approach for the average reader's personal use. However, the components you research are the ones I suspect most of us (and perhaps most of you) enjoy researching, and saving us research time on other component and system types would free up more time to build and use the personal builds you help us identify!