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What time is it? It's time to build a PC with our Blueprints! This month, we've built three rigs at three approximate price points: Baseline, Performance, and Ultra. Baseline gets you a powerful, no-compromises rig, suitable for gaming and content creation at 1080p. Performance gets you more, and the Ultra is for those who want a killer PC.
These rigs are lab-tested and editor-approved. Feedback is, of course, welcome. Tell us what you think!
Don't confuse "baseline" with "underpowered," as the Intel Core i5-4670K hauls ass, and the rest of this rig is plenty powerful. This month, we upgraded the video card from an AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition to the Radeon HD 7950, since the 7950 also has more horsepower and an additional gigabyte of video RAM, which is handy for high-res textures and long draw distances. To get there, we downgraded the PSU and SSD, going from a 720W Cooler Master to a 500W Corsair, and a Samsung 840 Pro to the SanDisk Extreme. The new SSD is plenty snappy, and 500 watts is sufficient for a system with a single GPU. We're also retaining last month's transition to the OEM version of Windows 8.
Most of the parts previously selected for this tier still deliver great performance for the price, so not much has changed this month. Corsair had a deal on its HX850 power supply, though, so we took advantage of that. It has superb build quality and a long seven-year warranty. Also this month, the 256GB Samsung 840 Pro was about the same price as the 240GB Neutron GTX we had in here previously, so we swapped them since the 840 Pro is a bit faster. As with the Baseline system, we're sticking to Windows 8. These are the OEM versions, which means that the activation code is tied to the motherboard. The trade-off is that it costs much less than the "full" version.
After seeing two Nvidia GeForce GTX 780s work their SLI magic in our test rig, we were compelled to put them in the Ultra system, which had a single GTX Titan in it last month. The GTX 780 is basically a gaming-oriented version of the Titan, with two SMX units and double-precision compute removed. When overclocked, a GTX 780's gaming performance comes within spitting distance of its big brother, so two of them are truly a dream come true. This motherboard and power supply will also handle a third 780 without breaking a sweat.
The BEFX power supply is one of the best in its class and comes from Seasonic. Since it's fully modular, you can replace all the cables if they get damaged or if you want to make cosmetic changes, and it makes for less clutter too. Its fan also uses a "hybrid mode" setting, where it doesn't even spin up when the system is idle, ensuring quiet operation when you're just surfing around or watching videos. The overall build quality is reportedly a bit better than the Cooler Master Silent Pro unit it replaces.