Three Core i7 Systems From Boutique Builders

Test Setup

Hardware Comparison

MODEL
Alienware Area-51 X-58
AVADirect Custom Gaming PC
CyberPower Xtreme Gamer
CPU
Intel Core i7 920, 2.67 GHzIntel Core  i7 920, 2.67 GHz (OC'd to 3.33 GHz)Intel Core i7 940 2.93 GHz (OC'd to 3.61 GHz)
Motherboard
Asus Custom Socket 1366Asus P6T Deluxe Asus P6T Deluxe
RAM
6 GB DDR3 at 1,066 MT/s (Elipida)6 GB DDR3 at 1,333 MT/s (Corsair XMS3)6GB DDR3 at 1,600 MT/s (Kingston HyperX)
Chipset
Intel X58
Intel X58
Intel X58
Video Card
Nvidia GeForce GTX 295EVGA GeForce GTX 260 (two cards in SLI)Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 X2
Audio
Analog Devices SoundMAXAnalog Devices SoundMAXAnalog Devices SoundMAX
Hard Drive
Two Seagate Barracuda ST3500620AS (500 GB) in RAID 0 Fujitsu MBA3147RC SAS (147 GB) and Seagate Barracuda ST315003141AS (1.5 TB)Two Hitachi Deskstar (500 GB) in RAID 0 and Western Digital WD10EACS (1 TB)
Optical
LG Electronics Super-Multi GH22NP20Two TSST CDDVDW SH-S223Q Sony BR-5100S 20X Blu-ray, plus Sony 20x DVD-RW
CPU Cooling
Alienware custom heatsink/fanCoolIT Domino ALCAsetek LCLC
GPU Cooling
Stock heatsink/fanStock heatsink/fanStock heatsink/fan
LAN
Marvell Yukon 88E8056 (dual Gigabit)Marvell Yukon 88E8056 (dual Gigabit)Marvell Yukon 88E8056 (dual Gigabit)
Media  Reader
None
68-in-112-in-1
Operating System
Windows Vista Home Premium (64-bit)Windows Vista Home Premium (64-bit)Windows Vista Home Premium (64-bit)
Enclosure
Alienware Custom Thermaltake V9Cooler Master Storm Sniper
Power Supply
Alienware Custom (750 watts)Corsair TX750W (750 watts)Thermaltake Toughpower (600 watts)


Benchmarks and Settings

3D Games Benchmarks and Settings
Benchmarks
Details
Far Cry

Version: 1.02, Video Mode: 1280x960, no AA, Overall Quality Very High and 1920x1200, 4x AA, Overall Quality Very High, Demo: Far Cry 2 benchmark tool, Ranch Mediu

Supreme Commander

Version: 1.5.359, Video Mode: 1920x1200 Fidelity Preset: Low and 1920x1200 Fidelity Preset: High, Demo: WallaceTX_006_00,  Benchmark: Fraps 2.9.4 – Built 7037

Unreal Tournament 3

Version: 1.2, Video Mode: 1920x1200, Texture and Level Details 1; and 1920x1200, Texture and Level Details 5, Sound and DirectX 10; Window off, Demo: CTF-Reflection_fly, Time: 12/60

World In Conflict

Version 1.0.0.9, Video mode: 1920x1200, Very Low Details and 1920x1200, Very High Detail, Demo: Game Benchmark


Media Benchmarks and Settings
Benchmarks
Details
DivX

Version: 6.8.3,- Main Menu -, Default, - Codec Menu -, Encoding Mode: Insane Quality, Enhanced multi-threading, Enabled using SSE4, Quarter-pixel search, - Video Menu -, Quantization: MPEG-2

iTunes

Version: 8.0.2

Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 min

Default format to AAC
LAME MP3

Version 3.98

Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 min

WAV to MP3, 160Kbps

MainConcept Reference

Reference H.264 Plugin Pro

Version 1.5.1

MPEG2 to MPEG2 (H.264)

MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec

28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG2)

Audio: MPEG2 (44.1KHz, 2 channel, 16-bit, 224Kbs)

Codec: H.264

Mode: PAL (25 FPS)

Profile: Tom’s Hardware Settings for Qct-Core
Nero 8 Recode

Version: Nero Recode 3.1.4.0

Record entire DVD to DVD

Default settings
Pinnacle Studio Ultimate

Version: 12.0.0.6163

Encoding and Transition Rendering

DV camcorder movie

Video:

720 x 576 Pixel, PAL, 25 fps, 6000 Kbits/sec

Audio:

MPEG Layer 2, 224 Kbits/sec 16 Bit, Stereo 44.1 KHz

File Type: MPEG-2 (DVD Compatible)

TMPEGnc Xpress

Version: 4.5.1.254

Video: Terminator 2 SE DVD (720x576, 16:9) 5 Minutes

Audio: Dolby Digital, 48000 Hz, 6-channel English

Advanced Acoustic Engine MP3 Encoder (160Kbs, 44.1KHz)
Xvid

Version: 1.1.3

- Other Options / Encoder Menu -

Display encoding status = off
Applications Benchmarks and Settings

Benchmark
Details
3ds Max 9

Version: 9.0, Benchmark: Render Dragon image at 1920x1080 (HDTV)

Grisoft AVG Anti-virus

Version: 8.0.134, Virus base: 270.4.5/1533, Benchmark: Scan some compressed ZIP and RAR archives

WinRAR

Version 3.70 Beta 8, WinZIP Commandline Version 2.3, Compression = Best, Dictionary: 4096KB, Benchmark: THG-Workload

WinZIP

Version: 11.2, Compression = Best, Benchmark: THG-Workload

Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
3DMark Vantage

Version: 1.02, GPU and CPU Scores obtained with Performance Preset

PCMark Vantage

Version 1.00, System, Memories, Productivity and Hard Drive Benchmarks

SiSoftware Sandra XII

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


A/C Power Consumption
Kill-A-Watt P4400Each system’s A/C power draw measured at the wall in watts at idle and then while running the Far Cry 2 benchmark using a P3 Kill-A-Watt P4400 power meter
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  • Well this article would help people buying preassembled computer very much...
    1
  • all 3 suck concidering you can add a 24 inch monitor, high quality speakers, audio card, gaming mouse/keyboard and still have money to spare.

    ps. running a couple of gtx 260s at stock will be more than enough to pull 45 fps in crysis and everything else at idk fps.
    -5
  • ups forgot to add the new OCZ vortex 30g ssd in raid 0 to boot up and still be in budget.
    -1
  • Hummm, what I tend to miss on these reviews is an actual measurement of the noise generated by the system.

    I mean, the subjective evaluation provided is still useful, but... how noisy is "surprisingly quiet" or "the loudest of the three machines"?
    7
  • Hummm, what I tend to miss on these reviews is an actual measurement of the noise generated by the system.

    I mean, the subjective evaluation provided is still useful, but... how noisy is "surprisingly quiet" or "the loudest of the three machines"?
    -6
  • Hummm, what I tend to miss on these reviews is an actual measurement of the noise generated by the system.

    I mean, the subjective evaluation provided is still useful, but... how noisy is "surprisingly quiet" or "the loudest of the three machines" in this case?
    -6
  • Oooops... sorry for the multiple posts. I had some issues with my browser (does anyone know how to delete them?) :(
    0
  • Kind of surprised that Thomas Soderstrom's (is he swedish btw?) $2,500 core i7 build from December wasn't mentioned from what I could see for comparison.
    If anyone is curious how tom's home-build system compares to the boutiques here's the link: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/core-i7-overclock,2116.html

    From the gaming benches on that review it appears that the now slightly outdated december build still trumps the above builds with its triple 260 SLI and 4.0 Ghz overclocked 920. Best value award goes Tom's own Build! Now if only that one came pre-built with a 3 year warranty .... guess I'll still be getting out my toolkit (no pun intended)
    3
  • pivalakHummm, what I tend to miss on these reviews is an actual measurement of the noise generated by the system.I mean, the subjective evaluation provided is still useful, but... how noisy is "surprisingly quiet" or "the loudest of the three machines" in this case?


    Hi, I'm the author of the story. Trying to objectively measure a system's noise levels without sophisticated measurement equipment is as problematic as describing them subjectively.

    I have a level meter, but decided not to use it because it wasn't sensitive enough to measure noise levels where it mattered--at ear level where I was seated. I needed to measure the ambient room noise with no computers running to set a basis for comparison, and the meter wasn't sensitive enough to do that.

    And even if the meter was sensitive enough for my purpose, the decibel measurement would be relevant only for the environment in which I was testing (my home office, which measures 13.6x8 feet).
    1
  • “No one ever got laughed at for buying an Alienware.”

    Are you kidding? They have to be the most overpriced POS on the market.

    Pfft. Alienware = glorified console.

    Real PC gamers build their own. Period.
    7
  • Why the Alienware (Dell) do:

    -Ruined Asus BIOS support by changing the P6T deluxe naming?. Is standard behavior from Dell, who delays BIOS upgrades, and sometimes totally forget it. Dell ruins motherboards.
    -Overclocked nothing.
    -Used crappy memory, when significant better memory cost little more.
    3
  • I'd like to know what power supply the Alienware uses so I can use it in my next build. Power saving like that definitely add up over the course of a year, and when you look at the life of the hardware (18-48 months) those savings on your electricity bill can add up to the cost of the hardware itself sometimes.
    0
  • User421“No one ever got laughed at for buying an Alienware.”Are you kidding? They have to be the most overpriced POS on the market.Pfft. Alienware = glorified console.Real PC gamers build their own. Period.


    I can't argue that Alienware isn't overpriced for what you get.

    But, not all "Real PC gamers" build their own. Some have the dosh to pay for custom rigs.

    Not myself, of course. Plus, I like tinkering with gadgets :)
    0
  • LusciousI'd like to know what power supply the Alienware uses so I can use it in my next build. Power saving like that definitely add up over the course of a year, and when you look at the life of the hardware (18-48 months) those savings on your electricity bill can add up to the cost of the hardware itself sometimes.


    There were no markings on the power supply other than Alienware's that I could see, so I'm guessing that they contract with a supplier to build a private-label PSU for them (as they did with the Asus motherboard).

    But there's more to power consumption than just the power supply. The Cyberpower rig used a dual-GPU videocard, for instance, and the AVADirect machine was running two Nvidia cards in SLI.
    0
  • OK, who wants to chip in for a spell-checker for Mr. Brown? :) Shouldn't the title of the article be using the word "Boutique"?
    -3
  • LusciousI'd like to know what power supply the Alienware uses so I can use it in my next build. Power saving like that definitely add up over the course of a year, and when you look at the life of the hardware (18-48 months) those savings on your electricity bill can add up to the cost of the hardware itself sometimes.


    I know of a Dell PC whose Power supply stopped working.
    The owner buyed a new, standard power supply... and burned the motherboard, because Dell had the custom of modifying his motherboards, and power supplies, making them non standard.
    By making that, Dell slaved buyers to buy parts from Dell only, and gave no warning about non standard hardware.

    The merely fact that Dell has hidden the P6T Deluxe under a suspicious What The Fck change, advice to not but things from that crappy company.
    1
  • I work with hundreds of Dells on a daily basis and can state that the only non-standard power supplies they use are in their "slim" cases. Your standard-size cases have a "regular" ATX compliant power supply.
    2
  • FadamorI work with hundreds of Dells on a daily basis and can state that the only non-standard power supplies they use are in their "slim" cases. Your standard-size cases have a "regular" ATX compliant power supply.


    That is not the point. If Dell custom modified this mother, probably was to make it non industry standard, to force you to buy Dell only upgrades.

    Dell has done it many times. Be warned.
    2
  • Wondering when the constant commercials will stop.Most people here build their own systems.Of course I don't deny there is merit in articles like this but the balance of toms is way different than it used to be.
    What about a review of the new lcd's that are out now some of which are 120HZ.
    Rob & Ben to me was the last saving grace for toms.
    2