Last quarter we introduced our new Build-A-Rig project. At a high level, we ask two or three companies in the PC industry each round to configure a system to a budget. Then, with our partners Newegg, we build and test each system in glorious battle, along with interviewing the participants about how they approach the industry. Regardless of the winner, all the systems built are given away to our lucky readers. Imagine Top Gear UK’s ‘Star In A Reasonably Priced Car’, but instead of celebrities racing around a track, we let the configured PCs do the racing where both style and performance count. In this round, given the timing as school is starting, we chose SilverStone and Crucial with a budget of $800 for a back-to-school system.

The Rules

When we approach the companies to configure within a budget, there are certain rules they have to follow in order to be fair:

  • All components must be available at at the time of selection (so no pre-choosing unreleased parts)
  • No combo deals will be considered
  • No mail-in-rebates will be considered
  • Components must be compatible
  • There will be sometimes be a price difference between configuration and giveaway, so a 3% leeway is given on the overall build budget if prices change
  • There is no compulsion to use the hardware of who you’re up against
  • Each round, we will let the companies competing know who they’re up against, but not the build until it is published on AnandTech
  • Each company must agree to an interview on their build

This means that whatever the budget, each participant might end up deciding a different sized build, or a different concept (Steam box or hardcore gaming). As we have found out, it also means that each participant has a stringent choice – either select their best components and perhaps have to reduce the rest of the build to fit the budget, or choose the best performance and only their own mid-or-low range hardware.

Of course, for each build by the companies that actually make the hardware, we also want our readers to chime in with their own thoughts. What would you do differently?

It should be noted that for Round 2, companies were asked to supply builds before September 25th. This makes sourcing Skylake parts somewhat troublesome.

Previous Build-A-Rig Rounds

Here are links to our Build-A-Rig Introduction and previous challengers:

Round 1: $1500 Single Monitor Gaming PC
Corsair's 'The Accelerator', as chosen by Dustin Sklavos (Interview, Breakdown, Build Log, Results)
Zotac's 'Hey Good Lookin', as chosen by Chinny Chuang (Interview, Breakdown, Build Log, Results)

The Contest

This is Round 2 of our glorious project, and given the September-October timeframe, we asked our contestants to produce a specification list for a system that costs $800, with a focus on back-to-school operation. For the parts list, this means the following:

  • Processor (CPU)
  • Motherboard
  • Graphics Card(s) (GPU)
  • Memory (DRAM)
  • Storage (SSD or HDD, or both)
  • Power Supply (PSU)
  • Chassis (Case)
  • CPU Cooling
  • Operating System
  • Extras

Obviously there are more elements to a full system than this, particularly when discussing the monitor, keyboard, mouse, mouse mat and other utilities, although we will reserve that choice of rounds with a bigger budget to play with. Something like a monitor is arguably a 10-year lifecycle purchase, whereas keyboards and/or mice are either upgrades from something very simple or replacements when breaks occur.

Because we only specified $800, this opens up how both SilverStone and Crucial have interpreted what this means and we get very different builds focusing on performance and style.

The Participants – Tony Ou from SilverStone Technology

Despite the look of youth, Tony is an industry veteran. We first crossed paths back at Computex 2011, my first major industry event, and I was instantly struck by Tony’s own knowledge about his own product lines and how they fit into the industry as a whole. Every case has a story to tell, and I remember the discussions we had around the push for a Thunderbolt-based graphics dock, as well as some words about the difficulties of producing such a device. Tony is very much into his gaming PC cases as well as the small form factor builds, echoing the sentiment of his employer.

The Participants – Jeremy Mortenson from Crucial (Micron)

The best way to think of Crucial is a brand of Micron, whereby Crucial sells more to end-users and Micron focuses on DRAM IC production, NAND, and business customers. Jeremy covers both, and like Tony he has been in this industry a good number of years and flexes that knowledge to the fullest. This leads to some interesting conversations around the $800 build here, as Jeremy has approached the build somewhat differently for the cooling and OS choice than I suspect 95% of our potential participants would have done. He's also an avid gamer, with a collection stretching back over 20 years of important industry titles.

Up Next: Interview with Tony Ou (SilverStone Technology)

Build-A-Rig R2: Interview with Tony Ou (SilverStone Technology)
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  • zero2dash - Wednesday, October 14, 2015 - link

    He didn't need to buy the SS CPU cooler, that's for sure. Plenty of people have OC'd 4.2 with the stock cooler (myself included). Temps don't go above low-60's while stress testing. Sure, a smaller case would maybe be a few degrees warmer, but not enough to necessitate buying aftermarket cooling. You can also OC on boards back to the H81 which are dirt cheap at this point and could have saved a few more bucks as well.

    My issue/question (again) is whether or not the Intel microcode update disables OC'ing or not on the board. My board (H97 Performance), ASRock released a bios update because of the MC update, but that bios update removes the ability to OC. The workaround (instead of updating the bios) is to rename the Intel MC DLL file in Win10 (or refuse the MC update in Win7) and you're fine.
  • The0ne - Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - link

    Using parts picker, I wonder what the cost differences are vs Newegg. Of course I'm expected to be ban from having said this of Anandtech.
  • DanNeely - Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - link

  • Batmeat - Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - link

    Not sure what you mean??? Both builds are required to be built with components readily available on Newegg.
  • The0ne - Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - link

    From the readership there will be some people that will build what is recommended. That means shopping at Newegg and nowhere else. Unfortunate.

    The comment was a cynical, sarcastic joke of Anandtech's relationship with Newegg. Money runs deep so marketing is everything for Newegg. I be careful and wary if I were you. Their hotdeals forum is a fine example or being bought out. Have fun!
  • Batmeat - Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - link

    Ahhhh. Gotcha. You're right though, Newegg isn't always the best deal and spending a little extra time perusing other retails one can easily save a healthy chunk of change.
  • gamer1000k - Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - link

    I like the Crucial build better, for a back to school PC having something well rounded is more important than all-out gaming performance. Also, in my experience I rarely upgrade a computer after building it so I would rather build a solid system I can use for a few years (and then sell it or use it as a secondary PC) and then build an entirely new system.

    There's still a few parts I would change out though. An entry level 960 is only $20 more than the 950, and the 600W PSU is overkill for the system so I would drop down to a 450W PSU and bump the GPU up to a 960.
  • Fiernaq - Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - link

    Are downgrade rights only available for the Pro editions of Windows? It's been a while since I've installed a Home edition but if they are available then you might as well purchase 10 because you'll be able to install as 10, 8, or 7. All I could find on MS was downgrade rights for Pro:

    I am curious to know if the G3258 would bottleneck the SilverStone rig to the point where upgrading the GPU wouldn't benefit the system very much. If it doesn't then I would probably pick that one although possibly with a few minor tweaks such as dropping the HDD in favor of a larger 850 Evo. If it does bottleneck upgrades then I would take the Crucial system and modify it based on the assumption that I would be adding parts within a year.
  • Ryan Smith - Wednesday, October 14, 2015 - link

    "Are downgrade rights only available for the Pro editions of Windows?"

    Yes. It's a Pro-only right.
  • Penti - Thursday, October 15, 2015 - link

    Also end users buying Pro-licenses won't be able to downgrade, you need volume license for that or an OEM that provides you with media/key.

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