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  • Samus - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    since when did Anandtech start recommending Biostar and MSI motherboards? I've always ranked them somewhere at the bottom of the pile with ECS, Foxconn, Jetway and the other crap thats often near-free with a CPU purchase from Microcenter, Fry's, etc. They're all notorious for using low-grade capacitors, thinner PCB's, poor mosfet designs and overall poor layouts.

    Quality boards from Asus/Asrock, Gigabyte, even Intel, can be had for within a margin of negligibility. Just my .02 (although worth much more)
  • Impulses - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    Really? Traditionally I'd put MSI about on par with Gigabyte... Every board I'd bought over the last 15 years has been an ASUS (except for one Abit back in 2000, RIP), until my current mobo, went with MSI because it just seemed like the better value near $150. Reply
  • Stas - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    Agreed. I, personally, always preferred brands in this order: Gigabyte, MSI, Biostar (high end models), ASUS Reply
  • StevoLincolnite - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    MSI's higher-end motherboards are some of the best, same with their graphics cards.

    They're certainly not throwing out crap like they did during the Socket 478 and Socket 462 or even Socket 370 days that's for sure, horrible horrible motherboards back then.
  • hsew - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    I'm on board with gigabyte being my first choice. I'm especially fond of their solution to today's limited USB power spec. The software-based charging solutions from the other manufacturers just can't compete, especially when they are limited to Apple products. :( Reply
  • JPForums - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - link

    For me, brand preference depends on whether I'm making an AMD build or an Intel build. It also depends on whether I'm looking at higher end or mainstream boards. I tend to avoid budget boards, because it seems like no manufacturer can consistently make reliable budget boards.

    For high end Intel boards, I look to Asus, Gigabyte, and MSI. They sometimes trade off top spot, but Asus's ROG and Sabertooth boards have worked out really well for me. While MSI used to be junk, they've worked their way up to be nearly the equal of Gigabyte at the high end. Both Gigabyte and MSI have boards I've found both impressive and reliable.

    For mainstream Intel boards, I look at to high end ASRock boards first, (if budget allows), then I look at Gigabyte and Asus in that order. A high end ASRock board can sometimes be priced somewhat comparably to mainstream Asus and Gigabyte boards. I've had better luck with ASRock's more recent high end boards than any mainstream board. When budget doesn't allow for high end, I've had better luck with Gigabyte's mainstream boards than comparable Asus models.

    For high end AMD boards, I look to Asus and MSI. Gigabyte, in my experience, has some quality control issues to work out on the AMD side. MSI's highend offering slots in just below the ROG series, but could be considered better than the Sabertooth series depending on target audience.

    For mainstream AMD boards, I again look to ASRock's highend first. I find MSI and Asus to be comparable here. While ASRock hasn't impressed me as much on the AMD side as the Intel side, their high end boards are still better than mainstream boards given Gigabytes quality control issues on their AMD lines.

    I've gotten nothing but crap from Soyo, EPoX, ECS, Biostar, Jetway, and Foxconn. I'm surprised to see a number of people here recommending Biostar. It may be time to reevaluate them. DFI was good in the day (if harder to setup optimally), but I haven't bought them since Socket 754/939. ABIT was great in their time, RIP. EVGA was reliable, but not the best performing. Seemed like they had some hiccups to work through. Intel is too limiting last I checked. Zotac seems work well for mini-ITX systems. That sums up my experience (I'm into triple digits for number of builds).
  • Samus - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - link

    I agree with pretty much everything you've said.

    Especially Biostar. Unlike MSI, they have remained crap for the last two decades. Poor BIOS support, generally low quality components (unless high end) and the feel and layout is always bad.

    ASUS/ASRock tend to be very consistant with their layouts, leaning toward the conservative and less radical side. Both companies have excellent support. I remember working DIRECTLY with an engineer with my aging P6T on a BIOS problem, and the fix (a SLI bug) later found its way into a BIOS update.

    Intel is Intel. Although the boards are made by Foxconn, they're generally solid well supported, just a little boring when building a custom system.

    Gigabyte has had their issues, especially with their "server" boards, but they have always been reliable for me in the end. I had one finally fail after 7 years awhile back, an old Athlon 754 board with a VIA chipset. The board was actually in a server running Windows SBS 2003. It finally started giving trouble booting up (you'd have to play with cycling the power to get a POST) but it never completely failed, was just retired because it was 'on its way out.'

    Soyo is a terrible company all the way around. I've seen nothing but consistant LCD, PSU and motherboard failures from them, almost always from low quality transformers or power components. Their support is awful. 2-3 days for email replies and nobody EVER picks up their phone.

    EPoX is interestingly terrible because they aquired a bunch of Gigabyte engineers many years ago. It didn't help them produce any better product, though.

    ECS/Jetway/Foxconn are all the same to me. No matter how high-end the board might be priced, the support is terrible and their is always ONE MAJOR THING wrong with their board, usually something unbelievably thoughtless, like the position of the SATA ports or even the CMOS battery standing up and getting in the way or a card. Just when you thought you've seen it all, these big three can always screw up in an entirely new way. Good luck with any troubleshooting or BIOS support after the product has been on the market for more than 6 months, guaranteeing no future CPU support or long-term bug fixes.

    I never really liked ASUS because they are overpriced (usually the most expensive) and their website has been terrible forever (at least driver mirrors have improved) but they make very solid, reliable, well-supported products. I love my Xonar soundcard as well.
  • SciFiRules - Sunday, October 21, 2012 - link

    I agree with for the most part but I would say for current products I would tier as follows
    1 ASRock, best price product in general in my opinion
    Asus, pricey and historically bad support issues and website
    Gigabyte, recently more issues with early revision boards
    Intel, great corporate stuff if the price is right
    2 MSI, early revision issue, retarded support, still wary of them
    Biostar, I had more than a dozen fail (m7nc) at about 3 yrs old but less than 15% failure before that. I had like 4 calls in a week about dead computers with this paticular build , I felt like Dell Support.
    3 Foxconn, Elitegroup,aka ECS, PCchips, GQ, ect and FIC i only use them for replacements on older products when I cant locate better
    I loved the DFI Lanparty Ultra D and built many systems with these - I even have one working as a Loaner still. As for Soyo I think they came close to a good product with the k7 dragon line but that the best I can say about them. Abit had some good boards but I had little experience with them really. I never saw a tier 3 board I would have used or sold in a new computer a second time. I have had decent luck using tier 3 boards for replacing failing boards when the chipsets are very mature and they have high revision numbers in general though. The thinner layer pcb and lower quality limits the life expectancy but generally its borrowed time anyway. And thank god for Dell, Emachine...... for using crap power supply's which has kept me in food for years.
  • eBob - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    Most of my builds have been with Asus mobos. I had a few bad experiences with MSI mobos and one of their DVD drives a few years ago which soured me on the brand. I did build a system for a friend using a Jetway mobo back in 2006. He just wanted something cheap, cheap, cheap for a second computer. He still uses it. Reply
  • Pessimism - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    I agree with your brand rankings with the exception of AsRock, which is Asus' pile-of-junk division. However, I look at purchasing in a different light: I'd rather a $60 motherboard that will last me five years before its capacitors explode, than a $150-250 motherboard that might last 7 or more. In either case, after 5 years both are so laughably obsolete that you are better off replacing them anyway. Going with the cheaper board nets you $100-200 for the next tier up in CPU, which more than makes up for the paltry 1-5% performance delta between the el-cheapo motherboard and the best of the super-bling-o-matic 35 USB port monsters. Reply
  • cknobman - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    AsRock junk?????

    I have built several system with BioStar motherboards and several with AsRock.

    I would rank AsRock as a great upper middle tier motherboard and BioStar as a great cheapo motherboard (just above ECS).

    BioStar motherboards wont overclock nearly as well as AsRock and their BIOS/UFI interfaces suck.
  • StevoLincolnite - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    Asrock are Fantastic for budget motherboards, even the higher end gear has picked up over the past few years and provide great value.

    Still got an Asrock A780GMH motherboard in the old farts machine that's been kicking fine for the last several years with a Radeon 3200 IGP overclocked to 1.2ghz, it did have an Athlon X2 7750 but dropped in my Phenom 2 x6 1090T when I upgraded to a Core i7 3930K, best $50 motherboard ever.
  • redchar - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    Asrock is neither a division of asus nor a pile of junk, being on par with asus and gigabyte, but for a lower price than asus. due to the price of good asus boards it often is silly to buy one over gigabyte and asrock competition. Reply
  • Pessimism - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link


    ASRock, a spinoff of ASUS, is owned by Pegatron. Pegatron, is one of three divisions of the company we know as "Asus", which handles motherboard and OEM manufacturing. Ergo, ASRock, is a division of Asus.
    "ASRock was originally spun off from Asus in 2002 in order to compete with companies like Foxconn for the commodity OEM market."

    "It was founded in 2002 and is currently owned by Pegatron Corporation"
    In January 2007, Asus started restructuring its operations.[10] The company split into three distinct operational units: Asus, Pegatron and the Unihan Corporation.[11] The Asus brand was applied solely to first-party branded computers. Pegatron handled OEM manufacturing of motherboards and components, and the Unihan Corporation focused on non-PC manufacturing such as cases and molding

    As far as them being junk or not junk, you are entitled to your opinion.
  • C'DaleRider - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    Guess you didn't bother to read further on that Wiki page about Pegatron:

    In January 2010, Pegatron's then parent company Asustek announced a plan to spin off and to transfer its long term equity investment in Pegatron to its wholly owned subsidiary, Pegatron International Investment Co., Ltd. On June 10, 2010, Pegatron merged with Pegatron International, and Pegatron has since been the surviving spin off independent company.

    Note the words "independent", "spin off", and "transfer its equity", all of which denote Pegatron as an independent company that was spun off from Asustek a few years ago.

    AsRock, a spin off company of Asustek, is an independent company. Owned by Pegatron notwithstanding, AsRock acts like and is an independent company separate from Asustek, and is listed as a separate company on Taiwan's stock exchange.

    True, AsRock was once a unit of Asustek, but has not been for years. But, interestingly, AsRock shares much of its development with Asustek, easily seen in AsRock's motherboard EUFI BIOS setup, which is almost identical to Asustek's EUFI BIOS setup.
  • RamarC - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    asrock isn't junk but it started out as ASUS' lower-end/budget product line... much like Cadillac and Chevy.

    from wp: ASRock was originally spun off from Asus in 2002 in order to compete with companies like Foxconn for the commodity OEM market.

    in the past few years, ASRock expanded from the budget space and started aiming higher with more features and robustness. now they really are comparable to MSI and can (almost) trade blows with ASUS and GB.
  • RamarC - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    sorry,,, i posted before i saw the other reply whose points i basically parotted. 'nuff said. Reply
  • RussianSensation - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    Asrock is a stand-alone company and have been making very good motherboards for years now. Time to snap out of the early 2000s. Reply
  • Stuka87 - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    I disagree completely. I have had extremely good experiences with MSI products going back 12 years now. To say MSi is low end, or to even compare them to Jetway is laughable. I would rank MSI's video cards to be above that of ASUS, and the motherboards to be just as good.

    My current MSI board has a great power distribution setup and has no issues powering my very power hungry CPU. And all the cap are of decent quality (They are not all Japanese, but only super high end Mobo's are).

    I think you need to get experience with more brands before you start talking about them.
  • bitoolean - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - link

    I wouldn't recommend buying Biostar or MSI either, because of my little but disappointing experience with them.
    A friend bought a cheap BioStar only to learn it doesn't have any audio internal connectors, which means he has to buy an audio board to get any sound from his TV-card... So now he can't use the TV-card because the company decided to make too many budget cuts.
    I've had problems with MSI's website at another buddy - I couldn't find his board (it's only 5 years old) listed at all to get the drivers for it - I only could download the drivers for a very similar motherboard on their website (I think I finally went for the chipset manufacturer's website). At another time, at another buddy, their site didn't even work at all in any browser, and it's not very well organised either anyway.
    I had an ASUS motherboard for a few years. It was very stable, although in the past I've seen people say they got hot with time and some had some problems.
    Gigabyte motherboards have attractive features indeed (ultra-durable capacitors for example), but while working at a PC store/workshop, one of the new motherboards we received from them (which was to be included in a build we would sell) wouldn't power on, and I don't think it had been tampered with or improperly transported.
    I've heard that Asrock use components that ASUS wouldn't as well, but I'm impressed by their motherboards' features and their price tags, and I haven't heard anyone having problems with them in time on forums. Their website rocks too...
    I believe that if a company doesn't invest in their website, they don't care about how they look, and they don't care about their clients, so I think that's an important aspect to criticize if you want criteria. Appearance says a lot. And ECS has a terrible website.
    So I wouldn't buy any Asrock, ASUS or Gigabyte motherboard confidently, but they may be the best choices in my opinion (and also many other forum users' using them).
  • bitoolean - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - link

    Oh, and I worked at a Foxconn factory recently, and I can't say they are very concerned with quality but neither do they ignore it. Reply
  • Impulses - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    Do we really expect either of those to shake up these systems by the time your next guide is up? I'd imagine they'd be more relevant to lower end systems that actually depend on the iGPU... Or laptops. Reply
  • DanNeely - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    Trinity is available for OEMs now; but is still MIA for building your own system. I suspect it will be only meaningful at the budget gaming level since the 7850 has nearly three times as many cores as the A10.

    Haswell is expected in 2013Q2; from there figure a few months to shake down across all pricepoints so it'll probably be similar to IVB in this one.
  • bradcollins - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    Why suggest an M4 at $110, an 830 at $100 and an Intel 330 at $103 when they are all in the 120/128gb class?

    Couldn't a single SSD be settled on in the 120/128gb class?
  • ATC9001 - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    I agree, and why not the Vertex 4 which appears to be the fastest and cheapest at 99 bucks right now at newegg? Reply
  • adadad - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    Because every sane person will know to stay away from ocz unless his time isn't valuable. Reply
  • dishayu - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    I would agree with you but i am convinced that Vertex 4 is different as it uses a Marvell conroller and they've had a pretty solid reputataion as far as reliability goes. So, although i wouldn't be too skeptical to recommend a Vertex 4 drive. I personally will still be conflicted if i want to buy one or not. Reply
  • piroroadkill - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    I'd say controller regardless, they've had some dodgy practices in the past, and with the Samsung 830 at competitive prices, I find it impossible to recommend anything else. Reply
  • redchar - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    regardless of controller or firmware what you should give ocz is time. time to prove to you that their non-sandforce drives aren't as unreliable as the rest. Reply
  • dgingeri - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    After owning 7 OCZ SSDs going back to my 60GB Apex, and having 3 (two Vertex 4s and an Agility 4) in my current main system right now, and all of them still functional, I find your characterization of OCZ off base. They've been great to me. Even when my dual Vertex 2s quit responding because Windows 7's default sleep settings (what idiot in MS decided everyone wants their system to go to sleep?) they provided immediate support and helped me get them back up and running in a few hours, then directed me to the firmware update that would prevent it from happening again. OCZ drives have been the greatest in both performance and reliability in my experience. Reply
  • KAlmquist - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - link

    Whether the Vertex 4 is faster than the Samsung 830 depends on the workload. For the record, the <a href=" is faster</a> on both the heavy and light workload versions of Anandtech storage bench. For most users, either one will be fast enough that it won't be a major performance bottleneck, so choosing between them comes down to price and reliability. Reply
  • Kristian Vättö - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    I agree. The m4 is even slower than Samsung 830 and its track record is not as solid either (quite a few issues when it was launched and then the 5000-hour bug). It's definitely one of my recommendations but only if it's cheaper than other good SSDs (Samsung 830, Plextor and Intel SSDs).

    Like I've said in all of our recent SSD reviews, there isn't one SSD that is the one to buy. Prices fluctuate constantly and personally I would wait a few days and try to catch a hot sale. Plenty of good 128GB SSDs (i.e. the ones I mentioned above) go for $80-90 when on sale.
  • Lunyone - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    Why don't you just use the same:
    * Case
    * PSU
    * RAM <---unless your OC'ing a lot.
    * DVD Burner

    Just vary by budget:
    * Mobo
    * CPU
    * GPU

    Every case has personal preferences in it, so if you stick with 1 case and just suggest others then everyone can pick what they like (just point out options of each case that the others might not have). I personally look for cases w/front USB 3.0 support (usually falls within the $50-80 price range), so that is all that I recommend anymore, unless on a strict budget.
  • Streetwind - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    The reason is likely that they want to highlight equivalent alternatives.

    You are quite right - case, PSU, RAM, SSD and optical drive are pretty much interchangable between all the builds. I'd even argue that mainboards could be added to that list, unless you're going for absolute budget like that B75 board (and here in Europe, the prices are different and the savings over Z77 are almost never worth the loss of features). However, you're doing nobody a favor by publishing a guide that has only one option for each of those.

    What if the one recommended case doesn't appeal to the buyer? He'll run off and buy something that's pure junk, based on its looks alone, because he wasn't offered alternatives.

    What if the recommended RAM isn't available at the store he's shopping?

    What if the customer's friend had an unlucky run-in with a bad SSD of the type that's recommended, which colors the customer's preferences?

    It's basically good practice for any comprehensive guide to offer alternatives. In fact, I'm surprised they didn't vary the PSU selection more.
  • adadad - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    well written...! Reply
  • Lunyone - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    I agree, like I stated that they could put alternate cases for comparison or whatever. I know that parts aren't always available in all areas, so trying to entertain all options can be quite daunting. I like that they mentioned that the RAM should be 1333 mHz and at 1.5v (stock voltage). This is always a good idea for mobo compatibility.
    I was just trying to simplify the builds by suggesting an easy format (not that it would be the best option, but could be used to see the benefits of the upgrades).
  • nathanddrews - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    "Why don't you just use the same..."

    Then someone in the comments would complain that they didn't show enough alternatives or that AT was biased for/against Brand X. This way, any reader can mix and match the multiple recommended components to arrive at a combination he finds appealing. No reason to limit the article for a few dumb twats.
  • Marburg U - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    Removing the possibility to overclock law\mid-range CPUs was an infamous trick pulled out by Intel, and i will remember it forever. Reply
  • Streetwind - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    Midrange builds are easily my favorite, because it is in this area that you get the single best price/performance points. Buy something better, and price increases far quicker than performance; buy something cheaper, and prices decrease far slower than performance does.

    What also amuses me in these articles is the surprising difference between the US and EU markets. Often at first glance, I don't understand some of the choices made, believing I have something far better at almost the same price; then when I visit Newegg, I realize that the same part that costs only 20%-30% more in Europe is at a 100% or more markup in the US. Conversely, something I would never choose in Europe because of its bad price/performance ratio happens to be surprisingly affordable overseas. And let's not mention specialty parts that are only available in one region but not the other. The bottomline is: as globalized as our world (and especially the IT world) is, you really should be looking at your local markets only when determining what to buy.

    For reference, here is one example of what passes for a well-crafted upper midrange system in Europe:
    1x ASUS P8Z77-M mainboard, €93
    1x Intel Core i5-3470 CPU (OC'd to 4.0 GHz), €173
    1x Thermalright True Spirit 120 cooler, €24
    1x G.Skill Sniper RAM kit 2x4GB, 1600 9-9-9-24 @ 1.25V, 41€
    1x Optical drive to taste, €20-€30
    1x ASUS GTX660 Ti / Radeon 7950 DirectCU II to taste, €285
    1x Crucial m4 SSD 512GB, €330-€350
    1x Be Quiet! Straight Power E9 PSU, €58
    1x BitFenix Shinobi (windowless) case, €50
    1x Enermax T.B.Silence 120mm fan, 5€
    2x Enermax T.B.Silence 140mm fan, 16€
    1x 3pin fan Y-splitter cable, €2
    Totals roughly €1100-€1130

    This gives you ASUS' fantastic UEFI and fan control software, takes advantage of the 4 "free" speed bins of the partially unlocked CPU, has silent cooling on all components (as silent as a 2-plug video card gets, anyway), and offers a hilarious half-a-terabyte of high quality solid state storage. That can be downgraded to 256GB while saving ca. €155, but the big m4 is currently sitting at a fantastic price point, especially when you can catch one of the €330 offers (that's less than 65cent/GB). The mainboard is one of the least power-hungry ones on the market, and so is the RAM. The audiophile gamer might want to add a sound card, but well, the Anandtech builds don't have one either ;)
  • Streetwind - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    Oh, and the PSU is rated 80PLUS Gold too, for what it's worth. WTB edit button...! Reply
  • Stas - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    and you get better efficiency with 220V, bastards XD Reply
  • cserwin - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    Yes for the fan upgrades!

    Don't forget to include the cost of Windows 7. Of course, if you're building for Linux then the rules are a bit different.

    A lot of review sites exclude the OS cost and then publish Windows benchmark after Windows benchmark. Props to Zach for doing it right.

    Before the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, I felt differently. Screw Microsoft in 2001, right? But if Bill Gates can singlehandedly do more than all the governments on the planet combined to improve world health, then I figure I can pay the man for his software.
  • Streetwind - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    Ouch, you're right! I forgot the OS license. I just transcribed one of the various shopping lists I always maintain (it's a hobby), and I didn't put Windows on the list because I still own an unused license. However, others might not be so lucky.

    That said, I'll be interested in looking at licenses again later this year, because Microsoft seems to be changing a few things in their pricing structure with the advent of WIndows 8... and strangely enough, these changes seem to lean toward cheaper software.
  • atotroadkill - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    Did not realize I spent $1000 on a similar gaming rig build...I just buy parts here and there and build my PC over a course of 3 months... Reply
  • Wardrop - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    I would have preferred it if Micro ATX cases were recommended wherever Micro ATX motherboards were. For system that will rarely see space consuming things like water cooling kits or banks of hard-drives, it seems a shame to put all these otherwise thoughtfully selected components into such caviness, inelegant cases. Would have been nice to wrap all this gear up in a nice tighter fitting enclosure - performance, efficiency and value in a small package is always an attractive idea. Reply
  • Streetwind - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    The problem is that the selection of good and affordable µATX cases is small. The market in that sector is pretty much divided between three segments:

    1.) Chopped down ATX towers, where a case designed for larger boards is simply made a little shorter, often without paying attention to the needs of µATX users
    2.) Premium HTPC cases meant to bring the look of brushed aluminum and the aesthetics of hifi modules into the living room, often at the expense of all usability and price
    3.) The plastic bomber parade, which tries to do what category 2 does using only $10 in materials and an untrained factory worker in China.

    There are probably less than half a dozen µATX cases on the market today that I would recommend directly, and they are all pretty much either priced at least twice as high as the suggestions in this guides, or are special designs like the Silverstone FT03 (or both, actually, as the example proves) that are not for everyone.

    The sad truth is, if you are looking at identical quality and utility, you are paying noticably more if you choose µATX over ATX, despite getting something smaller and the fact that putting a µATX board in an ATX case has zero downsides. So these cases remain a conscious choice an informed user must make, and not something you can blanket-recommend to the public.
  • TegiriNenashi - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    Why should anybody care what "you recommend"? Your arguments are plain silly: why should front cover be anything but plastic, what do you know about chinese workforce, and why do you think rolling sheets of metal should require talent and skills? As for mATX, as everything scaled down these days, I felt compelled to throw away that behemoth tower, get cheap Rosewill mAtx case, and hang mount it under the table. The space saving and ergonomics are much better now. Reply
  • Streetwind - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - link

    Why so angry? Reply
  • antef - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    I went micro ATX for my recent mid range build for the reasons you mentioned...I only have one video card and one SSD/one HDD, no optical drive, and the size of ATX felt silly. But as Streetwind mentioned, there are less options in this category. I wanted to go cheap but most did not provide space for long video cards AND 120mm fans, it was either one or the other. I ended up getting the Silverstone PS07 and it's a very nice case but I would've preferred half the price. Reply
  • TegiriNenashi - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    This sounds like a perfect case for case manufacturers to reevaluate their goals. Who needs 2 DVD slots nowadays? More than one 3.5" drive, seriously? No slots for 2.5 storage? Changing requirements like this (that is one 2.5 and one 3.5 drive only) would free enough space for couple 14 cm front panel fans, let alone 12 cm. Reply
  • Grok42 - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    Wow, fantastic sub-thread. While I think TegiriNenashi didn't strike a very good tone in his first post, he still had some good points and then hit it out of the park with his 2nd post. It is absolutely ludicrous, possibly even redonkulous, that *NO* manufacture for *ANY* price offers a mATX or mITX case that fits a 9" video card without also having external 5.25" and 3.5" external bays. These front bays won't be used by many and will soon be used by no one. They completely mess up the airflow of the case and they take up room better used for internal 2.5" or 3.5" drives. Heck, a small disco ball would be more useful than a 5.25" optical drive that only holds 4GB of data. I have a USB thumb drive the size of my pinky nail that holds 32GB and costs less than a DVD drive. Reply
  • pattycake0147 - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    Why was this guide not delayed until the impending release of GK106? Seems to me that those cards would fit in the guide perfectly. Reply
  • MxxCon - Saturday, September 15, 2012 - link

    Or at least updated post-release.. :(
    It seems like Nvidia 660 significantly changed the landscape..
  • ExarKun333 - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    Switch to a 7970 and keep both the SSD and HDD options. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    We mention the 7970GE as the alternative to the GTX 680 (and the stock 7970 is basically covered there). Personally, though, I'd be more inclined to go with the GTX 680 unless I was specifically running some GPGPU stuff that worked better on the 7970. There are just enough things I prefer with NVIDIA right now that I feel at the top-end that's the way to go.

    Anyway, it comes down to $480 for the recommended GTX 680 (with a free copy of Borderlands 2), $430 for the HD 7970GE, or $430 with a $20 MIR for a stock HD 7970. The 680 uses around 25W less power under load compared to the stock 7970, or 65W less than the 7970GE. More importantly in my book, the GTX 680 generates 5dB less noise than the stock 7970 and 10dB less than the 7970GE. Even 5dB is a big difference; 10dB is crazy.
  • DanNeely - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    I'm surprised the upper mid range build didn't come with one of them; the extra headroom from not worrying about what to install on the SSD as often is a huge boost as games get bigger. Reply
  • just4U - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    Hi Zack,

    With His RadeonHD 7870GHZ ED. IceQ sitting at 220 and 199 after rebate It's somewhat pointless to go with a 7850. I picked up one of those this weekend and it's very comparable to a GTX580.
  • Patflute - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    Why didn't you wait a couple days for the 660 non-Ti Reply
  • Quizzical - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    An Antec Neo Eco 400C is a decent enough power supply for a low budget, low power computer. But you're going to run a Radeon HD 7950 (200 W TDP by itself) and a Core i5-3570K off of it? That strikes me as unduly risky. And then you give a stronger power supply to the workstation that won't need to deliver half as much power because it's running integrated graphics? Reply
  • casteve - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    For everything but the 200W TDP gpu build and if you really want to spend this little on a PSU, I'd go with the Seasonic G 360W. $60 and 80+ Gold. Reply
  • Streetwind - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    You'd be surprised how far a 400W PSU can take you.

    Checking Anandtech Bench, the 7950 is listed with a total difference of 251W between long idle (= video card at 0W) and running Metro 2033.

    Mind you, that 251W is not only the Radeon, but the entire system, which also includes a 130W TDP Intel Core i7-3960X @ 4.3GHz with 16 GB of RAM, and the mainboard and auxillary components also all consume some power too. This just shows once again that TDP has very little meaning when trying to determine power needs, except for tendencies. A different site tested CPUs under full Prime95 load and found that a Core i7-3960X will eat ca. 150W, just over twice as much power as an i5-3570k. So even if Metro 2033 is a GPU limited test, you can probably assume that you'll need about 40W-50W less running it with the Ivy Bridge CPU. So let's say 210W over idle.

    Now, you want a power supply that has a few reserves, so that when the caps age and the maximum output drops a little over the years, you will not fry it. Having a 50W buffer on a 400W power supply is a good number unless you plan to keep it for more than 5 years.

    So to touch your self-imposed 350W power draw limit with a system that runs at an estimated 210W over idle in a very demanding game, your system would have to idle at 140W.

    Not even my six year old 65nm Conroe, 35% overclocked at 1.3V and with a video card that doesn't save power very well in idle, reaches 140W when sitting on the Windows desktop.

    Ivy Bridge systems with AMD cards idle around 60W nowadays. So the 400W PSU has more than enough headroom to supply up to 290W additional power under load without touching the 50W safety buffer... and even a Radeon 7950 isn't THAT hungry.
  • Egg - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    Um... I thought that the 7950 had 2 PCIe 6 pin connectors... or maybe a 6 and an 8?
    That PSU only has 1.
  • Streetwind - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - link

    That, of course, would be a much better argument why the PSU choice is less than optimal ;) There are 400W units with 8/6pin + 6pin configurations, though.

    Admittedly, I wouldn't recommend fully utilizing those when running anything but a LGA1155 platform. Going 8+6 on a possibly overclocked LGA2011 platform, or those power-hungry bulldozers, will likely kill a PSU of this size. It's better to go 500W for that.
  • Egg - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - link

    Antec HCG-400 M is one. But rather expensive.

    I did forget Molex to 6 pins exist, though.
  • rscoot - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    What's the point in recommending a GTX 680 when the 670 offers 95% of the performance for ~80% of the price? Both of them are overkill for 1440p gaming in the vast majority of cases and that $100 you save could be spent on a power supply that isn't as dubious as the Antec recommended. Reply
  • The0ne - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - link

    I'm baffled by this as well. For the total cost of the mid range, the 670 is the perfect fit not the 680. And even for me it's to run both my 30" LCDs. As Rscoot said already, for most with much lower resolutions it's overkill.

  • Dribble - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    You either have just a HDD, or a HDD and an SSD. No one building a modern pc for anything other then simple tasks, which gaming/workstations are not, is going to be happy with 120GB of HDD space. Reply
  • DanNeely - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    If you've got a NAS to store your media going SSD only on your main computer's doable; certainly easier with 256GB than 128 though. Reply
  • antef - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    I would argue that "just a HDD" is not an option for a mid-range system, they are just so slow and SSDs are so cheap now. It's either both or just SSD. Reply
  • just4U - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    YES & NO..

    If we are talking about those that frequent these sites then fine.. but your average gamer while liking speed isn't necessarily adept at managing space on a smaller SSD. That can be a horrid experience for those that have little to no Hard Drive management skills. Most have been spoiled rotten by Large Capacity Hard Discs.
  • Grok42 - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    I agree, managing space across 2 drives on a Windows system is a complete pain. One day MS will release an OS that roots all the drives from a root path like Linux/OSX and either mounts drives as folders or just sees all the storage as one big pool of space like ZFS can. Until then you need to pick a system drive that will hold all the installed applications you intend to ever use.

    That said, I also think HDDs are pretty much useless to talk about for system builds these days. All the builds I read about use a small 60GB-128GB system SSD and then throw a larger HDD as a 2nd drive for almost a $100 additional cost. I think 99% of builds would be better served by going with a 250GB SSD for $30-$60 more and calling it a day. You should have to manage the space for applications. If you have a large video/music/photo collection well, that is what external drives or NAS systems are for.
  • antef - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - link

    I don't find the management all that difficult. Everything gets installed on the SSD, except for games which get installed on the hard drive. All personal documents/music/pictures are on the hard drive. That's it. Reply
  • juhatus - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - link

    Also you can use mklink /j in eleveted command prompt to keep some games on ssd. works great for example steam.. Reply
  • Aikouka - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    I don't recall it being noted in the article, but SSDs seem to go on sale almost every other week. For example, NewEgg has the Samsung 830 128GB ($90), Vertex 4 128GB ($90), Sandisk Extreme 120GB ($80), Agility 4 256GB ($145), and Intel 330 240GB ($160) (note: latter two are after mail-in rebate).

    These deals can be *great* for savings. After rebate, you can get an Intel SSD that has twice the capacity compared to the one that was brought up in the article for only ~$55, which is only about a 50% increase in price for a 100% increase in capacity. That's a fantastic value! =)
  • demonbug - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    That's a good point, SSD choice might just depend on what's on sale at the time - there are quite a few drives that seem to be more or less comparable with prices that vary 20% or more week to week. That makes it hard to recommend one based on price/performance as this measure is so unpredictable. I just picked up a 128GB M4 from Amazon for $80 a couple days ago (I think it was a one-day sale; almost went with the 256GB for $164, but that exceeds my spur-of-the-moment purchase threshold); it might not be quite as fast as some of the newest contenders, but at that price the choice was pretty clear. Reply
  • exostrife - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    I'm a bit baffled how none of these use an AMD setup. Reply
  • rscoot - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    Because if you're buying AMD for anything other than a few niche situations in the mid range CPU wise you are wasting your money. This is coming from someone who was almost exclusively an AMD consumer from 2001-2006. Their CPUs are just not competitive in this arena right now. Reply
  • just4U - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    I build computers based on Intel and Amd .. 30-40 a year infact with a ton of hands on experience. Even in my home right now I have a older PhenomII 920 setup along with my 2700K build. Both are fine for anything you throw at them game wise.. as are the majority of CPUs on the market today.

    For your average gamer/user (whatever) if you put up two identical systems (not crippled either..) one based on ivy bridge the other based on Amd's FX.. their not going to notice a whole helluva lot of difference. Their games will run fast on both setups.. as will their other programs/apps. Benchmarks may tell a different tale but don't be fooled... Amd does have a decent cpu. It's just not as good as Intels is all and only experienced users or those using certain programs will ever know the difference.
  • just4U - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    As a for instance.. I've found that for the most part AMD's FX line is fairly comparable to the i7 920 in alot of things. While that cpu is older now it's no slouch.. hell I doubt the majority of people owning computers out there even have that much cpu power and are still sitting on older Athlons and Core2s... Even there though.. the C2D set a new standard and we've been moving up in baby steps since then. If you have a E8400 or better with 8G of ram (overkill) and atleast a 7750/550TI (or older equivelents..) you've got a competent setup. Throw in a ssd .. even better.. as that's the single most notable upgrade most will likely make or even notice. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    The issue is that AMD's chips are slower and use more power, which is a double whammy. If you get an Intel CPU, you could potentially pay for the cost difference over the life of the PC just in power savings At idle, Intel i7-3770K (their highest power part) is 15-25W less than the FX series and older Phenom X4 chips.

    Under load, the difference is anywhere from 50W to 100W. So less performance while drawing more power and you save about $130 at most compared to i5-3570K. At full load, you'd pay for the difference in under two years if running 24/7. At idle loads, it would be more like $17.50 per year in power savings, and far less if you power off at night.

    Even so, for my money I would rather have the faster system using less power rather than making do with older components. But that's why I'm an enthusiast and not an average user. Most of my extended family is still running Core 2 Duo/Quad or Athlon X2/X4 PCs while I'm running IVB laptops and Bloomfield desktops (with one IVB desktop).
  • just4U - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - link

    Nice post Jarred and overall I agree with it. Not sure on the math power draw wise.. but it does add up over time. Reply
  • rscoot - Thursday, September 13, 2012 - link

    None of this disproves what I've said in any way though. They're slower CPUs at the price point being considered and they use more power to deliver that performance. That is why they aren't competitive. Reply
  • antef - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    For the $1000 system is the GPU choice really that much of a toss-up? I'm having a hell of a time choosing between the 660 Ti and the 7950 myself. People in the forums seem to say the 7950 is faster but I'm not really seeing that from benches as this article suggests. However, the article also says the two are equal on power consumption and it seems that the 7950 actually consumes a fair bit more. Does the 7950 actually have better prospects over the next 2-3 years or can I go with the lower TDP of the 660 Ti? Reply
  • just4U - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    It's hard to say... /w 3G of ram and room to play with performance via driver updates I'd say the 7950 is the better buy. But that's a personal opinion. I like the 660TI to but feel it should be sitting in the mid 200 range price wise. For me it was a toss up between the 670 (clearly supirior) or the 7950 which was cheaper. But since the the 7870 recently tanked in prices (I picked up a "HIS" 7870 GHZ ED. for $220 CAD) I just had to have it. Lower power consumption and heat then the 580 (which is no slouch!) and comparable performance. Love that. Reply
  • just4U - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    As a side note. I've found that die-hard Nvidia fans (or ATi Fans) have a hard time going to the competitors GPU. They always look for faults and talk themselves into thinking it was a poor purchase. Other less biased see things as they are and jump back and forth all the time. Just depends on what suits their needs and price range. Reply
  • crazyboy1 - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - link

    seriously only 8GB of RAM? 16 GB RAM is not that expensive and would definitely help out in gaming! RAM is cheap these days getting 8GBX2 is not that much more expensive. if you wait for special deals on newegg, they get pretty cheap! Reply
  • Streetwind - Thursday, September 13, 2012 - link

    How can 16 GB RAM help in gaming, when a single game is usually only able to address up to 2 GB by itself? That's the limit any 32bit software can grab for itself at the same time, regardless of how much the OS offers. And before games come as native 64bit applications, a few more years will go down the road. You probably won't see it until at least 90%-95% of all Windows users run on 64bit. Right now it's more like 50%.

    Playing a game works perfectly fine without RAM bottlenecks on 4 GB RAM. However, using 8 GB has additional advantages, such as caching more data which prevents slow HDD accesses, and allows multiboxing (many EVE players run several clients at once) or smooth video recording/streaming.

    However, 16 GB? I don't see a use case, as far as gaming goes, right now.

    You are correct, however, in stating that RAM is extremely affordable right now.
  • tigerslicer - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - link

    Its funny, I came up with nearly identical CPU cooler and PSU recommendations just prior to this post. I published to me blog about an hour before your article. Great minds think alike? :P
  • jbaker8935 - Friday, September 21, 2012 - link

    i recently did a build with a coolermaster HAF 912 with and instant rebate & combo was less than the nzxt case . the coolermaster was much more enjoyable...

    it included an adapter for the samsung SSD. the nzxt does not... [mad now since my build is on hold until i can get one ]:

    i thought the overall drive mounting scheme using the slide in clips was better on the cooler master.
  • _complexmath_ - Friday, October 19, 2012 - link

    I picked up the ASRock Z77 Pro4-M board based on this buyer's guide and wasn't paying terribly close attention to the description on NewEgg when I got it. It turns out this is a Micro ATX board, and while it works just fine in a full ATX case, the board layout is pretty cramped. The HD Audio jack is directly underneath the only PCIE-3.0 slot on the board, for example, and putting a double width GPU in the PCIE-3.0 slot also covers the only PCIE-1.0 slot (the mini slot) on the board. Finally, a large aftermarket cooler overhangs one of the DIMM slots, so depending on the DIMMs purchased this slot may be unusable. In short, the board is great from a features perspective and I've managed to get everything plugged into it that I actually cared about using, but were I to do my build over I'd choose a full ATX board instead. I really don't think it's worth saving a few dollars to get this particular board when comparable full ATX boards are available. Reply
  • Tech-Curious - Thursday, November 01, 2012 - link

    I just stumbled over this article. I laugh because I just got finished ordering parts for a new build that's almost identical to the low-range build in the guide -- but I spent a couple of weeks doing research and/or looking for deals to get there.

    Wish I'd seen this sooner!

    Of course, the tech market is a fickle and cruel mistress: Just two days after I ordered an Intel 330 240GB SSD, I get an email from newegg advertising a massive sale on SSDs. :)

    Anyway, I've loved this site for a solid decade. Thanks, and keep up the great work.
  • LameKuma - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    Can't wait to see what the crew has in store for the Holiday Guides and what they recommend. :) Reply
  • mrw55 - Thursday, November 22, 2012 - link

    I found this post after searching for mid-range workstations and couldn't help but throw my 2 cents in,
    In a previous life; As the former Q.C. tech for the electronics dept. of a company in RTP, I can verify that every manufacturer has defective components/parts.
    One can generalize about quality and product intent but sooner or later, regardless of the company, someone is going to have a problem with company X,Y or Z.
    All this talk of good product/bad product means one thing to me. What happens after the sale.
    Even then it depends on who one talks to come problem time.
    Talking to a computer tech recently about motherboards, his company only uses ASUS products as they find ASUS has the best overall performance and support.
    Five minutes from now I'll talk to someone else and will be told "Oh god, not ASUS, their products suck" .
    Long story short, it all comes down to personal experience and everyone can back up what they say. Problem is, some people are better at statistics than others.
    Meaning, the fact that one can only present 1 or 2 example of failure, proves the quality of a product.
    Argue away, nothing will ever be settled.
  • Tech-Curious - Tuesday, December 04, 2012 - link

    Your general point is a good one; human beings aren't wired to track statistical trends accurately. We're prone to place too much emphasis on anecdotal experience.

    So as consumers, we shouldn't put too much stock in negative user reviews, but we also can't ignore reliability entirely. Sites like the following provide good info for prospective buyers of computer hardware, for example:

    Of particular interest on that site are the listings of specific parts with unusually high return rates. For instance, the OCZ Octane 128 GB SATA II has a reported return rate of 30.85%. It might be fair to defend the OCZ brand on the basis of its ~5% total return rate, but even the most ardent OCZ fanboy ought to avoid the Octane 128GB.

    By the same token, OCZ's 5.02% return rate on SSDs doesn't sound all that terrible in isolation, but it's still more than ten times higher than the reported return rate for Intel and Samsung SSDs. Of course, there's still a chance you'll end up with a dud if you order an Intel or a Samsung, but your odds are far better.
  • pbbob - Saturday, October 12, 2013 - link

    I always consult these system buyer's guides before building a new system and this Thanksgiving is my target completion date.

    Any idea when the 2013 version of this guide will come out?

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