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System Builder Marathon, May '09: $600 Gaming PC
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Working in the SG01-F case was surprisingly simple even with this editor’s somewhat big hands. Prepping the case was as easy as removing the top cover and exhaust fan bracket. All motherboard standoffs were in place except for one, and with the Asrock-supplied I/O shield snapped into place, it was soon time to prepare the motherboard.

After installing the processor, boxed cooler, and RAM, the motherboard was ready to be mounted into the case. Removable trays made installing the hard drive a simple task. Those using DDR2-1066 should adjust the FSB jumpers at this time or the memory will only be able to run DDR2-667 or DDR2-800. A close-up picture of these jumpers can be viewed later on in the overclocking section.

With the motherboard and hard drive installed, it was then time to install the graphics card and see if there would be any clearance issues. With the motherboard and hard drive installed, it was then time to install the graphics card and see if there would be any clearance issues.

If a graphics card longer than 9.6” is installed in the first expansion slot, modifications need to be made to the case. Removing the side intake fan or replacing it with a thinner fan allows the hard drive cage to be slid farther away from the first expansion slot.

For this build, none of this was a concern, as the ASRock G41M-LE uses the second expansion slot for the graphics card, leaving plenty of clearance between the 10.5”-long GTX 260 and the hard disk drive.

Hooking up the individual front audio connectors was one of the biggest challenges with this system, as the SilverStone documentation did not match the individual connector labels. We’d have to imagine this has been a great source of frustration for many novice system builders. The audio cable didn’t leave much length to spare, while the other front-panel cables left many spare inches to tuck away.

After installing the PSU and DVD burner, it was time to connect the power and data cables, test the machine out, and put those cable-management skills to work.

With the exhaust fan bracket and top cover reinstalled it was time to enter the BIOS and get our OS installed. With the exhaust fan bracket and top cover reinstalled it was time to enter the BIOS and get our OS installed.

Display all 149 comments.
Top Comments
  • 28 Hide
    dirtmountain , May 27, 2009 7:27 AM
    It is a lovely build, but the all around performance would be better with a Phenom2 x3 720, something that was achievable at the typical $625- $650 budget build price tag. If you look at the last 4 budget builds you get a E5200, E5300, E7300 and now yet another E5200. Give us a break, is the next one going to feature the E6300, then another E5200? As for the enthusiast, we get an i7, then a core2 duo, then a core2 quad, now another i7. Is it all around performance? or gaming performance? or just Intel performance? How can any reader know how the AMDs will stand up in these marathons if they never get the chance? With the new quarterly offering of the SBM it will be 3 months before another series comes out, just in time to see yet another i7, i5 and the E6300 builds. It's not as if the people waiting and wanting to see an AMD build are any surprise to Toms SBM or that they're disappointed to see AMD excluded once again. I'm disappointed myself even though Pauls build is a really nice one.
  • 21 Hide
    IronRyan21 , May 27, 2009 6:16 AM
    Im sad, I was hoping for at least one AMD cpu in the May SBM series. :( 
  • 11 Hide
    presidenteody , May 27, 2009 7:55 AM
    well, I hope Intel hasn't purchased tom's hardware yet.
Other Comments
  • 5 Hide
    doomtomb , May 27, 2009 6:07 AM
    You still manage to fit this PC with a GTX series at such a low price point. Props for that.
  • 3 Hide
    IzzyCraft , May 27, 2009 6:15 AM
    Yeah while you generally can find a 4890 10 dollars cheaper then a GTX275 the reverse is true when it comes to a 4870 and GTX260.

    Interesting i would have thought you would have went with a kuma due to limited oc ability in a cramped "gaming box", although you did make the oc worth while.

    I understand the rest of the build; though the case looks more like a media box then a gaming box those cramped boxes amaze and worry me as even my htpc is very well cooled and silent due to being very low heat as in not a oced cpu and a power hungry gpu.
  • 21 Hide
    IronRyan21 , May 27, 2009 6:16 AM
    Im sad, I was hoping for at least one AMD cpu in the May SBM series. :( 
  • 5 Hide
    IzzyCraft , May 27, 2009 6:25 AM
    62 dollar mobo hard to argue with that cpu+mobo coming out to be 62+70=$132 and, getting that much oc off the stock cooler.
  • -8 Hide
    dirtmountain , May 27, 2009 6:25 AM
    What a shame.
  • -8 Hide
    cinergy , May 27, 2009 6:29 AM
    IronRyan21Im sad, I was hoping for at least one AMD cpu in the May SBM series.


    Green eyed Tom gives no mercy for DAAMIT.
  • 6 Hide
    cangelini , May 27, 2009 6:44 AM
    Wow, no love for a solid build. Nicely done, Paul.
  • 1 Hide
    erdinger , May 27, 2009 7:20 AM
    dissapointed also just needed to see an Amd system.
  • 28 Hide
    dirtmountain , May 27, 2009 7:27 AM
    It is a lovely build, but the all around performance would be better with a Phenom2 x3 720, something that was achievable at the typical $625- $650 budget build price tag. If you look at the last 4 budget builds you get a E5200, E5300, E7300 and now yet another E5200. Give us a break, is the next one going to feature the E6300, then another E5200? As for the enthusiast, we get an i7, then a core2 duo, then a core2 quad, now another i7. Is it all around performance? or gaming performance? or just Intel performance? How can any reader know how the AMDs will stand up in these marathons if they never get the chance? With the new quarterly offering of the SBM it will be 3 months before another series comes out, just in time to see yet another i7, i5 and the E6300 builds. It's not as if the people waiting and wanting to see an AMD build are any surprise to Toms SBM or that they're disappointed to see AMD excluded once again. I'm disappointed myself even though Pauls build is a really nice one.
  • -7 Hide
    sandoness , May 27, 2009 7:37 AM
    Gah.. wouldn't it be smart to get a more powerful cpu?

    even with the overclocking power of this one?

    I was originally gonna get a q9550 !?

    :/ 

  • 1 Hide
    justjc , May 27, 2009 7:53 AM
    The explanation we have heard earlier, for he use of only Intel CPUs, is that Tom's Hardware base their builds on what hardware they have available. Why they don't have the money for a single Phenom II in their budget I don't know.

    The reason could offcause be that Intel gives a hefty rebate/will only deliver free chips, if AMD is left out of the builds, after all they have a history of such dealings ;)  (see rulings from the EU, Japan and South Korea)

    Perhaps we should start a collection and buy Tom's Hardware a couple of Phenom IIs, at least that would show if availability, of AMD CPUs, is the issue.
  • 11 Hide
    presidenteody , May 27, 2009 7:55 AM
    well, I hope Intel hasn't purchased tom's hardware yet.
  • 4 Hide
    manitoublack , May 27, 2009 7:58 AM
    Next SBM all the same price points, but 2 systems at each price-point. 1 AMD the other Intel. Settle it once and for all ;)  I know Tom's has spare cash. I'd guess you'd need to use the same graphics cards at each price-point, for a fair comparison.

    Another odd point is that after giving major props to the R770 in X-Fire for it's great value, to see that solution missing in a value shootout. That said space and X-fire compatibility was obviously an issue.

    Another great build, and look forward to seeing Junes take on value.

  • 5 Hide
    cangelini , May 27, 2009 8:07 AM
    justjcThe explanation we have heard earlier, for he use of only Intel CPUs, is that Tom's Hardware base their builds on what hardware they have available. Why they don't have the money for a single Phenom II in their budget I don't know. The reason could offcause be that Intel gives a hefty rebate/will only deliver free chips, if AMD is left out of the builds, after all they have a history of such dealings (see rulings from the EU, Japan and South Korea)Perhaps we should start a collection and buy Tom's Hardware a couple of Phenom IIs, at least that would show if availability, of AMD CPUs, is the issue.


    The way this works is simple. We cooperate with Newegg to make each System Builder Marathon happen. We have a budget and buy all of the hardware in each of these straight from Newegg. Most of the time, the configurations are selected based on feedback from the forums. We have something coming up next week for the folks who'd like to see some more AMD overclocking. But for this series, the Intel processors and Nvidia cards made the most sense given our respective price points.
  • 1 Hide
    anamaniac , May 27, 2009 8:17 AM
    Nice build.

    Micro-ATX for the win!

    A full size tower just wouldn't work for me. I have my cramped micro in a situation were it's already too big.
    Though I may go for a full-atx, and get a 10 foot mouse/keyboard/DVI/speaker cables, and throw it in my closet. :) 

    I'd like to see the cheapest gaming computer you cuold do and the performance though.
    Say, a AMD 5050e (for lower power consumption than kuma), micro atx, 4770 (over 4830 for power consumption), 250GB hdd etc.
    See how much muscle it has, how much power it uses, and how quiet you can make it. (extreme budget water cooling guide maybe?)
    I know I'd be interested in the results of that build, because rent is just too much. ;) 


    Thanks Toms.
  • -5 Hide
    kelfen , May 27, 2009 8:38 AM
    what about the 4770 for the win?
  • 0 Hide
    cangelini , May 27, 2009 9:09 AM
    Because these systems come from actual retail orders, we rely on hardware being available in order for it to appear here. The 4770 is not a good candidate.
  • 3 Hide
    Proximon , May 27, 2009 9:14 AM
    The best build of the bunch. That's a whole lot of value for 600 bucks.
    The only nit I have to pick is that the OCZ 550W is untested and possibly an inferior PSU, even for OCZ. It's larger sibling is decent, but it's clearly built by a different OEM. I doubt it's a BAD PSU though. Not like the junk a certain other site allows in their builds.
  • -1 Hide
    obarthelemy , May 27, 2009 9:19 AM
    On the $600 system, do you feel the performance is limited by the CPU, or by the vidcard ? I'm looking into getting a new PC, for around $800-900, and I was wondering if I should put a bit more money in the vidcard or the cpu (I'm getting bigger HD's for sure).
  • -1 Hide
    Sihastru , May 27, 2009 10:13 AM
    I know it's not in the budget, but for a build like this, I would go with the Silverstone SG-05 (with the bundled SFX PSU, very few choices there), Zotac 9300 mini-ITX WiFi, and keep the rest of the components with maybe the exception of the HDD where I only have eyes for the 640GB Western Digitals (Blue or Black, no green nonsense for me)...

    Now that would be impressively small and yet powerful.
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