Crucial’s ‘Ballistix Bantam’

The build from Jeremy takes a slightly different line to that from Tony. The best thing about Build-A-Rig is the differing styles of build philosophy and this is a prime example. Here the portability and GPU power is decreased as well as removing the overclockability. But in exchange there is a beefier i3 processor, double the solid state storage, a DVD drive and a larger power supply. It’s going to be an interesting comparison for sure. Jeremy's build also comes in at $20 or so cheaper than the SilverStone build, by virtue of adjustments in pricing and our rules about a 3% leeway based on how prices are adjusted.

Crucial's Ballistix Bantam
Component Selection Price as
Chosen
90-Day
Average
Processor (CPU) Intel Core i3-4170 (2C/4T, 3.7 GHz) $124.99 $124.82
Motherboard GIGABYTE GA-B85N Phoenix-WiFi $84.99 $84.99
Graphics Cards (GPU) EVGA GeForce GTX 950 $159.99 $159.99
Memory (DRAM) Crucial Ballistix Tactical Tracer
2x4GB DDR3-1600 C8
$47.99 $48.92
Storage (SSD) Crucial MX200 mSATA 250GB $94.99 $94.99
Storage (HDD) Seagate Barracuda 1TB 7200RPM $50.99 $49.81
Power Supply (PSU) Thermaltake TR2 600W $54.99 $55.05
Chassis Thermaltake Core V1 Extreme Cube $49.99 $49.99
CPU Cooling None - -
Operating System Microsoft Windows 8.1 64-bit OEM $99.99 $99.99
Extras LG USB 2.0 Portable DVDRW $24.99 $24.99
Total   $793.90 $793.54

Processor – Intel Core i3-4170 ($125)

For almost double the Pentium in the other build, Jeremy has equipped the Ballistix Bantam with a 3.7 GHz Core i3 processor, giving two cores and four threads. This is the most powerful 3MB cache edition of the i3 set, before it costs another $25 to the 4MB cache versions. While not overclockable, this 54W model should be sufficient for more multitasking in a compute laden scenario.

Motherboard – GIGABYTE B85N Phoenix-WIFI ($85)

The B85 line of motherboards is more oriented to the cheaper end of the spectrum and the business lines, although this orange motherboard from GIGABYTE sports 2x2 802.11ac WiFi, multiple video outputs, specialized USB audio ports and the usual host of storage options.

Graphics Cards – EVGA GeForce GTX 950 2GB ($160)

As mentioned at the start of this page, this build gets a lower range graphics card in the form of the GTX 950, but Jeremy has chosen one of EVGA’s overclocked models. EVGA has a cult-like following, priding itself in their returns policy and customer interaction through forums. The GTX 950 will have plenty of power for eSports titles and online gameplay, although for big studio releases the visual effects will need to be curtailed. For users who do not game, this will be perfectly sufficient for any GPU accelerated tasks that might be needed.

Memory – Crucial Ballistix Tactical Tracer 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3-1600 C8 ($48)

The Tracer modules from Crucial integrate some LEDs into the top band, allowing users to show off their system with the Thermaltake case also chosen in the build. Similar to the other build here we get that 8GB sweet spot for the $800 budget, although Jeremy has stretched it to the modules with a CAS Latency of 8. This might have some effect on memory sensitive workloads (think compression algorithms), or it might not be noticeable, but it is a welcome addition.

Storage – Crucial MX200 mSATA 250GB ($95)

Because Jeremy chose the B85 platform, unfortunately there are no M.2 slots here to use, but there is an mSATA. As a result, rather than choose a 2.5-inch SSD for the operating system drive, we get Crucial’s 250GB mSATA MX200 drive. These perform similarly to the bigger 2.5-inch models, which we reviewed earlier this year. With 250GB, this gives more room to install vital software for fast loading times, but is obviously chosen in favor of other beefier components.

Storage – Seagate Barracuda 3.5-inch 1TB 7200RPM HDD ($51)

Similarly to the other build, a 1TB drive is chosen to increase the total storage capacity. Here we have the Seagate Barracuda line which is often in the lower price ranges for their capacity. Typically these drives are good in a single or dual drive system and have been continually dropping in price over the past couple of years.

Power Supply – Thermaltake TR2 600W Power Supply ($55)

The TR2 from Thermaltake is a monster power supply for the system, rated at 600W with a dual rail design and a five year warranty. Interestingly Thermaltake hasn’t put this in as part of the 80PLUS power supply rating scheme, but the five year warranty covers any issues and as a unit it should fit in with the Thermaltake case selected.

Chassis – Thermaltake Core V1 Extreme Mini-ITX Cube ($50)

We first saw the Core V1 design at Computex, where the product manager gave us a good story about the road to a $50 mini-ITX case that was both small but could also be customized, shown off, provide good airflow and support water cooling. There are plenty of ventilation holes and the top of the chassis provides a transparent Perspex plate in order to look into the system.

CPU Cooling – None/Stock

In an interesting move, Jeremy went with keeping the stock cooler in this design. His reasoning is sound – this is a 54W power supply in a chassis with plenty of ventilation and this saves anywhere from $20-$40 to spend on other components. A number of users might point to something as simple as an EVO 212 instead of the DVD drive Jeremy has chosen, but that’s what is great about this contest: everyone will have different ideas.

Operating System – Microsoft Windows 8.1 64-bit OEM ($100)

Another twist is the choice of operating system. Jeremy chose Windows 8.1 under the guise of choice; users can either keep Windows 8.1 if they prefer it over Windows 10, or for the first few months decide to upgrade to the full license.

Extras – LG USB 2.0 Portable DVDRW ($25)

Perhaps because it might be needed to install the OS, Jeremy also went with a DVD rewriter in case a user might have some old software or films on DVD that they would like to use. As mentioned in the review, Jeremy himself has a large back-catalogue of software and games and so for him (or his son) having access to a DVD drive is part of the equation in a build.

Overall Build

Crucial's Ballistix Bantam
Component Selection Price as
Chosen
90-Day
Average
Processor (CPU) Intel Core i3-4170 (2C/4T, 3.7 GHz) $124.99 $124.82
Motherboard GIGABYTE GA-B85N Phoenix-WiFi $84.99 $84.99
Graphics Cards (GPU) EVGA GeForce GTX 950 $159.99 $159.99
Memory (DRAM) Crucial Ballistix Tactical Tracer 2x4GB
DDR3-1600 C8
$47.99 $48.92
Storage (SSD) Crucial MX200 mSATA 250GB $94.99 $94.99
Storage (HDD) Seagate Barracuda 1TB 7200RPM $50.99 $49.81
Power Supply (PSU) Thermaltake TR2 600W $54.99 $55.05
Chassis Thermaltake Core V1 Extreme Cube $49.99 $49.99
CPU Cooling None - -
Operating System Microsoft Windows 8.1 64-bit OEM $99.99 $99.99
Extras LG USB 2.0 Portable DVDRW $24.99 $24.99
Total   $793.90 $793.54

As with both builds, there are choices that I (as Ian, the writer) agree with and others that might be a bit questionable. Jeremy has certainly been a little esoteric from what I would have gone with, especially in the CPU cooling and OS department, but the storage size is sound and I like the fact that he’s gone for an i3 here. The GTX 950 has room to upgrade in the future, but the DRAM (when the LEDs are on) should shine directly though the case. The Ballistix Bantam build here is still portable as a cube, although that’s a segment that Tony from SilverStone clearly wanted to spend money on for the Mighty Milo.

Build-A-Rig R2: Interview with Jeremy Mortenson (Crucial Memory) Build-A-Rig R2: What Happens Next, How to Enter
POST A COMMENT

93 Comments

View All Comments

  • DanNeely - Wednesday, October 14, 2015 - link

    It's a lot easier to avoid pinching on specs if you have an extra $100 to play with by not buying an OS. Reply
  • jaydee - Wednesday, October 14, 2015 - link

    Without including OS, you're playing by different rules... Reply
  • gamer1000k - Thursday, October 15, 2015 - link

    I understand your point, but nowhere in the rules does it say that you have to spend $100 on the OS. There's plenty of ways to legally get Windows for free (especially if you're a student) and even failing that, there's always Linux or a Hackintosh. Anyone who is willing to build a PC (as opposed to buying prebuilt where the vendor got windows practically for free) is likely to be able to take advantage of one of the free OS options.

    That said, if the $100 OS was a strict requirement, I would drop down to 8GB RAM (single DIMM, not 2x4GB) and an i3 or a lesser GPU (Radeon R7 370 4GB) depending on the use case for the PC.
    Reply
  • bliq00 - Friday, October 16, 2015 - link

    Not all of us are in school so you can't really omit the Windows license. Reply
  • gamer1000k - Friday, October 16, 2015 - link

    This is a "back to school" PC (it says so right in the title) so I felt that would be a fair assumption to make. Reply
  • Mr Perfect - Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - link

    Will there be another mITX build-off in the future without such a limiting budget? I'd love to see builds that are limited by the form factor rather then the budget. :) Reply
  • DanNeely - Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - link

    I'd expect them to keep going up/down the budget curve as long as the articles are generating enough interest to pay their way; but after the way a large chunk of the commentariat trashed the Zotac build last time around for going for anything other than raw power I'm afraid we'd end up with two virtually identical boxes consisting of an i7 and Titan in a big enough it might as well be mATX case to avoid either broiling their guts or sounding like a heavily loaded fighter screaming off the carrier deck on full afterburner. Reply
  • Mr Perfect - Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - link

    Hmm, you could be right about unlimited budgets. Still, something that pushes the limits a little would be nice. Maybe a $1500 build? You could still get an i7 and a nice GPU in a shoebox case for that, but the monster cards would be priced out so as not to turn into hair dryers. Reply
  • DanNeely - Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - link

    $1500 was the first build. A lot of people flamed the Zotac build for going for a well balanced system and putting money into aesthetics, while the Corsair assembled the rest of their build around a GTX 980 Ti. While I didn't fully agree with all the details of their build; I did agree that at the $1500 pricepoint a GTX 970 was the more reasonable option unless you already had a >=1440p display. Even there, if you can't add a few hundred more to your budget, having a slightly underpowered GPU for two years is a reasonable tradeoff for having a better balanced system in other aspects for the next 6. (Assuming a 2 year useful GPU lifespan, and replacing the whole system when it ends up on the upswing in the failure bathtub curve.) Reply
  • fokka - Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - link

    haha, you're right, it did get a bit ugly in the comments. but i also remember a surprising number of users who preferred the zotac build, so it wasn't all bad. Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now