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System Builder Marathon, Q1 2013: $800 Enthusiast PC

System Builder Marathon, Q1 2013: $800 Enthusiast PC
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System Builder Marathon, Q1 2013: 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 $600 Gaming PC
Day 2: The $800 Enthusiast PC
Day 3: The $1,000 Performance PC
Day 4: Performance And Value, Dissected

Introduction

As Paul let us know yesterday, this quarter's System Builder Marathon is a little different in that we're putting a bigger emphasis on performance per dollar by narrowing our budgets to $600, $800, and $1,000. Thomas has long maintained that there is this point of diminishing returns that shows up right around $800. Above it, and you pay more for every unit of performance you get. Under it, and you're leaving easy gains on the table. By the end of our experiment, we hope to know whether Soderstrom's Theorem is sound enough to become law, or if the line is blurrier than he thinks.

Unfortunately for me, a shifting price target means that my mid-range enthusiast-oriented build loses $200 compared to the $1,000 system I built back in December. As a result, I decided to ditch the SSD. Also, I can no longer afford a powerful GeForce GTX 670 for $370.

The good news is that AMD's Radeon HD 7870 is now available from a couple of different companies with a stripped-down Tahiti GPU, delivering strong graphics performance under $300. Although we're going to miss the snappy boot-up times and almost-instant application launches the solid-state drive enabled, we probably won't be penalized too much in the benchmark results.

We're still expecting great things from this $800 setup. I even have my hopes that it'll give last quarter's pricier $1,000 configuration a run for its money.

$800 Enthusiast System Components
MotherboardASRock Z77 Pro3: LGA 1155, Intel Z77 Express
$90
ProcessorIntel Core i5-3570K: 3.4 GHz Base Clock Rate, 3.8 GHz Turbo Boost, 6 MB Shared L3 Cache
$230
Heat Sink
Rosewill RCX-ZAIO-92
$15
MemoryCrucial Ballistix Tactical BLE2KIT4GD31608DE1TX0: DDR3-1600 C8, 8 GB (2 x 4 GB)$53
GraphicsPowerColor PCS+ AX7870 Myst Edition 2GBD5-2DHPPV3E
$240
Hard Drive
Seagate Barracuda ST500DM002, 500 GB, 7,200 RPM, SATA 6Gb/s
$60
OpticalSamsung SH-224BB: DVD Burner
$18
CaseXigmatek Asgard II B/B
$34
PowerAntec Neo Eco 520C: 520 W, ATX12V v2.3, 80 PLUS-Certified
$55
 Total Cost
$795


Just to show you that we really try to abide by our budgets, I'm listing the prices I paid for the components back when they were ordered. Some of the components might have fluctuated a bit (for example, the memory now costs $11 bucks extra, though we're happy to report that the PowerColor card should be in stock again at Newegg this week for less than $210).

Display 68 Comments.
Top Comments
  • 17 Hide
    manitoublack , February 27, 2013 3:49 AM
    That's a great value PC there. Would be hard pressed to think of a more compelling combination for the money. Well done.

Other Comments
  • 0 Hide
    DragonClaw , February 27, 2013 3:16 AM
    The table outlining the components of the build. It should read 800$ and not 1000$, I think?
  • -1 Hide
    abbadon_34 , February 27, 2013 3:29 AM
    guessed they reused the previous template, sure it'll be fixed soon and people will wonder what we're talking about
  • -8 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , February 27, 2013 3:41 AM
    Quote:
    Although we're going to miss the snappy boot-up times and almost-instant application launches the solid-state drive enabled, we probably won't be penalized too much in the benchmark results.


    And therein lies the problem with benchmarks.
    An enthusiast PC, without a SSD boot drive?
  • 17 Hide
    manitoublack , February 27, 2013 3:49 AM
    That's a great value PC there. Would be hard pressed to think of a more compelling combination for the money. Well done.

  • 0 Hide
    qTrueno , February 27, 2013 3:59 AM
    The heat sink breaks easily but it is a good cheap solution, as long it doesn't break.
  • -1 Hide
    ipwn3r456 , February 27, 2013 4:30 AM
    If this machine were at $1000 budget, might as well add a 128GB SSD, and replace the HD 7870 to a HD 7950.
  • 0 Hide
    butremor , February 27, 2013 4:38 AM
    "Overclocking

    Overclocking the Core i5-3550K is"
  • 2 Hide
    dudewitbow , February 27, 2013 5:02 AM
    ipwn3r456If this machine were at $1000 budget, might as well add a 128GB SSD, and replace the HD 7870 to a HD 7950.



    there would be marginal performance boost from switching from a 7870 LE(nerfed 7950, heck can call it a 7930 and it would be partially correct in a way) to an actual 7950. Though its likely the outcome for the 1k budget coming up next.
  • 2 Hide
    abhijitkalyane , February 27, 2013 5:04 AM
    I really wasn't expecting the AMD chip to be so close to the i5. I'm a bit surprised. The power consumption figures look bad for the FX though.
  • -2 Hide
    Chairman Ray , February 27, 2013 5:20 AM
    I would like to see builds for non-overclocking as well if they are comparing non-overlocked benchmarks. The $800 isn't a good estimate of what you can achieve in a non-overclocked build when you are paying all that extra for unlocked parts. A locked i5, locked mobo, no heat sink, and smaller PSU will scrape enough for a small SSD. This would be a more well-rounded build that a lot of people would choose especially if they are not planning on overclocking.
  • 4 Hide
    stickmansam , February 27, 2013 5:21 AM
    abhijitkalyaneI really wasn't expecting the AMD chip to be so close to the i5. I'm a bit surprised. The power consumption figures look bad for the FX though.


    That's cuz the 8350 is using a 670 which in GPU heavy titles will boost its numbers higher. Same GPU would show a more different story and the price difference between a 8350 and a i5 3570k is only able to bump a 7870xt to a 7950 at most, not to a 670

    Quote:
    Quote:
    Although we're going to miss the snappy boot-up times and almost-instant application launches the solid-state drive enabled, we probably won't be penalized too much in the benchmark results.


    And therein lies the problem with benchmarks.
    An enthusiast PC, without a SSD boot drive?


    For a $800 budget, I would rather get all the real in game performance I can first while and add a ssd later than lose out on fps and get faster load times

    higher fps(stronger cpu, gpu) > faster load times

    Quote:
    I would like to see builds for non-overclocking as well if they are comparing non-overlocked benchmarks. The $800 isn't a good estimate of what you can achieve in a non-overclocked build when you are paying all that extra for unlocked parts. A locked i5, locked mobo, no heat sink, and smaller PSU will scrape enough for a small SSD. This would be a more well-rounded build that a lot of people would choose especially if they are not planning on overclocking.


    $35 saved from cutting cooler and k is not enough for an SSD
  • 1 Hide
    jdwii , February 27, 2013 5:25 AM
    abhijitkalyaneI really wasn't expecting the AMD chip to be so close to the i5. I'm a bit surprised. The power consumption figures look bad for the FX though.


    After looking at this it would seem illogical to buy a 8350 over a I5. But yes it does do decent interns of price/performance.
  • -4 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , February 27, 2013 5:36 AM
    StickmansamFor a $800 budget, I would rather get all the real in game performance I can first while and add a ssd later than lose out on fps and get faster load timeshigher fps(stronger cpu, gpu) > faster load times


    This would have been correct for a "$800 Gaming PC" .
    But for a "$800 Enthusiast PC " , a SSD is a must. Even a 64GB, lower end SSD would have been OK.
  • -2 Hide
    de5_Roy , February 27, 2013 5:54 AM
    i am a bit surprised.
    this build looks like a budget-upper-midrange build (if that makes any sense). the mobo... looks weak. the cooler and gfx card looked... cheap. i didn't expect the oc core i5 3570k build to keep up with oc fx8350 build in threaded benches (for $200 less, even). only 7zip seems to take advantage of 8 integer clusters/cores properly and the rest of them don't seem to scale well beyond 4~ cores. i noticed that trend in games but this is the first time i've seen it in non-games softwares. i use handbrake, lame mp3 and archivers (7z, zip/rars), so those benches were very informative for me. thank you.
    when i first started reading, i wanted to see an fx8320, cm hyper 212 evo(or a corsair clc) with a sturdy 970 mobo + radeon 7870xt. as i read on, this current build and its performance started to look more and more interesting.
  • 1 Hide
    blazorthon , February 27, 2013 5:57 AM
    dudewitbowthere would be marginal performance boost from switching from a 7870 LE(nerfed 7950, heck can call it a 7930 and it would be partially correct in a way) to an actual 7950. Though its likely the outcome for the 1k budget coming up next.




    The difference between the 7870 XT and the 7950 can be huge when overclocking is considered. That lost memory bandwidth is no small matter for Tahiti LE when it runs at around 1.2GHz. I also suspect that the lost compute units from 28 to 24, although not a significant loss, are considerable.


    EDIT:
    http://www.tweaktown.com/reviews/5120/powercolor_pcs_radeon_hd_7870_tahiti_le_2gb_myst_video_card_review/index7.html

    Also, not only are the 2560x1600 bencmarks not the only ones showing such a comparison, but also the 1920x1200 and 1680x1050 benchmarks. This is also fairly consistent across most games. Both of these claims are demonstrated to be true by the rest of this article.
  • -1 Hide
    blazorthon , February 27, 2013 6:07 AM
    Quote:
    That's cuz the 8350 is using a 670 which in GPU heavy titles will boost its numbers higher. Same GPU would show a more different story and the price difference between a 8350 and a i5 3570k is only able to bump a 7870xt to a 7950 at most, not to a 670



    For a $800 budget, I would rather get all the real in game performance I can first while and add a ssd later than lose out on fps and get faster load times

    higher fps(stronger cpu, gpu) > faster load times



    $35 saved from cutting cooler and k is not enough for an SSD


    We could easily scrape out enough money from the budget for a decent 60GB/64GB SSD such as Plextor's M5S 64GB without really hurting core performance, at least if we didn't stick to Nweegg (granted Tom's doesn't have much option left in that if they want free systems to hand out). Loading times alone could be worth it.
  • 1 Hide
    silverblue , February 27, 2013 7:11 AM
    The i5-3570K's overclock appears to be "4.4 GHz @ +0.085 V" as opposed to showing "4.4GHz @ 1.15 V".
  • 0 Hide
    silverblue , February 27, 2013 7:26 AM
    de5_Royi didn't expect the oc core i5 3570k build to keep up with oc fx8350 build in threaded benches (for $200 less, even). only 7zip seems to take advantage of 8 integer clusters/cores properly and the rest of them don't seem to scale well beyond 4~ cores. i noticed that trend in games but this is the first time i've seen it in non-games softwares. i use handbrake, lame mp3 and archivers (7z, zip/rars), so those benches were very informative for me. thank you.


    I'm wondering if Blaz's disable-one-core-per-module trick would help Piledriver here, as you'd have a single core with access to 2MB L2 and 2MB L3 without the scheduler needing to worry about the second integer core. As it is, even if the software could make full use of all the CPU cores, they'd likely have a memory contention or bandwidth issue.

    Steamroller will definitely improve matters but AMD will continue to be behind until anybody but the creators of 7Zip thread their software to hell (outside of rendering and productivity apps, of course).
  • 2 Hide
    m32 , February 27, 2013 7:29 AM
    These results are pretty eye opening! I already knew it, but dang. As an AMDer, I can't wait for Steamroller (good thing I get to see Haswell first). They need to improve performance, but power consumption as well. No excuse this time around.
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