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WEIGH IN: Dec.08 System Builder Marathon ~$1250 system components

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November 28, 2008 2:21:14 PM

Hello fellows,

Going to the forums to get your forum member thoughts on the components we chose for the current System Builder Marathon seemed to go really well with this month's article, so I'd like to repeat the success...

I'm putting together the components for the next system builder marathon, and I'd appreciate your feedback once again!

This time we'd like to coompare our E8500/Radeon 4870X2 build that costed about $1250 to a similarly priced Core i7 Nehalem system...

In order to do that we've had to throttle back on the graphics card as the CPU and motherboard are more expensive. Here's what I came up with so far:

CPU: i7 920 - $299
CPU Cooler: stock
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-EX58-DS4 - $245
RAM: 3GB (3x1GB) Crucial DDR-3 PC8500 CAS-7 CT3KIT12864BA1067 - $86
Graphics: Sapphire Radeon 4850 X2 - $370
Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar black 640GB 32 MB cache - $85
Sound Integrated - 0
Network Integrated Gigabit Networking - 0
Case: Cooler Master 690 NV - $60
Power: Corsair 650TX - $100
Optical: LITE-ON 20X DVD±R SATA Model iHAS120-04 - $24

Total Price: $1269


Note that this build is using the stock cooler as I haven't had a lot of experience with the i7 and don't know what kind of currently available coolers from Newegg would do a better job than stock. If you have any ideas, let me know!

[EDIT] changed the videocards to two 4850's from 4830s.
[EDIT] changed RAM to 3x 1GB for triple channel
[EDIT] changed case and power supply as antec three hundred special is over; also, wanted something with side air intakes because Radeon 4850's are not dual slot cards.
[EDIT] changed to a single 4850 X2; we had space in the budget to bring the system closer to $1250, and the games will benefit from the extra GB of RAM on the X2.
[EDIT] changed PSU to something with a better rep, the Corsair 650TX.



November 28, 2008 2:49:39 PM

edit: you made the switch from 4830 to 4850. lol, you beat me to it.

@OP : Check out this thread for Core i7 OCing:
http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/forum2.php?config=tom...
roadrunner197069 managed to get 3.8Ghz with stock cooler.
Good build.

edit: below text is before OP changed the post.
However you might want to consider the CrossFire option again. Imo, getting a 4850 would have been a better choice as that will alow you to add in another 4850 down the road. The 4850 is cheaper and only a bit behind 4830 CrossFire. A 4870 would have also been a good option. See benches here:
http://www.hexus.net/content/item.php?item=16300&page=6
Although 4830 in CrossFire beats the 4850/4870 in the high resolutions you won't usually notice a difference between 60 fps and a 100 fps.
November 28, 2008 2:54:18 PM

Yeah, I hear you on the graphics card front. However, since we're trying to compare with November's E8500/4870 X2 and keep the price as similar as possible - while making the best gamer machine we can for the buck - our goals might be best served by the power a couple of 4850's can supply.

As for the cooler, I think you're right. Ihe more I look around, the more I see that the stock cooler is pretty good. Maybe I won't sweat the cooler upgrade this go-round.
Related resources
November 28, 2008 3:58:35 PM

I think it's too early to do any overclocking experiments with Core i7 since there aren't many (if any) cpu coolers for the new lga socket. Wait like a month or something lol.
November 28, 2008 4:16:26 PM

^Actually most of the older high end coolers that have the needed surface contacts will have new mounting kits. Ie. TRUE 120.
November 28, 2008 5:43:23 PM

The only thing I would REALLY like to see in this article is a comparison between dual channel and triple channel memory performance. Since the board is rated to natively run 3 channel... use the G-Skill or OCZ 3x2GB 7-7-7-20s. That would put the price over the top, but I'm sure I'm not the only person that would appreciate the comparison. Besides that, the build looks good. Using the stock cooler saves us at least $50 on a xigmatek and back plate.
November 28, 2008 6:46:02 PM

Hmmmm. Good point...

Crucial 6GB (3 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1066 (PC3 8500) Triple Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model CT3KIT25664BA1067 is $179 right now...

...that'd add $54 to the price bringing us up to $1274.

Could save $25 going with an MSI X58 Platinum LGA 1366 Intel X58... that brings us to $1250. Actually, Newegg has a $30 bundle discount with the MSI X58 Platinum, bringing it down even further...

The gigabyte board advertises DDR3 2000 support when overclocked which was nice tho. But with all these new X58 boards, none of them have much of a reliable reputation yet, it's a bit harder to make a call.

[EDIT] Thomas solderstrom pointed out I could save cash with a 3x1GB DDR3 kit. Duh! That's the plan, same Gigabyte mobo.
November 29, 2008 5:36:46 PM

I can't wait to see how this article turns out as I've been trying to spec out a core i7 920 system for a couple of weeks now.

It seems that the 920 is limited to 6x or 8x memory multipliers, so I was thinking that if I went to a 175mhz bus for a 3.5ghz CPU clock that I could drop down to 1066 DDR3 and use the 6x multiple (1050). This way I could save some cash and I might still be ok with stock cooling, though I'm looking at the Ultra 120 or Noctua NH-U12P just to be safe.

Has anyone had the chance to try this config on a 920 yet? I'm hoping to run 6GB (3x2GB) of 1066, but maybe I should get 1600 RAM so that I can ramp up the clock in the future when newer LGA1366 CPUs come out...
November 29, 2008 6:46:03 PM

@OP: When is the ETA of this write up/review?
November 29, 2008 7:57:38 PM

Shadow703793 said:
@OP: When is the ETA of this write up/review?


Before the end of December. :) 
November 29, 2008 10:32:26 PM

I'm not real sure about this build. I appreciate that you want to include the latest CPU though.

I guess it depends on whether you want to call this a gaming build or not. If it's a general purpose build it works well for me, with one exception.

If it's a gaming build, it's weighted too heavily on the platform compared to the GPU.

My one exception to the specific parts is the Neopower 650.

OW review

If you are spending $90, you can probably do better:
Corsair 650TX
Antec EA650
PC P&C 610W
BFG LS-680 Good deal right now. Has good reviews, but they complained about the price... well, that's fixed.


If this were a hardcore gaming build... well, I think a 920 and x58 deserve at least SLI GTX 260+, or 4870X2.


November 30, 2008 3:20:28 AM

The System Builder Marathon is never specifically a gaming build - gaming is only one aspect is has to perform in; they're also tested on the merits of productivity software and overclocking.

As a secondary objective, we're going to see if the December build can give us a good look at how a Nehalem system performs compared to a Core 2 system that's the same price. We'll be sacrificing a little graphics power in favor of the Nehalem platform, but I think it'll end up being a more balanced system than the E8500/4870 X2 combo.

I will have a closer look at the PSUs out there though Proximon, thanks for the input. :) 


!