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
90-Day
Average
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
24-pin
$12.99 $12.99
Samsung USB 2.0
External DVD Drive
$23.99 $23.82
DEEPCOOL RGB LED
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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  • experttech - Friday, July 31, 2015 - link

    Thanks for the suggestions. You always have gaming rigs in your recommended setups. A lot of us are not gamers and need to build workstations for video rendering/encoding etc. How about an article targeted at such users. It would be very helpful. Thanks. Reply
  • laday2 - Friday, July 31, 2015 - link

    The 90-Day average "Hey Good Lookin'" is off by about $20, should be $1512.72. Both builds take a different approach and I appreciate their diversity. Reply
  • jardows2 - Friday, July 31, 2015 - link

    Pretty sure I entered first time around, but don't remember, so I covered my bases here and entered again. I know that if I enter twice, the 2nd entry will be discarded, but I don't want to miss out on this.

    Overall, I'll take either one. I wouldn't use the power of the Corsair build, though more power is always nice, And the Zotac build is just nice looking!

    Since we are mostly enthusiasts here, I know most people here lean towards the Corsair build, but the average computer user will go for looks every time, as long as the performance doesn't drag them down.
    Reply
  • monkeydelmagico - Friday, July 31, 2015 - link

    Funny little zinger from Corsair including the Zotac GPU in their build.....The Corsair rig is going to stomp the Zotac in performance measures. It's not even going to be close.

    I'd still enjoy the Zotac if it was free
    Reply
  • nismov35 - Friday, July 31, 2015 - link

    Personally, I'd take Zotac's build. Yes, the GTX970 is not as powerful as the GTX980Ti. However, I really dislike the GTX980Ti reference design cooler as it is single fan so higher fan RPM thus higher noise. Also, all I play is CSGO, DOTA2, LOL and I don't game in 4K. GTX980Ti not powerful enough for 4K max setting gaming anyways. Also with the given cost limitation, assuming no further products will be added having a visually pleasing system is just as important as the system performance, I feel Zotac did a great job on balancing this. It is not an "all show no go" nor "all go no show" system. Like the corsair. For us folks that are not looking for peak performance, and want a daily driver PC I would choose the Zotac system. Reply
  • benjamin.mtzgr - Friday, July 31, 2015 - link

    really, it'd be awesome to get either one. I purchased brand new parts 2 days ago and am awaiting everything to show up by next thursday. I spent right around $1400 for the build and it is going to perform probably around where the zotac will (i have faster ram, faster cpu, and a 970 SC).

    Winning either one of these systems will simply pay for the computer i'm building. If i win one of these, I'll either sell my new system or sell theirs. Either way gonna be a nice free system =)

    I wonder what the odds are of winning...
    Reply
  • Barilla - Friday, July 31, 2015 - link

    Terrible choices from Zotac TBH. I mean, a few months back I put together a rig that is faster, smaller and looks better (subjective I know, but I think most people would agree). Oh and it was under 1200$.
    Corsair went in a better direction, though they could surely cut some costs to improve the looks, if you spend more than a grand on a pc you probably don't want to think about it as a "big black box".
    I'm really surprised neither company decided to go into a smaller form factor, especially Zotac since they sacrificed performance for looks anyway.
    Reply
  • Cautionfire - Saturday, August 1, 2015 - link

    I feel like the Zotac build is actually kind of better in many ways than what Corsair came up with. It may seem really silly because the Corsair build is obviously more powerful, but Zotac's build is probably the perfect stop gap between now and when 4k gaming can really take off. It seems to me like the 980ti is not really sufficient for 4k gaming of AAA title at a consistent 60+ frames per second. It's just think that if you can't do that with putting extra money into the GPU, then what is the point if you can get decent frames at 1080p with a 970 and spend more on components you can carry over to a next build, making your PC look flashy (if you are into that), or increasing storage. I think how Zotac finished their build really reflects that with the sleeved cables, 750 watt PSU, bigger SSD, DVD drive, lights, sexy RAM, and a better CPU cooler to reduce noise and heat. I also don't like Corsair's choice of CPU cooler. It's easy to tell they they were trying to promote their products with this build, but the h60 just isn't that good. You could easily pick up something like the Silver Arrow for around the same price and have a much better performance to noise ration and not run the risk of leaking. I'm not saying the risk of leaking is high, just merely that it is there as another point of failure along with the pump. I used an h80i for my girlfriend's rig and it's been great, but things tend to happen more often with water cooling than with air in my experience.

    Unless you have the money to go SLI with high end graphics cards, I don't really feel it's worth it at this point to chase 4k and the Zotac build is more than good enough for 1080 right now. The only thing I wish they would have done is find a way to spend a bit more money on getting a better case. Maybe ditch the DVD drive and get a slightly lower wattage PSU to make room in the budget. It was a really solid build in my opinion.
    Reply
  • doggface - Saturday, August 1, 2015 - link

    It is interesting to see these two because in many a way they are opposite ends of the spectrum.

    I feel I would have ended up somewhere in the middle. I used to build systems like the corsair but as i get older I try and build more balanced systems.
    Easily could drop back to a 980 and use that money for a bigger SSD.
    Or drop even further back to a 970 and get a nicer case as well.

    All, just a bit of fun though.
    Reply
  • MAM2 - Sunday, August 2, 2015 - link

    HI
    i want pc like this one but the problem is shipping and where i live
    is there anyone can help ?
    Reply

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