Hello, boys and girls, welcome to the last episode of the System Builders Guide for June 2016. The two builds we’re getting into today are both high-performance and high-end, and typically spending this much money gets you a system that lasts you at least five years before you’re forced to look at an upgrade. Both builds today are ready for the next generation of VR games and headset technology, and both are also fully DirectX 12 compliant.

That doesn’t sound like much, I know, and the final climax of seeing the new hardware launch, after all these months of being told that both these things are important, just doesn’t feel that good. We’ll need new games, and better VR experiences, to get the tongues wagging again. Despite this, I’m quite ready to get over the DirectX 11 era, and you should be too. Follow me!

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 i7-6700 3.5-3.9GHz LGA1151 R5,707
 CPU cooler   Cooler Master Seidon 120V Plus R939
 Motherboard   MSI Z170A TOMAHAWK LGA1151 ATX R2,443
 Memory   Corsair Vengeance LPX 2x 8GB DDR4-3000 CL15 R1,779
 Graphics   Gigabyte Geforce GTX 1070 Founders Edition 8GB GDDR5 R8,899
 Power supply   Seasonic M12II 620w Modular 80 Plus Bronze R1,175
 Chassis   Phanteks Ethoo Pro Black Full ATX R1,299
 Solid state drive   Samsung 750 EVO 500GB (Samsung MGX, 16nm TLC NAND) R2,605
Total (Rands): R24,846

Kicking off today’s builds is the R25,000 budget. In recent years, this has typically been a build that focused on per-thread performance. But, there was a notable catch with it – there was a Xeon processor, not a regular Core part, at the center. That came along with the typical trappings of the Xeon brand, like a slower memory controller, no integrated graphics and no overclocking, but it was super-cheap compared to the standard Intel part.

Well, that kind of went away this year. Intel moved the Skylake Xeon support off to a different chipset, and now you’d have to buy a board with the C232 or C230 chipsets to run them. The regular Core processors are also now cheaper than their comparable Xeon siblings, and I question this decision. The server chips are slower. They lack particular hardware features (though they allow access to others). They can’t even be overclocked through the base clock. It doesn’t make sense to me, and I think it’s a poor move on Intel’s part, at least locally. Even the motherboards aren’t that much cheaper.

But anyway, I digress. This build ups the core count from the previous one, but will be slower in some instances because it cannot be overclocked. It still boasts four cores and eight threads though, which is nothing to feel bad about, as well as a great cooler and a decent, good-looking motherboard. It’s really not a bad deal, and it’ll handle your encoding and game streaming with software like OBS just fine. The memory count and speed is also quite a nice update from the last machine I had at this price point.

Heyyyyyy there, Geforce GTX 1070. While stocks of NVIDIA’s latest mid-range king are a bit low at this moment, every now and then there’s enough to go around. For R8,999, this is a fantastic price. It’s on the level of a Titan X for much less money, and there’s still a sizeable amount of overclocking headroom for extracting extra performance. As you may have seen in my Radeon RX 480 pricing article, sales of the GTX 1070 will greatly disrupt the upper end of the market. Say what you want about Pascal, but this is one damn fine GPU.

Given the low power requirements of these latest GPUs, I’m able to keep the budget in check by not opting for an overpowered PSU. I’d like to have been able to slap in a better one with a Gold rating, and perhaps a single 12v rail, but this Seasonic M12II 620W unit will do just fine. If you ever feel like it, this build also accommodates two GTX 1070s without running into space, heat, or power issues. SLI is even well supported in most games. How often does it happen that things just come together well?

The chassis is my new favourite high-end design, the Phanteks Ethoo Pro. I like understated chassis. There are no RGB LEDs adorning the front, there’s no glossy, fingerprint-friendly bezels to touch. It’s just good design. Finally, there’s a Samsung 750 EVO 500GB drive in there for storage. We don’t need to go much faster than this right now, however attractive those NVME speeds are.

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 R6,349
 CPU cooler   Corsair H100i GTX Hydro 240mm R2,016
 Motherboard   Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 5 LGA1151 R3,757
 Memory   Corsair Vengeance LPX 2x 8GB DDR4-3000 CL15 R1,779
 Graphics   Galax Geforce GTX 1080 EXOC 8GB GDDR5X R12,799
 Power supply   Seasonic M12II 620w Modular 80 Plus Bronze R1,175
 Chassis   Phanteks Ethoo Pro Black Full ATX R1,299
 Solid state drive   Samsung 750 EVO 500GB (Samsung MGX, 16nm TLC NAND) R2,605
Total (Rands): R31,779

We’re moving up in the world with an extra R5,000 burning a hole in our pocket. The budget allows a slight bump in CPU specs to the Core i7-6700K. It feels overpriced at over R6300, but it’s what we have to contend with thanks to our exchange rate. I doubt many of the retailers are making much money off the cost price from their suppliers. Cooling it down is the Corsair H100i, a solid water cooling unit with quiet fans (I had the pleasure of using one at rAge Cape Town), and I’ve also bumped up the motherboard to Gigabyte’s ZX170X Gaming 5, mainly for the extra power phases. RAM is still a 16GB DDR4-3000 kit, and I doubt most people will need RAM that’s much faster than this.

NVIDIA takes up the top two spots in this month’s guide thanks to the GTX 1080. This is one really fast card. It finally gives the Radeon R9 295X2 its eviction notice at the top of the leaderboards for 4K benchmarks, and it does so using a fraction of the power draw that the dual-GPU Radeon requires. Being the first card to also use GDDR5X memory also has its perks, as the design is easier for NVIDIA to switch to, and HBM is rather expensive in any case. This Galax version is still a reference design, but with some tweaks, and ships with a better and quieter cooler than the Founder’s Edition reference cooler. Wootware lists this one as being in stock on 30 June, which seems to be around the time that most custom cooler designs are coming on to the market.

Because the GTX 1080 doesn’t have high power requirements, or put out huge amounts of heat, the chassis and PSU recommendations stick. So does the SSD, for a similar reason. If all of these parts were a bit cheaper overall, which would be possible with a slightly better rand to dollar exchange rate of, say, R13 to $1, then I’d be in budget. But, given the level of performance on offer here, I couldn’t refuse the idea of going a bit over. It’s a good system overall, and will surely last you for the next three years before you have to think about upgrading.

Thanks for getting through this week’s guide! Next month I’ll be moving back to the Laptop Buyer’s guide. There’s still a R60,000 build coming your way next week (for funsies), so keep an eye out for that. Have a great weekend!

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