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System Builder Marathon, Q1 2014: Our New Enthusiast PC

A Core i7 And Flagship GPU Impress, Naturally

Despite an upgrade to Intel's Core i7-4770K and a $660 GeForce GTX 780 Ti graphics card, this quarter's enthusiast-oriented build is actually a little cheaper than my last effort, which included a Core i5 and two GeForce GTX 770s in SLI. Most of that comes from a lower-priced motherboard, less expensive storage, and a lower-output power supply.

The stock performance of this build suffered a bit because my memory kit defaulted to 1333 MT/s (Ed.: Which is by design; most enthusiasts know to enable XMP right out of the gate to correct this fail-safe of sorts). That bottleneck was mitigated by the overclocked configuration, which is where I triggered the XMP profile.

Here's the performance breakdown.

I'm a little surprised to see the Core i7-4770K merely matching the performance of my Core i5 at stock clocks in the A/V transcoding suite. But when you look at the individual benchmarks, it's clear that half were penalized for my memory setting. The other half actually did run faster. And the issue was obliterated after a bit of tweaking, giving this quarter's machine a notable advantage in processor-limited metrics.

We also see that one GeForce GTX 780 Ti isn't as fast as two 770s in SLI. Again, no shock there. Let's dig a little deeper into the gaming numbers to see how the match-up shakes out at 1920x1080 and Surround resolutions:

At 1920x1080, the GeForce GTX 780 Ti does a much better job of keeping up with the two GeForce GTX 770s in SLI. When the resolution increases to 4800x900, the dual-GPU configuration walks away with a clear win. Not that I needed it, but this is more evidence to support my opinion that SLI makes the most sense in multi-display arrangements. Still, the GeForce GTX 780 Ti makes a good case for using a single-GPU flagship (so long as it's priced competitively) with just one screen. After all, it uses for less power and delivers almost identical performance.

As for the rest of the build, I'm pleased with the choices I made. Right now, I'm thinking it'd be interesting to see how a Core i5 with a couple of GeForce GTX 760s would compare, while saving a boatload of cash. I'm also pretty happy with the few components that I bought that don't affect the benchmark results, but still add appropriate pizazz to this mid-range machine without scraping the bottom of the barrel to keep it affordable. NZXT's Phantom 410 and LG's Blu-ray writer complement the rest of the go-fast gear nicely. More so now than ever before, the lucky reader who wins my machine is going to enjoy those premium add-ons. 

All that's left now is seeing how my machine compares to Paul's budget build and Thomas' high-end setup in our Day 4 analysis. Bring it on, gentlemen!