System Builder Marathon Q2 2015: $1600 Gaming PC

Component Selection

In keeping within the spirit of the GPU vs. CPU challenge, I focused a huge chunk of my budget on the platform's 3D potential. In fact, just over one-third of this first machine’s System Builder Marathon funding went to graphics, followed by the CPU.

Gigabyte GeForce GTX 980 (opens in new tab)
Gigabyte GeForce GTX 980
Intel Core i5-4690K Devil's Canyon (opens in new tab)
Intel Core i5-4690K Devil's Canyon
Zalman CNPS10X Optima (opens in new tab)
Zalman CNPS10X Optima

After choosing the two key components for Big Build (and spending more than half of my budget), the next thing I needed to focus on was memory and storage. I wanted to keep things interesting, so I bounced around a bit to fit in at least one well-known goodie (the SSD) along with one brand I’m not too familiar with (RAM) and a couple of obvious accessories (hard drive and DVD).

Team Xtreme 16GB (2 x 8GB) (opens in new tab)
Team Xtreme 16GB (2 x 8GB)

For storage, I’m going with a nice tiered subsystem sensitive to my budget limitations, including an SSD for the operating system and a HDD for user files. In this case, I’m throwing in a 240GB SanDisk Extreme Pro SSD for the system drive, and a 1TB Seagate Barracuda for the music, movies and documents.

SanDisk Extreme Pro (240GB) (opens in new tab)
SanDisk Extreme Pro (240GB)
Seagate Barracuda (1TB) (opens in new tab)
Seagate Barracuda (1TB)
Samsung DVD Writer (opens in new tab)
Samsung DVD Writer

Once I figured out all of the big components, I needed to build out the backbone and chassis to put it all in. The motherboard was priority one in this group, followed by a power supply and a nice big case.

ASRock Z97 Extreme6 (opens in new tab)
ASRock Z97 Extreme6
Corsair CSM 750W (opens in new tab)
Corsair CSM 750W
DIYPC Adventurer-9601G (opens in new tab)
DIYPC Adventurer-9601G
  • pasow
    your listing for the GTX 980 in the article links to the motherboard.
  • Math Geek
    i like that the builds finally contain both ssd and hdd as well as some alternative cooling solutions this time around. nice to see that there are other options for cooling besides the normal suggestions that still do a nice job. that case also seemed like a decent choice though for the money, i'm sure there are better ones you could have gotten.

    now cue the corsair psu haters in 3....2.....

    edit: i see a lot of different ideas of what "could" have been done with the money, but honestly we all know what these suggested parts can do already. using non-traditional parts in the build gives up numbers on some pieces we may not have tried out before. the numbers may not be overly positive but i learn something from them either way. so maybe take this as a lesson on "what not to do" and move on if you're so inclined. always nice to see stats on machines built with "other" parts at least for the learning opportunity :)
  • balister
    Is there a typo with the price on the gtx 980 or did you pay more for it when you got the components? I'm showing that the price of the system (minus Windows and not counting in shipping) of ~$1295 (a little over $200 shy of the $1600 mark).
  • SylentVyper
    There is a LOT of waste in this build. You can get the same build, with all the same specs, while paying $300 less.

    You can get RAM for almost half that price, a good SSD for about half that price, and an SLI-capable motherboard for half that price.
  • AdviserKulikov
    According to tom's own benchmarks, RAM doesn't have a significant impact on performance in gaming, any reason why the gaming PC is featuring memory overcosted by about $50-$60?
  • Jeffs0418
    There are some major typos and incorrect links here. Somehow I doubt the GTX980 price of $169.99...
    If it is I want one!
  • 10tacle
    Wow they were only getting to 4.2GHz at 1.24v and hitting 89C+ on three of the four cores. That is not good. Not sure if it's a bad chip, but even that mid-range cooler should do way better than that. For comparison with my 4690K on a Noctua NH-D14, in the summer I scale back my overclock and run at 4.3GHz at 1.12v and hit mid-50C even with a 78F indoor A/C setting.
  • Andrewst1021
    A lot of waste, 8 gb of ram and a cheaper case would of put you just shy of the gtx 980ti price range.
  • WHComp
    You can get an Intel Xeon E3-1231v3 for $7 more on newegg:

    I am not a gamer but I do build a lot of CAD workstations at work. I do not see why the xeon is not a massive improvement over the i5. It is missing the integrated graphics, but that should not matter for gamers same as it works for my CAD workstations.

    I have wondered about this for a long time, someone please explain.
  • Aspiring techie
    Was it possible to mount a case fan on the other side of the Zalman cooler, or did I miss something? If it was, then you could have gotten the temps down by a few degrees in a push-pull configuration.