More Performance, More Value
System Builder Marathon, Q3 2014: The Articles
Here are links to each of the four 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!
Day 1: The Budget Gaming PC
Day 2: Our Mainstream Enthusiast System
Day 3: The $1600 High-End Build
Day 4: Performance And Value, Dissected
Our latest round of System Builder Marathon machines saw Paul and Don chasing bigger overclocks while I simply tried to fix mine. Purchased just before Intel launched Devil's Canyon, my machine last quarter was stuck with a mere 4.2 GHz CPU overclock that required a massive 1.28 V to reach. Lacking the Haswell update's cooling advantage, my -4770K appeared to be nothing more than a reject, cast off from Intel’s binning process as the company began stockpiling anything resembling a good die for its next new model. Or maybe it was just bad luck-of-the-draw.
Paul switched his $500 PC to Intel’s low-cost overclocking CPU, the Pentium G3258, after noting a new way to use cheap boards with unlocked CPUs.
Don took advantage of a long-standing $75 discount on Zotac’s factory-overclocked GeForce GTX 770, putting any savings on his $1000 PC towards a larger CPU cooler.
Meanwhile, I avoided the binning tomfoolery altogether by ordering its flagship Haswell-based Core i7-4790K, using a recent motherboard price drop to offset the CPU upcharge.
But wait, didn’t we call these $600, $1300, and $1600 builds? In theory, we’re supposed to have $500, $1000, and $1500 to cover mandatory hardware, and negotiations with all three builders yielded $100, $200, and $300 for stuff that wouldn’t be needed to make the system operational (the platform).
That leads to $600, $1200, and $1800 budgets including the operating system, case, optical drive, and accessories. Paul can’t fit anything more than the OS into his $100, so he refers to his platform budget at $450. Don overspends, so he just changed the name of his $1200 machine to $1300. And though more money was available to me, I’m still trying to fit all of my hardware into a 3x multiple of Paul’s total hardware budget.
|Q3 2014 System Builder Marathon Components|
|Row 0 - Cell 0||Q3 $600 PC||Q2 $1300 PC||Q3 $1600 PC|
|Processor||Intel Pentium G3258 3.2 GHz, no Turbo Boost Two Cores, 3 MB L3||Intel Core i5-4690K: 3.5 GHz-3.9 GHz Four Cores, 6 MB L3||Intel Core i7-4790K: 4.0GHz-4.4GHz Four Cores, 8 MB L3|
|Graphics||Sapphire Dual-X 100365L 2 GB Radeon R9 270||Zotac AMP! Superclocked ZT-70303-10P 3 GB GeForce GTX 770||PowerColor PCS+ AXR9 290X 4 GB Radeon R9 290X|
|Motherboard||MSI H81M-P33: LGA 1150, Intel H81||ASRock Z97 Killer: LGA1150, Intel Z97||MSI Z97 Gaming 5: LGA 1150, Intel Z97|
|Memory||Team Dark TDBD38G1600HC9DC01 DDR3-1600 C9, 8 GB||G.Skill Trident F3-2400C10D-8GTD DDR3-2400 C10, 8 GB||G.Skill Ripjaws X F3-14900CL8D-8GBXM DDR3-1600 C8, 8 GB|
|System Drive||WD Blue WD10EZEX: 1 TB, SATA 6Gb/s HDD||ASP920SS3-128GM-C 128 GB SATA 6Gb/s SSD||Plextor M6S PX-256M6S: 256 GB SATA 6Gb/s SSD|
|Power||Antec VP-450: 450 W Non-Modular No Efficiency Rating||IN WIN GreenMe 650 650 W Non-Modular 80 PLUS Bronze||EVGA Supernova 750 B2: 750 W Semi-Modular 80 PLUS Bronze|
|CPU Cooler||Intel Boxed CPU Cooler||Noctua NH-D14||Phanteks PH-TC14PE|
|Storage Drive||Uses System Drive||WD Blue WD10EZEX: 1 TB, SATA 6Gb/s HDD||WD Blue WD10EZEX: 1 TB, SATA 6Gb/s HDD|
|Optical||LG GH24NSB0B: 24x DVD±R, 48x CD-R||Asus DRW-24B1ST: 24x DVD±R, 48x CD-R||LG GH24NSB0B: 24x DVD±R, 48x CD-R|
|Case||Rosewill Challenger||Cooler Master HAF XM RC-922XM-KKN1||Enermax Ostrog GT ECA3280A-BR|
|OS||Windows 8.1 x64 OEM|
Though I blamed a lackluster CPU sample for my previous overclocking woes, I wanted to remove all doubt from your minds concerning this quarter’s build. Choosing a cheaper case allowed me to spend more on CPU cooling. Don had the same idea, but chose to add the cost of a similar cooler on top of his budget. He did keep the total cost below $1250 though, so I still would have probably called it a slightly over-budget $1200 PC rather than pretend its budget was higher. Then again, I’m treating my $1800 budget as if it were $1600…
The first I think I'd build as an uncle-nephew project, then he and his sisters would have an excellent homework machine that would be capable of some fun too.
Either the second or third I'd mix and match with some of my own parts, but their platforms would become my new primary machine, just to update what I've got. I'd love to win any of them.
Conversely, 1600x900 and 1280x720 ARE able to run on 1920x1080 displays.
Nobody thinks you're using a 1600x900 display. 1600x900 is a backup resolution for people who want to run 1920x1080 with super-high quality, but find that their graphics card is too weak. Options for a slightly-underpowered graphics card are to set 1600x900, which looks good on a 1920x1080 display, or to use lower quality settings. If you're not geek enough to know that, you've no room to complain.
The motherboard would cost around $120 more, the CPU $50 more, and the DRAM at least $50 more to reach slightly lower overall performance rating (DDR4-2133 CAS 16, for example). The added threads would allow faster encoding and compiling times in roughly 20% of the tests, while lower clock rate would cause slower performance in nearly all the other tests. We'd probably be lucky to break even on this benchmark set, while spending more money.
Thanks for not thinking of me as a geek now go tell that to my ex-wife.
People asked us a long time ago to quit with the 2560x1600 tests because hardly anyone had 2560x1600 monitors. And our 2560x1600 monitors won't do 2560x1440, so we'd have to pay for a new "QHD" monitor in order to drop to 2560x1440 from our long-forgotten 2560x1600.
3x 1920x1080 is cheap enough for most high-end builders (I got my screen for around $120 each), and gives you the advantage of peripheral vision. Gaming is pretty cool in "Surround", a lot of guys even prefer it.