Today I investigate options for System Builders looking for a brand spanking new rig. I’ll take a look today at options for those who have about R12,000 to R16,000 to spend, with the option of at least R500 extra if they’re over budget. I’ll be squeezing the budget as best I can and will try to extract the maximum performance out of each rig.
Okay, so here we hit the big time. The guys or girls with the kind of bankroll we’re looking at here don’t really mind spending tons of cash for extra performance. Users in this segment aren’t interested in wasting time and they will go to lengths to achieve the kind of performance they want from their rigs – so the list of people interested in these parts are enthusiasts, overclockers and Lotto winners (or the dedicated few who save up for months to get it all on their own steam. To those guys, I salute you).
Whatever workload you’re looking at, both rigs in these price points can chew through anything you throw at them with gusto. Programming, video compilation, 4k resolution photos and gaming on 30″ screens is easily processed by these beasts, and they are capable of many more things. But there are caveats here that I think need pointing out. More to the point, its getting very tricky to balance things all the way up here.
I mentioned earlier when making recommendations for the R10,500 build that it gets hard to distinguish where your money is being well spent on things that actually improve performance and complement your machine, or whether you’re just spending for the sake of filling up your budget. For example, thanks to Nvidia’s GTX680 and AMD’s Radeon HD7970, its sheer lunacy to be buying anything more expensive than these two cards unless you’re getting two cards and running SLI or Crossfire. Once the GTX690 and HD7990 land, maybe we can rethink that idea. Likewise, Neo recently mused that using processors with larger cache sizes doesn’t help if you’re going bigger then 7MB of L3 cache – performance actually drops soon above that limit.
So here you’re going to be seeing the highest price points where the price of what you’re buying is still a factor. If there’s change for a Blu-Ray drive maybe I’ll add it in. I’m not going to slot in useless items because we’re still working to be within budget here. Only items that gain me extra performance will be considered, and no expense will be spared where its worth it. Neo might put together a dream machine that we can only dream of owning, but I’ll show you stuff us more down to earth people can afford. On to the builds!
Gigabyte HD7850 2GB DDR5 @ R2668 (No Nvidia equivalent)
So here, a couple of things were changed to make room for future upgrades and things like that. I moved up to Intel’s i7 2700K as the unlocked multiplier, higher cache count and extra four threads make for a worth upgrade to the i5 2500K. I only moved up the ladder slightly for the motherboards as I needed to future-proof things a bit, starting with extra SATA ports and USB3.0 front panel headers. I stuck with a lot of things from the previous R10,500 build as the HD7850 is essentially an underclocked HD7870 – there’s no need to change it yet. I used higher clocked memory that’s normally recommended for AMD builds, but it will help where bandwidth benchmarks are concerned and for overclockers who want to fiddle a bit more with their memory timings. I also deviated with the Corsair TX650M which is a modular power supply, and will be able to comfortably run two cards in SLI or Crossfire while also supporting the load of a highly overclocked processor.
Some will note that the water cooler I used in the R10,500 build is gone. Stock cooling is enough for decent overclocks at this point, but for those of you who remain anxious about it, I recommend you pick up the Cooler Master Hyper TX3 Evo for around two hundred bucks.
So here we have something a little different. I must admit that in haste I forgot to look at RAM kits starting in 4x2GB bundles – the GEIL Corsa set I’ve listed here is much faster than anything I’ve recommended so far but suffers the curse of having huge heatsinks. Some aftermarket coolers won’t fit here, but the tradeoff is higher room for overclocking. Speaking of which, this rig starts off with a LGA2011 Core i7-3930K which was recently reviewed by Neo in this month’s issue of NAG. While blindingly fast, LGA2011 and X79 is still in enthusiast territory and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Sure, you can get the processors without the K moniker at the end, but what would be the point in that? You’d be better off with a Core i7 2700K at that point.
Speaking of which, I had another dilemma here. While its good that the entry cost of X79 and LGA2011 isn’t as stratospherically high as X58 was at launch, it does bring more caveats here. I had to compromise on graphical performance to even make it in, something I wouldn’t normally recommend if I wasn’t interested in future-proofing my rig. For gamers I would rather suggest dropping to the Gigabyte Z77X board I listed above and pair it with an i7 2700K. Drop the GEIL RAM to this DDR3-1600 8GB set, stick with everything else and raise the HD7850 to a Gigabyte GTX680. You’ll be just over budget, but with superior graphics performance as a result. I do hear AMD fans asking about their options but I’m sorry to have to tell you this: if you’ve got this kind of money, switch to Intel. Honestly, you’ll be better off.
But why did you go to X79 in the first place, I hear you ask? Its a valid question but again its all got to do with future proofing. X79 will be the enthusiast platform for at least the next two years, will support Ivy Bridge processors and possibly other processor families after that as well. The quad-channel memory allows up to 32GB of RAM in most X79 boards, with more expensive ones supporting up to 64GB. Sadly while most boards do have PCI Express 3.0 support, none of them support quad-SLI or quad-Crossfire with four physical cards. That will be remedied soon enough, but for now its not a train smash.
Additionally, there are still tons of guys and girls the world over who still run X58 boards with Core i7 920 processors, and they’re still happier than ever. Three years on the i7 920 is still the baseline for enthusiast performance in a high-end rig, and you can be sure that X79 will end up the same even at the end of its shelf life.