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System Builder Marathon: Sub-$4000 PC

System Builder Marathon: Sub-$4000 PC
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This System Builder Marathon marks the first time in the series that we’ve felt significantly restricted by a $4,000 budget. Though lots of top parts can be had for less, it’s the combination that got us. It’s certainly a shame that, for example, our budget forced us to forgo any of the new “lower-cost” Blu-Ray optical drives. Keeping our focus on total system performance will pay off in the benchmarks, in spite of the fact that we feel just a little let down in the area of features.

SBM High JuneSBM High June

Carrying over many of the components from our March System Builder Marathon allowed us to also carry over the finished photo, though the lighted audio module seen above has been replaced with a sound card. As we consider our updates, we’ll also detail why some of our previous choices simply couldn’t be improved upon.

June 2008 SBM High-End PC Component Cost
CPU Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650 1050
CPU Cooler Swiftech H20-120 Compact Cooler Kit 140
Swiftech MCR220 2x120mm Radiator 36
Silverstone RADSUPPORT09 13
Swiftech Chrome 3/8-Inch Fittings, 2-pack 5
Swiftech Plastic Hose Clamps, 4-pack 6
2x Swiftech 3/8-Inch Neoprene Tubing Packs 26
2x Scythe S-Flex SFF21E 120mm Fan 30
Motherboard Asus Striker II Extreme 450
RAM Patriot Extreme Performance DDR3-1333 - 4GB 315
Graphics 2x Gigabyte GeForce 9800 GX2 GV-NX98X1GHI-B 1040
Hard Drive Samsung Spinpoint F1 HD753LJ (750GB) x2 240
Sound ASUS Xonar DX 7.1 90
Case Silverstone Temjin TJ09BW 250
Power Coolermaster RS850-EMBA 850W 180
DVD-RW Toshiba Samsung Storage Technology SH-203B 30
Auxiliary Fan Antec SpotCool Motherboard Cooling Fan 15
Floppy Drive NEC 1.44MB Floppy Drive 9
Total Price $3925

While the system we built in March was several hundred dollars under budget, this month’s highest-end configuration is dangerously close to our budget limit. We added a sound card this time, but the substitution of higher-cost parts remains by far the largest contributor to our overall expense. The big question is whether or not the new configuration will outperform the former system by a similar amount, so lets take a closer look at the components.

Display 79 Comments.
  • 0 Hide
    L1qu1d , June 23, 2008 5:17 PM
    Good Article, i'd still like to see more current generation games, such as COD4, Bioshock, Grid, Gears of Ware etc, I mean prey is a very old game and warhammer meh...

    Either way very well explained article, but for some1 like me the 8800 Ultras still sell for around 500$ here, and 3 of them would set me back 1500, while the GX2s 1000-1200:p 
  • 0 Hide
    Waspy , June 23, 2008 5:22 PM
    Liquid, what was their old rig? Wasn't it 2x 8800GTXes? That pretty much squarely beat 2x 9800GX2s? So you don't need 3, only 2!

    Also, good point, they need to benchmark games like GRID and Age of Conan as well!
  • 2 Hide
    Waspy , June 23, 2008 5:23 PM
    Ahhh too bad about the videocard choice here. I would have liked to see a 2x GTX260 rig...I think that'll be the next power-gamer's rig without dropping the extra $500 on the 2x GTX280 and the extra $300 on a 1wK PSU...although I'm sure this 850W could handle it. I'm going to be running GTX260s on a 750W quality PSU...I predict absolutely no problems.
  • 0 Hide
    mr roboto , June 23, 2008 5:26 PM
    Yes good article but I have to echo the exact sentiment from above. Prey is a fun game but it was never really the system killer to begin with. Some shader intensive games would be nice too.

    I think Nvidia is going to discontinue the 8800GTX\Ultras real soon here. Right now on Newegg.com they don't have any of either card. Over the last few weeks they've been sporadic as far as being in stock. I would consider adding another 8800GTX to my rig but like L1qu!d said they're still pretty expensive. The lowest price I've seen for the 8800GTX's is around $350. If I could find one for $250-$300 range it would be worth it.
  • 0 Hide
    L1qu1d , June 23, 2008 5:33 PM
    Yeah because I kno in certain games tri and quad scale better. Age of Conan, COD4 are some examples:) 
  • -1 Hide
    mr roboto , June 23, 2008 5:39 PM
    WaspyI think that'll be the next power-gamer's rig without dropping the extra $500 on the 2x GTX280 and the extra $300 on a 1wK PSU...although I'm sure this 850W could handle it. I'm going to be running GTX260s on a 750W quality PSU...I predict absolutely no problems.


    Are you high? 2 GTX's on an 850w or even a 1KW PSU? With all the other peripherals installed, no way. Asus's new top of the line ARES rig uses 2 1KW PSU's for three GTX 280's. So GTX 260 SLI rig will need a minimum 1KW.
  • 0 Hide
    neodude007 , June 23, 2008 5:45 PM
    Nice article guys. Its funny that a $1,200 could beat that $4,000 rig in a lot of games/benchies. My E8400 @ 3.8GHz and SLI 8800GT get around 18,000 3dMark06
    Can't wait to see how the other test builds are going to perform.
  • 0 Hide
    Crashman , June 23, 2008 6:12 PM
    Quote:
    Nice article guys. Its funny that a $1,200 could beat that $4,000 rig in a lot of games/benchies. My E8400 @ 3.8GHz and SLI 8800GT get around 18,000 3dMark06
    Can't wait to see how the other test builds are going to perform.


    Of course it beats it in some things, it's overclocked. All the systems will get overclocked on Monday.
  • 0 Hide
    Waspy , June 23, 2008 6:14 PM
    Mr RobotoAre you high? 2 GTX's on an 850w or even a 1KW PSU? With all the other peripherals installed, no way. Asus's new top of the line AREShttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ares rig uses 2 1KW PSU's for three GTX 280's. So GTX 260 SLI rig will need a minimum 1KW.


    Well I was using an instanced case...I'm not going to be running mad-donkey peripherals. Plan is 4 HDDs, 1 DVD burner, 2x GTX260, E8400, bunch of fans and LEDs but those are tiny draws.

    Dude anyways, no, 1kW is overkill. Look at this build! A quality 850W for a water-cooling rig with a QX9650 and 2x 9800GX2s! The GTX260 draws like 10W or more LESS than the 9800GX2, plus I won't be running a quad core OR water cooling. 750W is completely sound. My plan is for this rig to last me until Nehalem so I don't think I'll be going quad core on it etc.
  • -2 Hide
    The_Blood_Raven , June 23, 2008 6:45 PM
    I am shocked, I must give Tom's a hand for this build it was well thought out and they picked the right parts. Only thing I do not like is the TJ09 case, that case does not cooler very well, an Antec 900 beats it with all fans on low, sad. They need to drop the TJ09, I had one and returned it, because it's cooling performance was not great, for a $4k gaming rig you need GREAT cooling. The Cosmos S is not much better, but there are so many other cases on the market that could fit that cooling system in that are a lot better and much cheaper. Oh well, besides the case GOOD JOB THW!
  • 0 Hide
    gm0n3y , June 23, 2008 6:52 PM
    The comments about the game choices are valid, but I think they try to stay with the same games for as long as possible to allow for direct comparison against previous tests. So they only get updated ever 18 months or so.
  • 0 Hide
    r0b0tc0rpse , June 23, 2008 7:00 PM
    The_Blood_RavenI am shocked, I must give Tom's a hand for this build it was well thought out and they picked the right parts. Only thing I do not like is the TJ09 case, that case does not cooler very well, an Antec 900 beats it with all fans on low, sad. They need to drop the TJ09, I had one and returned it, because it's cooling performance was not great, for a $4k gaming rig you need GREAT cooling. The Cosmos S is not much better, but there are so many other cases on the market that could fit that cooling system in that are a lot better and much cheaper. Oh well, besides the case GOOD JOB THW!


    My TJ09 cools fine. Front and rear fans are weak, replaced with scythe's and its fine. If you need more video card cooling, add a side window with a 120 MM fan hole. ran 2.6-2.8 ghz @ 22*C ~31-35 under load, 3.6 GHZ on air @ 32* c / 42 c * under load
  • 0 Hide
    Crashman , June 23, 2008 7:21 PM
    The_Blood_RavenI am shocked, I must give Tom's a hand for this build it was well thought out and they picked the right parts. Only thing I do not like is the TJ09 case, that case does not cooler very well, an Antec 900 beats it with all fans on low, sad. They need to drop the TJ09, I had one and returned it, because it's cooling performance was not great, for a $4k gaming rig you need GREAT cooling. The Cosmos S is not much better, but there are so many other cases on the market that could fit that cooling system in that are a lot better and much cheaper. Oh well, besides the case GOOD JOB THW!


    The Antec Nine Hundred was considered last year and rejected because it couldn't support as many radiators. The TJ09 has enough airflow that a single internal fan over the RAM can cool the RAM, chipset, and VRM. This wouldn't be true if the case was hot internally.
  • 0 Hide
    cleeve , June 23, 2008 7:38 PM
    Just a note from the staff:

    We're currenty updating our entire games suite, it won't be ready for this system builder marathon but it'll be up & running soon.
  • -5 Hide
    cruiseoveride , June 23, 2008 8:25 PM
    This is so stupid, 4 grand for what? a year later its a typewriter,

    A ps3 costs, umm...~$500 ? and will last 5 years or more, and 5 years later it will still play the games as well as it did today.

    While this overgrown typewriter will be sold on ebay for junk.
  • 0 Hide
    razor512 , June 23, 2008 8:53 PM
    for the price, it is only a little bit faster than a PC thats half the cost

    it is not worth it,

    SLI it the worst bottleneck on earth

    2 cards = twice the price for only a 10-20% performance boost
  • 0 Hide
    clay12340 , June 23, 2008 8:59 PM
    Quote:
    This is so stupid, 4 grand for what? a year later its a typewriter,

    A ps3 costs, umm...~$500 ? and will last 5 years or more, and 5 years later it will still play the games as well as it did today.

    While this overgrown typewriter will be sold on ebay for junk.


    Yeah spending $500 is a great investment for both of the games worth playing on a PS3 ... Buy a Wii for half as much and give yourself some options. Buy an Xbox 360 and have even more options.

    Aside from that your comment is still dumb. It is an article about building a PC system on a $4k budget. It has nothing to do with value or comparison to consoles.
  • 1 Hide
    warezme , June 23, 2008 9:11 PM
    $4K budget??? thats like a $500,000 sports car budget..., hmm, should I get the Murcielago or Porsche Carrera GT..., what a challenge
  • 1 Hide
    vonbose , June 23, 2008 10:00 PM
    Could you actually even spend $4000 on an AMD system?

    For all the hype, $4,000 is an insane amount of money to spend on a PC. I'd like to see an AMD spider set-up with quad 4870's (when they come out) vs. these machines. I bet you could build two machines for $4,000 and realistically play all of the same games at simiar settings.
  • 0 Hide
    mr roboto , June 23, 2008 10:01 PM
    cleeveJust a note from the staff:We're currenty updating our entire games suite, it won't be ready for this system builder marathon but it'll be up & running soon.


    Good job. It's very much appreciated.
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