In early July we introduced our new Build-A-Rig project. The aim of the project, with help from our partners Newegg, is to approach the companies  that make up the personal computing industry roughly every quarter and ask them to create a list of components within a certain budget  aimed at a particular user base. Aside from that there are no rules, and at the end of the day the systems would be built and tested by AnandTech to be given away to our readers.

For each build we would interviews the individuals from the companies who we work with about the state of the PC industry and their chosen components, critique the components used, write up build logs for each system and then provide performance numbers. This round is our first, and we spoke to Chinny Chuang from Zotac and Dustin Sklavos from Corsair to create a parts list for a $1500 single monitor gaming system. Zotac went more for style and ease of use, Corsair went more for pure power, and we carefully dissected each component chosen in our previous.

But before we get to the performance numbers, we had a look at just how easy these two systems were to build, in the form of build logs. Ganesh tackled Zotac's Hey Good Lookin', while Ryan built up Corsair's The Accelerator. Game on!

Building Zotac's Hey Good Lookin'

Build Log by Ganesh TS


Zotac's Hey Good Lookin'
Component Selection Price
as Chosen
Processor (CPU) Intel Core i5-4460 $189.99 $189.85
Motherboard GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-UD3H-BK $139.99 $138.17
Graphics Cards (GPU) Zotac GTX 970 AMP! Extreme Core Edition $369.99 $369.99
Memory (DRAM) Corsair Dominator Platinum
2x4GB DDR3-1866 C9
$99.99 $104.27
Storage (SSD/HDD) Crucial BX100 500 GB SSD $189.99 $188.39
Power Supply (PSU) Rosewill Quark 750W Platinum $139.99 $135.31
Chassis NZXT S340 Black Steel
ATX Mid-Tower
$69.99 $69.99
CPU Cooling Corsair Hydro Series H100i GTX* $109.99 $119.99
Operating System Windows 8.1 Full Version $119.99 $119.99
Extras SilverStone Sleeved
6-pin to 6-pin x2
$14.98 $14.98
SilverStone Sleeved
EPS12V 4+4-pin
$7.99 $7.99
SilverStone Sleeved
$12.99 $12.99
Samsung USB 2.0
External DVD Drive
$23.99 $23.82
Strip with Controller
$16.99 $16.99
Total   $1,506.85 $1,492.58

*In our first breakdown of parts, we mislabelled this part as the H100i.

Zotac's big list of components came from Newegg in two shipments. The NZXT S340 case came in first. A big Newegg box with the rest of the components came in a couple of days later.

The NZXT S340 Black Steel ATX Mid-Tower chassis is a $70 case. Despite its low price, it offered a number of features aiding in easy assembly of the system.

  • The side panels were easily removed without the aid of a screwdriver, thanks to the thumbscrews.
  • The case was nicely divided into specific compartments for the installation of the motherboard, the PSU and the SATA drives.
  • The case made it easy to manage the cables and keep them out of sight.

On the flip side:

  • The case weighed in at slightly more than 7 kgs. when empty, and the sticky rubber feet made it a bit difficult to maneuver the case around when installing components.
  • The sharp edges of the case had to be kept in mind while handling the case
  • Though there was enough clearance between the edge of the motherboard area and the front panel for installing the fans of the liquid cooler in the build component list, readers contemplating the usage of the NZXT S340 and a liquid cooler would do well to research the fan / radiator dimensions (the clearance is 57mm)

The GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-UD3H-BK Z97 motherboard chosen by Zotac has all the features one would expect in a Z97 board, along with server-class burn-in testing. The board gave little cause for complaint during installation. It would have been nice to have a combo-connector to enable easy hook-up of the front panel cables to the motherboard pins, but, thankfully, the design of the internals of the case as well as the motherboard positioning alleviated the issue. In addition a USB key with the drivers for the post-build setup process would have been nice, but Zotac included an external DVD drive in the build list anyway. Having been accustomed to motherboards with Wi-Fi capabilities over the last few generations, I made the mistake of starting the build process away from a wired networking outlet. A temporary USB WLAN adapter helped in getting the updates processed once the OS was installed.

In my personal builds, I usually opt to go with the stock cooler that comes along with the CPU for cost. Zotac's build, however, use the Corsair H100i GTX liquid cooler for a couple of reasons - the fan noise is greatly reduced (thanks to the 120mm fans that mount on the front side of the chassis) and the CPU is able to keep a lower temperature under sustained loading compared to the stock cooler. In addition, the build process was also much simpler - there was no thermal paste to explicitly deal with, since the H100i GTX came with the thermal paste pre-applied. It was a simple matter of hooking up the cooler according to the directions provided and mounting the fans and the radiator. The thickness of the H100i GTX fans comes is 30mm, and that of the radiator is 25mm. There was no trouble mounting this in the 57mm clearance provided by the case. The Corsair H100i GTX also comes with the Corsair Link monitoring and control. The cable was connected to one of the free USB 2.0 ports on the motherboard.

The Rosewill Quark 750W Platinum PSU is modular in nature. Connecting cables to only the necessary outlets helped reduce clutter and made the installation / cable management much simpler. The yellow and red cables that came with the PSU unfortunately didn't go well with the rest of the colors on the motherboard side, and so the Silverstone sleeved cables that Zotac also included in the build came to the rescue. The PCIe power cables, 8-pin 12V connector as well as the 24-pin ATX power connector were terminated on the opaque side of the chassis and only the Silverstone sleeved cables were made to appear on the transparent side.

The Zotac GTX 970 AMP Extreme was installed in the PCIe 3.0 x16 slot closest to the CPU. The dual slot card also blocks one of the PCIe x1 slots in the board. The case itself has more than enough clearance to accommodate cards of this size, and the installation was a breeze. The top of the card has Zotac's logo that can be seen clearly through the transparent side of the case. The three fans cooling the GPU also point downwards and don't interfere with the look of the build.

Ian has already covered the details of the other component choices (Intel Core i5-4460, Crucial BX100 and the Corsair Dominator Platinum 8GB DRAM kit). There is not much to add, except that the looks of the Corsair Dominator Platinum and the light bar definitely enhance the visual appeal of the build during operation.

Zotac also included a DEEPCOOL RGB LED Strip with Controller in their build to spruce up the look of the system. There are multiple ways to mount it in the NZXT S340 chassis. We decided to leave it to the preferences of the eventual winner of the system to install it appropriately.

Building Corsair's "The Accelerator"
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  • eek2121 - Thursday, July 30, 2015 - link

    I don't understand the component selection for the zotac build. A quick build off from newegg using a the same case, motherboard, same gen graphics card (zotac 970, but a different, cheaper) model, and no water cooling or bling allowed me to significantly up the speed of the overall system. 16 GB of DDR3 1866 RAM, core i7 4790k, Samsung 850 EVO 500 Gb SSD and Windows 10 pro. All for $1431. I wasn't even trying, can probably do even better on Amazon since Amazon tends to be cheaper. You could even go to 32 gb of RAM and not be over budget.
  • atl - Thursday, July 30, 2015 - link

    Again - 240mm AIO water cooler on 84TDP non-overclockable CPU, which in RL will most likely not exceed 60 Watts
  • fokka - Thursday, July 30, 2015 - link

    i think it is very likely to exceed 60 watts and even the tdp of 84 watts, since it might use more than that in turbo mode. but as you said, in real life it will only turbo for short periods of time most of the time, so the 240mm cooler is completely over the top of course.
  • arnavvdesai - Thursday, July 30, 2015 - link

    Hope to WIN!!
  • Scrote - Thursday, July 30, 2015 - link

    So for the Corsair machine, how would one know that the fan headers are running at a lower voltage? Does it show the value as a %? Otherwise, I would have no idea if they're lower than normal or not... if it's just showing a voltage amount, since I don't know the standard amount.
  • fokka - Thursday, July 30, 2015 - link

    there might be something like a "silent" or "low" fan mode in bios with the option to override and customize the seperate fan speeds. you'll most likely see a percentage or some other number indicating the speed so it should be relatively straight forward to spot the culprit - if you know what to look for.
  • barleyguy - Thursday, July 30, 2015 - link

    Oh, there's a typo on page 2:

    "there aren’t any major sources of head in this build besides the CPU"'

    Well, I assume it's a typo. It does read fine and make perfect sense the way it is. ;-)
  • MTDEW - Thursday, July 30, 2015 - link

    I agree with most other comments here..
    IMO Corsair nailed it with proper priorities when working with a budget...CPU, Memory, Mobo, PSU and GPU performance are top priority over aesthetics.
    Performance per $$ should always take top priority over aesthetics when working within a limited budget.
    Add a cheap HDD to the Corsair build and you've got a heck of a lot of PC Gaming performance for your $$$.

    Although to be fair, going by the rules Corsair was allowed to come in a little over budget. ;)
  • wperry - Thursday, July 30, 2015 - link

    I'm all in on the Corsair build.

    ....but dude, take 5 minutes to route and tuck the cables - it looks like butt.
  • Gigaplex - Friday, July 31, 2015 - link

    There's only so much routing and tucking that makes sense when the cables don't quite fit nicely in the first place, and the case doesn't have a window to see the diminishing returns.

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