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System Builder Marathon, June 2012: $2000 Performance PC

System Builder Marathon, June 2012: $2000 Performance PC
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System Builder Marathon, June 2012: The Articles

Here are links to each of the four articles in this quarter’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 SurveyGizmo 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

Halving our System Builder Marathon budgets each day makes it easy to compare value. We can say things like "twice as fast for four times the money," and often be accurate without a lot of mental math.

On the other hand, small changes to our cheapest PC’s budget get multiplied by four by the time they reach our high-end build. While the $500 machine slowly climbed to $600 out of necessity, there really wasn't any good reason to add $400 to our flagship (even considering events like last year's spike in hard drive prices). So, our top-end machine eventually reached $2600 before Paul realized that he no longer needed the extra $150 to create a really solid list of parts.

So, we collectively punched the reset button.

But then something almost magical happened in the meantime: Intel launched its Ivy Bridge architecture, and Nvidia launched its GeForce GTX 680. Whiplash-inducing game performance no longer required a pair of cards or a stupidly-large (and expensive) dual-GPU part. And Intel’s new CPU technology gave us a perfect chance to ditch its pricey six-core Sandy Bridge-E and glorified P67 chipset.

Using the latest hardware, we thought we might be able to construct a machine boasting equal-or-better performance in most applications for less money.

The finished build looks eerily similar to a gaming PC, and that’s not by mistake. Many of the parts in this high-end build were picked in response to reader feedback. While former $2000+ machines were designed to be multipurpose transcoding machines that could game well, the lighter-duty processor in this system started us down the path of a gaming machine able to handle content creation in a passable way.

Q2 2012 $2000 Enthusiast PC Components
ProcessorIntel Core i7-3770K (Ivy Bridge): 3.5 - 3.9 GHz, 8 MB Shared L3 Cache$350
GraphicsAsus GTX680-DC2T-2GD5: GeForce GTX 680 (Factory O/C)$540
MotherboardASRock Z77 Extreme6: LGA 1155, Intel Z77 Express$175
MemoryG.Skill F3-1600C8D-8GAB: DDR3-1600 C8, 4 GB x 2 (8 GB)$58
System DriveMushkin MKNSSDCR120GB-MX: 120 GB, SATA 6Gb/s SSD$120
Storage DriveSeagate Barracuda Green ST2000DL003: 2 TB, 5900 RPM Hard Drive
$120
OpticalLite-On iHAS124-04: 24x DVD±R, 12x DVD±R DL$18
CaseAntec Nine Hundred w/USB 3.0$100
PowerSeasonic X750 Gold SS-750KM: ATX12V V2.3 80 PLUS Gold$160
CPU CoolerZalman CNPS12X$100
  Total Cost $1741


And then there’s the price. By trimming some of last quarter's luxuries, like the BD-R (for ripping and long-term backups), a silent case (to avoid distractions when working), and a larger SSD (providing more room for performance-sensitive apps), we cut around $300 from this build. This is, after all, primarily a gaming machine, and the $259 we had left couldn't get us a second GeForce GTX 680.

It wasn't even possible to consider dual GeForce GTX 670s when we placed our order, though that's the route we'd probably go at this point (since we'd still likely end up within our budget range). GeForce GTX 690s weren't available either. But they're simply too expensive and too limited to be a viable option for most.

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Top Comments
  • 30 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , June 4, 2012 5:45 AM
    i would never buy a green 5400 RPM over a 7200 RPM drive, no matter the cost.
  • 14 Hide
    Anonymous , June 4, 2012 5:50 AM
    Now imagine if two GTX 670 were available!!
  • 12 Hide
    Crashman , June 4, 2012 6:41 AM
    strandiamSo many great cases to choose from with so many great features....
    Perhaps the award-winning NZXT Phantom 410 next time?
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/mana-136-midgard-ii-phantom-410,3203-5.html
Other Comments
  • 4 Hide
    Trialsking , June 4, 2012 5:18 AM
    Very nice build, if only I had $1800 to spare
  • 5 Hide
    rohitbaran , June 4, 2012 5:24 AM
    Well, is GTX 680 availability good enough now?
  • 30 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , June 4, 2012 5:45 AM
    i would never buy a green 5400 RPM over a 7200 RPM drive, no matter the cost.
  • 14 Hide
    Anonymous , June 4, 2012 5:50 AM
    Now imagine if two GTX 670 were available!!
  • 10 Hide
    vakuma5000 , June 4, 2012 5:55 AM
    Awesome Build!!

    I have the exact same GTX 680 from ASUS, and I love it. Managed to get 1337Mhz out of the core and 6800 out of the memory. I achieved that with only 115% power limit. If I raise the power limit any higher, i start to loose performance and stability. That is a truly awesome memory oveerclock you got out of it! Congrats!

    Very much looking foreward to the value comparison.
    Would LOVE to see the 1800$ build win the value comparo!
    GO GTX 680!!

    My vote goes towards keeping a gaming focus as opposed to a more "all-in-one" type build.
    Love the System Builder Articles, love Toms!
  • 8 Hide
    strandiam , June 4, 2012 5:56 AM
    So many great cases to choose from with so many great features....
  • 5 Hide
    vakuma5000 , June 4, 2012 5:59 AM
    Unfortunately GTX 680 availability is still pretty spotty.
    Had to spend 2 days on newegg, refreshing the page every few mins to get the model i wanted.
    However, it IS looking better. They are listing them more often on newegg, and they don't sell-out as quickly as they were a few weeks ago.
    Check newegg daily from 5:30pm to 6:30 pm CST, and you should be able to catch one.
    The GTX 670's are in stock right now.
    Good luck rohitbaran!
  • 5 Hide
    slicedtoad , June 4, 2012 6:26 AM
    Quote:
    should we keep the gaming focus or move back towards higher-cost do-it-all machines?
    Personally, I'm happy with the gaming focus. Don't know how others feel but gaming performance is more important than productivity benchmarks for me. I compile a lot of code and do some video encoding but I find gaining fps in games is more important than shaving seconds off my work. Besides, productivity follows gaming performance close enough.

    On another note, I dislike value comparisons when things like SSD size and optical drives have made an impact in price. A larger SSD does nothing for a benchmark but is awesome in practice. I'd prefer only comparing the combined price of the gpu, cpu, cooler(s) and mobo in the value chart. That's not a perfect solution but it annoys me that things like high quality PSUs, nice cases, blu-ray burners and large SSDs throw things off so much.
  • 12 Hide
    Crashman , June 4, 2012 6:41 AM
    strandiamSo many great cases to choose from with so many great features....
    Perhaps the award-winning NZXT Phantom 410 next time?
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/mana-136-midgard-ii-phantom-410,3203-5.html
  • 3 Hide
    sam_fisher , June 4, 2012 7:00 AM
    CrashmanPerhaps the award-winning NZXT Phantom 410 next time?http://www.tomshardware.com/review [...] 203-5.html


    My only dislike about this build is the case, for a $2000 PC I would prefer a case that was tidier and larger than the Antec Nine Hundred (especially with the layout of the HDD bays). The NZXT Phantom 410 would be much better for that budget.
  • 11 Hide
    ojas , June 4, 2012 7:00 AM
    Quote:
    should we keep the gaming focus or move back towards higher-cost do-it-all machines?

    do-it-all if it's greater than $2000, otherwise gaming.

    CrashmanPerhaps the award-winning NZXT Phantom 410 next time?http://www.tomshardware.com/review [...] 203-5.html

    Or maybe the original Phantom? Even the Corsair Graphite 600T is good...
  • 2 Hide
    strandiam , June 4, 2012 7:01 AM
    CrashmanPerhaps the award-winning NZXT Phantom 410 next time?http://www.tomshardware.com/review [...] 203-5.html

    One of many great choices. If I had a $2000 budget instead of the $900 I'm currently working on, I would go with something a bit nicer like Thermaltake Chaser MK-I, Corsair Obsidian 650, Rosewill THOR V2, or one of many other feature rich cases.
  • 8 Hide
    cmcghee358 , June 4, 2012 7:02 AM
    mayankleoboy1i would never buy a green 5400 RPM over a 7200 RPM drive, no matter the cost.


    It's a data drive.. why wouldn't you?
  • 3 Hide
    DookieDraws , June 4, 2012 7:03 AM
    Great read! I too enjoy these type of articles. Been a reader at Tom's for many years. Keep it up!!!

    Well, I'd be willing to go out on a limb and say most members around here are gamers. I am, but I also do photo/video editing as a hobby on an older, and very sad build. By the way, I expect to be having a funeral for that poor fellow any day, now. :) 

    Now, about the reviews - I like seeing how much performance you guys get out of those lower-end builds. I'm sure those lower-end configs have helped a lot of folks around here with their build decisions. Especially those of us who can't afford the higher-end stuff. Today, those higher-cost do-it-all machines would/should run games fine, too. Honestly, the way technology has advanced and keeps rapidly advancing, you can build a pretty sweet do-all-machine for less than a grand these days. And one to last a few years at that! So, I like seeing those "budget" builds.

    Also, I'd love to see video reviews on these builds. It'd be nice to see some performance video of the set-up and also be able to hear how loud/quite the machine is. You guys think this would be a possibility for future reviews?

    Well, it's very late and I'm going my behind to bed! Too tired to proof read! Sue me if ya find any errors! :p  Good night fellows!
  • 2 Hide
    Crashman , June 4, 2012 7:04 AM
    sam_fisherMy only dislike about this build is the case, for a $2000 PC I would prefer a case that was tidier and larger than the Antec Nine Hundred (especially with the layout of the HDD bays). The NZXT Phantom 410 would be much better for that budget.
    Same price for the case, similar quality so this is really just a matter of preference. I like cases that are small enough to look good on my desk :)  I don't like drive doors :(  But I'd still pick the 410 for someone else :) 
  • 1 Hide
    killerofall , June 4, 2012 7:36 AM
    Personally if I had that much money to spend on a system I would put a bit more money towards the case, like in the $150-$200 range. I would either want to do a themed case, where everything looks the same, a quiet case (maybe water-cooled), or a clean and elegant look (I think that the later would be best but that's just me).

    I do think that it should be more towards gaming as that is what most people here do. However it might not be a bad idea to include a workstation build as well that was business first and gaming second for those people who work at home/small business and don't want to spend extra on a separate gaming machine, or maybe just make it business only, it depends on how you want to take it and what your business is. I don't do this so I don't know what the requirements for the build would be but I am sure that there are plenty of people out there who can provide quality input.
  • 4 Hide
    yyk71200 , June 4, 2012 7:37 AM
    If you remove 680 and put 2 x 670 $400 each, you'll be at $2001, just at budget.
  • 1 Hide
    csf60 , June 4, 2012 7:53 AM
    "ASRock Z77 Extreme6:
    LGA 2011, Intel X79 Express
    Stock 100 MHz BCLK"

    (Typo in test hardware configurations)
  • 2 Hide
    simonmodule , June 4, 2012 9:00 AM
    Toms Hardware, you have writen i7-3770k(sandy bridge), where it actually is ivy bridge
  • 2 Hide
    Crashman , June 4, 2012 9:14 AM
    csf60"ASRock Z77 Extreme6:LGA 2011, Intel X79 ExpressStock 100 MHz BCLK"(Typo in test hardware configurations)
    Fixed, thanks! (table copy/edit error, my greatest downfall)
    simonmoduleToms Hardware, you have writen i7-3770k(sandy bridge), where it actually is ivy bridge
    I don't know what happened there, (sleep editing Chris?) but it's now fixed!
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