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).
- Day 1: The $650 Gaming PC
- Day 2: The $1,250 Mid-Range PC
- Day 3: The $2,500 Enthusiast PC
- Day 4: Performance and Value Dissected
Intel's Core i7 (Nehalem) has arrived, but is it really a cost-effective CPU? Most new technology is overpriced on release, but the i7 920 processor looks like it might have a lot of stock and overclocked performance potential. Is the extra expense worth the performance gain?
This is where we’ll find out. In last month’s system builder marathon (SBM), we built a $1,250 enthusiast PC based on the X38 platform using an E8500 CPU and we paired it with AMD’s flagship Radeon 4870 X2 card. For about the same amount of money, we’re going to compare it to an X58 platform using the Core i7 920 CPU paired to a Radeon 4850 X2.
Staying in the same price range wasn’t the easiest thing to do when upgrading to the relatively expensive X58 platform and Core i7 CPU, so how did we do it? Well, the first major compromise was settling for the Radeon HD 4850 X2 instead of the 4870 X2. Other than that, we had to employ the stock-bundled cooler that came with the i7 920 instead of a nice aftermarket job like the Xigmatek HDT-S1283 that we used in last month’s enthusiast PC.
Will these cooling and video card compromises reduce the system’s performance enough so that the X38/E8500/4870 X2 package remains an attractive option? Or will the X58/i7 combo best the older technology and overclock well despite the stock cooler? We’re as interested as you are to find out, but first, let’s look at our chosen components in detail:
|CPU||Intel Core i7 920||$300|
|CPU Cooler||Bundled retail CPU cooler||0|
|RAM||Crucial PC3-8500 CT3KIT12864BA1067 triple-channel memory kit||$79|
|Graphics||Sapphire Radeon 4850 X2 2 GB||$330|
|Hard Drives||Western Digital Caviar black 640GD 32 MB cache||$85|
|Network||Integrated Gigabit Networking||0|
|Case||Cooler Master Centurion 534||$50|
|Optical||LG 20X DVD±R DVD Burner SATA Model GH20NS15||$23|
Note that updated pricing has now put us below the cost of last month's Core 2 Duo system. If we would have known prices would have fallen so quickly, we would have definitely gotten an aftermarket cooler for the Core i7. On the plus side, this review will give us an opportunity to see how far we can go with the stock cooler.
- Meet This Month's Components
- CPU: Intel Core i7 920
- Motherboard, Cooler, And Memory
- Hard Drive And Case
- Power Supply, Optical Drive, And Video Card
- Assembly And Overclocking
- Test System And Benchmarks
- Synthetic Benchmarks
- Application Benchmarks: Media Encoding
- Application Benchmarks: 2D And 3D Image Rendering
- Application Benchmarks: Productivity
- Game Benchmarks: First-Person Shooters
- Game Benchmarks: Real-Time Strategy
- Power-Usage Benchmarks