Last quarter 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 round, given the timing as school is starting, we chose SilverStone and Crucial with a budget of $800 for a back-to-school system.

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 Newegg.com 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 sometimes be a price difference 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 2, companies were asked to supply builds before September 25th. This makes sourcing Skylake parts somewhat troublesome.

Previous Build-A-Rig Rounds

Here are links to our Build-A-Rig Introduction and previous challengers:

Round 1: $1500 Single Monitor Gaming PC
Corsair's 'The Accelerator', as chosen by Dustin Sklavos (Interview, Breakdown, Build Log, Results)
Zotac's 'Hey Good Lookin', as chosen by Chinny Chuang (Interview, Breakdown, Build Log, Results)

The Contest

This is Round 2 of our glorious project, and given the September-October timeframe, we asked our contestants to produce a specification list for a system that costs $800, with a focus on back-to-school operation. 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 system than this, particularly when discussing the monitor, keyboard, mouse, mouse mat and other utilities, although we will reserve that choice of rounds 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 $800, this opens up how both SilverStone and Crucial have interpreted what this means and we get very different builds focusing on performance and style.

The Participants – Tony Ou from SilverStone Technology

Despite the look of youth, Tony is an industry veteran. We first crossed paths back at Computex 2011, my first major industry event, and I was instantly struck by Tony’s own knowledge about his own product lines and how they fit into the industry as a whole. Every case has a story to tell, and I remember the discussions we had around the push for a Thunderbolt-based graphics dock, as well as some words about the difficulties of producing such a device. Tony is very much into his gaming PC cases as well as the small form factor builds, echoing the sentiment of his employer.

The Participants – Jeremy Mortenson from Crucial (Micron)

The best way to think of Crucial is a brand of Micron, whereby Crucial sells more to end-users and Micron focuses on DRAM IC production, NAND, and business customers. Jeremy covers both, and like Tony he has been in this industry a good number of years and flexes that knowledge to the fullest. This leads to some interesting conversations around the $800 build here, as Jeremy has approached the build somewhat differently for the cooling and OS choice than I suspect 95% of our potential participants would have done. He's also an avid gamer, with a collection stretching back over 20 years of important industry titles.

Up Next: Interview with Tony Ou (SilverStone Technology)

Build-A-Rig R2: Interview with Tony Ou (SilverStone Technology)
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  • leopard_jumps - Monday, October 19, 2015 - link

    Tuned for Newegg

    $750 Gaming PC

    PCPartPicker part list: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/kq2Hyc
    Price breakdown by merchant: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/kq2Hyc/by_merchant/

    CPU: Intel Core i5-4590 3.3GHz Quad-Core Processor ($191.89 @ OutletPC)
    Motherboard: ASRock H97M PRO4 Micro ATX LGA1150 Motherboard ($72.98 @ Newegg)
    Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws X Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($47.99 @ Newegg)
    Storage: Western Digital Caviar Blue 1TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($52.33 @ OutletPC)
    Video Card: Zotac GeForce GTX 960 4GB Video Card ($218.98 @ Newegg)
    Case: Deepcool TESSERACT SW ATX Mid Tower Case ($26.99 @ Newegg)
    Power Supply: EVGA 500W 80+ Bronze Certified ATX Power Supply ($42.30 @ Newegg)
    Operating System: Microsoft Windows 10 Home OEM (64-bit) ($97.89 @ OutletPC)
    Total: $751.35
    Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available
    Generated by PCPartPicker 2015-10-19 18:59 EDT-0400
    Reply
  • BehnReady - Tuesday, October 20, 2015 - link

    It is not legal to use OEM licenses for personal use, so the build price in this article is misleading.
    http://www.microsoft.com/OEM/en/licensing/sblicens...
    Reply
  • DLimmer - Thursday, October 22, 2015 - link

    First, in response to OEM: these systems are not for the builder's own use (not that the builders are offering tech support, though). Secondly, for $10 more, a full version can be had: www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16832588506 so the totals are still within the 3% limit of $800.

    Secondly, why is everyone choosing the GTX 960... even at upwards of $200? Is it only for newer tech or is it for lower power consumption? Because it can't be for pure value (performance/dollar). According to a notable site with monthly "Best GPU for the Money" articles...
    "The 380 [is] ahead of Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 960 in just about every one of our benchmarks at 1920x1080 and 2560x1440. Here’s the thing, though—in some games, you might get away with playable frame rates on QHD displays. We’re still saying these boards are better for 1080p though, particularly if you insist on cranking up the detail settings like we do.

    The GeForce is a more efficient card, and is only rated for 120W to the Radeon’s 190W. But at the same $190 street price, AMD does play value to its benefit more effectively, scoring our recommendation this month."

    BTW, great job getting the price close to $750. Almost have room for a SSD in there.
    Reply

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