Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

System Builder Marathon, March 2011: $2000 Bonus Build

System Builder Marathon, March 2011: $2000 Bonus Build
By

System Builder Marathon, March 2011: The Articles

Here are links to each of the five articles in this month’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 Google form, and be sure to read the complete rules before entering!

Day 1: The $2,000 Performance PC
Day 2: The $1,000 Enthusiast PC
Day 3: The $500 Gaming PC
Day 4: Performance And Value, Dissected
Day 5: Tom's Hand-Picked SuperCombo

Introduction

So satisfied were we in our initial System Builder Marathon machines that it was difficult to find a “replacement” for this month’s hand-picked build. Yet careful consideration for Intel’s P67 re-launch and AMD’s Radeon HD 6970 price drop forced us to consider alternatives anyway. The Radeon HD 6970 offers both higher clock speeds and a greater number of shaders for improved game performance compared to the original $2000 build’s Radeon HD 6950s, and best value pricing came from MSI.

Yet, even at the reduced price, the graphics upgrade would still force us to economize on some other part of the PC. We still liked the rest of our original build too much to sacrifice any of it, so motherboard manufacturers made the decision for us. MSI’s P67A-GD65 (B3) was the only CrossFire-capable LGA 1155 motherboard at Newegg by the second week of this month, and this part would save us $90 compared to the NF200-equipped model it replaced.

Graphics lane width would drop from x16 to x8 mode for each of our cards, but that couldn’t hurt much could it? The rest of our machine appeared the same, after all.

$2000 PC Components
 "Hand Picked" BuildOriginal $2000 PC
MotherboardMSI P67A-GD65 (B3): LGA 1155, Intel P67 ExpressAsus P8P67 WS Revolution: LGA 1155, Intel P67 Express
Graphics2 x MSI R6970-2PM2D2GD5: Radeon HD 6970 2 GB, CrossFire2 x XFX HD-695A-CNFC: Radeon HD 6950 2 GB, CrossFire
ProcessorIntel Core i7-2600K: 3.4 GHz-3.8 GHz, 8 MB Shared L3 Cache
MemoryG.Skill F3-12800CL8D-8GBXM: DDR3-1600 C8, 4 GB x 2 (8 GB)
System Drive2 x A-Data S599 64 GB, SATA 3Gb/s SSD
Storage DriveSamsung F3 HD103SJ 1 TB, 7200 RPM HDD
OpticalLite-On iHBS212 BD-RE: 12x BD-R, 24x DVD±R, 48x CD-R
CaseAntec Three Hundred Illusion
PowerSeasonic SS-850HT: 850 W, ATX12V v2.31, 80 PLUS Silver
Heat SinkScythe Mugen 2 Rev. B (SCMG-2100)
  $1,959  $1,975
Add a comment
Ask a Category Expert
React To This Article

Create a new thread in the Reviews comments forum about this subject

Example: Notebook, Android, SSD hard drive

Display all 59 comments.
  • 4 Hide
    sandmanwn , March 30, 2011 4:09 AM
    More opportunities to win a free giveaway!
  • 3 Hide
    sabot00 , March 30, 2011 4:10 AM
    Yay! 1 more chance to win!
  • 1 Hide
    hayest , March 30, 2011 4:13 AM
    Great build! Can't wait to see what is in store for next quarter!
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , March 30, 2011 4:16 AM
    Great SBM series. What about an AMD quad core vs. an AMD triple core (unlocked 4th core) vs. Core i3 value comparison?
  • 1 Hide
    compton , March 30, 2011 4:28 AM
    Now this is pretty interesting. I wouldn't have suspected that the memory bandwidth reduction in the alternate build would have been as big of deal as it is. I think both builds are fantastic, but the NF200-equiped Asus board was one I myself was trying to obtain. It has been deactivated on the Egg, and the winner of the original $2000 build will be extra lucky indeed. Hopefully, it's me.
  • 1 Hide
    Crashman , March 30, 2011 4:37 AM
    comptonNow this is pretty interesting. I wouldn't have suspected that the memory bandwidth reduction in the alternate build would have been as big of deal as it is. I think both builds are fantastic, but the NF200-equiped Asus board was one I myself was trying to obtain. It has been deactivated on the Egg, and the winner of the original $2000 build will be extra lucky indeed. Hopefully, it's me.
    It was deactivated, but has since been reactivated:
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131714
    Now when you win the second PC, there will be no need for sadness: You can upgrade it with the motherboard from the first!
  • 0 Hide
    wolfram23 , March 30, 2011 5:01 AM
    I'd love to see more info on 16x/16x vs 8x/8x. I just looked at the last time you guys reviewed it, but it was only with a GTX480. Being one of many with a P55 8x/8x mobo, I really need to know what my best upgrade path would be... single top end card at 16x? Or CF/SLI again? Is the resolution going to be the deciding factor? Seems like high res sees less of a PCIe bottleneck at 8x, but maybe it's just due to framerates being lower? Need info! lol.
  • 1 Hide
    Crashman , March 30, 2011 5:09 AM
    Wolfram23I'd love to see more info on 16x/16x vs 8x/8x. I just looked at the last time you guys reviewed it, but it was only with a GTX480.
    Look for something in a week or two. And you're right to NOT bother with the GTX480 stuff, Nvidia cards need less bandwidth than AMD cards.
  • 3 Hide
    compton , March 30, 2011 5:09 AM
    Quote:
    It was deactivated, but has since been reactivated:
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6813131714
    Now when you win the second PC, there will be no need for sadness: You can upgrade it with the motherboard from the first!


    This is why the SBM is the best thing going. A few other sites do similar articles, but Tom's is far and away the champion. Another well respected site doesn't even build the systems, but Tom's builds three (or four!) and gives 'em away like sweet delicious candy. Every build has its's own quirks, issues, and performance wins (losses too) that can't always be understood until the gear arrives and goes together. If system building was entirely predictable, no one would build their own. It's just more fun this way.
  • 1 Hide
    qwertymac93 , March 30, 2011 5:32 AM
    antec 300 again... im really not liking that case. you have any experience with the haf 912? it seems like a very nice case.

    Anyway, i never understood why intel went with just 16 lanes on SB yet all the mobo makers market their ultra high end cross fire boards. :pt1cable: 
    Thing I'm wondering is, if intel switched to 24 lanes, could the graphics cards work at 12x each for 2 way, and 8x for 3 way? i know a full 32 lanes is unlikely, that's why I'm asking.
  • 0 Hide
    sparky2010 , March 30, 2011 6:02 AM
    i think i'll wait until the the Z67 is out.. will be interesting to see if quicksync will add anything performance wise.... and while i'm at it, will probably wait to see what AMD have in store with bulldozer.. i mean, i've waited 2 years, i think i can handle a few more months! but it's starting to get AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!
    yeah..
  • 0 Hide
    sudeshc , March 30, 2011 6:58 AM
    I liked this build too, its quite upto the mark.
  • 0 Hide
    rainwilds , March 30, 2011 9:01 AM
    Wolfram23I'd love to see more info on 16x/16x vs 8x/8x.


    Over at HardOCP they did a good review on just that. Both bandwidths perform the same for current cards. However they only tested up to 4xAA at 2560x1440. Might be different at higher AA.
  • 1 Hide
    silverblue , March 30, 2011 9:10 AM
    I can't help but wonder how things would've changed had those 6950s been unlocked. It might have negated the use for a follow-up article, I suppose.
  • 3 Hide
    iam2thecrowe , March 30, 2011 9:39 AM
    Question for the guys at Toms, have you ever noticed "microstuttering" in your recent crossfire builds and reviews? Maybe you should do an article on this and how to overcome it. Maybe a "Crossfire guide" or something showing settings to change and how to get things to work properly. microstuttering, incompatability, instability and poor performance with some games are always reasons people do not choose crossfire. Can the experienced people at Toms shed some light on this subject?
  • 1 Hide
    mattmock , March 30, 2011 10:28 AM
    "we doubt anyone building with these cards would choose anything less than 2560x1600"
    I am running two GTX 570s in SLI at 1080p on a 120hz monitor. Its overkill for most older games, but some newer ones push it a bit. Using this setup gives nice high minimum framerates at max settings+4xAA in games like STALKER:COP complete, metro 2033(sans ADOF) and just cause 2. Keeps things noticeably smoother than one 570.
  • 1 Hide
    dcompart , March 30, 2011 12:39 PM
    Thomas S., can you add a "1920x1080 resolution High End gaming Value performance/relative price" graph/illustration at the conclusion page in the future? I understand that these are enthusiast systems and part of the point of benchmarking the higher card 6970 system is to point out the performance increase at higher resolutions, but 2560x1600 monitors can go from $1000/2000+ on Newegg.com. Some people who splurge and build a $2000+ system may not have deep enough pockets to get anything higher than 1920x1080 and it would be great to have the informative percentage graphs for the suggested resolution.
  • 1 Hide
    krinkles619 , March 30, 2011 1:17 PM
    If i won either of the 2000 pc's i would put them in a NZXT Phantom, because hey, if you've got almost 2k worth of parts in it you might as well have a sexy case, amirite?
  • 0 Hide
    Onus , March 30, 2011 1:51 PM
    Six of one, a half dozen of the other...with a $2K budget, it is much more difficult to build a "bad" system, than it is with a $500 budget to build a "good" one. The tradeoffs, while having measurable effect, are small and pretty meaningless to the user experience. I am absolutely not implying this was a waste of time; this comparison I hope served as a very good example that will assist others to not waste time.
  • 0 Hide
    impulse89 , March 30, 2011 2:00 PM
    Awesome addition to the set. I would love to win any of these machines.
    I would have thought the 70's would have made a bigger difference in lower resolutions, but apparently not. Wish i had a 2560x1600 setup.
Display more comments
React To This Article