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System Builder Marathon, Dec. 2009: $2,500 Performance PC

Hard drives: Dual WD Caviar Black 2.0TB

Recent surges in solid state drive (SSD) prices forced us to make a tough choice in addressing the capacity and performance needs of a high-end system. Using the two Intel X25-M drives of our previous build would have eliminated our ability to add high-capacity devices, while using a single X25-M and a single high-capacity drive would have eliminated much of the throughput performance and all of the redundancy found in our previous build. Fortunately, Western Digital has made significant gains in the performance level of its high-capacity Caviar Black WD2001FASS.

Read Customer Reviews of Western Digital's 2TB Caviar Black

These still won’t provide the access times of even a single SSD, but the pair does offer excellent read and write rates when used in the P55 Express RAID controller’s Level 0 mode. While striping is required to present “performance value” in our later system comparison, we suggest the redundancy of RAID 1 for daily use.

Optical Drive: LG WH08LS20 BD-RE

If 2.0TB (in RAID 1) isn’t enough capacity to meet all of your long-term storage needs, perhaps a few 50GB BD-R dual-layer discs could fill the gap? LG’s WH08 can burn those at 4x, as well as single-layer BD-Rs at 8x, and if you think you’ll need to make later revisions, BD-REs at 2x will work.

Read Customer Reviews of LG's WH08LS20 BD-RE

The WH08 Blu-ray drive is the only place we didn’t make any sacrifices in storage compared to our previous $2,500 build. We simply didn’t feel that any multipurpose system could truly be considered “high-end” without support for the latest optical media formats.

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