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Updated September Build Guides

manirelli Sept. 25, 2014

We have updated two of our September build guides to take advantage of the newly released GTX 970 and GTX 980 video cards. Take a look and let us know what you think!

NZXT S340 Build

philip Sept. 23, 2014

NZXT kindly sent us the new S340 case. Priced at $70, it was the perfect addition for a modest budget gaming build. We wanted to build a <$900 build using an overclocked Pentium G3258, so we felt the S340 would be a perfect fit. Read on for the full details and part list breakdown...

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant

Type Item Price
CPU Intel Pentium G3258 3.2GHz Dual-Core Processor $69.99 @ Amazon
CPU Cooler Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO 82.9 CFM Sleeve Bearing CPU Cooler $28.82 @ Amazon
Motherboard MSI Z97 PC MATE ATX LGA1150 Motherboard $89.99 @ Newegg
Memory Corsair Vengeance 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory $87.99 @ Newegg
Storage Intel 520 Series Cherryville 120GB 2.5" Solid State Drive $69.99 @ Amazon
Storage Seagate Barracuda 1TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive $49.00
Video Card MSI GeForce GTX 770 2GB LIGHTNING Video Card $330.00
Case NZXT S340 (White) ATX Mid Tower Case $69.99 @ Amazon
Power Supply Rosewill Hive 550W 80+ Bronze Certified Semi-Modular ATX Power Supply $59.99 @ Amazon
Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available $855.76
Generated by PCPartPicker 2014-09-23 17:04 EDT-0400


Here you can see the new NZXT S340. It's a very cleanly styled ATX case that is priced aggressively at $70.

The front of the case is simple with no frills. If you wanted to paint or mod the case, this is about as clean of a slate as you could possibly hope for.

Front panel buttons and IO are on the top front of the case. Note the large slot that provides space for front airflow. This also makes it extremely easy to remove the front panel, exposing room for two 120mm fans or a 240mm radiator.

We've done quite a few liquid-cooled systems recently, so this time around we opted to keep everything air cooled. The Hyper 212 EVO is an extremely popular cooler, making it an easy choice. Sure, there are coolers +/- $5 that may perform slightly better, but at only $30 the 212 is still a great performer.

The S340 includes a PSU shroud that also mounts two 2.5" SSDs. I'm a big fan of separating the power supply from the rest of the components, whether via a shroud or in a separate compartment. It makes for an extremely clean presentation of the core components.

For the storage, we went ahead and included both an SSD and a hard drive. The SSD fulfills the boot drive and core files role, while the platter drive provides space for games.

Also included in the PSU cover are vents for the 3.5" drives.

Cable management with the S340 is extremely easy. Beside the motherboard tray is a raised section that provides extra clearance and cable tie anchors for the 24-pin motherboard power cable. The extra space meant were no concerns with bundling cables and making the side panel bulge out.

Many of our previous builds were liquid cooled, so we felt it was time to return to an air cooled build. At $30 the Hyper 212 EVO is an inexpensive but very effective cooling solution.

We reused a GTX 770 from a previous build - nothing beats (effectively) free parts! However, shortly after filming the GTX 970 and GTX 980 were released. The GTX 770 is still a decent choice, but had we been able to predict the GTX 970 release we may have held off for a week to include that instead.

Overall the build went together very quickly and easily. With lots of attention to so many small details, the NZXT S340 makes for a great case to use in a build. We'll be running a few benchmarks on the system to evaluate functional and thermal performance over the coming weeks (similar to our Colossus Micro build thermal benchmarks, so keep an eye out for that content.

Colossus Micro Thermal Benchmarking

philip Sept. 22, 2014

With the BitFenix Colossus Micro build complete, it was time to run benchmarks while monitoring it with a thermal camera. There were some concerns in the community that the system would burn up, but temperatures held modestly well. We did see the GPU clock throttle a bit toward the end of each benchmark however.

We're still refining the automation for these benchmarks, but once we get it all ironed out expect to see more of these for our builds. For this set, we benchmarked both 3DMark 11 and Unigine Heaven. Video output, audio, thermals, total system power draw, and a plethora of stats were monitored concurrently and stitched together with some in-house software to generate the videos and graphs below. Ambient temperature was ~25°C (77°F) throughout the tests (and ambient temp is a measurement we're now logging with the runs as well). Enjoy!

Breaking things down further, we plot out all the measurements over time:

3DMark 11 - Extreme Definition

Power Draw

CPU Usage

Total CPU Usage

CPU Temp

GPU Usage

GPU Temp

GPU Core Clock

GPU Memory Usage

System Memory Usage

Ungine Heaven

Power Draw


CPU Usage

Total CPU Usage

CPU Temp

GPU Usage

GPU Temp

GPU Core Clock

GPU Memory Usage

System Memory Usage

September Build Guides

manirelli Sept. 15, 2014

Starting a new installment, here are gaming build guides for common price points. These builds take advantage of our parametric part list feature, so they should adjust automatically as part prices fluctuate through the day. Check them out and let us know what you think below or in the comments sections on the guides!

BitFenix Colossus Micro Build

philip Aug. 20, 2014

The BitFenix Colossus Micro is a perfectly practical case. However, the components we chose to put in it are not what you'd expect to see in a Micro ATX form factor. It was the perfect storm - we had both an Intel i7-4790K CPU and a Sapphire Radeon R9 295X2 video card on hand. That's right - the dual R9 290X video card with the attached closed loop cooler. The question was - can it fit? Yes! Barely.

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant

Type Item Price
CPU Intel Core i7-4790K 4.0GHz Quad-Core Processor $338.99 @ NCIX US
CPU Cooler Corsair H80i 77.0 CFM Liquid CPU Cooler $89.99 @ Newegg
Motherboard Asus MAXIMUS VII GENE Micro ATX LGA1150 Motherboard $199.99 @ NCIX US
Memory Corsair Vengeance 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory $79.99 @ Newegg
Memory Corsair Vengeance 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory $79.99 @ Newegg
Storage Plextor M6S 256GB 2.5" Solid State Drive $135.98 @ Newegg
Video Card Sapphire Radeon R9 295X2 8GB Video Card $1499.99 @ Newegg
Case BitFenix Colossus Micro MicroATX Mid Tower Case $109.00 @ Amazon
Power Supply Corsair 860W 80+ Platinum Certified Fully-Modular ATX Power Supply $199.99 @ Amazon
Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available $2733.91
Generated by PCPartPicker 2014-08-20 15:09 EDT-0400


We knew from the start we'd likely run into some fit issues. Putting two CLC radiators in such a small case was going to be problematic. Just fitting the 295X2 in the case when it also used a vertical mount power supply was tricky. Most power supplies that have enough wattage for the 295X2 are too long. Fortunately the Corsair AX860i had sufficient wattage and left roughly 1/2" of clearance for the video card. Like I mentioned - this build was not about being practical. It was all about what we could manage to squeeze into the case. I had the 295X2 on hand, so it begged to be used. For science!

BitFenix had warned me beforehand that the cable management on the Micro ATX version of the Colossus would be trickier than the mini-ITX version due to the more compact internal layout. I took that as a challenge. With custom cables it would certainly be possible to make it look cleaner, but all in all I'm happy with how it turned out.

Before anyone comments that we should have used part X instead of Y, or Q instead of Z, know that this part selection was not aimed at practicality. Different use cases prefer different part selections. Maybe you don't need an i7. Maybe you don't need 16GB of RAM. Or maybe the 295X2 is a tad more horsepower than you need to play Minecraft. I chose these parts for a couple reasons:

  • I enjoy smaller form factor builds and the associated cable management challenges.
  • The i7-4790K and Radeon R9 295X2 were already on hand (for benchmarking, the results of which hopefully everyone will see soon).
  • Because we could.

That being said, it was a challenging, but very fun build. When I have a chance to benchmark it and check the thermal performance, I'll be sure to provide a follow-up post.