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System Builder Marathon, March 2010: $1,500 Enthusiast PC

What did we learn from this little exercise? Is there a clear winner between the Core i7-920 and the Core i5-750 when it comes to building a powerful machine? Like most everything else in life, there’s no easy answer for everyone. That said, we can make some recommendations for specific applications.

First let’s consider the gamers out there. Both the Core i5-750 and Core i7-920 do a fantastic job when it comes to complementing a powerful graphics subsystem. I can say that the Core i5-750 CPU is a fantastic gaming processor, and for the typical gaming enthusiast, there is little incentive to spend more money on the Core i7-920 CPU. However, for those about to overclock, the Core i7-920 salutes you. For whatever reason, it seems to leapfrog the Core i5-750 when both were pushed to higher speeds. Granted, the Core i7 in our tests does sport a higher overclock in the first place, but that still doesn’t fully explain the disproportionate leap in performance. You can blame some of the difference on the Core i7’s superior memory and PCIe lane bandwidth I suppose, and it should be mentioned that the memory was much more overclocking-friendly when it came to this particular Core i7 build. That's the name of the game when it comes to retail hardware and non-standard settings though, isn't it?

Next, let’s move on to folks who are more concerned with application performance. Here, the Core i7’s superiority seemed to be hit-and-miss, with a couple of applications appearing to take advantage of Hyper-Threading but most not showing any real difference. In this case, I’d recommend you do some research on the specific applications you’re planning to use before pulling the trigger on a Core i7-920, as the Core i5-750 stands up very well on average. However, we did see that impressive overclocking boon from the Core i7-920 again, and some enthusiasts might find that evidence compelling enough to sway their decision in the direction of the Bloomfield-based processor. Conversely, let’s not forget the relatively low-power usage of the Core i5-750--this might be a notable factor for some individuals.

In conclusion, this wasn’t the perfect test between these two systems but I think it did yield some useful results--it certainly provides something to think about. In my opinion, both the Core i5-750 and Core i7-920 are some of the best CPU choices out there, and I can’t imagine anyone regretting the purchase of either one.

Of course, this is only one of the SBM machines and the most interesting numbers will be published at the end of the series when we compare systems at different budgets to see which one delivers the most bang for the buck. Also, don't forget that we're giving this machine (and the other two SBM builds) away to three lucky readers, so hop back to the first page if you haven't yet entered for your chance to win!

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