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

An Alphabet Soup Of Storage: SSD, HDD, And ODD

Readers recommended a change in CPU and graphics, so I tried to keep the other performance-oriented aspects of this build as close to the previous effort as possible. Since system drive performance is among our measurements, the previous machine’s SSD remains.

System Drive: SanDisk Ultra Plus SDSSDHP-256G-G25

It’s no longer mentioned in our Best SSDs For The Money column, but that’s probably because a competing model dropped to $200.

Read Customer Reviews of SanDisk's Ultra Plus 256 GB SSD (opens in new tab)

The SanDisk Ultra Plus is still an attractive deal at $170 though, placed between Tiers 1 and 3 in both performance and price. No Tier 2 products made the recommended list, though the guide’s editor seemed to have other priorities.

Storage Drive: Seagate Barracuda 2 TB

SSD-equipped systems usually run out of capacity long before you start piling on your collection of movies, music, and pictures. A hard drive assumes the role of mass storage for stuff that doesn’t get used as often and isn't performance-sensitive.

Read Customer Reviews of Seagate's Barracuda 2 TB (opens in new tab)

Even though it sports a 7200 RPM spindle speed and 64 MB of cache, we’re not expecting any speed records from the ST2000DM001. But it does give us a lot of storage space for $90. Better still (for me), this optional component isn’t tested by our benchmark suite.

Optical Drive: Lite-On iHAS124

I’ve always believed that a high-end build should have the flexibility to support multiple media formats, which is why I usually equip these machines with a Blu-ray writer. Unfortunately, the original order price of our other components didn’t leave room in the budget for that this time.

Read Customer Reviews of Lite-On's iHAS124 (opens in new tab)

Able to burn DVD media at 24x and read my driver discs before I could get online to look for update, Lite-On’s iHAS124 is a low-cost solution to a problem that some of our readers don't have. Still, I consider the $20 spend to be worthwhile.

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