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!
Ask any performance enthusiast what a reasonable sacrifice might look like, and you'll likely get a blank stare rather than a consistent answer. We all demand plenty of system memory, a fast graphics card and a capable host processor. Moreover, our desires evolve as we realize we might have more money to spend.
Readers overwhelmingly responded to last quarter’s high-end build with a demand for more RAM and a better motherboard, reasoning that anyone spending over $1600 wouldn’t be willing to cut corners in those areas. The next biggest change sounded fairly reasonable: a $60 graphics upgrade. What’s $60 when you’re spending $1600, right?
My competitors responded with a quick “yes” when I asked them if we could increase our budgets. It turns out that they wanted to try out a few upgrades too. But that’s where the agreement fell apart.
I see these machines as $550, $1100 and $1650 configurations, plus the cost of an operating system. The other builders in this contest agreed to treat those numbers as core component limits, allowing an extra $50, $100 and $150 to be spent on parts that don’t make the machine run. That final disagreement is how we end up with $700, $1300 and $1750 budgets—including Windows—and me leaving $150 on the table.
|Q1 2015 System Components|
|$700 Budget Gaming PC||$1300 Enthusiast PC||$1750 Performance PC|
|Processor||Intel Core i3-4150: 3.5GHz, Two Cores, 3MB Cache||Intel Core i7-4790K: 4-4.4GHz, Four Cores, 8MB Cache||Intel Core i7-4790K: 4-4.4GHz, Four Cores, 8MB Cache|
|Graphics||Sapphire Dual-X 100373L Radeon R9 280 3GB||Asus STRIX-GTX970-DC2OC-4GD5 GTX 970 4GB||2x PNY VCGGTX9704XPB GeForce GTX 970 4GB, SLI|
|Motherboard||ASRock H81M-HDS: LGA 1150, Intel H81 Express||MSI Z97 PC Mate: LGA 1150, Intel Z97 Express||Gigabyte Z97X-Gaming 5: LGA 1150, Intel Z97 Express|
|Memory||G.Skill Ripjaws X DDR3-1600 C9, 8GB (2 x 4GB)||G.Skill Ripjaws X DDR3-2133 C9, 8GB (2 x 4GB)||G.Skill Ares DDR3-1866 C10, 16GB (2 x 8GB)|
|System Drive||WD Blue WD10EZEX: 1TB, 7200 RPM, SATA 6Gb/s HDD||PNY Optima SSD7SC240GOPT-RB: 2.5" 240GB SATA 6Gb/s SSD||Crucial MX100 CT256MX100SSD1 2.5" 256GB SATA 6Gb/s SSD|
|Power||EVGA 100-W1-0500-KR: 500W, 80 PLUS (standard)||EVGA 600B 100-B1-0600-KR: 600W, 80 PLUS Bronze||Rosewill Capstone-750: 750W, 80 PLUS Gold|
|CPU Cooler||Intel Boxed Heat Sink and Fan||Zalman CNPS9900MAX-B||Corsair Hydro H100i Closed-Loop Liquid-Cooler|
|Storage Drive||Uses System Drive||WD Blue WD10EZEX: 1TB, 7200 RPM, SATA 6Gb/s HDD||None|
|Optical||Asus DRW-24B1ST 24x DVD±R||Pioneer BDC-207DBK 8x BRD Reader, 16x DVD±R||Asus DRW-24B1ST 24x DVD±R|
|Case||NZXT Source 210 Elite Black||Cooler Master HAF XB Evo||Corsair Graphite 230T Orange|
|Total Hardware Cost||$589||$1224||$1654|
|OS||Windows 8.1 x64 OEM|
|Complete System Price||$689||$1324||$1754|
The consequence of my stubbornness is that this month’s high-end build doesn’t have a storage drive, even though the winner of this machine will probably need more capacity than my 256GB SSD affords. I gave the mechanical disk up while pursuing the upgrades demanded by readers, while sticking to my original budget plan. Different enthusiasts have different goals though, and it’s time for me to admit that both budgeting methods are equally valid as long as you have the cash for a pricier setup.
Leaving out a $55 hard drive feels a little like cheating when I’m going up against two cheaper machines sporting at least 1TB of total capacity. Then again, could a 3% cost savings on one component really cost one of my competitors their value victory? Let’s find out!