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[GUIDE] Chosing the Right Platform

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Note: Not complete yet, I will add sections as I finish them.

There are many different platforms to chose from these days when you are looking to build a gaming computer. Intel's main offering is the LGA1150 socket, with its chipsets, which include Z87, H87, and H81. Their LGA1155 products can still be found for reasonable prices, but I will not cover it, as in most cases LGA1150 is the better choice. AMD has AM3 for the high end, and FM2 for the middle range, and also the newly released AM1 for the budget end. Lastly, we have intel's high end LGA2011 socket, which for desktop users uses the X79 chipset. With so many choices it can be hard to find which option suits your needs and budget the most. Here I will go over some of the main features of each system, its advantages and disadvantages, and some recommended setups for each of the platforms.

Intel: LGA 1150

We will start off with Intel where we take a look at the LGA 1150 platform and its many chipsets.

First we shall look at some of the basic features of the Z87, H87, B85, and H81 Platform Controller Hubs. Q85 and Q87 were omitted here as they are relatively uncommon.

Z87
  • CPU, Memory, and iGPU overclocking.
  • Support for dual and triple GPU setups.
  • Intel RST for RAID setups.
  • 6x SATA 6Gb/s ports
  • 6x USB3.0 and 8x USB2.0 ports
  • Intel Clear Video Technology (CVT), to encode videos on the integrated GPU.

H87

H87 retains all the features of Z87, except for multi-GPU setups, CPU and Memory overclocking. Note that many manufacturers, including Gigabyte, MSi, and ASUS, do have motherboards which through bios updates can overclock k-series CPUs despite using the H87 chipsets, this is carried over to the other chipsets mentioned below.

B85

When compared to H87, B85 drops 2 of the USB 3.0 ports, intel RST (so it does not support hardware RAID), and replaces two SATA 6Gb/s ports with SATA 3Gb/s.

H81

H81 is the cheapest of the LGA 1150 chipsets, and comes with the least features. Compared with B85 it drops two more USB 3.0 ports, two SATA ports, two memory modules (DIMMs), two lanes of Secondary PCIe, replaces PCIe3.0 with PCIe 2.0, and does not support intel CVT.

In most cases Z87 will be the best option, but if you are on a tight budget the other chipsets can be compelling options.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Here I will start at the lower end and work my way up to the Z87.

H81 is the cheapest option of all 4, motherboards with the H81 chipset will fall within the 30 to 60 GBP price range, and are therefore the best option for the most budget oriented computers. With only two DDR3 slots a meagre two USB 3.0 ports, and PCIe 2.0 this chipset has relatively limited upgrade paths for most users, and therefore is somewhat less suited towards gamers. Four SATA ports is adequate for most usage scenarios, but the only other redeeming factor is the low price.

B85 can be a more attractive option, as it returns to having 4 DIMMs, an extra pair of USB3.0 ports, enabling the use of USB3.0 front panel headers on top of the standard rear I/O ports, and the addition of Clear Video Technology as a nice bonus. The lack of RAID options does reduce the attractiveness of having 6 SATA ports. Overall probably the better budget choice from intel for gamers, most B85 motherboards retail for 40-75GBP. Many B85 motherboards do support overclocking through BIOS updates, so these can be very attractive options for budget builds.

H87 is essentially a Z87, but it lacks the overclocking capability and support for multi-GPU setups. It brings us up to 6 USB3.0 ports, two of which are typically front panel, 6 SATA 6Gb/s ports, and RST so we can now setup RAID with multiple hard drives. Because many motherboard manufacturers do actually allow overclocking with these motherboards, these are also a great option for gamers, but like the B85 boards, these often have somewhat meagre VRM, so you will not be able to push chips as far as with the higher end motherboards. H87 motherboards typically sell for 50-90 GBP.

Lastly, Z87, we now bring back overclocking support and the capacity to set up SLI or Crossfire arrays. The main reason to go with a Z87 motherboard is because they usually have more features in regards to overclocking, power delivery, and I/O ports than the other options. The chipset itself is widely similar to the others, but the motherboards that use it are typically somewhat higher class, but will cost you anywhere from 60 quid up to around 400.

CPUs on the LGA1150 socket

Intel produces a wide range of dual and quad core processors for the LGA 1150 socket, these CPUs use the new Haswell architecture. The consumer CPUs are divided into several series, these are as follows from cheap to expensive, Celeron, Pentium, Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7. The first three are all dual core CPUs, the i3s supporting hyperthreading to improve the performance in some tasks, the last two are quad cores, where the i5 has no hyperthreading, which is present on the i7 line. Gamers on the intel platform are most likely interested in the i5-4670k and i7-4770k, as these are overclockable, allowing for extra performance to be gained, and the fact that there are other products that are potentially more competitive at the price ranges covered by the other CPUs.

Pentium G3220

Review | G3220 vs X4 750k

The Pentium G3220 is one of the cheapest in it's class, a snappy dual core chip with a low power consumption and great single thread performance, as is to be expected from a Haswell architecture CPU. As of April 2014 these sell for around 60-70USD at online retailers in the US and around the 40 GBP mark in the UK, it is slightly cheaper than AMD's Athlon X4 740 and 740k and in many basic games it will perform quite a lot better thanks to its single core performance. Also, unlike the Athlon CPUs, it will not put you on a lower end platform, and therefore the Pentium can be put in a rig which can later on accept one of the higher end i5s or an i7-4770k. Its multi threaded performance is somewhat less brilliant, and in that area it is outshined by AMDs offering, and while it doesn't support very fast memory speeds, a 1600MHz kit in dual channel operation will most definitely suffice.

Core i3-4130

Review | i3-4130 vs FX-6300

Coming in at around the 80GBP or 120USD mark, this CPU costs almost twice as much as the Pentium, it is slightly faster, at 3.4GHz, and performs admirably in single threaded tasks, blowing the Piledriver FX-6300 out of the water. In similar fashion to the G3220, this one lacks the multi-threaded power of AMDs architecture, but it is not by any means slow in these tasks. This is again a great option for a gamer, especially one playing some of the older, less CPU intensive games, and it will run quite cool and quietly in an HTPC. But, even in games like BF4 it will not bottleneck even the upper mid-range graphics cards at Full HD. Pair this with a B85 motherboard to leave some upgrade options open, and later on you can be looking at an overclocked i5/i7 system. There is not much point paying the extra 20-40 quid for the faster i3 models, as the performance difference is negligible, and you are paying through the nose to get it. If you can spend more money, consider stepping up to the i5.

Core i5-4670k

i5-4670k vs FX-8350

I don't think there is much point in getting one of the non-k i5 processors at the moment, unless you can find one of the other ones on a hefty discount, the extra 30-40 bucks is definitely worth the unlocked multiplier, as it is not too hard to get one of these quad cores running at 4.3-4.5GHz. For a more budget build these can be paired with a B85 board, or otherwise you have a plethora of Z87 options with all the bells and whistles you could ever need, other than a 6-core processor... Although it is a bit more expensive than an FX-8350, the i5 makes up for the price difference with its performance. In multithreaded tasks, it is only a few per cent behind, and in single threaded workloads it is miles ahead. It should not be a bottleneck in any game, and will happily push a high-end GPU like the R9 290x or GTX 780Ti. The only real issue I have with these is that to get the most performance out of them, you will need to resort to delidding it, as the stock TIM between the IHS and the chip is pretty awful, which is only worsened by the insuficient pressure that the IHS exerts on the thermal connection.

Core i7-4770k

4670k vs 4770k

On the surface there is very little difference between the 4670k and the 4770k, the only major ones being a clock speed bump, the addition of hyperthreading, and a bigger hole in your wallet when you buy it. The extra premium of over 40 pounds gives you a slight edge in multi threaded applications, and therefore this is a better option for a gamer looking to be streaming or video editing. But, if you are not one of those gamers, the i5 is almost certainly the better option. These chips are typically better binned than the i5s, so they usually can reach slightly higher clock speeds when overclocked.

Recommended Setups

Super-budget

Pentium G3220 - The obvious choice for a very tight budget.

MSi H81M-P33 V2 - Pretty much the cheapest, bare-bones motherboard you can get for a Haswell chip, it probably will have trouble coping with higher end CPUs, and will almost certainly not overclock much, but if you must get a desktop now, this would be the choice.

GTX 750 or GTX 750 Ti (optional) - If you need some gaming performance, add one of these puppies. It puts hardly any extra strain on your power supply, and the gaming performance is pretty nice for a ~100 pound card...

Budget Gamer

Core i3 4130 - Great price-performance, and doesn't need much as far as cooling or power supplies. Will perform great on games such as League of Legends, CS:GO, Titanfall, or pretty much any HL2 based game out there.

Gigabyte G.1 Sniper B5/ASRock Killer B85/MSi B86-G43 Gaming - All of these options will provide decent overclocking abilities should you decide to buy a K-series CPU later on. As a nice extra they come with improved integrated sound controllers. The prices would probably determine which one of these you chose, or just personal preference, as they are pretty much going to perform just as well.

GTX 750 Ti/R7 265/R9 270/GTX 760 - Really any card up to the 760/270x is a good choice with the dual core. Pick whatever suits your budget.

Coming in at around 600 USD for a full build, this rig will outperform the consoles, and can be upgraded with an overclocked quad core and providing you have the power supply a single GPU up to the GTX 780 Ti and R9 290x.

(Budget) ITX

Core i3 4130 - Again same reason as above, especially considering ITX cases are somewhat harder to cool and typically have smaller PSUs.
Core i5 4670k - If you have the money to spend, this is the best choice, it doesn't make too much heat, and will give great performance for its power draw.

ASUS H81I plus - If you are not considering upgrading past the i3, any of the cheap ITX boards will do, otherwise...
Gigabyte H87N-wifi/Asus H87I-plus - both are nice options should you want a wireless connection, which can be nice, otherwise...
ASRock Z87E-itx/MSi Z87I Gaming AC - Also both have wifi, and somewhat better power delivery so if you want to upgrade to a k-series CPU you can do so and make the most of the upgrade.

GTX 750 Ti - Good price to performance, and very low power consumption, works great in smaller, reduced airflow cases.
GTX 760/770/R9 280x - If you have a bit more money to spend these are good options in cases like the RVZ01.

To keep within a tight budget I would stick to the Gigabyte motherboard and the GTX 750 Ti, case is really your own choice, personally I really like the RVZ01. And if there is more money to go around, I would go with the MSi board, and pair it with a 760 or 770 to create a compact, powerful system.

With an RVZ01 and 450w PSU, the budget end will cost you around 700 USD, you are paying a bit of a premium to make things more compact. The higher end systems, with i5 and 770 will be pushing past 1100USD.

Budget overclocker

i5 4670k - If you want to overclock an intel CPU this is the cheapest option...

Gigabyte G.1 Sniper B5/ASRock Killer B85/MSi B86-G43 Gaming - These are the cheapest motherboards I would be comfortable pushing some heavy overclocks on. The 4-phase VRM should do for most average overclocks.

R9 270(x)/GTX 760/R9 280x/GTX 770/GTX780(Ti)/R9 290(x) - Basically any GPU upwards from 200 USD will be good in this build, anything less and we should cut it out of our CPU budget rather than the GPU.

Pretty self explanatory, remember to get a good CPU cooler as despite their low power consumption, Haswell chips tend to run quite hot.

Mid range

i5 4670k - Again, not much point in going to the i5 if you are gaming.
i7 4770k - If you NEED the extra multi threaded performance.

Gigabyte Z87-HD3/D3H/UD3H/UD4H - I really like Gigabyte's lineup of Z87 motherboards, they seem pretty reliable and don't have anything you don't need.
ASRock Z87 Killer - Has nice network and audio chips, otherwise I prefer the Gigabyte boards.
ASRock Z87 Extreme6 - How much SATA cables you want, this one's pretty cheap and has 10, yes TEN sata connectors, it will surely not disappoint the overclocker either.
MSi Z87m Gaming - Micro ATX and a nice motherboard overall. OC3D review.

Insert GPU of choice, probably best GTX760 and up.

IMO there is really no point in spending over 170 USD on a Z87 motherboard, you end up paying through the nose for not very much at all... You can't upgrade to a six-core, and SLI is pretty much limited to two cards unless you want to deal with a PLX chip. Again, since you will almost certainly be overclocking this setup, a good CPU cooler is certainly worth the money.

Conclusion

Intel's LGA 1150 platform with its verious chipsets spans quite a large budget range, from 400 dollar iGPU powered setups, to pretty fancy overclocked gaming systems in the range of 1500USD. With the capacity for some of the cheaper motherboards to overclock, one can make a relatively cheap setup and upgrade it with a k-series quad core later on. It's lower power usage and small footprint also make it ideal for small form factor builds. Overall this is definitely one of the most versatile platforms to chose from. But it comes with its downsides, you have to pay a premium for overclockable chips, and the overclocks on these can be rather underwhelming. Also, it does not cover the extremely high end, but for that intel has it's LGA 2011 enthusiast platform.

Keep in mind that intel's 8-series chipsets are soon to be replaced by the 9-series, and backwards compatibility is rumoured to have been left aside, so for many waiting a month or two can be the best choice.

Soon to come are the AMD's FM2 and AM3(+) platforms, alongside the LGA2011, and maybe even AMDs ultra low cost AM1 platform.
Luthien
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Indis
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Aragorn (RIP)
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CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
i7 4710MQ Clevo W230SS Geforce GTX 860M Nanya 1600C11 
Hard DriveOS
WD Scorpio Black W7x64 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
i7-4790k (4.55GHz@1.22v) Z97I-Plus EVGA GTX 670 FTW G Skill Trident X 2x4GB 2400MHz 
Hard DriveHard DriveCoolingPower
Crucial MX100 256GB Western Digital Red 3TB Corsair H75 Silverstone SFX 600w 
Case
Silverstone RVZ01 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsHard Drive
i7-3630QM MS16-F3 GTX 670m 3GB @795c/1590s/760m WD Black 2x500GB RAID0 
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Corsair K70 Logitech G700 Logitech G930 
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Luthien
(6 items)
 
Indis
(9 items)
 
Aragorn (RIP)
(7 items)
 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
i7 4710MQ Clevo W230SS Geforce GTX 860M Nanya 1600C11 
Hard DriveOS
WD Scorpio Black W7x64 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
i7-4790k (4.55GHz@1.22v) Z97I-Plus EVGA GTX 670 FTW G Skill Trident X 2x4GB 2400MHz 
Hard DriveHard DriveCoolingPower
Crucial MX100 256GB Western Digital Red 3TB Corsair H75 Silverstone SFX 600w 
Case
Silverstone RVZ01 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsHard Drive
i7-3630QM MS16-F3 GTX 670m 3GB @795c/1590s/760m WD Black 2x500GB RAID0 
KeyboardMouseAudio
Corsair K70 Logitech G700 Logitech G930 
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post #2 of 5
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Luthien
(6 items)
 
Indis
(9 items)
 
Aragorn (RIP)
(7 items)
 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
i7 4710MQ Clevo W230SS Geforce GTX 860M Nanya 1600C11 
Hard DriveOS
WD Scorpio Black W7x64 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
i7-4790k (4.55GHz@1.22v) Z97I-Plus EVGA GTX 670 FTW G Skill Trident X 2x4GB 2400MHz 
Hard DriveHard DriveCoolingPower
Crucial MX100 256GB Western Digital Red 3TB Corsair H75 Silverstone SFX 600w 
Case
Silverstone RVZ01 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsHard Drive
i7-3630QM MS16-F3 GTX 670m 3GB @795c/1590s/760m WD Black 2x500GB RAID0 
KeyboardMouseAudio
Corsair K70 Logitech G700 Logitech G930 
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Reply
Luthien
(6 items)
 
Indis
(9 items)
 
Aragorn (RIP)
(7 items)
 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
i7 4710MQ Clevo W230SS Geforce GTX 860M Nanya 1600C11 
Hard DriveOS
WD Scorpio Black W7x64 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
i7-4790k (4.55GHz@1.22v) Z97I-Plus EVGA GTX 670 FTW G Skill Trident X 2x4GB 2400MHz 
Hard DriveHard DriveCoolingPower
Crucial MX100 256GB Western Digital Red 3TB Corsair H75 Silverstone SFX 600w 
Case
Silverstone RVZ01 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsHard Drive
i7-3630QM MS16-F3 GTX 670m 3GB @795c/1590s/760m WD Black 2x500GB RAID0 
KeyboardMouseAudio
Corsair K70 Logitech G700 Logitech G930 
  hide details  
Reply
post #3 of 5
Thread Starter 
Reserved
Luthien
(6 items)
 
Indis
(9 items)
 
Aragorn (RIP)
(7 items)
 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
i7 4710MQ Clevo W230SS Geforce GTX 860M Nanya 1600C11 
Hard DriveOS
WD Scorpio Black W7x64 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
i7-4790k (4.55GHz@1.22v) Z97I-Plus EVGA GTX 670 FTW G Skill Trident X 2x4GB 2400MHz 
Hard DriveHard DriveCoolingPower
Crucial MX100 256GB Western Digital Red 3TB Corsair H75 Silverstone SFX 600w 
Case
Silverstone RVZ01 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsHard Drive
i7-3630QM MS16-F3 GTX 670m 3GB @795c/1590s/760m WD Black 2x500GB RAID0 
KeyboardMouseAudio
Corsair K70 Logitech G700 Logitech G930 
  hide details  
Reply
Luthien
(6 items)
 
Indis
(9 items)
 
Aragorn (RIP)
(7 items)
 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
i7 4710MQ Clevo W230SS Geforce GTX 860M Nanya 1600C11 
Hard DriveOS
WD Scorpio Black W7x64 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
i7-4790k (4.55GHz@1.22v) Z97I-Plus EVGA GTX 670 FTW G Skill Trident X 2x4GB 2400MHz 
Hard DriveHard DriveCoolingPower
Crucial MX100 256GB Western Digital Red 3TB Corsair H75 Silverstone SFX 600w 
Case
Silverstone RVZ01 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsHard Drive
i7-3630QM MS16-F3 GTX 670m 3GB @795c/1590s/760m WD Black 2x500GB RAID0 
KeyboardMouseAudio
Corsair K70 Logitech G700 Logitech G930 
  hide details  
Reply
post #4 of 5
Thread Starter 
Reserved
Luthien
(6 items)
 
Indis
(9 items)
 
Aragorn (RIP)
(7 items)
 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
i7 4710MQ Clevo W230SS Geforce GTX 860M Nanya 1600C11 
Hard DriveOS
WD Scorpio Black W7x64 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
i7-4790k (4.55GHz@1.22v) Z97I-Plus EVGA GTX 670 FTW G Skill Trident X 2x4GB 2400MHz 
Hard DriveHard DriveCoolingPower
Crucial MX100 256GB Western Digital Red 3TB Corsair H75 Silverstone SFX 600w 
Case
Silverstone RVZ01 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsHard Drive
i7-3630QM MS16-F3 GTX 670m 3GB @795c/1590s/760m WD Black 2x500GB RAID0 
KeyboardMouseAudio
Corsair K70 Logitech G700 Logitech G930 
  hide details  
Reply
Luthien
(6 items)
 
Indis
(9 items)
 
Aragorn (RIP)
(7 items)
 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
i7 4710MQ Clevo W230SS Geforce GTX 860M Nanya 1600C11 
Hard DriveOS
WD Scorpio Black W7x64 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
i7-4790k (4.55GHz@1.22v) Z97I-Plus EVGA GTX 670 FTW G Skill Trident X 2x4GB 2400MHz 
Hard DriveHard DriveCoolingPower
Crucial MX100 256GB Western Digital Red 3TB Corsair H75 Silverstone SFX 600w 
Case
Silverstone RVZ01 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsHard Drive
i7-3630QM MS16-F3 GTX 670m 3GB @795c/1590s/760m WD Black 2x500GB RAID0 
KeyboardMouseAudio
Corsair K70 Logitech G700 Logitech G930 
  hide details  
Reply
post #5 of 5
Thread Starter 
Reserved
Luthien
(6 items)
 
Indis
(9 items)
 
Aragorn (RIP)
(7 items)
 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
i7 4710MQ Clevo W230SS Geforce GTX 860M Nanya 1600C11 
Hard DriveOS
WD Scorpio Black W7x64 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
i7-4790k (4.55GHz@1.22v) Z97I-Plus EVGA GTX 670 FTW G Skill Trident X 2x4GB 2400MHz 
Hard DriveHard DriveCoolingPower
Crucial MX100 256GB Western Digital Red 3TB Corsair H75 Silverstone SFX 600w 
Case
Silverstone RVZ01 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsHard Drive
i7-3630QM MS16-F3 GTX 670m 3GB @795c/1590s/760m WD Black 2x500GB RAID0 
KeyboardMouseAudio
Corsair K70 Logitech G700 Logitech G930 
  hide details  
Reply
Luthien
(6 items)
 
Indis
(9 items)
 
Aragorn (RIP)
(7 items)
 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
i7 4710MQ Clevo W230SS Geforce GTX 860M Nanya 1600C11 
Hard DriveOS
WD Scorpio Black W7x64 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
i7-4790k (4.55GHz@1.22v) Z97I-Plus EVGA GTX 670 FTW G Skill Trident X 2x4GB 2400MHz 
Hard DriveHard DriveCoolingPower
Crucial MX100 256GB Western Digital Red 3TB Corsair H75 Silverstone SFX 600w 
Case
Silverstone RVZ01 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsHard Drive
i7-3630QM MS16-F3 GTX 670m 3GB @795c/1590s/760m WD Black 2x500GB RAID0 
KeyboardMouseAudio
Corsair K70 Logitech G700 Logitech G930 
  hide details  
Reply
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