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System Builder Marathon, Q2 2014: Our Enthusiast PC

How We Tested Our Mainstream Enthusiast System

The following tables include the stock and overclocked settings for this quarter's mainstream enthusiast system, followed by the configuration we put together earlier this year, which serves as our comparison point.

At the very bottom, you’ll find the programs and games used for benchmarking.

Q2 2014 Enthusiast PC Test Settings: $986 of Performance Hardware
Default ConfigurationOverclocked
MotherboardASRock Z97 Pro3, LGA 1150, Intel Z97 ExpressUnchanged
ProcessorIntel Core i5-4670K (Haswell): 3.4 GHz (3.8 GHz max. Turbo Boost), 6 MB Shared L3 Cache4.3 GHz (43 * 100 MHz), 1.285 V (Load)
Memory8 GB Team Group Vulcan (2 x 4 GB) TLYD38G1600HC9DC01, 1333 MT/s, CAS 9-9-9-24-1T1600 MT/s, 9-9-9-24-2T, 1.5 V
GraphicsPowerColor TurboDuo Radeon R9 290 4 GB, 975 MHz max. core clock rate, GDDR5-50001100 MHz max. core clock rate, GDDR5-5600
HardDriveWD Blue WD10EZEX 1 TB, 7200 RPM, 64 MB Cache, SATA 6Gb/sUnchanged
OpticalLG GH24NSB0: DVD BurnerUnchanged
CaseApevia X-Hermes ATX Mid-Tower Computer CaseUnchanged
PowerCorsair CX750 750 W ATX12V v2.3 80 PLUS Bronze-Certified PSUUnchanged
Q1 2014 Enthusiast PC Test Settings: $1459 of Performance Hardware
Default ConfigurationOverclocked
MotherboardASRock Z87 Pro3 LGA 1150, Intel Z87 ExpressUnchanged
ProcessorIntel Core i7-4770K (Haswell): 3.5 GHz (3.9 GHz max. Turbo Boost), 8 MB Shared L3 Cache4.4 GHz (44 * 100 MHz), 1.2 V (Load)
Memory8 GB Corsair Vengeance LP (2 x 4 GB) CML8GX3M2A1866C9B, 1333 MT/s, CAS 9-9-9-24-1T1866 MT/s, 9-10-9-27 2T, 1.5 V
GraphicsGalaxy GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3 GB, 875/928 MHz base/typical GPU Boost, GDDR5-7000+150 MHz GPU, GDDR5-7400
System DriveSamsung 840 EVO MZ-7TE120BW 128 GB SATA 6Gb/s SSDUnchanged
Storage DriveWD Black 500 GB, 7200 RPM, 64 MB Cache, SATA 6Gb/sUnchanged
OpticalLG Black WH14NS40, 4 MB Cache SATA BDXL Blu-ray BurnerUnchanged
CaseNZXT Phantom 410 Computer CaseUnchanged
PowerCorsair 650TX 650 W ATX12V v2.3 80 PLUS Bronze Modular PSUUnchanged

And here are the benchmark details:

Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
Arma 3V. 1.20 Current PC, V.1.08 Q1 PC 30-sec. Fraps "Infantry Showcase" Test Set 1: Standard Preset, No AA, Standard AF Test Set 2: Ultra Preset, 8x FSAA, Ultra AF
Battlefield 4Version 1.0.0.1, DirectX 11, 100-sec. Fraps "Tashgar" Test Set 1: Medium Quality Preset, No AA, 4x AF, SSAO Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Preset, 4x MSAA, 16x AF, HBAO
Far Cry 3V. 1.05, DirectX 11, 50-sec. Fraps "Amanaki Outpost" Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA, Standard ATC, SSAO Test Set 2: Ultra Quality, 4x MSAA, Enhanced ATC, HDAO AMD/ HBAO NVidia
Grid 2Version 1.0.85.8679, Direct X 11, Built-in Benchmark Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA Test Set 2: Ultra Quality, 8x MSAA
Audio/Video Encoding
HandBrake CLIVersion: 0.99, Video: Video from Canon EOS 7D (1920x1080, 25 frames) 1 Minutes 22 Seconds, Audio: PCM-S16, 48,000 Hz, Two-channel, to Video: AVC1 Audio: AAC (High Profile)
iTunesVersion 11.0.4.4 x64: Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 minutes, default AAC format
LAME MP3Version 3.98.3: Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 min, convert WAV to MP3 audio format, Command: -b 160 --nores (160 Kb/s)
TotalCode Studio 2.5Version: 2.5.0.10677, MPEG2 to H.264, MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG-2), Audio: MPEG-2 (44.1 kHz, Two-channel, 16-bit, 224 Kb/s) Codec: H.264 Pro, Mode: PAL 50i (25 FPS), Profile: H.264 BD HDMV
Adobe Creative Suite
Adobe After Effects CCVersion 12.0.0.404: Create Video, 3 Streams, 210 Frames, Render Multiple Frames Simultaneously
Adobe Photoshop CCVersion 14 x64: Filter 15.7 MB TIF Image: Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates
Adobe Premiere Pro CS6Version 6.0.0.0, 6.61 GB MXF Project to H.264 to H.264 Blu-ray, Output 1920x1080, Maximum Quality
Adobe Acrobat XIVersion 11.0.0: Print PDF from 115 Page PowerPoint, 128-bit RC4 Encyption
Productivity
ABBYY FineReaderVersion 10.0.102.95: Read PDF save to Doc, Source: Political Economy (J. Broadhurst 1842) 111 Pages
Autodesk 3ds Max 2013Version 15.0 x64: Space Flyby Mentalray, 248 Frames, 1440x1080
BlenderVersion 2.68a, Cycles Engine, Syntax blender -b thg.blend -f 1, 1920x1080, 8x Anti-Aliasing, Render THG.blend frame 1
Visual StudioVersion 10.0, Compile Google Chrome, Scripted
Compression
7-ZipVersion 9.30 alpha, LZMA2, Syntax "a -t7z -r -m0=LZMA2 -mx=5" Benchmark: THG-Workload-2012 (1.3 GB)
WinRARVersion 5.0, RAR, Syntax "winrar a -r -m3" Benchmark: THG-Workload-2012 (1.3 GB)
WinZipVersion 18.0 Pro, Syntax "-a -ez -p -r" Benchmark: THG-Workload-2012 (1.3 GB)
Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
3DMark ProfessionalVersion: 1.2.250.0, Fire Strike Standard and Extreme
PCMark 8Version: 1.0.0 x64 Full Test
SiSoftware Sandra 2014Version: 2014.02.20.10, Processor Arithmetic, Cryptography, Memory Bandwidth Benchmarks
  • BilinearCheese
    I have to say guys, that enthusiast level build is terrible. Apevia case? Turbo Duo 290? NO SSD? Come on. For 16 bucks less I put together a system WITH an SSD, a decent case, a much better 290, and a better motherboard/cpu cooler. Hell, I even managed to get a color scheme together for it as well:

    http://pcpartpicker.com/p/FRyNgs


    "Terrible" = same CPU, cooler, graphics card, and equal benchmark performance?

    The case we chose really doesn't matter, as the first page of article points out. Case/optical drive is completely subjective. That's exactly why we've separated the performance parts price from case/optical/OS.
    By the way, are you just assuming Apevia its bad because you prefer other well-known brands? It did a fantastic job for the purposes of this article, so other than brand, what's your issue with it? Is brand the same problem you have with the 290? Because it's cooler is quite good.
    Speaking of coolers, the Hyper 212 EVO is virtually the 212 plus with a different fan. Is this really the huge difference you're implying it is?

    You're also specing it out two months after we did, with lower prices. An SSD would have been great, but two months ago when we ordered there was no room in the budget, and we weren't willing to sacrifice the 290.

    Bottom line, you're being a little sensationalist about picking nits.
    Reply
  • itzsnypah
    When overclocking the CPU are you leaving the uncore coupled to the core multiplier or uncoupled and set at x34/36? You averaging nearly 1.3v for only 4.3Ghz is very poor.
    Reply
  • I have to question the need for Z97 mobo. If you go with the Haswell and not the Haswell update and you do not include M.2 SSD, then why go with Z97? If you are choosing the Z97 to have a upgrade path, you should also go for the Devil's Canyon cpu. Budget-wise it is a really bad idea to even think about going for D.C. Haswell chip later on.

    The ssd gives you an easily felt sensation of speed every time you boot. Just got an ssd myself like 2 months ago. Any other go-fast parts come secondary. Ditch the Z97 and the ODD and you could squeeze in a SSD.
    Reply
  • envy14tpe
    @BilinearCheese. I believe all parts for these toms' builds have to be from Newegg. So, try building that way.
    Reply
  • BilinearCheese
    @BilinearCheese. I believe all parts for these toms' builds have to be from Newegg. So, try building that way.

    How is this the best suggested build for the money if you're only locking it to one retailer? That's...kinda silly
    Reply
  • Crashman
    @BilinearCheese. I believe all parts for these toms' builds have to be from Newegg. So, try building that way.

    How is this the best suggested build for the money if you're only locking it to one retailer? That's...kinda silly
    Because if we get all our parts from Newegg, it's Newegg's money? Because, when Newegg pays for the parts, we can afford to give the entire systems away?
    :p
    Reply
  • envy14tpe
    Because if we get all our parts from Newegg, it's Newegg's money? Because, when Newegg pays for the parts, we can afford to give the entire systems away?
    :p

    No one will ever question your parts selection ever again!! Maybe add a side note on price page that all parts are from/ must be bought on Newegg.
    Reply
  • BilinearCheese
    Because if we get all our parts from Newegg, it's Newegg's money? Because, when Newegg pays for the parts, we can afford to give the entire systems away?
    :p

    All newegg, still cheaper with better components:

    http://pcpartpicker.com/p/pj7bCJ

    What's the next rule, no rebates?
    Reply
  • Crashman
    All newegg, still cheaper with better components:

    http://pcpartpicker.com/p/pj7bCJ

    What's the next rule, no rebates?

    No mail-in rebates because they usually disappear before we can publish and, because when you have $100 you can't buy a $149 part that has a $50 MIR :)

    Instant rebates and sales are fine because when the discount on one part disappears, the discount on another part appears.

    BTW, I like the look of your case. I never understood what the deal was with don and ugly cases, but he's Canadian so I know better than to ask.
    Reply
  • BilinearCheese
    No mail-in rebates because they usually disappear before we can publish and, because when you have $100 you can't buy a $149 part that has a $50 MIR :)

    Instant rebates and sales are fine because when the discount on one part disappears, the discount on another part appears.

    Even with that in mind, my second build without rebates totals 1178. Changing the motherboard to a z87 Extreme3 (because z97 isn't a benefit if you're not going for haswell refresh or an ssd) and it's 3 bucks more than the build listed.
    Reply