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System Builder Marathon: Price/Performance

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March 29, 2008 9:35:04 AM

We've built and tested our low-, mid- and higher-cost systems at standard and overclocked speeds. Now we're ready to compare their performance, price, and value.

http://www.tomshardware.com/2008/03/28/system_builder_marathon/index.html
March 30, 2008 1:57:50 AM

Seriously, I could have built a sweet gaming system with the low end's $1000 budget that performs similar to the Mid-Cost PC. I don't understand why Tom's paid so much for feeble parts. An E8400 ($200), GA-EP35-DS3R ($130), 4GB Ram ($50), 8800GTX ($290) or 2X 3870 ($360), a good Antec case + PSU ($120) and some cheap misc. parts will beat the Mid-Cost PC in game and half the office suits.
March 30, 2008 5:16:58 AM

I believe I mentioned the E8400 was not available at retail when we built the systems. if it was I would certainly have chosen it. The sub $200 choices were E6750 and 9500, and the 9500 stands up well in that comparison.
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March 30, 2008 8:37:57 AM

cleeve said:
I believe I mentioned the E8400 was not available at retail when we built the systems. if it was I would certainly have chosen it. The sub $200 choices were E6750 and 9500, and the 9500 stands up well in that comparison.


Cleeve's right, Intel isn't exactly handing out E8400's to reviewers, a few E8500's and that was it. Someone would have had to buy an E8400, and they were only available for a few hours as I recall before they all vanished.
March 31, 2008 4:21:29 PM

It would be MUCH easier to read the comparison graphs if the order of the systems was kept consistent and meaningful. I would much rather be able to quickly determine whether the overclocked mid-price system beat the high-end system than to have the bars be all pretty and in descending order. The point of a bar graph is to have the length of the bars show their value, not their location.

meaningful order -> :) 
descending order -> :fou: 
March 31, 2008 7:03:17 PM

phenom wasn't exactly a budget overclocking part... it's a budget cpu with good price/performance rating on stock only...
April 1, 2008 2:51:42 AM

What's the time frame you're talking about, late January? E8400 OEM is $190 at Newegg and 4GB memory has been at sub $100 for a while now.
April 1, 2008 10:41:07 AM

"Our machines were intended to serve as examples of balanced machines for various price brackets, but your particular needs should govern any purchasing decision."

Translation, we screwed up, here is our excuse.
April 1, 2008 10:45:17 AM

The_Blood_Raven said:
"Our machines were intended to serve as examples of balanced machines for various price brackets, but your particular needs should govern any purchasing decision."

Translation, we screwed up, here is our excuse.


No, the translation comes from you, ie "I Blood_Raven am a moron". As in, a moron who would tell people to use a Raptor drive in a multimedia machine designed for both playing games and working with HD content.

Thanks for reaffirming your irrelavence, but please quit distracting others from more useful persuits.
April 2, 2008 7:58:09 PM

First and foremost... Holy ****, new forums. They're actually usable. Nice.

Now that that's out of the way, I was once a loyal regular of tomshardware, but a few years ago the site and I just got out of sync. I forget exactly when it happened, but one day I read an article it was just flat out wrong. In my eyes, TH sold out or our differing views just became too different. I keep an eye on TH hoping that some day we may agree again. Your benchmarks are much closer to other sites now, but it's articles like this that really break my heart.

Don't get me wrong, I like the idea, but I think it's misguided/flawed and really doesn't provide any useful information for me. To me, the systems build lack a direction or goal other than a price point. The conclusion derived from the benchmarks really doesn't help me decide much of anything.

What I would have liked to have seen:

Expected user profiles - Know who your building a system for, know what their needs are, and make a meaningful conclusion based off of it. Pick some typical users and give them titles. A few examples: the Gamer, the MMOer, the Surfer(aka Mom), the Artist, the Modeler, the Overclocker, the Guy-who-likes-to-flash-his-bling...

Performance goals- Establish minimum acceptable benchmarks before building and testing the systems. This sort of fits in with the profiling idea.

Don't use price points - Aim for general tiers, build the lowest reasonable system you can, then try to up it by just 1. I suspect the build range would be something like $500-700, $800-1000, $1200-1500, $2k+.

Please the fanboys - Try and have a side by side comparison for each tier. Or at least discuss the opposing factions in your build options. Explain the price or performance difference, let the fanboys know what their alligence is costing them.

Factor for the difference of OCing - Talk about the difference at a minimum. Try and compare the differences if you can. Let the overclocker see how much $ he can save, but also show the person who doesn't want the risk/work what the better stock options are.

And with that, I'm late for class.
April 2, 2008 8:41:29 PM

installing a radiator inside a case only moves heat around inside the case. while the single radiator is small the dual top radiator would have worked fine for just cooling the cpu and mobo.

2 radiators sideways would not be as clean as the dual set up

overall nice build! but why no dual raptors with storage?

i have 2 raptors with storage on this microatx box with only a lowly e6750 - raptors increase responsiveness while overpriced quad core cpus do little but make nice bench marks
April 2, 2008 8:58:57 PM

Conceptuweasel said:
It would be MUCH easier to read the comparison graphs if the order of the systems was kept consistent and meaningful. I would much rather be able to quickly determine whether the overclocked mid-price system beat the high-end system than to have the bars be all pretty and in descending order. The point of a bar graph is to have the length of the bars show their value, not their location.

meaningful order -> :) 
descending order -> :fou: 


I'd disagree, I prefer the descending order for most benchmarks, so long as they're color coded the same though out the article. Maybe the conclusion section could be sorted by build price, but for the bulk of the benchmarks I prefer sorted by performance.
April 2, 2008 9:09:52 PM

dragonsprayer said:
installing a radiator inside a case only moves heat around inside the case. while the single radiator is small the dual top radiator would have worked fine for just cooling the cpu and mobo.

2 radiators sideways would not be as clean as the dual set up

overall nice build! but why no dual raptors with storage?

i have 2 raptors with storage on this microatx box with only a lowly e6750 - raptors increase responsiveness while overpriced quad core cpus do little but make nice bench marks


Ah, but the top radiator is cooled by warm case air while the bottom radiator is cooled by intake air. So sending the coolant to the top radiator reduces it to case temperature, while sending it from the top radiator to the bottom radiator reduces the temperature even further. Add to that, the bottom radiator is also the reservoir, after all you do need some way to fill the system.
April 2, 2008 10:29:59 PM

Crashman said:
Ah, but the top radiator is cooled by warm case air while the bottom radiator is cooled by intake air. So sending the coolant to the top radiator reduces it to case temperature, while sending it from the top radiator to the bottom radiator reduces the temperature even further. Add to that, the bottom radiator is also the reservoir, after all you do need some way to fill the system.



that may be wrong - it may appear to be right but if you measure the air in those spots i think you find that you are wrong with both set ups.

since the first radiator is in line first most of the heat is dumped back into the case rasing the entire temp of the case. so that the bottom air may be warmer over time

key is moving heat out of the system - its very simple concept and it can not be beat. regardless the radiator is way oversize the temps will be about the same.



April 2, 2008 10:39:44 PM

you think i just like to argue if you read my posts - well its true - my physics prof wanted to toss me from class i had 98% in the class- this list goes on.

its a nice build and you did a good job - i guess i just have to ship a unit for you guys to test!

since the system is called high end, it should be high end - high end is dual loop with all heat vent externanally.

i will post pictures on this thread of do this right. dual loop, 3 radaitors (3 120size) with 6 fans in push pull config - it beats any set up and i am sure it will be copied like all my stuff.


remember THG said you need nitrogen to get 4.1ghz at the same time i wad building 4.1ghz air cooled pentium systems!
April 3, 2008 4:07:53 AM

dragonsprayer said:

i will post pictures on this thread of do this right. dual loop, 3 radaitors (3 120size) with 6 fans in push pull config - it beats any set up and i am sure it will be copied like all my stuff.


Yeh, three 120mm radiators, or one double and one single 120mm radiator. The top fans are both exhaust, the front fan is indeed an intake. None of the radiators are 100% efficient, and to top it off there's a flow imbalance of 4 exhaust fans an 1 intake fan that will force air to be pulled from other places. The imbalance can't be fixed.
April 3, 2008 4:31:46 AM

the pictures are of a newly started system - sorry no time to throw a mobo and mount the rear rad/fan assembly. this was proprietary - only sold to existing customers. now its out i am sure it will be copied - if anyone else knows of dual fan, dual loop triple rad set up email so i can cancel my patent app!

while few people will see why its superior - i will explain:

first, this design uses push pull fans on all three radiators - its much more quiet and more efficient cooling. the gpu and mobo go the top and the cpu to rear - dual loop.

second there all heat is vented externally - this design is superior to blackbird, falcon or digitalstorm single fan cooling.

this system also uses internal placed fans not show to pull air through the hdd system - coolermaster design needs help. we mount a thin 12mm thick fan below the hdd bay and inside accross from the gpus where all the mesh is.

sorry no photos of complete systems can be posted yet - this is for THG fans!





the rear rad/fan unit i am holding is bolt through the back - dual fan set up allows a single radiator too cool a 4ghz+ quad core.
April 3, 2008 7:35:09 AM

It's not better, just different. The THG system could have mounted the front radiator in the back, but didn't, because front mounting is cooler. No need for liquid cooling on the chipset since a fan works better (cools more components), VGA liquid cooling is nice but THG wasn't about to get $150 coolers when the liquid-cooled cards cost less than $50 more than standard cards. The card supplier simply didn't come through.
April 3, 2008 10:00:46 PM

well thats what this forum is about info!

my bad on the mobo, i thought you had one with built in chipset cooling - like asus maximus or striker ii

it just a "pet peev" of mine internal radiators - again my opinion is they circulate heat and does not remove it.

bottom line looks nice and performance is in line, i use it as my rig!
April 4, 2008 2:07:09 AM

Obviously if you're blowing cold air in and hot air out, you're removing heat. As for the fan pointed at the chipset, it stirs hot air surrounding components into warm case air, and once again heat is removed by exhaust fans. The board is the Striker II, it has no heatpipe connections and if it did, using them would make the thing extremely difficult to fill.

The big fan pointed at the Northbridge sink might not get the Northbridge cold, but it's cool enough to be stable at whatever overclock you need. Plus, the fan cools surrounding components.

The best way to do an all-liquid system would be to have a hole (or holes) on the top of the case for filling it. Unfortunately, pre-configured cases that have this feature also have inadequate cooling systems.
April 4, 2008 2:25:37 AM

I assume the author meant "bitrate" for the audio tests, not kb/s. Another example of how TG editors make better Christmas web page decorations than editors?

I don't see the point of converting to 160 bitrate for these tests either. Even at 320 bitrate there is some quality loss, and I'd never use less given the choice.

I found the review very hard to read. Wasn't the idea to compare the different systems (budget, midrange, high-end)? Yet we have to swap pages back and forth to do that. I'd much rather see a comparison of these 3 systems side by side than a high-end to a 3x SLI or last years system, which had very little to do with this year's tests.

I'm also a bit confused about the use of Raptors for anything anymore. If $ is no object, a Cheetah 15000rpm hard drives out-performs the aged 10000rpm Raptors. SAS is also more reliable than SATA/IDE, so why not go all out and get the best?

I think this is a good effort, but lost the plot somewhere along the way.
April 4, 2008 7:31:39 AM

dark41 said:
Wasn't the idea to compare the different systems (budget, midrange, high-end)? Yet we have to swap pages back and forth to do that. I'd much rather see a comparison of these 3 systems side by side than a high-end to a 3x SLI or last years system, which had very little to do with this year's tests.


You mean like these?

http://www.tomshardware.com/2008/03/28/system_builder_m...
April 7, 2008 5:19:31 AM

Hrm... no reply to my comment. Does that mean it was discarded? I've seen several post dismissing people who were obviously just bashing the article. I provide (what I thought was) constructive criticism, but I get no feedback. Maybe you thought I wouldn't come back so I wasn't worth the time? Or maybe it was because I questioned the integrity of some of the much older articles?
April 7, 2008 3:26:43 PM

Pheoni said:
Hrm... no reply to my comment. Does that mean it was discarded? I've seen several post dismissing people who were obviously just bashing the article. I provide (what I thought was) constructive criticism, but I get no feedback. Maybe you thought I wouldn't come back so I wasn't worth the time? Or maybe it was because I questioned the integrity of some of the much older articles?


They're working on including the latest machine from the $500 PC series in the next marathon. The others, 1k/2k/4k are built to provide the best performance value for "under the limit". That's why the $4k PC was only $3.4k. It would require a bunch more configurations to do separate PC's for media-centric and gaming builds, so they try to build the fastest multi-function system for the broader market served by that price limit.

Last time, Don wanted to try AMD to stress it's value-priced quad-core, while Shelton scratched his head and built a system with parts he had experience with. Shelton's a great builder on the technical side, but his choices were sometimes questionable concerning value. The site will work harder to reign-in Shelton next time.
April 16, 2008 4:06:39 PM

I built the "Mid-Range" system described here to be my new gaming rig. Added one 8800GTX for SLI and have successfully OC'ed the Q6700 to a decent 3.33GHz. System is nice and stable running Prime95 for several hours at fully loaded temps around 61 Degrees Celsius, Idle at 41. 3DMark06 Score is 16264.

Full Specs:

Intel Core 2 Quad Q6700 (OC'ed to 3.33GHz)
Asus P5N-T Deluxe (Bios 1001)
Crucial Ballistix DDR2 800 PC2-6400 - 4 GB (Linked/Sync'd running at 667, 4 - 4 - 4 -12)
2 x EVGA GeForce 8800GTX, 768 MB in SLI
Windows Vista 32bit Ultimate
Cooler Master HyperTX 2
Western Digital Raptor 150 GB
Western Digital Caviar 500 GB
Antec Nine Hundred
PC Power & Cooling Silencer S75QB 750W
DVD-RW 2x Sony Optiarc 7190 DVD-RW
NEC 1.44MB 3.5" Floppy

I'm writing this mainly to say thanks Tom's Hardware! My new system rocks and I'm at least fairly confident that I got good bang for my buck.

- AlbatrossX
!