System Builder Marathon, December 2010: $2000 PC

Value Conclusion

SSD drives accounted for a noticeable portion of our budget, but the lack of data from our previous build means that their performance advantage will not be charted until our Day 4 value comparison. Combined with “luxuries” like a quiet case and Blu-ray burner, we can expect at least some value penalty using our old scoring method.

Ah, if only we’d checked the drive performance of our previous build before shipping it to the winner…

But, there is one redeeming quality for today’s system, even when we don’t use its superior drive performance to calculate value. GeForce GTX 470 graphics cards beat GeForce GTX 460 cards at higher resolutions, and that’s what the graphics of today’s system were really designed for. While "playable at 1920x1080, max settings" is what we consider to be the minimum requirement for our $2000 PCs, the 2560x1600 resolution is where it truly shines:

The number of pixels in a 2560x1600 display is slightly higher than those of three 1280x1024 displays, so the new $2000 PC could be a good choice for Nvidia Surround gaming.

Lessons Learned?

There are a few ways we could have saved money, but they don’t add up to the $585 difference between our $295 quad-core and an $880 six-core Core i7 model. And chasing better graphics performance probably wouldn’t have done much for our benchmark set either, due to CPU and DRAM bottlenecks that choke the middle resolutions used in our Day 4 system value comparison. Any savings would have thus gone to making this something less than a $2000 PC, such as a super-high-performance $1700 build.

First of all, we had much more cooling than we really required within safe and sane voltage limits of our processor. That means we could have ditched the somewhat-expensive 3400 RPM fan and gone with a half-priced model at 2000-2400 RPM. The quieter fan would have made a less-isolated case more acceptable, saving around $150 with little degradation in system quality.

The GeForce GTX 470 graphics cards only produce an average performance increase at resolutions of 1920x1080 and above, compared to GTX 460s. While 1080p is one of the three resolutions used in our Day 4 system value comparison, the combined difference is probably too small to justify the $120 price difference for two cards. This editor has suggested that an AMD Eyefinity vs. Nvidia Surround System Builder Marathon might be appropriate, but most of us don’t have the three matching displays needed to accomplish these tests.

Finally there’s the problem of memory. This is the first time in recent memory that we’ve ran into a hard memory bottleneck in games, and that snag looks like fodder for a completely separate article. Our only excuse is that the memory we thought we would get would have been good enough, but the simple truth is that being cheap has finally bitten this editor in the buttocks. Newegg’s current offering of 6 GB DDR3-1600 CAS 8 for only $95 makes this system look even worse today than it did on the day it was ordered.

We look forward to your thoughts on how we might be able to save money, improve quality, or enhance value on future $2000 builds.

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  • amk09
    The link to enter the giveaway doesn't work!

    I would love to be first to enter :)
  • micr0be
    i think im gona get a revo 2 drive ssd to upgrade my current build.... all thanks to santa !!
  • Tamz_msc
    Its good to know that choosing the wrong memory can affect performance in such a way.
  • fstrthnu
    I'm pretty surprised we didn't see Geforce GTX 570s in this build, I guess they got released too late to make it here.
  • fstrthnu
    >> First time in recent memory
    "Cough Cough" Lame Pun
  • jerreece
    Wow that Mushkin memory really jacked up this benchmark.
  • kkiddu
    Most perfect build ever ? Just read the configs yet, and I think that's a possibility.

    Now don't skin me if the config proves to be a flop in the coming pages. Just read the first page and couldn't resist a comment.
  • hemburger
    Why not replace the two ssd's with a single intel 120gb... same price and now on 35nm
  • kkiddu
    I think this one can be trimmed to a very good $1500 build as well. Change the CPU to i5 760, remove one of the cards, one of the SSDs, and you'll need lower capacity PSU for that, let's slash $30-$50 there, you get a very good PC for $1500.
  • kkiddu
    And oh, cheapen the case as well. There's no free lunch. You gotta sacrifice some silence to gains some frame rates.
  • duk3
    Get rid of MW2 in benchmarks for Battlefield Bad Company 2 and add in Starcraft 2 in my opinion. Nice computer, that's too bad about the memory.
  • gti88
    Having $2000, I would take i5 760 + 2 x gtx580
  • barmaley
    I agree with the people above who mentioned i5 760 and GTX 570. I was thinking the same thing when I saw the config. IMO, $2000 would give you far better performance in games, especially with high resolution and quality:

    GIGABYTE GA-P55A-UD3 LGA 1156 - $125
    Intel i5 760 - $205
    Scythe Mugen 2 - 47
    Cooler Master HAF 932 - $140
    GTX 570 2x SLI $700
    Samsung F3 1TB - $70
    Crucial 128GB C300 - $275
    CORSAIR XMS 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3 1600 - $125
    Antec TruePower Quattro TPQ-1000 1000W - $170
    Lite-On iHBS112 Blu-ray Drive: 12x BD-R, 16x DVD±R - $120
    Total: $1977

    All prices without rebates included. The $23 left over can be used to pay for the shipping where applicable. Also, an SSD can be replaced for a cheaper one to save a little money, if that's your thing.
  • styrkes
    But isn't this worse than the previous $2000 PC?
  • Tamz_msc
    Everything is fine except the motherboard and here's why:
  • nyrychvantel
    why is single intel 120GB better than 2x 64GB RAID 0? I thought the later twice the speed than a single SSD?
  • gti88
    $2000 config with TWO gtx 580:
    ASUS Maximus III Formula LGA 1156 - $179
    Core i5-760 - $205
    Noctua NH-U12P - $75
    Kingston DDR3 4gb - $56
    ENERMAX REVOLUTION85+ 920W - $200
    SAMSUNG Spinpoint F4 2Tb - $100
    COOLER MASTER CM690 II Advanced Black Steel - $80
    GTX580 x2 (SLI) - $1100

    Total price: $2005
  • barmaley
    This build with 2 GTX 580 is nice. The only thing is that a lot people would have a problem paying $2000 and not getting blue ray and SSD. Not that it affects gaming in a big way as much as a good graphics card does, but it still counts.
  • nevertell
    gti88$2000 config with TWO gtx 580:ASUS Maximus III Formula LGA 1156 - $179Core i5-760 - $205Noctua NH-U12P - $75Kingston DDR3 4gb - $56ENERMAX REVOLUTION85+ 920W - $200SAMSUNG Spinpoint F4 2Tb - $100COOLER MASTER CM690 II Advanced Black Steel - $80GTX580 x2 (SLI) - $1100Total price: $2005

    Good for gaming and nothing else.
  • SpadeM
    Probably one of the most balanced (and i mean that in a good way) build i've seen in a while. (though i do miss the exotic 4x4850 from Don a while back, and i do hope u bring that back some day)
    Tamz_mscIts good to know that choosing the wrong memory can affect performance in such a way.

    And yes +1 for that and for Thomas, i'm looking forward to a follow-up article on that specific issue.