System Builder Marathon, Q1 2014: The $2400 People’s Choice PC

Motherboard, Case, And Power

The LGA 1150 market is flooded with Z87 Express-based motherboards battling for value supremacy. We only needed to look back to Fast And Cheap? Five Sub-$160 Z87 Motherboards For Enthusiasts to narrow the field.

Motherboard: ASRock Z87 Extreme4

We've given ASRock a hard time for using temporary discounts to win favor. But today's regular price for the Z87 Extreme4 is pretty much the formerly-discounted price. Other vendors haven't kept pace with the company's aggressive pricing, so the board's Smart Buy award remains very much relevant.

Read Customer Reviews of ASRock's Z87 Extreme4 (opens in new tab)

The Z87 Extreme4 won its award by offering more features than the similarly-priced Biostar Hi-Fi Z87X 3D. Both products provide the exceptional overclocking capability we seek, but Biostar was unable to drop its price to compensate for a lighter feature set.

Case: NZXT Phantom 410

NZXT’s Phantom 410 won an award for its cooling-to-noise ratio in spite of its ventilated side panel. That’s impressive. I’d like to imagine what the case might accomplish with an extra intake fan on the front and no vent in the side panel.

Read Customer Reviews of NZXT's Phantom 410 (opens in new tab)

On the other hand, it’s easier for me to imagine what this case might look like with liquid cooling installed. The top panel design begs for a radiator, and today it’s getting one.

Power Supply: Corsair HX750

My previous build lived well under an 850 W Seasonic power supply, even after overclocking its early-technology six-core processor. The new CPU would save at least 100 W, and that opened up higher-efficiency options like Corsair’s HX750.

Read Customer Reviews of Corsair's HX750 PSU (opens in new tab)

Rock-solid stability through several of my previous builds keeps Corsair’s HX750 on my short list, while an 80 PLUS Gold rating also reduces operational expense compared to the previous build’s 850 W 80 PLUS Bronze-rated unit. Some readers will likely criticize the part for being semi-modular, but the non-modular cables are needed anyway.

Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • Darkerson
    Interesting move, showing the nicest build 1st instead of last. Cant wait to see all the builds compared and see what you all come up with as the budget goes down.
    Reply
  • captain_jonno
    Looks good. Surprised only went with a 750w PSU though. Considering 2x 780 ti's and overlocking
    Reply
  • Crashman
    12951919 said:
    Looks good. Surprised only went with a 750w PSU though. Considering 2x 780 ti's and overlocking
    Yessir, two 780s and a bit of experience in part picking lead me to expect around 700W of required system power. And, it came out just a little less than 700W.

    Power supplies of greater capacity and similar reliability at this price tend to be lower-efficiency units. And we like efficiency too.

    Reply
  • YellowBee
    I dont get the "W" usage?680+237 = 917w. Not 802w as meation above?
    Reply
  • Crashman
    12952008 said:
    I dont get the "W" usage?680+237 = 917w. Not 802w as meation above?
    It's not calculated power, it's measured power for the entire system (at the power plug). No addition or subtraction was used.

    1.) Start the system, wait for all processes to load, take a measurement (Active, but idle)
    2.) Load the CPU using eight thread of AVX-optimized Prime95, take a reading (CPU Load).
    3.) Load GPUs with 3DMark 11 Test 1 in loop, take max reading as it heats up (GPU Load).
    4.) Load both applications (CPU+GPU Load).

    The "math problem" is that any program used to fully load the GPU also partly loads the CPU. So when test 4 is Prime95+3DMark, Prime95 can only use whatever CPU resources are left with 3DMark running.

    So the most accurate system power reading is with "CPU+GPU Load" applied. The system measurement for "CPU Load" still includes the power of an idle GPU. And the system power measurement for "GPU Load" still includes the amount of CPU energy it takes to run the GPU's test application.
    Reply
  • YellowBee
    12952046 said:
    12952008 said:
    I dont get the "W" usage?680+237 = 917w. Not 802w as meation above?
    It's not a calculation, it's a reading for the entire system (at the power plug). Load the CPU using eight thread of AVX-optimized Prime95, take reading one. Load GPUs with 3DMark 11 Test 1 in loop, take max reading as it heats up.

    The "math problem" is that any program used to fully load the GPU also partly loads the CPU. So when test 3 is Prime95+3DMark, Prime95 can only use whatever CPU resources are left with 3DMark running.

    So the most accurate system power reading is with "CPU+GPU Load" applied. The system measurement for "CPU Load" still includes the reading of an idle GPU. And the system power measurement for "GPU Load" still includes the amount of CPU power it takes to run the GPU.

    Very much appreciated and satisfying answer.
    Thanks Crashman :)
    Reply
  • bemused_fred
    12952008 said:
    I dont get the "W" usage?680+237 = 917w. Not 802w as meation above?
    It's not calculated power, it's measured power for the entire system (at the power plug). No addition or subtraction was used.1.) Start the system, wait for all processes to load, take a measurement (Active, but idle)2.) Load the CPU using eight thread of AVX-optimized Prime95, take a reading (CPU Load).3.) Load GPUs with 3DMark 11 Test 1 in loop, take max reading as it heats up (GPU Load).4.) Load both applications (CPU+GPU Load).The "math problem" is that any program used to fully load the GPU also partly loads the CPU. So when test 4 is Prime95+3DMark, Prime95 can only use whatever CPU resources are left with 3DMark running.So the most accurate system power reading is with "CPU+GPU Load" applied. The system measurement for "CPU Load" still includes the power of an idle GPU. And the system power measurement for "GPU Load" still includes the amount of CPU energy it takes to run the GPU's test application.
    Any chance of including these calculations in all future articles, so that we know exactly how the power graph is calculated? Ta.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    12952271 said:
    12952046 said:
    It's not calculated power, it's measured power for the entire system
    Any chance of including these calculations in all future articles, so that we know exactly how the power graph is calculated? Ta.
    Which calculations?

    Reply
  • jabuscus
    wow. such performance. many ram. they should've put in 16gb of ram for real high-end specs. ;)
    Reply
  • Versutia
    As I'm into quiet enclosures, I'd go along this route:

    http://pcpartpicker.com/p/3fuGw

    Wondering how much of a difference would non-reference cards make. Obviously, CPU cooler and RAM could be different, BR drive optional, storage drive as well.
    Reply