System Builder Marathon: $2,500 Enthusiast PC

Test Settings

Our configuration details and settings for this month's $2,500 enthusiast PC are as follows:

$2500 High-End System Test Configuration

Component

Base Settings

Overclock Settings

CPU

Intel Core i7 920
2.66 GHz, 8.0 MB Cache

4.00 GHz (20x 200 MHz), 1.3875 V Core,
1.45 V VTT, 1.375 V QPI, 1.375 V IOH

CPU Cooler

Vigor Monsoon III LT
2x 2000 RPM 120 mm Fans (Stock)

Unchanged

Motherboard

EVGA X58 3X SLI
Intel X58/ICH10R Chipset, LGA-1366

ICH VCore  1.25 V, IOH/ICH  I/O 1.65V

RAM

Super Talent DDR3-1333
3x 3.0 GB, CAS 8-8-8-24

1,600 MHz data rate, CL 9-8-8-16

Graphics

3x EVGA GeForce GTX 260 Core 216 S.E.
626 MHz GPU, GDDR3-2106

Unchanged

Hard Drives

3x Samsung Spinpoint F1 HD103UJ RAID 5
1.0 TB, 7,200 RPM, 32 MB Cache

Unchanged

Sound

Integrated HD Audio

Unchanged

Network

Integrated Gigabit Networking

Unchanged

Case

Cooler Master Stacker 830 Evolution (Black)

Unchanged

Power

Silverstone OP1000 Evolution
ATX12V v2.2. EPS12V, 1000 W, 80 A +12 V Rail

Unchanged

Optical

LG GGC-H20LK 6X Blu-ray/HD DVD-ROM, 16X DVD±R

Unchanged

Additional Fans

2x Scythe S-FLEX SFF21F 120 mm 1,600 RPM

Unchanged

Software
OS
Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit SP1
Graphics
NVidia Forceware 180.48
Chipset
Intel INF 8.3.0.1016

Benchmarks and Settings

3D Games

Crysis

Version: 1.2.1, Video Quality: Very High Details, Demo: CPU-Benchmark + Tom’s Hardware Tool

Supreme Commander
Forged Alliance

Version: 1.5.3599, Video Quality: Highest Settings, Demo : WallaceTX_006_006, Benchmark: Fraps 2.9.4 - Build 7037

Unreal Tournament 3

Version: 1.2, Sound and DirectX10, Texture Details: 5, Level Details: 5, Demo: vCTF-Reflection_bot, Time: 12/60

World in Conflict

Version: 1.0.0.9, Video Quality: Very High details, Demo: Game-Benchmark

Audio Encoding

iTunes

Version: 7.7.0.43, Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 min, Default format AAC

Lame MP3

Version: 3.98 Beta 3 (05-22-2007), Audio CD ""Terminator II" SE, 53 min, wave to MP3, 160 Kb/s

Video Encoding

TMPEG 4.5

Version: 4.5.1.254, Import File: Terminator 2 SE DVD (5 Minutes), Resolution: 720x576 (PAL) 16:9

DivX 6.8.3

Encoding mode: Insane Quality, Enhanced Multi-threading, Enabled using SSE4, Quarter-pixel search

XviD 1.1.3

Display encoding status=off

Mainconcept Reference 1.5.1
Reference H.264 Plugin Pro 1.5.1

MPEG2 to MPEG2 (H.264), MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG2), Audio: MPEG2 (44.1 KHz, 2 Channel, 16-Bit, 224 Kbp/s), Mode: PAL (25 FPS), Profile: Tom’s Hardware Settings for Qct-Core

Applications

Autodesk 3D Studio Max 9

Version: 9.0, Rendering Dragon Image at 1920x1080 (HDTV)

Adobe Photoshop CS 3

Version: 10.0x20070321, Filtering from a 69 MB TIF-Photo, Benchmark: Tomshardware-Benchmark V1.0.0.4, Filters: Crosshatch, Glass, Sumi-e, Accented Edges, Angled Strokes, Sprayed Strokes

Grisoft AVG Anti-Virus 8

Version: 8.0.134, Virus base: 270.4.5/1533, Benchmark: Scan 334 MB Folder of ZIP/RAR compressed files

Winrar 3.80

Version 3.70 BETA 8, WinZIP Commandline Version 2.3, Compression= Best, Dictionary= 4,096 KB, Benchmark: THG-Workload (334 MB)

Winzip 11

Version 11.2, Compression=Best, Benchmark: THG-Workload (139 MB)

Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings

3DMark Vantage

Version: 1.02, GPU and CPU scores

PCMark Vantage

Version: 1.00, System, Memory, Hard Disk Drive benchmarks, Windows Media Player 10.00.00.3646

SiSoftware Sandra XII SP2

Version 2008.5.14.24, CPU Test=CPU Arithmetic/MultiMedia, Memory Test=Bandwidth Benchmark

Create a new thread in the US Reviews comments forum about this subject
This thread is closed for comments
158 comments
    Your comment
    Top Comments
  • gwellin
    thomasxstewartfINAL lASLTY, yOU mENTION oCTOBERS 64 BIT TEST & recent PREVIOUS LOW COST & MID TESTS WHERE 32 BIT uLTIMATE, YET THIS TEST HAS NO MENTION OF O/S AT ALL. ITS XP RIGHT, TOM FOOLERY AGAIN, COMPARING ENTIRELY DIFFERNT SYSTEMS. BEST ULTIMATE WILL SCORE IS 13,000 VANTAGE HERE, YET ULTIMATE 64 HAS PRODUCED 38,000 3D VANTAGE BY REPUTABLE WEBSITE. SO GO FIGURE, BEFORE YOU WASTE $3,000.00SignedHYSICIAN THOMAS STEWART von DRASHEK M.D.


    Why do people type this crap. Do you not actually read what you type when you type it. "i tHINK tHIS iS rEALLY cOOL". WTF really. Do us a huge favor and don't type like a retard, infact just don't post anymore.
    16
  • Anonymous
    why not spend the extra $$$ on more RAM on 64 bit Vista?
    14
  • inveriti
    It seems like Tom's doesn't read their own reviews... In their own GPU chart, they never recommend a 3x SLi system, and not without reason. The last card only gives a third of its on-paper output. Also, why the hell get 3 TB of storage? Do you plan on pirating that many DVD's or burning that much money on them? And only 3 GB of RAM? No, sorry, you're dropping the ball on this one. NO "enthusiast" would sacrifice a solid 6 GB of good RAM in Vista for a uselss hard drive and ostentatious third video card.

    Follow your own recommendations, guys. Get an ATI 4870 x2, put the money into better RAM and cooling, then use what's left to get a pair of Raptor hard drives as workhorses and a 1 or 1.5 TB hard drive for media storage if you want to use all your $2500.
    13
  • Other Comments
  • tipmen
    First
    LG GGC-H20LK 6X Blu-Ray/HD DVD-ROM, 16X DVD±RW for $23??? you mean 223?
    -1
  • douglesso
    Thanks for the fantastic information and detailed analysis. I just ordered the same motherboard and video card last week for my new build. Glad to see that holding out for the i7 was a worthwhile wait.
    0
  • tipmen
    Sorry couldn't read my comment but nice blbuild by the way nice to see this. Hlaf the price and more performance.
    0
  • Ph0X
    This is... really.. Wow.
    I'm not big in hardware, but this is just, WOW...

    There's 3SLI GTX260, 3 x 1TB, Bluray WRITER!, but it doesn't even have 6gb ram!!?

    That's just lame. Imo maybe get raptors / SSD instead? Also, Instead of 3SLI, just get a 4870x2. You will maybe get 2-3FPS less, but instead get 6gb ram and i7 940, and I'm pretty sure that will also boost your fps.

    Again, I'm not a hardware pro, but I'm pretty sure my thing would be way better.
    -14
  • Anonymous
    Total price is off. Should be something like 2,447 and not 2,247
    -3
  • kelfen
    Ph0XThis is... really.. Wow.I'm not big in hardware, but this is just, WOW...There's 3SLI GTX260, 3 x 1TB, Bluray WRITER!, but it doesn't even have 6gb ram!!?That's just lame. Imo maybe get raptors / SSD instead? Also, Instead of 3SLI, just get a 4870x2. You will maybe get 2-3FPS less, but instead get 6gb ram and i7 940, and I'm pretty sure that will also boost your fps.Again, I'm not a hardware pro, but I'm pretty sure my thing would be way better.

    +1
    -15
  • kelfen
    except the cpu is fine because of oc
    0
  • kelfen
    antec twelve hundred
    -6
  • dieseldre2k
    appreciate the article but i would drop the third HD (keep the other 2 in RAID) and use the extra money to get 6 gigs of ram instead. i'd also be wary of the scaling on 3 video cards but i dont know enough about that, plus i'm sure u guys were trying to use up all $2,500.
    5
  • thomasxstewart
    Lastly, GTX 295 in 3 way sli should hit 38,000 in 3D Vantage. Thats ALL Folks.


    Signed:PHYSICIAN THOMAS STEWART von DRASHEK M.D.
    -12
  • thomasxstewart
    fINAL lASLTY, yOU mENTION oCTOBERS 64 BIT TEST & recent PREVIOUS LOW COST & MID TESTS WHERE 32 BIT uLTIMATE, YET THIS TEST HAS NO MENTION OF O/S AT ALL. ITS XP RIGHT, TOM FOOLERY AGAIN, COMPARING ENTIRELY DIFFERNT SYSTEMS. BEST ULTIMATE WILL SCORE IS 13,000 VANTAGE HERE, YET ULTIMATE 64 HAS PRODUCED 38,000 3D VANTAGE BY REPUTABLE WEBSITE. SO GO FIGURE, BEFORE YOU WASTE $3,000.00

    Signed:PHYSICIAN THOMAS STEWART von DRASHEK M.D.
    -18
  • jcknouse
    I didn't see it right off. might have missed it.

    I saw where u said that you reached limits at 75F/23.9C room temps. However, what was the CPU temp after running full load with your air cooling solution?

    I am curious, because I think I put too much thermal paste on my AMD Phenom 9850 install cause it runs up around 60C when i go 100% load. I hate going anything over that, so i haven't OCed it.

    Would love to hear what you guys at Tom's consider "acceptable" full load max temp for the CPU, and how you base that temp level. Manufacturer specs? Personal experience? A little of both?

    Thanks in advance
    0
  • Sparky4688
    Great review.

    The December $1250 system performs very close within 2-3 seconds for Audio/Video editing and Applications and in several cases performs better. For non-gamers the December $1250 is a better value.

    I built a $1250 system based on the November E8500 chip and now wished I had waited for the i7 as it performs 100-150% better for Audio/Video editing and Applications....
    -1
  • Sparky4688
    jcknouseI didn't see it right off. might have missed it.I saw where u said that you reached limits at 75F/23.9C room temps. However, what was the CPU temp after running full load with your air cooling solution?I am curious, because I think I put too much thermal paste on my AMD Phenom 9850 install cause it runs up around 60C when i go 100% load. I hate going anything over that, so i haven't OCed it.Would love to hear what you guys at Tom's consider "acceptable" full load max temp for the CPU, and how you base that temp level. Manufacturer specs? Personal experience? A little of both?Thanks in advance



    Guide for thermal paste is to to use a razor's edge at a nearly flat angle to very thinly, evenly, and smoothly cover the entire CPU heat sink. Too much paste can have an adverse effect as you noted.
    2
  • MJRSnyder
    Drop one of the hard drives and bluray drive and get 2 4870x2s and it would have destroyed
    2
  • bourgeoisdude
    TW2007 said: "Total price is off. Should be something like 2,447 and not 2,247"

    No, it's correct. They specifically mentioned that the price of the components went down nearly 10% since they purchased the system.

    Ph0X said: "There's 3SLI GTX260, 3 x 1TB, Bluray WRITER!, but it doesn't even have 6gb ram!!?"

    6GB of RAM is unusable in a 32-bit operating system, and it is not a Blu-Ray writer, it's a READER with DVD/CD writing capabilities. Your comment was probably voted down for these reasons.

    dieseldre2k wrote: "appreciate the article but i would drop the third HD (keep the other 2 in RAID) and use the extra money to get 6 gigs of ram instead."

    Again, 6 Gigs of RAM would have been a complete waste of money in a 32-bit build. I for one am glad they are finally benching a RAID 5 in here because I have been weighing getting a RAID 5 build for some time but have been dissuaded because of the lack of testing/interest by other gamers. I don't want to pay $2500 for a system that dies withen weeks because I just happened to be in that 3% that get a hard drive that fails withen the first year. Honestly, I'll bet that RAID 0 vs. RAID 5 performance isn't a big deal and would really like to see a RAID 0 in the next build to compare this one with.
    -1
  • cah027
    Oh Crap ! I just ordered the UD5 MB and one 260/216 with the intension of gradually adding additional 260's over time. Looks like I am limited to 2way SLI.. oh well.. Maybe I will just step up to a x2 card.... I mostly wanted the i7 for encoding and light gaming so I should be ok.. Glad to see the encoding benches look so good !
    0
  • gwellin
    thomasxstewartfINAL lASLTY, yOU mENTION oCTOBERS 64 BIT TEST & recent PREVIOUS LOW COST & MID TESTS WHERE 32 BIT uLTIMATE, YET THIS TEST HAS NO MENTION OF O/S AT ALL. ITS XP RIGHT, TOM FOOLERY AGAIN, COMPARING ENTIRELY DIFFERNT SYSTEMS. BEST ULTIMATE WILL SCORE IS 13,000 VANTAGE HERE, YET ULTIMATE 64 HAS PRODUCED 38,000 3D VANTAGE BY REPUTABLE WEBSITE. SO GO FIGURE, BEFORE YOU WASTE $3,000.00SignedHYSICIAN THOMAS STEWART von DRASHEK M.D.


    Why do people type this crap. Do you not actually read what you type when you type it. "i tHINK tHIS iS rEALLY cOOL". WTF really. Do us a huge favor and don't type like a retard, infact just don't post anymore.
    16
  • inveriti
    It seems like Tom's doesn't read their own reviews... In their own GPU chart, they never recommend a 3x SLi system, and not without reason. The last card only gives a third of its on-paper output. Also, why the hell get 3 TB of storage? Do you plan on pirating that many DVD's or burning that much money on them? And only 3 GB of RAM? No, sorry, you're dropping the ball on this one. NO "enthusiast" would sacrifice a solid 6 GB of good RAM in Vista for a uselss hard drive and ostentatious third video card.

    Follow your own recommendations, guys. Get an ATI 4870 x2, put the money into better RAM and cooling, then use what's left to get a pair of Raptor hard drives as workhorses and a 1 or 1.5 TB hard drive for media storage if you want to use all your $2500.
    13
  • Anonymous
    why not spend the extra $$$ on more RAM on 64 bit Vista?
    14