If you’ve got a pile of money burning a hole in your pocket and want a new rig, this is a good place to be right now. Today we’re looking at the high-end builds for the last System Builders Guide of the year, going from R20,000 to R30,000. There’s even a Haswell-E system in here if you’re interested, but it’s going to empty out your bank account really quickly. Hop on in to commence the drooling!
R20,000 Budget – Kicking In To High Gear
5760 x 1080p with Ultra details and 4x AA, UltraHD 4K with High details and 4x AA
Jumping into the R20,000 build, we hit our first hurdle in the pursuit of avoiding diminishing returns. Compared to our build for R16,500, this doesn’t yield that much extra performance. We do have a better motherboard in the form of the ASRock Z97 Extreme 6 and a 240mm all-in-one water cooler. The Extreme 6 ended up being my choice after looking around at the competition and realising that many board vendors are happy to snap off two SATA ports for either SATA Express or M.2 feeding off the Intel chipset.
The Extreme 6 builds on that and adds in a mPCI-E slot for a wireless card and a Ultra M.2 connector which feeds off leftover PCI-E 2.0 lanes and doesn’t interfere with the Intel chipset. Cool. Moving down the list, Kingston’s Hyper-X kit at the same speed was replaced by the Crucial memory but there’s no reason for the switch other than looks, really. Plus, those LEDs are awesome to play with.
Graphics-wise we’re switching up to Gigabyte’s Windforce 3x-clad GTX970 after the EVGA Phantom variant went out of stock at Wootware. This one will be equally at home in this build and I’ve bumped up the power supply to a 750W Seasonic to accommodate a second GTX970 in the future. As if the Cooler Master CM690III wasn’t roomy enough, I’ve slotted in the mammoth full-tower NZXT Source 530, one of their best budget buys to date.
Bringing up the end of the list, storage gets a bump up to a 3TB drive from Seagate and a Crucial M550 256GB. Its not feasible to slot in a 512GB drive in here just yet, but that may be the reality when December 2015 comes arouund. Unfortunately for AMD, they lose out on any recommendations here, although if you can find a Radeon R9 290X for under R6000 it’s definitely something to consider in place of the GTX970.
R25,000 Budget – Hurting That Wallet!
5760 x 1080p with Ultra details and 8x AA, Ultra HD 4K with high details and 4x AA
With the price increases for the holiday season and a very odd choice in GPUs this month, I had to increase the budget here to R25,000. We’ve jumped up in performance all-round, starting with the Core i7-4790K, an unlocked quad-core chip with hyper-threading, ready to chew through any game you throw at it. However, this build isn’t as high-end as I would have liked because there is only 8GB of RAM on-board. This time last year 16GB of DDR3-1600 would have been possible to fit in here, but this time round that’s not going to happen. As the Intel Skylake launch draws nearer, the price for DDR3 is going to shoot through the roof due to memory vendors squeezing out their DDR3 stocks in a controlled manner while thew switch to mostly producing DDR4.
Your eyes are drawn straight to the graphics cards, then, and I’ve put in two PowerColor Radeon R9 290s in here. AMD has done a lot of work making Crossfire as smooth and efficient as SLI and with the XDMA engine on board, they don’t need to do that within the constraints of a Crossfire bridge either. At R8000 for the pair, there’s no single graphics card in the same price range that will keep up. To keep feeding the beast, a 850W PSU is needed.
Looking at storage, I’ve upgraded to the 512GB Crucial MX100. It offers nearly identical performance to the 256GB M550 and even the 512GB M550, but it’s a darn sight cheaper than the latter and offers a lot of performance for a drive intended for consumers. Should vendors like Crucial, Samsung and Intel move to 3D NAND by mid-2015, you can expect a 1TB drive for about R4000 replacing this one by December 2015, the prices are going to drop that fast.
Ending off the guide today, we have a Haswell-E system. This is the big kahuna, Intel’s high-end desktop platform with the new LGA2011-3 socket and DDR4 compatibility. Being on the bleeding edge of technology isn’t as expensive as it used to be either. The X99-UD4 is set at a reasonable price, there are six unlocked cores with hyper-threading and 16GB of DDR4 that’s actually quite cheap as well. Only a few months into its life, adopting a Haswell-E system isn’t as expensive as most people would assume. With a few discounts here and there as well as MSI’s X99 SLI Plus, you could easily nab the entire platform with 16GB of quad-channel memory for under R10,000.
Graphics is still a problem, though. There are generally no GTX970 cards available for under R5000, so the Radeon R9 290 is still our default choice at this price point. Two of them in Crossfire still beats the pants off a Geforce GTX Titan Z, so I guess it’s not a bad deal. Although not strictly necessary, MSI’s Gaming cooler was chosen over PowerColor’s because it is quieter and, with the Haswell-E system, a little better at exhausting heat out of the rear of the case.
The issue that I had this month with the guide is that graphics card options aren’t that great at this time of year. There aren’t any new launches and generally there are some price increases for the holiday as traffic to websites increases and retailers look to more profits during the Christmas season. Dropping to PowerColor instead of MSI saves us nearly R2000, but there’s nothing else in the budget that could make meaninful use of that. perhaps adding in another 3TB hard drive and a 512GB Crucial M550 might be a solution but those are storage upgrades and not something that directly affects framerates in-game.
In addition, spending more money on DDR4 didn’t seem like a wise idea. Not only is Intel’s DDR4 controller in its infancy, it’s not being used to its full potential because Intel would prefer to leave some performance on the table for future products. So, going to DDR4-3000 is a fun time, but it’s not going to bring back much in the way of actual performance.
That’s all we have time for this month, folks. Next month is the Laptop Buyer’s Guide and we’ll be back with the System Builders Guide in the month after that. Be sure to stick around during the holidays for our 21 Days of Festive Giving!