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System Builder Marathon, Sept. 2011: System Value Compared

System Builder Marathon, Sept. 2011: System Value Compared
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System Builder Marathon, September 2011: The Articles

Here are links to each of the four articles in this month’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 Google form, and be sure to read the complete rules before entering!

Day 1: The $2000 Performance PC
Day 2: The $1000 Enthusiast PC
Day 3: The $500 Gaming PC
Day 4: Performance And Value, Dissected

Introduction

Every three months, our top builders face off in a competition that usually looks a lot like the one that preceded it. This quarter was different, though.

While the builders collaborated on many of the hardware decisions that went into past System Builder Marathons, all three went autonomous this time around. The end result was machines that looked a lot different from their predecessors in more ways than we'd expect.

Sure, they look similar. But as many mothers tell us, "it's what's on the inside that counts.” Both the $2000 and $1000 PCs shifted toward Nvidia graphics from the long-favored AMD parts, while the $500 machine re-adopts an AMD processor after exploring what it'd be like to center on an unoverclockable Intel part. 

Q3 2011 System Builder Marathon Components
 $2000 Performance PC$1000 Enthusiast PC$500 Gaming PC
MotherboardGigabyte GA-Z68XP-UD3: LGA 1155 Intel Z68 ExpressEVGA P67 Micro SLI
LGA 1155, Intel P67 chipset
ASRock M3A770DE
Socket AM3, AMD 770
Graphics2 x EVGA 015-P3-1580-AR: GeForce GTX 580 SLI2 x EVGA 01G-P3-1370-TR: GeForce GTX 460 1 GB SLISapphire 100314-3L: Radeon HD 6870 1 GB
ProcessorIntel Core i7-2600K: 3.4-3.8 GHz, 8 MB L3 CacheIntel Core i5-2500K: 3.3-3.7 GHz, 6 MB L3 CacheAMD Phenom II X4 955 BE: 3.2 GHz, 6 MB L3 Cache
MemoryG.Skill F3-14900CL9D-8GBXL: DDR3-1866 C9, 4 GB x2 (8 GB)Mushkin Redline 997013: DDR3-1600 C7, 2 GB x2 (4 GB)Crucial CT2KIT25664BA1339: DDR3-1333 C9, 2 x 2 GB (4 GB)
System DriveAdata S511 120 GB, SATA 6Gb/s SSDOCZ Vertex 30 GB, SATA 3Gb/s SSDSeagate Barracuda ST500DM002 500 GB HDD
Storage DriveWestern Digital Caviar Green WD20EARS 2 TB, 7200 RPM HDDWestern Digital Caviar Black WD7502AAEX 750 GB, 7200 RPM HDDSingle Drive (above)
OpticalLite-On iHAS224-06: 24x DVD±R 8x DVD+RW 6x DVD-RWSony AD-7260S-0B: 24x DVD±R 8x DVD+RW 6x DVD-RWSamsung SH-222AB: 22x DVD±R 8x DVD+RW 6x DVD-RW
CaseAntec Three Hundred IllusionRaidmax Atlas-295WBNZXT Gamma GAMA-001BK
PowerSeasonic SS-850HT: 850 W, ATX12V v2.31, 80 PLUS SilverCorsair CX600 V2: 600 W ATX12V v2.3, 80 PLUSAntec EarthWatts EA430D: 430 W, ATX12V 2.3, 80 PLUS Bronze
CPU CoolerCooler Master Hyper 212 Plus RR-B10-212P-G1Cooler Master Hyper TX3AMD boxed heatsink/fan
Total Cost$2016 $1032 $519


Another big change was the $1000 machine’s addition of an SSD, which is far smaller than the benchmark set it’s meant to represent. And yet, Don still used it to run all of the benchmarks. We’ll figure out a way to account for that small issue in our final value results.

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Top Comments
  • 15 Hide
    revjacob , September 26, 2011 4:44 AM
    Actually what we need now are more affordable 2560x1600 monitors for these enthusiast PCs.
  • 13 Hide
    jprahman , September 26, 2011 5:09 AM
    comptonI think the next quarter SBM should utilize an SSD at all segments. Its just about time when no one should seriously think of not including a SSD a build.


    Yeah, good luck fitting an SSD into a $500 gaming build.
Other Comments
  • 15 Hide
    revjacob , September 26, 2011 4:44 AM
    Actually what we need now are more affordable 2560x1600 monitors for these enthusiast PCs.
  • 3 Hide
    compton , September 26, 2011 4:54 AM
    I think the next quarter SBM should utilize an SSD at all segments. Its just about time when no one should seriously think of not including a SSD a build. There are great values out there and even the budget system deserves some love. If a small increase in price segments is necessary, so be it. Going from a HDD to a SSD is like going from IGP to discrete class graphics.

    Also, as a result, more emphasis should be placed on the storage sub system. I know these are gaming configurations, but I'd give up my GPU in a nanosecond if it meant I could keep my SSDs. Fortunately, I don't have to choose, but I would if I had too, and I'm not alone out there. Budget systems don't feel so budget-y with even a modest SSD.
  • -5 Hide
    chumly , September 26, 2011 5:02 AM
    Maybe the value of the $1000 PC would go up if you weren't wasting money on unnecessary or poorly chosen parts. You could add another 4 GB of ram, and swap out the twin stuttering 460's for 6870's (and still have enough money to add a better, modular PSU).

    Here:
    http://i.imgur.com/g22Bq.jpg
  • 13 Hide
    jprahman , September 26, 2011 5:09 AM
    comptonI think the next quarter SBM should utilize an SSD at all segments. Its just about time when no one should seriously think of not including a SSD a build.


    Yeah, good luck fitting an SSD into a $500 gaming build.
  • -5 Hide
    Kamab , September 26, 2011 5:20 AM
    jprahmanYeah, good luck fitting an SSD into a $500 gaming build.


    there have been 64GB Vertex Crucial drives on sale for < 79$. Which isn't bad.
  • -4 Hide
    Kamab , September 26, 2011 5:20 AM
    And I meant OCZ Vertex / Crucial M4
  • 2 Hide
    compton , September 26, 2011 5:36 AM
    jprahmanYeah, good luck fitting an SSD into a $500 gaming build.


    That's why I think the $500 system should be closer to $600, maybe like $550. 30GB Agility drives were going for $40 yesterday at the Egg, so its not like you have to spend $300 to get a tangible benefit. That one addition would have contributed a significant performance benefit and the budget category used to be $650 anyway.
  • 3 Hide
    nd22 , September 26, 2011 6:17 AM
    I would have stick to 1 gpu in the 1000 S build. Instead of 2 gf 460/radeon 6850 I would have used 1 radeon 6970/ geforce gtx570 - from persoanl experience 1 gpu = less problems!
  • -3 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , September 26, 2011 6:37 AM
    i think quicksync should be included in the final score as video conversion is something that everyone of us do. and if we buy a SB cpu, then we would surely use quicksync.
    maybe also include windows boot time.
  • 4 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , September 26, 2011 6:38 AM
    Quote:
    Recent changes to Z68 firmware appear to have given its motherboards a distinct advantage over their P67 predecessors, even in applications that can’t use Intel’s Quick Sync transcode acceleration


    can you explain more please?
  • -6 Hide
    gondor , September 26, 2011 7:01 AM
    nd22I would have stick to 1 gpu in the 1000 S build. Instead of 2 gf 460/radeon 6850 I would have used 1 radeon 6970/ geforce gtx570 - from persoanl experience 1 gpu = less problems!


    Every single system builder article explicitly states that discounts, rebates and specials don't apply for the purpose of determining price.
  • 0 Hide
    chumly , September 26, 2011 7:15 AM
    nd22I would have stick to 1 gpu in the 1000 S build. Instead of 2 gf 460/radeon 6850 I would have used 1 radeon 6970/ geforce gtx570 - from persoanl experience 1 gpu = less problems!


    A 34% increase in FPS is hard to ignore. Not to mention that if you use dual 6870's you open up the possibility of smooth eyefinity gaming @ 5760x2160 (I think it's pulling ~50 FPS in Farcry 2 with those cards @ high settings). And the 2 cards are only ~$20 more right now.

    Yes, a single card option is great, but I'm not paying $700+ for a 6990.

    You can also get a pair of 560's (minus the ti) for $310 after rebate. Seeing as Dual screen gaming is not supported by any Nvidia cards, I find that it's overkill.
  • 0 Hide
    cats_Paw , September 26, 2011 9:51 AM
    Always limited to US. Sad for dedicated fans like me :D .
  • 2 Hide
    AppleBlowsDonkeyBalls , September 26, 2011 12:47 PM
    The $500 build is the only one I'd consider "great". Regardless, you guys did a great job making these informative articles.

    I wonder what other combination could be made up for the Q4 $500 SBM. I'm thinking perhaps a Core i3 2100 with a GeForce GTX 560? The 560 would have to come a bit down in price for that to happen, though.
  • 0 Hide
    silverblue , September 26, 2011 1:23 PM
    I'm still not sure of the point of running iSSE4.1 tests on a Phenom II considering they don't support SSE4.1, however it's not something that a) would've made a difference to anything, or b) we'll see much of in future.
  • 1 Hide
    Rizlla , September 26, 2011 1:29 PM
    I think the $500 build was the best thought out PC. The other were too much money spend for the performance gains. Most of the $1000 and $2000 builds could have had part replaced by cheaper and just as good parts.
  • -5 Hide
    hyteck9 , September 26, 2011 1:42 PM
    I would like to offer up an annual analysis on these results. Assumptions: your computer usage over an entire year averages out to 2 hours a day. If that $2,000 PC can perform work just 2 seconds faster each minute than the $500 pc, it saves you A DAY of your life each year. 24 hours and change in fact. Which is really more like 3 WORK days if you consider an 8 hour work day. There is no recourse on the lower value PC's for this, unless you buy 2 (or 4) and find some way to cluster them together or farm out your workloads. Of course, you still have to pay for the power twice (or four times) and the cost of time/administration for the cluster, farming, etc... which defeats the time savings.
    Based on this I say the $2000 is totally worth the price. I'd happily pay a one time premium to get a day (or 3 depending in your definition) of my life back each and every year. ...and that was just 2 seconds faster.. imagine if its 10.. or 20 seconds faster? How often do you get the chance to write a check for more free time?
  • 2 Hide
    Yuka , September 26, 2011 1:59 PM
    hyteck9I would like to offer up an annual analysis on these results. Assumptions: your computer usage over an entire year averages out to 2 hours a day. If that $2,000 PC can perform work just 2 seconds faster each minute than the $500 pc, it saves you A DAY of your life each year. 24 hours and change in fact. Which is really more like 3 WORK days if you consider an 8 hour work day. There is no recourse on the lower value PC's for this, unless you buy 2 (or 4) and find some way to cluster them together or farm out your workloads. Of course, you still have to pay for the power twice (or four times) and the cost of time/administration for the cluster, farming, etc... which defeats the time savings. Based on this I say the $2000 is totally worth the price. I'd happily pay a one time premium to get a day (or 3 depending in your definition) of my life back each and every year. ...and that was just 2 seconds faster.. imagine if its 10.. or 20 seconds faster? How often do you get the chance to write a check for more free time?


    You can always go walk around or do something else while the computer "works" on something you don't want to wait sitting, you know...

    Anyway, kudos to the 1k build. But I liked the 500 better, cause you could add a few bucks and get similar/same perf to the 1k (and 2k) build in some areas.

    Cheers!
  • 2 Hide
    hyteck9 , September 26, 2011 2:04 PM
    Yuka, This is quite true. At least for long running processes... I was thinking more of the 3 seconds here... 8 seconds there.. savings which can't be readily translated into "afk savings".
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