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Build the ultimate Intel Haswell PC for under $1000

Marco Chiappetta | June 6, 2013
It's official: Intel's fourth-generation Core processors, code-named Haswell, are loose in the market. Like the Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge microarchitectures that preceded it, Haswell is a big step forward for Intel's Core family, simultaneously maximizing CPU and GPU performance while consuming less power.

I mounted the motherboard in the case first and then installed the drives in open bays that lined up nicely with the SATA ports on the motherboard, to facilitate cable routing. Next, install the graphics card and connected the case's front-panel wiring to the motherboard. Then connect the data cables for the drives, and you're ready for the PSU. Secure the PSU in place with the necessary screws, and then carefully route each power cable behind the motherboard tray as much as possible, to keep the area over the motherboard and the graphics card free from cables and to improve airflow. Once you've assembled all of the hardware and the system powers up properly, you're ready to install an operating system--I chose Windows 8 Pro x64--and take the rig for a spin.

If you're new to building PCs and would like more detail on assembling and configuring the software on a system, read over our PC building best practices for both hardware and software.

The result: a fast, efficient PC
Bearing in mind that the hardware components in this build added up to slightly less than a grand, I'm very pleased with the real-world performance of the system. As you'd expect, navigating through Windows 8 Pro with Intel's fastest quad-core processor to date, a quick SSD, discrete graphics, and DDR3-1600 RAM is extremely snappy. During regular use, the system's responsiveness is excellent, as is the speed at which apps launch.

For reference purposes, I ran a handful of benchmarks on the system as well.  On Futuremark's PCMark 7 system-level benchmark, the PC earned a score of 6052; and on Cinebench R11.5's the multithreaded benchmark, the rig posted a mark of 7.95. On 3DMark Fire Strike, a test of graphics performance, the machine picked up a score of 3679 using the standard preset, just missing a mark of 30 frames per second (at 28.86 fps) in Crysis 3, with the game running at 1920 by 1080 with medium quality settings and 4x antialiasing enabled.

Icing on the cake: memory, graphics, cooling
Overall, I think this system came out very well. If I had had a few more bucks to spend, though, I would have done a few things differently. Bumping up the memory to 16GB would be well worthwhile, and using a more powerful graphics card would be a major enhancement. For icing on the cake, I would add a more capable aftermarket cooler and some additional case fans. Those additions are worth doing if you have the spare cash handy, but don't worry too much about it of you don't: This PC can stand on its own as a decent Haswell-powered performance rig that costs less than $1000 to build.

 

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