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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  • DanNeely - Wednesday, July 8, 2015 - link

    He's talking about Dustin's personal rig (middle of page 2); which puts both of these systems to shame (and for what it cost should do so): I7-5960, SLI 980s (all 3 water cooled), 2.5 GB of SSDs, and a 34" 3440x1400 monitor.
  • JBVertexx - Wednesday, July 8, 2015 - link

    I mean his personal rig, as described on page 2.
  • GeorgeH - Wednesday, July 8, 2015 - link

    For those wondering where the extra money went:

    CPU/Motherboard - Wash

    Extras + OS -> Zotac spent $100 more
    Chassis, CPU Cooling, PSU -> Zotac spent $100 more
    SSD -> Zotac spent $100 More

    Corsair used that $300 to go from the $370 970 to the $640 980 Ti. Corsair also found 16GB of RAM for the same price as Zotac's 8GB.
  • gamer1000k - Wednesday, July 8, 2015 - link

    Thanks for the shout out of my build that I posted on the previous thread.

    You're right, I did have to make some compromises on DRAM and storage to keep it under budget, but I'm trying to be realistic in terms of what current games actually need to maximize performance. Very few programs in general will use even 8GB and this is a focused gaming rig intended as a console replacement so it's not intended for heavy multitasking or virtual machines.

    An alternate configuration that I toyed with would have used the Silverstone RVZ01B (which is $40 cheaper) and would free up enough budget for 16GB DRAM, but I figured that memory (and storage) is easy to upgrade later, whereas a nice case is something you'll likely keep for much longer.
  • atl - Wednesday, July 8, 2015 - link

    Why overkill 750W on a system, which barely will go over 250, most games will drain under or around 200.
    100HI on non-K I5...
    970 instead r9 290 - only way is to save power, which is not case when you have 750W PSU, also less memory on 970.
    Corsair rig could use few fixes - for pure gaming, i would shave off from cpu and use more storage
  • Dustin Sklavos - Wednesday, July 8, 2015 - link

    Well, I mean we're still Corsair. We want you to overclock your stuff and we want you to use our coolers to do it. ;)
  • Bobberr - Thursday, July 9, 2015 - link

    You guys should make something to compete with swiftech's AIO's. Would buy in a heartbeat if they were actually available, unlike the h220/220x.
  • Akrovah - Thursday, July 9, 2015 - link

    I second this. I love the look of the H100i (plus it matches my Graphite 600t), but if I went liquid cooling I would want to splice my GPU in without having to go DIY or having a separate radiator and fans for the GPU.
  • Gigaplex - Wednesday, July 8, 2015 - link

    The Zotac system is poorly balanced all round.
  • Drumsticks - Wednesday, July 8, 2015 - link

    I wouldn't call it poorly balanced. It maybe could be improved in some places, but by and large, I imagine a 4460 and a GTX 970 will keep each other well fed for what they do. You could certainly say some money could come off of the cooler and you could arguably still have a quiet system. The only thing that might have been over the top for the build is the power supply, which could stand to go down some. It's again though, possible that the low load is contributing to a quiet system, which was ofc the point of the build!

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