Hello, boys and girls, welcome to the last episode of the System Builders Guide for April 2016. Things went a bit awry in my planning, but some promotions saved the budgets and allowed me to build up systems with much better setups than before. Some components are included only because they’re on promotion, and most of these prices won’t stick for very long – such is the volatile nature of our local computer enthusiast market. The next system builder’s guide will probably be the last to feature the current crop of GPUs, as both NVIDIA and AMD are gearing up for a launch in June of both Polaris and Pascal. That’s going to be an interesting fight to watch, and I’m looking forward to some performance jumps in the mid-range price brackets where they’re needed the most. Onwards!

R25,000 budget – Hurting that wallet!

UltraHD 4K with High details and 4x MSAA, 2560 x 1600 with Ultra details and 4x MSAA, VRR-capable
 Processor   Intel Core i7-6700K 4.0-4.2GHz LGA1151 Unlocked R6,199
 CPU cooler   Cooler Master Nepton 120XL R1,409
 Motherboard   Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 3 LGA1151 R3,288
 Memory   Corsair Vengeance 2x 8GB DDR4-2800 R1,660
 Graphics   PowerColor Radeon R9 Nano 4GB HBM R7,999
 Power supply   EVGA SuperNOVA G1 650w Modular Gold R1,676
 Chassis   Phanteks Eclipse 400 ATX R999
 Solid state drive   Crucial BX100 500GB (Silicon Motion SM2246, 19nm MLC NAND) R2,036
Total (Rands): R25,246

Kicking off today’s builds is the R25,000 budget, but now it has a different slant than previous builds because it sees performance jumps in the GPU and CPU departments. Driving our rig is Intel’s Core i7-6700K, a fully unlocked chip that has the potential of reaching clock speeds of about 4.8GHz with a good all-in-one water cooler. I chose Cooler Master’s Nepton 120XL for the job, but admittedly an air cooler that costs half as much could achieve the same performance. Then again, air coolers in that price range tend to weigh more than a kilogram, so this is a more elegant solution in the end. I once again chose the Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 3, owing to its reasonable price and feature set, and have kitted out the build with 16GB of DDR4-2800 memory. If you want to get the most out of that RAM, you’d best be overclocking this system.

Graphics horsepower takes a major jump over the R20,000 build because of a promotion for a Radeon R9 Nano. This is AMD’s smallest high-end GPU made primarily for mini-ITX systems, but it usually has the price to match the much larger Radeon R9 Fury. There’s arguably no GPU out there with the same performance profile for R8,000, and it’s a great fit for gaming on 4K displays with all the details cranked up some. That 4GB of VRAM isn’t much, though, and some games will need their quality settings turned down in order to maintain playable framerates, even if you’re playing at 1080p.

The rest of the build is all new stuff that I’ve never included before. The EVGA SuperNOVA is a strong high-end power supply, and with an 80 Plus Gold efficiency rating it’s definitely going to be a quiet performer. The build is housed in a Phanteks Exlipse P400, a mid-tower design that gives NZXT’s S340 a run for its money. The lack of drive cages is an advantage in terms of airflow, and we’re not wasting money or space on a DVD drive bay. Lastly, Crucial’s BX100 drives are still around and in stock, and these MLC-based SSDs are better performers than the BX200 family, which is equipped with TLC flash. At just over R2,000 for 500GB of storage space, it’s a steal.

R30,000 budget – You paid how much?

UltraHD 4K with High settings and 4x MSAA, 2560 x 1600 with Ultra details and 4x MSAA using VRR
 Processor   Intel Core i7-6700K 4.0-4.2GHz LGA1151 Unlocked R6,199
 CPU cooler   Corsair H100i GTX Hydro 240mm R1,957
 Motherboard   Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 5 LGA1151 R3,757
 Memory   Corsair Vengeance 2x 8GB DDR4-2800 R1,660
 Graphics   Sapphire Radeon Tri-X R9 Fury 4GB HBM R9,849
 Power supply   EVGA SuperNOVA G1 650w Modular Gold R1,676
 Chassis   Phanteks Eclipse 400 ATX R999
 Solid state drive   Samsung 950 Pro 250GB M.2 NVME (Samsung MGX, 40nm 3D V-NAND) R3,543
Total (Rands): R29,640

We’re moving up in the world with an extra R5,000 burning a hole in our pocket. Given the high prices of processors and motherboards today, we can’t afford leaping up to the X99 platform, so we’ll stick with Z170 for now. The Core i7-6700K remains, but is now sitting on a Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 5 and cooled by a Corsair H100i 240mm water cooler. Both are necessary to increase the headroom for the chip to overclock, and together might be enough for another tiny bump that brings you closer to 4.8GHz (currently the upper limit of most Skylake-K processors on water cooling). The memory gets a slight bump to, now at DDR4-2800, all to ease up on the restraints that might be holding the Core i7-6700K back.

Graphics sees a boost with the Radeon R9 Fury. It’s technically a side step from the R9 Nano, but the Fury X is unconstrained by thermal limits imposed on the Nano, and is faster as a result. Though I could have picked NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 980 instead, that card is quite a bit slower than the R9 Fury, and the gap widens as you increase the resolution or play some of the handful of DirectX 12 games available on the market. In fact, that’s probably the primary reason why anyone would be picking up an AMD card instead of a GeForce today – the coming wave of DirectX 12 titles with asynchronous compute workloads and high memory bandwidth requirements will favour AMD overall, and you’ll see free performance boosts from the architecture being more suited to the task at hand. NVIDIA’s had a great run with DirectX 11 so far, but the tables have turned with the launch of Windows 10. Time will tell when they’re able to mount a suitable counter to GCN.

While the rest of the build is the same as the R25,000 system, I did take the liberty of upgrading to Samsung’s 950 Pro NVME SSD. Although it’s a drop in useable storage space, it’s a beast of a drive compared to every other SATA SSD on the planet, and it fits straight onto the board instead of cluttering up the case with more cables. If you’re into minimal system builds and super-neat cable management, keeping a M.2 drive as your only system drive isn’t a bad idea. Just do backups if you take this route. Adding in a second drive when they become cheaper is also an option, and dual NVME systems are incredibly fast and responsive.

Thanks for getting through this week’s guide! This month I’ll be moving back to the Laptop Buyer’s guide, as well as the R60,000 bonus round in the buyer’s guide. There’s also a slew of reviews coming your way, so keep your eyes peeled to NAG Online.

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