System Builders Guide: June R8500 to R10,500

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 R8500 to R10,500 to spend. I’ll be squeezing the budget as best I can and will try to extract the maximum performance out of each rig. At this point the market moves to almost exclusively choose Intel over AMD, but the graphics wars between AMD and Nvidia are rather stalemated at this point. Choosing one vendor over the other doesn’t actually matter here because for the first time both companies are fighting it toe-to-toe, with Kepler putting enormous pressure on AMD to perform and drop power consumption at the same time. Click through to see what gamers with enough money to buy a Samsung Galaxy S3 could land up with.

Here its a comedy of errors for AMD, competing very well on the efficiency front but losing it completely to Intel’s Ivy Bridge chips in the performance-per-watt segment. With the public and OEMs constantly nagging the chip giants to drop voltages and power consumption, its no surprise that AMD’s Bulldozer platform fell through the floor when they had to compromise for a more efficient, scalable architecture than they had previously been employing with the older Phenom and Athlon II processors.

I’d also like you all to take a minute to welcome TEAM back into the RAM ratrace. Its a relief to have more options, especially when those options are better and cheaper than most of the competing brands. TEAM’s modules might not be the best or the most overclockable set out there, but they do look good and offer good performance at bargain prices.

Intel’s Ivy Bridge rules the roost here, with their cheap quad-core chips taking the budget performance crown and scaling very well even with dual-GPU setups. I’m still looking more for an elegant solution to the systems I recommend so I won’t be recommending a SLI or Crossfire setup anytime soon unless there’s a sale of the Geforce GTX560. Onwards!

R8500 Budget:

Intel Core i5-3450 @ R1964

ASRock Z77 Extreme4 @ R1556

TEAM Xtream Dark 8GB DDR3-1600 @ R425

Gigabyte Radeon HD7850OC 2GB DDR5 @ R2755

Seagate Barracuda 500GB @ R718

LG GH24NS90 @ R167

Cooler Master GX 400w @ R500

Antec One @ R572

Total: R8657

Its a different animal to the last rig I recommended for my last System Builder’s Guide at this price point, but its not really that different of an animal. I decided that the cost to move to Ivy Bridge was worth the trouble of dropping the Core i5-2500K. What we’ve dropped in overclockability we’ve gained in efficiency and features, in addition to proper front-panel USB 3.0 support and insane hidden powers like Lucid Logix Virtu MVP. Any Intel desktop chip that features Turbo Boost can be overclocked by using the free Turbo multipliers and a P or Z-series board. That puts the i5-3450 at a possible clock of 3.8Ghz with a minor 0.2 voltage bump, disabling Turbo Boost and setting a multiplier ratio of 38x. Great value for money, eh?

I had to change the chassis though. While the Elite 311 Plus has its merits in the cheaper budgets, it doesn’t belong here in the realm of high-end hardware where there is proper USB 3.0 support. The Antec One also features superior cable management and better use of quality materials. I also kept the Cooler Master GX400w. It turns out, this little bugger is the new de-facto choice for those who can’t find Antec’s Earthwatts 380w PSU in stock. You won’t be running dual HD7850s with it, but then this rig isn’t built towards that kind of thing. If that’s your kind of poison in future, though, drop the board to the ASUS P8B75-V and put down some cash on a stronger power supply – how about the Antec HCG-M 620w?

R10,500 Budget:

Intel Core i5 3570K @ R2383

ASRock Z77 Extreme4 @ R1556

TEAM Xtream Dark 8GB DDR3-1600 @ R425

KFA² MDT Geforce GTX570 1.2GB DDR5 @ R3373

Seagate Barracuda 1TB @ R957

LG GH24NS90 @ R167

Cooler Master GX 550w @ R802

 Corsair Carbide 400R @ R859

Total: R10,522

Its a bit of a mish-mash here. I accounted for overclockers and also shoved in a white-hot GTX570 with enough multi-monitor support to make your eyes bleed, but I guess things haven’t changed that much. Sure, its actually a lot better in almost every respect and its actually an upgrade, rather than what I did with the previous R10,500 rig by buying fluff like watercooling and a solid state drive with it. Fluff, boys and girls, is never a good thing, not unless all your other boxes have been ticked and you have the extra cash to spare.

I mused a while ago that when approaching the R10,000 mark it becomes increasingly difficult to figure out where your money should go. Its fine to go ahead with the build as I have it above, but some will question if it will be any faster. True, that’s a fair question and I guess it depends on the person and the typical workload involved. Both rigs here can run three monitors, both play games at 1080p resolution with High or Ultra settings without a hitch and both are limited by the speed of the modern mechanical hard drive. How would I, or anyone else for that matter, approach this differently? I build up these lists for gamers and average Joes to get the most satisfaction they can out of their budget, but lots of people have different priorities.

Throwing caution to the wind, I’d drop the 1TB hard drive, the unlocked K-series processor and the chassis to the Antec 302 and shove in Patriot’s excellent Pyro SE into the mix. Like I said, its throwing caution to the wind. You’ll have to keep all your media elsewhere. You’ll need another system drive to take the user folders and all the pictures and documents out of the equation. What you’d be left with is a Windows 7 install taking up roughly 17GB if its the 64-bit version, with around 83GB left for your games. Its a rough road to take but the loading times, the extreme booting speed and the general responsiveness of the whole system will improve massively as a result.

If you’re planning on taking this route, here’s some advice: Get an external hard drive and make a system image of your SSD every six months. In between the backups there’s not a whole lot that can change, especially if a lot of your titles are on Steam and have their save games backed up in the cloud. But if your system ever crashes and the SSD is replaced under warranty, you’ll have at least a complete image to get you back up again in no time.

Backing up is something you should be doing by default, not something that’s optional. You don’t buy a car and put off insuring it, do you?

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