System Builder Marathon Q1 2016: $1232 Prosumer PC

This quarter’s “Prancing Workhorse” keeps the same “Play” components but adds a little to the “Work” budget. Will added performance offset increased cost for a value win?

System Builder Marathon Q1 2016

Here are links to each of the four articles in this quarter’s System Builder Marathon (we’ll update them as each story is published). And remember, these systems are all being given away at the end of the marathon.

To enter the giveaway,?please fill out this SurveyGizmo form, and be sure to read the complete rules before entering!

  1. $1275 Professional Workstation
  2. $1232 Prosumer PC
  3. $662 Budget PC
  4. System Value Compared

$1232 Prosumer PC

We’re all familiar with the notion that there’s a price-to-performance “sweet spot” that changes mostly in response to different types of testing. That is to say, a CPU-heavy workload could use a six-core CPU effectively enough to offset the cost of a six-core CPU, but that extra CPU cost would be wasted in most games. Games even benefit from the newer architectures and higher clock speeds of top four-core processors, so that upgrading to a lower-frequency six-core could result in a gaming performance reduction. Many gamers would justly access that the six-core CPU isn’t even an upgrade.

With a build history that goes back to my college days, I’m perfectly happy to focus on our entire benchmark suite whenever possible. That usually results in a seesaw of sacrifices between productivity and gaming capability as I search for the best performance balance for the money. As long as I keep my eye on that prize, the only places I can really waste money are in the case, cooling, and storage.

And so I spent three times as much on this quarter’s case compared to my previous build. Most builders would argue that the quality of my previous $20 case would have been insufficient for a $1200 PC. They’re probably right, and it’s not always easy to argue against a large quality improvement for a mere $40. But if I only “wasted” $40 on the case upgrade, where did the rest of my extra $177 go?

Q1 2016 $1232 "Prosumer" PC Components
ProcessorIntel Xeon E3-1230 v5: 3.40GHz-3.80GHz, Four Cores, 8 MB Cache$275
GraphicsAsus GTX970-OC-4GD5 GeForce GTX 970 4GB$330
MotherboardASRock Fatal1ty E3V5 Gaming/OC: LGA 1151 Intel C232, ATX$143
MemoryG.SKILL Ripjaws V F4-2666C15D-16GVR: DDR4-2666 C15, 16GB (2 x 8GB)?$85
System DriveSAMSUNG 850 EVO MZ-N5E250BW M.2 250GB SATA6Gb/s SSD$88
PowerEVGA 600B: 600W Non-Modular, ATX12V, 80 PLUS Bronze$50
CPU CoolerDeepCool Gammaxx 400$30
?Platform Cost
$1,001
Storage DriveWestern Digital Blue WD10EZEX SATA 6Gb/s 7200 RPM HDD$51
OpticalNone$0
CaseRosewill WolfStone ATX Tower$60
Total Hardware Cost?
$1,112
OSWindows 10 Home USB Pack$120
?Complete System Price?
$1,232

I might have buried the lede a bit when focusing on the cash outlay, since the big change in this quarter’s build is the use of a Xeon processor. My goal is to achieve the performance of Intel’s Core i7-6700K for $100 less, through overclocking. And when I set my goal there, you can see why I skipped the “appropriate” ECC memory and instead chose something I could overclock with the CPU.

I also included a secondary storage drive, since nobody really wants to live with a total of 250GB storage, and spent an extra $5 on this build’s power supply. That means $96 of my spending isn’t going towards any performance gains, but that $91 of that extravagance doesn’t count towards the “Platform Value” that I focused so heavily upon in last quarter’s value analysis.

Component Selection

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