Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

System Builder Marathon, Q4 2012: $500 Gaming PC

System Builder Marathon, Q4 2012: $500 Gaming PC
By

System Builder Marathon, December 2012: The Articles

Here are links to each of the four articles in this quarter’s System Builder Marathon (we’ll update them as each story is published). And remember, these systems are all being given away at the end of the marathon.

To enter the giveaway, please fill out this SurveyGizmo form, and be sure to read the complete rules before entering!

Day 1: The $500 Gaming PC
Day 2: The $1,000 Enthusiast PC
Day 3: The $2,000 Performance PC
Day 4: Performance And Value, Dissected

Introduction

After last quarter's build (System Builder Marathon, August 2012: $500 Gaming PC), our intention was to move away from a pure $500 gaming rig and instead shift focus to a more well-rounded machine based on a quad-core AMD processor. 

And then we caught wind of AMD's Radeon HD 7850 with 1 GB of GDDR5 for the same price as Nvidia's GeForce GTX 560, which we used last time around.

Procuring that much 3D performance for our budget gaming box became priority number one, even if it meant limiting the amount of money we could spend on our system's CPU.

Normally, when we think of AMD's Trinity architecture, we're reminded of capable on-die graphics and not super-fast x86 performance. But when the company introduced its current-gen APUs recently, we noticed an odd addition that looked like it could have been an alternative to Intel's dual-core Pentium.

We pinned our hopes on the Athlon X4 750K, armed with two Piledriver modules totaling four cores. A base clock rate of 3.4 GHz would ramp up to 4 GHz under the influence of Turbo Core, though we'd use its unlocked multiplier to go as fast as possible. Because the chip's graphics engine was disabled, according to AMD's specs, we wouldn't need to worry about unused logic wasting power. And as a result of the new Socket FM2 interface, we'd supposedly have an upgrade path moving forward.

But when the new X4 750K didn't show up for sale after launch, we reached out to AMD, which unfortunately seemed bewildered by the lack of availability, too. We had a couple of weeks to spare waiting for Microsoft's Windows 8 launch, but our deadline to order parts came and went without the Socket FM2-based Athlon showing up. As of this writing, the X4 750K is still nowhere to be found. 

Starting at $130, the new Piledriver-based FX chips were out of this build's price range, and better-suited to one of the two higher-end configurations we'll be presenting. We would have had to drop to a Radeon HD 7770, 4 GB of memory, and still come up with another $15 of cost savings just to get the entry-level FX-4300.

Unfortunately, Bulldozer-based FXes hadn't come down in price either. The FX-4100 was still $110, and the faster FX-4170 was $120. Our best alternative remained the quad-core Phenom II X4 995 Black Edition for $95. But we chose not to revisit this old favorite, figuring that adding a Radeon HD 7850 would have taxed our budget. After all, we already covered similar CPUs in multiplier-locked and enthusiast-friendly Black Edition trims.

$500 Gaming PC System Components 
CPU
Intel Pentium G850 (Sandy Bridge): 2.9 GHz Base Clock Rate, No Turbo Boost, 3 MB Shared L3 Cache
$70
Heat Sink
Intel Boxed Heat Sink and Fan
0
Motherboard
ASRock H77 Pro4/MVP: LGA 1155, Intel H77 Express
$70
RAM
G.Skill Value Series 8 GB (2 x 4 GB) DDR3-1333 F3-10600CL9D-8GBNT$34
Graphics
PowerColor AX7850 1GBD5-DH: Radeon HD 7850 1 GB$170
Hard Drive
Western Digital WD3200AAKX: 320 GB, 7200 RPM SATA 6Gb/s Hard Drive
$65
Case
Rosewill Blackbone ATX Mid-Tower$40
Power Supply
Antec VP-450 450 W$36
Optical Drive
LG 24x DVD Burner SATA Model GH24NS90-OEM$16

Total Price$501


Given the challenges on AMD's side, we just couldn’t ignore the price drops on Intel's proven dual-core line-up. With the Pentium G850 at our disposal for just $70, we could build a more potent gaming rig than last quarter and still have money left over for other components, allowing us to buy a more feature-complete motherboard and, finally, 8 GB of memory. 

The only compromise we had to make was the same $65 storage budget as last time around. And this quarter, we were only able to secure 320 GB of capacity. We didn’t want to break the budget for storage we didn’t need, but we were disappointed to pay so much per gigabyte when larger drives were selling for only a few dollars more.

Display 151 Comments.
Top Comments
  • 26 Hide
    willyroc , December 4, 2012 3:26 AM
    Not to mention that the 500GB version of the HDD is only $3 more.
  • 22 Hide
    Crashman , December 4, 2012 3:19 AM
    killerchickens$501 Plus $100 for a copy of windows 7.
    Run Linux, this is a hardware shootout.
  • 21 Hide
    willyroc , December 4, 2012 3:24 AM
    I personally feel that they could have gone with H61 and gotten a 2GB 7850 instead.
Other Comments
  • 22 Hide
    Crashman , December 4, 2012 3:19 AM
    killerchickens$501 Plus $100 for a copy of windows 7.
    Run Linux, this is a hardware shootout.
  • 21 Hide
    willyroc , December 4, 2012 3:24 AM
    I personally feel that they could have gone with H61 and gotten a 2GB 7850 instead.
  • 26 Hide
    willyroc , December 4, 2012 3:26 AM
    Not to mention that the 500GB version of the HDD is only $3 more.
  • 9 Hide
    jerm1027 , December 4, 2012 3:28 AM
    Quote:
    Our best alternative remained the quad-core Phenom II X4 995 Black Edition for $95. But we chose not to revisit this old favorite, figuring that adding a Radeon HD 7850 would have taxed our budget.

    What about the Phenom II 965? It's only $75 at TigerDirect.
  • 21 Hide
    EzioAs , December 4, 2012 3:32 AM
    Quote:
    I personally feel that they could have gone with H61 and gotten a 2GB 7850 instead.


    I think they'd be better off with a B75 motherboard, 4GB RAM and an i3-3220.
  • 4 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , December 4, 2012 3:54 AM
    I am not very comfortable using windows8 in these benches. Reason : Drivers have not yet matured for win8. I would have waited for the next quarter SBM before using win8.
  • 4 Hide
    kj3639 , December 4, 2012 3:57 AM
    Well done! I built a $700 rig for a friend a few weeks ago. Parts were mostly identical except for a Corei5 3330, 2 GB 7850 and 120 GB SSD. The 7850 is by far the most bang for the buck and overclocks quite well. I recently bought two for a crossfire setup on my rig for $300 dollars on black friday as well. The 7850 was a solid choice.
  • 21 Hide
    colinstu , December 4, 2012 4:02 AM
    EzioAsI think they'd be better off with a B75 motherboard, 4GB RAM and an i3-3220.


    Exactly. Couldn't've said it better.
  • 0 Hide
    aznshinobi , December 4, 2012 4:03 AM
    The FX-6300 doesn't get any love?
  • 16 Hide
    blazorthon , December 4, 2012 4:17 AM
    aznshinobiThe FX-6300 doesn't get any love?


    It's too expensive.

    killerchickensSo guys you would buy Windows 8 Professional for a $500 gaming computer.


    This was a hardware test. You're OS complaints are irrelevant and there's no practical difference between Home and Pro versions when it comes to simple performance tests. such as these.
  • 10 Hide
    blazorthon , December 4, 2012 4:18 AM
    killerchickensWindows is free and we use Linux in are gaming Machines what are we in Soviet Russia .


    Several Linux distros works pretty well with most modern popular games, just FYI. Also, getting Windows for free legally is easy if you care to do it. Dreamspark has many free versions available to college students and most people know at least one, even if by proxy. Even in the unlikelihood of not knowing any, there's still the eval copies that MS gives away for free on their own website.
  • 12 Hide
    blazorthon , December 4, 2012 4:19 AM
    mayankleoboy1I am not very comfortable using windows8 in these benches. Reason : Drivers have not yet matured for win8. I would have waited for the next quarter SBM before using win8.


    I disagree. The current drivers for Windows 8 are pretty much on-par with the Windows 7 drivers. Heck, they're better than AMD's pre-Catalyst 12.6 drivers.
  • 7 Hide
    de5_Roy , December 4, 2012 4:22 AM
    was hoping to see a piledriver based cpu in this quarter's build. but i was much happier to see the 1gb radeon 7850 instead. nice gaming build.
  • -4 Hide
    blazorthon , December 4, 2012 4:23 AM
    Quote:
    was hoping to see a piledriver based cpu in this quarter's build. but i was much happier to see the 1gb radeon 7850 instead. nice gaming build.


    Meh, I would've preferred seeing at least an A8-5600K with a cheaper motherboard and memory kit or keep the same memory kit and get a cheaper case. It could have fit, IDK why Tom's didn't do it. Maybe there weren't good prices on other components at the time :/ 
Display more comments
React To This Article