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System Builder Marathon Q2 2015: $1600 Mini Performance PC

$1600 Mini Performance PC

Did you think I was going to say something about the packaging of explosives? Or perhaps your most burning question concerned my decision to pack a Haswell-E CPU and high-end graphics card into a mini-cube half the size of a jerry-can? The story starts with two requests from readers, first to include Haswell-E in my general performance build, and second to feature Mini ITX machines in a System Builder Marathon. My first choice was to go big with the Core i7-5820K in our traditional 3-way build-off, but then we temporarily lost a competitor to his day-job. Now down to two builders, we decided that we could follow both paths by combining traditional ATX and mini ITX builds in a single quarter. Each of the remaining builders would first build a big system, and then try to match it with compact hardware. But that doesn’t exactly explain the mini-ITX Haswell-E experiment, does it?

After building a Core i7-5820k alternative PC at the end of last-quarter’s SBM, I told readers I’d stick with that formula on this month’s big system. Replicating the performance of the big machine in a Mini ITX PC meant using the only X99 motherboard in that form factor, ASRock’s X99E-ITX/ac. I’d still need to follow budget restrictions, even though it cost $60 more than the board chosen for the big system. My zeal to meet all of my commitments while catering to the compact PC faithful left me few case/cooling/power choices, yet I’m confident in my abilities as a builder. So confident, in fact, that I chose a case roughly 2/3 the size of my competitor’s LGA-1150 machine!

  • Platform Cost: $1,376
  • Total Hardware Cost: $1,496
  • Complete System Price: $1,596

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I know that a few of our big PC builders are looking at this thing and thinking “that’ll never work”, but before you close out of this article please let me explain my theory of why it will. Am I over-confident or simply competent? Even if I fail, there’s nothing better than a car crash to keep your eyes glued to the screen, right?

  • UltimateDeep
    Baby PC able to out-overclock the Papa PC, gosh, this shouldn't be happening but it did anyway!
    Reply
  • MasterDell
    PSU used is not Haswell Certified.
    Reply
  • eldragon0
    Great write up, but the 5820k has 6 cores ( OC section says four physical cores)
    Reply
  • RazberyBandit
    Tricky tricky tricky tricky!

    Relate to a younger generation? A reader would have to be at least 35-years old (and into Hip-Hop) to have gotten that reference...

    You Be Illin' =)
    Reply
  • Crashman
    16145478 said:
    Tricky tricky tricky tricky!

    Relate to a younger generation? A reader would have to be at least 35-years old (and into Hip-Hop) to have gotten that reference...

    You Be Illin' =)
    I'm just fighting for your right to party. No need to take this on all by yourself, any more.

    Reply
  • CaedenV
    @Razbery and Crashman
    Nice :)
    Reply
  • Aspiring techie
    Sweet. The mini itx form factor doesn't limit performance at this price level. I guess you learn something new every day :)
    Reply
  • daveys93
    "High-resolution performance might have been better still had that machine contained a pair of R9 290X cards rather than a pair of GTX 270s."

    Typo? I think you mean 970s.
    Reply
  • atheus
    Again you sacrifice cooling performance to pick up an optical drive. Are you being paid off by big optic...oil?

    Admit it, you just chose that motherboard because it lets you plug this bad boy in:
    Reply
  • Nythious
    It's about time people start realizing that smaller cases restrict the impact of ambient temperatures because the total air volume is recycled faster than larger cases.
    Reply