System Builder Marathon, December 2010: $500 PC

Power Consumption And Temperatures

Power Consumption

A long overdue change was made, and December’s stock $500 PC was tested as most of you would use it, with power saving features enabled. However, during overclocking, Cool’n’Quiet was disabled, the 120 mm exhaust fan raised from low to high speed settings, and the CPU fan’s target speed increased from 50% to 90%.

Loading all CPU and GPU cores with FurMark + Prime95 gives us a good look at the maximum potential power draw the system could face.

The use of a balanced power scheme and energy saving features results in much lower idle and CPU load consumption, but the switch to a more efficient power supply also must be factored into the equation.

Estimating 82% efficiency for the EarthWatts 380 W equates to a peak output draw during full CPU and GPU load of roughly 280 W for today’s overclocked system.

We used the ASRock M3A770DE’s socket sensor for the CPU, and charted peak temperatures above ambient. There’s really too much going on here to pinpoint a meaningful comparison to the prior $400 PC. The stock $500 PC has a lower VID CPU, better CPU cooler, and enabled power saving features, yet the former machine had greater chassis air flow and a higher target rotational speed on its CPU fan.

One thing is clear: the four-core overclock in September was completely limited by CPU temperature, while December’s overclock is mainly limited by the system builder’s unwillingness to pump higher voltage into the CPU.

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  • And this is really the only PC build that will stay relevant come January- it will remain the only budget platform that can be overclocked, after all.

    Incidentally, this would be the only PC you'd want to contemplate building right now (since the new Core i3s don't come out immediately like the i5s and i7s do- and the Pentium G8XX series doesn't allow overclocking of its platform.)
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  • Ah, much better than the previous build!
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  • Great job squeezing everything into a very small budget.
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  • Good build - but again it would be good to see old spec on test system page.
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  • That is a great combination for that budget. Balanced.
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  • I wouldn't be very comfortable using a 380 watt PSU for a long time for GTX 460 even if it is good quality. Perhaps, I would put in something of 450 watt or higher.
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  • LuckyDucky7And this is really the only PC build that will stay relevant come January- it will remain the only budget platform that can be overclocked, after all.Incidentally, this would be the only PC you'd want to contemplate building right now (since the new Core i3s don't come out immediately like the i5s and i7s do- and the Pentium G8XX series doesn't allow overclocking of its platform.)
    So you think there's going to be a replacement platform for the $2000 PC in January? That's not going to happen for a while. Or are you suggesting the next $2000 PC should be downgraded to P67?
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  • I haven't been keeping up with the system marathon much, but what's the reasoning for choosing nVidia card over AMD's? Just wondering since I'm thinking about upgrading my computer soon.
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  • A really nice build this time.However the price of the case and power supply has gone up in price over at newegg.I haven't checked the prices of the other components though.This build seems to perform quite well especially in the gaming benchmarks.Good job!
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  • I would've gone with a 6850 instead of the 460. It's a tad cheaper, not at all slower if you don't start cranckin' up the tesselation, and should fit the 380W psu a lot better. But a solid build by all means.
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  • I just noticed you guys used a 768mb 460. Oops. So it's a very good build, the 6850 would go over buget I guess. My bad.
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  • adbatGood build - but again it would be good to see old spec on test system page.

    Crowds it a bit IMO, but I'd gladly include the previous test settings from here on out.
    For now, here's a direct link:
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/gaming-pc-build-a-pc-overclock,2739-8.html
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  • yyk71200I wouldn't be very comfortable using a 380 watt PSU for a long time for GTX 460 even if it is good quality. Perhaps, I would put in something of 450 watt or higher.

    No fears here. Keep in mind, this 380W has a higher +12V rating than many 500W units. And, the 280W peak output draw in Prime 95+Furmark is far higher than would ever be seen during normal use.

    On the down side it could limit multiple (simultaneous)upgrades such as a hexa-core CPU + additional storage drives. But the EarthWatts 380D has plenty reserve for this system as built.
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  • There are a lot of RAM kits which do include heat spreaders, have higher frequencies, lower CL, and are can be had for less than $65. Was there any particular reason for choosing that set of Mushkin's?
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  • dragoon190I haven't been keeping up with the system marathon much, but what's the reasoning for choosing nVidia card over AMD's? Just wondering since I'm thinking about upgrading my computer soon.

    Basically it was the best available option within budget, trumping the cheaper/less powerful Radeon HD 5770 used back in the June $550 PC: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/cpu-gpu-overclock,2659.html

    If you compare those past results to the current rig, you may notice less CPU limitations and higher framerates at low resolutions for the Radeon HD 5770, but more headroom to push higher resolutions (1080P) with the GeForce GTX 460. Both are fine choices, depending on budget and needs.
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  • karma831There are a lot of RAM kits which do include heat spreaders, have higher frequencies, lower CL, and are can be had for less than $65. Was there any particular reason for choosing that set of Mushkin's?

    Purely timing Karma. RAM has dropped significantly since we ordered our components. Ours was $65 at order time which was then the starting point for 4GB kits. Currently, this same kit is $42 on Newegg, and there are a slew of options under $50. Not bad considering prior to September a 4GB kit was $100 or more.

    Unlike Thomas, who sought performance for the $2000 build but was duped by receiving different RAM chips than expected, my choice here was purely based on the cheapest option and I hadn't noticed the Easter Egg in the photo. Like him, unfortunately, I received the same "nameless" chips with little headroom for higher frequency.
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  • What about GTS 450? Is it a good choice for this CPU? As it seems that GTX460 is an overkill for lower resolutions :)
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  • jj463rdA really nice build this time.However the price of the case and power supply has gone up in price over at newegg.I haven't checked the prices of the other components though.This build seems to perform quite well especially in the gaming benchmarks.Good job!

    Price fluctuations are bound to happen and for a bit the case was even cheaper yet. The current cost of this system is $512 on Newegg as the cheaper RAM helps balance out.
    The bargain shopper would seek substitutions; One option is the EA380D PSU for $45 and a different case. Ex: the Rosewill Blackbone (used in the $400 build) is $40. Alternate GTX 460's could save an additional $20 and get the cost well under $500.
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  • Thank you - Now I have something to compare and recommend - It helps a lot.
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  • tstngI just noticed you guys used a 768mb 460. Oops. So it's a very good build, the 6850 would go over buget I guess. My bad.

    Yes true, but more importantly the HD 6850 was not yet available when we ordered, so it wasn't even an option. Thanks to that release, there are now less expensive GTX 460's also than the lone option we had at $160.

    Moving forward, you bet I'll have my sights set on 6850 if possible. But it will depend on the budget and street prices vs the competition. It's not about brand, but rather the best/most bang for the buck.
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