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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  • Dustin Sklavos - Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - link

    Straight up Team Tony Ou and SilverStone over here, and I think you'd find that sentiment to be pretty common in the case/cooling/PSU side of Corsair.

    I like Tony's build better. While it's true, the Pentium's lack of hyper-threading may cut its legs off down the road, Tony's build just feels more classy and balanced, and the components are a bit higher quality. There's also just more you can do with it; I'm a sucker for an overclockable system.

    My hat's off to both, but I'm calling this one for Tony and SilverStone. ;)
  • frenchy_2001 - Friday, October 16, 2015 - link

    I also really like it.
    The ML08 is everything I was looking for in a thin mITX case: small and thin while allowing for full graphic card and would fit great as an HTPC.
    I would argue that for a BTS build, I may have gone for more CPU and less graphics, but both builds are fairly balanced. I love the SSD+HDD storage, reflecting realistic needs for BTS (opposite of the previous builds with high end components, but little storage).
    I could live and use either system, but points for style to Silverstone.
  • TallestJon96 - Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - link

    Both good builds, but I think a lentil, with a cooler will lose to an i3.
  • TallestJon96 - Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - link

    Pentium* where is that darn edit button...
  • jaydee - Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - link

    Take the Crucial build, trade the B85 board for ASRock H97 board and save $20. Trade the mSata SSD for Crucial BX100 and save $40. Take that $60 in savings and trade the i3-4170 for an i5-4460.
  • fokka - Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - link

    makes sense. and who could resist an i5 when we're competing with pentium and i3?
  • gamer1000k - Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - link

    Just for fun, here's my build. Note that it doesn't include an OS since you can get Windows for free through most schools.

    Name: Budget Beast
    CPU: Intel i5-4430 $185
    Mobo: AsRock H97M-ITX $84
    RAM: G.SKILL Aegis 16GB DDR-3 1600 $74
    GPU: Zotac GeForce 960 ZT-90308-10M 4GB $215
    SSD: Samsung 850 EVO 500GB $169
    Case: Rosewill Neutron $40
    PSU: Corsair CX430 430W $40

    Lots of little things that could be changed on here (could drop down to an i3 to upgrade something else or halve the RAM to free up some cash) but I wanted to make sure that the PC would have what it needed for the next few years and not cheap out too much on the core components (I hate being stuck with old components after upgrading, I would rather leave empty slots I can fill later). The case has room for 3.5" drives if you need more storage later, and also supports 5.25" optical drives if you need them.
  • gamer1000k - Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - link

    Edit: Total Price: $806

    Anandtech, you really need to update your post system to support standard features like preview/edit and such...
  • coconutboy - Thursday, October 15, 2015 - link


    it's 2015, being able to edit, even if it's only within a short time frame, is the norm. Not having it, especially on well-known tech site is just bizarre.
  • fokka - Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - link

    i'm starting to like the user builds more and more! i5/16gb/500gb ssd/960 4gb instead of pentiums, puny SSDs, slow HDDs and optical drives? yes please!

    and i agree with your sentiment: i'd rather get the cornerstones right from the beginning, i can always add more storage and optical drives later.

    can't you also get windows for free if you always install the preview builds? omitting the cost of the os seems a bit unfair of course, but with the hardware you have listed up there it's kinda hard not to cheat. ^^

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