Position: Technical Marketing Specialist and Product Manager for Bulldog at Corsair Memory
Name of Rig: ‘The Accelerator’

IC: How long have you been at Corsair?

DS: Since I left AnandTech! That means since October 2013.

IC: We approached Corsair about our Build-A-Rig initiative – what were your immediate thoughts about it?

DS: I’ve been wanting to do something like this with the press for a while, just because I’ll see a build competition or something and I tend to look at it and go ‘that’s not really how I would have done that’. So when I saw the initiative you guys had, I was onboard immediately.

IC: How do you feel about the competitive aspect?

DS: I like it – it doesn’t come across as super competitive and for us it gives us an opportunity to demonstrate that we, Corsair, are made up of enthusiasts. So if we can build a system that passes muster with the readership then that kind of demonstrates that we know what we’re talking about and we know who we are building for. As far as the competitive aspect goes, this industry is actually pretty small anyway so you’re going to end up having friends at different companies looking back and forth at each other anyhow.

IC: So we gave you a $1500 budget to build a system (including OS, but not a monitor or peripherals). How do you feel $1500 sits with the current market for gaming PCs?

DS: I think $1500 was fine! It was a little bit challenging because I had to do a bit of a balancing act with the system. The reality is that we were able to put together a helluva powerful gaming system for $1500. I think you could actually build a solid 1080p or 1440p system for a bit less than what we did.

IC: So are you saying you spent too much?

DS: It’s no secret that Corsair stuff tends to be a little bit more premium and a little bit more expensive. I think the value proposition is there but at the same time when you’re working on a $1500 budget you can’t quite put the fanciest stuff we have in there. But I ended up talking to my direct supervisor Jon Gerow, aka ‘JonnyGuru’, and I went back and forth with him about what direction we should go with this. We wound up deciding to ultimately build the best system we could for the end-user even if it meant using more entry-level Corsair components. It gives a chance to show that the entry level stuff is still really good. If we had gone all premium, such as DDR3-2400 and a fancier case, a faster/bigger SSD then it would have cost too much but I felt like the end-user experience really had to be there for the system and that even our more entry-level stuff was still up to the task.

IC: When you talk about the end-user experience of the system, does this mean that with your build (which you called ‘The Accelerator’) you are focusing purely on performance here over aesthetics or does it require a bit of both?

DS: Aesthetically I still think our build is pretty decent – the 200R is not an unattractive case. But I wanted to focus on designing a system that the end user would get a substantial amount of performance out of. So when you’re talking about doing a single monitor system for $1500, to me that means it has to scale all the way up to 4K. So we could have taken the hit on the graphics card, gone down to a GTX 980 (from the 980 Ti) and you would have had a great experience at 1080p or at 1440p but it would have started to quake in its boots at 4K. That would have let us put some fancier stuff elsewhere but ultimately we decided we had to have the overclockable i5, the 980 Ti, 16GB of DRAM – all these things needed to be there to scale to 4K. We knew we had to target the right performance profile so when the winner powers this thing on and starts playing games on it they’re going to feel like no expense has been spared.

IC: Can you characterize the sort of person who might build something like this?

DS: An enthusiast-slash-gamer, because there’s so much overlap in those categories, that is willing to overclock a little bit. We tried to facilitate that the best we could to maximize the performance we could get out of the system.

IC: Looking at the gaming market as a whole, eSports is still the biggest driver for gaming, and $1500 is vastly overkill for this type of gaming. With the comparison between the triple-A titles such as Witcher 3/Battlefield and eSports, how does Corsair as a company deal with this as a company strategy?

DS: Obviously we’re involved in eSports and we’re getting more involved, such as sponsoring Team Dignitas. To me the eSports and the triple-A markets are different beasts. On the eSports side the hardware performance may not be as important, such as League of Legends, DOTA 2 and CS:Go, where the game doesn’t necessarily tax the hardware as much. For our enthusiast market, these gamers aren’t too excited but our peripheral market is where they focus and we want to provide the best keyboard, the best mouse and the best headset. That’s the tack we take. Then the users who want the best home user experience and who do want to play the triple-A titles - so for example I hate to play anything less than the highest settings (anti-aliasing not withstanding) – so for those guys, that’s where we come in and we say that they can build a really stellar exceptionally high quality system using Corsair components and you can maximize your performance with high speed memory, with a fast SSD and especially if you’re an overclocker. To me we make some of the most attractive and most functional cases on the market; we have a sensational water cooling line and our power supplies are increasingly second-to-none, especially if you look at the recently released RM-i series. The two markets (eSports and AAA) are disparate to each other and we try to address both as best as we can.

IC: Do you feel that over time users cross over from the eSports into the enthusiast?

DS: I think so. Video games tend to perpetuate themselves so to speak – we have a bunch of guys in the office that will play CS:Go one minute then turn that off and play Far Cry 4, and those games offer very different experiences. CS:Go might not necessitate the high-end system, but Far Cry 4 sure as hell does.

IC: What’s the average age of the gamers in the office?

DS: Most of the people working on our enthusiast gear are all in their 30s. A couple of engineers tend to be in their 40s and 50s, but the electrical engineers need to be more experienced. But the overriding factor is that they are all still enthusiasts.

IC: So what system do you personally run?

DS: I built a liquid cooled system in a 750D last year and then upgraded it with Haswell-E. So I’m running a custom loop in the 750D with two GeForce GTX 980s, both overclocked. They’re both close to 1.5 GHz on the cores and with the memory near 8 GHz. Then I have an ASUS X99 Deluxe motherboard with an i7-5960X at about 4.4 GHz but at that point I found that the voltage required to get to 4.5 was even too much for the custom loop – it hits the limit of what the CPU can dissipate into the water block. This is all paired with four 480GB Corsair Neutron GTX SSDs in RAID-0 then a 512GB Force LX that is being used as my project drive. This is all powered by an AX860i 80PLUS Platinum power supply. So I mean it’s pretty tricked out, and then I’m running on a curved 34-inch 3440x1440 Samsung monitor. Recently I’ve been trying to go through Far Cry 4 and a little bit of Divinity: Original Sin. I might pick up Witcher 3 at some point, although the Witcher games were never really my thing. Far Cry 4 is the one I’ve pretty much been going at lately.

IC: Are there any titles that you are looking forward to over the next twelve months, especially that we’ve just had E3?

DS: I’m looking forward to SOMA (survival-action horror set for September) – I had a list of games but Final Fantasy VII Remake topped everything. Doom I’m really psyched about. With SOMA, it’s made by the same people who made Amnesia: Dark Descent, so these guys are really amazing at producing material that is really atmospheric. I’ve been tracking the development for a while so I’m really looking forward to it.

IC: Back to ‘The Accelerator’, if you were to have half the budget ($750) to invest in upgrades over the next twelve months, what would you do?

DS: I’m not sure – part of the reason we built it up the way we did was to make sure it was going to be in Beast mode and now that the Fury X reviews are trickling in and not as chart topping as one might have expected, the best thing you could probably do over the next few months is invest in a HG10 N980 bracket that we’re coming out with along with a H55 cooler to improve the GPU cooling. The instant you liquid cool Big Maxwell it takes the brakes off of it. The card just sings. That would probably be the biggest upgrade, but you could also get a storage drive. I don’t really see anything faster in the current market to necessitate a $750 upgrade – there’s the possibility that Skylake could go extremely fast, but on an IPC perspective you might only be looking at a 10%, maybe 15% increase tops, and that’s not really enough to make the CPU in the build (an i5-4690K) sweat. Realistically we tried to make this build essentially – well I mean you can’t future proof anything in this industry but you can have an idea of futureproofing and that’s kind of what we did.

IC: Given that you are the product manager for the Bulldog (Corsair’s high-end 4K gaming mini case), would you consider that as part of a $1500 gaming PC build?

DS: Yes, oh yes. The build that we were showing off at Computex would have cost about $2200 to put together – but that had a Titan X soaking up $450 right there, so you can save a bunch of money right there by honestly dropping the Titan X down to a 980 Ti and dropping the 480GB Neutron XT down to a 240GB Force LS and that would get you most of the way there.

Build-A-Rig Round 1: The $1500 PCs and Interviews from Corsair and Zotac Build-A-Rig R1: Corsair’s ‘The Accelerator’
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  • LeonMoreno - Thursday, July 9, 2015 - link

    Sorry, but Zotac's build is complitely not thought-out, even nonsensical. Non-K, low clocked i5 with 970 is fine with me, only in an under $1K setup. Major flaws are: overpriced z97 board for non-K CPU, overpriced, overpowered PSU (bear in mind PSUs got a bracket when they hit their top efficiency), no point in non-K CPU watercooling when GPU stays aircooled (will be a weak point when gaming, my personal wish is to see one day GPUs with quiet, double 12cm fans for affordable price). RAM is also over the top, nice looking but You could find something cheaper, faster and still esthetic. Basically Zotac rig looks like designed by someone who never owned a PC, but rather works in funeral home. At least put some white or red or blue for contrast for Christ's sake?
  • etamin - Thursday, July 9, 2015 - link

    You sir sound like a typical inexperienced builder with an inflated ego. The Zotac build has many upsides and If you can't see them, of course you will favor the raw performance capabilities of the Corsair build.
  • LeonMoreno - Thursday, July 9, 2015 - link

    Are You trolling Me or what? What exactly are those upsides, other than aesthetics? Where did I mention favoring Corsair rig? Actually havn't looked at Corsair design that much, just noticed that after lots of deliberation and for slightly over 1K, I managed to build a PC with 4690K and 970, I just would not justify nearly 500$ or 33% more for PCs looks. Yes, Corsair's choice is not optimal, but I was reffering to Zotac's build. It could be done better, also it will be too dark inside if You plan to show it off. And watercooling a 88W CPU is waste of money when GPU stays cooled with 10cm high speed fans in a gaming PC.
  • Fiernaq - Thursday, July 9, 2015 - link

    For a pure gaming rig at that cost I'd probably go a slightly different route but there's nothing terribly wrong with either Dustin's or Chinny's builds. I'll try to add an actual parts list in later but for now this is probably what I would look for in a $1500 gaming build:

    Case: Inexpensive but not rinky-dink. I'd probably want to spend between $80-$100 here.
    MB: Socket 1150 for the CPU. There are a lot of things to consider here but most of them are desired rather than required. I'd put an upper limit of about $150 here but would hope to spend a bit less, maybe $120 or so.
    CPU: Intel i5-4690K. No question. It hits the sweet spot for the price and desired use.
    CPU Cooler: Air for sure; maybe a Cryorig R1? I'd rather not drop down to a 212+ but there's not a whole lot of good options in the $40-$60 range I'd like to be in for this build.
    RAM: 2x4GB DDR3-1866 is actually a very good choice for this build although there are cheaper options even if you stay with Corsair. Expect about $60 for this.
    GPU: GTX 980. A 970 is to low and a 980ti is too high for 1440p on mid/low or 1080p on high which is about where I'd expect to be in this price range and the cost difference is also about right with a decent 980 such as the ASUS Strix coming in at around $500.
    SSD: Go with a 500GB one. Seriously. Steam. 'nuff said. If this wasn't a gaming computer then 256GB would be plenty. $200ish should do the trick.
    PSU: 600W should be plenty but this is one area where I would definitely ask about expected upgrade plans as the addition of a second GTX 980 card a year later would probably demand a bigger PSU and I'd rather get that now instead of having to upgrade both components simultaneously.
    Optical Drive: Get one. $20 for a regular DVD super-multi or splurge on a blu-ray if it's something important to you.
    OS: Win7 OEM. Why bother with anything more?

    A comment about the RAM since I know someone will ask - as a gamer with a recently built $2000+ computer who only put 2x4GB in it, I haven't needed more. A good chunk of my gaming is triple-A titles and I even keep a browser open on the second monitor sometimes with a few tabs open and not once has memory been an issue or even close to an issue for me. That said, I also work in IT and my laptop at work most assuredly has 12GB of RAM so I can run a VM with Win10 and at that point even 12GB is the minimum I'd want just to run one VM at a time. Likewise, if I streamed my gaming to Twitch or did other RAM intensive stuff I would probably want more than 8GB but the posted design specifications for this contest did not mention any of that kind of thing so for a pure gamer I think 8GB is fine.
  • Fiernaq - Thursday, July 9, 2015 - link

    WTB an edit button for typos. Also an expandable comment box so I don't have to type everything up in Notepad and copy/paste.
  • Fiernaq - Friday, July 10, 2015 - link

    And here's what I came up with. I've set everything to override to Newegg prices and everything else on the checklist should be good as well. One question I couldn't find a mention of is shipping

    PCPartPicker part list: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/4hWd23

    CPU: Intel Core i5-4690K 3.5GHz Quad-Core Processor ($239.99 @ Newegg)
    CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-D15 82.5 CFM CPU Cooler ($93.04 @ Newegg)
    Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-Z97X-UD3H-BK ATX LGA1150 Motherboard ($134.99 @ Newegg)
    Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws X Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1866 Memory ($52.99 @ Newegg)
    Storage: Samsung 850 EVO-Series 500GB 2.5" Solid State Drive ($161.99 @ Newegg)
    Video Card: MSI GeForce GTX 980 4GB Twin Frozr Video Card ($519.99 @ Newegg)
    Case: Fractal Design Define R4 w/Window (Titanium Grey) ATX Mid Tower Case ($99.99 @ Newegg)
    Power Supply: EVGA SuperNOVA G2 550W 80+ Gold Certified Fully-Modular ATX Power Supply ($89.99 @ Newegg)
    Optical Drive: Asus DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS DVD/CD Writer ($19.99 @ Newegg)
    Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8.1 OEM (64-bit) ($99.99 @ Newegg)

    Total: $1512.95

    Comments: The NH-D15 is probably overkill for the amount of overclocking most people making this computer would bother with but that also means you can run it at lower RPMs most of the time. A 550W PSU should be just about perfect for this build but if you're worried that overclocking will require more then you could bumpt up to the 650W version of the same PSU for just $10 more. If you're looking at the total cost and saying "It's over $1500", well, unlike some people, I included an optical drive and besides, it's still well within the 3% margin and you could build this for significantly less if you bought some items from other vendors such as NCIX. Or you could drop to the CoolerMaster 212 Evo CPU cooler if you're still worried about staying within budget.
  • Impulses - Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - link

    The Thermalright TRUE Spirits have been around for a few years and are often overlooked, but for precisely $45-55 they perform much closer to the premium $70+ HSF units than a $30 212+.
  • Fiernaq - Thursday, July 16, 2015 - link

    I may give those a try at some point. Went over some reviews of them and as usual in the air cooling segment nobody can seem to agree on how good they actually are but at least nobody thinks they're terrible. Most of the reviews seemed to put it at least as good if not slightly better than the 212 Evo and some reviews were much better. Doyll from overclock recommended them which is usually a good sign.
  • Stuka87 - Thursday, July 9, 2015 - link

    I really like the idea of this contest.

    Wanted Chinny to win, but Dustin's choice of components is going to win from a performance standpoint. Although I think Chinny's will be the nicer looking of the two.
  • Uplink10 - Thursday, July 9, 2015 - link

    My thoughts:
    -GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-UD3H-BK is a mistake, $140 is too much for a motherboard, you can get similar for $90
    -CORSAIR Dominator Platinum 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1866, $84 is too much better to buy this kit "ADATA XPG V1.0 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 " for $43

    Buying K processors and Z motherboards is also a mistake because that is the way today's customers are being cheated into paying more just so they have the option to raise the max frequency to an unspecified one. And that is not why people first started to overclock.

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