The Enthusiast's PC
The Enthusiast's PC incorporates the perfect blend of both the Entry-Level Rig and Luxury System, making this our most balanced build. Our intent is to keep this system within the grasp of the average computer enthusiast, essentially offering a fully loaded PC minus some of the unnecessary bells and whistles that could set you back another grand or two.
|Motherboard||Asrock Z97 Extreme6||$165|
|Processor||Intel Core i5-4690K||$240|
|CPU Cooler||Silverstone Argon Series AR01||$35|
|Memory||G.Skill Sniper Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-2400||$65|
|Graphics||HIS Radeon R9 290 iPower IceQ X² OC||$250|
|Sound||Creative Sound Blaster Z||$100|
|Storage SSD||Crucial BX100 500GB||$190|
|Storage HDD||WD Red 2TB||$100|
|Optical||LG Blu-ray SATA UH12NS30||$45|
|Power||Corsair CX series CX750 750w||$85|
|Monitor||QNIX QX2710 LED Evolution ll||$280|
|Mouse||Logitech G402 Hyperion Fury||$50|
|Keyboard||Logitech G710 Plus Mechanical||$100|
Core System Total
Core System + Monitor and Peripherals
Motherboard, Processor, Cooler, Memory
Intel recently updated its LGA1150 platform with a Haswell refresh bringing slightly faster processors and more importantly the new 9-series chipsets. The Core i5-4670K was previously available at $240 and truth be told the 4790K is essentially the same CPU, hence the same price. Intel has bumped up the frequency by just 100MHz but that doesn't really matter since this is an unlocked K-series SKU.
The 4790K is routinely overclocked by more than 1000MHz, though keep in mind if you plan to overclock the 4790K then an aftermarket CPU cooler will be required. Something like the Silverstone Argon Series AR01 for just $35 will work well and if that cooler isn't available to you then we also highly recommend the Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo.
It is worth mentioning that if you don’t plan on overclocking then the cooler upgrade is not required, furthermore we recommend ditching the unlocked K-model for the cheaper Core i5-4460. At $190 it's 21% cheaper and can’t be more than 9% slower as this is how much lower it's clocked. So if you aren't the overclocking type you can knock $85 off the build.
The Intel Z97 is the flagship chipset of the new 9-series and with roughly 100 motherboards using that chipset alone picking the right one is no simple task. We set the motherboard budget between $150 and $200, for which we feel the Asrock Z97 Extreme6 is the best choice. The board offers loads of features and should you want to overclock it is more than capable.
From what we have seen the Core i5 range responds best to high frequency memory and 2400MHz seems to be the sweet spot. The G.Skill Sniper Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-2400 is unbeatable value at just $65.
The Core i5-4690K is a serious CPU and it deserves an equally serious GPU so we went with the Radeon R9 290 which can be had for just $250 now, down from $400 in our previous guide. Most R9 290 graphics cards are priced around $270 to $280 which makes the HIS Radeon R9 290 iPower IceQ X² OC a phenomenal value at just $250, especially now that it ships with a copy of Dirt Rally from Newegg.
For quite some time now we have been recommending the Asus Xonar DX 7.1 over anything Creative had to offer. This was mostly down to Creative's drivers leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of many enthusiasts over the years.
While we have plenty of experience with Asus sound cards it has been years since we last looked at a Creative product. Having seen some highly positive reviews published this year from trusted web sites we picked up the Creative Sound Blaster Z and were pleasantly surprised with what we found.
Creative seems to have made great strides in its driver development because we had no issues with the Sound Blaster Z. The card looks and sounds great while including a number of excellent features, not least of which is a little beam-forming microphone which opens up headphone options for users who don't already have a standalone microphone or a headset.
As a side note, if you are on the fence about whether to spend that kind of money on a sound card, then perhaps you shouldn't, especially if it stretches your budget. For example, if it came down to it, gamers would be far better off dropping the sound card instead of downgrading from the R9 290 to the R9 280X.
Both the Z97 motherboard we suggested comes with a quality audio solution integrated, Asrock has its Purity Sound 2 and while that might not be quite as good as what Creative are offering with their discrete options it is a heck of a lot cheaper.
Sometimes we're fortunate enough that a component is so solid it practically picks itself, and that's fair to say of Crucial BX100 500GB. It's fast, roomy and seemingly dependable, yet it manages to be one of the most affordable high-end drives around thanks to its use of in-house memory made by Micron.
Most enthusiasts will want a slower yet much larger hard drive complementing their SSD and if that is the case when we suggest the WD Red 2TB, for just $100 its great value and performance isn't an issue here as it's probably just going to be used for multimedia content and backing up.
For those wondering why we would pick the Red series which are designed for NAS devices over the more affordable Green series the answer is simple, reliability. Over the years we have had quite a large number of Blue and Green WD hard drives die where as we are yet to have a Red drive die on us.
For the optical drive we have done with an LG combo drive that supports DVD burning while it is also capable to reading Blu-ray discs. The inclusion on an optical drive is a personal preference, my own system is considerably more high-end than The Enthusiast's PC and it makes do without one so they certainly aren't necessary.
Although you could probably get by with a solid 500W PSU, that would be cutting it close with some multi-GPU configurations, so spending a few bucks more now to have headroom later makes the most sense to us. There are plenty of options to pick from but we really like the Corsair CX750. It's Bronze certified, offers ample power and costs just $80.
Having recently fallen head over heels for the Silverstone KL05B mid-tower, we felt it was a must have item for the enthusiast build. The case supports loads of hardware, provides interference-free design for mounting 240mm or 280mm radiators, highly flexible storage accommodation of up to 8 or 11 drives and quick access filters for easy cleaning. Best of all it costs just $70 making this sleek looking case a must have item.
We feel a 24" monitor should be the absolute minimum for the average enthusiast system and if feasible, we recommend buying at least two. Although TN-based displays start at less than $200, we strongly encourage you to splurge on an IPS panel for the added color depth and overall higher quality image, and if you're a graphics professional, this is a must.
Both HP and Dell offer great products in this category (ZR2440w and U2410) if you want something from a mainstream vendor, while some of those Korean IPS displays are finally cropping up at US stores such as Monoprice, which regularly offers a 27" 2560x1440 monitor for less $300 -- not a whole lot more than you'd pay for a 1080p display of the same size.
Generally, situations like that are too good to be true, but many enthusiasts have taken the gamble with no regrets, including TechSpot member and contributor dividebyzero, who has purchased many. The displays vary in features, especially in connectivity, so you'll have to see what fits your needs best, but it seems you can't go too wrong no matter which you buy.
Speakers are a tricky component to shop for because a higher price and wattage don't necessarily equal better reproduction. As long as you don't expect studio-quality reproduction and you're not trying to rattle any walls, the $40 CA-3602 should be fine (also recommended for the Entry-Level Rig).
If your budget allows for a little extra Creative's T3250 2.1 speakers will provide a similar audio experience with a few extra features, most notably Bluetooth support.
The Bluetooth feature enables the T3250's to stream music wirelessly from most stereo Bluetooth devices such as smart phones, tablets and laptops. It has a 3.5mm Line-in jack for seamless connection to other analog audio devices. The speaker system also comes with an audio control pod that includes power on/off, Bluetooth and volume control for ease of use.
Mouse & Keyboard
Between the number of possible keyboard and mouse combinations in the high-end price range, and the various uses you could be making of this system it's virtually impossible to recommend a single component.