System Builder Marathon Q3 2014: Mainstream Enthusiast PC

System Builder Marathon, Q3 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: Our Mainstream Enthusiast System
Day 3: The $1600 High-End Build
Day 4: Performance And Value, Dissected

This quarter, I decided to give my inner enthusiast a workout and focus on overclocking. A $950 hardware budget for performance-oriented parts didn't exactly leave me with the financial headroom to buy an open-loop liquid cooler though, so I had to pick my battles. Where should I allocate the majority of my funds, the CPU or GPU? In the interest of benefiting as much of the platform as possible, I went with the host processor. That also gives us the opportunity to see what a step up from Paul's Pentium G3258 can do in Intel's Core i5-4690K, benefiting from the Devil's Canyon improvements.

The last time around, my enthusiast-oriented build centered on a Core i5-4670K processor and Radeon R9 290 graphics card. That's a tried-and-true combo. And while I'm confident I could push the platform to the next level with a high-end CPU cooler and premium memory, it'd be difficult to live up to my previous effort after shifting focus to maximizing the platform.

Unfortunately, the new GeForce GTX 970 was not yet available when we ordered the parts for this build.

Enthusiast System Components
MotherboardASRock Fatal1ty Z97 Killer, LGA 1150, Intel Z97 Express
$125
ProcessorIntel Core i5-4690K: 3.5 GHz Base Clock Rate, 3.9 GHz Maximum Turbo Boost, 6 MB Shared L3 Cache
$240
Heat Sink
Noctua DH-14
$79
Memory8 GB G.Skill Trident (2 x 4 GB) DDR3-2400 F3-2400C10D-8GTD $87
GraphicsZotac AMP! Superclocked GeForce GTX 770 3 GB
$280
Storage Drive
Western Digital Blue WD10EZEX 1 TB$60
Boot Disk
Adata Premier Pro SP920 128 GB
$75
PowerIn Win GreenMe 650 W 80 PLUS Bronze PSU
$60
Price of Performance Hardware$1006
Case
Cooler Master HAF XM Computer Case$120
Optical
Asus DRW-24B1ST OEM DVD Burner
$20
OS
Microsoft Windows 8.1 64-bit, OEM$100
Price As Tested$1246

I sprang for Zotac's factory-overclocked GeForce GTX 770, hoping it'd be able to stand up to AMD's Radeon R9 290 from the prior build. Based on your feedback, I also made room for Adata's low-cost SP290 128 GB SSD.

Opting for In Win's GreenMe 650 W PSU helped keep costs down some, though I still wound up $56 over my $950 allotment. As for other expenses, Cooler Master's HAF XM case was on sale for $100 when we ordered and is up to $120 now. The total system price, including the operating system and DVD burner, lands under $1300, which is a reasonable target for this kind of system.

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  • gamebrigada
    Not sure why you would go with AsRock... I've seen so many failed motherboards from them after a few months of use... Friend of mine is on his 4th swap from them, and is beyond tired of swapping with them, the current one at least has issues that he can work around... with a usb to ethernet adapter....
  • mlga91
    Personally, i'd get a cheaper case and put a 970 on there, looks for the cost of performance doesn't seems too wise for me.
  • DynamoNED
    1707503 said:
    Personally, i'd get a cheaper case and put a 970 on there, looks for the cost of performance doesn't seems too wise for me.


    While I'd agree on the cheaper case, the 970 wasn't an option since they hadn't been released when they were buying parts for this quarter's SBM.

    From Page 3 of the article: "The GeForce GTX 970 launched last week wasn't available (or even public information) back when we ordered the pieces for this build. So, I needed something cheaper than the Radeon R9 290 that wouldn't sacrifice gaming performance. Under $300, the best option was Nvidia's GeForce GTX 770."

    Obviously, today the 970 would be a much better choice, but that option didn't exist when this build was purchased.
  • realibrad
    @ mlga91

    Good job. There is always that guy who does not read the article when it explains why the brand new card was not used, because it was not an option at the time of the review.

    So congrats on being that guy this time. It only took 3 posts to get there.
  • de5_Roy
    an ssd and a cm haf case in this build. that should prevent the rages, gasps and disapproving gazes from the last quarter. ;) really though, a o.c. oriented pc should have parts built for speed and this pc has them.

    on the last page:
    Quote:
    When price vs. performance is compared, the new build doesn't look as attractive as the Q3 enthusiast system.

    may be you meant the Q2 enthusiast system. imo, yea, the q3 build doesn't seem as attractive as the q2 one. i think that one could add the ssd from this build and still be the better pc.

    i wonder if you guys would build an fx8350/8320 pc as an alternative build at this price range for the ongoing overclocking theme.
  • Onus
    The PSU received a Golden Award at HardwareSecrets, and it did mostly well on other sites as well, although at least three noted the presence of Samxon capacitors. They don't appear to be "GF" series though, which supposedly are the really bad ones.
    I'd like to know more about the thickness / flexibility of the ASRock mobo. Otherwise, I don't think I have any niggles over performance-related parts.
  • g-unit1111
    330381 said:
    Not sure why you would go with AsRock... I've seen so many failed motherboards from them after a few months of use... Friend of mine is on his 4th swap from them, and is beyond tired of swapping with them, the current one at least has issues that he can work around... with a usb to ethernet adapter....


    I've never had any problems with Asrock and I'm on my second Asrock board.
  • Onus
    Although some of them are thin and uncomfortably flexible, I've also not had any ASRock mobos die on me, except one likely killed by heat. I have read mixed comments on them, although most reviews tend to be positive.
  • Formata
    Yes!!! The hacksaw came out on the RAM! Now your building old skool!
  • CaptainTom
    770 stand up to a 290?! You can overclock all you want buddy.
  • anthony8989
    Quote:
    Zotac AMP! Superclocked GeForce GTX 770 3 GB


    Can I haz your 3GB 770 plz ?
  • biohazard918
    pretty sure the NH-D14 has a 140 mm and a 120 mm fan instead of dual 120 mm
  • vagrantsoul
    not sure what the draw of this case over something like the enthoo pro, or even something cheaper like a corsair 400r, 300, etc
  • elbert
    Nice review but the 770 is already obsolete and with AMD's blog states something is coming tomorrow the 25. It could be that both are obsolete. We already seen the leaked 390 cover. Then again it could be AMD's expected price cut.
  • lp231
    The money saved on the case as well as the CPU cooler can be put towards R9-290.
  • kylerjobe
    On the first page, it is a 2gb GTX 770, not a 3gb. 3gb would be nice though...
  • envy14tpe
    I'm quite surprised. (side note: this build is $100 more than Q2) Nonetheless, the Q2 has a higher end GPU and same CPU yet the Q3 build scores higher in gaming. ??
  • jkteddy77
    What in the HELL did you do to the Q2 rig with a full on R9 290 to make it lose to a 770... you sure you didn't slip in another 770 in some of these test...

    Don't think the Q2 rig was properly setup if you are losing to the 770 in every test...
  • chaosmassive
    correct me if i wrong
    in page 5, GTX 770 overclocking used AMD OverDrive utility?
    is there some kind of mistake or what?
  • iam2thecrowe
    330381 said:
    Not sure why you would go with AsRock... I've seen so many failed motherboards from them after a few months of use... Friend of mine is on his 4th swap from them, and is beyond tired of swapping with them, the current one at least has issues that he can work around... with a usb to ethernet adapter....


    Not sure why you wouldnt go with AsRock, i havnt seen a failed board from them....hmm we seem to have 2 different opinions here...... Maybe your friend has another problem that is killing his boards....a crapped out PSU maybe? it would be very unlikely to get 4 bad boards in a row from ANY manufacturer.
  • Burney21
    IMO, this is how i would have done it. I understand that the 970 was not out at the time, but all things considered, i would use liquid cooling to OC the CPU even further.
    http://pcpartpicker.com/user/Burney21/saved/qsxxFT
  • fkr
    nice experiment and you guys summed it up perfectly at the end. get a hyper 212, buy the value ram and maybe go for a $50 case and pump everything else into a GPU if you really want performance.

    better coolers only get you a couple more MHz in the end and the added cost will not offset that since the more expensive coolers push you into the i7 category of chips which is better than an overclocked i5.
  • SessouXFX
    Thinking the budget build is gonna be hard to beat this year....
  • Sig2525
    i want this :D