System Builder Marathon, Sept. '09: $1,250 Enthusiast Build

Test System And Benchmarks

A couple notes here: we'll compare this system against the previous $1,300 SBM machine, which was based on a Core i7-920 with two GeForce GTX 260s in SLI.

Unfortunately, we didn't benchmark that system at 2560x1600 before sending it off to the lucky winner of that machine, which is where I anticipate the four Radeon HD 4850s would have shown the biggest advantage. While this is a pity, we'll be able to compare 2560x1600 game benchmarks against Thomas' $2,500 AMD system in the SBM conclusion article, so that will just have to suffice.

$1,250 AMD Enthusiast PC Test Settings

 

Standard Speed

Overclocked

Motherboard

MSI 790FX-GD70 ATX
AMD 790FX, AM3

 Unchanged

Processor

AMD Phenom II X4 945 @ 3 GHz,
200 MHz Reference Clock

 3.675 GHz at 1.46V
245 MHz Reference Clock

Memory

Patriot PVS34G1333LLKN 4GB DDR3-1333
2 x 2GB, CAS 7-7-7-20

 DDR3-1306

Graphics

4 x Gigabyte GV-R485OC-1GH
Radeon HD 4850 in CrossFire
  1GB GDDR3-1998 Per Card, 700 MHz GPU

Unchanged

Hard Drive

Western Digital Caviar Black 640GB
7,200 RPM, 32 MB Cache SATA 3.0 Gb/s

 Unchanged

Optical

Sony Optiarc AD-7240S-0B
SATA 24X DVD±R

 Unchanged

Case

NZXT Tempest ATX Tower

 Unchanged

Power

PC Power & Cooling Silencer 750 Quad S75CF
750 W, ATX12V 2.2, 80-Plus Certified

 Unchanged

CPU Cooler

Xigmatek Dark Knight S1283

 Unchanged

$1,300 Portable Performance PC (from previous SBM) Test Settings

 

Standard Speed

Overclocked

Motherboard

DFI LANParty Jr X58-T3H6 microATX
Intel X58/ICH10R, LGA 1366

 Unchanged

Processor

Intel Core i7-920 2.66 GHz,
2.80 GHz Turbo, 133 MHz Bclk, 1.36 V (load)

 3.44 GHz at 1.296V (load), 172 MHz Bclk

Memory

G.Skill 10666CL7T 6GB DDR3-1064
3 x 2GB, CAS 8-8-8-19, 1.56V

 DDR3-1378 at 1.56V,
CAS 8-8-8-19

Graphics

2 x BFG GeForce GTX 260 in SLI
  896MB GDDR3-1998 Per Card
590 MHz GPU, 1,296 MHz shader

600 MHz GPU, 1,300 MHz shader, GDDR3-2060

Hard Drive

Western Digital Caviar Black 640GB
7,200 RPM, 32 MB Cache SATA 3.0 Gb/s

 Unchanged

Optical

Lite-On iHAS422 SATA
22X DVD±R

 Unchanged

Case

SilverStone TJ08-B microATX Mini-Tower

 Unchanged

Power

PC Power & Cooling Silencer 750 Quad S75QB
750 W, ATX12V 2.2, 80-Plus Certified

 Unchanged

CPU Cooler

Xigmatek Dark Knight S1283

 Unchanged

Benchmark Configuration

3D Games

Crysis

Patch 1.2.1, DirectX 10, 64-bit executable, benchmark tool
Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA
Test Set 2: Very High Quality, No AA

Far Cry 2

DirectX 10, in-game benchmark
Test Set 1: Very High Quality, No AA
Test Set 2: Ultra High Quality, 4x AA

World In Conflict

Patch 1009, DirectX 10, timedemo
Test 1: Very High Details, No AA/No AF
Test 2: Very High Details 4x AA/16x AF

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.

DirectX 10.1, in-game benchmark
Test Set 1: Highest Settings, No AA
Test Set 2: Highest Settings, 4x AA

Fallout 3

Patch 1.0.0.17, Saved Game "Capital Wasteland" (60 sec)
Test Set 1: Highest Details, No AA, No AF
Test Set 2: Highest Details, 4x AA, 15x AF

Audio/Video Encoding

iTunes 8

Version: 8.1.0.52 (x64)
Audio CD ("Terminator II" SE), 53 min
Default format AAC

Lame MP3

Version: 3.98 64bits (07-04-2008)
Audio CD "Terminator II," 53 min.
wave to MP3

TMPGEnc 4.6

Version: 4.6.3.268
Import File: "Terminator 2" SE DVD (5 Minutes)
Resolution: 720x576 (PAL) 16:9

DivX 6.8.5

Encoding mode: Insane Quality
Enhanced multithreading enabled using SSE4
Quarter-pixel search

Xvid 1.2.1

Display encoding status = off

Mainconcept Reference 1.6.1

MPEG2 to MPEG2 (H.264), MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG2), Audio: MPEG2 (44.1 kHz, 2 Channel, 16-Bit, 224 Kb/s), Mode: PAL (25 FPS)

Productivity

Autodesk 3ds Max 2009

Version: 11.0, Rendering Dragon Image at 1920x1080 (HDTV)

Photoshop CS4 (64-bit)

Version: 11.0 Extended, Filter 15.7 MB TIF Image
Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates

Gisoft AVG Anti-Virus 8.5

Version: 8.5.287, Virus database 2094, Benchmark: Scan 334 MB Folder of ZIP/RAR compressed files

WinRAR 3.80

Version 3.80, WinZip Command line Version 3.0, Compression = Best, Dictionary = 4,096 KB, Benchmark: THG-Workload (334 MB)

WinZip 12

Version 12.0, Compression = Best, Benchmark: THG-Workload (139 MB)

Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings

3DMark Vantage

Version: 1.02, GPU and CPU scores

PCMark Vantage

Version: 1.00, System, Memory, Hard Disk Drive benchmarks, Windows Media Player 10.00.00.3646

SiSoftware Sandra 2009 SP3

Version 2009.4.15.92, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / Multimedia, Memory Test = Bandwidth Benchmark

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164 comments
    Your comment
    Top Comments
  • Proximon
    Heh well, not all SBMs have to be perfect. I'm liking the whole experimental phase the SBMs are going through. More educational than just seeing a build I would have done myself.
    22
  • skora
    This system was spec'd out and bought about 1 month ago, before the i5s where out. Add in time to receive all the parts, assemble, to get through all that benchmark testing, especially with all the other stuff happening like the i5 and the 5870 launches. But look at this from a differrent angle. Instead of us reading about another build with an intel i7 and 1 big GPU or 2 mid gpus, we get to see an alternative. If I'm spec'ing out a system, I'm looking at reveiws to see options, how this setup compares to that. I applaude THG and Don for giving me something to compare the many i7 builds too. Even if it is to say that for the money, get an intel.

    One question don, when you buy an aftermarket cooler, are you using the included TIM?
    21
  • drealar
    Monstrosity @1250!!
    12
  • Other Comments
  • gkay09
    I would have preferred the i7 860 paired with 2x HD 4890s or 2x GTX 275s or even a single HD 5870 for this budget...
    8
  • drealar
    Monstrosity @1250!!
    12
  • frozenlead
    gkay09I would have preferred the i7 860 paired with 2x HD 4890s or 2x GTX 275s or even a single HD 5870 for this budget...


    I agree. I mean, props for quadfire, but it's not really the best choice for the best performance.
    11
  • HibyPrime
    Even though it turned out to only be faster at high resolution gaming, I have to commend you guys for skipping the obvious here.

    An i5 750 build probably would have turned out better numbers on the whole, I would probably call this a last hurrah (and the $2500 too, im sure that'll be a quad) for quad CF/SLi based systems being used to run a single 30" monitor.. I'm sure we'll start to see the high end gamers moving over to eyefinity and whatever equivalent nVidia comes up with.
    0
  • gkay09
    But as this is an all-AMD build, the X4 955 would have been a better choice...And did you people come across any driver issues when dealing with Quad-crossfire ?That setup looks like asking for trouble...
    5
  • IzzyCraft
    4 x Gigabyte GV-R485OC-1GH Radeon HD 4850 in CrossFire

    Interesting but frankly not a huge fan of multi gpu set ups to being with let alone a quad fire set up i mean at least with nvidia you have decent scaling, but who am i to complain for that price and it seems to run high rez just fine.

    But that is a *** load of load power draw, noise(not too much nice zalman heat sinks on those cards) and heat coming out of that thing.

    bit surprised when i saw the load Wattage you got i thought the older 1300 rig was a i7 with 2x260's in sli which should come out to be less power draw under load even with a modded 4870 cards

    Little risky build but on the bright side you could run 8 monitors lol

    Conventional would have landed this price in the i5/i7 build with 2x4890's or a bit more powerful cards really depends on which cpu you settle with. Ofc ionno how long ago you order this. Would have came out a bit more rounded but not as great for higher resolutions and AA AF settings.

    This build is more of a high resolution gaming specialist. Personally i've never built a system with just gaming in mind i've always been a man that favors a more rounded system where you spend at least 3/4th of what you put into your gpu into your cpu

    Thomas Soderstrom's $2,500 AMD build tomorrow
    bah $2,500 and no i7 not like the budget couldn't fit very expensive gpu card and cpu in there. Oh well it wont loose out too much in games even with mutli gpu set ups...best have a sound card in there it be very refreshing for tom's builds to sport one. Interesting what monstrosity he has made to share with us.
    1
  • kelfen
    I see some scaling issues with x4!!
    1
  • jj463rd
    I agree with gkay09 on spending the extra $20 and going with the Phenom II X4 955 BE instead even if it pushes the budget a little over.At this price level I would probably choose a Core i7 build though.I really liked the $650 SBM budget AMD build that was a great choice.
    -3
  • Proximon
    Heh well, not all SBMs have to be perfect. I'm liking the whole experimental phase the SBMs are going through. More educational than just seeing a build I would have done myself.
    22
  • IzzyCraft
    jj463rdI agree with gkay09 on spending the extra $20 and going with the Phenom II X4 955 BE instead even if it pushes the budget a little over.At this price level I would probably choose a Core i7 build though.I really liked the $650 SBM budget AMD build that was a great choice.

    Well it was by demand to make AMD builds and this is what happens they timed it just right to be right after i5 release just to mess with us. AMD builds shouldn't hurt in games but in apps depending it can be murder or breaking even.
    1
  • bin1127
    Can't really do much better than the 920 overclocked but then it's interesting to see AMD in the builds. Also won't the 1gb ram over 4 graphic cards cause some bottleneck at high res? I see good benefits in dual card configurations but 4 really just becomes a waste.
    0
  • toxxel
    Nice experimentation going with a 4 gpu amd build. Though people are complaining about no 1156 i5 cpu, I'm sure this system was planned before the cpu became mainstream. Doing something different from the last sbm and doing pretty much the same 920 with a 260 duel gpu build would have been boring. Lets hope that the next $2500 build adds a little spice to the marathon.
    3
  • enewmen
    Nice case (I have one). That Tempest can hold 8 3.5" drives and 3 optical drives - without needing screws :). Great for server, gaming, and over-clocking duty. Also looks good without needing lots of modding. Just be careful not to push the power button too hard.
    The cable under the motherboard feature can help remove cable-mess, but only a little.
    My previous case was 100% acrylic glass. Looked awesome with lots of lights, but any change was a major pain.
    1
  • cinergy
    Totally idiotic configuration. One would think that you try to assemble an AMD configuration that looks as bad as possible with that money. 4x 4850, no sense at all. Scaling from 3 to 4 brings maybe 5% performance increase but in many games nothing at all. How about adding just one 5870? And why 945, and not 955 or even 965? Added cost would be minimal.
    -6
  • ofirhadad
    Here is my pc for 1250$:
    1.Processor - Intel Core2 Quad Q8400 2.66GHz LGA 775 95W :$169.99
    2.CPU Cooler - ARCTIC COOLING Freezer 7 Pro 92mm :$31.98
    3.Motherboard - GIGABYTE GA-EP45-DQ6 LGA 775 Intel P45 :$189.99
    4.Hard Drive - Western Digital Caviar Black WD6401AALS 640GB :$74.99
    5.Memory - G.SKILL 4GB(2x 2GB)DDR2 1200 F2-9600CL6D-4GBRH:$89.99
    6.Video Card - 2X SAPPHIRE Radeon HD 4850X2 2GB 512bit GDDR3 :$479.98
    7.DVD Burner - LITE-ON iHAS124-04 :$28.99
    8.Power Supply - HEC ZEPHYR 750DR-AT 750W :$84.99
    9.Computer Case - Antec Nine Hundred Black Steel ATX Mid Tower :$99.99
    Total cost :$1248
    -12
  • skora
    This system was spec'd out and bought about 1 month ago, before the i5s where out. Add in time to receive all the parts, assemble, to get through all that benchmark testing, especially with all the other stuff happening like the i5 and the 5870 launches. But look at this from a differrent angle. Instead of us reading about another build with an intel i7 and 1 big GPU or 2 mid gpus, we get to see an alternative. If I'm spec'ing out a system, I'm looking at reveiws to see options, how this setup compares to that. I applaude THG and Don for giving me something to compare the many i7 builds too. Even if it is to say that for the money, get an intel.

    One question don, when you buy an aftermarket cooler, are you using the included TIM?
    21
  • stray_gator
    All out crazy. Me like!
    -3
  • jj463rd
    cinergyTotally idiotic configuration. One would think that you try to assemble an AMD configuration that looks as bad as possible with that money. 4x 4850, no sense at all. Scaling from 3 to 4 brings maybe 5% performance increase but in many games nothing at all. How about adding just one 5870? And why 945, and not 955 or even 965? Added cost would be minimal.

    At the time of this build that they chose the Radeon 5870's were not out.
    One could substitute 2 Radeon 5850's in crossfire though but they are not yet on the market as I write this response to you and 2 Radeon 5850's would jack up the price to around $558 or about $80 more on their choice of components.It would however use less power and would use full 16 X 16 crossfire though.
    2 Radeon 5870's would be even costlier.

    A question from me would be would 2 Radeon 5850's be better (in terms of better benchmarks in gaming) than 4 of these Radeon 4850's.They will probably be available pretty shortly.

    I agree with enewmen I like that case.
    3
  • brisingamen
    well getting ahold of 4 4850's over the next few months might be super cheap, and i would be willing to try it out, its kind of cool running 4 cards! if you got HIS brand ones thier gpu coolers look really cool and in your case lined up would look, well like a monstrosity! or even 4 of the asus ropg cards.

    and that really opens up a neat oportunity to experiment with some interesting cooling solutions, its definitly doable,

    it would be a good choice for some people with 50' tvs that want to game @ 1080p

    i think the scaling will improve with time, its not just the drivers that ati produces its also the game developers increasingly integrating multi gpu support no? i know some games fare alot better than others on multi gpu situations.

    it would be interesting to see if thier is any difference running an i7 with these 4 cards, just not sure how much the cpu was a limiting factor here. i would like to see an article on how several different processors handle 3&4 gpu combinations.

    as someone actually willing to build a 4 gpu setup it would be nice seeing what infact is the cpu requirement to realize the most benefits, like is an i7 needed or it may make little difference, and at what clocks. what card in quad sli/crossfire is actually the fastest setup?

    people spending big bucks are curious!


    awsome articles, keep this stuff spicey!
    3
  • Anonymous
    This build is impressive but I dont agree with it given a price tag of $1250 and mid ranged components in all departments (CPU, GPU, RAM, MOBO). According to the current Newegg prices and including Taxes+Shipping (for California) the total costs become $1426.

    I did a build my self 3 weeks ago before the advent of i7 860. Here's my build with Prices:

    Intel Core i7 920 Nehalem 2.66GHz LGA 1366 130W Quad-Core Processor $279
    ZALMAN CNPS9700 LED 110mm 2 Ball CPU Cooler $53
    ASRock X58 Extreme LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX Intel Motherboard $170
    CORSAIR XMS3 6GB (3 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model TR3X6G1600C8G $134
    CORSAIR CMPSU-850TX 850W ATX12V 2.2 / EPS12V 2.91 SLI Ready CrossFire Ready Active PFC Power Supply $140
    SAMSUNG Black 22X DVD Burner Black SATA Model SH-S223B $30
    COOLER MASTER HAF 932 RC-932-KKN1-GP Black Steel ATX Full Tower Computer Case $120
    2 x MSI NGTX275 Twin Frozr OC $460(with taxes from TigerDirect)

    Total cost including taxes and shipping is $1470.

    I think its obvious which build is better.
    -7