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System Builder Marathon, Q1 2014: Our New Enthusiast PC

Taking The SBM Down A Different Road

System Builder Marathon, Q1 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 $2400 Reader's Choice PC
Day 2: Our New Enthusiast PC
Day 3: The $750 Gaming PC
Day 4: Performance And Value, Dissected


We've been doing these System Builder Marathons on a quarterly basis for years. The premise is typically pretty similar, but we try to fold in variance whenever we can to keep the relationship spicy. This time around, we're switching things up a bit, largely based on your feedback, to hopefully improve our value analysis. We're focusing specifically on the prices of components that affect performance, leaving the parts that don't impact benchmark results out of the equation. In the final analysis, this means that the case, optical drive, and operating system have no bearing on price/performance (though we still list those prices for your reference).

In this way, we're freeing ourselves to experiment with more premium enclosures and include add-ons like Blu-ray drives without the negative impact on comparative value. You all know that it's possible to get by with a $40 case and $20 DVD writer, but now we can choose higher-end options more appropriate to our go-fast parts without hammering our critical analysis of the internals.

With that in mind, I went a different direction with this quarter's enthusiast-oriented build, opting for a Core i7-4770K processor (rather than a more budget-friendly Core i5) and single GeForce GTX 780 Ti (instead of dual GeForce GTX 770s in SLI).

Enthusiast System Components
MotherboardASRock Z87 Pro3, LGA 1150, Intel Z87 Express$90
ProcessorIntel Core i7-4770K: 3.5 GHz Base Clock Rate, 3.9 GHz Maximum Turbo Boost, 8 MB Shared L3 Cache$320
Heat SinkCooler Master Hyper 212 EVO with 120 mm PWM Fan$35
Memory8 GB Corsair Vengeance LP (2 x 4 GB) DDR3-1866 Model CML8GX3M2A1866C9B$103
GraphicsGalaxy GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3 GB GDDR5$660
System DriveSamsung 840 EVO MZ-7TE120BW 2.5" 128 GB SATA 6Gb/s SSD$90
Storage DriveWestern Digital Black WD5003AZEX 500 GB 7200 RPM, 64 MB Cache, SATA 6Gb/s$71
PowerCorsair Enthusiast Series TX650 650 W 80 PLUS Bronze PSU$90
Cost Of Components That Impact Performance$1459
CaseNZXT Phantom 410 Series Orange Trim Computer Case$100
OpticalLG Black WH14NS40, 4 MB Cache SATA BDXL Blu-ray Burner, OEM$54
OSMicrosoft Windows 8.1 64-bit, OEM$100
Total Cost of System as Tested:$1713

Armed with $1459 worth of parts that directly affect performance, the new build is surprisingly cheaper than last quarter's enthusiast-oriented configuration, which leveraged $1528 of gear to make it a gaming beast.

You could make it out the door for as little as $1519 if you purchased all of my platform parts, a $40 case, and a $20 DVD burner. I went with a more premium chassis and a Blu-ray writer, though, taking the total cost to $1713 (including a copy of Windows 8 for $100).