As we close up the month of April with this guide, we finish off with the high-end systems that people that saved up oodles of money from their piggy bank to spoil themselves. If you’re one of those people, well done – here, you deserve a Noddy badge. For the rest of you not able to buy anything in this episode of the guide today, click through anyway to join the other NAGlings in drooling over beautiful hardware.
R18,000 Budget: (1080p with Ultra details with 8x AA, 2560 x 1440p with High details and 2x AA, 5760 x 1080p with Medium to High details and 2x AA)
With the Haswell launch just over two months away, stocks for Ivy Bridge seem to be either disappearing or subject to price increases which made this month’s build go way over budget. Many Z77 motherboards are listed on retailers sites as out of stock and this includes high-end performers like the ASRock Z77 OC Formula, which made it into the February edition of this price point.
So for the first time, the high-end will be dominated by LGA2011 until Haswell becomes available and everything is a bit cheaper. For this month in particular I believe it’s the maddest rig I’ve envisioned for a while, packing in watercooling and some dual-GPU love for a tiny overshoot on the budget. Two HD7870LE cards are much faster than one HD7970 and you can sell of or trade the second games bundle for whatever suits you. Its a very good value play by AMD.
Alternatives? At this level I wouldn’t choose an AMD chip because even if it ends up saving us just over R2000, where are we going to feed that money into? Two HD7950 cards? It could be good but keep in mind that Piledriver still presents a slight bottleneck where high-end graphics solutions are concerned and the Sandy Bridge-E platform does offer a lot of bandwidth and room for tweaking. For the money, Intel has a better price/performance ratio here.
R21,500 Budget: (2560 x 1440p with Ultra details and 4x AA, 5760 x 1080p with Medium to High details and 2x AA)
Now its the turn of the higher-up budget to be unbalanced and here I consider it more important to spend the extra money on an unlocked Core i7-3930K. when you’re trying to build the ultimate platform you can be stock with the Core i7-3770K forever, or move up to something that has much, much longer legs especially when overclocked. The Core i7-3930K not only features an unlocked multiplier, it also shoves in an extra two cores along with another two virtual thread counts and this is probably the best bang for buck the LGA2011 platform is ever going to give you. Its a big stipend for the processor but if you want the best, it’s your only option.
We also return to a single GPU setup to make room for some other important things, like a larger SSD, a bigger chassis and better water-cooling. As before, this is an area where AMD can’t hope to compete and we wont’ expect it to – the FX family are value plays and they’re not as useful in the high-end segment.
Other than the stupidly high price for the processor, we’ve got some good value-for-money choices here. But now it’s time to get insane.
R28,000 Budget: (2560 x 1440p with Ultra details and 8x AA, 5760 x 1080p with High details and 4x AA)
When we go all the way into the biggest budget of the guide, things get a little hairy. Nothing here could be considered “cheap” and it’s probably one of the fastest, if not the fastest, rigs anyone will ever own. I’ve shoved in a better board, twice the amount of RAM, the best SD the market right now and the Radeon HD7990. Of course, it’s not based on the reference design and it requires three eight-pin PEG power connectors which our power supply graciously provides.
There is a slight balance issue with the build because like the others in this episode, it doesn’t have a DVD drive. I assume that most people with budgets as high as these can stomach the extra R200 for a cheap DVD writer. A Blu-Ray is another story but I don’t know that many people who buy those drives anyway. You’re much better off with a dedicated system like a PS3 or a Blu-Ray player if movies are your thing. Ripping movies for easy storage is no longer the painless process it once was thanks to Cinavia protection.
If there are any alternatives to the build, it would be one sole recommendation – Nvidia’s GTX690. Its more efficient than the HD7990 but also drops 2GB of RAM. Nvidia’s Titan might be a consideration but it’s still much more expensive at around R14,000, so it’s even more niche than it was at launch. If you’re just going to play games, it’s a hard recommendation to make.
And so we must close the System Builders Guide for this month. Next month it’s back to laptops and tablets and the month after that – Haswell! Its expected to be launched at Computex 2013, which runs from June 4-8th in Tapei. We’ll have some coverage on that and the launch, as well as anything else other companies might throw in the path of consumers. If things go as planned, we might even have the boards and chips ready for sale in South Africa less than two weeks after the expo. Keep an eye out for that guide, it’s going to be interesting.