Our Build-A-Rig project is a place where PC hardware manufacturers (memory companies, case companies, GPU, CPU, power supply, storage et al.) are given an imaginary budget and a rough guideline on what system they should build fo that budget. Then we at AnandTech, with our partners Newegg, get the components in, build the system, interview the person that provided the spec list, give a run down of the components, test the system and then offer it as a giveaway to our readers.

This iteration was our second round, featuring Tony Ou from SilverStone Technology and Jeremy Mortenson from Cruicial Memory. The goal for this round was a Back-to-School build for $800. Both systems focused on different areas of CPU power, GPU grunt, storage and form factor.

Follow these links to read the interviews with Tony and Jeremy, as well as the component rundowns for SilverStone's Mighty Milo build and Crucial's Ballistix Bantam. We then built both the SilverStone and Crucial machines, then gave them a good run down in our test suite.

A full run down of both systems is as follows:

Build-A-Rig Round 2 Comparison
Component SilverStone's
Mighty Milo
Ballistix Bantam
Processor (CPU) Intel Pentium G3258
(2C/2T, 3.2 GHz)
Intel Core i3-4170
(2C/4T, 3.7 GHz)
Motherboard ASRock
B85N Phoenix-WiFi
Graphics Cards (GPU) Zotac GeForce GTX 960 OC EVGA GeForce GTX 950
Memory (DRAM) Crucial Ballistix Sport XT
2x4GB DDR3-1600 C9
Crucial Ballistix Tactical Tracer
2x4GB DDR3-1600 C8
Storage (SSD) Crucial BX100 120GB Crucial MX200 mSATA 250GB
Storage (HDD) Western Digital Blue 2.5-inch
1TB 5400RPM 8MB Cache
Seagate Barracuda 3.5-inch
1TB 7200RPM 64MB Cache
Power Supply (PSU) SilverStone ST45SF
450W Bronze SFF
Thermaltake TR2
Chassis SilverStone Milo ML08B-H
(with handle)
Thermaltake Core V1
Extreme Cube
CPU Cooling SilverStone Argon AR06 None
Operating System Microsoft Windows 10 Home
64-bit OEM
Microsoft Windows 8.1
64-bit - OEM
Extras None LG USB 2.0 Portable DVDRW
Total $811.90 $793.90

After sifting through the entries of what has been another successful round for our Build-A-Rig project, we are ready to announce the winners. This time around each of our winners is receiving one of the two systems. The winners are as follows:

Both winners will be contacted shortly for their shipping details at the email address provided.

Build-A-Rig Round 3 is currently on hold due to external factors beyond our control, but we have plenty of ideas in the running when we're ready to get going again. Congratulations to our two winners, and thanks to all who participated.

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  • wolfemane - Thursday, December 3, 2015 - link

    This is a back to school build, so windows 10 education version is free (and should have been considered free int eh build off) like you said. So you save $100 no matter what.

    Could you provide links for your pricing. I'm not seeing G.Skill 2400 2x4g for $32. Cheapest I'm seeing was newegg this past Cyber monday for $50. I did find some 1866 for $29.99.

    I'm also not finding any deals on that R9 390 card. Best I can find is $319 after rebate at newegg. I found a MSI R9 390 @ Microcenter for $305 (no rebate). I found some Nitro R9 380 cards for $250 and less though.

    If there are 390 cards to be had for $275 that's not to bad.

    and $80 bucks for that motherboard is pretty damn good. I'm not finding it under $120!
  • genekellyjr - Thursday, December 3, 2015 - link

    Check PCpartpicker for price history - nice tool!
    The prices were timely as ever. The R9 390 was $290 but my total included that pricing (can't edit)! There's a Gigabyte card kicking around for $280 now but that Sapphire one has impeccable reviews and they make nice hardware by reputation to boot.
    For this build now things would shift - maybe an Intel CPU since the old board's price as risen again or a 970 if it had a better deal for quality.

    Assuming a free OS by taking it out equation and shipping the thing to someone wiped to avoid legality issues would be a great if this type of competition occurs again. For this it's 1/8th the cost and there's a good chance someone can get it for free from their school. Even if someone won it who wasn't a student there are still OS trade sites that will sell keys for less so it's not like sending someone a $100 bill with an OS-less computer.
    Those guys could def have gone farther with $100 more bucks to chunk at stuff.
  • wavetrex - Thursday, December 3, 2015 - link

    - 600W for a CPU that consumes barely 50w at maximum synthetic full load (i3) and an 130w max video card, and pretty much nothing else in the system to load the PSU.
    - An expensive motherboard and expensive case for a "cheap" computer.
    - Quite expensive memory with CL8 which has absolutely no effect for a non-overclockable i3.
    - Portable DVD-RW!!! Who the heck uses DVD's anymore...
    - Windows 8.1 ??? How about Ubuntu or another Linux, saves lots of money.

    Ridiculous "cheap" builds, whoever gives the prizes has no clue what a good build is.
  • wolfemane - Thursday, December 3, 2015 - link

    I think you might have missed the point of the article. This is for a cheap back to school computer with the ability to play games.

    First the memory. $15 difference between the two, big deal. It's still super cheap memory. $40 is cheap

    Linux??? Seriously??? for a back to school PC? Give me a break. In reality, any student can get win8.1 or win10 for free, or dirt cheap. Windows, regardless of how much you hate it, is today's primary operating system for the every day person. It will always take a place over Linux in a generic back to school machine. Both those systems are really $700 systems in a students case.

    The power supply might be a bit much, but it's cheap as well so why not? Your not going to save THAT much money going to a slim 300w.

    As for the case... Well you could go cheaper but not by much. One case is $50 and the other is $80. That's pretty cheap, not bargain basement, but still cheap.

    The motherboard, dude, is not that expensive. Both incorporate pretty decent onboard wifi cards and some nice features on a compact board. $70 for the asrock board is a decent price. Find me a board that has the same specs for less, all of which will probably be used by a person going back to school. Whether a high school kid or college kid. It's a good price for a wifi mini itx board.

    And finally... The portable dvdrw... Such a great idea. Both my wife and I, to this day, use our portable drive but not so much we need to take up space in our computers. Hence the whole reason it's portable. It's a pretty decent idea. But in truth, I'd probably go blu-Ray, specially if it's a college students back to school computer.

    With all your whining, what's a cheap ($800 or less) back to school system that is easy to use and can play games (let's say 720p 60fps max settings). Remember, Microsoft loves giving away their os to students for dirt cheap to free.
  • iLovefloss - Friday, December 4, 2015 - link

    These builds are decent. You aren't going to reach the same result as if you price hunted, but they are serviceable.

    - PSUs are cheap. You're looking at $30 for the cheapest non-junk PSU if you exclude mail in rebates and special deals. The TR2 is a decent enough deal with and without rebate (though something better could've been chosen). The Silverstone is just when one of the few decent units available in its form-factor.
    - The cases aren't expensive by any stretch of the imagination. $50 for a case isn't a lot of money. You can go cheaper and get a POS case, but you get a lot hassle and QC issues for saving, what, $10. The motherboards are fairly cheap for systems with built-in WiFi. WiFi is kind of important for students who can't always access an ethernet cable, and a decent USB adapter will set someone back about $20~$30. I can tell you from personal experience that trying to find a decent WiFi adapter for less than that is not a pleasant experience.
    - The 16000MHz CL8 RAM is probably not a good deal overall, but the other one is okay.
    - I still use DVDs, so does a lot of people. I know this is the Internet, and we are forced to pretend that everyone has the same needs, but please don't act like a dummy. Some students will have frequent need of a CD/DVD, too.
    - As if all software is compatible with Linux. Wine is still not compatible with everything, and if you're going to do gaming with these things, you're going go Windows. (W8.1 can still upgrade freely to Win10, so that's not a big deal either.)

    I nitpicked your nitpicking.
  • tipoo - Friday, December 4, 2015 - link

    Ubuntu or another Linux bars you from a lot of games, which these are partly for. You could use Wine wrappers, but with an i3, emulation performance would be a big hit.
  • Michael Bay - Monday, December 7, 2015 - link

    How about using your system for actual work/study/play, instead of mucking around loonix?
  • Jumangi - Friday, December 4, 2015 - link

    Just cant see not getting a quad core CPU in late 2015. Multi-core support is becoming the norm more and more. Just don't think duel core cuts it anymore for a gaming machine even on the lower end.
  • wolfemane - Friday, December 4, 2015 - link

    Comes down to cost dude. If you are looking at a budget system like this, and you want to focus on gaming, then a decent GPU is what you want to focus on. buying a i5 ($190 - $250) and pairing it with a $200 GPU is going to yield lower performance than pairing a i3 (I'd go with the i3-4360 $140 or the i3-6300) with a ~$275 GPU.

    just a quick link, you can find other results from cpuboss and other benchmark/testing sites

    i3-4360 ($140) vs i5-4690 ($215)

    In gaming, the i5 just doesn't hold a significant lead over the i3 to justify the $75 premium just for gaming. Take that $75 and add it to your GPU budget. hell even in general application usage the i5 doesn't hold THAT big a lead. You can go with a cheaper i5, but I'd be willing to bet performance will be at BEST equal to top i3 (which doesn't clear $150) and you are still paying $40 more for it.

    Even going to skylake yields pretty much the same results at roughly the same costs (i5-6400 @$190 vs is-6300 @$140).

    best bang for your buck is a top end i3 with a good $225 - $275 mid-range gpu.
  • Jumangi - Friday, December 4, 2015 - link

    Simply not true. Several sites have done tests showing multi-threading is becoming much more common and is starting to make a difference. Building a machine in late 2015 that's just duel core/threaded only will be severely hampered in the long run requiring a new CPU well before it should be needed which won't be the case with even the cheapest Core i5. It's called future proofing and a Core i3 doesn't do it.

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