NAG Online > Technology > System Builders Guide: June R11,000 to R16,500

System Builders Guide: June R11,000 to R16,500

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We’re in with our second-last episode of the System Builders guide for June (delayed slightly thanks to life issues) and we’re once again looking at the mid-range market, where we find our sweet-spot build. Prices are slowly but surely coming down or stabilising and in a few areas they are downright dropping like a stone. If you’re building up your first rig and you have around R16,500 to burn, you might even have a small surprise waiting for you. Hop on in and start drooling!

R11,000 Budget – Almost Hitting The Spot

2560 x 1440 with High details and 4x AA, UltraHD 4K with Medium settings and 2x AA
Processor Intel Core i5-4670K 3.4-3.8GHz Unlocked LGA1150 R2896
CPU Cooler Zalman CNPS10X Optima R327
Motherboard ASRock Z97 Pro4 LGA 1150 R1766
Memory Crucial Ballistix Tracer LED 8GB DDR3-1866 R1072
Graphics Powercolor Radeon HD7950 3GB GDDR5 R2799
Power supply Seasonic M12II 520W 80Plus Bronze R570
Chassis Cooler Master Centurion 610 Black Mid tower R882
Optical drive
Hard drive Seagate Barracuda 1TB 7200RPM R720
Solid state drive
Total (Rands): R11,077

We begin the mid-month guide with something that’s very close to the Sweet Spot build, but not quite hitting the same notes. We’ve moved up to the Core i5-4670K and ASRock’s brand-spanking-new Z97 Pro4, which is a huge step up from MSI’s Z87-G43 we had in here last time. ASRock deserves quite the mention with this board because there’s simply nothing in it’s price range (R1700 or less) that can offer the same value. Its offers not only six SATA 6GB/s ports, but also M.2 connectivity and SATA Express as well. You could flip a coin and go to any storage standard you want without a board change and the only other product with that same benefit in one package is the Gigabyte Z97-D3H, which is almost R300 dearer. The Crucial RAM from last week’s guide is here again, offering up very good timings, speed and bling for a decent price.

Drilling down, the GPU is upgraded to PowerColor’s HD7950 which is currently going for a song over at Wootware. Its faster than the GTX670 and the current GTX760, along with packing in an extra gigabyte of VRAM for all the extra effects you’ll be enabling in-game. The GPU bumps up the expected settings for most games and by now you should know that a mid-range build like this will run through games at 1080p like greased lightning.

If you have an extra R1500 lying around, the Crucial MX100 256GB makes for a very good storage upgrade.

Unfortunately, popping in a AMD build would be pushing the limits of the power supply quite a bit. Even with the Core i5-4670K at a reasonable 4.0GHz with Turbo disabled, there’s not gobs of headroom to be chewed up here. Popping in a FX-8350 would require upgrading to a 600W PSU as well and there’s just no space for that in this build.

R14,000 Budget – The Sweet Spot

2560 x 1440 with High details and 4x AA, UltraHD 4K with Medium settings and 2x AA
Processor Intel Core i5-4670K 3.4-3.8GHz Unlocked LGA1150 R2896
CPU Cooler Corsair Hydro H75 water cooler all-in-one R1005
Motherboard ASRock Z97 Pro4 LGA 1150 R1766
Memory Crucial Ballistix Tracer LED 8GB DDR3-1866 R1072
Graphics Powercolor Radeon R9 280X TurboDuo 3GB GDDR5 R3699
Power supply Seasonic M12II 520W R570
Chassis Cooler Master Centurion 610 Black Mid tower R882
Optical drive
Hard drive Seagate Barracuda 1TB 7200RPM R720
Solid state drive Crucial MX100 256GB SSD R1430
Total (Rands): R14,040

The next step up in our build doesn’t change things too much. We’ve essentially taken the R11,500 build and improved storage, graphics and cooling without unbalancing the build. We’re sticking with ASRock’s Z97 Pro4 because there’s not much reason to get a bigger or better board. We’re only using one GPU in here and power supply limitations mean that we’re not going to be pushing the Core i5 too far in overclocking.

With the H75, going up to 4.5GHz at a reasonable voltage would allow us to still stay well within 450 watts of power draw while keeping things cool. On the GPU end, we’ve beefed up our recommendation to the Radeon R9 280X from PowerColor. The extra power is welcome, even though there’s a hefty price to pay for it. For those who’d like to take the middle road, moving back down to the HD7950 and pairing it with a larger power supply, like the Corsair CS650M, would give you much more room for higher overclocks on both the CPU and GPU.

On the storage side, Crucial’s MX100 helps speed up the boot process and keeps space open for a few of your favourite games. The MX100 shares a controller with the much more expensive and faster M550, but uses newer and cheaper 16-nanometer flash memory to achieve the low price.

R16,500 Budget – Not Quite High-End

5760 x 1080p with High details and 4x AA, UltraHD 4K with High details and 4x AA
Processor Intel Core i5-4670K 3.4-3.8GHz Unlocked LGA1150 R2896
CPU Cooler Corsair Hydro H75 water cooler all-in-one R1005
Motherboard ASRock Z97 Pro4 LGA 1150 R1766
Memory Crucial Ballistix Tracer LED 8GB DDR3-1866 R1072
Graphics MSI Radeon Gaming R9 290 4GB GDDR5 R5797
Power supply Corsair CS650M 650W 80Plus Gold Modular R1133
Chassis Cooler Master CM690 III Mid Tower R982
Optical drive
Hard drive Seagate Barracuda 1TB 7200RPM R720
Solid state drive Crucial MX100 256GB SSD R1430
Total (Rands): R16,668

Although R13,000 to R14,000 has normally given you the most bang for buck in the past, I think those days are over. Much of the remains of the Sweet-Spot build are brought over here, but three changes make it a completely different animal. One is the move to Cooler Master’s CM690 III, which is a superb chassis to build into and to look at. It keeps almost any hardware configuration cool and is very flexible internally.

Another is that Radeon R9 290. MSI’s Gaming version in this build is cheaper than the PowerColor variant, which is why it made the cut. All you have to do here is clock up the GPU a little bit – maybe 100MHz – and you launch yourself into the same territory as the Geforce GTX780 and GTX Titan; the former is only a little more expensive and the latter which is almost three times the price. The GPU horsepower you’re getting here is insane.

With Radeon R9 290 prices this low, it also almost invalidates the Geforce GTX770 and whatever GTX780 cards are out there. The R9 290 belongs in a multi-monitor or 4K environment, it’s almost purpose-built for this reason. Screw Physx, this card does oversampling without batting an eyelid. In April I had a Geforce GTX760 in here and the R9 290 is almost twice as fast as that card.

A bump up in the power supply to Corsair’s new CS650M is also required. With a Gold rating and semi-modular approach, Corsair’s offering is much more attractive and slightly better priced than Seasonic’s usual 650W unit that sometimes makes an appearance here.

That’s all for this week folks! Don’t forget that tonight is the Unreal Tournament Retro tournament and you’re welcome to join us once you read up on all the details here. UT2K4 is even on sale for $5.

Discuss this in the forums: Linky

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  • Quinton Delpéche

    Dammit … saw the post about UT 2004 too late … I will be there next week … need to install my copy … need to find it first … but I will get there. 8-}

  • http://www.nag.co.za Chris Kemp

    Howzit Wesley, I was just wondering how necessary the CPU cooler is. I’m assuming it’s for overclocking, as if you were leaving the speeds at stock the stock fan would be alright?

    I’m building a new system soon and I think that R14K one looks about what I’m looking to make, but I was wondering if I could shave costs a little by dropping the cooler and leaving the CPU at stock – have you chosen that CPU specifically for OC ability?

    I’ve never really dabbled with aftermarket cooling, so I guess I’m a little intimidated by it ;)

    • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Wesley-Fick/184346154999538 Wesley Fick

      Yeah, the stock fan would be perfectly fine otherwise if you’re not overclocking. Save up money for a better cooler later, because even at stock clocks the chip will reach about 75 degrees under load. Keeping temps down and getting the heat out of the case more effectively is also why I put in a water-cooling kit.

      • http://www.nag.co.za Chris Kemp

        Okay awesome, thanks Wesley ;) will have to face my fear at some point :P

      • Spathi

        I’m in the market for a substantial upgrade currently and have, after some of my own research and thanks to your recommendations, decided to go with the 4670k and ASrock Z97 Pro 4. I have two questions:

        1) If ONLY using the “turbo” over-clocking on the CPU, and not dabbling in any speeds higher than 3.8Ghz, would you still recommend a custom cooler?

        2) I’m looking at 16gb of Ram (Star Citizen has me running scared). Would you recommend 4x4gb or 2x8gb, and if 2x8gb what Ram would you deem a good fit? Or would you rather suggest a SSD and 8gb of Ram (I have a 2TB drive which is sufficient for my needs).

        I have an existing 650W PSU and currently a 6850 (which I will be upgrading to a 280x later in the year, after this initial upgrade). This upgrade will have to keep me gaming for the next 3-4 years, at which point I will most likely buy a PS4 for the exclusives. I’m not a graphics whore, and play at 1920 x 1200. I don’t mind playing on medium settings, no AA even.

        Any advice and / or recommendations will be appreciated!

        • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Wesley-Fick/184346154999538 Wesley Fick

          If you’re not overclocking, you can always purchase an aftermarket cooler later or get a water-cooling kit to get heat out of the case more effectively. If you’re never going to overclock ever, dropping to the Core i5-4690 saves you some bucks and gives you an extra 100MHz for stock and boost speeds. The stock cooler will let temps get a bit high, but Intel’s confident that it’s enough.

          Go for a 128GB – 256GB SSD and 8GB of RAM. That pair will set you back about R2600 (16GB RAM is about R2000 on its own) but the extra speed from the drive is well worth it. You can always add in more later. I don’t think SC will use more than 6GB for most people and certainly less than that when playing at 1080p.

          • Spathi

            Cool, thanks for the reply! But does the 4690 have the boost function if it isn’t unlocked? How does the “boost” work on the 4670k, is it like the “Turbo” button on a 286? :P

          • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Wesley-Fick/184346154999538 Wesley Fick

            My 286’s Turbo never worked, but the machine was often in pieces so I probably screwed it up somewhere.

            Yes, there’s a stock and a boost clock for the i5-4690 (3.5GHz to 3.9GHz). Boost works the same as on any other Core i5 or i7 chip these days and the 4670K has a range between 3.4GHz to 3.8GHz.

  • Marco

    Hey, I would also like to know about what Chris below has said… But also, which Nvidia graphics card would you recommend that is more or less the same price point as the AMD. I’m not interested in overclocking the CPU and GPU.

    • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Wesley-Fick/184346154999538 Wesley Fick

      Hey Marco,

      Which cards are we talking about here? Very few Geforce cards offer the same bang-for-buck that AMD’s GPUs do.

      • Marco

        I don’t mind not getting the most cost effective card. I would just like to know which Nvidia 600 or 700 series card would you recommend for R3500.Thanks!

  • Rudi

    Hey guys, I’ve read that a SSD doesn’t make a difference to FPS for gaming – just helps with faster booting times and loading – wouldn’t it be a better idea to rather get a regular hard drive, and put some more cash towards a better gpu or more ram?

    • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Wesley-Fick/184346154999538 Wesley Fick

      You’re right, it doesn’t improve performance hugely. There are some games that benefit from being run on a SSD, but they’re almost all based on the id tech 5 engine, which relies a lot on streaming textures into the game world, resulting in texture pop-in in RAGE and Wolfenstein: The New Order.

      Otherwise SSDs are in there purely for the insane boosts they give to general useability and productivity. It’s okay to swap it out to free the funds to slip in a better GPU or more RAM, but that’s when you’re building up the PC purely for gaming purposes.

  • TheRed

    Any reason why ASRock is the preferred mobo choice for all builds?

    • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Wesley-Fick/184346154999538 Wesley Fick

      Mostly price considerations and the fact that in South Africa very few boards can match the feature set of the Z97 Pro4 while competing in the same price range. ASRock’s doing a lot of good work to improve their brand image and kick MSI to the curb in the motherboard market so they can command third place in that race.

      • TheRed

        I’m not gonna lie, never been a fan of ASRock (heard too many bad things, not enough good) BUT…. there price/spec is pretty good compared to the mobo god’s out there and now that they aren’t under ASUS’ thumb maybe worthwhile.

        I’ve been considering an upgrade and saw a ASRock Z97 Fatal1ty Professional (Don’t care for branded fatality gear, do care for good specs XD) but I dunno if its a better buy than say the MSI Intel Z97 Gaming 7 or the GIGABYTE G1.Sniper Z97

        Any suggestions?? Thanks! ^^

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