TR’s February 2014 System Guide

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The TR System Guide has been around for a little over eight years. Starting with the original edition in November 2005 and ending with the Christmas 2013 guide, which went up last December, we followed roughly the same formula. We specced out a handful of builds at various price points and briefly explained the rationale behind each component pick. We also offered a short discussion of peripherals and, more recently, mobile systems that might complement a desktop build.

That format has served us well. Lately, however, it’s started to feel somewhat unwieldy and a little opaque. The guide has been a good resource for people content to buy our recommended builds wholesale, but it’s failed to deliver in some other ways we think are important. For that reason, we’ve changed our format for the first TR System Guide of 2014.

Our new format is component-centric rather than build-centric. We’re going to devote a section to each main component category—processors, motherboards, memory, storage devices, and so on—and in each case, we’ll attempt to give you the information you need to make an informed selection. We’ll open up each section with a quick overview of the state of the market, and then we’ll narrow things down by listing a small number of recommendations at various prices, detailing the pros and cons of each. It’ll be up to you to make final component choices based on your personal needs and the compatibility considerations we outline.

In a nod to our old format, we’ll wrap up the guide with a selection of sample builds: PC configurations based on our recommended components and designed to accommodate different budgets. By that stage, we expect folks will understand not just which components to choose, but also how to choose them.

As part of this format change, we’ll be spinning off our peripheral and mobile recommendations into separate articles. We should be able to address those topics in greater detail that way. The downside is that we don’t have an update to those sections to share with you just yet. Folks seeking our advice on things like monitors, keyboards, tablets, and laptops should check out pages seven and eight of the last edition of the System Guide. The recommendations there are still largely relevant, and we promise to revisit them soon.

Rules and regulations

A short disclaimer: this is a component selection guide, not a PC assembly guide or a performance comparison. If you need help with the business of putting components together, look at our handy how-to build a PC article—and the accompanying video:

For reviews and benchmarks, we suggest heading to our front page and starting from there.

On the next several pages, we’ll discuss the main categories of components needed to build a PC: processors, motherboards, memory, graphics cards, storage, cases, and power supplies. We’ll then recommend a handful of carefully selected parts split into three tiers: budget, sweet spot, and high end.

For the budget tier, we won’t seek out the absolute cheapest parts around. Rather, we’ll single out capable, high-quality parts that also happen to be affordable. The sweet-spot tier is self-explanatory; it’s where you’ll find the products that deliver the most bang for your buck. Finally, our high-end tier is a mirror image of the budget tier. There, we’ll seek out the fastest and most feature-packed components, but without venturing into excessive price premiums that aren’t worth paying.

Each recommendation will involve a mental juggling of sorts for us. We’ll consider variables like benchmark data, our personal experiences, current availability and retail pricing, user reviews, warranty coverage, and the size and reputation of the manufacturer or vendor. In most cases, we’ll favor components we know first-hand to be better than the alternatives.

Finally, each recommended component will have a “notable needs” box. In that box, we’ll point out any special requirements one should consider when building a full system with that part. For instance, we’ll address socket type and form factor compatibility between different processors, motherboards, and cases.

Now that we’ve addressed the how, let’s talk about the where. See that “powered by Newegg.com” logo at the top of the page? Newegg sponsors our System Guides, and more often than not, it will serve as our source for component prices. However, Newegg has no input on our editorial content nor sway over our component selections. If we want to recommend something it doesn’t carry, we’ll do just that.

We think sourcing prices from a huge online retailer gives us more realistic figures, though—so much so that we quoted Newegg prices long before this guide got a sponsor. Dedicated price search engines can find better deals, but they often pull up unrealistically low prices from small and potentially unreliable e-tailers. If you’re going to spend several hundred (or thousand) dollars on a PC, we think you’ll be more comfortable doing so at a large e-tailer with a proven track record and a decent return policy.

CPUs

The desktop CPU market isn’t a terribly competitive place right now.

AMD’s Socket AM3+ platform is growing long in the tooth, with relatively slow processors, excessive power consumption, and chipsets that date back from 2011. AMD’s new Kaveri chips come with a newer platform and lower power use, but they haven’t all made it into e-tail listings yet. The few that have aren’t priced nearly as aggressively as they ought to be, given their CPU performance. Due in part to the state of AMD’s lineup, the pricing and performance of Intel’s desktop offerings has been largely stagnant for the past couple of years.

What we’re left with is a limited selection of chips worth recommending—and an inevitable bias toward Intel, which still offers the best overall CPU performance in the smallest power envelopes. AMD’s Kaveri processors do have better integrated graphics, but that doesn’t help us much. Gaming on integrated graphics still yields a sub-par experience in many games, especially in titles designed to take advantage of the new consoles. If you care the least bit about gaming performance, you ought to be buying a discrete graphics card. And that, sadly, means there’s not much point in us recommending an AMD processor right now.

The good news here is that Intel’s CPU offerings are really quite good, with low power consumption and strong per-thread performance. We just wish the prices weren’t so static.

Budget

Product Price Notable needs
Intel Core i3-4130 $124.99 LGA1150 motherboard

The Core i3-4130 is the most affordable Core i3 chip based on Intel’s latest Haswell architecture. It has two cores, four threads (thanks to Hyper-Threading), and a teeny 54W power envelope. This model should perform very well in both single- and dual-threaded workloads, and it should be easy to cool quietly, too. We recommending this processor over cheaper derivatives with fewer threads or lower clock speeds. Price differences are small in this range, and we don’t want to sacrifice too much performance.

Some of you might still have reservations about buying a dual-core, quad-thread processor when the latest consoles feature eight-core chips. Won’t the new breed of cross-platform games need just as many cores on the PC? Well, no. The processors inside the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are based on AMD’s lightweight Jaguar architecture, which is far slower clock-for-clock than Haswell. Our Core i3 could easily do the same work with its two cores and four threads. Also, everything we know about game programming tells us that, at least on the PC, single-threaded performance remains very important. In the words of Jurjen Katsman, one of the guys behind the PC versions of Thief and Deus Ex: Human Revolution, most games “flatten off at one core.”

In short, the Core i3-4130 is a fine choice for a budget gaming build. We’d certainly recommend it over similarly priced alternatives from AMD like the FX-6300, which is saddled with poor single-threaded performance, high power consumption, and an outdated platform. AMD’s Kaveri APU might make a decent alternative, but alas, no variants of it are currently available at this price.

Oh, and for what it’s worth, the Core i3-4130 is also a good choice for non-gamers. Like the rest of Intel’s Haswell family, it has integrated graphics. No need to buy a discrete graphics card with this puppy.

Sweet spot

Product Price Notable needs
Intel Core i5-4430 $189.99 LGA1150 motherboard
Intel Core i5-4670K $239.99
Intel Core i7-4770K $339.99

The real sweet spot for desktop processors lies in this price range, where quad-core Haswell processors dwell. These offerings’ single- and dual-threaded performance is in the same ballpark as the Core i3-4130, but their extra cores make them equally fast in workloads with up to four threads, including medium-to-heavy multitasking.

There are three main options we think you should consider: the Core i5-4430, which is the most affordable quad-core Haswell variant; the Core i5-4670K, the most affordable model with an unlocked upper multiplier; and the Core i7-4770K, which is the fastest unlocked Haswell CPU.

Unlocked upper multipliers allow for easy overclocking, provided the processor has some extra clock headroom. To overclock an unlocked chip, one simply raises the clock multiplier, which in turn raises the clock speed. The amount of available headroom isn’t guaranteed, though, and it tends to vary from chip to chip. For example, we weren’t able to push our own Core i7-4770K very far when we overclocked it last June. It’s possible equivalent retail offerings are just as limited. Then again, Intel’s manufacturing process has matured since we conducted our test, so it’s quite possible the Haswell chips sitting on store shelves today have more headroom.

Folks uninterested in overclocking might want to look at the non-K versions of the aforementioned CPUs: the Core i5-4670 and Core i7-4770. These are about $20 cheaper than their unlocked, K-branded siblings, and they have support for couple of important features: Intel’s Virtualization Technology for Directed I/O, also known as VT-d, and a key Haswell feature known as transactional memory, or TSX. Inexplicably, unlocked Haswell CPUs lack both TSX and VT-d support. Intel’s illogical product segmentation strikes again.

AMD recently began offering a couple of processors in this price range: the $249.99 FX-9370 and $299.99 FX-9590. As refreshing as it is to see AMD competing, these products are very difficult to recommend. They have extremely high power consumption, with TDP ratings of 220W (vs. 84W for quad-core Haswell processors). That means they will require a significant investment in cooling, probably in the form of a water cooler with a large radiator. Even so, they seem to be competitive with their Intel rivals only in select workloads. Also, they’re bound to the same old Socket AM3+ platform and outdated chipsets as other FX-series chips.

High end

Product Price Notable needs
Intel Core i7-4930K $579.99 LGA2011 motherboard, quad-channel memory kit, discrete graphics, aftermarket cooler

The Core i7-4930K isn’t a Haswell chip like our other picks; it’s an Ivy Bridge-E specimen. That means it’s based on a slightly older architecture, albeit one built on the same 22-nm fab process. However, the E suffix means this CPU borrows a page from Intel’s server and workstation processors. It has more cores, more cache, more memory channels, and support for higher memory speeds than any Haswell processor available today. A similarly beefed-up offering called Haswell-E is rumored to be coming later this year.

For now, the Core i7-4930K is a mighty fast chip, with six cores, 12 threads, 12MB of L3 cache, and support for quad channels of DDR3-1866 memory (yielding peak theoretical bandwidth of almost 60 GB/s, up from about 26 GB/s for Haswell). This CPU is a great pick for folks who run heavily multithreaded workloads or who do very heavy multitasking. And yes, it has VT-d, so you can virtualize to your heart’s content.

Intel sells an even faster Ivy Bridge-E, the Core i7-4960X. However, it costs over $1,000, and it doesn’t offer much beyond the Core i7-4930K—just a marginal clock speed increase and a little more cache. We think you’re better off getting the Core i7-4930K and spending the difference on something more consequential, like a faster graphics card or a better solid-state drive.

Note that the Core i7-4930K requires a different motherboard than its Haswell siblings, and because it has a quad-channel memory controller, it needs at least four memory modules (one to populate each channel). Also, Intel doesn’t put a heatsink and fan in the box; you’ll need to supply your own. Finally, unlike Haswell, Ivy Bridge-E doesn’t have integrated graphics, so it requires a discrete graphics card.

Recommendations for LGA2011-compatible motherboards, quad-channel memory kits, graphics cards, and aftermarket coolers can be found in the upcoming pages.

Motherboards

Buying a motherboard these days is a pretty straightforward affair. There are only four major manufacturers to choose from, and their offerings have very similar performance and peripherals at each price point. The main differences between competing boards lie with their Windows software, onboard firmware, and overclocking tools:

  • Asus is the biggest of the four big motherboard makers, and it has the best Windows software and the most intelligent and reliable auto-overclocking functionality. Its firmware interface doesn’t look as nice as Gigabyte’s, but it’s still great—and it offers better fan controls. Some Asus motherboards ship with cushioned I/O shields and header adapters that make it much easier to connect finicky front-panel headers. We think Asus mobos typically offer the most polished package overall.
  • Gigabyte has the best firmware UI of the bunch, though its auto-overclocking intelligence and Windows software isn’t quite up to par with Asus’. The firmware fan controls aren’t as good, either, but Gigabyte’s latest Windows software largely makes up for that deficit. Some Gigabyte motherboards ship with cushioned I/O shields, but we haven’t seen any with header adapters. You’ll have to hook up front-panel wires to the circuit board the old-fashioned way.
  • MSI‘s motherboards are solid, as is their firmware, but the firm lags behind Asus and Gigabyte in terms of Windows software and firmware extras. MSI’s auto-overclocking functionality isn’t as powerful, either; instead of determining maximum clock speeds iteratively, it uses conservative profiles. MSI’s latest 8-series motherboards do have rather good firmware fan controls, though.
  • Finally, there’s ASRock, which generally aims its products at more value-conscious buyers. The Windows software for ASRock’s 8-series mobos is decent, but it’s not as comprehensive as what Asus, Gigabyte, and MSI offer. We haven’t had good results with ASRock’s iterative auto-overclocking software, either. The firmware is mixed. The fan controls are great on 8-series boards, and there are plenty of overclocking options, but the interface isn’t terribly user-friendly. ASRock boards are appealing primarily for their budget price tags.

For this edition of the guide, we’ve selected motherboards from Asus and Gigabyte, which we think are the most polished. We’ve recommended motherboards for Haswell and Ivy Bridge-E exclusively, since those are the only processors we featured on the previous page.

For our budget and sweet-spot tiers, we’ve included both ATX and microATX solutions. The microATX form factor sacrifices three of the seven expansion slots available with ATX in order to save a few inches of vertical space. Since few gaming rigs need more than two or three expansion slots, going microATX is a nice way to build a smaller PC without sacrificing too much expansion capacity.

Budget

Product Price Notable needs
Asus H87M-E $95.99 LGA1150 processor,

microATX or ATX case

Gigabyte H87-D3H $104.99 LGA1150 processor, ATX case

We’ve got two boards here based on Intel’s H87 Express chipset, which complements Intel’s LGA1150 Haswell processors. The H87 has all the perks of Intel’s top-of-the-line Z87 chipset minus support for multiplier overclocking and multi-GPU configs—but neither of those things matter for a budget system. Boards based on this chipset have all the features we’d want for a budget build, including a decent number of PCIe slots, relatively plentiful 6Gbps Serial ATA and USB 3.0 connectivity, and workable onboard audio.

Our first recommendation, the Asus H87M-E, is a microATX board with more USB 3.0 ports than the similarly priced solution from Gigabyte. It’ll accommodate one graphics card, at least two extra expansion cards, six Serial ATA storage drives, and four USB 3.0 devices. The H87M-E also has a choice of DVI, VGA, and HDMI outputs that can tap into a Haswell processor’s integrated graphics.

Our second pick, the Gigabyte H87-D3H, is similar except that it conforms to the full-sized ATX form factor—and therefore has a couple of extra expansion slots. This model has more USB 3.0 ports than its Asus rival, and it’s also cheaper by about $5 right now.

Sweet spot

Product Price Notable needs
Asus Z87M-Plus $129.49 LGA1150 processor,

microATX or ATX case

Gigabyte GA-Z87-D3HP $129.99 LGA1150 processor, ATX case
Asus Z87-A $139.99

Intel’s Z87 Express chipset enables multiplier overclocking. It also supports multi-GPU configurations with eight lanes of connectivity per PCIe slot, as opposed to a x16/x4 arrangement that could bottleneck one of the GPUs. Motherboards based on the Z87 chipset occupy the sweet spot of the LGA1150 motherboard market.

Among the Z87-based boards, Asus’ offerings are our favorites. We’ve singled out two of them here: the microATX Z87M-Plus and the full-sized Z87-A.

Gigabyte’s GA-Z87-D3HP is also a good ATX board. It’s a better value than Asus’ comparably priced Z87-C and has many of the features available in the more expensive Z87-A. The Z87-A is the only one of the three that splits Haswell’s PCI Express 3.0 lanes between a pair of PCIe x16 slots. The other boards have only one PCIe 3.0 slot, limiting their usefulness for multi-GPU setups.

High end

Product Price Notable needs
Asus X79 Deluxe $349.99 LGA2011 processor, ATX case

The boards we picked for the other tiers are all for Haswell processors with LGA1150 packages. If you’re springing for an Ivy Bridge-E chip like the Core i7-4930K, then you need an LGA2011 mobo.

Asus’ X79-Deluxe is our LGA2011 board of choice. It’s a newer model that was released last year alongside Ivy Bridge-E, and it’s absolutely loaded with features. There are eight DIMM slots, three PCIe x16 3.0 slots, 14 Serial ATA ports, eight USB 3.0 ports, and both 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless connectivity. This thing ain’t cheap, but older X79 boards from other vendors aren’t that much more affordable—and they aren’t as nice. The X79-Deluxe has pretty much all of the firmware and software upgrades rolled into Asus’ latest Haswell boards.

Memory

Every desktop PC today needs DDR3 RAM. Unfortunately, DDR3 memory prices are rather high right now. The word from Taiwanese media seems to be that memory makers have shifted production to mobile memory, which has reduced the available supply of PC memory. Whatever the reason, outfitting a new build with any given amount of RAM costs more now than it did a year ago.

Thanks to those sky-high prices, memory modules from the U.S.-based brands we prefer often carry an unreasonable premium. That’s why you’ll see a fair amount of G.Skill RAM recommended below. G.Skill is based out of Taiwan, and the look of its website doesn’t inspire much confidence. However, appearances can be deceiving. G.Skill memory consistently garners positive user reviews on Newegg, and it comes highly recommended from some of our own forum moderators. From what we hear, G.Skill is quite diligent when it comes to replace faulty modules, as well. Under the circumstances, we think G.Skill RAM is one of the better options for this edition of the System Guide.

Budget

Product Price Notable needs
G.Skill Ripjaws 4GB (2x2GB) DDR3-1600 $47.99 CPU cooler must not protrude

over memory slots

This time last year, 8GB dual-channel memory kits could be found for less than $50. Recommending a 4GB dual-channel kit would have seemed downright stingy back then. Today, though, 4GB kits are hard to avoid for budget builds.

This Ripjaws model from G.Skill is one of the most popular options on Newegg, and it’s one of the most affordable, too. Just keep in mind that the tall head spreaders may interfere with tower-style aftermarket CPU coolers. If you’re not going to use the stock Intel cooler, then check our CPU cooler recommendations a few pages ahead for a suitable alternative.

Sweet spot

Product Price Notable needs
G.Skill Ares 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3-1600 $77.99 N/A
Kingston HyperX Blu 16GB (2x8GB) DDR3-1600 $139.99

G.Skill has one of the most affordable dual-channel 8GB kits around, but Kingston’s 16GB kit is priced competitively. Since we’re better acquianted with Kingston, we’ll give it the nod for 16GB option.

8GB of RAM is probably as much as most folks need these days. Where 4GB can feel a little cramped with newer games and heavy multitasking, 8GB rarely proves to be a bottleneck. Very heavy multitaskers (and those eager to future-proof) may feel compelled to spring for a 16GB kit, though.

Note that we’re not going to extra lengths to make provisions for memory overclocking here. The multiplier-unlocked processors we recommended earlier can be overclocked just fine without memory being brought into the picture. Memory overclocking doesn’t usually pay much in the way of performance dividends, anyway, and it can lead to data loss and stability problems. We don’t think it’s worth the hassle for most folks.

High end

Product Price Notable needs
G.Skill Ares 16GB (4x4GB) DDR3-2133 $156.99 Best paired with quad-channel

memory controller

G.Skill Ares 32GB (4x8GB) DDR3-1866 $299.99

These quad-channel 16GB and 32GB kits from G.Skill are primed for Ivy Bridge-E. They’re both made up of four DIMMs, one for each of the processor’s memory channels, and they can both operate at 1866MHz, the CPU’s maximum supported memory speed.

We’re back to G.Skill memory here, since similar quad-channel kits from other, U.S.-based vendors seem to be much more expensive for some reason. Even if you’re building a high-end machine, there are limits to how much you should overpay.

Graphics

Not building a gaming PC? Feel free to skip this page—unless you’re getting an Ivy Bridge-E processor. See the guide’s processor page for more detail about that chip’s needs.

Last year, AMD’s Radeon HD 7000-series (and, later, R7- and R9-series) graphics cards were supremely competitive. They performed as well as or better than Nvidia’s solutions, and they often sweetened the pot with more attractive game bundles or more enticing prices. We wound up recommending Radeons almost exclusively in our primary System Guide builds throughout most of 2013.

Then, late last year, cryptocurrency miners started buying Radeons in bulk. Supplies of these cards have since become tight, and prices have risen accordingly—often by a lot. This situation has put AMD in quite a bind. The company could order additional wafers full of GPUs from TSMC, which might relieve the shortage—but only a few months from now. Worse, if the cryptocurrency bubble bursts, or if miners switch to dedicated ASICs, then AMD could be left holding boatloads of excess inventory while second-hand mining cards flood eBay and Craigslist. If we were AMD, we’d be cautious about that approach.

Where does this all leave us? Well, some sub-$200 Radeon graphics cards are still in adequate supply, and they’re still good deals. However, higher-end models like the Radeon R9 280X and R9 290 are prohibitively expensive right now. Litecoin miners might be happy to pay huge premiums for these cards, but gamers shouldn’t be—not when Nvidia cards without crazy price mark-ups can run games just as well. That’s why we’ve featured more Nvidia cards than AMD ones below: GeForces are simply the only reasonable options at some price points.

Before we tackle our recommendations, a quick word about graphics card vendors. For any given GPU type, a number of cards from different vendors exist. For the most part, those cards aren’t all that different from one another. Some of them are identical except for the stickers on the cooling shrouds. You’re free to buy any card you wish, but we’ve tried to pick offerings based on three criteria: the vendor, the type of cooler, and the core and memory clock speeds. We favored major vendors known to have decent service, and we looked for quiet coolers (especially dual- and triple-fan solutions) and higher-than-normal clock speeds (provided they didn’t incur too high a price premium). The cards you see below may not be the absolute cheapest of their kind, but they are the ones we’d buy.

Oh, and one last thing: while some of the motherboards we recommend support multi-GPU configurations, we wouldn’t advise building a multi-GPU setup unless you absolutely must. Multi-GPU setups open up a whole can of worms, with occasionally iffy driver support for new games, potential microstuttering issues, and other difficulties. We’ve found that it’s almost always preferable to buy a faster single-GPU solution, if one is available, than to double up on GPUs.

Budget

Product Price Notable needs
Gigabyte GeForce GTX 750 $119.99 N/A
XFX Radeon R7 260X $119.99

If you’re serious about playing games, this is about as cheap as we’d go. Cards like these will run games quite well at 1080p with the graphical detail dialed down a little. Any cheaper, and you’d have to lower the resolution and image quality a fair bit.

The GeForce GTX 750 and Radeon R7 260X cost the same and have equivalent performance in current titles. Which one should you get? That depends. For most folks, the GTX 750 is probably the better choice. The GeForce draws much less power, so it doesn’t require an auxiliary power input and can be cooled more quietly. However, the R7 260X has 2GB RAM versus the GTX 750’s 1GB, which may make it more future-proof. The GTX 750’s 1GB of RAM may have contributed to its shaky performance in our Battlefield 4 test, for instance. That game has very high quality textures and assets, and others will likely follow its lead in the future. Owners of 1GB cards may have to dial back the texture quality level a notch at times.

Honestly, though, you can’t go wrong with either card.

Sweet spot

Product Price Notable needs
Gigabyte GeForce GTX 750 Ti $169.99 N/A
Sapphire Radeon HD 7850 2GB $169.99
Gigabyte GeForce GTX 660 $189.99
Asus GeForce GTX 760 $249.99

The sweet spot for graphics cards lies here, between about $150 and $250. All of the offerings above can run current games at 1080p with high or maxed-out detail levels, and cards at the upper end of this spectrum will deliver the smoothest performance at the highest image quality settings at that resolution. Here, we’d just recommend getting the fastest card you can afford.

At $160-170, a choice must be made between the GeForce GTX 750 Ti and the Radeon HD 7850 2GB. These are both 2GB cards, but the AMD offering should have a small performance lead overall. On the flip side, the GTX 750 Ti is for more power-efficient, so it may be a better fit for a cool-and-quiet PC.

AMD was supposed to have a Radeon R7 265 in this price range, too, but it’s not available yet. Since the R7 265 is more or less a re-badged 7850, that’s no great loss.

High end

Product Price Notable needs
Gigabyte GeForce GTX 770 $339.99 Dual PCIe power connectors (6 + 8-pin)
Asus GeForce GTX 780 $519.99

Want to play games at 2560×1440? The GeForce GTX 760 will pull it off, but a GeForce GTX 770 or GeForce GTX 780 will provide a much smoother experience with more room to crank up image quality options. (Both of these cards require a power supply with dual PCIe power connectors, by the way. See our case and PSU page for more details.)

It’s a shame the Radeon R9 290 isn’t available at a competitive price right now. It was our favorite high-end option—cheaper than the GeForce GTX 780 and nearly as fast. We had some reservations about its stock cooler, but new models have cropped up with custom cooling solutions, and we’ve gotten good results out of them. Perhaps the R9 290 will make a comeback once the cryptocurrency mining fever blows over. We can only hope.

You’ll notice that we aren’t recommending higher-end models like the GeForce GTX 780 Ti. As much as we sympathize with the desire for bragging rights, we can’t honestly advocate in favor of a $700 card that’s barely any faster than the $500 GTX 780. The law of diminishing returns kicks in here, big time. The only way to exceed the GTX 780’s graphical performance substantially is to pair two of them up in an SLI config, but that option lies beyond the scope of this edition of the System Guide.

Storage

For storage, we’ll be looking at three categories of devices: system drives, mass-storage drives, and optical storage. The idea is to buy the best combination of the three that you can afford, based on your individual needs.

System drive

The system drive is where the operating system, and hopefully most of your games and applications, ought to reside. We’ve included a 1TB mechanical hard drive for budget builds where a two-drive config is out of the question. The rest of our recommendations are SSDs. Budget buyers may not be able to afford an SSD, but everyone else should spring for one and get an auxiliary mechanical drive for their mass-storage needs. Solid-state drives offer huge improvement in transfer rates and load times, which are more than worth the extra expense.

There are a few things worth keeping in mind when shopping for an SSD. Most mid-range and high-end drives offer similar overall performance. Pricing differences tend to have a bigger impact on which products deliver better value. (See our scatter plots.)

Drive capacity can affect performance, especially at lower capacities. Lower-capacity drives don’t have as many flash chips as their larger counterparts, so they can’t exploit as much controller-level parallelism. That dynamic usually translates into lower write speeds in smaller drives. For most older SSDs, write performance only falls off appreciably on drives smaller than 240-256GB. Newer drives with higher-density flash chips can require 480-512GB to deliver peak performance. Small SSDs are still much faster than mechanical hard drives, so we still recommend them to folks who can’t spring for larger drives.

Also, you may be familiar with our long-term SSD Endurance Experiment. The results we’ve gathered so far show that drives with two-bit MLC flash are more resilient than models with three-bit TLC NAND. No surprise there. With that said, our TLC drive only started accumulating bad blocks after 100TB of writes, which works out to more than 50GB per day for five years. That total is well beyond the endurance ratings attached to most SSDs, and it’s far more data than most desktop users will need to write to their drives. As a result, we have no reservations about including TLC-based SSDs in our recs.

The recommendations below are the most cost-effective options today, but they may not be the best values tomorrow. SSD prices fluctuate a fair bit. Shopping around for discounts is a good idea—just make sure to stick with trusted brands that have proven track records.

Product Price
WD Blue 1TB 7,200 RPM $59.99
Samsung 840 EVO 120GB $91.99
Intel 335 Series 240GB $159.99
Samsung 840 EVO 500GB $299.99
Crucial M500 960GB $469.99
Samsung 840 EVO 1TB $559.99

Can’t afford an SSD or auxiliary mechanical storage? Then the WD Blue 1TB will do just fine. Its 7,200-RPM spindle speed isn’t terribly slow, and the 1TB capacity is sufficient for both system and secondary storage.

Updated 3/5/14: On the SSD front, we’ve changed our 120GB SSD recommendation from Kingston’s SSDNow V300 based on a recent AnandTech story. That story shows newer versions of the V300 use much slower flash chips than before, putting the drive at a severe performance disadvantage even compared to Samsung’s EVO and Crucial’s M500.

The Samsung 840 EVO 120GB seems to be the fastest drive in that pricing tier. Its high-density flash chips make for poor controller-level parallelism, but its SLC cache compensates for that shortcoming somewhat. For a faster option, you might want to consider Kingston’s HyperX 3K 120GB, which has lower-density chips and has not, to our knowledge, been downgraded like the V300.

The sweet spot is probably the Intel 335 Series 240GB, which has great read and write speeds, ample capacity, and a reasonable cost per gigabyte. Folks with deeper pockets can spring for one of the higher-capacity Crucial and Samsung models listed above. Those drives are cheaper per gigabyte, and they have enough flash chips to extract good performance from their controllers. See our scatter plots for a quick peek at overall performance.

In any case, we’d advise getting the highest-capacity SSD you can afford, especially for a gaming build. Games take up a surprising amount of space, and some future titles will have even greater appetites for storage. Titanfall, for example, will require 48GB of free capacity. The last thing you want is to install some games on sluggish mechanical storage, which will stretch out level load times.

Mass-storage drive

Since SSDs still aren’t capacious enough to take over all storage duties in a desktop PC, it’s a good idea to get a secondary drive for large video files, downloads, personal photos, and the like. In this role, a mechanical drive can be used either by itself or with a twin sibling in a RAID 1 configuration, which will introduce a layer of fault tolerance to the whole setup.

Product Price
WD Green 3TB $114.99
WD Green 4TB $164.99
WD Red 4TB $184.99
WD Black 4TB $259.99

In part based on Backblaze’s recent reliability study, which showed higher failure rates for Seagate drives, we’ve biased our selections toward the Western Digital camp. Hitachi drives did even better according to the study, but they seem to have poorer Newegg reviews than comparable WD models, so we feel less confident about them.

There are other reasons to favor WD’s mechanical drives, of course. The ones we’ve tested lately have been faster and quieter than their Seagate counterparts.

The WD Green and Red drives have spindle speeds around 5,400-RPM, which translates to slightly sluggish performance but good power-efficiency, low noise levels, and affordable pricing. Since these drives oughtn’t be used for OS and application storage, their longer access times shouldn’t pose a problem. The Reds have some special sauce that makes them better-behaved with RAID controllers than the Greens, and they have longer warranty coverage, as well: three years instead of two.

We’ll throw in an honorable mention for Seagate’s Desktop HDD.15 4TB. It did almost as well as the WD Green 3TB in the Backblaze study—and it has slightly fewer one-star Newegg reviews than the Green 4TB. Keep in mind that the Desktop HDD.15 is louder and slower overall than the competing WD drives, however.

WD’s Black 4TB drive has a 7,200-RPM spindle speed and is tuned for high performance, at least by mechanical storage standards. It’s a better option than the Green or HDD.15 for storage-intensive work that may exceed the bounds of reasonably priced SSDs. The Black is also quicker than what Seagate offers at this capacity.

Optical drive

Living without optical storage is easy today, thanks to the ubiquity of high-capacity USB thumb drives and high-speed Internet connections. Some folks still like their DVDs and Blu-rays, though, and we’re happy to oblige them.

Product Price
Asus DRW-24B1ST DVD burner $19.99
LG WH14NS40 Blu-ray burner $67.99

Asus’ DRW-24B1ST DVD burner has been a staple of our System Guides for quite a while. It costs only 20 bucks, reads and burns both DVDs and CDs, and has a five-star average out of more than 4,000 reviews on Newegg. We feel pretty safe recommending it.

On the Blu-ray front, the LG WH14NS40 has spent almost as long as our Blu-ray burner of choice. Like the Asus DVD burner, this drive is one of the most affordable of its kind, and it’s also earned lots of positive reviews.

Cases

Choosing a case is kind of a subjective venture. We’ve listed some of our favorites below, and we recommend them wholeheartedly. That said, we acknowledge that not everybody will like their look or design as much as we do. To be honest, we don’t mind folks following their hearts on this one—so long as they wind up buying something well-built from a manufacturer with a good track record for quality.

Buying a cheap, bare-bones case is one way to save a bit of cash, but it’s not a very good way to do it. Quality cases make the system assembly process much more straightforward thanks to tool-less drive drays, cable-routing amenities, pre-mounted motherboard stand-offs, and internals roomy enough to accommodate adult-sized hands without causing cuts and scrapes. Quality cases tend to be quieter and to keep components cooler, as well. There’s a whole world of difference in usability between a crummy $25 enclosure and a decent $50 one. Trust us on this one; we’ve put together enough PCs to know.

Budget

Product Price Notable needs
Corsair Carbide Series 200R $59.99 N/A

Ever since we reviewed it last year, Corsair’s Carbide Series 200R has been our favorite budget enclosure. It’s loaded with enthusiast-friendly goodies, from ubiquitous thumbscrews to tool-less bays for optical, mechanical, and solid-state storage. There’s ample room for cable routing, too, and the stock fans are rather quiet. This is an ATX case that will accommodate any of the motherboards we recommended.

Sweet spot

Product Price Notable needs
NZXT H2 $99.99 N/A
Corsair Obsidian Series 350D $99.99 microATX motherboard
Corsair Obsidian Series 750D $159.99 N/A

We’ve got two favorites at the $100 price point: NZXT’s H2, a full-sized ATX enclosure, and Corsair’s Obsidian Series 350D, a smaller microATX design. These are both better-looking and loaded with more features than the Carbide Series 200R.

The NZXT H2 is tuned for low noise levels. Acoustic foam lines its side panels. There’s a door covering its front fan intake, and you can control fan speeds with a three-setting switch. The H2’s other perks include hot-swappable front fans, a built-in drive dock, rubber-grommeted cable-routing holes, and a dust cover on the top fan vent.

Corsair’s Obsidian Series 350D isn’t as small as you might expect a microATX case to be, but that’s perhaps a good thing. It accommodates the microATX form factor without sacrificing comfort or roominess. The 350D lacks the NZXT H2’s drive dock and foam-lined side panels, but it has an excellent internal design with very easy-to-use internal drive bays. Its stock fans are pretty quiet, as well, and they’re arranged to generate positive pressure inside the case, which should help to keep dust out. Don’t like the window? A windowless version of the 350D is available for $10 less.

Finally, there’s the Obsidian Series 750D. This is sort of like the luxury sedan of PC enclosures. It’s similar in design to the 350D, but Corsair makes it large enough to accommodate ATX motherboards—with plenty of room to spare. This is an extremely roomy case that’s an absolute delight to work in. Also, as in the 350D, the stock fans are quiet, and they’re arranged to generate positive pressure inside the case.

High end

Product Price Notable needs
Cooler Master Cosmos II $349.99 A forklift

At roughly 14″ x 28″ x 26″, the Cooler Master Cosmos II is humongous. And at $300, it’s also quite expensive. This thing is unarguably impressive, though, with even roomier innards than the 750D and all kinds of premium features, including gull-wing doors, sliding metal covers, and a compartmentalized internal layout. It’s no accident that we gave this thing our Editor’s Choice award.

Power supplies

This should go without saying in this day and age, but we’ll say it anyway: buying a good power supply is a must.

Cheap PSUs can cause all kinds of problems, from poor stability to premature component failures. Also, many cheap units have deceptively inflated wattage ratings. For example, a “500W” bargain-bin PSU might get half of its rating from the 5V rail, which is relatively unimportant, leaving only 250W for the 12V rail, which supplies most power-hungry components like the CPU and GPU. By contrast, quality PSUs derive most of their wattage ratings from the capacity of their 12V rails. That means an el-cheapo 500W unit could be less powerful in practice than a quality 350W PSU.

The power supplies we’ve singled out below are all quality units from trustworthy manufacturers who offer at least three years of warranty coverage. You’ll notice that these PSUs all have modular cabling, as well. Going with a non-modular PSU can shave a few bucks off the price of a build, but modular cabling makes cable routing and general system assembly much more convenient. Since there isn’t a particularly large price premium involved, we think modular cabling is worth it.

We also tried to find PSUs with 80 Plus Bronze or better certification. 80 Plus Bronze guarantees efficiency of 82-85%, depending on load. The higher a PSU’s efficiency, the less energy it turns into heat while converting AC to DC power, the easier it is to cool quietly. 80 Plus Bronze, Silver, or Gold units tend to have large, slow-spinning fans that are barely audible during normal use. They’ll save you a bit of money on your power bill over the long run, too.

Budget

Product Price Notable needs
Corsair CX430M $49.99 Graphics card must not have

more than one PCIe power connector

Corsair’s CX430M was the PSU of choice for the Econobox build from previous editions of the System Guide, and it’s still a fine budget solution. It has modular cabling, 80 Plus Bronze certification, a large intake fan that should cool the unit quietly, and three years of warranty coverage. Hard to beat for 50 bucks.

This model’s 430W of output power should be enough to handle a system based on the other budget components we’ve recommended. If you’re splurging on higher-end parts, however, one of the higher-wattage units below is probably a better bet. Also note that this unit only has a single PCIe power connector.

Sweet spot

Product Price Notable needs
Corsair CX600M $79.99 N/A
Corsair HX650 $109.99

The CX600M is quite similar to the CX430M above, except that it has higher output (600W) and a longer, five-year warranty. It’s a good, no-frills option for a build that might need a little extra power and more than one PCIe power connector.

The HX650 isn’t that much more powerful than the CX600M, but it has 80 Plus Gold certification, which indicates efficiency of 87-90%. As an added bonus, the HX650W comes with seven years of warranty coverage.

High end

Product Price Notable needs
Corsair AX860 $189.99 N/A

The AX860 has an 860W output rating with 80 Plus Platinum certification, which implies efficiency of up to 92%. This unit, like the HX650, is covered by a seven-year warranty. We’ve been using similar Corsair AX-series units to power our own test rigs, and we have nothing but good things to say about them.

You’ll notice that we’re not recommending 1kW or higher-wattage units here. Those aren’t really necessary to power the kinds of single-GPU builds we’re advocating. The field of 1kW power supplies is also very competitive, with many PSUs from lots of manufacturers striving for supremacy, and we haven’t reviewed many of them. We may revisit this segment in the future, but for now, we feel better-qualified to comment on lower-wattage units.

Miscellaneous

Need a fancy processor cooler or a sound card? You’ve come to the right place. This is where we talk about components that, while not always strictly necessary, can improve a build in very real ways.

Aftermarket CPU coolers

With the exception of the Core i7-4930K, all of the CPUs we’ve recommended come with stock coolers from Intel. Those stock coolers do a decent enough job, and they’re generally small enough to fit happily inside cramped enclosures. However, stock Intel coolers don’t have much metal with which to dissipate thermal energy, and their fans are relatively small. That means they can get noisy under load, and they may be unable to handle the extra heat from an overclocked processor.

The coolers list below are all more powerful and quieter than the stock Intel solutions. The more affordable ones are conventional, tower-style designs with large fans, while the higher-priced Corsair H-series units are closed-loop liquid coolers that can be mounted against a case’s exhaust vents.

Product Price
Thermaltake NiC F3 $29.99
Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO $34.99
Thermaltake NiC C5 $54.99
Corsair H60 $64.99
Corsair H80i $84.99

Thermaltake’s NiC coolers are designed specifically to accommodate tall memory heat spreaders. They use relatively slim fin arrays to achieve this feat. Despite that fact, they’re capable of cooling very power-hungry processors. The NiC F3 can dissipate as much as 160W of heat, while the NiC C5 can do 230W, according to Thermaltake. That’s way beyond the needs of stock-clocked Haswell. Those top out at 84W.

Cooler Master’s Hyper 212 EVO has a similar design to the NiC F3, but with a wider fin array. The extra metal may allow for somewhat quieter cooling, but it may interfere with tall memory modules. This cooler is a very popular option, though, with over 6,000 five-star reviews at Newegg. (Cooler Master makes another, similar cooler called the Hyper T4, but the 212 EVO is supposed to have better performance and a better mounting bracket.)

Corsair’s H60 and H80i liquid coolers are entirely self-contained and require no special setup. You simply mount them against a case’s exhaust vent with the fan blowing through the radiator fins, and the closed-loop liquid cooling system takes care of everything. The H80i has a larger fin array than the H60 and supports Corsair’s Link feature, which lets you monitor coolant temperatures and control fan speeds via Windows software. Both of these coolers take next to no space around the CPU socket, since their radiators are mounted to the case wall. For that reason, they’re ideal for something like an Ivy Bridge-E system packed with tall memory modules. In fact, we very much recommend water cooling for any Ivy-E build, given how crowded the area around the socket tends to be.

We’ll throw in an honorable mention of Noctua’s NH-U12P, which has a beefy tower-style fin array and dual 120-mm fans. This behemoth costs $80 and is probably the finest air cooler we’ve tested. It performed even better than an older closed-loop liquid cooler from CoolIT in our air vs. water showdown several years back. However, its fin array may be too large to accommodate tall memory modules.

Sound cards

A lot of folks are perfectly content with their motherboard’s integrated audio these days. However, each time we conduct blind listening tests, even low-end discrete sound cards wind up sounding noticeably better than integrated audio. And that’s with a pair of lowly Sennheiser HD 555 headphones, not some kind of insane audiophile setup.

In other words, if you’re using half-way decent analog headphones or speakers, a sound card is a worthwhile purchase.

It’s fine to stick with motherboard audio if you use digital speakers or USB headphones, since those handle the analog-to-digital conversion themselves. That said, even with digital speakers, the sound cards we recommend below will do things that onboard audio cannot, such as surround sound virtualization and real-time Dolby multi-channel encoding.

Product Price
Asus Xonar DSX $59.99
Asus Xonar DX $79.99

The Xonar DSX and Xonar DX can both drive analog headphones or 7.1-channel speaker setups (either analog or digital). In our blind listening tests performed with analog headphones, these two cards sounded very close. The DSX is the more affordable of the two, but the DX gets you Dolby Headphone virtualization in exchange for a $25 premium. Folks who game with analog headphones may feel inclined to splurge, but the DSX is arguably the better bargain.

There are other options out there, of course, including Creative’s Sound Blaster Z series. You can try your luck with those. Personally, we can’t recommend them—not because we don’t like them, but because we just haven’t had a chance to review them and subject them to blind listening tests. Analog audio quality is an awfully difficult thing to infer from a spec sheet on the Internet.

Sample builds

By now, you should have the information you need to configure your own build based on your own needs. However, we thought it would be helpful to outline a few sample configs, if only to offer a better sense of the kinds of component pairings one might want to make—or need to make, based on the components’ compatibility requirements. We’ve put together three sample builds, one for each of our main pricing tiers. These are, of course, merely examples of what’s possible, but you’re free to replicate them wholesale if you wish.

Budget

Component Price
Processor Intel Core i3-4130 $124.99
Motherboard Gigabyte H87-D3H $104.99
Memory G.Skill Ripjaws 4GB (2x2GB) DDR3-1600 $47.99
Graphics Gigabyte GeForce GTX 750 $119.99
Storage WD Blue 1TB 7,200 RPM $59.99
Asus DRW-24B1ST DVD burner $19.99
Enclosure Corsair Carbide Series 200R $59.99
PSU Corsair CX430M $49.99
Total $587.92

This sample config is similar to the Econobox from our previous System Guides. It should offer solid CPU performance, enough threads and memory capacity for light to medium multitasking, reasonably good GPU performance at 1080p, and adequate storage. The nice Corsair case and modular power supply should make the build process very easy—great for a first-time build.

Sweet spot

Component Price
Processor Core i5-4430 3.0GHz $189.99
Cooler Thermaltake NiC F3 $29.99
Motherboard Asus H87M-E $95.99
Memory G.Skill Ares 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3-1600 $77.99
Graphics Asus GeForce GTX 760 $249.99
Storage Intel 335 Series 240GB $159.99
WD Green 3TB $114.99
LG WH14NS40 Blu-ray burner $67.99
Sound card Asus Xonar DSX $59.99
Enclosure Corsair Obsidian Series 350D $99.99
PSU Corsair CX600M $79.99
Total $1,226.89

For this sample config, we’ve gone up a ways in performance and down a little in size, choosing a microATX motherboard and enclosure. We didn’t splurge on the mobo, though. Since our processor doesn’t have an unlocked upper multiplier, there’s no real need for a Z87 Express chipset.

This config’s quad-core processor and 8GB of memory should allow for much more flexibility in the multitasking department, while the graphics card should offer silky-smooth performance at 1080p with detail levels cranked up. We’ve also got a speedy SSD for system and applications storage, a sound card to ensure good analog audio quality, a Blu-ray drive for backups and HD movies, and a slightly beefier PSU with the right number of PCIe power connectors for our graphics card.

High end

Component Price
Processor Core i7-4930K $579.99
Cooler Corsair H80i $84.99
Motherboard Asus X79 Deluxe $349.99
Memory G.Skill Ares 16GB (4x4GB) DDR3-2133 $156.99
Graphics Asus GeForce GTX 780 $519.99
Storage Samsung 840 EVO 500GB $299.99
WD Red 4TB $184.99
WD Red 4TB $184.99
LG WH14NS40 Blu-ray burner $67.99
Sound card Asus Xonar DX $79.99
Enclosure Corsair Obsidian Series 750D $159.99
PSU Corsair AX860 $189.99
Total $2,859.88

This is the sort of build one might put together for very heavy multitasking and top-notch gaming performance at 2560×1440. There’s plenty of room to store games on that 500GB SSD. This isn’t the absolute nicest config money can buy, but it’s not far off the mark.

Note the two WD Red 4TB hard drives. If we were building this system ourselves, we’d configure them in a RAID-1 array. In that arrangement, data would be mirrored on both drives, so if one drive should fail, the RAID controller would simply drop it out of the array, and its contents would remain accessible on the other drive.

Just keep in mind that RAID isn’t a true backup method. If your computer catches on fire, your data will be gone regardless of the internal storage redundancy. We recommend backing up files to an external drive or an online service like CrashPlan no matter what.

The operating system

We’re not going to wax poetic about Windows. We will say this: if you’re building a new PC and don’t already have a spare copy of Windows at hand, we recommend that you buy Windows 8.1 instead of Windows 7.

We’re not huge fans of the Modern UI stuff Microsoft introduced with Windows 8, since it’s pretty pointless for gaming desktops like those we recommend. However, we do like the various improvements Microsoft made to the desktop interface, like the new-and-improved File Explorer, the more powerful Task Manager, and the multi-monitor improvements. The faster startup speed doesn’t hurt, either. The demise of the Start menu is deplorable, but the Start screen isn’t such a bad substitute—and you can always bring back the menu with third-party add-ons, if you can’t bear to live without it.

Another good reason to grab Windows 8.1: Windows 7 has been out for more than four years, and Microsoft plans to end mainstream support for it in January 2015. Windows 8.1 will continue to be supported until at least 2018, if Microsoft doesn’t change its support policy.

Now, there are multiple versions of Windows 8.1 available: vanilla, Pro, retail, OEM, 32-bit, and 64-bit. Which one should you get?

The OEM versions are the best deals. They cost less than retail copies, and Microsoft’s Personal Use License allows for them to be used on home-built PCs and to be transferred to new machines after an upgrade. You want the 64-bit version, since 64-bit versions of Windows are required to fully utilize 4GB or more of system memory. As a reminder, our smallest memory recommendation is 4GB, and our largest one is 32GB.

That leaves Windows 8.1 versus Windows 8.1 Pro. You can compare the two editions here on Microsoft’s website. Notable Pro features include BitLocker and the ability to host Remote Desktop sessions. Whether those extras are worth the price premium is entirely up to you. Newegg charges $99.99 and $139.99, respectively, for 64-bit OEM versions of Windows 8.1 and Windows 8.1 Pro. Take your pick!

Mobile and peripheral picks

As we stated at the beginning, mobile and peripheral picks will be revisited in separate articles soon. To see our last recommendations, check pages seven and eight in the previous edition of the System Guide.

Update 4/7: The first edition of our TR peripheral staff picks can be found here.

Conclusions

Well, there you have it. The first edition of the TR System Guide to follow our revised format.

We tried very hard to be as thorough and informative as possible. Considering this is a first stab at an entirely new concept for us, though, it’s entirely conceivable that we had some blind spots here and there. If you have constructive feedback to provide—or if you think we made some sort of terrible mistake somewhere—you’re welcome to share your thoughts in the comments section of this article.

The advantages of the new format should already be apparent, however. We were able to go into a lot more depth about certain component categories, like processors, graphics cards, motherboards, and solid-state drives. The result, we hope, is a more informative guide for folks who aren’t intimately familiar with the DIY PC market.

Finally, some of you may need further help with your builds. If that’s the case, we invite you to post in our System Builders Anonymous forum. The folks there will be happy to give you pointers and tips, so long as you ask nicely.

Comments closed
    • grantdawwg
    • 5 years ago

    From a novice’s perspective I found your previous format more helpful for building a pc, of which I have done 2 times using the system guides lists verbatim. I have run into compatibility and overheating issues when researching parts by myself.

    I know the basics of computer hardware but don’t know what to make of their detailed specifications and simply don’t wish to spend the time to master the language.

    I find that the many builds in various price ranges very useful, and request that you include more examples in your next system guide.

    Thank you for your reports, you provide a much needed service to the computer gamer’s that don’t know hardware lingo.

    • humannn
    • 5 years ago

    In these guides, please have a section discussing new technologies that are coming out, the timeframe expected, and a personal judgment call on whether or not to wait or jump in right now.

    For example, if Intel is releasing XYZ CPU in the next quarter, remind us of this fact, and help us make the call on whether or not to wait for it.

    • skopen00
    • 5 years ago

    A comment on the final topic of this guide. (the OS)
    A new build (i5 Haswell, Z87), basically to run a Fujitsu ix500 scanner and a Brother A3 Scanner/Printer for myself and a few others. Looking forward, I took the (usually good) advice this site offered, in particular trying to future proof the install with Windows 8.1.
    After a week of trying to beat this thing into something that I could use, (Classic Shell, Start8, UX Pack…) ((much less expecting my other users to just sit down and get work done at it)) and failing, I realized that if I’d just bought Windows 7 I’d have been done in an afternoon. So today I’m throwing away the $$ I spent on a 8.1 license and buying the copy of Windows 7 I should have. And if MS hasn’t produced a “Windows 9” more or less as successful as Windows 7 long before the 2020 “end of extended support”, then they may have a lot more in common with Nokia than just owning them.

    • superjawes
    • 6 years ago

    Weeks later and I think I found a typo:

    [quote<]Solid-state drives offer [b<]huges[/b<] improvement in transfer rates and load times, which are more than worth the extra expense.[/quote<] I believe you mean "huge".

    • Voldenuit
    • 6 years ago

    Are the prices in the link dynamic? I noticed today that the motherboard in the econobox sample was more expensive than the motherboard in the sweet spot…

      • derFunkenstein
      • 6 years ago

      I don’t think so, unless the total is also somehow dynamic. Those part prices add up to the total on the Econobox and Sweet Spot builds.

      It’s probably got more to do with the fact that the Sweet Spot has an mATX board and the Econobox has a full ATX board to match the respective cases.

    • Wicked Mystic
    • 6 years ago

    Now there are no AMD parts now so memory is recommended for Intel parts. Intel states that 1.5V is maximum for processor memory controller.

    Kingston HyperX Blu 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3-1600 is 1.65V part @ 1600 MHz. Others seem to be 1.5V @ 1600 MHz.

    G.Skill Ares 16GB (4x4GB) DDR3-2133 is 1.6V part @ 2133 and 1.5V @ 1600. No information about 1866 MHz.

      • Cyril
      • 6 years ago

      The Newegg page for the 8GB HyperX kit does say 1.65V, but that seems to be incorrect. Kingston’s [url=http://media.kingston.com/pdfs/HyperX_Blu_EN.pdf<]own spec sheet[/url<] says 1.5V. Also, for what it's worth, Intel's [url=http://www.intel.com/content/dam/www/public/us/en/documents/datasheets/xmp-memory-for-intel-core-processors-datasheet.pdf<]compatibility list[/url<] shows 1.65V RAM is okay with Haswell, at least if you use the right DIMMs. Not sure why folks are downvoting you, though. Those are valid concerns.

        • Wicked Mystic
        • 6 years ago

        [quote<]The Newegg page for the 8GB HyperX kit does say 1.65V, but that seems to be incorrect. Kingston's own spec sheet says 1.5V.[/quote<] That sheet is more "general" sheet. More spesific [url<]http://www.kingston.com/datasheets/KHX1600C9D3B1K2_8GX.pdf[/url<] "Each module kit has been tested to run at DDR3-1600 at a low latency timing of 9-9-9 at 1.65V. The SPDs are programmed to JEDEC standard latency DDR3-1333 timing of 9-9-9 at 1.5V." [quote<]Also, for what it's worth, Intel's compatibility list shows 1.65V RAM is okay with Haswell, at least if you use the right DIMMs.[/quote<] Intel does not have any processors that officially support DDR3-2400 (can't remember if DDR3-2133 is supported on high end) or any memory over 1.5V. Via overlocking that is possible. Motherboard manufacturers may well put their own tests and Intel may publish them. I think this guy works for Intel, at least his comment is exactly what I would except: [url<]https://communities.intel.com/message/163062#163062[/url<] Basically same info [url<]http://www.intel.com/support/motherboards/desktop/db-dz87klt-75k/sb/CS-034213.htm[/url<] [quote<]The recommended default setting for DDR3 memory voltage is 1.5 V. The other memory voltage settings in the BIOS Setup program are provided for performance tuning purposes only. Changing the memory voltage can: - Reduce system stability and the useful life of the system, memory, and processor. - Cause the processor and other system components to fail.[/quote<] etc. [quote<]Not sure why folks are downvoting you, though. Those are valid concerns.[/quote<] I don't care.

          • Cyril
          • 6 years ago

          [quote<]That sheet is more "general" sheet. More spesific [url<]http://www.kingston.com/datasheets/KHX1600C9D3B1K2_8GX.pdf[/url<] "Each module kit has been tested to run at DDR3-1600 at a low latency timing of 9-9-9 at 1.65V. The SPDs are programmed to JEDEC standard latency DDR3-1333 timing of 9-9-9 at 1.5V."[/quote<] Hadn't seen that spec sheet. Looks like you're right. I've just changed the 8GB recommendation in the guide to a 1.5V kit.

            • Wicked Mystic
            • 6 years ago

            IMO it’s OK to keep 1.65V memory also. That Kingston is quite cheap. Still that 1.65V issue should be mentioned. Like “Intel recommends 1.5V memory and using 1.65V may void warranty and cause damage blah blah”. However many readers don’t read anything except just recommendations so it’s much safer that way.

        • indeego
        • 6 years ago

        Why aren’t you gold +3’ing him then?!

          • Cyril
          • 6 years ago

          There we go. 😉

    • redavni
    • 6 years ago

    I can not fathom a reason to reccomend the Corsair CX PSUs over the Seasonic S12G series. Do you guys really enjoy paying more money for inferior components, performance, and a shorter warranty?

      • Cyril
      • 6 years ago

      Edit: Note to self: don’t post right after getting up on Sunday morning.

      It does look like the cheapest S12G is about $20 more than the CX430M, though. The S12G 550W would be a good alternative to the CX600M, but not the CX430M, I don’t think.

    • GeForce6200
    • 6 years ago

    Interesting new formats but I think some things could be tweaked and I feel a little favoring going on. Not that the products you selected are poor quality wise, quite the contrary they are great! For cases I firmly believe you can find better budget cases, such as the NZXT Source 210. Budget cases are painted inside and have many features that the big guys do and still less than the linked Corsair. When it comes to video cards I didn’t see any EVGA cards mentioned which are worth mentioning. I have dealt with EVGA many times and have nothing but praise for them. They also have better quality cards compared to their competitors. For example you linked the Gigabyte and for the same price can have an EVGA with a better community, better anesthetics, and better connectivity. (Display Port) As for PSUs Corsair does indeed make a great product but I believe it is worth mentioning CoolerMaster, Seasonic, and other higher end options. It’s not like Corsair actually makes theirs anyways. Finally I think you can also add a DAC as an option for someone looking for a soundcard. There are a decent amount offered under $100 and a couple good choices under $50. Overall I thought it was a good guide Cyril!

    • mutantmagnet
    • 6 years ago

    [quote<]Folks uninterested in overclocking might want to look at the non-K versions of the aforementioned CPUs: the Core i5-4670 and Core i7-4770. These are about $20 cheaper than their unlocked, K-branded siblings, and they have support for couple of important features: Intel's Virtualization Technology for Directed I/O, also known as VT-d, and a key Haswell feature known as transactional memory, or TSX. Inexplicably, unlocked Haswell CPUs lack both TSX and VT-d support. Intel's illogical product segmentation strikes again.[/quote<] Next time I would add to this segment you also have the option to improve security on your PC with a dedicated TPU chip but you'll need to make sure your motherboard has the slot to accept this chip. [quote<]Motherboards[/quote<] I recommend you investigate this matter but to my understanding ASrock offers the most comprehensive and robust support for VT-d and AMD-V. For all the other manufacturers very few of their boards have support while for ASRock most of them have it. I think some more consideration should be made on PCIe layouts when making recommendations. I'm not one to care much about airflow but I think other people would like some guidance on this matter. How far apart you space apart your GPUs matters, does it not? [quote<] GPUs We favored major vendors known to have decent service, and we looked for quiet coolers (especially dual- and triple-fan solutions) and higher-than-normal clock speeds (provided they didn't incur too high a price premium). The cards you see below may not be the absolute cheapest of their kind, but they are the ones we'd buy. [/quote<] Will you guys in the future write a brief blurb pointing out differences in warranty and RMA processes if a part of your recommendation is based on service? I see warranty info get mentioned for PSUs and SSDs but not so much for other parts. ---------------- Great update to the system build format. Kudos.

    • Welch
    • 6 years ago

    While I tend to favor the Corsair cases, there lower priced/end offerings just don’t GRB me. My new favorite mATX case is the Cooler Master N200, and I’ve always hated Cooler Master cases. These have a clean mesh front with 1 optical bay (all if not more than needed) have a spot for a single SSD and a few hard drives. Fan spot for the top of case and side, enough room behind the back panel to hide cabling. All around for 39.99 its a great case for small business builds. 1 x USB 3.0 and 2 x USB 2.0 ports in the front, so 3 total which is nice.

    Have found it on sale on occasion for $29.99 which is a steal.

    • deruberhanyok
    • 6 years ago

    I like the new format, guys! Much easier to get a feel for the general state of PC hardware grouping them by category like this.

    Something I’ve been looking at recently that I didn’t see mentioned in storage: have you guys considered SSHDs for “budget” parts? You get some extra performance over mechanical drives, but still get the larger amount of storage they offer. I’ve dealt with a few recently in laptops and have been pleasantly surprised at how quick they feel – not quite as snappy as an all-flash SSD, but nowhere near the doldrums of old all-spinning drivers, either.

    I think Seagate and Toshiba are the only companies making them right now, and they’re a little more expensive than plain mechanicals, but $100 for a 1TB 2.5″ drive with 8GB of fast SSD “cache” might be worth checking out.

      • superjawes
      • 6 years ago

      You’re using SSHDs in laptops? Those might feel snappier because most laptop drives end up being 5,400 RPM instead of the 7,200 RPM common in desktops. I would guess that the performance delta would be greater with a slower drive.

        • deruberhanyok
        • 6 years ago

        That’s certainly possible. I feel like doubling the amount of SSD cache the drives use (they all have 8GB currently) could benefit it, but they also make 3.5″ drives with 7200rpm spindle speed:

        [url<]http://www.storagereview.com/seagate_desktop_sshd_review[/url<] When the data is small enough to live in the 8GB cache on the drive, there's a noticeable increase in performance - enough that I feel they may be worth looking at for "budget" builds. Though again, this tech would really benefit from a larger cache.

          • superjawes
          • 6 years ago

          TR actually reviewed a SSHD, too. Unfortunately, [url=https://techreport.com/review/25425/seagate-desktop-sshd-2tb-hybrid-drive-reviewed/12<]they did not feel that the performance boost was worth it.[/url<] Granted, the review looked at WD Black drives instead of the Blue drive recommended in this guide, but I don't think the performance increase is a very good value. This is also a desktop-focused guide, so adding a "real" SSD is very easy and serves as a sensible upgrade path.

            • deruberhanyok
            • 6 years ago

            Ah, I thought I’d read an SSHD review here before, but I couldn’t find the article. My google-fu was weak!

            Thanks for the link – I expect that sums up why they didn’t bother including one in the list.

    • dragosmp
    • 6 years ago

    You may want to erase the Kingston v300 from the recommended list:
    [url<]http://www.anandtech.com/show/7763/an-update-to-kingston-ssdnow-v300-a-switch-to-slower-micron-nand[/url<]

      • Cyril
      • 6 years ago

      Wow. Thanks for that. I’ve just removed the V300 from our recommendations and replaced it with the Samsung 840 EVO, which seems to be quite a bit faster.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 6 years ago

      This is just dirty. Should have been a different model with a different name.

    • Wicked Mystic
    • 6 years ago

    This is funny. They say AM3+ platform is outdated. Well, it misses PCI Express 3.0 that’s totally useless for now.

    In the past they did not see any problems with Intel LGA1156 platform that was very outdated. It missed both Serial ATA 6Gb/s and USB 3.0. And because chipset was over 4 year old part, adding them meant only 8 PCI Express 2.0 lanes for video card.

    If that was not problem in the past, 16 PCI Express 2.0 lanes for video card cannot be now. This guide is too much towards Intel.

    Needless to say that recommending dual core processor is pretty laughable. It’s 2014.

      • chuckula
      • 6 years ago

      Wait… first you whine that TR didn’t recommend AMD parts, then you have the nerve to say this:

      [quote<]Needless to say that recommending dual core processor is pretty laughable. It's 2014.[/quote<] Uh.. you do realize that the "quad core" A10-7850K that you were so upset about TR not recommending is basically a [b<][i<]slower[/i<][/b<] version of those "laughable" dual cores that TR recommended...right? Oh, and it costs more and burns a whole lot more power in the process.

        • Wicked Mystic
        • 6 years ago

        Slower on where? Yes, I remember when single core dominated dual core in benchmarks. I bought dual core and never regretted. Dual core was faster than quad core on benchmarks, I bought quad core and never regretted.

        So recommending dual core is laughable on 2014. No matter if it’s “faster” on some biased benchmarks.

          • chuckula
          • 6 years ago

          Dear Spigzone… uh I mean “Wicked Mystic”: Go read TR’s review here:
          [url<]https://techreport.com/review/25908/amd-a8-7600-kaveri-processor-reviewed/9[/url<] Then go realize that [b<]IN MULTI-THREADED APPLICATIONS[/b<] Intel's dual cores are faster than Kaveri. In fact, to make you feel better, lets just call all Kaveri parts "dual core" since that's what they really are. Oh, and while we're at it, the only Kaveri parts that are actually on sale right now cost [b<]more[/b<] than Intel's dual-core parts, so they are slower [b<]and[/b<] more expensive all in the name of an IGP that is useless as soon as you add in a real GPU. Now please show the intellectual honesty to say that if it really is true that recommending a "dual core" part in 2014 is "laughable" that you wish AMD would stop putting out "laughable" products while abandoning the high-end.

            • Wicked Mystic
            • 6 years ago

            Did you notice that AMD GPU clearly is superior to Intel’s one? Do you even understand that AMD 7600 is meant to be good on GPU side? Not on GPU side?

            They are actually quad core. AMD has so much more advanced design that they left out half almost useless FPU units.

            That processor is quad core so no problem there. Also it’s designed to have superior GPU, it has. Then you are comparing CPU side? Pretty clever I must say.

            AMD abandons high end because Intel can bribe manufacturers to use their products exclusively, so why bother.

            • Wicked Mystic
            • 6 years ago

            Thanks for link. That article clearly show this site is Intel sponsored by Intel:

            “APUs occupy this awkward middle ground for so-called casual gamers who want something better than an Intel IGP but not as good as a halfway-decent graphics card. As Jerry Seinfeld would say, “who are these people?” Seriously, I’ve never met one.”

            “I do not need this kind of chip, nobody needs and it sucks”

            How about those people that like to play but have very limited budget? Right.

            • chuckula
            • 6 years ago

            [quote<]Did you notice that AMD GPU clearly is superior to Intel's one? [/quote<] Of course I did. I also noticed that the Intel chip came in a much more dashing blue box. Interestingly enough, in the context of a gaming system that uses a real GPU [such as a 2 year old HD-7750], the color of the box and the quality of the IGP are equally relevant or irrelevant to the final analysis. You know what [b<]is[/b<] relevant? That using a discrete GPU, the Intel chip gives better game performance... especially when using Mantle. Oh, and that the Intel chip is cheaper and faster and uses less power. Only an anti-AMD shill like you would promote crippling the performance of AMD's GPUs by forcing them to be used with inferior platforms. So basically Spiggy: Why do you hate AMD GPUs so much? Why do you insult them every chance you get? Why do you hate AMD?

            • Wicked Mystic
            • 6 years ago

            What IS relevant is that AMD has better options for those who want discrete graphics card. Right?

            If you have 130 dollar budget for CPU AND video card on gaming machine, would you buy AMD A8-7600 or Intel i3-4430? Where did you get info that i3-4330 is cheaper? Intel is way slower chip when using integrated graphics. In case you still did not realize, that chip has good GPU and CPU side is little weaker.

            Promote on what? Kaveri is great product for price $119. It is not bad product because some morons do not see any use for it.

            What do you mean saying Spiggy?

            • Cyril
            • 6 years ago

            [quote<]Promote on what? Kaveri is great product for price $119.[/quote<] Perhaps it will be, but it isn't yet. The cheapest Kaveri chip at Newegg and Amazon is the A10-7700K, which costs $150-160. For $160, you could buy a [url=http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814202084<]Radeon HD 7770[/url<] and a [url=http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819116950<]Haswell-based Pentium[/url<]. If I were building a budget gaming PC, I would probably lean toward that setup rather than the A10, since the Radeon HD 7770 has more shaders and much higher peak memory bandwidth than the A10-7700K's IGP. When Kaveri becomes available at $120, we'll probably include it in our recommendations. At current prices, though, it's difficult to recommend Kaveri on the strength of its integrated graphics alone.

            • Wicked Mystic
            • 6 years ago

            [quote<]Perhaps it will be, but it isn't yet. The cheapest Kaveri chip at Newegg and Amazon is the A10-7700K, which costs $150-160. When Kaveri becomes available at $120, we'll probably include it in our recommendations. At current prices, though, it's difficult to recommend Kaveri on the strength of its integrated graphics alone.[/quote<] Based on review it's hard to see any recommendations. That chip was designed to have good good GPU and good enough CPU. Not another way around. So review should also concentrate on GPU side, not CPU side. And I think review took account estimated price. So can anyone build faster gaming machine where CPU+video card budget is 119? I doubt not and that is why Kaveri has use.

            • Cyril
            • 6 years ago

            [quote<]That chip was designed to have good good GPU and good enough CPU. Not another way around. So review should also concentrate on GPU side, not CPU side.[/quote<] I agree. Ideally, a Kaveri review should address gaming performance in a handful of major new titles before tackling productivity benchmarks. Then, in productivity tests, the review should include several OpenCL-accelerated apps, in order to show how the IGP can improve non-gaming performance. [url=https://techreport.com/review/25908/amd-a8-7600-kaveri-processor-reviewed/<]Which is exactly what we did.[/url<]

            • Wicked Mystic
            • 6 years ago

            Right, but what is this? Almost whole article is written quite neutral manner but then last page:

            [quote<]APUs occupy this awkward middle ground for so-called casual gamers who want something better than an Intel IGP but not as good as a halfway-decent graphics card. As Jerry Seinfeld would say, "who are these people?" Seriously, I've never met one.[/quote<] "Nobody uses APU's, there are better alternatives, APU's suck, AMD strategy suck, AMD suck." What is this if not bias towards Intel? I also checked your Haswell review. You "accidentially" missed some facts: - Haswell runs much hotter than Ivy Bridge. - You did not criticise new socket that is nothing else than LGA1155 minus 5 pins. That integrated voltage regulator is just waste on desktop side and does not justify new socket. - You did not criticise very low performance gain over Ivy Bridge. - Haswell chips will likely broke down faster because of higher temps. Then AMD makes fastest integrated GPU ever. "Nobody uses it". Right. OK.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 6 years ago

            I can say with certainty that Ivy Bridge’s higher end graphics (HD4000) included with an i5-3570K are slower than a Trinity-based A8 5600K, because those are the two CPUs I own to test with. I can consistently play SC2 HoTS and Diablo 3 at both higher settings and higher resolutions on the APU, even though the quad-core IVB processor does way better at CPU tasks. No doubt about it. And in TR’s tests, the same is true of Haswell vs. Kaveri.

            But as Cyril said, if you have $160 to spend – where the A8-7600 is right now – you can do better than Kaveri. It has to get down towards $120 before it’s worth buying and then only in a super-duper cheap setup, and you won’t be gaming at 1600×900 or 1080p.

            • Wicked Mystic
            • 6 years ago

            [quote<]But as Cyril said, if you have $160 to spend - where the A8-7600 is right now - you can do better than Kaveri. It has to get down towards $120 before it's worth buying and then only in a super-duper cheap setup, and you won't be gaming at 1600x900 or 1080p.[/quote<] But for 119 you cannot. That was point when giving critic to article. It forgot that not everyone has unlimited budget. Nobody has commented that motherboard issue.

            • superjawes
            • 6 years ago

            [quote=”TR’s February 2014 System Guide”<]AMD's Kaveri processors do have better integrated graphics, but that doesn't help us much. Gaming on integrated graphics still yields a sub-par experience in many games, especially in titles designed to take advantage of the new consoles. If you care the least bit about gaming performance, you ought to be buying a discrete graphics card. And that, sadly, means there's not much point in us recommending an AMD processor right now.[/quote<] You've got to have an extremely tight budget to be looking at $120 for both a CPU and GPU*. In fact, that budget is so tight that we head back into the argument of whether or not you should even be building your own PC.

            • Wicked Mystic
            • 6 years ago

            Funny, I just delivered computer for gaming with 50 dollar budget on CPU and video card. For both 50 dollars, overall. That was left when taking other parts from budget. I warned that gaming performance will suffer with that budget. New owner seemed to be happy.

            Sometimes you have to make compromises 🙂

            • superjawes
            • 6 years ago

            I think you’re missing the point…

            • Wicked Mystic
            • 6 years ago

            I don’t. If product is simply awesome in some price range, it’s just trolling to say it’s useless because buyer [i<]should[/i<] have more money.

            • superjawes
            • 6 years ago

            It’s not trolling to have a minimum level of performance. If you drop below a certain point, you can’t guarantee that the machine will even run new games or that it can run them well. That essentially makes it a specialized build and impossible to make sweeping recommendations for.

            And still, when you factor in $100 for a Windows license, the value of building your own machine below a certain point becomes questionable.

            • Wicked Mystic
            • 6 years ago

            And if one needs computer and has not enough money to buy minimum level performance? Then best possible hardware is bought with money.

            So when there exists simply awesome product on certain use on certain price range, it always has some use. And it cannot be useless, like article claims.

            • superjawes
            • 6 years ago

            The article did not claim that Kaveri processors were useless. It said that if you care about gaming performance you should be getting a GPU, and that rules out Kaveri in general recommendations.

            And I’m inclined to agree. You can game on an integrated GPU, but that would make more sense if you’re only playing casual or old games. If you’re not playing relatively new games, how is [i<]anyone[/i<] supposed to make a general recommendation? The System Guide is meant to be a general reference, and this one specifically is moving away from a build-oriented approach.

            • Wicked Mystic
            • 6 years ago

            [quote<]The article did not claim that Kaveri processors were useless. It said that if you care about gaming performance you should be getting a GPU, and that rules out Kaveri in general recommendations.[/quote<] I already put quote that claims it. [quote<]The System Guide is meant to be a general reference, and this one specifically is moving away from a build-oriented approach.[/quote<] I'm not one who started that discussion.

            • Cyril
            • 6 years ago

            All right, I think that’s quite enough.

            You started out by critiquing our guide recommendations, which is fair game, but you’ve now gone off on a tangent about the tone of our original Kaveri review, which you’ve completely mischaracterized by cherry-picking quotations and rewording them into straw men. (We never said Kaveri was useless; the last paragraph of the review says it has “some appeal everywhere a discrete graphics card isn’t an option,” and we go on to note that “small-form-factor and all-in-one rigs seem particularly ripe for an APU like the A8-7600.”)

            You’ve now written 14 posts about how much we hate AMD, despite repeatedly being shown evidence to the contrary. If you intend to keep smearing us over and over again regardless of the facts, then I would ask that you do it elsewhere.

            Since you haven’t been a member for very long, I would also invite you to read our [url=https://techreport.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=32&t=11214<]forum rules and guidelines[/url<], particularly rule 13. All of those rules apply to the front-page comments.

            • Wicked Mystic
            • 6 years ago

            [quote<]You started out by critiquing our guide recommendations, which is fair game, but you've now gone off on a tangent about the tone of our original Kaveri review, which you've completely mischaracterized by cherry-picking quotations and rewording them into straw men. (We never said Kaveri was useless; the last paragraph of the review says it has "some appeal everywhere a discrete graphics card isn't an option," and we go on to note that "small-form-factor and all-in-one rigs seem particularly ripe for an APU like the A8-7600.")[/quote<] And so far no one has commented that motherboard issue, not even single word about that. I already posted quote that questioned whole APU approach. Not surprising because that was no Intel product? [quote<]You've now written 14 posts about how much we hate AMD, despite repeatedly being shown evidence to the contrary. If you intend to keep smearing us over and over again regardless of the facts, then I would ask that you do it elsewhere.[/quote<] Maybe because you have not answered my main points at all. Should I repeat them? Maybe yes. So, here comes main issue: When Intel motherboards were totally BS (LGA1156, totally lacks proper USB 3.0 and SATA 6GB/s support EVEN with external chips), that was not problem. Now when AMD motherboards lack totally useless PCI Express 3.0, that means you do not recommend any AM3+ stuff. Why is that? [quote<]Since you haven't been a member for very long, I would also invite you to read our forum rules and guidelines, particularly rule 13. All of those rules apply to the front-page comments.[/quote<] Read. I have no problems with rule 13.

            • Cyril
            • 6 years ago

            [quote<]And so far no one has commented that motherboard issue, not even single word about that.[/quote<] That question was addressed and answered by an editor before you even wrote your original post: [url<]https://techreport.com/discussion/26082/tr-february-2014-system-guide?post=804182[/url<] You're adding absolutely nothing to the discussion at this point—just noise. Please move on. I'm not asking this time.

            • Wicked Mystic
            • 6 years ago

            And you posted link that does not answer my question at all. You see anything that relates on LGA1156 there? There is nothing. I read that before my original post.

            This is going nowhere.

            • Cyril
            • 6 years ago

            I’m not sure what you’re even claiming, then. We recommended a Phenom II instead of an LGA1156 Core i5 for the mid-range Utility Player build in our [url=https://techreport.com/review/19159/tr-summer-2010-system-guide/4<]summer[/url<], [url=https://techreport.com/review/19560/tr-back-to-school-2010-system-guide/4<]back-to-school[/url<], and [url=https://techreport.com/review/19868/tr-fall-2010-system-guide/4<]fall[/url<] 2010 system guides, and we highlighted the AMD platform's extra 6Gbps SATA connectivity each time. Later, when the value equation favored Intel, we made it clear when recommending AMD alternatives that their associated platforms had more 6Gbps ports, as [url=https://techreport.com/review/22513/tr-march-2012-system-guide/5<]here in our March 2012 guide[/url<]. Not that we've ever based our recommendations solely on chipset features, of course. We always look at the whole picture. CPU performance, power consumption, potential platform longevity, etc. all come into play. FX-series chips have a number of shortcomings in addition to their outdated platform, and that's why we didn't include them in the guide this time. Again, you seem to be grasping at straws in a desperate attempt to prove that we harbor a grudge against AMD. You've made your dubious case quite extensively, and as much fun as it is to dig up articles from four years ago, you're wasting everybody's time right now. I'm going to tell you a third and final time to move on and air your grievances elsewhere. If you continue to spam this comment thread, I may have no choice but to disable your account.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 6 years ago

            When you can buy Kaveri for $120 your argument will be eventually possibly valid.

            • Wicked Mystic
            • 6 years ago

            That review was made based on estimated price, that is 119$.

            • superjawes
            • 6 years ago

            Component recommendations are not made on what the estimated price is. In fact, they aren’t even made on what the recommended price is. If you can’t actually get a component for a that price, there is no use recommending it at that price point.

            • Wicked Mystic
            • 6 years ago

            Discussion was about this article [url<]https://techreport.com/review/25908/amd-a8-7600-kaveri-processor-reviewed/[/url<] And they did consider price also. Availability is another topic.

            • superjawes
            • 6 years ago

            This thread is in the comments section of a System Guide 😉

            And derFunkernstein said this:
            [quote=”derFunkenstein”<]But as Cyril said, [b<]if you have $160 to spend - where the A8-7600 is right now [/b<]- you can do better than Kaveri. It has to get down towards $120 before it's worth buying and then only in a super-duper cheap setup, and you won't be gaming at 1600x900 or 1080p.[/quote<] So no, the discussion was not about that article alone.

            • Wicked Mystic
            • 6 years ago

            Thanks for the info. Maybe you also should read previous posts before commenting that to ME.

      • Airmantharp
      • 6 years ago

      I’m just catching up here, but uh, nuke from orbit please.

    • ronch
    • 6 years ago

    A bit off topic, but here’s an interesting [url=http://www.extremetech.com/computing/177099-secrets-of-steamroller-digging-deep-into-amds-next-gen-core<]article[/url<] over at Extremetech. It delves inside the Steamroller core and tries to figure out what could be killing the design. Could be interesting to those who are a bit troubled by the absence of AMD CPUs in TR's latest, world-famous system guide.

    • Milo Burke
    • 6 years ago

    The new format is fantastic.

    It’s more efficient and user-friendly to guide decisions than before, and it’s also more informative. It somehow accounts for each builder’s unique needs while [i<]also[/i<] making things easier to understand. And the "Notable Requirements" is also very helpful, which I imagine would give amateur builders more peace of mind. Well done!

      • derFunkenstein
      • 6 years ago

      With the “notable requirements” I immediately thought of Canageek:

      [url<]https://techreport.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=92438[/url<]

    • Mr Bill
    • 6 years ago

    That first case picture is so appealing from a cooling standpoint. But I also wince because I recall the daily hazard of my coffee cup which always sits on my PC case next to my left hand. I wonder if any case manufacturers have thought of or provided, say, a 1 inch standoff and a downward beveled cover for that top part. So the air can still exit but liquid cannot drip down inside.

      • JustAnEngineer
      • 6 years ago

      Here you go:
      [url<]http://www.amazon.com/Contigo-Autoseal-Double-Insulated-14-Ounce/dp/B00C5D1A7C/[/url<] [url<]http://www.amazon.com/Contigo-Autoseal-Travel-Mug-Stainless/dp/B001N4O4OK/[/url<]

    • canoli
    • 6 years ago

    i like the new format. i don’t see how it changes the guide all that much but it’s a perfectly reasonable way to present some recommendations.

    still pining for a dedicated video/3D workstation build though…pause the games for a few hours and detail a 2P system designed for video and 3D modeling/rendering. I think the article would offer all sorts of interesting angle to explore…I understand server boards and ecc ram are a little outside the target audience’s interest range but probably not *that* far.

    • tanker27
    • 6 years ago

    At first I was like….ugg with the new format. After a second read/look through I kinda like it.

    I also notice the lack of R9 suggestions, did the current prices have anything to do with that?

    As for the naysayers who continually blast the 350D, I have said it and I will say it again; Sure there are some smaller cases but those also have some design choices that just are plain ugly or down right suck. Like who in their right mind likes front doors, screw on dust screens, foam screens, or even the holes on the side for a dumb fan??? All of these pretty much suck in my opinion, and its your opinion that you think the 350D sucks too. Get over it. >.<

      • Krogoth
      • 6 years ago

      The current cryptoncurrency craze has thrown R8 and R9 families from “best-bang for the buck territory” into the “more money than sense” territory if gaming is your concern.

      • indeego
      • 6 years ago

      350D was one of the most disappointing cases I’ve bought recently. Top Exhaust fan made noise after a week (common issue as I read on Amazon and newegg) and Corsair support was 3 days responding to an e-mail request for a new one. Also has that dumb window, which if I’d thought about I never would have rationally got had I been sober when ordering it. Lesson learned, I guess. I will be a tad more careful with TR case recommendations after that one.

    • sunaiac
    • 6 years ago

    Had a good laugh when a core i3 was advised over a FX6300.
    Had the courage/stupidity to go on, but when I reached the part where the 750 is said to have the same performance as the 260X, that was too much.

    You’re building a nice future with 1000€ graphic cards and CPUs with all your lies, that’s fun 🙂

      • chuckula
      • 6 years ago

      Looks like Spigzone/Unenlightened#2/Alienloser just registered another sock puppet account!

        • ronch
        • 6 years ago

        Don’t forget [s<]TheLIONKING[/s<] [s<]TheFurryLion[/s<] TheLIONHEART!!

    • One Sick Puppy
    • 6 years ago

    I’m surprised the G series of Intel CPU’s was not given more consideration. Those CPU’s are dirt cheap, a little more than half the price of the low-end i3’s. That would be a savings of about $50, which could potentially make a bigger difference if allocated to graphics card or the difference between a mechanical hard drive and an SSD.

    • iamjsmith83
    • 6 years ago

    Thanks for putting in the work to make this system guide. I am still in the process of learning so that I can build my own system and works like this are so, so very helpful. I can’t thank you enough!

    • anubis44
    • 6 years ago

    I don’t agree with the premise put forward that AMD motherboards aren’t worth considering because AM3+ is ‘long in the tooth.’ Just exactly what can’t they do that a more current chipset can? They come with USB 3 and often more SATA ports than many Intel motherboards.

    On the score that games need only single, faster cores, I thought that argument had been squashed almost two years ago when highly multi threaded game engines became the norm. Also, when I’m not gaming, my FX-8350 with 8 full integer cores provides the extra power I need to multi task properly.

      • JustAnEngineer
      • 6 years ago

      [quote=”anubis44″<] Just exactly what can't socket-AM3+ motherboards do that a more current chipset can? [/quote<] There are some decent ATX socket-AM3+ motherboards like the [url=http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131851<]Asus M5A99FX Pro R2.0[/url<]. Missing PCIe 3.0 vs. 2.0 isn't a big deal. However, the micro-ATX Socket-AM3+ options are indeed long in the tooth. The real drawback is that Intel is producing their processors (Haswell, Ivy Bridge-E and Ivy Bridge) on their 22nm tri-gate process while AMD's foundry partner's manufacturing technology lags behind at 32nm for AMD's Vishera processors like the [url=http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819113284<] FX-8350 Black Edition[/url<] or [url=http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819113327<]FX-6350[/url<].

        • Geonerd
        • 6 years ago

        Feature size, in and of itself, is irrelevant. Sure a lower TDP is nice, but a few extra watts of peak power draw really isn’t that big of an issue on a traditional desktop system. Yes, you’ll need a bigger cooler, and maybe another case fan, but unless you’re folding or looking for ET 24/7, the “power sucking” CPU isn’t gong to add more than a dollar or two to your monthly electric bill.

      • Dissonance
      • 6 years ago

      We’ve generally found AMD’s USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gbps implementations to be slower than Intel’s. Sure, AMD adopted those standards first, but their chipsets haven’t really changed since.

      These days, I don’t think that AMD boards necessarily have more USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gbps ports than their Intel counterparts. AMD boards tend to be a bit cheaper, but 8-series Intel solutions certainly aren’t lacking for USB and SATA connectivity.

      Also, I haven’t seen as much of the next-gen firmware and software enhancements available on 8-series Intel boards ported to AM3+ models. And you’re limited to higher-wattage CPUs with no upgrade path. And you don’t get PCIe 3.0. So, yeah, long in the tooth compared to the alternatives.

      Oh, and I certainly wouldn’t say that the argument for fewer, faster cores in gaming has been squashed. Check out our Inside the Second article on CPU gaming performance (https://techreport.com/review/23246/inside-the-second-gaming-performance-with-today-cpus) or any of our recent CPU reviews. While newer and future games may be more effectively multithreaded than older ones, I haven’t seen any evidence that AM3+ offerings are superior to like-priced Haswell models in current titles.

      • chuckula
      • 6 years ago

      The problem is this: AMD’s Socket FM2+ boards are decently modern, decently integrated, and Kaveri even includes PCIe 3.0 now. The problem is that AMD’s relatively modern platform is 100% directed at APUs that are nowhere near competitive in CPU power.

      AMD’s only [increasingly dated] “high-end” CPU platform has been left behind, and basically is forcing you to choose between “high” CPU performance vs. a modern platform… not a fun choice to force people to make.

    • NeelyCam
    • 6 years ago

    #100.

    I love the new format. The only additional thing that I would’ve wanted to see is a “small case” category of some sort. Those cases are giant – and yes, that includes the 350D.

    • ronch
    • 6 years ago

    No Cyrix processors on the list?

      • chuckula
      • 6 years ago

      WHAT IS UP WITH TR’S ANTI-CYRIX BIAS!!! THEY SHOULD ONLY RECOMMEND CUTTING EDGE 6×86 SUPERSCALAR MIRACLE CHIPS!

        • HisDivineOrder
        • 6 years ago

        I’m still waiting for Transmeta to rise from the ashes and take over the market with programmable CPU’s. C’mon, nVidia. You gots the technology!

          • ronch
          • 6 years ago

          I see what you did there.

        • ronch
        • 6 years ago

        Yeah! Who needs fast floating point units anyway??!!

          • Krogoth
          • 6 years ago

          Tell that to Bulldozer architects and engineers. 😉

            • ronch
            • 6 years ago

            Au contraire. I think the Bulldozer FPU is one of the most advanced, most powerful x86 FPUs ever spawned, and coming from a company that isn’t as rich as Intel makes it even more interesting.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 6 years ago

            Yeah if only there was one for each core.

    • ronch
    • 6 years ago

    It’s refreshing [more on this later] to see TR restructure the System Guides. The old format has long felt like the AM3+ platform: not necessarily bad, but it could use a refresh. Hence, now it feels refreshing because it’s been refreshed.

    • Dr_b_
    • 6 years ago

    “Gigabyte has the best firmware UI of the bunch” Here are some reasons why one might disagree with that statement;

    -If you scroll down through a list of items, all the way down and keep holding the down arrow, it will automatically pop back up to the top.

    -Clicking on elements sometimes results in the cursor getting stuck, navigating with the keyboard is awkward as the top tab elements are difficult to engage with only keyboard, you must use the mouse sometimes to get out of the current menu you are viewing.

    -Some items in the HD display are masked by lines, so at the top there are continuous readouts for live metrics that for some inexplicable reason have a line directly through them making them difficult to read

    -While you can customize the BIOS pages, the way the standard panels are laid out is not intuitive. You have to hunt for the settings if you are not familiar with it and the parameters are grouped somewhat arbitrarily, looks like a designer said “we need to put this somewhere, let’s just put that in here”, it could have been broken down a bit more with some attention towards organization.

    -Gigabyte rarely updates their bios, is this a measure of how robust it is, or how little attention they pay towards fixing it? BIOS updates on their site can stay in “BETA” for a very long time. I will let you be the judge of that.

    -Gigabyte is missing a lot of features that the Asus BIOS has, this isn’t a UI design element, but its still a problem. For example, on some gigabyte boards (x79) if i want to boot without halting on F1 due to errors such as missing keyboard or graphics, it won’t.

    -God help you if you are RAM isn’t on the QVL, or if you try to use 8 RAM sticks on an x79 board, even though the RAM is standard from a major vendor (chipmanufacturer), Gigabyte support is dismissive.

    I currently use a Gigabyte UD4H with haswell, was using a gigabyte x79 but it didnt work with my RAM so its sitting in a box(replaced with Asus x79 WS and it worked, same exact RAM no bullshit), and for my main system have an Asus Hero – the BIOS of which is far superior.

    The measure of a BIOS UI really ought to be how quickly can i get to the parameter i want, change it to what i want, and have it work. Eye candy for the sake of eye candy does not always work, and Gigabyte looks like they just tried to make a visual impact without consideration of what people really want out of the BIOS.

      • Krogoth
      • 6 years ago

      I really despise the new UEFI GUIs. Perhaps, it is because I’m so used to the older, no-frills of classical BIOS layouts. IMO, motherboard vendors should stick with something that is simple, straight to the point as you are only in the BIOS to adjust some hardware settings. You are not using it as a flashy slide show.

      Motherboards are build to very fine tolerances and tight budgets. It is rare to get a unit that doesn’t have stupid issues when you try to populate all of the DIMM slots. In my years of experiences, you usually have to relax timings or cutback on the speed in order remedy to the issue since it is much harder for memory controller and timings to sent a “clean” signal across all memory slots versus in setup where DIMMs are only occupying a few of them.

      It is part of the reason why registered memory exist. They have a build-in registry controller and clean-up signaling. This extra hardware increases the cost of said memory and inflicts a penalty in latency and bandwidth.

        • HisDivineOrder
        • 6 years ago

        I think the Asus variation on the UEFI on my Z77-based board is essentially the same as the regular BIOS of old, except you have the option to use a mouse if you want.

        I don’t use the mouse because I find it feels… off, but I don’t mind the UEFI part. Unless UEFI BIOS’s have changed since my board was released, I think people could just use the UEFI the same way as they use the old BIOS and they’re set. You do have to change the initial start up settings to “Advanced” or whatever to get that old BIOS feeling from the moment it pops up, though.

    • alientorni
    • 6 years ago

    i just got in here to see how many amd products where here. no surprises, everything fits tr’s poor image is giving these days

      • chuckula
      • 6 years ago

      Dear shill: Please learn how to read.

      If you could read, you would see that Cyril expressly went out of his way to say that they would recommend higher-end AMD parts if those parts were actually available at reasonable prices right now.

      If you had even bothered to read this guide, you’ll see that Cyril did recommend the R7-260X! Why? Because they are available at non-inflated prices right now.

      Then go back and look at the last guide where TR DID recommend AMD parts when the prices were reasonable: [url<]https://techreport.com/review/25743/tr-christmas-2013-system-guide[/url<] So basically you want to argue that AMD should get recommended [b<]NO MATTER HOW OVERPRICED THEIR PRODUCTS ARE[/b<]... well if we apply your logic to Intel and Nvidia, then AMD is going to be in a world of hurt. Logic: Garlic to a fanboy-shill vampire.

    • beck2448
    • 6 years ago

    Thanks for including Blu ray! I know many dismiss these as unnecessary because They don’t use them, but as a music pro I don’t want my back up depending on a drive that WILL fail eventually or a cloud somewhere connected by the internet. I’ve read there are exponential increases in capacity coming down the pipe and I would be very happy to see a disc with several hundred gigs or more of storage.

      • Flying Fox
      • 6 years ago

      And what makes you think plastic discs will not fail eventually?

        • haksaw
        • 6 years ago

        Need to check out the new M-Disc format. Uses a non-dye recording layer and claims 1000+ year storage.

    • WulfTheSaxon
    • 6 years ago

    For an extra $7, the [url=http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16827136269<]WH[b<]16[/b<]NS40[/url<] has SATA 3 Gb/s and ups the BD-R speed from 14X to 16X. And there’s a $5 rebate through Monday.

    • Shoki
    • 6 years ago

    Where is the Editors Choice? I miss the old format but I always started at the sweet spot and then went up and down the guides depending on my budget.

      • Flying Fox
      • 6 years ago

      Editor’s Choice is usually awarded with individual component review articles. I don’t recall we ever have an “Editor’s Choice” in the System Guide, since the objective is to recommend several builds based on budget.

      If you want the equivalent of sweet spots, you can look at individual component sections they do have the categories spread across those. And then you have the sample builds that are similar to before.

        • Shoki
        • 6 years ago

        They’ve been doing Editor’s Choice Builds for a while now.

        [url<]https://techreport.com/review/25743/tr-christmas-2013-system-guide/4[/url<] [url<]https://techreport.com/review/24350/tr-february-2013-system-guide/6[/url<] [url<]https://techreport.com/review/23814/tr-windows-8-system-guide/6[/url<] [url<]https://techreport.com/review/25584/tr-fall-2013-system-guide/4[/url<] [url<]https://techreport.com/review/24979/tr-summer-2013-system-guide/6[/url<] [url<]https://techreport.com/review/24646/tr-april-2013-system-guide/6[/url<]

          • Flying Fox
          • 6 years ago

          Oh those. I always treat them as the one build between sweet spot and double stuff, kind of like Sweet Spot+. There was no “TR Editor’s Choice” logo on those.

    • Symmetry
    • 6 years ago

    There’s a lot to be said for breaking out different parts of the system, but I think it might make sense to leave the CPU, motherboard, and maybe memory combined. You will usually be able to put any graphics card you want onto a motherboard, but motherboards and CPUs are tied together intimately and it doesn’t make sense to talk about motherboards in isolation from what chips you’re going to be mounting on them.

    • Chrispy_
    • 6 years ago

    The new format is great – a lot of people already know vaguely what spec they want when they’re reading guides like this, so it’s much better suited to the people I point TR’s way than it used to be.

    • kuraegomon
    • 6 years ago

    Cyril, the Corsair AX860 link is broken – it points to Newegg’s CX430M page instead.

      • Cyril
      • 6 years ago

      Fixed. Thanks!

    • Ninjitsu
    • 6 years ago

    I think i’ve read that blog about explorer before (the 22 files vs 24 files(!) comparison looks familiar), but it beats me as to why they’d go to such lengths to “optimise” (depending on your preferences) explorer but then slap Metro on it.

    I’m beating a dead horse, i know.

    • Ninjitsu
    • 6 years ago

    [b<]Question[/b<]: For the "prosumer" types, wouldn't the Titan Black or the 290X be good choices? Depends on what you're doing, of course. [b<]Caution[/b<]: Those CX series PSUs are rated for an intake of 30*C, so careful about that. I remember seeing a chart on Corsair's site some (two?) years ago that showed a sharp drop in efficiency (or power output, can't remember) after that temperature. EDIT: [b<]Observation[/b<]: The Xonar cards seem to have relatively few 5-star reviews...

      • Krogoth
      • 6 years ago

      Xonar cards are great for output, but you intend on doing any audio work involving input you may have to look elsewhere. Xonar cards are known to have significant DPC latency issues. It is manageable if you just are doing just VOIP, but anything more it becomes problematic.

        • Ninjitsu
        • 6 years ago

        Ah ok, thanks. No, was mainly just considering it for output, and yeah, VOIP. I guess i could always use the motherboard’s audio input if i was doing something that sensitive to DPC (unlikely).

          • JustAnEngineer
          • 6 years ago

          There is another company that makes sound cards with better drivers than Asus.
          [url<]http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16829102054[/url<] [url<]http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16829102050[/url<]

            • Flying Fox
            • 6 years ago

            Creative has good drivers? Did they really turn the corner? 😛

            • JustAnEngineer
            • 6 years ago

            Better than Asus. That’s a low bar to clear.

            • Krogoth
            • 6 years ago

            That’s debatable. Creative’s driver issues have more to do with taking their sweet time to address a problem or implement a feature. It sometime took them years to get around it. It is not really that much different than ASUS’s current line-up.

            Creative’s dubiously attempt to “forced” users with perfectly working Audigy hardware (around 2006-2007) to X-Fi generation users and their litigation /forced shutdown of a third-party attempt to remedy this is just one of many examples of strong-arming the discrete audio market. ASUS hasn’t done the same yet as you can still grab third-party drivers for their Xonar line-up if you feel the official drivers don’t cut it.

            Both platform work well for simple output but if you want to do anything beyond that you will run into some annoying caveats.

            • HisDivineOrder
            • 6 years ago

            HDMI.

            Just skip sound cards and buy a receiver.

            • Ninjitsu
            • 6 years ago

            Already have speakers, they support USB (from a USB drive), RCA and 3.5mm. Sony SRS-D9s. Cheap but decent.

            I was contemplating using HDMI audio output to my monitor, and then taking the output from my monitor, but then i realised i’d have to trust Nvidia’s codec and the DAC of my monitor.

            Sound cards take some load off the CPU as well, so was looking at it from that point of view as well (have a Core 2 Quad, though i think i’ll pull the trigger on the Haswell refresh…exchange rate’s fallen dramatically in the last year, so that’s an issue).

        • tanker27
        • 6 years ago

        or you can use the [url=http://maxedtech.com/asus-xonar-unified-drivers/<]Unified Drivers[/url<] for the Xonar that practically eliminate the DPC issue. And they work well and are updated with much more frequency than any Asus or Creative offering.

          • Ninjitsu
          • 6 years ago

          Thanks for the link!

    • Ninjitsu
    • 6 years ago

    G.Skill also have that Sniper series stuff, 1.25v, 1.35v and 1.5v sticks. Low profile too. Used them (2x4GB, 1.5v) once for a friend’s build (I use Corsair’s Vengeance line), no problems with them, would recommend.

    Don’t know what the present prices are in the States, though.

    • ehume
    • 6 years ago

    I just realized I left something out: the WD black has a 5-year warranty. For an archive disk a long warranty is a must. Other drives may be cheaper up front, but 2-year vs 5-year, it’s not even close.

      • Flying Fox
      • 6 years ago

      No amount of warranty is going to help if you don’t have backup’s. Drives fail. It is not a matter of if but when.

        • Stickmansam
        • 6 years ago

        2 x lesser drives > 1 WD Black

          • Flying Fox
          • 6 years ago

          Not in RAID0. 🙂

            • JustAnEngineer
            • 6 years ago

            Two drives in RAID 1 and a third one in an external dock for backups?

        • jihadjoe
        • 6 years ago

        What he said.
        Warranty might get your drive replaced, but it won’t get your data back.

    • superjawes
    • 6 years ago

    Lots of positive comments on the new format, and ones I agree with. I think the depth makes a lot of sense, and it prevents getting stuck into a cycle where “this is what a $X,000 machine should look like.”

    However…these pages feel way bogged down compared to the old format. It feels like there is a lot more text and seeing the actual recommendations is harder. Maybe you should put all of the recommended components toward the top, noting price brackets, and then explain the breakdown below (and you can also add pictures to break up text if you want to. That should make it easy to use when you just want to skim the article, but still provide a solid platform detailing the choices.

    Like I said, I think it makes a lot of sense, and the format overall is good, but it looks more like a verbose article than a guide right now (IMO).

    • ehume
    • 6 years ago

    Nice format. Easy to read and understand.

    A note on graphics cards: they do not vary much, once the system has been specified. Except in the sound that they make. Here they vary a lot. If you are going for a quiet build you will focus on that.

    On cases, I shy away from those that have only two USB sockets up front. The case I use is a Cooler Master N600. It has two USB2 ports and two USB3 ports. You can have nubs for a wireless mouse and a wireless keyboard on the two USB2 ports, and still have room for two fast thumb drives on the USB3 ports.

    Finally, you need to think about whether your case incorporates a card reader, or whether to get an external card reader. It sure makes uploading images a lot easier. And computer enthusiasts are likely to have a mid-range or high-end camera where an easy upload is a great convenience.

      • Pbryanw
      • 6 years ago

      [quote<]A note on graphics cards: they do not vary much, once the system has been specified. Except in the sound that they make. Here they vary a lot. If you are going for a quiet build you will focus on that.[/quote<] Maybe a quiet build would be useful to some people although that's more silentpcreview's realm. As far as quiet graphics cards go, I don't think you can beat Asus' range of DirectCU II cards, though MSI's Frozr series come close.

    • glenster
    • 6 years ago

    For a quiet and cool case with good reviews for only $130 you might add the NZXT Phantom 530.
    For memory: Mushkin Enhanced Redline Ridgeback 2,133mhz.
    For a CPU air cooler that doesn’t block memory: Noctua NH-U12S with extra NF-F12 PWM fan.
    Also the colormunki Display is good for calibrating a monitor.

    • JustAnEngineer
    • 6 years ago

    [quote=”Cyril”<] Our second pick, the Gigabyte H87-D3H, is similar except that it conforms to the full-sized ATX form factor—and therefore has a couple of extra expansion slots. [/quote<] What you didn't mention here is that those two extra slots are obsolete PCI slots rather than potentially-useful PCIe slots.

    • JustAnEngineer
    • 6 years ago

    [quote=”Cyril”<] Dedicated price search engines can find better deals, but they often pull up unrealistically low prices from small and potentially unreliable e-tailers. If you're going to spend several hundred (or thousand) dollars on a PC, we think you'll be more comfortable doing so at a large e-tailer with a proven track record and a decent return policy. [/quote<] This is a well-worded endorsement of established vendors such as Newegg. Did Joe Bob's computer barn and bait shop vanish in the economic downturn?

      • derFunkenstein
      • 6 years ago

      Well, it IS the “TR System Guide powered by Newegg”. 😉

        • JustAnEngineer
        • 6 years ago

        The past dozen-plus guides have always had a dig about not buying your components from “Joe Bob’s Discount Computer Warehouse.”

          • XTF
          • 6 years ago

          (Sorry, not a reply to JustAnEngineer)

          I love the new format, I think it’s way better than the old format! +1

          What happened to the 3 ghz Pentium G3220 / H81 combo? The G3220 is quite a bit cheaper than the i3 and still quite powerful, especially for a simple internet/office PC.

          A less expensive case like the Fractal Design Core 1000 might also be a good alternative.

          I too would love to see more compact mATX cases. IMO 17cm x 36cm x 30cm should be doable without 5.25″ bays.

          • ronch
          • 6 years ago

          I agree on not buying from less reputable sellers, but after TR says something like that and you see ‘Powered by Newegg’, it’s hard not to think that TR is subtly pushing you to buy from Newegg.

            • Inkling
            • 6 years ago

            Folks, you can buy your hardware from whatever retailer you’d like. Most of The Tech Report’s regulars are savvy enough to discern who can be trusted and who deserves some healthy suspicion.

            Unlike much of what we publish on TR, this guide is obviously targeted at new readers and less-experienced enthusiasts who likely want to avoid varying levels of customer support or the hassle of multiple vendors when ordering a pile of hardware that all needs to be present before it can be assembled.

            Yes, Newegg sponsors this guide. Without their support, we wouldn’t be able to dedicate the time and energy necessary to research, compile, write and publish this every couple months. In exchange for their support we’re going to state the obvious: you’ll save time and hassle if you order everything from one reputable vendor, and Newegg is one such e-tailer of enthusiast hardware with decent prices and good customer service. Our agreement with Newegg does not preclude us from linking other e-tailers; we’ve done that several times when Newegg didn’t stock something we recommended.

            Shop where you want; get the best deal you can find. It keeps the market healthy and the big boys honest. And we’ll keep reminding newbies of the advantages of using one reputable vendor when ordering your first pile of hardware, and we’ll give a shout out to Newegg for making this article possible.

            – Adam “Inkling” Eiberger

          • derFunkenstein
          • 6 years ago

          Ah, fair enough. I didn’t remember the reference.

    • danny e.
    • 6 years ago

    you know you did something right when a bunch of geeks like the change you’ve made.
    geeks don’t typically like any change. well, people in general don’t like change.

      • crabjokeman
      • 6 years ago

      Improvement is always welcomed. Change for the sake of change is not.

    • crabjokeman
    • 6 years ago

    I don’t understand why you would recommend Ripjaws series for a budget build. They may have slightly lower latency than similar kits, but they need 1.5V and have tall, gimmicky heatsinks.

    For a real budget build, I would highly recommend: [url<]http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820231319[/url<] The kit I linked to is about the same price and fairly similar performance-wise, except it runs at 1.35V and does not have the gimmicky heatsinks. The only thing you lose is $2 and a decrease in command rate, which probably won't be noticed....

      • StuG
      • 6 years ago

      I would agree with this, I would also add that most system should shoot for 8GB standard now a days IMHO.

        • crabjokeman
        • 6 years ago

        I don’t know about that. I’ve had 4GB of memory for a while, and the only time I come close to touching that limit is when I have a bunch of programs and a couple of VM’s (with 1GB allocated to them) running at the same time. I think most people on a tighter budget would be better served by spending the extra $20 on a stronger CPU or GPU (or a bigger hard disk if that’s their thing).

          • funko
          • 6 years ago

          agreed, and win 8/8.1 even makes 2gb usable as long as you keep your number of tabs open limited (from my venue 8 pro experience)

            • StuG
            • 6 years ago

            I have 4GB on my HTPC and I always wish I had 8GB. Granted a bit is used by the IGP, but still. Maybe my tasks and programs are ram hogs or something, but I still tend to feel like anything built today should be looking at least 3-4 years in the future. That is 8GB range in my eyes.

            • crabjokeman
            • 6 years ago

            My theory’s a bit different.

            1. Don’t cheap out on the mobo or PSU (for obvious reasons).

            2. Get a powerful CPU with the plan to keep it at least 3-4 years. Intel changes Sockets so often that it’s a bad strategy to plan to upgrade your CPU or find a cheap used one a few years from now. AMD’s a bit more iffy, but now that they’re past the AMx socket days, they’re probably in the same boat.

            3. RAM standards change very slowly nowadays since RAM speed/bandwidth is not the bottleneck it once was. RAM is one of those things that can be added down the road, so get the minimum amount you need (and don’t bother with enthusiast kits). Spend extra money on other things.

      • JustAnEngineer
      • 6 years ago

      I’ll also agree with your recommendation of memory that runs at lower voltage and doesn’t have inconveniently-huge decorative heatsinks installed.

        • Krogoth
        • 6 years ago

        Just get any budget-minded DIMM from a reputable vendor you should be good to go.

        Overclocked memory only makes sense for extreme overclocking crowd. Memory latency and bandwidth are a non-issue for vast majority systems that are out there.

          • JustAnEngineer
          • 6 years ago

          PC3-12800 at 9-9-9-24 is standard memory for Haswell processors.

          [url<]http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820231544[/url<] [url<]http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820104278[/url<] [url<]http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820148662[/url<]

            • Krogoth
            • 6 years ago

            That’s JEDEC spec and lower voltage units are more expensive (better yields), so what’s your point?

      • HisDivineOrder
      • 6 years ago

      I always avoid the memory with the largest, gimmicky heatsinks. Then again, I never pay for the most expensive memory since memory’s memory most of the time. I look for the best bang for your buck memory.

      And Ripjaws are not it.

        • crabjokeman
        • 6 years ago

        Actually, if you’re looking at 2x2GB DDR3 kits, some of the Ripjaws offerings are among the cheapest.
        “Ripjaws” used to be G.skill’s performance RAM aimed at OC’ers and those with case windows. Now, for some reason, G.skill felt the need to outfit a huge chunk of their line with those Godforsaken heatsinks. I guess it’s a marketing thing (though it seems more like brand dilution to me…).

        “Dude, your RAM looks like it needs regular dental visits.”

    • StuG
    • 6 years ago

    I like the new format, makes it much more useful for all purposes. However, I would never get the NZXT H2 over the Corsair 330R personally….

    Edit: Come to think of it, I think I’ve said this before. TR obviously favors the design elements Corsair brings to the table. I fear that the only reason you continue to recommend the H2 for silent needs versus a Corsair alternative is because you were sent one? I kinda feel that way about the cooler section too. I see no reason to include both the Thermaltake NiC F3 and Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO with a ~$5.00 difference minus Thermaltake frequently throws you coolers. Just my observation…

      • StuG
      • 6 years ago

      I guess you did discuss memory clearance in that regard, but I still end up feeling that is a moot point. Anyone buying a cooler with an overhead of 84w isn’t going to be dumping money into pricey “heat spreader” memory.

      • Ninjitsu
      • 6 years ago

      Yeah i was puzzled over the NiC F3 too.

    • derFunkenstein
    • 6 years ago

    Dig the new format. Still really don’t dig the case recs. that’s a personal thing though. I love my r4.

      • kuraegomon
      • 6 years ago

      This. I’ve bought two Define R4s and an XL R2. Every time I look at the H2 rec, I wonder why I didn’t go that route. Then I look at the internal 2.5 bays and go: “Oh yeahhh, that’s right… rear-facing bays. Fail.”

    • SnowboardingTobi
    • 6 years ago

    i think every time a system guide comes up, i’m going to kindly ask for a server guide towards building a freeNAS system with ECC memory an ZFS in mind. come on… pretty please?

    I still think TR needs to do an article on building a freeNAS box.

      • Flying Fox
      • 6 years ago

      Low end IB/Haswell i3/Pentium, 4-8 gigs of ECC DDR3 RAM, C20x/C22x chipset boards (I would suggest Asus or Supermicro). SSD boot and a bunch of mechanicals.

      Not sure if AMD’s APU supports ECC, if not, just get an FX, 4-8 gigs, and then run with those?

      Case: as many drive bays as you can get?

        • WulfTheSaxon
        • 6 years ago

        [s<]Core and Pentium don’t support ECC. I think you’d have to to go all the way to a Xeon E3-1225v3 ($225) to get ECC support from Intel (the 1220v3 without integrated graphics is only ~$20 less).[/s<] Edit: Didn’t see stdRaichu’s post. Apparently cheap Intel CPUs [b<]do[/b<] support ECC. With AMD, you could get an FX-4300 for [s<]only[/s<] $105 plus the cheapest graphics card you can find (fanless 5450 for $30 or less – [url=http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814131338<]$10 after MIR at Newegg through Monday[/url<]). The problem is that it’s 95 W (plus 6.4 W for a 5450 at idle), although it’s unlocked so you could try your luck at undervolting. Personally, I’d hold out for [url=https://techreport.com/news/25948/specs-leak-out-for-desktop-kabini-processors<]socketed Kabini[/url<]…

      • Ninjitsu
      • 6 years ago

      Yeah i’ve been considering doing this for quite some time, but need something like a guide from a trusted source like TR, because it’s completely unfamiliar territory.

      Every time i dive into some research, it just takes too much time, and the next time i come back to it i’ve forgotten most of what i had read previously.

      • stdRaichu
      • 6 years ago

      Would love to see on of these myself, but as I’ve just built one myself it would be a bit moot.

      They haven’t been terribly well publicised, but ASRock have been bringout out some fantastic server platforms recently, and IMHO their [url=http://www.asrock.com/server/index.asp?CPU=&Type=&Form=mITX<]mITX range[/url<] is unmatched apart form possibly those from Supermicro. I went with the [url=http://www.asrock.com/server/overview.asp?Model=E3C226D2I<]E3C226D2I[/url<] myself - dual intel NICs, BMC, ECC, the works, for only ~£160. It has a USB header onboard so if you're going for FreeNAS installed on a USB stick, that's perfect. I think the only mITX Asus has is the [url=http://www.asus.com/Commercial_Servers_Workstations/P9DI/<]P9DI[/url<] which at the time was considerably pricier than the ASRock models and the board layout doesn't fit my [url=http://www.u-nas.com/xcart/product.php?productid=17617&cat=249&page=1<]case[/url<] as nicely. I bought an E3-1230v3 to go with that but as I recently found out, the Haswell i3's also support ECC memory as well now (although if you want/need a quad core you'll need to pony up for the E3). The lower-end Pentium/Celeron models support ECC as well but don't have AES-NI. There's a chap with a very similar build to mine [url=http://forums.servethehome.com/diy-server-builds/2865-u-nas-nsc-800-e3-1230v3-e3c224d4i-2xssd.html<]here[/url<]. For even lower power usage, there's also the new [url=http://www.asrock.com/server/overview.asp?Model=C2550D4I<]Avoton[/url<]/Rangely Atom range which are more than powerful enough for a home file server, and not that bad as a virt platform either, and they support more than the 16GB of memory that the mITX E3 systems are limited to.

      • Krogoth
      • 6 years ago

      The guide is meant towards building desktop PCs. You should probably look elsewhere if you want advice on building a server from ground-up. The intended function of the server can drastically change the hardware requirements.

        • SnowboardingTobi
        • 6 years ago

        I know this guide is for desktop use, hence the reason why I asked for a “server guide towards building a freeNAS system”.

      • CampinCarl
      • 6 years ago

      ECC memory is over rated, especially for most consumer applications. My FreeNAS box is an A4-5300 with 8GiB of cheap Corsair RAM, with FreeNAS running off an old USB stick I got from a giveaway.

      The key is running your disks in a RAID setup. I run mine in RAID-Z because I only bought 3 disks, however, if I ever get around to buying some more disks I will definitely move to RAID-Z2 for a little bit of extra safety.

        • Flying Fox
        • 6 years ago

        I read that ZFS and all its calculations will be using the memory a lot, so having ECC should help with data corruption? It’s not like ECC DDR3-1333 is like 10x the price.

        • stdRaichu
        • 6 years ago

        I’m not a ZFS user myself, but I still wouldn’t dream of using non-ECC for a server. The memory itself is only about 10% more, the biggest problem is the restricted choice of motherboards.

        This discussion over at freenas goes into some detail as to why it’s especially important for ZFS systems:
        [url<]http://forums.freenas.org/index.php?threads/ecc-vs-non-ecc-ram-and-zfs.15449/[/url<]

          • Krogoth
          • 6 years ago

          It has more do with artificial market segmentation than anything else. ECC memory is still considered prosumer/enterprise tier so the platforms that have them tend to cater towards this market along with the price tag.

      • bandannaman
      • 6 years ago

      I’ll throw in my two cents and ask for the same thing for virtualization: I would love to see TR’s take on performance inside VMs. Use the same benchmarks (mainly the real-world ones, not the synthetic ones) but run them in VMware Workstation and VirtualBox. So much meat there: IO performance with and without VT-d, CPU performance VM vs. native, effects of contention from multiple VMs at the same time running the same tests, etc.

      Separately — it seems to be really hard to find what speeds memory actually runs at if you max out the motherboard’s RAM capacity. I’ve seen hints that you’ll never hit the rated maximum mem speeds with full banks, each at max capacity, but even the mobo manuals don’t lay it out clearly. If I want 64 GB RAM, does it make sense to buy top-quality top-clock RAM, or is it just going to run at 1333 or worse?

      Edit: I really like the new format, great work. It allows depth to explain differences within a technology group for those of us who don’t follow the industry closely enough to memorize all the model numbers etc.

    • dodozoid
    • 6 years ago

    I cannot blame you for being US-centric as you are US based site, but still: In Europe Radeons are much closer to their intended prices so they offer better price/performance ratio than GeForces right now.

    • Billstevens
    • 6 years ago

    If you are running windows 7 or later 8 gigs of ram is probably a must. The windows 7 footprint alone will take 2 gigs on average leaving you with just 2 gigs to run any apps or browsers.

    Even if you want to just browse the web and run I-Tunes at the same time you will be in trouble. At work they gave us laptops with 4 gigs of ram and paging was just plain awful after a full day of work.

      • Ninjitsu
      • 6 years ago

      Well, I’ve run Windows 7 with only 2GB of RAM when it came out, then was using 3GB. Of course, i was using 32-bit Windows at that time, but the point is that it’s not impossible to run Windows 7 with 4GB or less, and without issues. CoD MW2 used run fine, for example.

        • ronch
        • 6 years ago

        His point is, Windows 7 will run with 2 or 4GB but it hampers the OS quite a bit. You need 8GB or more to let Windows 7 stretch its wings.

          • Flying Fox
          • 6 years ago

          I would say it really depends on the usage. Not everyone has a bunch of tabs open and iTunes running in the background.

            • Ninjitsu
            • 6 years ago

            Yup, that’s what i meant. It isn’t impossible, Windows isn’t as bloated as iOS or Android in terms of how much memory it uses. It doesn’t even really hamper the OS per say.

            You throw in 1GB, it’ll manage accordingly. 64-bit Windows 7 never takes more than 900MB on its own, add a few programs and you’ll see ~1.2GB during boot.

            That said, I NEED 8GB of RAM at least.

    • dmjifn
    • 6 years ago

    A couple comments while I’m reading…

    The link to “Asus X79 Deluxe” actually goes to “GIGABYTE GA-H87-D3H” for me.

    I noticed you said ATX boards have six slots! 🙂 The standard is seven, like your recommended ASUS Z87-A has.

      • Cyril
      • 6 years ago

      Brain flatulence! Fixed.

    • alloyD
    • 6 years ago

    This new format is great! It’s much easier to get the information I’m looking for. Thanks for the update!

    • slowriot
    • 6 years ago

    Can TR please stop recommending mATX cases that are as large or larger than ATX cases? The 350D doesn’t have some kind of secret advantages because its stupid huge. It’s a negative. You can get a similar sized case that supports all the 350D does PLUS with ATX motherboard compatibility.

    What’s the point of using a mATX motherboard if you’re not getting a smaller case? What is it?

      • Cyril
      • 6 years ago

      I don’t think the 350D is larger than ATX cases. Part of its appeal comes from the fact that it’s about as comfortable to work in as supersized ATX cases (like Corsair’s own 750D), but it’s a fair bit more compact. You get all the perks of a huge case without the unwieldiness, in other words. I think that’s a good thing.

        • slowriot
        • 6 years ago

        Fractal Design Core 3000 8.1″ x 18.8″ x 16.9″ = 2573.5
        Corsair 350D 17.7″ x 8.3″ x 17.3″ = 2541.5
        Lian Li A05FN 19.7″ x 8.3″ x 15.2″ = 2485.4
        Cooler Master N400 16.7″ x 7.5″ x 19.7″ = 2467.4

        Only one of those can’t accept an ATX motherboard.

        The difference in size between a Corsair 350D and 200R is practically nothing. The 200R is 2.3″ taller but 0.8″ less deep. This difference doesn’t matter at all in the real world. It’s not the difference between your case feeling unwieldy, its not the difference between it being a pain to pack places, its not a difference in where it can fit. It’s nothing practical.

        The Corsair 350D should be compared to small ATX cases. That’s the size Corsair regretfully made it. Just like their 250D should be compared to mATX cases, even though it only fits mITX. Things like ease of working in don’t hold as an advantage over other cases its size. Only when you compare it against much smaller mATX cases is that a benefit. To make this a benefit to the 350D is to ignore its size entirely. And when the entire reason you’re wanting to move to an mATX motherboard is for a smaller footprint than you can achieve with an ATX motherboard, it negates the 350D’s purpose to exist.

          • Cyril
          • 6 years ago

          [quote<]The difference in size between a Corsair 350D and 200R is practically nothing. The 200R is 2.3" taller but 0.8" less deep. This difference doesn't matter at all in the real world. It's not the difference between your case feeling unwieldy, its not the difference between it being a pain to pack places, its not a difference in where it can fit.[/quote<] I think you missed my point. I never said the 350D was less unwieldy than [i<]all[/i<] ATX cases. I said the 350D was less unwieldy than [i<]supersized[/i<] ATX cases. You brought up the 200R, which is by no means supersized, so let me demonstrate: [list<] [*<][url=https://techreport.com/r.x/corsair-200r-antec-302/200R-assembled-left.jpg<]200R filled with components[/url<] [/*<][*<][url=https://techreport.com/r.x/corsair-350d/full-leftside.jpg<]350D filled with components[/url<] [/*<][*<][url=https://techreport.com/r.x/corsair-750d/full-left.jpg<]750D filled with components[/url<][/*<] [/list<] Look at the amount of clearance above and below the motherboard. The 200R has next to none, while the 350D and 750D both have plenty. The 350D and 750D can both accommodate extra fans or a liquid-cooling radiator at the top without interfering with the motherboard, and they're just more comfortable to work in. I can tell you this, because I reviewed all three of them. 🙂 Now, the 750D is about 22" in both height and length, while the 350D is about 17" tall and 18" long. The 750D is clearly much larger than the 350D. Yes, you can find small ATX cases that are maybe about the same size as the 350D, but they'll be much more cramped. You're comparing apples and oranges there.

            • slowriot
            • 6 years ago

            ……..

            [quote<]I never said the 350D was less unwieldy than all ATX cases.[/quote<] Nor did I say you said that. The comparison to a 200R is to demonstrate that the 350D is an ATX mid tower in disguise. So the reason for a normal person who builds a computer and might swap in a new graphics card or an SSD over the course of a year to purchase a 350D is because its easier to work in? Because the points about water cooling and fans just are not true. The 200R will fit that as well, more importantly so will the other cases I pointed out. Or a case like the BitFenix Prodigy M which is much smaller than the 350D. I think you're caught up in what's important to a reviewer, not what's important to normal customers. The "difficultly" in building/working in the ATX cases I listed versus the 350D is so minor it doesn't matter.

            • Cyril
            • 6 years ago

            This isn’t a guide for reviewers, nor, for that matter, is it a guide for people who know enough about hardware to argue about cases on the Internet. 😉 It’s a guide for inexperienced users and newcomers to the DIY scene. First-time building experience matters a hell of a lot for those people. The smoother that experience is, the more likely they are to become a part of our community. Cramped cases don’t make for a particularly smooth first-time experience.

            As for the 200R and liquid cooling, I didn’t mean that a 240-mm radiator wouldn’t fit. I meant that if you stick one under those top exhaust vents, the fans will protrude over the motherboard PCB. That might make it difficult to work the little ejection levers on the sides of the memory slots, among other things. The 350D should have enough clearance to avoid interference of that sort.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 6 years ago

            It better have clearance; it’s as tall and wide as most ATX mid-towers. :p

            I don’t get why the 350D exists. Another 1.5″ taller and it’s got room for a full ATX board, and it’s not compact enough in its other dimensions that it’d save you any space. I think slowriot’s point is that if you’re going to recommend a case with limitations (such as mATX only) you might as well go whole hog and recommend something that puts those limitations to good use. It’s like recommending the BitFenix Prodigy for mITX (which some non-TR sites do). It’s a nice case and all, but man, seems a bit large for a space saver.

            • flip-mode
            • 6 years ago

            Agreed. I don’t get recommending an mATX case as big as an ATX case.

            • Flying Fox
            • 6 years ago

            I also don’t get harping on mentions of mATX cases that are approaching ATX with every chance/thread that one can get over the last little while. TR has no place for zealots. We have enough crazies in the forums already.

            • JustAnEngineer
            • 6 years ago

            I’ll drop this link here:
            [url<]https://techreport.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=89932[/url<]

            • flip-mode
            • 6 years ago

            The Temjin TJ08-e is the best mATX case I’ve ever used. I haven’t used the Sugo SG10 but it looks promising and I’ll use one the next chance I get.

            By the way, JAE, some lunatic’s post should be a sticky in the forums.

            • Voldenuit
            • 6 years ago

            Yeah, love the Temjin TJ-08E. It’s smaller than the 350D and has a 4×3.5″ + 1×3.5″Ext + 1×2.5″ drive bay layout, unlike the 350D’s rather perplexing 3×2.5″ + 2×3.5″. Both cases have 2×5.25″ bays. The TJ-08’s drive bay layout is just a lot more practical than the 350D’s. You get more usable 3.5″ bays, you don’t have to sacrifice a 5.25″ bay if you want a card reader, and if you really wanted 3×2.5″ drives, it’s easier to adapt them to 3.5″ bays than the other way around.

            That said, though, it’s $30 more expensive than the 350D on newegg at the moment, and I understand that the build quality on the 350D is better.

            I’d rather have the TJ-08E for a mATX build, but I can see why the 350D made the system guide. It’s cheaper, sturdier, easier to work with, and as long as you can handle the limitations, a good solid choice.

            • Jambe
            • 6 years ago

            /me agrees

            The 350D is a good case, but if you’re in 40+ liter $100 territory you might as well get an ATX unit (nothing wrong the the listed H2, Corsair’s 300R and 400R, Nanoxia’s Deep Silence 2, Fractal Design’s offerings, Cooler Master’s N600 V2, or Rosewill’s new Legacy mid-towers, among numerous others).

            I’m sure it’s not intentional, but the “newbies will be put off by mATX systems” thing seems patronizing. New builders could make an informed decision if the space constraints of more compact mATX builds were clearly explained. That way the mATX case suggestion(s) would be meaningfully distinct from the standard ATX unit in the guide. As-is, the only mATX case suggested is simply another ATX mid-tower which just so happens to require a smaller motherboard.

            • jihadjoe
            • 6 years ago

            Well that makes your position clear, but then why not just recommend one of the smaller full ATX cases instead? It gives all of the advantages of a roomy case, without the limitation of only being able to use mATX boards that the 350D imposes.

            • Cyril
            • 6 years ago

            My position, as I said, is that small ATX cases are more cramped than large mATX ones, and that I would prefer to recommend a case that is neither cramped nor overly large to a first-time builder. Since few users need more than two mechanical hard drives or four expansion slots, I saw no reason to advocate ATX at all costs.

            I’ve seen all your downvotes, though, and I understand that you guys just don’t agree. That’s fine. I’ll take that under advisement for the next edition of the guide. Still, I don’t think my position is illogical or ill thought out; it’s simply a matter of different priorities.

            • NeelyCam
            • 6 years ago

            [quote<]Still, I don't think my position is illogical or ill thought out; it's simply a matter of different priorities.[/quote<] Sure - it's a logical position. But you're trying to cover different priorities in most other segments of the Guide, but in cases not so much - all the cases are large every time.

            • flip-mode
            • 6 years ago

            How much have you thought over your position on what the best interests of the first-time builder are? Sure, it’s great not to work with a “cramped” case, but, really, even a first-time builder that chooses mATX must be interested in that form factor for the same reason everyone else is – because it is (or, at least, can be) smaller!

            TechReport said this about the TJ08-e:
            [quote<]When the last screw had been turned, the Temjin left me impressed. It blows away every other mini-tower case I've worked with in terms of features and build quality.[/quote<] That review was done by Dave Morgan instead of yourself, so maybe you have never personally worked with the case. Dunno. It would also be great if TechReport could put the Sugo SG10 on the testing bench. You know, with all the endless spare time you have on your hands!

            • Ninjitsu
            • 6 years ago

            [quote<]Unfortunately there are some sizable caveats for building inside the TJ08-E. While I'm used to some difficulty with SilverStone's designs, the cramped quarters internally coupled with the unusual layout made cabling the entire thing borderline nightmarish. Frankly, you absolutely need a small power supply, and you need it to be modular, period, end of discussion. SilverStone is happy to sell you one, but that's definitely an addition to the pricetag that needs to be considered. Clearance for optical drives is also pretty foggy, and while I think the case would definitely put in an even better performance with a tower-style CPU cooler and proper fan control from the motherboard (at least acoustically), you're not going to be able to fit anything huge in here.[/quote<] [url<]http://www.anandtech.com/show/4533/silverstone-temjin-tj08-fat-case-in-a-little-coat/7[/url<]

            • flip-mode
            • 6 years ago

            That critique is ignorant, honestly – I’ll illustrate below, but again, the whole point of choosing mATX is to have something smaller than ATX, and the smaller the better until it’s too small to fit your parts, and yet parts like short optical drives and short, modular PSUs are not only easy to obtain but should be considered par for the course with mATX. I’ve done seven (7) builds with that case. Here’s my experience:

            Cable routing has not been a problem. The mobo hangs upside down so getting the CPU power routed through the little hole provided for it requires a longer lead than is often provided by the PSU, so I just route the cable over the motherboard. Otherwise, there is an ample gap behind the motherboard tray for routing cables.

            A modular PSU is definitely recommended. For what it’s worth, I’d recommend it anyway. This should not be any reason to avoid the TJ08-e. Power supply size: hmm… not much to say here… in the builds I’ve done I’ve used PSUs from Silverstone, Corsair, Seasonic, and someone else I can’t remember. Never had a problem. There are long PSUs and short PSUs. Don’t get a long PSU.

            I’ve fit all (7) optical drives in all (7) cases in all of the (7) builds I’ve done. Obvious conclusion: optical drive is not a foggy issue. I know there are long optical drives and short optical drives. Get a short one.

            I have fit tower CPU coolers (Coolermaster Hyper 212) as long as the fan is placed on the “pull” side so there is a point to that criticism.

            The case is not perfect. I don’t like the drive cage – but it works. I don’t like the fact that I have to remove (14) screws in total to install / remove the PSU – but, heh, I’ve never had to replace the PSU in any of those builds so it’s a pretty pointless complaint. Cable routing isn’t “perfect” but its absolutely sufficient – seven builds can attest to that.

            What’s the point of spec’ing out an mATX build if it is the size of an ATX build? There is none. So the whole argument that an mATX case is not a good case because it can’t fit oversized PSUs, optical drives, and behemoth heatsinks is dubious. If you want those things then don’t build mATX. But I think it is very reasonable for TechReport to include an mATX option and for that option to actually pay credence to the whole point of mATX – to be smaller. And it’s very easy to pick components that will work. If that is the hold-up then I can provide a list of parts that I have used and that have worked in the TJ08-e.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 6 years ago

            But at the price point it’s not an either/or proposition. You can get super-roomy ATX cases for $100 that are quiet and high-quality to boot. If you want big, you can get big and not have any of the constraints of the 350D.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 6 years ago

            You know what someone needs to do, is take something like the Fractal Design Core 1000 and turn the 3.5″ cage 90 degrees so that the SATA/power ports face up. You could stack 4 drives like that and have easy cable routing. That would fix the biggest complaint about smaller mATX cases. Dell did that with an Inspiron 4600 that I had, and it was not cramped or difficult to work in at all.

            • Cyril
            • 6 years ago

            Again, I wanted something relatively small on the outside but big on the inside. Pricing didn’t really have anything to do with it.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 6 years ago

            In what dimension is the 350D small?

            17.7″ x 8.3″ x 17.3″ (according to Newegg)

            Compare to the Carbide 300R: 19.1″ x 8.3″ x 17.7″

            An 1.4″ here, a fraction of an inch there…?

            BTW Just so I’m providing answers and not just being a pain in the ass, Silverstone’s Temjin cases save 2-3″ in the two big dimensions – 8.27″ x 14.72″ x 15.16″ – and have an interesting way to save space by flipping the motherboard over a removable drive cage. NZXT makes a Vulcan case with a more traditional layout and a handy dandy handle for toting to LAN parties. 16.00″ x 7.00″ x 16.60″. There’s plenty out there to choose from that actually saves some space.

            • Cyril
            • 6 years ago

            I recommend reading the rest of the thread more closely. I already explained all of this. 😉

            • derFunkenstein
            • 6 years ago

            I read the whole thing, really, I did, but the explanations make zero sense.

            In the end people will buy what they’re going to buy; I just wish you didn’t call the 350D small.

            • Voldenuit
            • 6 years ago

            Well, the small ATX cases aren’t without their problems, either. The Lian Li A05B has a weird airflow layout that’s generally found to result in poor thermals. Antec’s NSK series are quite fussy about PSU and optical drive lengths, as well as cooler heights.

            Personally, I agree that there are more compact mATX cases than the 350D which are still very desirable options. But trying to squeeze an ATX case down to 350D (or smaller) dimensions can be fraught with complications.

            • tanker27
            • 6 years ago

            And it does you can take a look at my build: [url<]https://techreport.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=91065[/url<]

            • Waco
            • 6 years ago

            I can’t stress how important working room is to a non-savvy person building a machine.

            I walked a friend through installing a new mobo/cpu/ram/heatsink that I sent him over the weekend. This was over the phone, as I’m in NM and he’s in GA.

            He has an NZXT Adamas…and I would have just sent him another case if I’d remembered how much of a pain in the ass it is to work in that case. It is absolutely nerve-wracking to someone who never does this kind of stuff to work in tight spaces on something they’re afraid of breaking.

            I could have done it in my sleep – but when making comments like this (and complaining about TR’s choices) imagine walking your non-tech savvy friends and/or family through the build process in an overly cramped case.

    • flip-mode
    • 6 years ago

    I love the new format!

      • chuckula
      • 6 years ago

      I do agree it makes it easier to review & compare on a part-by-part basis. That’s probably more relevant for most readers who don’t build carbon-copies of these systems but pick & choose components from different levels.

      • BIF
      • 6 years ago

      Me too. Nicely done Cyril!

      • JustAnEngineer
      • 6 years ago

      I also like the new version.

      • trackerben
      • 6 years ago

      Yep it makes it easier to think up configs more fit to situations. I’ve standardized on mATX for years now and usually ignore advice for bigger enclosures anyway.

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