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System Builder Marathon Q3 2014: High-End Performance PC

CPU, Graphics And Memory

CPU: Intel Core i7-4790K

I rarely get a retail CPU that doesn't overclock well, but that’s exactly what happened last quarter. We have little doubt that Intel sorts its processors to put the best cores within its highest-end SKUs, but somehow I ended up with a dud, even after buying the best LGA 1150-based processor the company sold at the time. I was almost certain to get a better CPU this time.

Read Customer Reviews of Intel's Core i7-4790K CPU

The reason I knew I’d get a better processor is because the factory-set clock rate for this build’s Core i7-4790K is higher than the top overclock I achieved last quarter.

The only reason I can think of that my Core i7-4770K maxed out at 4.2 GHz and 1.28 V is that Intel was already setting aside its best dies for the Core i7-4790K in advance of the new model’s release.

Graphics Card: PowerColor PCS+ AXR9 290X 4GBD5-PPDHE

Some of our readers don’t care for the PowerColor brand, and the company justified their distrust once with a batch of incorrect firmware. That move could have crossed this model off my short list had I not already bought it, and PowerColor might not have received a second chance had I not already had the card in-hand. But I’m now glad this company has a chance to redeem itself.

Read Customer Reviews of PowerColor PCS+ AXR9 290X 4GBD5-PPDHE Graphics Card

Quick to address the firmware issue, PowerColor proved it really would sell the same card that earned our award. That value award was based partly on better-than-reference performance, and partly on an improved temperature-to-noise ratio of its triple-fan cooler. We’re happy that the current run of cards provides the expected performance, and PowerColor even took the time to correspond publicly with those customers who had previously been affected by the bad run of parts.

Memory: 8 GB G.Skill DDR3-1866 CAS 8

Last quarter’s memory worked so well that I couldn’t find a good excuse to change it. This is the same G.Skill memory that I’ve used in most of my recent builds due to a relatively low price and overclocking consistency.

Read Customer Reviews of G.Skill's 8 GB DDR3-1866 CAS 8 RAM

It does look a little different than the memory of some of those builds, but that’s only because G.Skill offers the same ICs and circuit boards at several speeds, under multiple part numbers, and with several different heat spreader styles.

Among the least-expensive of those various iterations, this Ripjaws X F3-14900CL8D-8GBXM dual-channel kit comes with a DDR3-1866 C8 rating that means it’s probably binned a little higher than the similar C9 version.

  • Onus
    Alternate builds, regardless of other merits, which do not conform to SBM rules (e.g. parts from sources other than Newegg) will be deleted as off-topic to the SBM discussion.
    Reply
  • SuckRaven
    I love the SBM articles that Tom's publishes, and read them regularly. However with respect to the self-limiting / self imposed (or perhaps not self) budget constraints, I feel that often the various builds end up feeling somewhat dated. I understand this is a result of the criteria that are set, and well explained, but I also think Tom's should do a somewhat more price-no-object oriented build as well. Of course, I am aware of the difficulties here. But a build with current motherboards with X99 chipsets, the newest Haswell-E processors, the latest in NVIDIA / AMD multi-GPUs, DDR4 RAM, the fastest/most durable SSDs, and liquid and air cooling might be of interest to a lot of readers as well (including myself). Efficiency and performance value/dollar aside, I would love to see a machine like this go head to head with the current high-end build, just for the sake of curiosity, if not necessarily practicality.
    Reply
  • Onus
    I thoroughly enjoyed the writeup of this PC. I've often found selections in the high-priced build way more than I need myself, but this is the first time I can recall not also thinking "what a waste" about one part or another. This one was good.
    Reply
  • mavikt
    I won't get excited for a new build until both CPU and GPU have gotten their die shrink.
    These quarterly builds usually only show miniscule improvements unless something disruptive happens to the market like a tick or tock. These articles could as well be bi-annual. Good though that the price point that you're at shifts from time to time.
    Reply
  • bmyton
    4790k -> 4690k = -$100
    290x -> SLI 770 = +$100
    Same budget, theoretically a 10-15% performance boost, and new topic of discussion as part of the article.

    These SBM builds have taken very few risks in the last few quarters...
    Reply
  • ShermOR
    GTX 980 $560 = + $30 = $1665
    Reply
  • Crashman
    14249729 said:
    4790k -> 4690k = -$100
    290x -> SLI 770 = +$100
    Same budget, theoretically a 10-15% performance boost, and new topic of discussion as part of the article.

    These SBM builds have taken very few risks in the last few quarters...
    I was actually thinking of using two of the cards Don used in his build, before I found out that Don had one. That would only be +$20 without downgrading the CPU.

    Reply
  • Mac266
    PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant
    CPU: Intel Core i5-4690K 3.5GHz Quad-Core Processor ($239.99 @ Newegg)
    CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO 82.9 CFM Sleeve Bearing CPU Cooler ($34.99 @ Newegg)
    Motherboard: ASRock Z97 EXTREME4 ATX LGA1150 Motherboard ($143.79 @ Newegg)
    Memory: Team Vulcan 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($76.99 @ Newegg)
    Storage: Crucial MX100 256GB 2.5" Solid State Drive ($115.98 @ Newegg)
    Storage: Western Digital Caviar Blue 1TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($59.99 @ Newegg)
    Video Card: Asus GeForce GTX 780 3GB DirectCU II Video Card (2-Way SLI) ($329.99 @ Newegg)
    Video Card: Asus GeForce GTX 780 3GB DirectCU II Video Card (2-Way SLI) ($329.99 @ Newegg)
    Power Supply: Corsair Professional 850W 80+ Gold Certified Semi-Modular ATX Power Supply ($129.99 @ Newegg)
    Total: $1461.70
    Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when availableGenerated by PCPartPicker 2014-09-25 18:14 EDT-0400
    What about this? Might be cheating, given the price drops from the GTX 900 series release. Also add $10 from a promo on the PSU.
    Reply
  • DynamoNED
    This is one of my favorite High-End Builds in recent memory, because it is very balanced, without some of the excesses from previous builds. It's very nearly what I would build myself on that budget. Bravo, Thomas!
    Reply
  • 10tacle
    This is like the third SBM article I've seen that just missed the latest GPU release, and hence, it wasn't included. Surely it was known the GTX 980 release was around the corner when this build was thought up. Is there a reason why these SMBs can't be held off if it is known a new GPU series is coming out (and will actually be available in stock) within a matter of a couple of weeks or even a month?

    With that said, I do find these SBM articles most interesting of all.
    Reply