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System Builder Marathon Q4 2014: Mainstream Enthusiast PC

Upping Our Game With A GeForce GTX 970

System Builder Marathon, Q4 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 Budget Gaming PC
Day 2: Mainstream Enthusiast System
Day 3: $1600 Performance PC
Day 4: System Value Compared

In this last system builder marathon of 2014, we went back to the basics. For the mid-range enthusiast-class PC, that means lowering the price and increasing game performance.

My  previous entry in the series was comprised of Intel's excellent Core i5-4690K paired with a GeForce GTX 770. Despite my efforts, I still went slightly over my budget of $950 for performance parts (minus the case, optical drive, and operating system).

With dropping prices and the introduction of the GeForce GTX 970, though, we should be able to deliver a significant game performance increase while lowering the damage to our wallet by a few dollars. We did run into a snag, though: after ordering the Biostar Hi-Fi Z87-X motherboard for $80, it went out of stock. Our budget was bumped up $25 with a last-minute switch to Asus' Z87-A.

Enthusiast System Components
MotherboardASUS Z87-A, LGA 1150, Intel Z87 Express$105
ProcessorIntel Core i5-4690K: 3.5 GHz Base Clock Rate, 3.9 GHz Maximum Turbo Boost, 6 MB Shared L3 Cache$240
Heat SinkID COOLING SE-213$22
Memory8 GB G.Skill Ripjaws X (2 x 4 GB) DDR3-213,F3-17000CL9D-8GBXM$80
GraphicsZotac GeForce GTX 970 4 GB$330
Storage DriveWestern Digital Blue WD10EZEX 1 TB$53
Boot DiskKingston V300 120 GB SSD$60
PowerEVGA 500B 80 PLUS Bronze PSU$35
Price of Performance Hardware$925
CaseDIYPC Adventurer 9601R Computer Case$80
OpticalAsus DRW-24F1ST OEM DVD Burner$20
OSMicrosoft Windows 8.1 64-bit, OEM$100
Price As Tested$1125

That unfortunate change means that we only undercut the previous build by $75 instead of $100 of performance parts. The good news is that the GeForce GTX 970 should give us significantly better game performance, regardless. We also saved a few dollars with Kingston's V300 120GB SSD boot drive at $60, and ID-Cooling's SE-213 CPU cooler at $22. Now let's look at the components in detail.

  • envy14tpe
    You got the wrong GPU listed in the build. It is a 970 not 770. I'm referring to the Q4 build parts list. It should be the Zotac 970 4GB.

    Other than that. Build looks decent.

    : Thanks for the heads up, fixed! :)
    Reply
  • rush21hit
    It's just perfect for 1k budget build. If I have such budget, I would gone to different casing though. Did you know Lian Li had just released their new casing that look sick awesome? They make it wall mountable too. I would go with that.
    Reply
  • rayden54
    Does anyone ever recommend a Zotac GPU?
    Reply
  • SessouXFX
    It's rare for reviewers to recommend a Zotac, At least from what I've seen, it's because just as things start to look good, Zotac make some questionable decisions with their cards. otherwise, they're quite affordable and are usually better than reference.
    Reply
  • BoredSysAdmin
    "In this last system builder marathon of 2015"
    Did I just lost a whole year?

    Derp, fixed! :P
    Reply
  • VaporX
    Okay so I looked over this build and honestly I was a bit disappointed because for the price you could have done better. Going to Newegg I got the following.

    i5 4690K with Gigabyte Z97MX Gaming, same ID cooler listed above, 8 Gig Crucial (1660) RAM, 240 Gig Crucial MX100, Thermaltake Core V21 Case, Thermaltake Smart 550 watt PSU, Sapphire Tri-X 290 and Windows 8.1 all for $1056.

    So I lost the optical drive, no real lose there, some HD space (learn not to hoard) gained better onbaord sound, a large GPU performance bump and the speed advanateg of a pure SSD set.

    IMO a much nicer gamer rig.
    Reply
  • envy14tpe
    14906749 said:
    Okay so I looked over this build and honestly I was a bit disappointed because for the price you could have done better. Going to Newegg I got the following.

    i5 4690K with Gigabyte Z97MX Gaming, same ID cooler listed above, 8 Gig Crucial (1660) RAM, 240 Gig Crucial MX100, Thermaltake Core V21 Case, Thermaltake Smart 550 watt PSU, Sapphire Tri-X 290 and Windows 8.1 all for $1056.

    So I lost the optical drive, no real lose there, some HD space (learn not to hoard) gained better onbaord sound, a large GPU performance bump and the speed advanateg of a pure SSD set.

    IMO a much nicer gamer rig.

    They built this probably 3 weeks ago...so prices change.
    Reply
  • Scorpionking20
    I got 2 of those exact gpus...sent them back due to hardware crashes and coil whine. Replaced them with 2 evga 970's and I couldn't be happier. Never again Zotac!
    Reply
  • Onus
    I think the build is good. I'm going to guess that the budget cooler isn't going to support a high overclock, but that wouldn't matter to me, since I don't use +voltage to OC.
    I'm not going to quibble over the choice of Zotac. I've read mixed reviews of them. It isn't an obvious choice to me like MSI or Gigabyte, but it isn't one to avoid either like Diamond.
    I'm disappointed that the OC numbers weren't included; maybe this build could have been presented "out of sequence" after troubleshooting?
    I'd love to win this one; it is very much like something I'd build.
    Reply
  • the1kingbob
    ID Cooling SE-213 Has three heat pipes, not four
    Reply