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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