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System Builder Marathon, Q1 2013: $1,000 Performance PC

System Builder Marathon, Q1 2013: $1,000 Performance 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
Day 5: The $1,600 Alternative PC

Introduction

I typically approach our highest-priced performance build as an attempt to squeeze value out of top-shelf parts by prioritizing performance. Versatility takes a somewhat-distant secondary position; really, I want to make the most expensive configuration feel like it's worth what I'm paying for the parts. After all, when you spend thousands of dollars on a do-everything PC, you expect it to actually do everything.

Generally, though, when we analyze performance-per-dollar for each System Builder Marathon machine on Day 4 (the story coming tomorrow), our top setup tends to suffer compared to more affordable builds, since I often use nicer parts that don't help performance. 

As you know, though, this quarter's angle involves a tight price spread. I'm most affected by this, and my distinctly high-end $2,000 budget gets cut to $1,000, putting it in the mainstream category (or, at least the mid-priced market enthusiasts are used to). Gone are high-capacity SSD and hard disk combinations, as well as most CrossFire, SLI, or even Core i7 configurations. We even need to skip out on a quiet case, a huge CPU cooler, extra RAM, and a Blu-ray drive.

We have the easiest time pushing additional performance in games, so this quarter's more versatility-oriented creation looks uncomfortably similar to last year's mid-end machine (Ed.: Little did Thomas know when he ordered these parts, his system is really, really similar to what Don published yesterday).

Q1 2013 $1000 PC Components
ProcessorIntel Core i5-3570K: 3.4 GHz Base Clock Rate, 3.8 GHz Turbo Boost, 6 MB Shared L3 Cache$230
GraphicsPowerColor PCS+ AX7870 Myst Edition 2GBD5-2DHPPV3E $240
MotherboardASRock Z77 Extreme4: LGA 1155, Intel Z77 Express$135
MemoryCrucial Ballistix Tactical BLT2K4G3D1608ET3LX0: DDR3-1600 C8, 8 GB (2 x 4 GB)$48
System DriveMushkin MKNSSDCR240GB-DX: 240 GB, SATA 6Gb/s SSD$180
Storage DriveUses System Drive-
OpticalLite-On iHAS124: 24x DVD±R, 12x DVD±R DL$17
CaseRosewill Redbone U3: USB 3.0, eSATA, 3 x 120mm$45
PowerAntec Neo Eco 520C 520 W, ATX12V v2.3, 80 PLUS-Certified$55
CPU CoolerCooler Master Hyper 212 Plus RR-B10-212P-G1$30
  Total Cost $980


On a per-gigabyte basis, hard drives are really cheap. But adding secondary storage would have cut deeply enough into our budget that we would have needed to drop from 240 to 120 GB of solid-state storage. I simply couldn’t find a 120 GB SSD I liked enough to make that compromise, and the lack of tiered storage makes this system even more gamely.

When in gaming territory, I do what gamers do: focus on graphics performance. Thankfully, AMD quietly started shipping its Tahiti LE-equipped Radeon HD 7870 not too long ago, and we reviewed it in Tahiti LE, Tested: PowerColor's HD7870 PCS+ Myst Edition. We had enough time before ordering our parts to check out its performance and decide it'd be appropriate here.

Display 91 Comments.
Top Comments
  • 26 Hide
    samuelohagan , February 28, 2013 3:13 AM
    Isn't this basically the same thing as the $800 pc but with an ssd?
  • 20 Hide
    samuelohagan , February 28, 2013 3:23 AM
    I think they should have compared the benchmarks with Q4 $1000 pc.
  • 19 Hide
    Crashman , February 28, 2013 9:41 AM
    stoogiepoor build, psu too crap, no storage. a expensive version of a 7870 for no reason at all < waste of money
    And my boss wonders why I hurl insults at people who comment without actually reading the article.

    Now instead of insults I can tell people "Don't be a stoogie". Thanks!
Other Comments
  • 26 Hide
    samuelohagan , February 28, 2013 3:13 AM
    Isn't this basically the same thing as the $800 pc but with an ssd?
  • 3 Hide
    iknowhowtofixit , February 28, 2013 3:19 AM
    Pretty much. Not really a fan of any of the parts other than the CPU and GPU...
  • 2 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , February 28, 2013 3:20 AM
    The only thing i could have tried to change in this build was to get a 64GB SSD , get a 500GB HDD , and if i have any money left, try to get a HD7950.
    Otherwise, not much wriggle room here. Nice build!
  • 15 Hide
    Chairman Ray , February 28, 2013 3:20 AM
    I'm not sure if having an SSD without an HDD is an attractive option for most people. 240GB goes by pretty fast.
  • 20 Hide
    samuelohagan , February 28, 2013 3:23 AM
    I think they should have compared the benchmarks with Q4 $1000 pc.
  • 6 Hide
    lightofhonor , February 28, 2013 3:31 AM
    It actually plays Skyrim WORSE than the $800 build...
  • 3 Hide
    dscudella , February 28, 2013 3:32 AM
    It's the same PC as the $800 build except they just swapped out the HDD for an SSD. Dissappointing.
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , February 28, 2013 3:40 AM
    where do you order your PC parts?
  • 13 Hide
    Crashman , February 28, 2013 3:41 AM
    mayankleoboy1The only thing i could have tried to change in this build was to get a 64GB SSD , get a 500GB HDD , and if i have any money left, try to get a HD7950.Otherwise, not much wriggle room here. Nice build!
    No point, We Like Our Games To Load Fast!!!
    Chairman RayI'm not sure if having an SSD without an HDD is an attractive option for most people. 240GB goes by pretty fast.
    Programs can eat most of a 240GB drive up. In fact, I just shrunk a copy of the test suite, with OS and games, to 132 GB.

    Using the drive performance measurement to reflect program load times means loading all the programs on the SSD. And that explains why SSD capacity wasn't sacrificed to make more room in the budget for an HDD.
    lightofhonorIt actually plays Skyrim WORSE than the $800 build...
    Nobody knows why, but the $800 PC did use a newer GPU driver.
    dscudellaIt's the same PC as the $800 build except they just swapped out the HDD for an SSD. Dissappointing.
    So it's going to lose the Day 4 Value Roundup, right?
  • 7 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , February 28, 2013 3:41 AM
    dscudellaIt's the same PC as the $800 build except they just swapped out the HDD for an SSD. Dissappointing.


    Looking from another perspective, these two builds, with two different builders, with $200 difference, just show(again) how much better price/performance wise are Intel CPU's and AMD GPU's.
  • 6 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , February 28, 2013 3:47 AM
    CrashmanNo point, We Like Our Games To Load Fast!!!


    I see your point, but I'd rather see slower game loads and better FPS , than faster game loads and lower FPS. And, the OS is accelerated in both cases anyway.
  • 3 Hide
    coonday , February 28, 2013 3:47 AM
    You guys must really want me to buy that 7870 Myst Edition. I'm actually hoping to see 2 of those cards in a crossfire configuration on the $2000 build.
  • 3 Hide
    Crashman , February 28, 2013 3:58 AM
    mayankleoboy1Looking from another perspective, these two builds, with two different builders, with $200 difference, just show(again) how much better price/performance wise are Intel CPU's and AMD GPU's.
    Builder 2 copied Builder 1's power supply. Builder 1 copied builder 2's RAM. Both were stuck with the same video card due to availability issues :) 
    mayankleoboy1I see your point, but I'd rather see slower game loads and better FPS , than faster game loads and lower FPS. And, the OS is accelerated in both cases anyway.
    Performance difference between Tahiti and Tahiti-LE is fairly small, right? But the price difference isn't small, is it? $1000 PC builder simply hoped for a better overclock, even though that didn't work out.
    coondayYou guys must really want me to buy that 7870 Myst Edition. I'm actually hoping to see 2 of those cards in a crossfire configuration on the $2000 build.
    Nobody wants you to buy the Myst Edition. Tahiti-LE is a good value, if you like that argument pick your favorite vender. Vender choice wasn't available on purchase day.

    But hey, I'm on board with the 7870 Myst Edition CrossFire suggestion...I'll see if we can make it happen!
  • -3 Hide
    J_E_D_70 , February 28, 2013 4:02 AM
    Good call on the bigger SSD over a HDD. Not sure what folks are filling them up with. My other PC has 250GB drive with 400 or so CDs ripped to it, thousands of photos, lots of docs and the office suite and isn't full. Die mechanical drives. Just die.
  • 5 Hide
    roltzje , February 28, 2013 4:38 AM
    Im going o defend their choice here, this isnt "Build the best gaming pc for the money" its to build the best performance PC for the money. And having a large capacity SSD along with mid-upper end CPU/GPU seems good to me. If they wanted to build a pure gaming PC the extra $200 would just be spent on the GPU.

    I think theres something to be said about the value at above $1000 though.. past this price range, people really start caring about having a nice case, nice cooler, etc that are more than just performance but aesthetics too.
  • -9 Hide
    rahulkadukar , February 28, 2013 4:45 AM
    Just do a $2000 build and name it something as "Imaginary build" or something stupid but just do it as a reference for those who may actually spend $2000 on a build.
  • 0 Hide
    ta152h , February 28, 2013 5:42 AM
    I think these would be more interesting if they pitted AMD against Intel/NVIDIA at the same price target.

    Most likely they'd end up with a similar ugly case that no one would really want, possibly the same memory and hard disk, but the heart of the system would always be different.

    Besides, people love rivalries. Sure, AMD processors blow in absolute performance, but they're cheap, and maybe the video card can save the day against the evil Intel/NVIDIA empires. It's a lot more interesting than testing two essentially identical machines, except for the hard disk.

    Do it for different price ranges, and it might even be more competitive. $500, $750, and $1000 might not all have the same winner.
  • 2 Hide
    dudewitbow , February 28, 2013 5:46 AM
    Totally called that the gpu wasnt going to change. marginal benefits to fund the difference between the 7870 LE and 7950.
  • 11 Hide
    Crashman , February 28, 2013 5:51 AM
    ta152hI think these would be more interesting if they pitted AMD against Intel/NVIDIA at the same price target.
    Every time AMD CPU's lose, AMD fans scream that it was intentional. And why would anyone want to pair Intel with Nvidia when Intel with AMD has so much performance for the money?
  • -2 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , February 28, 2013 5:57 AM
    Lets do a "Worse of" builds, just for shites and giggles
    Pair a AMD CPU with a Nvidia GPU. So its expensive and may not perform as well.

    (I will be extremely happy if this build performs well)
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