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 system for gaming and content creation at 1080p, Performance beefs everything up across the board, and Ultra lets the dogs out.
Prices listed here reflect print time and may not match the ones you find elsewhere online. In addition, Newegg has jumped on board to offer packaged deals for each of the builds below in an attempt to offer a better overall value. To see these bundle prices, click the "Buy-or-get-more-info-at-Newegg" button at the bottom of each build. Feedback is welcome. Tell us what you think!
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As this issue went to press, we did not have a "Devil's Canyon" CPU from Intel, which is a refresh of its Haswell generation. But we did have several motherboards that use Intel's new Z97 chipset. We chose the Gigabyte GA-Z97X-UD5H because of its balance of features, price and performance. AMD card prices have stabilized, so we can now recommend an MSI Radeon R9 280, which consistently outperforms the GeForce GTX 760 at the $250 price point. Rosewill's Hive-750 PSU from last time was out of stock, but the SeaSonic SSR-750RM is modular, gold-rated and competitively priced. The 550w model used in our February Build It (pg. 58) performed quite well.
The next version of Intel's workstation CPU is still on the horizon, so we're staying with the Core i7-4820K. Unlike the build above, this LGA 2011 chip has enough PCI Express lanes to handle 3-4 video cards, if you want to go that route. Speaking of which, we've swapped the GeForce GTX 780 with a Radeon R9 290X, now that the price for the latter has returned to orbit. This Gigabyte model runs cool and quiet, and it outperforms the 780 in most tests, and the price premium for that is pretty small. We've also switched our power supply to the XFX P1-1050-BEFX, since it costs just a little more than the Cooler Master Silent Pro M2 while offering much higher efficiency. There are cheaper SSDs than the Samsung 840 Evo, but we prefer its software.
Compared to the Intel Core i7-4820K on the previous page, this Core i7-4930K has an additional two cores, with Hyperthreading giving us twelve processor threads, as opposed to eight. This is a nice boost for video encoding and live streaming, and some games are starting to use as many threads as we can give them. We've seen more than a few reports that users of the Cooler Master Glacer 240L CPU cooler have experienced some build quality issues, so we've switched to the company's Nepton 280L. As its name implies, it has a 280mm radiator, giving it more surface area to dissipate heat, and it performed quite well when we reviewed it in the April issue.
Nvidia's GeForce GTX 780 and 780 Ti video cards have been a mainstay in the Ultra build for some time now, but we've been impressed with AMD's Radeon R9 295X2. It combines two R9 290X GPUs onto one card that uses an integrated liquid cooler. It runs very cool and quiet even when overclocked, though it is held back a little by a non-adjustable voltage.