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System Builder Marathon: Day Two

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May 9, 2007 11:20:52 AM

Yesterday we built and tested a low cost PC system for $525. Today we focus on a mid-range system that costs around $1,255.
May 9, 2007 12:55:42 PM

I would like to ask the question, if this is a mid range system why is it using the 2nd best video card processor out there 8800GTS. (Based on the VAG chart Overall all games fps)???? If it was mid range wouldn't it be using a X1950pro/X1900XT or 7900GT/7950GT???? :? :? 8)
May 9, 2007 1:15:41 PM

I have news: anything close to $300 is mid-priced in a graphics card, the 8800 Ultra cost over twice as much.

It's not nVidia's fault that the third and fourth fastest cards are both higher-priced ATI products.
Related resources
May 9, 2007 1:17:19 PM

I think one of the issue may be that "ranges" of systems may be wider than allowed by the '3' options they are selecting.

We had the $500 option yesterday.
Today we have the $1200 option.
Tomorrow we will likely have the $2000+ option.

Personally I think yesterday's was too cheap and today's has quite a few upgrades. Many folks could build great systems for somewhere in between these two systems.

I can understand, however, that short of having 5 categories such as "Entry Level", "Low Mid-Range", "Moderate Mid-Range", "Upper Mid-Range", and "Bling Bling" there will just be a number of viable types of configurations that will be ignored.
May 9, 2007 1:34:36 PM

Some great things in there. Surprising to see an 8800 in the mid range. I Like to think my pc is in mid/high range but im still carrying an old 6600 haha. I didnt spend $1200 on mine though, more $900/$1000.

Maybe a bit high a budget compared to the last setup you did.
May 9, 2007 2:10:10 PM

how about the motherboard i want to buy a new PC like this but i'm woried about motherboard. Should I buy this MSI 965 Platinum but does its good for overclocking? i want my system build for gaming and I want to overclock i think i'll try to push procesor to 3.8Ghz I allready have zalman cooler 7700-Cnps
May 9, 2007 2:19:44 PM

This is really starting to shape up well, but I think I would like to see the buget PC upgraded to a mid range processor and a better video card and see how it fares against the intel. Since it was built on an AM2 platform, it should easily be able to hold its own, but still cost alot less. This would affirm it's value as an upgradable system
May 9, 2007 2:21:56 PM

Quote:
I would like to ask the question, if this is a mid range system why is it using the 2nd best video card processor out there 8800GTS.


Midrange when it comes to video cards is based on price.

The most expensive cards out there are about $550 - over $1000 if you SLI them. The cheapest gamer's cards are about $110.

The $280 320mb 8800 GTS is midrange as far as price goes...
May 9, 2007 2:24:41 PM

Quote:
This is really starting to shape up well, but I think I would like to see the buget PC upgraded to a mid range processor and a better video card and see how it fares against the intel.


This is close to what we plan to do, actually.

In the summary article we're throwing in gaming benches of the low-end system with an 8800 GTX - a budget gamer's special. The price will still be notably lower than the midrange system, but it'll be interesting to see if it'll stand up to the midrange system.

If the 3800+/8800 GTX combo meets or beats the e6600/8800 GTS combo, it'll but to bed the argument that the 8800 GTX is so CPU bottlenecked that it's useless on anything but a midrange core2 duo...
May 9, 2007 2:25:18 PM

3.8Ghz is far from a reasonable expectation.

IMHO, it should not even be considered a goal you wish to obtain.
Especially if you are a gamer.

The reason is that most games are far from CPU bound.

3.6Ghz tends to be the upper limit for a reasonable expectation for regular use. In fact, many posters don't clock their CPUs close to their max speed since it does not gain them much compared to the noise, heat, and system risk involved.

There were some reviews of Liquid Cooling systems if you are serious about wanting 3.8ghz. Be sure to get something that cools both your CPU and your chipsets.

I would only spend the money on liquid cooling, however, after you have upgraded your video card to the 8800 GTX since you will see more bang for your buck there.
May 9, 2007 2:28:24 PM

Quote:
Maybe a bit high a budget compared to the last setup you did.


This is an argument we anticipated. Frankly, the term 'midrange' is pretty subjective... we had to draw a line in the sand somewhere, so we did.

We expected there to be a lot of dissent as to what a 'midrange' and 'high end' component is, but that's unavoidable. Everyone's going to have their own take on that based on their own taste.

In the final analysis, if people agree our low-end system is cheap, and our high-end system is decadent - then as long as the midrange falls comfortably in between in price, we're satisfied.

The benchmarks will be useful even if you disagree as to what makes a midrange or high-end PC.
May 9, 2007 2:29:38 PM

i agree i would class the the x1950 pro as mid/upper so the 8800 gts 320 is strongly in the upper but having said that if i were putting a build like that together i would certainly use that card
May 9, 2007 2:33:11 PM

1) I'm soooooooooo happy that THG decided to do a "series" for these builds, to show low/medium/high end builds, exact parts, and then compare them at the end. Finally, FINALLY!!!! You guy got the right idea, this is a VERY welcome approach to articles here. Informative, straightforward, easily understood by visitors, appeals to a wide range of readers, and you did the FOLLOW-UP.

Now THAT is that way it should be done here. Kudos and congratulations to all of you writers for your hard, tedious work on this series. You have my sincere thanks and admiration. Well done!!!!

2) Overall a solid build. Definitely would choose a different PSU though. Some things (HSF, case) are obviously subjective to person preference, so can't knock those choices. But great selection on components in general (except PSU, just my opinion though LOL)

3) Will overclocking be considered in this series? Please, PLEASE?!?!?! One of the tempting reasons to go with C2D and spend some more money than an AMD solution is for its amazing overclocking abilities. I am sure you guys don't have the time to go in-depth, that is fine.......but at least mention it anecdotally? That the mid-range can beat an X6800 for ALOT less money? That the low-end system can be healthily OC'd to achieve even better performance without much effort? I frankly think it deserves a mention in your series.


Very much looking forward to Day 3. Keep up the great work guys, and take the OC comment under advisement please ;) 

Thanks!
May 9, 2007 2:34:53 PM

Quote:
I want to overclock i think i'll try to push procesor to 3.8Ghz I allready have zalman cooler 7700-Cnps



I agree 3.8 would be craazy. Nt even worth trying for me. You would have to up your voltages and you would have trouble probably as I doubt it would be reliable. Plus you would need ram going up to 1066 mhz really.
May 9, 2007 2:44:23 PM

This makes me fell bad. My new system is about 3 months old, I spent about $1450, before taxes and shipping, and I don't have near the Power this midrange system has. :cry:  I hate time. :evil: 

In my defense though the 8800 GTS either wasn't around or much higher then it is now, and I bough a $250 monitor and windows. Plus the Memory that I was looking at was priced higher back then.

I have to agree with the card selection though, with the price drop on the other parts and the lowered price of the 8800gts 320mb it makes sense.

Edit: 3.8Ghz is too much to expect out of a e6600, especialy with the concave problem. I got an HSF like the one in this article and I can clock to about 3.4Ghz before I see the cpu getting too hot.

P.S. In both the low end and mid system, the cases seemed overpriced, I could probably find similer options on a lower priced case, with the same quality.
May 9, 2007 2:46:28 PM

[offtopic]

You won't hit 3.8ghz with a Zalman 7700 without going beyond the safe temperatures for your CPU. Trust me. The 7700 is nothing to be proud of. Even with a Thermalright 120 Extreme a 3.8ghz OC would be extremely dicey. So good luck with that, see ya back when you have a new CPU after you replace the one you're gonna burn out ;) 

[/offtopic]
May 9, 2007 2:54:13 PM

ok ok :lol:  I listen your advice, I dont want to burn it hah. I have that cooler for about 1 year. What be most posible overclock for that cpu??? and i still dont get the answer about motherboard does this MSI is good for overclocking :lol: 
May 9, 2007 2:54:43 PM

Quote:
i agree i would class the the x1950 pro as mid/upper so the 8800 gts 320 is strongly in the upper but having said that if i were putting a build like that together i would certainly use that card


Ahh Yes I agree, I have no problems using a ripper of a Vid card like the 8800GTS at the mo but I cannot afford the extra AU$150 it would cost for the 8800 compared to the 1950pro. :oops: 
May 9, 2007 3:06:27 PM

Quote:
how about the motherboard i want to buy a new PC like this but i'm woried about motherboard. Should I buy this MSI 965 Platinum but does its good for overclocking?


Check out the previous reviews there is heaps of info here to help U make UR decision on MoBo type.

I personally like the E6400 cpu it seems to handle a swag of overclocking using standard cooling. Of course using UR choice of MoBo etc. I think I have dribbled enough now back to the rest of U mob. :D 
May 9, 2007 3:12:02 PM

In the cost section I didn't notice the cost of Windows XP Pro included. Whenever I build a system for somebody I usually have to include the cost of the OS. You're running XP Pro, why not include the cost buying of XP Pro? Without it your cost figures are unrealistic, you're system price should have been higher by about $140.

Other than that I think you've built a great midrange system. Keep up the good work!
May 9, 2007 3:15:41 PM

Quote:
In the cost section I didn't notice the cost of Windows XP Pro included.


We didn't include the cost of the benchmarking software either.
We're concentrating on hardware costs and what affects performance, not software.

Besides, who are we to dictate you can't use Linux? :wink:
May 9, 2007 3:50:25 PM

heh.. I think a lot of people are having a problem w/the term "midrange" because they *want* a midrange computer, but cannot afford the price of this one.

It's funny, because I've also heard that you, "cannot build a good gaming computer for under $1k." So, here we have $1.2k being "top end" and $1k being "too low for anything decent."

As has been said over and over, based on the market, this price point is almost exact for a *MID* range comp. The GFX card can be had for well under $300, which is half of the top of the line cards (even less than the soon to be top of the line cards). I think ATI's lack of competition would lead consumers to believe that, because ATI doesn't have a competing card, the GTS 320 cannot be percieved as "mid range" because it's already "king of the hill" (usually it's "either or" for nvidia/ati when it comes to choosing a top card).

The board is a good, solid board, and doesn't even touch on the higher end of the price scale for boards.

The memory is good and solid, but is also cheaper than the top of the line sticks.

Personally, I would have gone for the 6700, because as per the price cuts, it recieved the highest performance per penny increase (the highest cut in price). It is the top of the line "sub-extreme/quad" chip though, so perhaps that is too high? Again, I think the lack of AMD's ability to compete in this category makes the end user think that the king of the hill means it's too high to be considered mid-ranged.

I would have also gone w/the 7200.10 line from seagate, but the HDDs are basically personal pref.

I think a bit more power *could* be used for the PSU, but it's not really necessary...


All in all, I think this build is a near-perfect representation of what a mid-range computer should look like.
May 9, 2007 3:53:09 PM

Quote:
I would like to ask the question, if this is a mid range system why is it using the 2nd best video card processor out there 8800GTS. (Based on the VAG chart Overall all games fps)???? If it was mid range wouldn't it be using a X1950pro/X1900XT or 7900GT/7950GT???? :? :? 8)



Because top range is 2x 8800GTX SLI
May 9, 2007 4:04:03 PM

Love the article, but I have noticed that in none of the marathons you have included the OS price into the equation.

You should add $280 for windows xp pro, so the total would be $1,505 for today's system.
May 9, 2007 4:16:04 PM

Quote:
Love the article, but I have noticed that in none of the marathons you have included the OS price into the equation.


I've mentioned this in the first article, I've mentioned it in this thread, and I'll mention it one last time (before the thirsd and forth articles come out, when I'll likely have to mention it again):

"We didn't include the cost of the benchmarking software either.
We're concentrating on hardware costs and what affects performance, not software.

Besides, who are we to dictate you can't use Linux?"
May 9, 2007 4:35:29 PM

Perfecto. I would like to see a processor upgrade too, but it sounds like you have a methodology going on there and besides that was already covered in the recent article "Which Is the Best Mainstream CPU?"

I hope to see an opteron in the High end slot since it is the undisputed processing champion at this time, although that would really get you into workstation teritory instead of the desktop.
May 9, 2007 4:59:33 PM

Quote:
I would like to ask the question, if this is a mid range system why is it using the 2nd best video card processor out there 8800GTS. (Based on the VAG chart Overall all games fps)???? If it was mid range wouldn't it be using a X1950pro/X1900XT or 7900GT/7950GT???? :? :? 8)



Because top range is 2x 8800GTX SLI
May 9, 2007 5:03:19 PM

I think you guys did well. Even what phrozt said about ppl "wanting" that midrange but not affording it is right.

Honestly, I think ppl that are complaining about the 8800 being in "midrange" is b/c they have a bit of a pride issue that feels their system (that has said 8800) is not the lowly midrange but is uber 1337 and will beat down all smack-tard "real" midrange. They run wit da big dawgs, yo.

Seriously, if you got an 8800gtx 4 months ago and paid $x you need to be ok with the fact that eventually it will not be top-dog. Sometimes that happens faster that you would like. ;) 

So far you guys are on the money. With both these systems so far you can tweak small things and adjust the cost to your liking. Sure, one could cut costs on the cooler, case and even a bit on the psu and get around that 1k spot with exactly the same performance... but that is the point here I think. If you want to make that your budget then these builds give you a guide on where to start.
May 9, 2007 5:17:40 PM

Just wanted to say that this is one of the better series I've seen here in a while.

Two things I would love to see from it.

1) Typical overclocking done on each system (though if they were going to OC, I think the 4300 might have been mandatory) to see how much performance a typical person could get out of each system across the different apps.

2) A comparison to slightly older systems. I know there are a ton of us out there that still have S939 single or dual core procs and good but aging gpus. I'd love to see some numbers concerning the improvement one could expect with each of these systems. (yea, this one might be a little to personalized for the series.)

Good job so far.


Oh, and as for the low/mid range, I think they were right on.

Budget built would have a 3800+ or 4300 (many would OC both though), a cheap but decent mobo (Biostar 550, DS/S 3, and the MSI come to mind), and the graphics would, I think depend more on exactly what a person's budget is.

For midrange, I think most people would still choose the 6600 and if they could afford it, the 8800gts.
May 9, 2007 5:35:26 PM

So much just depends on what you are going to do with a system that makes it tough to define "mid-range".

Example - My last system was only an E4300(OC'd) and a 7600GT. However, it has 4gb of RAM and (3) HDDs and Dual 19" monitors.
(Virtual Server Hosting is it's toughest work load.)

However, since a game is not even loaded on this system, even the 7600GT is overkill.

I think part of the problem folks have with the 8800GTS is that it is far more GPU than the majority of people need. Even gamers.

You could save $100 or more and still get a great card.
(I saw an x1900 for only $129!)

However, when we consider their are still far more powerful solutions that are gonig to be in the top end, the Middle GPU has to fall someplace.
May 9, 2007 5:54:17 PM

Quote:
So much just depends on what you are going to do with a system that makes it tough to define "mid-range".


Totally agree with you on that.

We strove to 'balance' the systems as far as gaming and everything else was concerned.

But if you were building a system specifically for, say, photoshop use - that would have been a very different animal indeed...
May 9, 2007 5:57:58 PM

I'd have to disagree that the GTS is more than most gamers can use. Though many gamers have a LCD with 1280x1024, widescreen monitors and game support are on the sharp increase. I recently bought myself a 22" widescreen for a very reasonable price I thought, and it supports 1600x1050 I think it was? Anyways, of course a gamer like myself would rather play at his monitor's native resolution, but I find even with my AGP 1950pro 512mb, I can't do 10 man raids in WoW with decent framerates at the monitor's native resolution. Never mind larger raids than that or PVP. So, I've reduced the res a step down from that and even decreased the quality settings a bit to make it run smoothly.

I'd LOVE an 8800GTS. perfect choice for a modern mid-range pc. I don't ONLY game, I like to watch movies and TV shows too, and I would imagine at least some people are with me on that (widescreen).
May 9, 2007 6:12:39 PM

My point was "most".

The number of people using 1680x1050 and such resolutions is well below 50%.

Your WoW issue is most likely RAM or CPU related not graphics.
I've run WoW on a 5900Ultra w/o issues.

If you are running in Windowed Mode, try w/o Windowed mode.
This seemed to help me alot on my one system until I upgraded my RAM.
May 9, 2007 6:16:17 PM

I am really glad to see you guys doing these articles. I suggested they be done a few weeks ago on the community forum (new story ideas) and from the lack of response, i thought fell on deaf ears.

Now I do not know if you planned this already, but it is good that you have!!!


What would be interesting as a continuance of this, once you get the systems all running, would be one of two things (or both if you want).

1. As people have suggested, try to OC it a bit and see what you can get as a nice STABLE non power-sucking system state. Something the "average" techie could do without fear of frying their system.

2. Future updates to the systems that you put together. Sort of a list for upgrades that fall within certain budgetary standards ($500/yr, $250/yr, whatever). This way, people who followed your advice on the system they built at home can still follow your advice on optimal (in your opinion) updates.

The second topic would also be good for VERY involved discussion on the boards, as I am sure that everyone and their mother would want to get their $1.67 into the mix.

So long as everyone here remembers that the configurations are merely suggestions and not the bible of computer construction!!!


BTW, I agree with a lot of what you are saying in the build here, although a decent sound card (I did not see one, I might have skipped it) would be pretty nice.

The 8800 is definitely creeping into the midrange now (while I look at my 7950 I bought in October with sad eyes...) and although it is still rather expensive, will satisfy all but the die hards looking for major tech bling.

Cases are rough, and yours is an interesting chice and layout, although the purple clips are a bit chintzy... I am surprised that you did not choose a Lian for this though...


A few suggestions on the layout of the reviews you may want to pursue. I know you guys are limited to page space to maximize your ad-layout, but the klunky 12 page spread for everything is a little hard to follow.

Most people have (at least) 17" monitors with standard resolutions of 1280x1024, so it might be good to start having a bit more width in your articles to be able to fit the tables more effectively.

Also, a summary page with pictures, MFR links, and price-scan links (Pricegraber or whoever you guys might want to use) would be helpful. Somewhere where you can see the end result, like it was laid out on a table in front of them (ready to assemble).

Also, suggested alternatives might also work, including all the necessary information, but it is understood that you are only building one machine per price point and that the alternate options, while viable, were not used.

And that is about it.

Final note. Once you are finished with this, this might be a good set of articles to "feature" with a perma-link on the main page. One of the most common questions on a tech board is usually "I am building XXX, any suggestions?". If this were made obvious enough, these people would have somewhere to go first thing rather than having to post and ask the same question, or at least give them a base to start at before they ask for more.


But with all that in mind, I have to say keep it up! Looking forward to your Bling!
May 9, 2007 6:18:32 PM

Quote:
I'd have to disagree that the GTS is more than most gamers can use. Though many gamers have a LCD with 1280x1024, widescreen monitors and game support are on the sharp increase. I recently bought myself a 22" widescreen for a very reasonable price I thought, and it supports 1600x1050 I think it was? Anyways, of course a gamer like myself would rather play at his monitor's native resolution, but I find even with my AGP 1950pro 512mb, I can't do 10 man raids in WoW with decent framerates at the monitor's native resolution. Never mind larger raids than that or PVP. So, I've reduced the res a step down from that and even decreased the quality settings a bit to make it run smoothly.

I'd LOVE an 8800GTS. perfect choice for a modern mid-range pc. I don't ONLY game, I like to watch movies and TV shows too, and I would imagine at least some people are with me on that (widescreen).


See, that's the exact truth, which is something I see more and more as I look at benchmarks. People see "8800" and think GTX. The 320MB Just doesn't have the juice of the GTX for larger resolutions. The GPU component might be fairly close to the GTX in power, but it simply does not have the memory to push out those larger resolutions.

That's why it's mid range. Good power, it will play all the games pretty well, but there's not enough juice in it to be called top-of-the-line.

Then you look at the x1950pro (the XTX doesn't even come into the picture if we're talking price vs value), and although they're good cards, if you have a midrange budget, you're going to be picking a 8800GTS 320, because you're looking at a difference of $100 on the extreme (closer to $50) for a vast improvement in performance and DX10 support for the future.
May 9, 2007 6:25:05 PM

Quote:
BTW, I agree with a lot of what you are saying in the build here, although a decent sound card (I did not see one, I might have skipped it) would be pretty nice.


you know, I was gonna say something about that and forgot... glad someone else was thinking about it. I agree that the budget box should stick w/ onboard and it was mentioned as such... but the setup on this midrange screams a need for a solid card and nothing was even mentioned about it.

I still like everything that was chosen, but honestly... dedicated sound blows away onboard for both quality and performance (in the case of a dsp). So out of curiosity, why the decision for onboard? what was the thinking on this guys? Was it purely budget, or is there something else? Inquiring minds want to know. ;) 
May 9, 2007 6:30:44 PM

My mistake. I went back to the first article where the OS omition is mentioned.

And it is true: linux is an option. I'll read on the posts from my home pc, which is currently running openSuse :wink:
May 9, 2007 6:39:18 PM

Quote:
My point was "most".

The number of people using 1680x1050 and such resolutions is well below 50%.

Your WoW issue is most likely RAM or CPU related not graphics.
I've run WoW on a 5900Ultra w/o issues.

If you are running in Windowed Mode, try w/o Windowed mode.
This seemed to help me alot on my one system until I upgraded my RAM.


Keep in mind however, the article is generally aimed at someone planning to buy a new PC. Of course that does not always mean a new monitor (and a good reason to exclude it from the article), but I would imagine with 22" screens dropping very rapidly in price lately, a good number of people might buy one with this new mid-range pc of theirs. People's CURRENT compuers are not really the consideration, we're looking at the NEW pc they're buying.

I realize WoW can be run on really low end systems, and I concede there COULD be a bottleneck elsewhere. I recently increased from 1gb to 2gb of DDR RAM without a noticeable improvement besides load screens, so the last likely culprit is my A643200+ 939 processor. I know it's not much of a processor, but I'd be surprised if WoW was significantly impacted by it (rather than the video card). I even upgraded my power supply to a 550w modular unit to ensure that was'nt the issue in power delivery to the video card. Video drivers are the latest catalyst.

1680x1050 is a lot of resolution. I would love to hear from someone with a similar PC to mine, but a recent tom's article (sorry I don't recall the title) seemed to suggest to me that my A643200 would be a minimal bottleneck for this video card. Most benchmarks are based on a solo player with only CPU enemies running around, multiplayer is a lot more demanding (also with Ventrilo running in the background).

I'll investigate "windowed mode". I'm just running whatever mode is default currently AFAIK. I thought windowed mode referred to running the game in a smaller window than full screen? I would think that would make it run a lot faster if anything...
May 9, 2007 7:07:17 PM

Good article, I agree with your component choices again. I really thought that the controversy would heat up for the mid range since the low-end system was so solid. I guess not though.

The only changes that could be made are just tweaks based on personal preference, like buying a 1950pro instead of the 8800gts or different brands of ram / psu / case. It would have been nice if you could have included an overclocked system using the best cheap OC components just to see how it fares against the others. But of course, that is beyond the scope of the article.

Oh and you should have included the low end system scores in most of those benchmarks. Not a big deal, I assume you will do this for the last article.
May 9, 2007 7:08:37 PM

Good article chaps - but I think I am going to have serious envy issues with the last set up.

I agree overclocking should be covered in a follow up article or briefly in the summary, depending how much time the reviewers can spend on it.

On screen sizes, please don't make the pages wider - I normally catch up at work, and I can't see a big screen coming my way :cry: 
May 9, 2007 8:39:18 PM

The "Windowed Mode" thing is just what I notice from personal experience.

It runs much slower in this mode on my gaming laptop than when not in this mode. I don't know why, I just experience this.


I can't argue that the 8800 GTS 320mb model is not a good card at a good price. It most certainly is :>>

I'm just cheap about certain things :>

I can get a 7900GS or X1900GT for about $130 and should tackle most stuff w/o a problem. Heck, look at what they said about the card included in the low end system. This would be a massive upgrde and still inexpensive.

But all depends on the person.
I don't think I'm ever going to play Crysis or HL2 or most of the other games that really need the power of that card.

So I look at the 8800GTS and think, "Yeah know, I could add a 2nd HDD for backups, a 9-in-1 multimedia reader or perhaps a 2nd monitor instead of this card but still have a card everyone was drooling over just a couple months ago for playing the same games I'm still going to be playing".

I'm going to be upgrading my PC to 8gb soon and the quad-core in the fall. (Wife Willing) However, I will not be upgrading my 7600GT because it meets my needs while the other items are still a limiting factor for me.

I'm not the normal user, that is no doubt :>
Add on top of that I'm normally a cheapskate. (The secret is out :>)
May 9, 2007 8:59:31 PM

I just built a computer for ~$1200 (software excluded) yet it's quite inferior to this midrange build presented which makes me a little remorseful. However this wasn't because I was ill-informed with my purchases. I had to make a lot of concessions due to Tax, Shipping, and I couldn't really rely on rebates because I had to worry about the immediate costs. Though if I could've spared a $100 or $150 more I would've gone with the e6600 and 8800 GTS instead of the e6420 and a 7 series.

About the midrange debate. I think it depends on the consumer because most of the users at hardware forums such as this one would consider $1200 midrange, but if you asked an average customer at Fry's or BestBuy's they would probably have a different opinion.
May 9, 2007 9:03:03 PM

this is about the same of what i want to buy.
although with some differences. (i want the 8600GTS heat sink)
i don't plan on playing many games, even though i want the option too perhaps in the future.
my computer is in my room so i want it to be quieter then more powerful (like a new apprentice..)
i think you should have suggested alternatives to each part.
or not just make it into categories - low-mid-high' but by uses commonly done with the computer - say' gaming, graphics, etc.
i think the GTS 320 is more of the high end card although there are better ones (i don't include the 640 as better since it has mostly exactly the same performance as the 320). also, i think say' it's not high end because you can put a ridicules 8800 ultra SLI - which no one (except Mega geeks will do - and i'm writing this in a hardware forum!)
May 9, 2007 10:12:20 PM

Is the 5-min-video used for Xvid and DivX benchmarks available so I could compare my machine to those tested here?
May 10, 2007 12:23:00 AM

Excellent article and it shows how much a system can fall behind just in a year. I bought a X2 3800 last year and now I fall into the budget line, heh. I'll be keeping it for a while, the performance is enough for me.
May 10, 2007 1:08:31 AM

This is the system I was waiting to see as our cheapest system is considered upper mid range. The one thing I got out of it is that TG and I have a very different definition of mid range. Our mid range system uses a either Gigabyte or Intel motherboard with 965P, 7600GT, E6420, 160gig Seagate Barracuda 3g/s, and 2gigs of generic RAM (with lifetime warranty). :) 

The case: no comment. (personal preference)

Motherboard: Not sure what it is about TG and MSI. Since no sound card was used, I think the superior onboard sound of both Intel and Gigabyte boards make them better choices than the MSI. The MSI P965 Platinum is aimed at the budget market, and really isn't a good match for the rest of the components selected IMO. Again, this seems like a gaming choice much more than an all purpose board. No E-SATA??

CPU: closer to high end than middle IMO. E6420 would probably have been a better choice for this price range and OC's extremely well.

CPU cooler: A budget cooler on a mid range system, go figure. I'd recommend a Thermaltake Big Typhoon. Substitute the fan for a 3500RPM TT Smart Fan 2 and you've got one of the best air coolers money can buy, for under $60USD.

RAM: Again not really happy with the selection, but I can understand why it was chosen for the price. I think the 2gigs is plenty though.

Video Card: I'd call this high end. A mid range card is probably a 7800/7900. No one but gamers care about DX10 at this point.

Hard Drive: A good choice, although they aren't nearly as price competitive in AU. I'm curious as to why you went with a single hard drive instead of 2x250 in RAID 0. In AU, I'd recommend the Seagate 7200.10, size of your choice, because of the prices vs performance.

PSU: Never heard of Aerocool. Must be a USA only brand? There's lots of good PSUs between 550w and 650w for a similar price range. No problems with this one and I'll take TG's word for it being efficient and quiet.

Optical Drive: I think they're all about the same although I haven't used a Sony 7170. I'm glad TG used an SATA drive.

Benchmarks: Very comparable to my almost yr old system (sig). I would have expected a little more from a E6600 and 8800GTS, but of course this is not overclocked and mine is.

Overall I'd say this system was definitely more upper-mid range, borderline high end. It'll be interesting to see where you draw the line. Huge difference between this and the low end system.

I appreciate the work you've put into this project. :) 
May 10, 2007 1:14:13 AM

I love Tom's Hardware, and I'm finding the system builder marathon to be really helpful and informative. I am, however, having a problem finding where this optical drive is being sold. Tom's Hardware has done articles before on the Sony/NEC Optiarc 7170 SATA, so I assumed it was out there, but I can't find the darn thing! All I can come up with is the 7170 IDE. The SATA version seems to be non-existent.

Please Help! This drive looks like an awesome steal, and I definitely want one in my new system.

Also, it might be useful to readers if Tom's Hardware provided a few links to where these components can be found. I know that the writers have put a lot of research and hard work into this stuff, but if the readers can't get what they want out of the article, whether that be an interesting read or to find the parts they need for their system, it sort of becomes a waste. I think the very least that could be done is to simply make sure that the product comes up in the Tom's Hardware PriceGrabber-powered price comparison tool.
May 10, 2007 1:15:03 AM

I would just like to say great job so far on day 1 and day 2. Alot can be argued of course, picking a motherbard with 4 memory slots for the budget PC still keeps you at the same pricepoint (for example)

I have to say thats my only official gripe outta both the articles. Awsome starting point for just about anyone looking to toss together a system.

I'm looking forward to the next 2 articles


(my build) it's more than a year old and still does all i want it to....
Socket 754 Sempron 3400+.....
Geforce 6200 (with the extra 4 pipelines unlocked) 256mb Native memory (no TC).
400w PSU (HIPRO) maybe i skimped a bit on this but so far my machine has be on and never turned off *besides reboots for updates* no odd crashes ever.
2x512mb PC3200 (Samsung chips) dunno much else they were given to me
XP Home..
reused Optic drives
Adaptec 2940U2W with a couple of 36gb 10k RPM drives
plus i have some donated/reused PATA drives tossed in there for storage n such (total HD space is 200gb *aprox)

the total cost for my build nearly a year and a half ago was $285 USD
mostly because the only things i purchased new were the mobo, cpu, PSU.... the scsi card and drives were Ebayed system pulls and only cost $60 the rest of the parts were gifts (video card, memory, OS) the reused were just the optics and odd HDs i had laying around

oh and i have a "frankensteined" old apple PPC case, which is literally cut in half (i used a hacksaw)so all i have is the Bays from the top portion of the case which is where an old AT Power supply resides and gives power to the scsi drives that live there, oh and not to mention the 10gig scsi drive from the Apple PPC I decided to plug it in to see if it works and it lives on to this day lol..

im rambling and i'll shut up now that I'm way off topic (just kinda fun to relate what kinda crap you can throw together when all yur pennies are crying from being pinched)

have fun everyone
!