System Builder Marathon Q1 2016: Value Comparison

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I lead my Middle School (11 - 14) students in building their own computers. The have a bit more flexibility in parts selection and pricing, but the conclusions are the same. Build to a Purpose, get SSD, and the sweet-spot is around $900. Their challenge is that I 'insist' on mITX or mATX systems to teach them good cable and airflow management. (SLI GTX 980tis and a i7 5930 will run well in a Thermaltake Core V21)

It will be interesting to see what the first VR builds look like. My students are already talking about it.
 

Onus

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Eric's PC is very similar to what I'd want for myself; just add a SSD, and it's done. Other differences are niggles. A GTX950 should max my mostly older games even at 2K, and even GW2 should be mostly "High." As nearest to where I'd start on a budget, Eric wins the value competition by default. Thomas's build is similar to where I'd like to end up, except I'm less comfortable with the Xeon and would prefer a different PSU.
BTW, your initial table needs fixing; it lists the wrong cases and may have other issues. The pictures are right, but the table is wrong.

PS. That Fritz wanted to pick on Thomas is pretty funny.


 

SpAwNtoHell

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I have to conffess Eric hat of to you.... As i find the other 2 systems kind of unbalanced for gaming and general use for graphic workstation chris's build is not bad for a cheap graphical workhorse... Wont get in detail there why and how come, i will let someone in the domain explain better. I done many times erics build with small variation in terms of market prices and depending of what the user would use the build for, and yes i ask what programs are used everytime including how future proof the system to be and 90% aim for FHD gaming playable, online usage and office work... And except i choose to split that 1TB hard drive is 250ssd +750hdd the other only thing is graphics as sometimes i get to source at almost same price or very close price gtx 960 strix or evga vs gtx950 strix. As a bottom note wich i find crucial for win 10 x64 is that skylake is more fluid and constant game wise compared with runing it on win 8.1-8-7 but again i3- 4130 wont benefit from win7-8-8.1 to win 10 but for i3 6100 is like changing hardware only buy changing os. So my advice would be unless dual gpu used or top flagship gpu like fury, 980ti, titan x, and if gaming is a proarity use the cash for storage gpu or MB unless un a budget.

As a ps: i have in the house every generation processor since sandy bridge and the only processor i had not tested myself for homies yet is the new xeon and the gpu 980ti...

Myself i think Eric is the winner here in terms of budget, gaming combined with general office use, if you want 144hz get a higher on the ladder gpu, same for rez( i do not refer to 4k), you need faster storrage put a ssd on or nvme need bigger storrage chuck a bigger hdd and adjust psu to suit the graphics.
 

RedJaron

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Whoops, thanks. Result of me rushing to get this out. Thomas had a big emergency so I volunteered to cover this for him. I've let them know to fix it.
 

Math Geek

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lots of good information in this SBM. i like the variety of builds.

i'd love a similar priced face off next time around. something like an oc'ed i3 done with a better and proven mobo for it. perhaps an fx 83** again on a decent oc board and then an i5 build.

more than anything i am curious how they would compete inside of a similar budget. these 3 seem to be the bulk of argument in the forums at a certain budget level (about $750-800ish) and i'd be curious who would win and how they'd stack up. i've read plenty of numbers and i think it would be a very close match.

or perhaps for the fun of it a super budget build with an a10 and an r7-250 in xfire. i've seen some decent numbers from this set-up and wonder how it would do from a value perspective.
 

rayden54

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These are a lot more interesting than the others (which are all very similar concepts), but I personally wouldn't build any of them.
 

RedJaron

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After seeing some people complaining about my "obvious Intel fanboy-ism" since I went with the "expensive" i3 instead of the obviously superior FX chips, I was thinking about making an FX-6300 system next quarter so I could pit it against the budget build from this week ( like my 860K vs i3 last quarter ). I have no idea how that would be a fair fight since the FX is at least two generations behind in micro architecture efficiency and it has half the memory bandwidth of Skylake.
 

Math Geek

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i'm not really concerned about fanboy's idea of "fair. i just think it would be interesting to see an i3 vs fx-8*** vs an i5 for some new numbers to work with. plenty of old numbers to see but almost nothing that puts it all into one place like the SBM does. fx being a bit cheaper might allow for a better gpu than a new i5, the oc'ed i3 would surely allow for a better gpu as well than an i5 build (staying with the same budget of course)

like you said an fx compared to your other i3 and 860k builds brings even more comparison into play

perhaps an i3 with a better gpu would be comparable to the fx or even i5 build. i think the i3 and fx builds would end up pretty closely matched (in gaming benchmarks anyway). in the end i am very curious as to how the value aspect of it ends up.

i know no matter what the numbers say, there will always be whining but many of use understand and appreciate the risks taken in these builds and love the new information it brings to light
 

RedJaron

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Oh, it's not them that are thinking about fairness, it's more me. Kaveri vs Haswell is one thing since they seemed pretty close on paper. But Vishera isn't anywhere near Skylake. It kinda seems like a waste of a SBM to confirm something we already know.

If a lot of people want to see it, I wouldn't mind running one, but I'd say the result is already known at the outset.
 

Math Geek

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that is very true. we do pretty much already know to expect. that is why the SBM must be so hard for you guys. hard to come up with something new to try out. this SBM was interesting with lots of new stuff we have not seen in the SBM before.
 

chlamchowder

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But for gaming, what users care about is playability, not the highest benchmark score. Haswell and Skylake will push higher framerates than Kaveri and Vishera, but the difference between say, 65 and 110 fps, won't be visible on a 60 Hz screen. And a lot of games are perfectly playable in the 30-60 fps range.

If you can still get playable performance at the same settings with Kaveri or Vishera (instead of Haswell or Skylake), you could save a good chunk of money that could go towards a better graphics card or SSD.
 

Math Geek

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that's kind of what i am thinking myself. the "value" of the fx chip if it has any. most are happy enough with consoles so a solid 60 fps or so no matter what cpu it is should keep anyone happy. not sure where the super high fps thing comes from but some have just decided that if someone has more than them, then they are not gaming right.

same idea is what keeps vegas in business and why they make $1000 video cards. not cause anyone actually needs them, but it gives them a nice big e-penis to flash around i guess
 

RedJaron

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The SBM is not about gaming. Gaming performance is a very small part of the final calculation, just as it's a small part of computing in general around the world. I also think many people vastly overestimate the effect CPU has on gaming performance. Yes, at the low end, it can be pretty harsh. The 860K demonstrated that. However, most mainstream CPUs will be more than adequate, at which point they take a distant back seat to the GPU. But even if you are right, while that extra 40 fps may not be noticeable now, consider what that means for longevity. If you've got that framerate surplus now, it suggests the machine will be able to adequately play games for a while to come. If you're already on the edge of playable right now, what does that suggest will happen next year as games get more resource intensive?

And the supposed huge price gap between Intel and AMD is very small on the mainstream. The FX-6300 is $110 while the i3-6100 is $125. That $15 gets you much better single-threaded performance for all the other tasks outside of gaming.

It simply makes no sense to me right now to build a brand new computer today centered around a CPU that's almost four years old.
 

chlamchowder

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Firstly, excellent point about gaming being a small factor. If you run applications that demand CPU power, those older AMD CPUs are a poor choice. Also, good point about Vishera being very outdated and outclassed. Scratch vishera from my previous post - it's not competitive today.

For Kaveri though, there is a scenario where it'd make sense. The 860K is $70, which is about $50 cheaper than an i3. Take someone who (at home) games and does light productivity work involving web browsing and office applications. Any heavier work is handled by remoting into a work machine instead of bringing gigabytes of data home every day. Then the performance impact is small because web activity is bottlenecked by network performance and office applications remain very responsive on weaker CPUs. At the same time, practically all modern games will be playable with a good graphics card.

As for future-proofing, it's impossible to see the future of course. But historically, games have increased demands on GPU power far more than CPU power, and CPUs have aged very well. An i7 920 from 2008 will still push playable framerates for almost all of today's games when paired with a modern midrange video card. A 9800 GTX from 2008 will struggle on games today even with settings turned down. In addition 512 MB of onboard memory is limiting (causing stuttering), and DX 11 support is missing.

So for future proofing with respect to gaming, I think it's better to put $50 into a better graphics card, perhaps with more video memory. Outside of gaming, a larger SSD ($50 can take you from 240 GB to 480 GB) or more RAM ($50 is more than enough to go from 8 GB to 16 GB) also feels more solid for future proofing.
 

RedJaron

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It is true that some CPUs have aged well. Those were the ones that were already fairly strong. The i7 you mentioned is older yet stronger than the 860K. If you're not aware, I've already done considerable testing between the i3 and 860K in the last two SBMs. The 860K never looks particularly good. It's a good enough CPU for someone on a very tight budget, but I don't think it's worth overclocking. That's because the amount of extra money you would need to spend to get a good overclock out of it puts it into the price range of the i3, when you consider total platform cost.

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chlamchowder

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Yeah, it's not worth overclocking. Or more accurately it's not worth spending additional money to get a good overclock.

But while the 860K benchmarks lower than the i3 every time (not disputing that), the 860K fits into a small spot with people who game and do office work (or other things that don't demand tons of CPU power). From the SBM benchmarks with the 860K + GTX 970, non-overclocked:
Arma 3 Ultra @ 1080: 41.8 fps
Grid 2 Ultra @ 1080: 82.8 fps
BF4 Ultra @ 1080: 84.9 fps
Far Cry 3 Ultra @ 1080: 62.1 fps

Those are all perfectly playable framerates. For 3/4 games, it's higher than the 60 Hz refresh rate most monitors operate at. And the lowest (41 fps) is still better than consoles, which tend to target 30 fps.

Of course a faster CPU is always better, but saving $50 on the processor and putting that towards other components might go further in making the computer more pleasant to work with. For example, getting a 480 GB SSD (vs 240 GB), and loading games off the SSD IMO improves gaming experience far more than pushing more frames once you're above 30 fps. Even spending the $50 on a video card with more VRAM might be better for future proofing.

But yes, you'd have to be on a very tight budget for the 860K to make sense, especially since it's an old architecture and Zen should be coming.
 
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