Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

System Builder Marathon: $625 Gaming PC

System Builder Marathon: $625 Gaming PC
By

System Builder Marathon, December 2008: 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).

Ed.—You’ll notice that we have once again paired up with NewEgg to deliver this month’s SBM. It’s an arrangement that gives us access to the latest retail components, which ideally delivers an experience more representative of what our readers would go through and eliminates the uncertainty associated with engineering/cherry-picked samples. Good news--you'll notice that this month we're back to three distinct system builds. That's because i7 is now widely available and we were able to build it into our high-end. There's also a bit of a surprise on day two. But for now, check out what Paul was able to piece together for $625!

Introduction

Readers seemed to appreciate the November SBM pricing points so we again stick to the $625 budget for this month’s Gaming PC. Many of our previous components also found their way into this system, but there was a little extra room in the budget to allow for a potential upgrade or two.

Our maximum-detail SBM gaming settings have so far brought our single-GPU gaming PCs to their knees, so attempts were first made to fit more GPU power into this month’s build. Ideally, dual HD 4830s or 9800 GTs were the goal, but unfortunately a CrossFire- or SLI-capable motherboard, dual $115 graphics cards, and a sufficient power supply unit (PSU) did not even come close to meeting the constraints of this budget. Even a single GTX 260 or HD 4870 would have required the HDD capacity or system memory to be cut in half and would have also limited us to $30 cases. While more GPU power remained just out of reach, there were enough pricing changes to instead increase our CPU budget so we could take a look at the Intel Core 2 Duo E7300.

With slightly higher stock clock speeds, a higher front side bus (FSB) clock, and more L2 cache, we expected the E7300-powered system to outperform November's E5200 setup right out of the box. But since this is an SBM review, we are thus more interested in seeing just what this rig will do once we find its maximum stable overclocked speeds. Let’s take a look at the other components selected for this month’s $625 Gaming PC.

  $625 Gaming PC System Components
ComponentModelPrice (USD)
CPU Intel Core 2 Duo E7300 2.66 GHz
120
CPU Cooler Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro27
Motherboard Gigabyte GA-EP45-DS3L
105
RAM Patriot Viper 4 GB (2 x 2 GB) DDR2 800 (PC2 6400)
53
Graphics Sapphire 100245L Radeon HD 4850 512 MB
150
Hard Drives Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 ST3500320AS 500 GB 7200 RPM 32 MB
65
SoundIntegrated HD Audio
0
Network Integrated Gigabit Networking
0
CaseAntec Three Hundred
50
Power Antec NeoPower 430 430 W ATX12V
40
Optical LITE-ON 20X DVD±R SATA Model iHAS120-04
22

Total Price:$632


A few pricing changes on order day brought the $624 in selected components up to a slightly over-budget $632.  The one change most worth mentioning is that the $10 savings on the E7300 expired, meaning we needed to obtain an extra $38 worth of performance out of this CPU vs. last month's E5200. And while we are on the topic, once again keep in mind that these prices and even availability are almost guaranteed to change by the time you read this article.  Also, some readers may value knowing there were $40 worth of mail-in rebates available for these components at order time. With that said, it’s time to take a closer look at each of the components used in the December $625 PC.

Display all 76 comments.
  • -5 Hide
    spirto , December 29, 2008 7:07 AM
    once again no amd setup? i thought you said you were going to give us amd users a smb
  • 5 Hide
    DFGum , December 29, 2008 7:54 AM
    Sure they could give a 625 dollar AMD setup, but it just wouldnt be as good at this time so why bother?
    Its always about value at the price points.
  • 2 Hide
    JeanLuc , December 29, 2008 7:58 AM
    What’s the point in an AMD setup when the Intel option gives you better value for money?
  • 0 Hide
    V3NOM , December 29, 2008 8:59 AM
    lol... my e5200 crapped out at 3.7ghz 1.4vcore... someone i know got his e7300 to 4.0ghz at some ridiculous vcore though lol... it really depends on teh chip. some get good VID's, some get bad. some overclock good, some overclock crap, its the natura of binning. naturally e8400's would be binned more than the 5 and 7 series, and the e8500/8600 would be better still.
  • -5 Hide
    Anonymous , December 29, 2008 9:37 AM
    when r u guys gonna write about the nvidia ion platform?!?!?!?!
  • -4 Hide
    zodiacfml , December 29, 2008 11:58 AM
    i wouldn't risk buying an e7300 over an e5200. i have built amd systems, now i'm regretting why i didn't bought pentium dual core which are practically core2duo's with less cache.

    regarding nvidia ion, i think intel is thinking deeply of whether they allow nvidia to Atom since netbooks still sell without it.
  • 0 Hide
    Veesofnaught , December 29, 2008 12:11 PM
    I actually just got done purchasing parts for a new pc that ended up being around that same price. This is my first time building a PC so I'm not sure if I could have done better, but I think it's worth mentioning if anyone is interested in going for a Quad Core instead of the Dual Core.

    Intel Quad Core Q6600
    Asus P5QL Pro Motherboard
    NVidia 9800 GTX
    GSkill 4 Gb Ram
    580 Watt PSU
    Rosewill Mid-Tower
    160 GB 7200 RPM Hard Drive
    SATA CD/DVD Burner
  • 3 Hide
    Master Exon , December 29, 2008 1:03 PM
    I guess I will share my for-Christmas build with TH.

    $82 2.5GHz E5200 45nm C2D
    $0 (no CPU cooler)
    $54 ASUS P5KPL-CM
    $34 A-DATA 2x2GB (4GB) DDR2 800
    $200 GeForce 260
    $55 WD 320GB WD3200AAKS
    $0 integrated sound
    $0 integrated network
    $12 Spray painted an old beige case black.
    $67 500W SeaSonic
    $22 LG DVD burner
    $10 card reader

    $526 Total

    I don't see why they didn't shave off $40 for the cheaper CPU
  • 0 Hide
    weinheimer , December 29, 2008 1:32 PM
    That is a nicely configured system at fair pricing
  • 2 Hide
    Roland00 , December 29, 2008 1:36 PM
    I work at frys in the computer department, because of this I weekly check out the ads this is the stuff that are good deals in the computer/components departments
    Prices are good till tommorrow evening (tuesday) at 9 o clock when the store closes. Things are in bold are better deals than listed above.

    Intel Core 2 Duo Processor E7300 & ECS GF7050VT-M Motherboard $99.99
    Patriot 4GB DDR2 PC6400 Dual Memory $49.99 with a 20 dollar rebate
    Antec Three Hundred Ultimate Gamer Case $34.99
    Antec Earthwatts 500W Power Supply $49.99
    Seagate 1.5TB Serial ATA/300 Hard Drive $129.99

    Also good deals
    crucial 4GB DDR2 PC8500 Dual Memory $47.99 $35.99 after rebate
    crucial 2GB DDR2 PC6400 Dual Memory $19.99

    I am just mad that I didn't get the e8500 + crappy motherboard for 134.99 that they had last week.
    note for 99 dollars this is the e7300 not the e7200 the new chip with the higher multipler and is more likely to be a higher bin sort.
  • 2 Hide
    Roland00 , December 29, 2008 1:42 PM
    Quote:
    i wouldn't risk buying an e7300 over an e5200. i have built amd systems, now i'm regretting why i didn't bought pentium
    dual core which are practically core2duo's with less cache.

    Their is no practically about it, Pentium Dual Cores (unlike Pentium Ds also known as netburst) are the same architecture as Intel Core 2 Duos. They are even made on the same wafer as the high end e8600s. Only difference is not all their cache worked perfectly and/or they didn't go as high as frequencies so they were binsorted into dual cores. Finally intel deactivated the cache that may have worked fine/or may not have worked fine and set the multipler to 12.5 and the bus speed at 200mhz.
  • 3 Hide
    jamesl , December 29, 2008 1:52 PM
    Master ExonI guess I will share my for-Christmas build with TH.
    $82 2.5GHz E5200 45nm C2D ...
    ...
    I don't see why they didn't shave off $40 for the cheaper CPU

    because that's the cpu they used last month and they wanted to try something different this time, something more powerful.
    as they said in the article, it didn't work out the way they hoped and they won't be using it again
  • 0 Hide
    jestersage , December 29, 2008 2:02 PM
    Very nice. I would like to see them squeeze in a PhenomII next time... Wonder if they could have squeezed in the CF 4830s (or CF 1GB 4670s?) if they kept the e5200 and changed the mobo to the Asrock P45 that was reviewed by TH last week.

    Lastly, I think the rig can still be overclocked further while keeping the same voltages - if only TH had time to play with the clock skews.
  • 2 Hide
    caamsa , December 29, 2008 2:09 PM
    For us AMD "fanboys" click the link and read.

    http://www.anandtech.com/guides/showdoc.aspx?i=3486
  • 2 Hide
    bounty , December 29, 2008 2:27 PM
    If you guys had stability problems at 3.6 and 3.8 (at almost 1.5v) and had programs wipe things out to the point that you had to re-install the OS I'm guessing you benched at a non-stable OC (long term). I think you need a do-over at 3.5 otherwise it's not helpful. We wouldn't run our systems that unstable, and the other sbm's you built are/were stable.

    You could give the 7300 another shake next month to check if you just had an unlucky CPU, or the 5200 to see if it was just lucky etc. I just built a 5200 + GA-EP43-DS3L for a friend that went to 3.6 on stock cooling and 1.3625v easily.
  • -3 Hide
    Pei-chen , December 29, 2008 2:30 PM
    spirtoonce again no amd setup? i thought you said you were going to give us amd users a smb

    No one is telling you to go AMD for $625 so why should you? The best bang for the buck at $625 is an Intel system.

    BTW, a quad core is needed to play GTA4.
  • 2 Hide
    caamsa , December 29, 2008 2:37 PM
    GTA4

    Operating System: Windows XP SP2
    Processor: Dual core processor (Intel Pentium D or better)
    RAM: 2GB
    Hard Drive: 18GB free hard disk space
    Video Card: 512MB Direct3D 10 compatible video card or Direct3D 9 card compatible with Shader
    Drive: DVD-ROM dual-layer drive
  • 1 Hide
    Pei-chen , December 29, 2008 2:45 PM
    caamsaGTA4Operating System: Windows XP SP2 Processor: Dual core processor (Intel Pentium D or better) RAM: 2GB Hard Drive: 18GB free hard disk space Video Card: 512MB Direct3D 10 compatible video card or Direct3D 9 card compatible with Shader Drive: DVD-ROM dual-layer drive

    I have the game and it is very CPU bounded. The recommended spec is a joke as a system with P4D + 8600GT simply couldn’t play the game.
  • 6 Hide
    scurvywombat , December 29, 2008 2:51 PM
    I would've liked to see an AMD system, but it makes sense that it's not here. Tt this price point it gets pretty competitive between the two, I can understand why Tom's went with the 7300 - overclocking. The new 7750 from AMD looks pretty good, especially when the Egg has it for 75$, though most people are getting 3.2 out of it, maybe a few with 3.4
Display more comments
React To This Article