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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  • Silesius - Thursday, July 9, 2015 - link

    Loved the article. IMO while performance wise Dustin's build is great, I think the days where computers are an ugly beast should be over. So I'm more aligned with Chinny's philosophy of building, even if it could use some improvement.

    Since the Fury launch I been wondering how small can you go with that kind of performance on Mini-ITX. Is a build like this possible?

    PCPartPicker part list: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/qsvkrH
    Price breakdown by merchant: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/qsvkrH/by_merchant/

    CPU: Intel Core i5-4670K 3.4GHz Quad-Core Processor ($234.99 @ Amazon)
    CPU Cooler: Thermaltake Water 3.0 Pro 99.0 CFM Liquid CPU Cooler
    Motherboard: MSI Z97I AC Mini ITX LGA1150 Motherboard ($127.99 @ SuperBiiz)
    Memory: Corsair Vengeance Pro 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR3-2400 Memory ($104.99 @ Micro Center)
    Storage: Crucial BX100 500GB 2.5" Solid State Drive ($179.99 @ Adorama)
    Video Card: XFX Radeon R9 Fury X 4GB Video Card ($676.93 @ Amazon)
    Case: Thermaltake Core V1 Mini ITX Tower Case ($37.99 @ Micro Center)
    Power Supply: Corsair CSM 650W 80+ Gold Certified Semi-Modular ATX Power Supply ($87.47 @ Amazon)
    Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8.1 OEM (64-bit) ($86.98 @ OutletPC)
    Total: $1537.33
    Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available
    Generated by PCPartPicker 2015-07-09 18:27 EDT-0400

    I know that the Thermaltake Core V1 can accomodate Fury's water pump mounting it on the front instead of the 200mm fan. This would make a sweet looking machine and silent as well.
  • BrokenCrayons - Friday, July 10, 2015 - link

    I've been interested in ITX form factors since VIA had acquired Cyrix and the IDT Winchip teams to sell their low-power C3 processors on Epia motherboards. They were sort of leading the charge for "adequate performing" low heat/noise/power computing in the first half of the last decade. Since the Atom came around, I used a Zotac motherboard with the ION chipset and an Atom 330. It was a fun little bite-sized system that I loved for how well it worked as a carryable system for LAN parties. While I think the Fury X isn't quite there yet because it requires you find space someplace for the watercooler which ultimate makes the card about the same total size as any other modern, high-end GPU, I'm excited to see what HBM can do to help more practical, cost-effective GPUs that are smaller, half-height cards cooled with a small HSF or can run with just a passive heatsink.
  • Ryan Smith - Thursday, July 9, 2015 - link

    I have removed some inappropriate and overall completely sad posts from the article. This is not Tinder; if you wish to continue being able to post comments, please behave like an adult.
  • Southrncomfortjm - Thursday, July 9, 2015 - link

    I like mine: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/Ys7qMp
  • theMillen - Thursday, July 9, 2015 - link

    BAM! 1496 after rebate (1554 before rebates) covers the essentials, but i believe with an i7 after dx12 becomes more prevelant, the extra threads may be more useful in a gaming capacity. 8gb of well reviewed ddr3 1600, 250gb 850 evo also well reviewed, but better yet, a non-reference 980 ti (and one of the best out right now)! the only downside is that you will have to use windows 10 tech insider for the forseable future (or until find a sale to move to retail license) but since m$ is being ms and letting you beta test past RTM there isn't a huge issue, as ive been testing mine on a rig only a little beefier than the one here with no issues well BEFORE RTM... and here you go! http://pcpartpicker.com/p/g6sfZL (oh did i forget to mention the sexy new design r5 is in there :-p along with an h100i to keep you i7 nice and cool while oc'd ;))
  • ruthan - Friday, July 10, 2015 - link

    Hmm, only 2 competitors in the race, this is boring, its like soccer league with 2 teams.

    About rigs im very disappointed - i would not recommend such build to my friends, Dustin build - is strongly crippled by only 240 GB disk=> whole machine for real user is joke, sorry but gaming computer in 2015 with 240 GB storage- you could have installed up to 5 games - great experience.
    Other build is very boring without any interesting idea with lots gimmicks included and as icing is there noisy Zotac G970..

    Half of readers would do better job.
  • BrokenCrayons - Friday, July 10, 2015 - link

    There should be more competition later in other budget brackets in the same format if I understand how things are supposed to be setup, but comparing more than two computers from two different companies might get pretty complicated to keep track of from a reader perspective and tougher to present in a single article. Besides, this isn't supposed to be an out-for-blood competition. It's more just for fun and a great way to stage a hardware giveaway so try not to take it too seriously.

    Besides that, I really like how both Corsair and Zotac are able to reach out to their customers through this competition. Lots of us aren't surprised to see Dustin interacting in the comments section given his history with Anandtech in the past, but it's great to know other companies like Zotac are willing to interact with and listen to potential buyers on a personal level that goes beyond just marketing material, RMA support, and the stuff written on the outside of a product box.
  • Sushisamurai - Friday, July 10, 2015 - link

    Nice! Zotac's build is actually pretty close to a new budget system I was thinking of building. I differ only in power supply, SSD/HDD, GPU (AMD).
  • chittychitty - Friday, July 10, 2015 - link

    I vote for Dustin's build.
  • coconutboy - Friday, July 10, 2015 - link

    Was really looking forward to these series of contests, and not just for the giveaway either. Ya'll didn't disappoint. The interview segment is great and really humanizes what would otherwise be a more sterile affair; keep this up! major kudos to Anandtech, Zotac and Corsair. I'm honestly really excited about these competitions, woo hoo!

    As far as crowning a champ, a lot of people posting in these comments are taking a very narrow view of what constitutes a "winner". I really appreciate that Dustin and Chinny/Buu took different approaches and both had portions of their builds that I would incorporate, and other parts that I would never touch. Specifically:

    - I treat my computer chassis much like monitors, so I keep them for ~7-10 years and they sit ON my desk. This also means I am extremely concerned with noise and will not tolerate 50dB, much less the annoying whine & whoosh of blower reference gpus. With that in mind, no way would I ever buy the low-end cases recommended here. If Chinny or Dustin went that route, they'd get crucified in the comments by people favoring a different case so of course they went cheap. However, I'll bet a lot of us Anandtech readers spend over $100 on our cases. It might cost more the first time out, but it saves dollars the next time around when we don't need to upgrade our cheap-o POS. Similarly, I liked Chinny's cabling upgrades to keep things nice 'n' neat because that's something I'd do with my build (even though I'm not too fond of windows which, combined, probably causes conflict with some folk's sensibilities). Her choice of mobo & 750w PSU is major overkill tho, and wastes ~$70-90 that coulda gone elsewhere.

    - I wouldn't consider building a 4k system for another 2-3 years because, for my tastes, it's currently too expensive versus the enjoyment I'd get out of spending that money on an overseas vacation or one of the upcoming VR headsets. This is the same reason I never built a 3-monitor or 3d gaming setup. Early adopters pay top $$ and often get burned. But that's just my opinon, and with 4k becoming more and more affordable, it's great to see Dustin tapping into the new Triplehead/Eyefinity/3d Surround.

    - I really like gamer100k's build as a different approach, but it's horribly deficient for my noise-sensitive tastes. I LOVE the case, but a gtx 980ti in that thing is gonna be a jet engine. The tiny ssd and 8GB of RAM are also deal-breakers.

    Without digging through newegg, if it was my rig, I wouldn't need a case or PSU so I'd save right there. I'd also settle for nothing less than:

    - 16GB RAM
    - gtx 970 (great for now, saves money for a huge upgrade when something new hits in 2016-17)
    - 500GB ssd
    - 2TB hdd (local storage trumps NAS/media server, which I'd still have anyhow)
    - closed-loop cpu cooler

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