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System Builder Marathon: $2,500 Enthusiast PC

System Builder Marathon: $2,500 Enthusiast PC
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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).

Introduction

Intel’s Core i7 release schedule forced us to omit the high-priced configuration from November’s System Builder Marathon (SBM), but the intermission gave us time to reevaluate our priorities. With a price of over $4,000, our previous elite-performance systems had become too costly for most enthusiast builders, let alone everyday value-seekers. And so we listened to your comments and dialed our highest-end configuration down a couple of notches.

A better-balanced approach was sought for this month’s SBM, with a high-end budget that would appeal to former $5,000 system builders who, given the realities of today’s economy, might have otherwise looked for an excuse to delay discretionary spending. Manufacturers have obliged with reduced-price versions of their highest-end components, while sellers are cutting deeper into profit margins simply to maintain market share. With a little effort, we’re hoping today’s $2,500 system can leave October’s $4,500 PC as a distant memory of money needlessly squandered.

$2500 High-End System Components

Component

Model

Price (USD)

CPU

Intel Core i7 920

$285

CPU Cooler

Vigor Monsoon III LT

$60

Motherboard

EVGA X58 3X SLI (P/N: 132-BL-E758-A)

$300

RAM

Super Talent 3GB DDR3-1333 Triple-Channel Kit

$79

Graphics

3x EVGA GeForce GTX 260 Core 216 Superclocked Edition (SLI)

$780

Hard Drives

3x Samsung Spinpoint F1 HD103UJ 1.0 TB

$300

Sound

Integrated

0

Network

Integrated Gigabit Networking

0

Case

Cooler Master Stacker 830 Evolution (Black)

$180

Power

Silverstone OP1000 Evolution

$200

Optical

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

$115

Additional Fans

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

$31

Fan Accessories

2x Rosewill RCW-308 3-pin Fan Extension, 12"

$2

Total Price


$2,332


A quick look at its components reveals that our $2,500 system does away with an "overpriced" liquid cooling system found in previous high-end builds, but when it comes to overclocking, extra cooling is often money well spent. We definitely would have chosen high-value liquid cooling components if any well-priced Core i7 water blocks had been available. 

Also notice that our $2,500 component list has already dropped by over 7% in the two weeks it took us to build and test the system. This bonus value could be spent in many ways or saved for use in future upgrades.

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  • 16 Hide
    gwellin , December 31, 2008 1:06 PM
    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.
  • 14 Hide
    Anonymous , December 31, 2008 1:18 PM
    why not spend the extra $$$ on more RAM on 64 bit Vista?
  • 13 Hide
    inveriti , December 31, 2008 1:18 PM
    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.
Other Comments
  • -1 Hide
    tipmen , December 31, 2008 9:08 AM
    First
    LG GGC-H20LK 6X Blu-Ray/HD DVD-ROM, 16X DVD±RW for $23??? you mean 223?
  • 0 Hide
    douglesso , December 31, 2008 9:10 AM
    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 Hide
    tipmen , December 31, 2008 9:12 AM
    Sorry couldn't read my comment but nice blbuild by the way nice to see this. Hlaf the price and more performance.
  • -3 Hide
    Anonymous , December 31, 2008 10:02 AM
    Total price is off. Should be something like 2,447 and not 2,247
  • 0 Hide
    kelfen , December 31, 2008 10:17 AM
    except the cpu is fine because of oc
  • -6 Hide
    kelfen , December 31, 2008 10:26 AM
    antec twelve hundred
  • 5 Hide
    dieseldre2k , December 31, 2008 11:12 AM
    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.
  • 0 Hide
    jcknouse , December 31, 2008 12:14 PM
    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
  • -1 Hide
    Sparky4688 , December 31, 2008 12:22 PM
    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....
  • 2 Hide
    Sparky4688 , December 31, 2008 12:26 PM
    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 Hide
    MJRSnyder , December 31, 2008 12:37 PM
    Drop one of the hard drives and bluray drive and get 2 4870x2s and it would have destroyed
  • -1 Hide
    bourgeoisdude , December 31, 2008 12:55 PM
    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.
  • 0 Hide
    cah027 , December 31, 2008 1:01 PM
    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 !
  • 16 Hide
    gwellin , December 31, 2008 1:06 PM
    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.
  • 13 Hide
    inveriti , December 31, 2008 1:18 PM
    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.
  • 14 Hide
    Anonymous , December 31, 2008 1:18 PM
    why not spend the extra $$$ on more RAM on 64 bit Vista?
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