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.
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Three months ago I assembled a PC that, like the one before it, used AMD’s top graphics solution to provide top gaming performance at a moderate price. In a world of $600+ graphics cards, even the small savings of a $530 part would bank towards my system’s value. This month I squeezed and extra $30 of my budget for graphics, decided that I’d also like to get $30 closer to my target budget, and that I’d make whatever cuts were necessary on other parts to cover the difference. I’ve heard rumors of GTX 980 efficiency and seen proof of its performance, but is it really intelligent to cut corners on most of my other parts just to pay for a single upgrade?
That blue case? I realize that some readers will be appalled, but it saved me at around $14 (the previous system’s case had gone up by $10). Other cuts include choosing temporarily-discounted parts that I might have otherwise overlooked, but most importantly, I went with a cheaper motherboard.
|Q4 2014 $1600 Performance PC Components|
|Processor||Intel Core i7-4790K: 4.0GHz-4.4GHz, Four Core, 8 MB Cache||$330|
|Graphics||PNY VCGGTX9804XPB-CG GeForce GTX 980 4GB||$600|
|Motherboard||Biostar Hi-Fi Z97WE: LGA 1150, Intel Z97 Express||$115|
|Memory||G.Skill Ripjaws X F3-17000CL9D-8GBXM: DDR3-2133 C9, 8GB (2 x 4GB)||$76|
|System Drive||Plextor M6S PX-256M6S 2.5" 256GB SATA 6Gb/s (SSD)||$135|
|Power||Rosewill CAPSTONE-750-M: 750W Semi-Modular, ATX12V v2.31, 80 PLUS Gold||$80|
|CPU Cooler||Phanteks PH-TC14PE_BK 140mm||$75|
| Platform Cost||$1,411|
|Storage Drive||WD Blue WD10EZEX: 1.0 TB, SATA 6Gb/s HDD||$55|
|Optical||Asus DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS: 24x DVD±R, 48X CD-R||$20|
|Case||Thermaltake Chaser A31 VP300A5W2N Blue||$56|
| Total Hardware Cost||$1,542|
|OS||Windows 8.1 X64 OEM||$100|
| Complete System Price||$1,642|
Note that I’m still trying to use only $1600 of my $1800 budget, due to my different perspective on value. While the other guys agreed upon $500-$1000-$1500 prices for the platform alone, I looked at the $100-$200-$300 available budgets for “other stuff” and thought to myself “If Paul can build his machine for $500 plus OS, I can do it for $1500 plus OS”. I got pretty close this time at $1502…and then my order got delayed (on our end). Newegg discontinued sale of one of the components. There were no appropriate replacements, but if I wanted to pay $40 more, I could get an identical component with a different label on the box.
That’s right, I had planned to get my hardware budget down to $1500 while increasing performance in at least the gaming portion of our benchmarks, and had originally specified a $560 GTX 980 reference card from another brand to get there. The rear-exhausting card would allow me to use a lower-cost case without any big sacrifices in noise, as Nvidia specifically designed this cooler to produce 10db less noise compared to traditional blower coolers of similar capacity.
Always more of a system builder than graphics reviewer, I haven’t submitted to the axial-fan group-think that appears to have infected tunnel-visioned graphics editors who don’t even consider the impact of case heat during their open-platform testing. Ventilated side panels may reduce the heat accumulation of internally-vented graphics cards, but I argue that opening the side of a case to let the noise out is counter-intuitive when the intent of using axial fans is to reduce noise.
I might have set aside that argument to save $40 if not for the fact that I was now locked in. By the time I found out that Asus’ card would no longer be stocked, my closed-sided case had already shipped.