System Builder Marathon, Q1 2014: The $750 Gaming PC

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DonQuixoteMC

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I would have liked to see a motherboard more conducive to overclocking instead of the more expensive case and power supply). That way you could really take advantage of the LGA 1150 socket's upgrade options.
 

2Be_or_Not2Be

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If you only have 1 PCI-Express x16 slot and 2 DIMMs on that micro-ATX board, why not just go smaller & go with a mini-ITX system? If you're going budget, you usually don't want a larger case.
 

Onus

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Mini-ITX cases tend to be disproportionately expensive, especially ones large enough to allow for the cooling that a gaming PC may need. Micro-ATX seems like a comfortable size for most builds, the more I think about it.
This case has room in it for an optical drive, a pair of mechanical drives (e.g. for RAID1), and a SSD boot drive, plus a hefty graphics card and a 120mm tower cooler.
 
Since I personally tend to do a blend of gaming + multithreaded apps (Ex: x264 encoding) and the author mentioned the FX 6300 came close to making the cut on this build, I wondered:How much extra would I need to spend to get a comparable gaming PC that could also overclock well and run all my apps?So I tinkered around, kept some of the same parts, went with a better Case, CPU Cooler and Motherboard (8+2 power for OC), and came up with this:PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / BenchmarksCPU: AMD FX-6300 3.5GHz 6-Core Processor ($109.99 @ Amazon) CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO 82.9 CFM Sleeve Bearing CPU Cooler ($29.99 @ NCIX US) Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-970A-UD3P ATX AM3+ Motherboard ($89.99 @ Micro Center) Memory: A-Data XPG V1.0 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($67.99 @ Newegg) Storage: Seagate Barracuda 1TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($59.23 @ OutletPC) Video Card: MSI GeForce GTX 770 2GB Video Card ($319.99 @ Newegg) Case: Cooler Master HAF 912 ATX Mid Tower Case ($49.99 @ Micro Center) Power Supply: Rosewill Capstone 450W 80+ Gold Certified ATX Power Supply ($49.99 @ Newegg) Optical Drive: Asus DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS DVD/CD Writer ($19.98 @ OutletPC) Total: $797.14(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)(Generated by PCPartPicker 2014-03-26 13:58 EDT-0400)So for those interested in getting good performance in an all-purpose setup without breaking the bank, this seems like a good option.
 

Onus

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One of the problems with that list is that it doesn't use all-Newegg pricing, a requirement of the SBM builds. Also, if I'm not mistaken, while that GB mobo should be able to handle overclocking, its reputation is actually poor.
 

RedJaron

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A 500W card? No, we don't have any of those. Such a card would require three 8-pin connectors. The 770 tops out around 225W, though actual usage rarely goes above 200W.
 

Evolution2001

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(My first comment is slightly tangential to this discussion, but I'll come back around quickly.)

What is the prevailing wisdom (via subjective testing and not anecdotal evidence) in terms of how many fps are needed to have a 'smooth' gaming experience? Is it 30, 60, 90+ ? The reason I pose that question first is because of the benchmarks that are still being included in these reviews.

If 30fps is the baseline, then it would seem that from here on out, spending time benchmarking any game at 1920x1080 and lower is a waste of time. From what I'm seeing, these 'budget rigs' are capable of playing any game at max detail at 1080 and below well in excess of 30fps. Therefore, I put forth for consideration that the resolution be dropped as a benchmark. For single display setups with either monitor, TV, or projection that max out at 1080p, pretty much any current video card and CPU is going to get you there. (This is also why I preferred the GPU reviews when they listed fps @ given resolutions, versus the current 'value' scores.)

When I built my gaming rig for my home theater, I only needed to be able to max games out at 1080p because that's the native/max resolution of mine and most consumer projectors and TV's (within a gamer's budget). Getting any hardware that can benchmark an enjoyable experience at higher resolutions is wasted money in 'single monitor' situations at 1080p or lower. Technically, my non-OC'd HD7870 is the most I need because when it was still in the benchmarks, it was able to hit at minimum 30fps on all the then-current titles at 1080p. And since the current hardware blows by 30fps with the greatest of ease, I imagine that the older, higher-end cards will still manage a minimum of 30 fps if not better.

That being said, if 'conventional wisdom' states that 60fps is what's required- taking into account 60Hz refresh rates- then by all means maybe 60fps is the baseline and knowing that a particular game won't reach 60fps at 1080p is still relevant.

Thoughts?
 

Onus

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IMHO, 1920x1080 is so common that it should still be used. I have suggested in the past that a sliding scale be used for value. For example, going from 25FPS to 35FPS is a pretty big deal, but going from 50FPS to 60FPS, though proportionately identical, is not of equal value.
 

vertexx

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Here's an equivalent Mini-ITX build that runs in the SG05 for $725. Yes, the GTX770 will fit without modifications (even though it's 6mm over spec), and yes, the SG05 can easily handle the cooling requirements of the 770. This is one compact power-house, and if you're not restricted to Newegg prices, it can be had for a bit cheaper.

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: Intel Core i3-4130 3.4GHz Dual-Core Processor ($124.99 @ Newegg)
Motherboard: ASRock H81M-ITX Mini ITX LGA1150 Motherboard ($59.99 @ Newegg)
Memory: G.Skill Ares Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory
Storage: Toshiba 1TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($64.99 @ Newegg)
Video Card: MSI GeForce GTX 770 2GB Video Card ($319.99 @ Newegg)
Case: Silverstone SG05BB-LITE Mini ITX Tower Case ($47.98 @ Newegg)
Power Supply: Silverstone 450W 80+ Bronze Certified SFX Power Supply ($85.98 @ Newegg)
Optical Drive: Samsung SN-208FB/BEBE DVD/CD Writer ($31.98 @ Newegg)
Total: $725.90
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2014-03-26 16:01 EDT-0400)

I also have the Rosewill Line M case as my second office PC and can attest to its value and cooling effectiveness. I'm running an overclocked Phenom II X4 965 cooled by a 120mm Radiator and the Gigabyte Windforce R9-280X. It packs 2 HDDs, an SSD, Blu Ray Writer, and 3.5" card reader. Yes, I changed out the fans to reduce that front fan noise. The best thing about this is the low height. At just over 14", it's sitting on the shelf under my desk up off the floor. The only other uATX case with this capability at this size is the Silverstone TJ08 at twice the price (admittedly the TJ08 is much nicer).

The Line M has been an outstanding all-purpose budget case. I'm trying to upgrade it now, but form and function-wise, I'm having a real tough time finding a suitable replacement.



 

2Be_or_Not2Be

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I will also attest to the Silverstone SG05 as being a great case for those who want something that can easily hold & run a decent graphics card (I'm running a 7850) along with a SSD and a 2nd hard drive, if desired. It has excellent airflow, and if you get Silverstone's 450W SFX power supply, it's has enough power for everything the case can hold. A small mini-ITX case like it has more appeal to most at initial site than a larger ATX case.
 

Onus

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Don't you also need a power/data adapter for the slim optical drive? It's not expensive ($12 maybe?) but I thought it was needed...
I considered that case, but ultimately went with what is shown in my .sig as "Gypsy" (for its small size, good for traveling). It is nowhere near as graphically capable, but I've not been playing demanding games. It blazes through anything else though, with its i5 and a pair of SSDs.
 

vertexx

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Yes - I usually use this one:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16812200980

You also need to look at the PCIE connectors as the PSU has one 8-pin and 2-6pin. That MSI card has 2 8-pin connectors, but comes with 6 to 8 pin PCIe adapters. The power delivery is definitely sufficient.

Finally, I didn't mention a minor case mod that is required for these MSI gaming series GPUs - there are holes in the ODD tray that are meant to pass thru the PCIE power connector down to the top of the video card, and you just need to widen them up. I use a pair of tin snips - takes just a couple minutes. At 10.24", the GPU just fits. You need to uninstall the front fan and install the GPU before the PSU and other components. But it works.
 

hmp_goose

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Hey we are always open to suggestions though, but for SBMs have to scale back to four easily comparable & repeatable games. Unfortunately this typically rules out MP testing.
I wish I had one for you: MW: O's ca_thread0Affinity, the obnoxious one on the last core, doesn't really show itself until things other then yourself are moving on-screen (read: multi-player.)

Assuming it's not been locked down in MW: O, does anyone know how to recored a demo on Cryengine 3?
 

f-14

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"This quarter's machine even scores a victory, as its GeForce GTX 770 best handles the OpenCL-accelerated WinZip sub-test."geee an out dated winzip that just happens to coincide with date around a rebranded GTX 680... i sort of feel lead to suspect something."If you insist on higher sustained performance, you might prefer the 47 to 52 FPS floors established by the two costlier configurations.""However, when I adjust both systems to reflect today's pricing and isolate the performance-oriented parts, my $750 box scores a victory in its stock form."you didn't get to throw out the case and media player prices when choosing parts in the previous system in order to have the option to pick better parts either."peak draw from the wall remains under 300 W. You most certainly don't need the 600 W power supply recommended by Zotac. Our 450 W PSU has oodles of output in reserve."of course it's going to have reserve! it's bottlenecked and throttled down by the i3 vs a much better performance more core cpu
 

Traciatim

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I know you've probably heard it before, but I really like these better when they are 500-1000-1500 or some much more reasonable range. It seems like the 2400 dollar build is just getting hardware thrown in there just for the sake of having more hardware and anyone spending that much on a machine is generally just going to get an i7 with a couple of SLI/crossfire video cards that fit in the budget and have a beast of a machine no matter what the choices were. The real challenge is at the low end where part choice has serious impacts on performance in other areas in most cases.

1500 is more than ample for a rather insane gaming rig these days and 500 bucks puts a HTPC/Gaming box in the realm of consoles but is a far more flexible and well rounded than a gaming console.
 

RedJaron

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+1 to that. I'd like to see the budget return to normal.
 

bustapr

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The i3 was a bad choice, why not get an i5-3330 which is about the same in price and it offers 2 more fully enabled cores, which really would help in applications and the 'newer' games.The MOBO would also be cheaper as it is last gen.
When I first saw the parts list for this build, I expected myself to be in full agreement with you. I mean, can you imagine someone suggesting paring a GTX 680 with an I3? Ludicrous. They'd be laughed out the forums. However, looking at the benchmarks for the highest settings in 1920x1080 and 4800x900, I found there were 2 types of results1. Those where the I3 and the GTX 770 build beat, or were within a few FPS of the I5 and R9-280X build:Battlefield 3Battlefield 4Arma 3Far Cry 32. Those where the I5 and R9-280X beat the I3 and GTX 770 build by a significant margin, but where all frame rates were well above 60FPS:F1 2012Grid 2SkyrimSo, while overall performance percentage charts might put the I3 and GTX 770 behind the I5 and R9-280X behind in certain games, in a real-life setting, it seems that the I3 and GTX 770 is an equally good build. Which is really not what I was expecting.
nalmost nothing truely makes use of 8 cores yet. I say yet, because the next gen game consoles will force games to become truly multithreaded in the future.
Citations desperately needed. The XBOX 360 had 3 hyper-threaded CPUs and the PS3 had a 7-core cell CPU, but this didn't push PC games during this period beyond dual cores. Indeed, as late as January 2012, Tom's hardware was finding it impossible to recommend any Quad-core AMD processors over intel Dual-core processors and as late as December 2012, dual-core Intel pentiums were taking the low-end recommendations, as they were still better at gaming at this point than 4-core AMD processors. Indeed, it wasn't until February 2013 that they reversed this recommendation, so any assumption that consoles having more cores will result in P.C. games using more cores doesn't really stand up to scrutiny, I'm afraid.
actually this time, the fact that consoles are using 8 core CPUs does mean that pc games will start being made with 8 cores in mind, or at least 8 cores wont be totally useless this time around. sure the xbox 360 had 3 cores and PS3 had 7, and developers made games that took advantage of this, but they were not x86 cores, so the optimization for pc was totally different. Now that consoles are using x86 cores it makes more sense to develop and optimize pc games similarly to the way console games are made. this means that if a console is made with all 8 cores in mind(which is already happening), the same pc games will be made with 8 cores in mind. or at the very least 8 cores will have some sort of use in games.
 

ampy60

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I copied this build but scrapped the disk drive, saved a few bucks on the PSU by getting a Corsair CX430, and exchanged the case for a Fractal Core 1000. This enabled enough $$$ headroom to get a core i5-4440. A better choice IMHO.
 

ckholt83

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Well, not really. While I favored keeping Skyrim around this long for popularity, truth is it and F1 2012 (both out and both CPU/system limited) were now a bit long in the tooth and unable to challenge our cheapest rigs for a while now. I expected ARMA III to be more processor bound than it is. Considering we do average in all resolutions, I think CPU-muscle is more than getting it's fair share of attention. What we lack I guess is a super-strenuous new CPU-bound game sequence able to exploit a weak CPU. Parts of Tomb Raider can do that actually, but not the in-game benchmark or our normal GPU-bound save-game. The TR test I use for CPUs is a bit tedious for SBM use. (EDIT: And actually some of the games we use like FC3 do exploit a WEAK CPU, it's just Core-i3 isn't weak.)Hey we are always open to suggestions though, but for SBMs have to scale back to four easily comparable & repeatable games. Unfortunately this typically rules out MP testing.
Consider checking out Natural Selection 2 for benchmarking. I know they've improved the CPU bottlenecking somewhat, but it's still pretty brutal with everything cranked up. For a while there you HAD to overclock even a top tier CPU to not be bound.I'm sure the community / developers would be happy to help you figure out the best map or testing sequence to run.
 
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