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System Builder Marathon, December 2010: $2000 PC

After hearing your calls for more attention paid to storage performance in our System Builder Marathon, we've dialed back on the CPU/GPU emphasis and factor I/O in to the final value equation. As a result, hard drive performance will account for 1/4 of the score in our Day 4 value comparison. Consequently, it was time to put serious thought into which SSD drive might give us the most bang-for-the-buck. While thousand-dollar SLC and PCIe-based drives wouldn’t have left much money for other components, high-end MLC drives like Crucial’s C300 were up for consideration.

SSD drive prices reflect capacity with little regard to the interface or housing costs, so two 64 GB drives are priced similarly to one 128 GB drive from the same series. So-called “RAID 0” mode (striping) could nearly double the transfer rate of our system partition. Most of our systems need at least 100 GB for programs, so two 60-64 GB drives would work nicely.

This is where things get a little tricky: due to limitations of the PCIe 2.0 x1 interface, the peak bandwidth available to most SATA 6Gb/s controllers is only 5 Gb/s, or around 2.5 Gb/s per drive when “striping” is used. The chipset’s SATA 3Gb/s RAID controller could be the better option in this scenario, even though this editor’s tests have shown an actual performance limit of 2.7 to 2.8 Gb/s per drive.

What we really needed, then, was a great price on a drive with 2.7 to 2.8 Gb/s max read, and what we found was a drive with around three times the write performance of Crucial’s superstar, at a 10% lower cost.

Main Storage: 2 x A-Data S599 64 GB, Striped

Advertising up to 280 MB/s read and 270 MB/s write, A-Data’s SandForce-based S599 pushes the per-channel read limits of our chipset’s storage controller while breaking the backs of most competitors in write performance. We even looked up some drive comparisons to make sure those write advantages were realistic, and were pleased to find that these drive did indeed outpace most competing models.

Read Customer Reviews of A-Data's S599 64 GB SSD

A-Data even includes some 3.5” bay adapters for its 2.5” SSD drives, reducing the total cost required to complete our build. We did notice that the adapters don’t align the drive’s interface with those of hot-swap bays, but knew that this would not be a problem for our build.

Mass Storage: Samsung F3 1 TB

A budget that often favors graphics performance has caused many readers to believe that our $2000 builds are nothing more than high-end gaming machines. But these systems are actually designed to fill a wide range of performance computing needs. Thus, while 128 GB might have been enough space for a gaming system, this full-function build needed a place to store the high-megapixel photos, high-resolution videos, and high-detail 3D renderings with which power users often work.

Read Customer Reviews of Samsung's F3 1 TB

Samsung’s HD103SJ provides great performance and capacity at a low price. We could have saved a few dollars or a few watts by instead choosing a green drive, but we’re sure that the lucky winner of this system will enjoy the F3’s added performance at least when transferring files.

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  • 0 Hide
    amk09 , December 13, 2010 4:13 AM
    The link to enter the giveaway doesn't work!

    I would love to be first to enter :) 
  • 2 Hide
    micr0be , December 13, 2010 4:18 AM
    i think im gona get a revo 2 drive ssd to upgrade my current build.... all thanks to santa !!
  • 7 Hide
    Tamz_msc , December 13, 2010 4:31 AM
    Its good to know that choosing the wrong memory can affect performance in such a way.
  • 7 Hide
    fstrthnu , December 13, 2010 4:49 AM
    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.
  • 2 Hide
    fstrthnu , December 13, 2010 4:57 AM
    >> First time in recent memory
    "Cough Cough" Lame Pun
  • 2 Hide
    jerreece , December 13, 2010 5:01 AM
    Wow that Mushkin memory really jacked up this benchmark.
  • -1 Hide
    kkiddu , December 13, 2010 5:10 AM
    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.
  • -5 Hide
    hemburger , December 13, 2010 5:16 AM
    Why not replace the two ssd's with a single intel 120gb... same price and now on 35nm
  • -1 Hide
    kkiddu , December 13, 2010 5:17 AM
    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.
  • -1 Hide
    kkiddu , December 13, 2010 5:23 AM
    And oh, cheapen the case as well. There's no free lunch. You gotta sacrifice some silence to gains some frame rates.
  • 6 Hide
    duk3 , December 13, 2010 5:44 AM
    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.
  • 7 Hide
    gti88 , December 13, 2010 6:12 AM
    Having $2000, I would take i5 760 + 2 x gtx580
  • 1 Hide
    barmaley , December 13, 2010 6:15 AM
    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.
  • 1 Hide
    styrkes , December 13, 2010 6:19 AM
    But isn't this worse than the previous $2000 PC?
  • -1 Hide
    Tamz_msc , December 13, 2010 6:27 AM
    Everything is fine except the motherboard and here's why:
  • 1 Hide
    nyrychvantel , December 13, 2010 6:34 AM
    why is single intel 120GB better than 2x 64GB RAID 0? I thought the later twice the speed than a single SSD?
  • 2 Hide
    gti88 , December 13, 2010 6:44 AM
    $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
  • -1 Hide
    barmaley , December 13, 2010 6:52 AM
    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.
  • 1 Hide
    nevertell , December 13, 2010 7:08 AM
    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.
  • 3 Hide
    SpadeM , December 13, 2010 7:10 AM
    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.
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