We’ve arrived at the second episode of our System Builders Guide for this month and we’re so, so close to either buying those presents that you’ve got on the list that you still need to purchase, or nearing the day when you can rip off the pretty foil that covers the gifts your loved ones are giving you. Either way, it’s Ho-Ho-Ho time everywhere and the festive season craze has now gripped everyone. What better way to prepare than to show someone this list of extremely tempting computer hardware in the hope that they’ll buy one of these things for you? Hit that button and start planning your convincing arguments!
R11,000 Budget: (2560 x 1440p with medium details and 2x AA, 5760 x 1080p with low details and no AA)
The extra money over the last R9000 build is stretched a bit to accommodate for some overclocking headroom. Here we’re able to slide in the Intel Core i5-4670K, a decent aftermarket cooler that should keep things in check and a Z87-series motherboard, which is required to enable overclocking options on the Intel platform along with a K-series chip. So far, we’re off to a good start over the locked Core i5-4440 we had in the previous build.
But that also eats out a chunk of our budget. So to keep things simple, we’re not splurging any extra money on the memory or hard drive, and the Radeon R9 270X is all the power you’ll really need for gaming happily at 1080p and even 1440p. The new Radeons have also forced me to redefine what settings should be used for playability in most games and its difficult to recommend a similarly-priced Nvidia card because performance simply won’t be on par.
This actually makes the R11k build less capable than the October one that preceded it because HD7950 cards were still in stock at that point. Here, we have the R9 270X which is easily a full tier lower, has less onboard memory and a smaller memory bus to boot.
To help with overclocking, this build also switches to a Seasonic power supply and a better-equipped chassis that can deal with higher heat levels more effectively. Cooler Master’s Centurion family has always been flexible in terms of fan configurations and this one has a lot of wiggle room for different hardware requirements.
Note again that I don’t have an AMD build to recommend here. For reasons given in my earlier guide this month, socket AM3+ isn’t a good idea to plunge into right now as AMD figures out its own future. I’d rather wait until late January to make a real decision, once Kaveri is launched and AMD goes into detail about their plans for the desktop market.
R13,500 Budget: (2560 x 1440p with medium details and 2x AA, 5760 x 1080p with low details and no AA)
We’re at our sweet-spot again today and surprisingly not too much over budget. Its a standard affair here – a Core i5-4670K, a water-cooling setup, a reasonably high-end motherboard and fast memory gives us a slightly more potent setup than the cheaper price bracket and the Cooler Master Seidon 120M should be able to keep temperatures down nicely. 4.0GHz on all cores should be easily doable here.
I’ve elected to not upgrade the graphics cards in favour of including a SSD instead. This will massively speed up day-t0-day operations inside whichever OS you use and some games definitely benefit from the faster loading times. Elsewhere we have a bigger 2TB hard drive to make up for the lack of space on the system drive.
If you’re not want for the extra speed thanks to the SSD, though, you could dump it and the 2TB hard drive for a cheaper Seagate 1TB drive and replace the GPU with either a Gigabyte R9 280X or a Geforce GTX760. It’ll be over budget, but this is the only way to really gain any extra performance out of the system. This is what happens when you have a less competitive market – prices stagnate and consumers are left with less choices.
Paying nearly three grand for a Core i5-4670K is ludicrous but when Intel has a stranglehold on our local market, what are we really going to do? Less than a year ago a Core i5-3570K was less than R2500 and it didn’t cost over a grand for a decent memory kit. Bleh.
R16,000 Budget: (2560 x 1440p with Ultra details and 4x AA, 5760 x 1080p with High details and 2x AA, UltraHD 4K and medium details with no AA)
Moving up to the R16,000 build we’re now into high-end territory. You may be scratching your head over the inclusion of a Xeon processor but its really a gem (one of the few) in Intel’s lineup. Its essentially an underclocked Core i7-4770 and still retains the on-board Intel graphics chip, in addition to having all eight threads available. As a bonus, it also supports all of Intel’s CPU extensions that it locks out in their K-series chips, so the real winner here is you.
Elsewhere, I’ve beefed up the graphics recommendations to a Radeon R9 280X and a Geforce GTX770. They both perform more or less on par in most games and for the first time Nvidia has a memory advantage over AMD, although the memory bus is a bit smaller. Thanks to the higher budget we also don’t have to compromise on the solid state drive, so it ends up being a really nice all-rounder for any scenario.
There’s also a slight upgrade on the power supply and the chassis changes up to the Corsair Carbide 300R, just so you can display all that lovely hardware through the perspex window.
Can this get any better? Well, yes, but you’d have to sacrifice the SSD and the 2TB drive again to do so. The official alternative build here is including a Seagate 1TB drive and the incredibly cheap and powerful AMD Radeon R9 290. When you consider that its GTX Titan-class performance for half the money, you can almost forgive the slightly annoying fan and the typical 90° Celsius operating temperatures. Its simply one of the fastest cards AMD has ever created and it even trades blows with the R9 290X.
That’s all for this week’s episode of the guide, folks! The last episode of the guide will be available before Monday 23 December and we’ll be diving into the high-end for the last time this year. Until then!