System Builder Marathon, Q2 2013: $2500 Performance PC

System Builder Marathon, Q2 2013: 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 $650 Mini-ITX Gaming PC
Day 2: The $1300 Mini-ITX Enthusiast PC
Day 3: The $2500 Mini-Performance PC
Day 4: Performance And Value, Dissected
Day 5: The $400 "True Spirit of Mini-ITX" PC


Your feedback plays an important role in determining the direction our System Builder Marathons take. When we've exhausted every other way to spend our budgets trying to build conventional-looking boxes, we turn to the comments section for inspiration. Compact gaming systems seem to come up regularly, particularly at a time when more efficient computing architectures and lower-power graphics cards inspire creativity. So, when Don and Paul put their support behind a mini-ITX-themed Marathon, I hopped on-board as well.

Knowing that mini-ITX is particularly popular right now, I suppressed the cynicism that you know and love. My only complaint was that I'd pay $50 more for a motherboard with $50 less worth of features. Then again, I’m the guy who reviews all of our motherboards. I'm really picky about this stuff. Rather than argue the technical superiority of micro-ATX, I embraced the convenience of DTX.

In spite of what my colleagues might believe, this isn’t a mini-ITX system round-up. VIA's single-slot mini-ITX form factor limits its motherboard, but a system's form factor is that of its enclosure. AMD’s DTX form factor adds the second slot needed to support a majority of high-performance graphics cards, and that explains why the majority of ITX gaming cases are actually DTX-compliant. Though motherboard makers aren't taking advantage of the added depth available to true DTX motherboards—supporting larger voltage regulators and more DIMM slots—the empty motherboard space is still available in DTX-based “ITX gaming cases”.

This $2500 "mini-ITX" system is big, even by the larger DTX standard. Yet, its internal components dictated case selection. The combination is as close as a home builder can get to a custom-engineered assembly using retail parts.

Q2 2013 $2500 Performance PC Components
ProcessorIntel Core i7-3770K (Ivy Bridge): 3.5 GHz Base Clock Rate, 3.9 GHz Max. Turbo Boost, Quad-Core, 8 MB Shared L3 Cache$330
GraphicsAsus GTX690-4GD5 GeForce GTX 690 4 GB (2 GB per GPU)$1000
MotherboardAsus P8Z77-I Deluxe: LGA 1155, Intel Z77 Express$185
MemoryCrucial Ballistix Tactical BLT2K8G3D1608ET3LX0: DDR3-1600 C8, 16 GB (8 GB x 2)$115
System DriveMushkin MKNSSDCR240GB-DX: 240 GB, SATA 6Gb/s SSD$185
Storage DriveWestern Digital WD2002FAEX: 2 TB, SATA 6Gb/s Hard Drive
OpticalAsus DRW-24B1ST: 14x BD-R, 16x DVD±R$99
CaseBitFenix Prodigy BFC-PRO-300-RRXKR-RP$90
Prodigy Mesh Front Panel C-PRO-300-KRFXA-RP$25
BitFenix 140 mm Fan BFF-SCF-14025WW-RP$12
SilverStone FF143B 140 mm Dust Filter$10
PowerSeasonic SS-660XP2: 660 W Modular, ATX12V v2.3, 80 PLUS Platinum$140
CPU CoolerNZXT Kraken X40 RL-KRX40-01
  Total Cost $2451

Originally I was given $2600 to spend (that's four times Paul's budget and two times Don's). But I wasn't able to come up with a performance justification for spending any more than I did. I gave up at $2450 and made the unilateral decision to call this a $2500 build.