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Cooler, Memory, Hard Drive and Case

System Builder Marathon: Sub-$2000 PC
By , Shelton Romhanyi

system builder marathon

Here’s where we splurged a little compared to the previous mid-range build. Swiftech’s H20-120 water cooling system for the CPU isn’t the highest end cooler out there, but for the $120 price tag, it should supply us with a meaningful upgrade compared to a fan-cooled CPU heat sink. Since overclocking is an important part of our system builder marathon, we’re willing to spend the extra cash on this one.

Memory: 4GB of A-Data Vitesta DDR2 800 PC2-6400

system builder marathon

In our past tests, A-Data has proven itself able to supply great memory, so when we saw the 4 GB kit for sale at a low $85, we thought we’d give it a chance to show what it can do in our system builder marathon. Rated at great 4-4-4-12 timings, there should be a good amount of room to overclock if we loosen the settings.

Hard Drive: 2x Western Digital Caviar 500GB in RAID configuration

system builder marathon

Here is another meaningful upgrade compared to the previous mid-range system: two 500 GB hard disks in a RAID configuration. Using the striped RAID 0 mode, we should see a good performance increase in hard disk speeds. And although this probably won’t manifest itself much in most of our benchmarks, it’s nice to have the extra space. Plus, the user also has the option of using RAID 1 mode instead, allowing for the safety of data redundancy in case of a hard disk failure, at the cost of less hard drive space. With two identical drives, the user has the luxury of choosing his or her preference.

PC Case: NZXT Tempest

system builder marathon

The Tempest is reasonably priced, provides a lot of airflow, is relatively quiet, and looks great. It impressed us enough in our recent case review that we thought it deserved a chance to show us what it can do in our mid-range PC build.

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  • 3 Hide
    Malovane , June 30, 2008 1:49 PM
    Take back the 8800's and swap them for 4850's, which you can get for $170 now. Get a high end air cooler on the CPU for 1/3 of the price. Use 100 of the extra bucks to buy an X38 and an E8500 Core 2 Duo instead, which will perform much better in games, and often outperforms the Q6600 on the programs optimized for multiple cores (and does it for 40W less). The $60 in savings may not get you hookers and blow, but grab a couple bottles of Cuervo to celebrate your purchase. ;) 
  • 2 Hide
    zenmaster , June 30, 2008 1:55 PM
    The E8500 will not outpeform the Q6600 in programs optimized for Quad Cores and more and more games are quad optmized.

    The 4850's make sense, but I suspect they were not an option due to the time to get the article together. If the article was another month out, then that likely would have been their choice.
  • 0 Hide
    Malovane , June 30, 2008 2:32 PM
    If you take a look at Tom's own charts, the E8500 does indeed outperform the Q6600 in many multi-core optimized software packages. The E8500 outperforms it solidly in games. The few software packages it doesn't outdo the Q6600 doesn't really justify the loss of gaming performance. Just IMHO.
  • 2 Hide
    cleeve , June 30, 2008 2:43 PM
    yoneffoo maaan, It seems that TH are being paid well by Nvidia to come with this extremely stupid Graphics cards, especially when HD4800 series are out now.


    It would make a lot more sense to you if you would read the article: as I mentioned, the 4850 wasn't available when this system was assembled and tested. Of course I would have used them if they were available.

    If I was being paid by Nvidia, I wouldn't have recommended the 4850 over the 9800 GTX+ in the upcoming July "Best Graphics Cards for the Money" article, would I?

    But as I mentioned, the 8800 GTS 512s we used are around $150 after rebates - still a viable option in the post-4850 world... if you don't think so, how much is Ati paying you? :p 
  • 1 Hide
    cleeve , June 30, 2008 2:48 PM
    MalovaneIf you take a look at Tom's own charts, the E8500 does indeed outperform the Q6600 in many multi-core optimized software packages. The E8500 outperforms it solidly in games. The few software packages it doesn't outdo the Q6600 doesn't really justify the loss of gaming performance. Just IMHO.


    I hear your point. I never said the E8500 is bad, but it's more expensive and I'm not convinced it's worth the extra $$. Also, this isn't a system builder marathon for dedicated gaming machines, it's a multipurpose machine, so I weighed all aspects of performance and I think the Q6600 still has a nice balance.

    We'll probably go with an E8400 or E8500 the next time around for comparison purposes, but I don't think the Q6600 is a bad choice. I think the Penryns are a good choice actually and mentioned that in the article.
  • -2 Hide
    MoeDaKilla , June 30, 2008 3:04 PM
    If I had a $2000 budget, I would not buy a crappy MSI 750i motherboard. I would but a good X38 or X48 mobo or even a P45 and buy a 9800 GX2. It would overclock better, run a lot faster and justify the need for a water cooler. And they could have swapped out the Q6600 for a Q9450 this time around. The new 45nm Quads have yet to be showcased in any of their builds (except for the QX9650). And one 9800GX2 costs less than 2 8800GTS. The only thing I would take from the review would be the NZXT Tempest and the A-Data RAM. And btw THG good luck overclocking that system with only a 600 watt power supply.
  • 0 Hide
    cleeve , June 30, 2008 4:09 PM
    I'd have to disagree with you, Moe. The motherboard was fine for an SLI system as we spec'd; although if I were to do it over, I'd choose a and two 4850's and an Intel X38 board instead of the GX2 anyway.

    The GX2 is actually a lot more expensive than two 8800 GTS 512MB cards after rebate; both of our cards were $312, GX2 is in the $425 neighborhood the last time I checked, and you can bet the GTS prices will drop like rocks now that the new cards are out.

    Q9450 - too expensive for the performance increase we'd see, like I said I'd probably choose a dual-core Penryn if I wnated an alternative.

    As far as the PSU, it didn't seem to slow us down when it came to overclocking...
  • 1 Hide
    eurodj , June 30, 2008 4:12 PM
    Well i THink u did a pretty good job on the article, as for the video card, i guess time wasnt on your side when it came ot it as it is true that the 4850 is a better choice in my opinion but then again it wasnt available then, heck i was always PRO ATI, loved them since the rage era, switched to nvidia after my x1900xtx got replaced witha 8800GTS 640 now im running an SLI 9800GTX setup but thats because ati took a while to bring the firepower now i want to go back but i guess il have to stick wiht what i got for now. One thing id like to know is how easy and reliable is the swiftech cooler ive always been hesitant of watercooling due to the obvious risks, it would be great to see a full review or long term review on this cooler i also have a q6600 and love it. HEre are my specs in my some might say 2000 dollar PC, keep in mind i only use this computer to play and have had the q6600 for a while now:

    EVGA 780i $220
    4gb Corsair DDR2 C4 $120
    2x250gb WD SE16 Raid 0 $150
    2x9800GTX SLI $440
    Intel Q6600 $200
    Coolermaster HYPER TX $35
    Coolermaster 690 $80
    Coolermaster Real Power Pro 750 $130
    Pioneer DVDRW $30
    500gb WD SE16 $90
    XFI XTREMEGAMER 86
    TOTAL:$1581


    Thats what i have right now and the prices are todays prices for the same system hope this helps. Just throwing my 2 cents in there, id probably go with ddr3 now but if u are on a budget ddr2 would do just fine, me im planning on going to ddr3 in a couple of months once mem prices go down as my ddr2 is more than enough right now for current games and apps. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK AND THANKS
  • 3 Hide
    zenmaster , June 30, 2008 4:13 PM
    I doubt they will need luck to OC.

    The Wattage needed for systems is GREATLY overestimated in this forum.

    I find it amazing that nobody reads the portions of reviews that show actual system power consumpotion.

    The 9800GX2 does not match the performance of (2) 8800GTS cards.

    The Q9450 may have been nice, but they were also apparently shooting for cost effective spending. The extra $150 was likely not worth the money.

  • 0 Hide
    kman7607 , June 30, 2008 4:49 PM
    It was an excellent article... it gave me some perspective as to how to build my next rig. Nice job TH!
  • 0 Hide
    kijix84 , June 30, 2008 5:00 PM
    There is an article on tweaktown that shows that there is a significant difference when running two graphics cards in crossfire when one slot is running in x8. The link is here:



    I'm not sure how it transfers over to Nvidia and SLI, but I imagine it would be similar. If anyone has some benchmarks i'd like to see them. Also, that sony drive you mention when I look it up it would appear that is a DVD-ROM, not a DVD-Writer like you mentioned in the description.

    Otherwise it is pretty informative. Though I'm disappointed you decided not to go the Radeon 4850 Crossfire route
  • -4 Hide
    navvara , June 30, 2008 5:13 PM
    My overclocked e2180 and 8800gs get just a lil under 10K in 3d mark 06. And the system only set my back 700$. These results are imo pathetic for the $$$$ spent.
  • 1 Hide
    gaiden , June 30, 2008 5:40 PM
    E8400 overclockable to at least 3.6ghz+ with aid from Thermalright U120 HS. 4850x2 in CFX should run BETTER than 8800gts in SLI under x48 board, Gigabyte is probably on par to ASUS and it has better pricing. Gskill has consistently bringing out great rams and competitive price. WD 640gb in RAID 0 will fly with 1.28 TB! Samsung has the quietest burner to my experience - Asus was the loudest. Corsair makes premium PSU and no one should pick anything else if they can help it. So there you go. I think in terms of all the aspects, this configuration would slightly out do most of the components mention in the article. Prices are est. to nearest dollar. TH config $1381, My config $1390, quality and performance wise i will take my configuration any day :p 

    Spec:

    Antec Nine Hundred Black Steel ATX Mid Tower ------------ $120
    GIGABYTE GA-X48-DS4 LGA 775 Intel X48 ATX --------------- $225
    Intel Core 2 Duo E8500 Wolfdale 3.16GHz OEM ------------- $220
    POWERCOLOR AX4850 512MD3-H Radeon HD 4850 512MB (x2) ---- $340
    G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500) ------ $90
    CORSAIR CMPSU-750TX 750W ATX12V / EPS12V Power Supply --- $120
    Western Digital Caviar 640GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0 (x2) ----- $190
    Thermalright Ultra 120 Heatsink ------------------------- $60
    Samsung 20x DVD+- Burner -------------------------------- $25

    total: -------------------------------------------------- $1390


    regardless to the above average product selection, it was an interesting article though.
  • 2 Hide
    Crashman , June 30, 2008 5:47 PM
    Quote:
    oo maaan, It seems that TH are being paid well by Nvidia to come with this extremely stupid Graphics cards, especially when HD4800 series are out now. Take a look: http://www.ebuyer.com/product/146415 and http://www.ebuyer.com/product/138416
    If you see, 2x HD4870 is £10 CHEAPER than 2x8800 GTS !!! And much much faster than Nvidia; You should be crazy to go for 8800GTS .


    You're wrong, Here's a Link to show why. These systems were built in May. Grab a couple cards for the man, hop into the wayback machine, and hand them to him.
  • 0 Hide
    BSMonitor , June 30, 2008 5:48 PM
    Why not keep the Q6700?..... So your new system is $70 cheaper. You already paid for it in the other article. Why is the $70 not worth it now?

    Maybe swap it for the Q9300 as the same price as Q6700. Midrange buyers probably look to the newer tech for the same price/slightly higher cost.

    Or since you still have $500 in the budget, why not show us what $300 gets us for the Q9550. Give benchies for both. Once you have the platform picked out, the CPU is the easiest part to adjust based on how much cash you have left.
  • -1 Hide
    giovanni86 , June 30, 2008 5:50 PM
    I prefer them to use nvidia over ATI. But if they had all the time in the world it would be great to see a AMD/ATI build over a INTEL/NVIDIA build, and the other way around as well AMD/NVIDIA and INTEL/ATI and see the differences if there are any at all. Great article, i was actually planning on getting a 8800GTS this might have just sealed the deal. How long in terms of life will this RIG hold out for, just thought i would ask since typically a life span for a mid range PC for me is roughly 2 years, if not 3 but that's stretching it a bit. Anyways great article once again.
  • 0 Hide
    zenmaster , June 30, 2008 6:05 PM
    BSMonitorWhy not keep the Q6700?..... So your new system is $70 cheaper. You already paid for it in the other article. Why is the $70 not worth it now? Maybe swap it for the Q9300 as the same price as Q6700. Midrange buyers probably look to the newer tech for the same price/slightly higher cost.Or since you still have $500 in the budget, why not show us what $300 gets us for the Q9550. Give benchies for both. Once you have the platform picked out, the CPU is the easiest part to adjust based on how much cash you have left.


    The reason to not show results for multiple CPUs is because this is nto a CPU review article. There are many of those around that compare the stock and overclocking potential of many diffent CPUs.

    This is designed to give you an idea of what a decent build would look like in different ranges.

    Often different parts are selected so you get different ideas with each selection of parts.

    Yes the Q6700 may be better but then again with the selection of Water Cooling, OverClocking is coming into the equation. The Q6700 is not expected to OC that much more.

    Why not the Q9300? Well if you are OverClocking it will likely not OC as high. Perhaps not even the Q9550 or Q9650. The reason are FSB walls that are more often his by Quad Core CPUs. To reach very high OC's with 1333FSB Quads you will need a far more expensive motherboard.

    So the price differce that is small to start begins to grow quite a bit.
    And the lower end 1333 FSB Quad Cores may still not be able to out do the Q6600 by much.

    Just because they have $2000 to spend, if it does not make sense to spend it, they are not going to spend it.

    And the reason they did not spend the $70 on the Q6700 this time was based on user feedback which was thatthe $70 bought you nothing. If you were not going to OC and were buying a Retail system then it could be worth it. But for an enthusiast who will adjust the speed themselves, it does not make sense to pay more for a slightly higher multiplier when the 1066 FSB chips generally don't hit a wall due to the multiplier.
  • 0 Hide
    cleeve , June 30, 2008 6:20 PM
    BSMonitorWhy not keep the Q6700?..... So your new system is $70 cheaper. You already paid for it in the other article. Why is the $70 not worth it now?


    If they're boith the G0 stepping, a Q6700 and Q6600 should over clock to pretty much the same top speed. So when you look at it that way, the $70 is kind of wasted.

    UNFORTUNATELY the Q6600 we ended up using was an older sample without the G0 stepping, but you can read more about that in the upcoming overclocking article. But the point is still valid, if you're buying new and plan to overclock the Q6600 is a better bet for the $$ because they'll both overclock the same.


  • -1 Hide
    The_Blood_Raven , June 30, 2008 6:42 PM
    zenmasterI doubt they will need luck to OC.The Wattage needed for systems is GREATLY overestimated in this forum.I find it amazing that nobody reads the portions of reviews that show actual system power consumpotion.The 9800GX2 does not match the performance of (2) 8800GTS cards.The Q9450 may have been nice, but they were also apparently shooting for cost effective spending. The extra $150 was likely not worth the money.


    Actually it is not so much the wattage, that's fine, but the PSU is not good for the price, when it comes to PSUs quality is almost everything. Yes a 9800 GX2 would outperform 2 8800 GTS G92s... easily, but the price difference really is not worth it going off what cleeve said. The Q6600 works I suppose, but a decent dualcore would have been cheaper and more often then not, would have outperformed it, however that will (eventually) change. The build is fine, except the PSU I would not have chosen it, especially considering you can get a PC P&C 610w for the same.
  • 0 Hide
    funnyman06 , June 30, 2008 7:15 PM
    I think it was a excellent build, i like the addition of water cooling in a mid range system. Personally i am not a fan of SLI or X-fire, as not every game benefits from it. But i guess at this point any high end computer now a days has some form of multi-GPU.

    To the people complaining about not using all 2000 dollars, or looking to spend a little bit more money. This was about getting the best bang for the buck. If you have 2G's to spend on a computer and you end up not needing it all, do you feel you have to spend more?

    To this guy:

    Quote:
    Actually it is not so much the wattage, that's fine, but the PSU is not good for the price, when it comes to PSUs quality is almost everything.


    FSP is a respected PSU manufacture that creates power supplies for many other "respected" brands including OCZ, Antec, Nexus and Zalman. Only recently have they started manufacturing PSU's under their own brand name; Fortron Source, which use high end components like Yate Loon fans.
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