Skip to main content

System Builder Marathon Q1 2015: $1750 Performance PC

Just Another Gaming PC?

System Builder Marathon, Q1 2015: The Articles

Here are links to each of the five 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: Budget Gaming PC
Day 2: The Mainstream Enthusiast PC
Day 3: Our $1750 Performance PC
Day 4: System Value Compared
Day 5: Alternative $1750 PC

Is the name "System" too generic? Our benchmark suite includes a full range of home, office, business and entertainment software, yet gaming is usually the easiest place to score extra credit. Games count for only 15% of our final value assessment. But a graphics upgrade was still one of the most-requested changes by our readers. Some folks even suggested we pay for more GPU muscle by dropping from a Core i7 to a Core i5 processor, even though that would hit the performance of several non-gaming benchmarks.

More memory capacity was next on the list. Other readers wanted a CPU upgrade to six cores, and a few even asked for an end to what they saw as serious compromises in our build. Finally, someone simply suggested that $1600 isn’t a reasonable price limit for a truly high-end machine, and I mostly agreed.

Our SBM series started with a $4000 high-end PC, and we gradually whittled that down to $1600. This appeared to reflect the dollar value that most of our readers would be willing to pay for a high-end system, if only they could afford to pay it. But then I had to fit an OS into the price…even though I personally scrounge around for one-time deals before I purchase a license.

Noting that our cheapest machine costs $600 including Windows 8.1, I first suggested we move to $600/$1200/$1800 complete PCs. My colleagues countered with $550, $1100 and $1650 hardware limits, and I suddenly found myself able to upgrade both the graphics and memory according to reader suggestions, without downgrading the CPU. Almost.

Q1 2015 $1750 Performance PC Components
ProcessorIntel Core i7-4790K: 4-4.4GHz, Four-Core, 8MB Shared L3 Cache$340
Graphics2x PNY VCGGTX9704XPB GeForce GTX 970 4GB, SLI$660
MotherboardGigabyte Z97X-Gaming 5: LGA 1150, Intel Z97 Express$146
MemoryG.Skill Ares F3-1866C10D-16GAB: DDR3-1866 C10, 16GB (2 x 8GB)$125
System DriveCrucial MX100 CT256MX100SSD1 2.5" 256GB SATA 6Gb/s (SSD)$108
PowerRosewill Capstone-750: 750W Non-Modular, ATX12V v2.31, 80 PLUS Gold$80
CPU CoolerCorsair Hydro H100i Closed-Loop Liquid-Cooler$95
Platform Cost$1554
Storage DriveNone$0
OpticalAsus DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS: 24x DVD±R, 48x CD-R$20
CaseCorsair Graphite 230T CC-9011038-WW Orange$80
Total Hardware Cost$1654
OSWindows 8.1 X64 OEM$100
Complete System Price$1754

What I really did was substitute the previous build’s secondary hard drive for a memory upgrade. That will surely dampen the spirits of our giveaway winner, since nearly anyone who ends up with this machine will need to add storage for their personal data and entertainment library. I hope the winner is able to swap in the drive from the system they’re replacing.

The extra memory will provide a big boost in exactly one of our benchmarks (Adobe After Effects), while its slower data rate and timings may pull down the average frame rate in one of our games (Grid 2). Conversely, the missing storage drive adds nothing to the benchmarks and only serves to hurt the overall value score. A more severe compromise than the “Smurf” case of my previous machine, this improved price/performance move feels a lot like cheating.

Upgrading from the previous quarter’s GeForce GTX 980 to this machine’s 970s in SLI covers $60 of the extra $150 in our budget. Other compromises like the previous machine’s non-SLI-capable motherboard were dealt away using much of the remainder. Unnecessary fluff in today’s configuration, including the windowed case ($10 extra) and a closed-loop CPU cooler ($20 more) add up to about half the cost of the missing hard drive.

  • dish_moose
    GTX 970 SLI - I cannot see how this would be a proper config given that the 970 VRAM is gimped over 3.5G. That being said with potentially that much gpu power, you would think this would make a great system - I've seen too many threads where hitting the 3.5G limit cause very bad stuttering.
    -Bruce
    Reply
  • Crashman
    15379466 said:
    GTX 970 SLI - I cannot see how this would be a proper config given that the 970 VRAM is gimped over 3.5G. That being said with potentially that much gpu power, you would think this would make a great system - I've seen too many threads where hitting the 3.5G limit cause very bad stuttering.
    -Bruce
    Too many of which configurations? At this point I'd rather be running 5760x1080 than 4k, if that's where you're going.

    This happens when I build based on reader feedback. Guess what? I ordered the day 5 bonus build in anticipation of these responses, even though the 3.5GB barrier wasn't known until after I placed my orders. Enjoy!

    Reply
  • jezus53
    I love that color scheme of the case. Reminds me of me my 73' Nova with the 350 small block painted black and Chevy orange. Makes me want to paint my case with the same theme...CURSE YOU TOM'S HARDWARE!!!!! I though I was done with my pc...
    Reply
  • Onus
    My eyes!!!

    Actually, other than the case being an eyesore (IMHO, the high-end build should be at-home in a high-level corporate or engineering office), I might only grumble about the non-modular PSU. On a build like this, a larger data drive is a nit; such a machine could be intended for a networked environment and won't need it anyway.
    This brings back a point I've brought up before. For this machine in particular, I think it is important to identify the user, and design a build that meets that person's needs, whether or not it necessarily wins benchmarks.
    Reply
  • redgarl
    Multi-GPU without 4k benches is ridiculous. People are more likely to run at 4k than with three 1080p monitors.

    Also, 4k is a game by itself. AMD and Nvidia cards act really differently at UHD.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    15379845 said:
    Multi-GPU without 4k benches is ridiculous. People are more likely to run at 4k than with three 1080p monitors.

    Also, 4k is a game by itself. AMD and Nvidia cards act really differently at UHD.
    Is that an offer? I'd LOVE to have a 4k display. I'm sure my colleagues would as well. PM me for the shipping addresses :)

    Reply
  • Grognak
    Your own benchmarks showed that the 8GB versions of the R9 290X performed better than the 970 at higher resolutions, I know DX12 is coming with stacked memory and all but that's still the logical choice until Nvidia releases an 8GB 970.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    15380062 said:
    Your own benchmarks showed that the 8GB versions of the R9 290X performed better than the 970 at higher resolutions, I know DX12 is coming with stacked memory and all but that's still the logical choice until Nvidia releases an 8GB 970.
    Wait...you're blaming me for picking the cards? Did you even read the article? Your colleagues picked the cards in the previous SBM response thread :)

    Not sure about the higher resolutions situation though, since I only have a single 2560x1600 and a bunch of 1920x1080 displays. Given that 5760x1080 had already been determined as the limit, I think other readers chose fairly well!
    Reply
  • dark_lord69
    ugly case...
    Nice hardware.. but I'd add a few drives for mass storage.
    Reply
  • cknobman
    So personally if I am building a high end machine like this it is going to be for 4k gaming.

    With that said I would have:
    Ditched the k processor for a regular and used the box cooler.
    Take the extra money and buy a storage HDD and faster RAM.

    Also it would be really nice if on the high end builds we could get just a few 4k gaming benchmarks.
    Reply