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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  • timslin101 - Wednesday, July 8, 2015 - link

    I like your build. I think the 970 is a great GPU for the price and I love that case. I'd probably build something smaller with an ITX build though.
    Something like below:
    Processor: 4690K
    Motherboard: Maximus VII Impact
    GPU: Asus GTX970 Mini Direct Cu
    RAM: Vengence Pro 2x8GB
    Storage: SM951 256GB
    PSU: Silverstone ST50F-P
    Case: Silverstone SG13B
    CPU cooling: Corsair H90
    OS: Windows 8.1 64bit OEM
    Extras: Noctua NF-A14

    Cost 1490 total, the PP05-e cables be nice also, but you would go a little over.
    Get Wifi, ridiculously fast SSD, decent CPU and GPU, all in a very small and quiet package. I have a very large and loud PC built in 08. I am tired of that and value small and quiet very highly.
  • Drumsticks - Wednesday, July 8, 2015 - link

    I like your build! As others have said, looks matter, and yours wins out there. I think I agree with a few of the points said by some - the power supply is certainly good enough for a 4460/970 config, perhaps overly so, and 16GB could be nice (although I personally fall under the "8GB really is fine for gaming" camp but I could be wrong :P). But overall, I like clean and quiet, personally.
  • Mr. Beige - Thursday, July 9, 2015 - link

    I like the concept of your build better than the other one - it's far more balanced all around, and more forward-looking rather than just getting the absolute best CPU/GPU you can get right now and leaving the other parts with the leftover budget.

    That said, the choice of CPU/Cooler/Motherboard doesn't seem to mesh well together. If you're going with a non-overclocked CPU, why not save some money and get a non-overclocking motherboard and a cheaper cooler?
  • hulu - Thursday, July 9, 2015 - link

    With a Z97 motherboard you can upgrade the computer to a GTX 970 SLI setup. The power supply seems to be selected with this in mind as well.
  • Stuka87 - Thursday, July 9, 2015 - link

    Your system is certainly the better looking of the two, and its well balanced for the average person. Both systems are great, just pointed to slightly different audiences.
  • Sushisamurai - Friday, July 10, 2015 - link

    It's a good build Chinny!
  • losergamer04 - Wednesday, July 8, 2015 - link

    I actually prefer Chinny's. I think it's the one I would rather build. Though, I would swap down to a 120mm cooler and go to a K CPU along with an AMD card because it, too, is liquid cooled. That way it's still quiet and can OC.
  • fokka - Thursday, July 9, 2015 - link

    with a k CPU and a liquid cooled fury x you would have a quite similar build to dustin's though.
  • etamin - Wednesday, July 8, 2015 - link

    Am I the only one here who genuinely prefers the Zotac build?

    I'm a an infrequent gamer, but I've built many systems for all kinds of purposes including heavy gaming. Here are the issues I have with the Corsair build:

    - Pairing a 980 Ti with a Corsair CS PSU isn't a configuration I'd feel comfortable delivering to a client, since the majority of them expect 6+ years of use on the non-GPU core components.
    - From my experience, the single radiator AIO coolers have underperformed cheaper air coolers (I've used the H50/H70/H80/H100) without reducing noise, since the bundled fans aren't great. So it's dual rads or none for me...Zotac got this right with the H100i.
    - Then there's the chassis...it makes no sense to me why a case for a $1500 build, whatever the end purpose, does not have removable dust filters in the front! These cases are an instant pass whenever I check vendor inventories because they are unusably annoying to maintain. Another point for Zotac here.
    - And now the biggest, most glaring flaw of the Corsair build...who in their right mind would pick that particular Gigabyte board for an overclocked system? Look at the dinky power delivery on it and tell me that's safe to OC for hours of 4K gaming on end! I would think Dustin would know better than that. Then again, these systems were built to be given away, not for the builders' long term personal use, so I can see why this "detail" was overlooked.

    In the other corner, Zotac considered aesthetics, which I can really relate to as someone who builds for others. The client is ALWAYS impressed if the system looks presentable no matter the components, so I take this decision by Zotac a good move for sweepstakes purposes.

    Now before anyone calls me a Zotac fanboy or a Corsair hater, I'd like to add that I have never seen a Zotac part in person, let alone used one. However, I have used quite a few Corsair products but can only praise a few...namely the Dominators, AX/AXi PSUs, and Obsidian cases.

    My criticisms of the Zotac build mainly lie with the choice of RAM, not so much the amount of RAM, since I still think 8GB is enough for 95% of users including gamers. Dominators are awesome, but they're a luxury product and I wouldn't consider them for budgets under $2500. I would also have swapped the Crucial BX for a Intel 730 SSD of half the capacity only because the 730 is an older, proven reliable design.
  • etamin - Wednesday, July 8, 2015 - link

    And now to enter the giveaway hoping I get the Zotac to use as a secondary PC, or the Corsair as a part-out for cash >:D

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