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. These rigs are lab-tested and editor-approved.
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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We call this build the "baseline" because it's the bare framework for an expandable system. For example, a single video card doesn't need anywhere near 750 watts of power, but those watts are reserved for a second GPU down the road. The Gigabyte G1.Sniper Z87 motherboard is also well-suited for dual video cards and can deliver respectable overclocking, and the Intel Core i5-4670K is a high-grade workhorse to pair with it. The Corsair C70 case gives you plenty of options for cooling, too, so you can always upgrade from a Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo air cooler to a closed-loop liquid cooler later. The Nvidia GeForce GTX 760 remains the best bang-for-the-buck GPU, but this month we went from the SC version to the vanilla ACX, due to pricing fluctuations.
The 280mm NZXT Kraken X60 CPU cooler's availability was sketchy at press time, so we replaced it with the Corsair Hydro Series H100i. At 240mm, its radiator is a bit smaller, but it’s quiet and reliable. We’re sticking with the Core i7-4820K CPU since it’s an LGA 2011 part, so it offers more bandwidth for multi-GPU setups than a Haswell-based LGA 1150 system. The CPU is slower in some tests than a Haswell part, though, so it's not for everyone. The GeForce GTX 780 is a great card for gaming at 2560 resolution, and two of them can handle Ultra HD quite well, should we feel the need to upgrade in the future. The NZXT Phantom 530 case has lots of room for activities, so we’re sticking with it for now.
The high-end landscape will be seeing some major shifts over the next few months. Nvidia just announced the GeForce GTX Titan Z, which combines two GTX Titan Blacks onto one dual-slot card, and AMD recently dropped the Radeon R9 295X2, which combines two R9 290Xs onto one dual-slot card with an integrated closed-loop liquid cooler (CLC). These are some monster products. Intel's LGA 2011 platform will be seeing an upgrade to Haswell architecture, eight cores with sixteen threads, DDR4, SATA Express, and bunches of native SATA 6Gb/s ports. So what you're looking at is the calm before the storm. This rig is still highly respectable, though (as it should be, for this kind of money).
The Corsair Obsidian 900D super-tower case has easily fit every CLC we've ever used, and it won't break a sweat over complicated custom loops, either. The 1200-watt Silverstone Strider Evolution will handle three GPUs easily. Speaking of which, we’re holding steady with two GeForce GTX 780 Ti video cards, but if you prefer AMD's Radeon tech, their 295X2 is a fine challenger.