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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.