Build-A-Rig Round 1 - $1500 Single Monitor Gaming PC

Last week we introduced our new Build-A-Rig project. At a high level, we ask two or three companies in the PC industry each round to configure a system to a budget. Then, with our partners Newegg, we build and test each system in glorious battle, along with interviewing the participants about how they approach the industry. Regardless of the winner, all the systems built are given away to our lucky readers. Imagine Top Gear UK’s ‘Star In A Reasonably Priced Car’, but instead of celebrities racing around a track, we let the configured PCs do the racing where both style and performance count. In this first round, we chose Corsair Memory and Zotac as the first head-to-head.

The Rules

When we approach the companies to configure within a budget, there are certain rules they have to follow in order to be fair:

  • All components must be available at at the time of selection (so no pre-choosing unreleased parts)
  • No combo deals will be considered
  • No mail-in-rebates will be considered
  • Components must be compatible
  • There will be sometime between configuration and giveaway, so a 3% leeway is given on the overall build budget if prices change
  • There is no compulsion to use the hardware of who you’re up against
  • Each round, we will let the companies competing know who they’re up against, but not the build until it is published on AnandTech
  • Each company must agree to an interview on their build

This means that whatever the budget, each participant might end up deciding a different sized build, or a different concept (Steam box or hardcore gaming). As we have found out, it also means that each participant has a stringent choice – either select their best components and perhaps have to reduce the rest of the build to fit the budget, or choose the best performance and only their own mid-or-low range hardware.

Of course, for each build by the companies that actually make the hardware, we also want our readers to chime in with their own thoughts. What would you do differently?

It should be noted that for Round 1, companies were asked to supply builds before June 10th, which is before the release of AMD’s Fury X.

The Contest

As this is Round 1 of our glorious project, we went straight in at a potential premium and asked our contestants to produce a specification list for a system that costs $1500, with a focus on single monitor gaming. For the parts list, this means the following:

  • Processor (CPU)
  • Motherboard
  • Graphics Card(s) (GPU)
  • Memory (DRAM)
  • Storage (SSD or HDD, or both)
  • Power Supply (PSU)
  • Chassis (Case)
  • CPU Cooling
  • Operating System
  • Extras

Obviously there are more elements to a full gaming system than this, particularly when discussing the monitor, keyboard, mouse, mouse mat and other utilities, although we will reserve the choice of some of those with a bigger budget to play with. Something like a monitor is arguably a 10-year lifecycle purchase, whereas keyboards and/or mice are either upgrades from something very simple or replacements when breaks occur.

Because we only specified $1500 for single monitor gaming, this opens up how both Corsair and Zotac have interpreted what this means and we get very different builds focusing on performance and style.

The Participants – Dustin Sklavos from Corsair Memory

Long time readers from AnandTech will recognize the name Dustin Sklavos. Dustin is a former AnandTech editor, and was our primary cases, cooling and power supplies reviewer from 2010 until 2013. Dustin had an uncanny ability to go through reviews at an alarming rate, and was not afraid to show his feelings about a product. Corsair poached him in the latter half of 2013 and ever since he has been part of their technical marketing division, finding ways in which Corsair products are useful to end-users and writing parts of Corsair’s blog, but also getting stuck in with product design and currently stands as the product manager for Corsair’s latest 4K mini-ITX gaming project, the Bulldog.

The Participants – Chinny Chuang and Buu Ly from Zotac

Chinny and I (Ian) met over five years ago while Chinny worked with Rosewill, Newegg’s house brand. At the time she was technically Dustin’s primary contact for supplying cases for review. But we met at a trade show and share a common love of felines. Chinny has now been at Zotac for almost two years, devising strategies to aid Zotac’s position in the North America market, particularly with mini-PCs (which is Ganesh’s domain) and graphics cards. Chinny is joined on this build and in the Interview by Buu Ly, a longtime colleague of Chinny and they always seem to end up at the same companies working together.

Up Next: Interview with Dustin Sklavos, Corsair Memory

Build-A-Rig R1: Interview with Dustin Sklavos (Corsair Memory)
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  • Gigaplex - Wednesday, July 8, 2015 - link

    "Although Chinnie is a cutie"

    How is that in any way relevant to this competition?
  • jay401 - Thursday, July 9, 2015 - link

    He's offering a compliment to the team he isn't going to go with before he explains why he went with the one he did. End of story. Let's discuss hardware.
  • Valantar - Friday, July 10, 2015 - link

  • Morawka - Thursday, July 9, 2015 - link

    she wasted all her money on a 500gb ssd, that was the 1st mistake, 2nd one was PSU and 3rd was all the blinged up cables..
  • waldojim42 - Monday, July 13, 2015 - link

    Neither was a waste. While there are gamers that prefer nothing more than raw power, some prefer a good looking machine as well. Also, I hate having a small SSD. I will readily give up some performance that I am not using (4k means nothing to someone without a 4k display) to have the game LOAD quicker. I won't notice the difference between 100 and 200fps playing Fallout, but I will notice the 5 second VS 45 second load times.
  • xthetenth - Thursday, July 9, 2015 - link

    Why would you ever consider getting a 970 instead of a 980 a mistake? The 970 may have issues but it also delivers vastly better performance per dollar than the 980. By going with a 970 instead of a 980, you get slightly less performance but free up a lot of room to make other things better.
  • Aikouka - Thursday, July 9, 2015 - link

    I don't think the omission of a K-series processor is a big deal. Unless I missed it on one of the earlier pages (I did skim a little), this is just a straight-up test. Obviously, if it included overclocking, then the K-series processor would win. Although, without a K-series processor, there's really very little need to go with a Z-series motherboard -- unless it has extra features that you need. Although, I'm assuming that Chinnie's use of a Z-series board has more to do with the fact that they tend to get the most visual upgrades given their higher price points. An $80 B-series or H-series motherboard doesn't usually present much bling factor!

    As for 8GB, I don't see it as too much of an issue depending on how the machine is used. Games can chew up a decent amount of RAM, but I see the most RAM use going to web browsers due to their insane desire to cache *everything* (including previously-viewed pages and closed tabs). I've gone as high as 9GB in Waterfox, before I closed it due to excessive background CPU usage, which causes video stuttering. (I use 32GB in my system.)
  • needforsuv - Saturday, July 11, 2015 - link

    i feel a i7 4790k would've been a better option (over Dusin's build)
    -$100 but given sockets change like crazy...
    -$10 change the gpu to a Zotac Amp for better cooling
    +$18 change the ssd for 2TB of HDD (seagate is a gamble but its cheap)
    +$10 drop down to a TT V4
    +$20 G Skill Value Ram 1600
    +$30 212 Evo
    +$15 Thermaltake TR2 Bronze
    $17 over but hey
  • JBVertexx - Wednesday, July 8, 2015 - link

    Forget either one of these Rigs. I want Dustin's!

    Seriously, the 980ti takes the cake. Too bad the Newegg system builder's marathon for this quarter didn't see this build.
  • extide - Wednesday, July 8, 2015 - link

    Huh..? Dustin's IS one of these rigs..

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