System Builder Marathon Q4 2015: $895 LAN Box PC

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robinspi

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You spent too much on the psu, the saved 30 dollars would have been better applied elsewhere.
Agreed. There are other good options, though TBH, I might have done something near $20-10 less because I like good PSUs. (esp for modularity in that mITX system)
 

silverblue

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It's a shame about the 860K throttling like it does; a larger cooler would help but your space is limited. Still, the comments on the Q3 article about undervolting hold some merit - AMD overvolts its CPUs, and you can easily knock 0.1 to 0.15V off. I'm not sure it'd help much with power nor thermals in stress tests, but it'd at least take a bit longer before it throttles.

I've not had mine above 60 degrees C yet on the stock cooler (Prime95); it usually sits in the 40-50 degree range and at about 3.9GHz on 1.32V on an ASUS A88XM-A. In a smaller case, I'd probably undervolt a little more, but I'd also have a better cooler than stock. I was considering an i3 but the price differential was too great, even when looking at Haswell. :S The 860K does drop to 3.0 or 3.5GHz occasionally without any thermal issues being present (hell, the fan is at low speed), so I'm just putting that does as a fast idle, or its inherent dislike of these new article layouts - so much on a single page at the same time meaning it doesn't idle for long, though to be fair that could be Opera's fault. :)
 

Onus

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As a stickler for quality PSUs, normally I'd disagree with this. In this case though, the power numbers (at the wall, no less), suggest that a smaller unit could have been used, while maintaining quality. The 400W Seasonic Thomas picked comes to mind. I'm not sure where else you'd use the money; perhaps a SSHD or a WD Black for data storage (I'd probably take option #2 for the 5-year warranty).
This, overall, is a solid machine that someone may very well build. On a tighter budget, a GTX960 or GTX950 is still viable. Even if all you can afford is a GTX750Ti, you won't be suffering to build this; lower a few settings and game on.
Eric, combined with Munchkin 1.0, I think you've done an outstanding job providing some solid data points.
 

Mopar63

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As an AVID LAN party gamer I can tell you I am excited to see builds with a focus on LAN Event attendance being in your build list. However if would be nice if that was your focus or at least a more than basic understanding. Lets begin with those quote from your part selection.

As a LAN box, I wanted to keep the wireless network capabilities. Despite what many gamers think, playing over a wireless network is more than acceptable with the right router and setup.
I 100% agree that with the setup being done properly wireless can give a great gaming experience. However at anything but a few buddies in size event wireless is NOT a viable option. First the setup will vary from event to event and on top of that with events having more than 4 or 5 buddies a wireless setup will be all but toasted in performance. At organized LAN events wireless is the worst possible option and often never offered.

As for your testing methodology also shows a lack of focus on LAN events and rather that you built a small system and then used the same old testing methods. LAN event attenders seldom, with the exception of the show offs, bring large monitors. They are bulky and a mess to handle plus expensive do you want to risk traveling with your expensive monitor. Multiple monitors are also a huge no-no as LAN events have limited space and most events do not allow them.

Testing at 1600x900 could make sense but I know of few to no gamers that build a solid gaming rig and use anything less than 1080P. The 24" monitor is the prime choice for a LAN event gamer, decent size and good resolution, low cost and easy to transport. That being said testing even to 1440 is reasonable as 27" monitors are still within a reasonable price point and carry size. Going beyond that resolution is nothing to do with LAN events and purely a fall back to an old and tired testing methodology that does not take into account the supposed target of the article.

Finally, while I understand your choice of an SSD and spindle drive, I would suggest instead getting a single, larger SSD. You can get a 480 gig SSD for a little less than your combo and it will perform faster than the system you listed.

While you will lose disk space you gain speed, and durability, a kind of valuable factor for an event being carried between events. Further a dedicated LAN box tends to be a more pure gaming rig. On my pure gaming rig with just a 480 gig SSD I have ESO, Secret Worlds, Fallout 4, XCOM, Kerbel Plague and Civilization all installed and still have 267 gig free. That does include extras like Gamevox, OBS, Paint.Net and other utilities a gamer might need.

Again I appreciate the fact your trying to show an effort to support LAN events and the people that attend them by creating what you list as a focused build. However next time I suggest attending a few LANs and getting a feel for what is really needed at a LAN event. A better understanding of your topic matter would have made a better article.
 

Onus

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^A little harsh, perhaps, but there are some valid points there. I suspect it is partly a matter of scale. It would not surprise me if the author was anticipating carrying the machine to a buddy's house for a session with 2-4 friends, not attending a major LAN gaming event. For example, I had HOURS of fun playing Diablo2 and Guild Wars with 1-2 of my nieces.
We'd be interested to hear how you would test large scale LAN gaming. No, I'm not being sarcastic; is there a way that a single system builder can approximate this, or an environment he can visit with the machine for realistic (if not entirely controlled) testing?
 

Mopar63

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^A little harsh, perhaps, but there are some valid points there. I suspect it is partly a matter of scale. It would not surprise me if the author was anticipating carrying the machine to a buddy's house for a session with 2-4 friends, not attending a major LAN gaming event. For example, I had HOURS of fun playing Diablo2 and Guild Wars with 1-2 of my nieces.
We'd be interested to hear how you would test large scale LAN gaming. No, I'm not being sarcastic; is there a way that a single system builder can approximate this, or an environment he can visit with the machine for realistic (if not entirely controlled) testing?
It is not so much a matter of testing for large scale LAN events as planning. A larger LAN event usually has a space limitation so the reasoning I gave for 24" monitors being the preferred size. The other factors I point out are along the same lines, ideas that show more thought and understanding in the limitations of organized LAN events as well as the travel and difficulties associated with it.

One area however that could be "tested" is cooling levels. LAN events are bad about air conditioning breaking down. Even at winter events when you put 100+ gaming systems in a room there is a heat issue. To test this is actually easy, raise the ambient room temp. I would suggest 80F to even 85F as a great place test gaming load under hours of game play.

Many people attend LAN events with the same system they use at home. A dedicated LAN rig is a luxury only a few of us would likely ever have. However to say your building a rig specifically for LAN events means more effort should have gone in to make sure the rig is focused in the right areas to achieve the goal instead of throwing as big a system as you can afford into a small case and calling it a LAN Rig Guide, which is what it feels like was done here.

For example the choice of the 970 is a great choice but if you wanted to be efficient for a true LAN rig it makes no sense. Remember 1080P is the norm so a card that can drive 1080P gaming well should be the target, not the biggest I can throw.

With this in mind a 380/380X or 960 could shave as much as $100 off the price and not effect the game play experience at all.

With that in mind the money saved could be used to upgrade the CPU cooler, say to a Cryorig C7 to allow better performance in the heated environment.

Again however what I am pointing out is true, TESTING for the event is not the issue so much as a planning that takes the factors of attending the event, traveling with the system and working within the confines of the environment into account.
 

Mopar63

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Calling a device a LAN box but not taking into account t the needs of someone regularly attending a LAN is not relevant? I am not saying it is a bad build and a good setup for a SFF build for staying at home. I am saying if you are calling a system build topical at least show a better understanding of the nature of the topic.

 

Onus

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I was more interested in the wireless testing. Your other observations about the target resolution are no doubt true, but the SBM builders are also competing with each other at the higher resolutions, so I doubt you'll get them to forego higher-powered graphics cards (it would appear that a GTX960 or GTX950 would suit my needs quite nicely).
The difference may be "LAN Party" vs "LAN Event," which are likely entirely different scales. The LAN Event attendee probably has a lot more invested specifically into his mouse and keyboard too.
 

RedJaron

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You guys need to make up your minds. Last quarter it was, "You should have spent more on the PSU." Now you're saying it's too much?

I spent only $70 on the PSU, though I counted it as $75 in the value calculations because that's how much it cost last quarter. Please show me where I can get a quality PSU of at least 400W for only $40 - $45 that's also modular. Using those criteria right now, you get three units: Corsair CX 430, a Raidmax unit, and Firepower unit. Had I used any of those . . .

Joe, you're right in that the SS-400ET that Thomas used would have been adequate for this build. However, it's not a modular unit. Being a small case, cable mgmt is critical, so I wanted no unused cables to tuck out of the way. Now as a 400W unit, it has fewer cables overall, so it's possible I could've worked with it. But that unit is not listed as having a PCIe power lead on Newegg at all ( one 6+2 or 8-pin cable is shown in the pictures, but not listed in the specs ). So when I use the power search feature to find a PSU and I say I want at least one PCIe lead, it's not even listed in the results.
 

Mopar63

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^ Onus, I see what your talking about. I guess the best way to test the wireless would be to setup a wireless router and then see how many machines you can have gaming or watching videos on it before the system degrades, would be an interesting article. Most LAN parties put their budget into wired routers so it would make sense to get a regular, decent grade consumer level wireless router, nothing crazy, say around $100. Leave it on default setup and see what the load limits would be. To simulate a LAN party I would say start with 5 machines, 3 playing an online game like DOTA or CSGO, one watching a Netflix movie and one doing a steam game download. This BTW is a good approximation of the typical load spread of a LAN event. Next jump to 10 machines with 6/2/2 and so on keeping the same ratio. See at what point things just go to hell.

As for the LAN Party vs LAN Event it is a matter of size but I think less so than you might imagine. I know a lot of people that attending a large, organized 100+ person event twice a year and smaller events couple more times a year. Even if you only do a smaller event, say 10 people 4 times a year that is a lot of transport time. The same factors would come into play.

If you did one event a year and that was all then the factors might be less of an issue but in that case a LAN specific build would seem a waste.

Also your right and wrong. Some people go the minimalist route for mouse and keyboard, they get what's cheap so if it dies there is no real lose. The others go the other end of the spectrum and want a nice mechanical keyboard and solid mouse. To me the bigger issue was always the headphones. You need a headset with good sound isolation to make sure your hearing the game clear above the roar of the crowd of gamers yelling around you.
 

Onus

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That sort of wireless testing would be a great project, but is unfortunately well beyond the scope of what even all three SBM writers would be able to pull off.
Thomas, is this the kind of thing that Editorial would consider setting up an event to test, like the G-sync vs. Freesync test?
Newegg searches are perennially borked. They will ALWAYS miss things, or include the wrong things. Sadly, a good Newegg search is largely a manual process. It's a darn shame the Rosewill 450W Capstone-M seems gone.
 

RedJaron

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Okay, buddy boy, I've been up most of the night finishing something else you'll see on Thursday so my nerves are a little raw and I may not be quite as nice as I usually am. However, you're being obstinate about details that completely don't matter here. More so, you demonstrate ignorance about the idea of the SBM, particularly what this quarter is about. If you're going to comment on an SBM article, at least show a better understanding of the nature of the topic.

Every SBM machine gets put through the exact same tests each quarter as the last. That way you can get usable data about how two different machines perform when running through the same tasks. It makes each of them comparable so you can draw reasonable conclusions about which machine is the better performer. Using these performance numbers and the machine's cost, you can calculate value to the end user about which rig did more work in less time for less money. So, asking that one machine get put through a different set of tests than everything else kinda breaks the scientific method.

It's absolutely hilarious that you automatically assume I have no LAN experience. Please, tell me what here suggests so. I suggest you go back and read the article from a last quarter. In it I specifically state the Munchkin was an experiment to see if you could build a gaming rig that had enough punch to game across multiple monitors at home, but was small enough to take as a LAN box on the road, and was under $800 total. That way you wouldn't need one dedicated home gaming rig and one dedicated LAN box since one machine could do both. This quarter all three of us took our last builds and corrected the flaws that came about due to the hard money cap.

Name one thing about this rig that would be unsuitable for either a friendly LAN party or taking it to QuakeCon, BlizzCon, or any other major gaming event. The Core V1 is 10.90" x 10.20" x 12.40". That's less than a cubic foot. Portable? Very. Small footprint for the limited LAN table space? Check. Front audio and USB ports for your gaming headset? Got it. Low power draw ( a nice consideration for your host's power bill )? Yep. Gaming performance? Superb.

You complaining about monitor resolution testing makes no sense. I'm well aware 1920x1080 is the most common gaming resolution. You even bringing that up suggests you didn't read the gaming benchmark section ( or didn't pay any attention to it ). See those black bars? Yep, all of those are 1080p tests. Note that none of them dip below 60 fps, which is a great thing for all those people playing on their inexpensive 24" 60 Hz 1080p monitors you're talking about. But really, what does monitor size have to do with the computer itself?

Your critiques about wired vs wireless performance are moot. This machine has both interfaces. Whether it's a small LAN party with five friends or a huge event at an expo center, you can hop on whichever network is provided. If only wireless is provided and it's not adequate, then every other machine will be affected just as well. Testing the network capabilities of the box here is pointless because the limitations are completely up to the host and their network configuration.

Operating temps can indeed be a concern. Many a December LAN party saw me and my friends with the windows open and ten space heaters in the room. Again, it seems you're not paying attention to the article itself because I took those considerations under advisement. Notice I went with an i3 instead of an i5. While the CPU itself may run hot, as a 50W chip it actually gives off very little heat. Also the GTX 970 is probably the most thermally efficient GPU on the market today in terms of gaming performance to heat. A 960 might run a little cooler, but you also lose a lot of the gaming performance this build is themed around. A 960 may be good enough for 1080 now, but what about next year or the year after? The 970 has a lot more staying power. It's also adequate for 1440p, another resolution you mentioned, whereas the 960 isn't. Your suggestion of a 380X instead of the 970 is completely at odds with your concern about thermal performance however, so you best pick one side or the other.

Finally, SFF stands for Shuttle Form Factor. Currently, people want to use it for small form factor, which is a pointless term. You see, a form factor means a specific dimensional standard, including rigid size specifications, placement of interface panels, component mounting, etc. So using the term "small form factor" is meaningless because there is no such specification. People use it as a catch-all to describe anything built around ITX mboards. That's a ridiculous notion since plenty of ITX cases like the Neutron and Prodigy are actually bigger than some mATX mini towers.

The only legitimate concern/suggestion you've made in all your rambling is swapping the CPU cooler for an after-market model, but even that doesn't make much sense. The reported maximum temp here was during a Prime95 torture run, which heats up a CPU far more than any game will ever go. So unless you plan to protein fold or search for Mersenne primes at your next LAN party, the stock cooler is more than adequate.

Now, if you have any sensible questions or suggestions, I'd love to hear them.
 

Mopar63

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^RedJaron, no question except one, can you have a mod remove my account from this site? Seriously dude your right about not being polite and as a rep of a site with this kind of reputation you expect more. My points are made as someone that attended numerous events every year.

The point I was making is not that any specific point of the build is bad but rather the premise is wrong based on the title. A LAN rig is implying a rig specifically designed for LAN events and the build instead comes across as yet another lets build a small rig, call it a LAN box and cram it full. Not make something that is designed for the tasked titled.

I could go on but do not feel like wasting my time further. Post as you like as I will not reading it.

BTW next time your tired and want to post, especially when a bit angry at a response, the "professional" thing to do is wait 24 hours to cool down before posting.
 

Onus

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You can remove your own account.
Once again though, I think you are [both] not considering scale. The author was likely thinking of the "take the PC to a buddy's LAN party" thing, and you're talking about major, sponsored, dozens or hundreds of participants, e-sports events.
 

jhatfie

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Dang, this is very close to the SFF build I just built out a few weeks ago for my daughter for X-Mas. Thankfully with some strategic shopping I got everything for under $600. Excellent little light gaming machine.

Same motherboard ($60 NewEgg after rebate), same cpu ($88 Fry's), same case ($29 NewEgg After Rebate), same external optical drive ($10 after rebate NewEgg) 240GB OCZ ARC 100 (NewEgg $60) , Corsair CSM550M ($35 After Rebate NewEgg), 16GB G.Skill Ares ($60 NewEgg), Seagate 1TB ($40 NewEgg), EVGA GTX950 SSC 2GB ($109 jet.com) and Windows 7 Home upgraded to 10 ($60), Azio KB505U ($20 NewEgg), Logitech M510 ($14 Amazon). Grand total of $585 AR.
 

RedJaron

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Oh I'm not angry; I'm amused. You create an account and the first thing you do is assume, with no evidence whatsoever, that a reviewer has no clue of what he's talking about. Yet I'm the one that's impolite? You then make a laundry list of complaints that are either already addressed in the article or that don't apply to the SBM. Two other SBM articles have already been posted this week, and you didn't bother to read them and see how SBM machines are tested.

When your points are refuted, instead of defending your arguments you act like you're getting picked on and are the victim. That's classic crybully behavior and is frowned upon here. If you're going to accuse a reviewer of not knowing what they're talking about, you best be able to back that up. Rational debates are encouraged, and we've even had a few heated ones. So long as people are attacking points, not people, and are substantiating their arguments, it's all fine, even if tempers run a little hot.

Now, let's go through all your complaints.

Wireless is pointless at big gaming events. - Usually yes. Please tell me where I said otherwise. I said network performance over wireless is directly related to the network infrastructure. For big events, this thing has a gigabit wired connection, so why do you consider this to be a problem? The WiFi is there for when it makes sense, nothing more.

Testing didn't focus on LAN activity - Did I limit the benching to just LAN related activity? No. The benching suite here is a pretty broad gamut. That's the way the SBM works. What does that matter? The better question is, "Are there any cases specific to LAN performance that aren't included here?" Some people might be worried about system weight when they haul it around ( in this case, it's just under 16 lbs ), but that's not a number we care about in the SBM. You're essentially complaining that the system was tested more than it needed to be.

LAN attendees don't bring large monitors - Where did I say otherwise? Monitor size itself isn't mentioned anywhere in the article.

Multiple monitors at LAN events is not allowed because of space restrictions - No, they not. And again I didn't say otherwise. I said this is meant to be a LAN box that has enough power for triple screen gaming at home for when you have the space, but that it's also portable for LAN events. Part of that consideration for table space is the small case, that has a footprint under one square foot.

1600x900 resolution testing is pointless - Yes, most gamers are at a higher resolution. But this resolution is still included in the standard SBM suite. If we tested 1600x900 but not 1920x1080, you would have a valid complaint. They are both included, as are two other resolutions, so why is it a problem?

Temperature testing is important since LAN events can get warm - And at the end I give a min/max thermal readout. We can't give CPU temps under a gaming load because that varies with each game so it wouldn't be terribly applicable. Thermal constraints were considered in part selection, as both the i3 and GTX 970 are both very thermally efficient for the performance they give.

GTX 970 is wrong for a LAN box - Why? Is there some kind of definition that means a high-end card can't go in a LAN box? What if people like to play at higher details while at a LAN event? What if they play on a 1440 monitor ( which you even said some peopl do )? What if they want to keep the box for a few years without upgrading the GPU?

A LAN box needs an aftermarket cooler - This entirely depends on the CPU and the temperatures you're seeing. As an i3 doesn't generate a lot of heat, and typically stays below 50 °C over ambient when gaming, I dee this as something that would be a bonus, but not a requirement. I state quite clearly that performance value is the main goal at the beginning of the article. Adding $30+ more to the cost that doesn't yield any performance benefits would diminish that value.

This isn't a LAN box, it's a big box stuffed into a small case. - Again, why? I've asked this repeatedly and you haven't given one reason why. The best you've come up with is that a 970 is too big for a LAN box for some reason you haven't bothered explaining. Whether you want to call this a desktop gamer that can double as a LAN box or a LAN box that can double as a big desktop gamer doesn't matter to me. I'm not sure "LAN Box" has an official definition anywhere. But just because you don't think this machine fits that label doesn't mean everyone or even the majority of people think the same.
 

RedJaron

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Thanks, I appreciate that. I'm not saying everyone has to agree with me. I welcome good, rational debate. Complaining about things one person didn't say and about rules they didn't invent is not rational or productive

Is there anything you would have changed in this quarter? And if so, why?
 

Onus

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I think this quarter's SBM cycle, when added to last cycle, has produced some very good data points. I'd like to see something similar done with much lower budgets though. Budget creep is creating the illusion that people "have to spend" unrealistic amounts of money to enjoy games.
I still remember one of the first Tom's articles I ever read was a $500 gaming PC build. The PSU was a 300W Seasonic, and the CPU was a Pentium "D" (820 iirc). I've forgotten the graphics card...
 

RedJaron

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I can see what you mean. If people think they have to spend $900 minimum to get decent performnace, that's misleading. These are definitely mainstream, trending toward high-end, builds.
 
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