Position: Technical Marketing Specialist and Product Manager for Bulldog at Corsair Memory
Name of Rig: ‘The Accelerator’

IC: How long have you been at Corsair?

DS: Since I left AnandTech! That means since October 2013.

IC: We approached Corsair about our Build-A-Rig initiative – what were your immediate thoughts about it?

DS: I’ve been wanting to do something like this with the press for a while, just because I’ll see a build competition or something and I tend to look at it and go ‘that’s not really how I would have done that’. So when I saw the initiative you guys had, I was onboard immediately.

IC: How do you feel about the competitive aspect?

DS: I like it – it doesn’t come across as super competitive and for us it gives us an opportunity to demonstrate that we, Corsair, are made up of enthusiasts. So if we can build a system that passes muster with the readership then that kind of demonstrates that we know what we’re talking about and we know who we are building for. As far as the competitive aspect goes, this industry is actually pretty small anyway so you’re going to end up having friends at different companies looking back and forth at each other anyhow.

IC: So we gave you a $1500 budget to build a system (including OS, but not a monitor or peripherals). How do you feel $1500 sits with the current market for gaming PCs?

DS: I think $1500 was fine! It was a little bit challenging because I had to do a bit of a balancing act with the system. The reality is that we were able to put together a helluva powerful gaming system for $1500. I think you could actually build a solid 1080p or 1440p system for a bit less than what we did.

IC: So are you saying you spent too much?

DS: It’s no secret that Corsair stuff tends to be a little bit more premium and a little bit more expensive. I think the value proposition is there but at the same time when you’re working on a $1500 budget you can’t quite put the fanciest stuff we have in there. But I ended up talking to my direct supervisor Jon Gerow, aka ‘JonnyGuru’, and I went back and forth with him about what direction we should go with this. We wound up deciding to ultimately build the best system we could for the end-user even if it meant using more entry-level Corsair components. It gives a chance to show that the entry level stuff is still really good. If we had gone all premium, such as DDR3-2400 and a fancier case, a faster/bigger SSD then it would have cost too much but I felt like the end-user experience really had to be there for the system and that even our more entry-level stuff was still up to the task.

IC: When you talk about the end-user experience of the system, does this mean that with your build (which you called ‘The Accelerator’) you are focusing purely on performance here over aesthetics or does it require a bit of both?

DS: Aesthetically I still think our build is pretty decent – the 200R is not an unattractive case. But I wanted to focus on designing a system that the end user would get a substantial amount of performance out of. So when you’re talking about doing a single monitor system for $1500, to me that means it has to scale all the way up to 4K. So we could have taken the hit on the graphics card, gone down to a GTX 980 (from the 980 Ti) and you would have had a great experience at 1080p or at 1440p but it would have started to quake in its boots at 4K. That would have let us put some fancier stuff elsewhere but ultimately we decided we had to have the overclockable i5, the 980 Ti, 16GB of DRAM – all these things needed to be there to scale to 4K. We knew we had to target the right performance profile so when the winner powers this thing on and starts playing games on it they’re going to feel like no expense has been spared.

IC: Can you characterize the sort of person who might build something like this?

DS: An enthusiast-slash-gamer, because there’s so much overlap in those categories, that is willing to overclock a little bit. We tried to facilitate that the best we could to maximize the performance we could get out of the system.

IC: Looking at the gaming market as a whole, eSports is still the biggest driver for gaming, and $1500 is vastly overkill for this type of gaming. With the comparison between the triple-A titles such as Witcher 3/Battlefield and eSports, how does Corsair as a company deal with this as a company strategy?

DS: Obviously we’re involved in eSports and we’re getting more involved, such as sponsoring Team Dignitas. To me the eSports and the triple-A markets are different beasts. On the eSports side the hardware performance may not be as important, such as League of Legends, DOTA 2 and CS:Go, where the game doesn’t necessarily tax the hardware as much. For our enthusiast market, these gamers aren’t too excited but our peripheral market is where they focus and we want to provide the best keyboard, the best mouse and the best headset. That’s the tack we take. Then the users who want the best home user experience and who do want to play the triple-A titles - so for example I hate to play anything less than the highest settings (anti-aliasing not withstanding) – so for those guys, that’s where we come in and we say that they can build a really stellar exceptionally high quality system using Corsair components and you can maximize your performance with high speed memory, with a fast SSD and especially if you’re an overclocker. To me we make some of the most attractive and most functional cases on the market; we have a sensational water cooling line and our power supplies are increasingly second-to-none, especially if you look at the recently released RM-i series. The two markets (eSports and AAA) are disparate to each other and we try to address both as best as we can.

IC: Do you feel that over time users cross over from the eSports into the enthusiast?

DS: I think so. Video games tend to perpetuate themselves so to speak – we have a bunch of guys in the office that will play CS:Go one minute then turn that off and play Far Cry 4, and those games offer very different experiences. CS:Go might not necessitate the high-end system, but Far Cry 4 sure as hell does.

IC: What’s the average age of the gamers in the office?

DS: Most of the people working on our enthusiast gear are all in their 30s. A couple of engineers tend to be in their 40s and 50s, but the electrical engineers need to be more experienced. But the overriding factor is that they are all still enthusiasts.

IC: So what system do you personally run?

DS: I built a liquid cooled system in a 750D last year and then upgraded it with Haswell-E. So I’m running a custom loop in the 750D with two GeForce GTX 980s, both overclocked. They’re both close to 1.5 GHz on the cores and with the memory near 8 GHz. Then I have an ASUS X99 Deluxe motherboard with an i7-5960X at about 4.4 GHz but at that point I found that the voltage required to get to 4.5 was even too much for the custom loop – it hits the limit of what the CPU can dissipate into the water block. This is all paired with four 480GB Corsair Neutron GTX SSDs in RAID-0 then a 512GB Force LX that is being used as my project drive. This is all powered by an AX860i 80PLUS Platinum power supply. So I mean it’s pretty tricked out, and then I’m running on a curved 34-inch 3440x1440 Samsung monitor. Recently I’ve been trying to go through Far Cry 4 and a little bit of Divinity: Original Sin. I might pick up Witcher 3 at some point, although the Witcher games were never really my thing. Far Cry 4 is the one I’ve pretty much been going at lately.

IC: Are there any titles that you are looking forward to over the next twelve months, especially that we’ve just had E3?

DS: I’m looking forward to SOMA (survival-action horror set for September) – I had a list of games but Final Fantasy VII Remake topped everything. Doom I’m really psyched about. With SOMA, it’s made by the same people who made Amnesia: Dark Descent, so these guys are really amazing at producing material that is really atmospheric. I’ve been tracking the development for a while so I’m really looking forward to it.

IC: Back to ‘The Accelerator’, if you were to have half the budget ($750) to invest in upgrades over the next twelve months, what would you do?

DS: I’m not sure – part of the reason we built it up the way we did was to make sure it was going to be in Beast mode and now that the Fury X reviews are trickling in and not as chart topping as one might have expected, the best thing you could probably do over the next few months is invest in a HG10 N980 bracket that we’re coming out with along with a H55 cooler to improve the GPU cooling. The instant you liquid cool Big Maxwell it takes the brakes off of it. The card just sings. That would probably be the biggest upgrade, but you could also get a storage drive. I don’t really see anything faster in the current market to necessitate a $750 upgrade – there’s the possibility that Skylake could go extremely fast, but on an IPC perspective you might only be looking at a 10%, maybe 15% increase tops, and that’s not really enough to make the CPU in the build (an i5-4690K) sweat. Realistically we tried to make this build essentially – well I mean you can’t future proof anything in this industry but you can have an idea of futureproofing and that’s kind of what we did.

IC: Given that you are the product manager for the Bulldog (Corsair’s high-end 4K gaming mini case), would you consider that as part of a $1500 gaming PC build?

DS: Yes, oh yes. The build that we were showing off at Computex would have cost about $2200 to put together – but that had a Titan X soaking up $450 right there, so you can save a bunch of money right there by honestly dropping the Titan X down to a 980 Ti and dropping the 480GB Neutron XT down to a 240GB Force LS and that would get you most of the way there.

Build-A-Rig Round 1: The $1500 PCs and Interviews from Corsair and Zotac Build-A-Rig R1: Corsair’s ‘The Accelerator’
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  • etamin - Wednesday, July 8, 2015 - link

    sorry for the typos, I didn't proofread. Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Wednesday, July 8, 2015 - link

    The CS power supply is actually pretty beastly. My department keeps track of user feedback on major vendor sites, reporting when people have problems, and it's *extremely* rare to hear someone having an issue with a CS.

    The CPU cooler, I'll grant something else might've been a bit quieter. But - and this ties into the motherboard decision - the i5-4690K just isn't a hot, power-hungry chip. The only time heat becomes an issue on that processor is when you're pushing the voltage higher than is safe for the chip in the first place. By the same token, the motherboard has passive cooling on the power delivery, and most boards are grossly overspecced on that front anyhow. The FIVR in Haswell and the clean power from the CSM both heavily mitigate the need for boatloads of high end power delivery on the board. I'd trust it.

    That said, I've also internally tested our liquid coolers against competing high end air coolers, and the H80i GT's cooling perf basically starts where air coolers stop. And if I can cool a Titan X with an H55 (and I can, and I have), the comparatively inexpensive H60 is the right choice for the CPU cooler.

    Also, I do agree with Chinny and Buu's tack towards aesthetics, which I deprecated in favor of raw performance. I'm happy that the two systems aren't really directly comparable, that they both take different routes to get to the same destination.
    Reply
  • etamin - Thursday, July 9, 2015 - link

    You're right that the 4670k is a "relatively not hot/power-hungry chip." But the question then becomes, how much OC can you get out of it on that particular board. I'm guessing we'll see with the upcoming review, but I'm more concerned about long term power quality and stability supplied by that board. Unfortunately, the OC longevity can't be proven by anyone, and that's why I would be hesitant to be the guinea pig.

    I must admit I have not used any AIOs since the original H80/H70 since the Noctua NH-D14 prices have been very attractive for a while now. Another reason I am averse to AIOs is the radiator is they are difficult to clean when clogged with dust (again, attention to case filters and long term maintenance), and they dont free up as easily when blown out with air.

    The CS power supplies do have many positive user reviews. But please please keep in mind that Corsair is among the most, if not THE most, hyped component/peripheral brands out there. I'm sure you're aware of this. This is made possible by Corsair covering more component/peripheral markets than anyone else, expanding when a successful product gains a foothold in each segment. Many first time builders choose Corsair because of forum advice given out by other inexperienced builders who have tried nothing but Corsair, and the snowball effect continues.

    No offense to Corsair as I do like some of their products as mentioned earlier, but I would think that much of the positive feedback is made by fanboys. The CS PSUs as a series is rated rather average across the PSU review sites I trust, and to me, the 3 year warranty is confirmation of that. For a 980 Ti, I think a step up is justified.
    Reply
  • etamin - Thursday, July 9, 2015 - link

    Sorry Dustin I don't mean to come off as abrasive toward you or your company. You are certainly more knowledgeable than I ever will be when it comes to computers (my work has nothing to do with computers although I have often thought about case and peripheral design for the fun of it).

    I wanted to add that I really did enjoy the article, I think it's a breath of fresh air for AT in a long while. The interviews made the builds a lot more interesting and relevant to those of us without an immediate need for a new system. It reminds me of the days when I read MaximumPC (the physical magazine) before I even knew the difference between memory and storage hehe
    Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Thursday, July 9, 2015 - link

    You didn't come off as abrasive and your perceptions are valid.

    I'd like to think we've earned the fans we have, but I'm keen to point out that people are a bit more likely to leave a negative review than a positive one, especially when it comes to PSUs, which aren't especially sexy products. We sell an absolute mountain of power supplies, more than coolers or cases, but the cases and coolers will often get more reviews because there's more to discuss. A PSU, by and large works or doesn't. So I do see what you're saying.

    The 3-year warranty is a totally fair complaint.

    I appreciate the respectful engagement. I continually worry about coming off like a PRobot and mentioned that as much to Ian, but the honest truth is the guys designing this stuff are eating their own dog food. I see how the sausage is made and by and large it's pretty good sausage.
    Reply
  • BuuLy - Wednesday, July 8, 2015 - link

    Hi Dustin! Chinny! and all the commenters. This article is pretty active and that's really awesome because we had some fun putting it together. Both builds are great and I'd take and use any of them any day. Even better that even some of you are even taking the challenge to configuring your own build. Reply
  • DPUser - Wednesday, July 8, 2015 - link

    Love the sprit and camaraderie exhibited here… thanks Dustin and Chinny! Reply
  • TheHolyLancer - Thursday, July 9, 2015 - link

    I actually built something similar for my friend.

    http://pcpartpicker.com/p/jGCgjX

    Namely, he does not OC that much, so the basic one where we can play with bclk or leaving it stock is fine.

    Then picked an evga 980 ti ACX 2.0 superclock, again not so much OCer, but with just the basic cooling from acx 2.0 it is rock solid and can hit 1500 core if he is lucky.

    Cheapest memory, case, mobo that had some features and mixed storage of SSD + hdd.

    Then I made sure to pick a nice 80+ plat 650W psu to power this relatively hungry setup.
    Reply
  • chlamchowder - Thursday, July 9, 2015 - link

    I like Dustin's build, except for only having a 240 GB SSD. Game installs take ridiculous amounts of space. Zotac's 500 GB drive is a lot better in that respect. It'd be painful, but I'd drop down from the i5-4960k + H60 to an i5-4460 + stock cooler and give up overclocking for a bigger SSD.

    I also question the value of using DDR3-1866 vs DDR3-1600 in both builds.
    Reply
  • zodiacfml - Thursday, July 9, 2015 - link

    Nice addition to Anandtech. While this is the first episode, I would like to suggest things.

    Since there would be too many options and intentions, it seems better if we could specify the requirements so that contestants will have some direction. To iterate, when we build something for a user, we ask for the usage and desires together with the budget.

    Will it be for gaming, workstation, or both? HTPC? Servers? Virtual Machines? Huge storage? Which applications and games?

    Additionally, I believe that resolution and refresh rates should be set, RAM and storage size. In gaming, specify which games and image quality settings are compulsory for the build. It is up to the contestant to research and test the build for these games depending on their priorities.
    Reply

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