NAG Online > Technology > System Builder’s Guide: August R11,000 to R16,500

System Builder’s Guide: August R11,000 to R16,500

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It’s the mid-range System Builders Guide for this week and we’re now seeing something rather strange, namely hiked-up GPU prices on the AMD Radeon camp. That presents a few problems with the smaller budgets and it’s a real headache when it comes to the high-end GPUs. Is something on the way? Is it Tonga? Is AMD preparing price drops? Who knows. All that I know is the price movements have forced another readjustment on my R11,000 build (which never stays in one piece) and on the higher budget which needs to stretch your wallet a bit. Hop in and see what your money could get you this week.

R11,000 Budget – Almost Hitting The Spot

1920 x 1080 with Ultra details and 4x AA, 2560 x 1440 with Medium details and 2x AA
Processor Intel Core i5-4690K 3.5-3.9GHz Unlocked LGA1150 R2845
CPU Cooler Zalman CNPS10X Optima R327
Motherboard ASRock Z97M OC Formula LGA 1150 R1899
Memory Kingston HyperX Fury Black 8GB DDR3-1866 R1266
Graphics Gigabyte Radeon R9 270 Windforce2x 2GB GDDR5 R2448
Power supply Antec Neo Eco 620W 80Plus Bronze R835
Chassis Cooler Master Silencio 352 R720
Optical drive
Hard drive Seagate Barracuda 1TB 7200RPM R708
Solid state drive
Total (Rands): R11,048

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’re moving up to the Core i5-4690K which is a Devil’s Canyon part, carrying new improvements to how Intel’s K-series chips overclock and introducing more hardware geared for stability. Zalman’s CNPS10X Optima still does a decent job of cooling for mild overclocks, so it stays for now.

One big change for this month is the switching out of the ASRock Z97 Pro 4 for the Z97M OC Formula. There are a couple of reasons for this but the chief one is that it switches out the traditional power phases for what some manufacturers call “Digi VRM.” What this really equates to is cleaner and more stable power deliver for overclocked processors and we’re also getting a bump here to a 6+2 phase layout as well. This means that overclocks on Devil’s Canyon parts should be a lot better and you’ll be able to squeeze more out of them.

Across the board, there are also price hikes which forced a drop in performance from the GPU side of things. A 8GB kit of DDR3-1866 sticks now costs more, as does the power supply and Radeon R9 270X graphics cards in the market at the moment. I had to duck down to the standard R9 270 from Gigabyte along with Antec’s Neo ECO 620W. We’re also sticking to the Silencio 352 from last week’s build because there’s still nothing wrong with it at this point.

There’s nothing from Nvidia which can compete in the same price range for now (not even highly strung GTX750 Ti cards look appealing right now) and there’s not a lot of interesting things happening in AMD’s corner at the moment. There might be better symmetry from the MSI A88X-G45 hooked up to a A10-7700K (and a cheaper overall asking price), but what would be the point? Steamroller loses efficiency at high clock speeds and doesn’t provide the same kind of muscle that Haswell does.

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 i5-4690K 3.5-3.9GHz Unlocked LGA1150 R2845
CPU Cooler Cooler Master Hyper 212X 120mm R394
Motherboard ASRock Z97M OC Formula LGA 1150 R1899
Memory Kingston HyperX Fury Black 8GB DDR3-1866 R1266
Graphics Powercolor Radeon R9 280X TurboDuo 3GB GDDR5 R3499
Power supply Antec Neo Eco 620W 80Plus Bronze R835
Chassis Cooler Master Centurion 610 Black Mid tower R882
Optical drive
Hard drive Seagate Barracuda 1TB 7200RPM R708
Solid state drive Crucial MX100 256GB SSD R1613
Total (Rands): R13,941

The next step up in our build doesn’t change things too much. We’ve swapped out the Zalman cooler for the slightly higher-performing Cooler Master Hyper 212X to help with the high overclocks we’re no doubt going to be seeing on the CPU and moved into the larger Cooler Master Centurion 610 chassis for the extra flexibility and better airflow. Since we’re sticking to a single GPU for now, keeping the Z97M OC Formula isn’t a big deal.

That single GPU is the Radeon R9 280X with 3GB of VRAM. Luckily there’s been a slight price drop on the Powercolor version for this month, so that helps with the budget quite a bit. There’s still no other GPU that can provide the same level of performance. Nvidia’s GTX760 comes close, but it’s not as fast as the Tahiti core inside the R9 280X. The R9 280X is also expected to be joined by a companion called Tonga, which will supposedly fill in the gaps and make up a R9 285. We won’t have to wait too long to see how AMD plays that card.

At the end, we slap in a 256GB Crucial MX100 and call it a day. No-one should be left without solid state storage in 2014, it literally changes the way in which you work with your computer entirely.

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 i5-4690K 3.5-3.9GHz Unlocked LGA1150 R2845
CPU Cooler Corsair Hydro H75 water cooler all-in-one R1005
Motherboard ASRock Z97M OC Formula LGA 1150 R1899
Memory Kingston HyperX Fury Black 8GB DDR3-1866 R1266
Graphics Gigabyte Radeon R9 290 Windforce3X 4GB GDDR5 R5864
Power supply Cooler Master V650W 80Plus Gold Modular R1232
Chassis Cooler Master CM690 III Mid Tower R982
Optical drive
Hard drive Seagate Barracuda 1TB 7200RPM R708
Solid state drive Crucial MX100 256GB SSD R1613
Total (Rands): R17,414

Although R13,000 to R14,000 has normally given you the most bang for buck in the past, I think those days are over. I think the R16,500 budget is going to be suffering from that as well. Compared to the same build from two months ago, we were easily able to stay in line with the budget we’ve set for ourselves but that didn’t happen this time around. Price increases for the graphics, memory, SSD and power supply all push us over R1000 above budget. Preserving the same performance from the June build at the same price point was my only concern for today and it just goes to show how much prices can change in just eight weeks.

The Corsair Hydro H75 isn’t strictly needed, but it’s in here to facilitate more stable overclocks and to exhaust heat better out of the Cooler Master CM690 III, which handles top-mounted radiators better than the Centurion 610 from the previous build. Our CPU, motherboard and RAM platform doesn’t change yet because it doesn’t need to.

Moving down, we’ve had to switch in the Gigabyte Radeon R9 290 because the MSI version is out of stock locally. The triple-wide fan arrangement is still good and will turn out pretty quiet as well. Thanks to the Hawaii-based part, GPU performance makes a massive jump to settle somewhere just under the levels of the GTX780. Not bad. As the resolution scales to include triple surround monitors and UltraHD 4K displays the longer legs on the R9 290 will run away from the GTX780, which can’t completely keep up thanks to the smaller 384-bit memory bus and 3GB of VRAM.

Corsair’s CS650M was in this build but it has been switched out for Cooler Master’s V650W, which offers a longer warranty and 92% efficiency, which is Cooler Master’s way of saying that it could have passed the 80Plus Platinum tests but didn’t go through them because the company prefers to under-promise and over-deliver on their new range of products. It’s no Seasonic, but it’s more than good enough for powering this rig and a single R9 290.

That’s all that we have for this week folks! Tune in this time next week for the high-end builds. I may have one or two surprises in store for that one. BYEEEEEEE!

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  • Marco

    Hey, could you please suggest alternative parts in the R14k budget build for the ‘overclockable’ parts. i.e. parts that aren’t designed to be overclocked.
    I’ve heard that parts that can be overclocked won’t last as long as normal parts.

    • Marco

      part(s)*

    • Michael Bouwer

      I don’t know much about overclocking but from what I’ve read, ‘overclockable parts’ last just as long as ‘normal’ parts, it’s when you start to overclock them that’s when the lifespan of the part shortens. But I think they will last just as long with the right gear and TLC (cooling and cleaning) when overclocked…

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

      Hey Marco,

      The products that do allow for overclocking won’t actually die out sooner than regular, locked parts. You can just leave everything at stock if you don’t plan to do anything major, which helps in case you’d ever want to re-sell the hardware to make way for another upgrade. Chips with unlocked multipliers find buyers faster than the internet spawns another cat meme.

      When it comes to the actual overclocking part, the chips and motherboards only see severely depleted lifespans if you’re hammering away at benchmarks while highly overclocked under extreme cooling methods like LN2. For regular consumer use and certainly for gaming there’s no less life in these chips and boards than in any other.

      For example, an overclocked Core i5-4690K at 4.4GHz with a voltage at 1.3v would happily hum away for up to ten years without an issue. It’s not rated for those speeds and voltages, but the hardware is easily capable of it.

      I wouldn’t worry about it too much. I would, however, be concerned if a pre-overclocked machine like those from Evetech was highly strung, because while it may pass their benchmarks and tests before shipping to you, over the longer term there may be longevity issues, which is why I’d recommend that some people lower those overclocks to more sensible levels.

      • Marco

        Thanks for the Info. Although, If I’m not mistaken, aren’t unlocked parts slightly more expensive. So could I save R226 by getting this CPU rather? Thanks once again.

        • Marco

          ^^ http://www.takealot.com/intel-core-i5-4690-processor-3-50ghz-6mb-cache-skt-1150/PLID32732299

          And one last thing, the link to the CM case doesn’t seem to work, I tried searching google, but to no avail. Could you suggest which case to use. Thanks

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

            I fixed the link, there’s not much out there locally as flexible as the CM610. It’s still my recommendation. :-)

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

          You can save by dropping to something like the Core i5-4690 and stick with the same board or dropping to the ASRock Z97 Pro4 and there won’t be many performance deficits there. If you need the budget to drop lower there’s nothing wrong with that plan.

  • Jonathan

    Thanks for this Wesley, these system builders are so kickass and help alot! Keep it up dude!

  • Clint Steed

    Whoa, is 11k the budget just get a Dota 2 PC with decent internet connection and a good headset. Note that most steam machines are i3 so no need for overkill 4thgeni5. My opinion

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

      Well, R11k is a lot of bang for buck there. Even i3 chips will run into issues with games that are CPU-limited, which the i5 can usually chop through with ease even at stock settings.

  • Paulo Francisco

    Hi all, sorry if these questions were asked before. But where does one buy these parts and are the VAT inclusive?

    • Alex Rowley

      the tables are actually links, so click on the name of the part and it will take you to the site selling them and considering they are all SA sites I would say that VAT is included. Hope that helps :)

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

      Yep, there are clickable links in the table and VAT is included at most of those retailers.

    • Paulo Francisco

      Thank you so much guys.

  • Paulo Francisco

    Hi guys/gals. Could i add an Intel Core I7 4790K Processor 4.00 Ghz 8MB Cache SKT 1150 to the R16 500 budget build? and would it be worth it?

    • Paulo

      Any update anyone?

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

      You could and if you do, keep the rest of the system as-is. There’s nothing more beat-sticky than a quad-core Haswell processor and a cheap Radeon R9 290.

      If you want the i7 and don’t need the R9 290, wait a bit for the Radeon R9 285X 4GB to be introduced and possibly reviewed by major sites tomorrow sometime. That combo will be more than enough for gaming at 1080p for the next three years or so. After 1.5 to 2 years after you’ve bought the system, slap in a second R9 285X 4GB and enjoy some nice speed-ups that’ll keep you gaming well into 2018.

      The Geforce alternative to that is the GTX770 4GB, which is just as potent, but frequently more espensive.

      • Paulo

        Thank you so much, SUPER advice

      • Paulo

        Hi me again. I am in the process to order the components, but noticed that Wootware no longer stocks this MB. They suggested another MB.

        ASRock Z97 Extreme4 Intel Z97 Chipset LGA1150 ATX Desktop Motherboard

        I dont know if this build will be reviewed now based on this lack of availability?

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

          If you want the rig now, the Extreme 4 is a decent board and very, very good. If you can wait on the Z97M OC Formula to come back in stock, then wait. Either one is a great pick.

          • Paulo

            Hi Wesley, Thank you again for all your answers. I have built the following PC, based on what i think will last me a few years, (screen card is low, but should be fine for the short term). Could you advise if the below specs are adequate? Im a bit worried if this power supply can
            handle it though?

            Intel Core i7-4790K 4.0-4.4GHz Unlocked
            Corsair Hydro H100i All-In-One water cooler
            MSI Z97 Gaming 5 LGA1150
            Kingston HyperX Fury Black 8GB DDR3-1866
            Powercolor Radeon R9 280X TurboDuo 3GB GDDR5
            Cooler Master V650W 80Plus Gold Modular
            Cooler Master CM690 III Mid Tower
            Crucial MX100 256GB SSD

            Appreciate the advice
            Thanks
            Paulo

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

            Awesome! That PSU is more than enough for what you’re going to be doing with it. Happy gaming!

          • http://batman-news.com Paulo

            Hi Wesley I have purchased the above PC, minus the screen card. Reason been is that Ihave been getting mixed reviews around this PowerColour Radeon R9280. On Wootwares website all the reviews are positive, on international review sites they are very negative, saying the card runs very hot, and fan extremely noisy and card is problematic.
            Any advice you can give?
            I also don’t know PowerColour as a brand? Any other brand you can recommend please?
            Thank you

          • Paulo

            I see the;

            PowerColor AXR9 285 2GBD5-TDHE TurboDuo RADEON R9
            285 2GB 256-bit PCI Express 3.0 Desktop Graphics Card – Includes 3 Free
            Games (AMD Golden Tier)

            Is out, for significantly cheaper R2799. And supports Direct x 12.

            Any advice? or is the R9280x still the better buy?

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