System Builder Marathon Q3 2015: Gaming PC

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For gaming and for $800, this is an excellent build. As we saw in the AMD build, the 860k can limit in some games, and going i3 is a pure solid choice. Also, a 380 will max out most games at 1080p. Great choices and to hell with the whiners.
While many H81, 87, 97, and B85 boards support unofficial overclocking, they're primarily limited to just CPU multiplier and voltage. Only Z boards let you fiddle with the BCLK to take the locked i3 any higher. The ASRock Z97M Pro4 might have been an alternative if you put the TX3 money toward it. However, you are right that a few hundred MHz more don't make a big difference in most daily computing.

Also, your particular board may "technically" support CFX, but that bottom slot is only PCIe 2.0 x4 and will severely handicap any second GPU you add.

But still a good, efficient build nonetheless. Your build will definitely cream mine in the productivity benchmarks come Wednesday.
The main reason the EVGA 500w get a lot of hate by users, including me, is because XFX makes a higher quality, made by seasonic to be exact, for about 10-15$ more. I would, and probably many others would choose to pay an extra mere 15$ than have a potential burn out of all components. Other than the PSU, solid part selections.


Jan 20, 2010
Is it just me or is the System Builder Marathon Q3 2015: AMD Mini PC faster than this in most games? This would fit in with the "save on the processor and go big on the GPU philosophy. Also I believe it is time to throw in a multitasking benchmark, seldom do I encode or game an leave the machine running that one task, I'm gaming while streaming videos or encoding while surfing the web or streaming videos or both.


Sep 24, 2001
This is good. I do love that i3 and 380 combo. Until AMD shows a rebound in their business though, I'd probably avoid them to reduce chances of ending up with unsupported product. A 970 would be ideal.
A 380 or 970 is pretty much all most of us really need. The PC market is mature and has been for some time, spending on top end hardware doesn't make sense any longer. I'm waiting for KabyLake which should have enough graphics performance for my MOBA and other competitive gaming needs. Unless you're looking at buying into VR in which case a PS4+Morpheus needs to be considered.


Sep 28, 2015
This is the way I build gaming PCs for friends. Agreed with HDD vs SDD part. I would only use some smaller case.


For gaming and for $800, this is an excellent build. As we saw in the AMD build, the 860k can limit in some games, and going i3 is a pure solid choice.

Though in the AMD build you can get a cpu cooler later down the road and OC the 860k.

This for me is the Intel main advantage: FM2 upgrade path is a 3rd party cpu cooler + overclock.
Haswell upgrade path is an i5/i7/xeon.

Math Geek

i would love to see the amd build from yesterday overclocked just for the academics of it. give it away as is but since you don't normally have such a system in the comparisons, why not cool it right and oc it just to see how it does with the 970.

again just for the academics of it more than anything. just curious how it would hold up to this i3 build.

but overall nice build, i even don't mind the evga psu. it's not as bad as folks want it ot be. it has reviewed very well and is solid for it's proper uses. though i am not so sure about it being capable of a second 380. i'd go with a bit better psu for that.


Why is the cost of these systems $800? Does that include the price of the operating system license in there or not? How is that determining the cost of the hardware that is going inside these systems? I'm just wondering what the logic is behind the part choices.
In certain things, yes, my AMD build is faster at games.

In Arma 3, Chris' build is faster than mine across the board except at 5760x1080 on Ultra detail. That's kinda academic since 29 fps isn't really smooth for gaming.

In BF4, the AMD system is faster in every respect, though Chris does tie me at single-screen resolutions and medium detail.

In FC3, Chris has a slight advantage over me at stock speeds and lower details. Once I OC my machine, it takes a small lead in most places.

Grid 2 has us trading blows all over the place.

Generally, as you go higher resolution and/or higher detail settings, my AMD build will pull away from Chris' system.


Nice build! Your experience shows in how well this system is balanced. I appreciate how you set the machine up with both the eventual owner and those enthusiasts upgrading by following your lead in mind.

My only quibble - A smaller tower would have taken better advantage of the Micro ATX board and low power/heat of the system.

I think the DVD recorder and spinning disks are in the same category. Lots want or need them but they are cheap commodities that don't help a competitive build. Lean is the way to go for the Marathon!

Which if any of the benchmarks show the benefits of Direct X12 ?

Math Geek


yah, windows is included in the $800 price. so basically, they are $700 builds without the OS. this is stated in each article in the introduction.

"This quarter, Thomas, Eric, and I are all building $800 systems, well $700, with the remaining money reserved for the operating system"


Apr 23, 2013
Would've personally went with a 280X over the 380, but I understand the price fluctuates pretty heavily on the 280X, so whatever.

Also, I know the Core i3 is fine for games today, but I still cringe at possible forwards compatibility issues. I'd have gone FX 6350 on principle alone basically, but the Core i3 is admittedly better in most games, and has a reputation of being more stable overall.
I did OC it, I was just very limited due to a small, hot environment. In light work, the CPU stays between 4.0 and 4.3 GHz ( stock speeds were 3.7 - 4.0 GHz. However, once a heavy workload sets in, it will throttle itself back to 3.5 - 3.7 GHz as temps climb. That threshold is around 63° - 67° C ( total, not over ambient ). What you're suggesting would require putting the Munchkin internals on a bench and strapping a massive cooler to it. I don't know if we have that much time before it gets sent out to the winner. It would be an interesting experiment though.

Math Geek


yah that's pretty much what i was asking :) to really strap on some high end cooling on an open bench and see what the cpu can really do without being throttled. again not practical overall as a build but i am very curious as to how it does with such a nice gpu. plenty of benchmarks with high end cpu's but pretty much nothing available with these entry level ones.

back before the unlocked penium showed up, the 860k was used in the low end system of the SBM a lot but was always a low budget and was paired with low end gpu's as a result. so we never really got a feel for what it would do with a nice high end gpu thrown in. :D

I would like to see a test w/ the $40 Cooler Master Seidon 120V. This is a true option for this particular build.
Well, $50 from Newegg and B&H, $40 from newegg with the mail-in.

I think trying to fit the seidon into the AMD build could have helped it alot though, but may have punished it's graphics performance with a lower chip requirement.

I was not question your build. As far as I am concerned this was a well thought and executed gaming build. I just point out that this particular cpu cooler would be a good match for this build and the suggested oc testing.

know what... if i win this rig i will send you the Seidon for the test! Deal? :D
This machine did very well, which I think is a suspicion that most readers would have had at the outset; an excellent build, but uninteresting data points from it. Once again, I'm not thrilled by the PSU choice, but it was certainly enough to provide the data. I'd like to win this one; I'd use a modular Antec PSU I've got on a shelf, and toss in at least one magnetic HDD.

Chris Droste

May 29, 2013
i just revel in the knowledge that without rebates i can goto a local/regional merchant, drop the aftermarket cooler from this setup and move to a cheaper case, step up to the i5-4590 and manage to squeeze the 970 back into the build after nailing down an (almost) never ending rebate on a slightly cheaper SSD.
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