System-builders-600-x-272

Hello, boys and girls, welcome to the last episode of the System Builders Guide for January 2017. Well, technically the last one, there’s still another one on the way soon, with a single build at R60,000. I mean, we all wonder what we’d do when given enough money to buy our own rig, so the ultimate enthusiast build would be interesting. Today’s builds are a little saner, although we’re at the point of diminishing returns with the R25,000 build – the only way to really improve performance drastically is to move to SLI, which comes with many drawbacks and fewer reasons to adopt it. Anyway, hit the jump.

R25,000 budget

UltraHD 4K with High details and 4x MSAA, VR-capable
Processor Intel Core i7-7700K 4.2-4.5GHz (socket LGA1151) R5,872
CPU cooler Cooler Master Nepton 120XL all-in-one water cooler R1,245
Motherboard MSI Z270 Tomahawk ATX (socket LGA1151) R2,756
Memory G.Skill Ripjaws V 2x 8GB DDR4-3200 CL16 R1,859
Graphics MSI GeForce GTX 1070 Gaming X 8GB GDDR5 R8,221
Power supply Corsair CX650M 650W Modular Bronze R1,571
Chassis Phanteks Eclipse P400S Silent Black ATX R1,099
Solid state drive Samsung 750 EVO 500GB (Samsung MGX, 16nm TLC NAND) R2,199
Total (Rands): R24,822

Kicking off today’s builds is the R25,000 budget. This is a decidedly high-end configuration, and it’s geared towards overclocking to extract maximum performance from the components. Intel’s Core i7-7700K might not be much faster than the Core i7-6700K at identical clock speeds, but it can hit the magical 5.0GHz clock speed without much trouble. Cooling it down will be the Cooler Master Nepton 120XL, because higher overclocks generate a lot of heat that I’d rather have outside of the case. The motherboard I chose was MSI’s Z270 Tomahawk. Z270 boards are all very similar these days, just like the previous generation of Intel chipsets, but I’m putting it in there because of MSI’s optimisations which may help system performance, like boosted USB 3.1 Gen 2 throughput, or an isolated electrical channel for the memory to improve overclocks.

We’ll be doing some of that for sure, which is why I also have a set of DDR4-3200 RAM from G.Skill. Kaby Lake benefits a lot from higher-speed memory kits just like Skylake did, and the worst move you can make is putting decent, but slow memory into a high-end system like this.

For the graphics card, I’ve selected MSI’s GTX 1070 Gaming X 8GB. The Z variant of this same GPU has configurable LEDs and a different backplate, so saving money by not needing those features means we can stay under budget here. Playing games at any resolution will be a reality with this card, even up to UHD 4K, and it’s way past the minimum for VR gaming. I doubt that this machine will have any trouble running a game and if it does, that game might just be beyond saving.

The power supply is still Corsair’s CX650M unit from the previous guide, and there’s no reason why we should need any more than that (apart from higher efficiency units). The efficiency of modern components is incredible, and it’s so rare to see anyone using a 800-1000 watt power supply these days. This Corsair unit also turns its fans off when it’s below a certain temperature, which gels well with the Phanteks Eclipse case that I’ve selected. The Silent edition is still windowed, but it has sound dampening foam to help reduce vibrations and noise. Luckily there’s not much noise to contend with, because the GPU does that as well, and there’s no hard drive! Isn’t modern technology just great?

R30,000 budget

UltraHD 4K with Ultra settings and 4x MSAA, VR-capable
Processor Intel Core i7-5820K 3.3-3.6GHz (socket LGA2011-3) R6,816
CPU cooler Corsair H110i Hydro 240mm all-in-one water cooler R2,077
Motherboard MSI X99A SLI ATX (socket LGA2011-3) R4,246
Memory Corsair Vengeance LPX Black 4x 4GB DDR4-3000 CL15 R2,552
Graphics MSI GeForce GTX 1080 ARMOR 8GB GDDR5X R11,719
Power supply Corsair CX650M 650W Modular Bronze R1,175
Chassis Phanteks Eclipse P400S Silent Black ATX R1,099
Solid state drive Samsung 750 EVO 500GB (Samsung MGX, 16nm TLC NAND) R2,199
Total (Rands): R31,253

We’re moving up in the world with an extra R5,000 burning a hole in our pocket. It’s been a while since I’ve recommended a LGA 2011-3 build to anyone, and this year might also be the last time I do, with AMD’s Ryzen CPU family launching fairly soon.

The Core i7-5820K is a six-core, twelve-thread high-end processor that sucks up power and puts out a tremendous amount of heat, which is why I’m also water-cooling it with a Corsair H110i. While I’m using a fairly old chip, new motherboards for the X99 platform still pop up every now and then now that Intel has released their Broadwell-E family of chips. MSI’s X99A SLI shouldn’t be mistaken for the older product with a similar name (X99A SLI PLUS), because this one is much better laid out and comes with reinforced PCIe brackets, a sensible location for the CMOS battery, a separated audio layer, and a faster M.2 slot.

As a bonus, you can also run Broadwell-E Xeon CPUs in this board with regular DDR4 memory. Just bide your time, and you too can one day purchase a Xeon E5-2699A V4 on eBay to extend the life of this system. Who can honestly say no to the allure of 22 cores and 44 threads? Memory-wise, I’m throwing in four DDR4-3000 modules for quad-channel operation, even though the budget limits us to just 16GB of RAM.

When it comes to the GPU, only one option is really left for the high end market – the GeForce GTX 1080. With the GTX 1080 Ti still not launched, and AMD’s Vega family set to launch in June, the GTX 1080 is the only option left for enthusiasts with this much money to burn. It is sometimes so far ahead in benchmarks that it makes it pointless to consider getting a GTX 1070 in the first place, because you’d have to buy two of them just to outdo one GTX 1080. It’s a beast of a card, and the best that NVIDIA has ever made. Its only problem is that it isn’t cheaper.

Because of the build constraints, and the fact that there’s not going to be too much overclocking on the Core i7-5820K beyond 4.0GHz for most systems (because thermal limits stop you without more exotic cooling), I’m sticking to the same chassis, power supply, and SSD from the previous build. It’s not bad, per se, but I would have liked to include a more premium PSU with a higher rating, and perhaps more storage space on the SSD. It’s a little odd how even a budget as high as this one doesn’t allow us to include everything we want. I’m hoping that a suitable challenge from AMD changes that in the near future.

That’s all for this week! Keep an eye out for my R60,000 “almost-a-dream-machine” build coming out next week.

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