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Graphics Card And Hard Drive

System Builder Marathon: $625 Gaming PC

Graphics Card : Sapphire 100245L Radeon HD4850 512MB

The PNY 8800GT hit some high clock speeds and served us well last month, but nothing short of an AMD Radeon HD 4850 was going into this month’s $625 Gaming PC. A price of $160 was low for in-stock HD 4850, and we opted for the Sapphire 100245L with high hopes that its dual-slot cooler would allow us to push the card to high clock speeds. Factor in a $20 mail-in rebate, and it was an even better value.

The Sapphire HD 4850 does not follow the reference design and has a shorter blue PCB. An Orb-style cooler provides excellent core cooling but Sapphire did not include heatsinks on the RAM chips, so we did question how much the memory could be pushed.

Also note that the PCB has a two-pin fan header, unlike the four-pin header on reference cards. Expectations were for a fan that ran 100% all the time, but that was not the case. However, this fan does offer variable speeds and testing was performed to confirm that fan speeds could even be manually set in Catalyst Control Center (CCC) as well. At 100%, the fan is rather loud, but would provide a massive amount of air flow and cooling performance. But for overclocking, it was unnecessary to manually control the fan speed as the card ran plenty cool at auto settings. The downside of this cooler is that, at idle, it isn’t very quiet. Even when setting the fan speed to CCC’s lowest setting of 20%, it’s not at all what could be called a quiet card. Unplugging the fan confirmed that the one fan that was audible over all the others was the HD 4850, and those who value a very quiet PC should not consider this Sapphire card.

Hard Drive : Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 ST3500320AS 500GB

The 400 GB Seagate used in the October $500 PC had dropped to $50, but was no longer in stock when pricing up this month’s system. While retaining Seagate’s reliability and five-year warranty, we increased capacity 100 GB and doubled the cache buffer to 32 MB with the 7200.11 series. Considering the cost was just $5 more than for the one in last month’s system, we are definitely getting more storage value for the money this month.

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