System Builder Marathon: $1,250 Enthusiast PC

Test System And Benchmarks

Now that we’ve looked at our choices and justifications in detail, let’s recap our components one more time before getting into the benches :

$1,250 Enthusiast System Test Configuration
Component Base Settings Overclock Setting
CPU Intel Core 2 Duo E8500
3.16 GHz, FSB-1333, 6 MB Cache
4.25 GHz (9.5x 448 MHz), FSB-1792
1.3 V Core
CPU Cooler Xigmatek HDT-S1283 Xigmatek HDT-S1283
Motherboard DFI Lanparty X38
Intel X38, BIOS 6.00 (10/03/2008)
Northbridge Voltage : 1.30 V
RAM 4.0 GB PNY XLR8
2x 2,048 MB, DDR2-800, CL 4-4-4-12 at 1.80 V
2x 2048 MB, DDR2-896, CL 5-5-5-14 at 1.90 V
Graphics Powercolor Radeon 4870 X2
2x ATI 4870 GPU , 750 MHz
2x 1024 MB GDDR5 (Per Card) 900 MHz
777 MHz GPU, GDDR5 (950 MHz)
Hard Drives Western Digital Caviar black 640GD
640 GB, 7,2000 RPM, 32 MB Cache
Unchanged
Sound Onboard
Unchanged
Network Integrated Gigabit Networking Unchanged
Power Antec Neo 650W
ATX 12 V/EPS 12 V, 57A between three 12 V Rails
Unchanged
Optical LITE-ON 20X DVD±R SATA Model iHAS120-04 Unchanged
Software and Drivers
Operating System Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit, SP1 Unchanged
Graphics Driver ATI Catalyst 8.11 32-bit Edition Unchanged
Onboard Device Drivers DFI Lanparty DK X38/X48 v .001 Unchanged

You know the hardware, you know the overclock, so let’s have a detailed look look at the benchmarks and settings before we scrutinize the results.

3D Game Benchmarks and Settings
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 Benchmarks and Settings
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, 160kb/s

Video Benchmarks and Settings
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

Application Benchmarks and Settings
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)

Sythetic 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
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65 comments
    Your comment
  • WINTERLORD
    yea for that kind of money i would definatly be buying a entry lvl core i7 920 setup with ddr3 1333, 3gb memory. for gaming, maybe go with a 4870, but in my opinion a geforce 260 or 280 would be better, because it's powerfull with games and you can use CUDA. cuda is really taking off tmperg has a video encoding software withat uses the graphics card, and it gives you a +400% to rendering video and such. such as bluray- and DVD encoding
    -9
  • theblade
    Nice build, good performer for the price, looking forward for the next article.
    It would be great to see an article in which several options of cooling would be compared to see which one gives a better overclock using the 8500 or 8600, including air and water cooling, this chips are awesome to do some OC.
    2
  • craig hallworth
    I'd be interested to see the GTX 260 (216) in SLI on the mid range build as the price for two is a bit more but still comparable with the 4870x2 and, from what I've read, should be more powerful than the radeon card.

    I don't know that you can consider the i7 a mid range platform when you have to spend ~350-400 bucks on the montherboard alone. I'd certainly use the i7 for the high end build though.

    Thank you for your efforts.
    1
  • gallesol
    There are some of us who who receive a great deal of disconfort thinking of Intel as the only microprocessor manufacturer around. If for no other reason than to maintain some competition in this critical industry, please include an AMD based system.
    2
  • marraco
    [the typical user isn’t typically going to see a big real-world performance jump with a RAID array anyway]...
    It look like you never waited crysis to load.

    ... and the power is far overkilling. It could be saved money on it
    -9
  • Rifte
    Would of liked to see a direct comparison to the $625 build in all but the gaming benches. Is the more expensive mobo, ram, cpu combo worth it?
    Put the 4850 in the $1250 system then do some game benches or put the 4870x2 in the $625 system.
    7
  • derek_c
    I would definitely like to see a Core i7 configuration next time.
    1
  • Rifte
    $276 vs $467 for a 5-8% increase in performance?

    direct comparison

    $1250 $625 %dif
    Itunes 00:49 00:52 +6.1%
    lame 01:30 01:36 +6.6%
    TMPGE 04:46 05:04 +6.2%
    Xvid 02:26 02:52 +17.8%
    Mainconcept 03:04 03:17 +7.1%
    Photoshop 01:12 01:15 +4.2%
    3d Studio 00:45 00:49 +8.8%
    Average +8.1%
    Price diff for cpu,ram,mobo +69%
    6
  • 3lvis
    For the next build I would like to see an i7 920, a gigabyte extreme x58 board, 6GB of Gskill DDR3 1333 PC 10666 with cas 7, a pair of 4870x2's water cooled and 2,3,and 4 64GB Gskill SSD's in raid 0. As the price of SSD's comes down, my interest in how a bunch of them in Raid 0 perform goes up(inversely proportionally).
    -6
  • radguy
    I think I would have picked up a cheaper p45 board and used the extra cash to pick up a couple of fans to help with the cooling issues. Otherwise pretty nice gaming build. I don't know if Enthusiast is the name I would use with 530 bucks going to graphics but thats me. Appreciate the info. Nice to kinda be able to compare the E2180 E5200 E8500 and Q6600 all at stock and oc'ed. Core i7 would be nice to add to the list as well as phenom in your upcoming builds.
    1
  • doomsdaydave11
    good job th. way to listen to the readers :)
    1
  • clownbaby
    An i7 comparison would be nice. It looks like alot the the i920's are pushing 4ghz on air.

    A recommendation to save some scratch for a video card:
    Go with a dual channel DDR3 set instead of tri. The difference in performance will be negligible, and you can save a ton of money to put towards a video card.

    With the extra $$$ go for a gtx280, or perhaps 2xgtx260s in SLI. And don't waste money on the 216 core versions, as there's almost no performance increase over the 192 core, and you can save quite a bit on the combo.
    2
  • Crashman
    gallesolThere are some of us who who receive a great deal of disconfort thinking of Intel as the only microprocessor manufacturer around. If for no other reason than to maintain some competition in this critical industry, please include an AMD based system.


    Unfortunately, these are "bang for the buck" builds and while AMD typically saves money, their products also often reduce performance. This is especially a concern since most of our benchmarks, just like real world users would expect, are limitted to the number of threads they support. Further, overclocking simply burries AMD under Intel.

    Tom's hadn't the opportunity to try the new AMD cores, and these certainly weren't available in retail when the article was set up. The same goes for Core i7, which was released the middle of this month while the articles were set up the end of last month.

    Remember that yours is just one voice, and imagine the flood of responses had Tom's used a slow AMD processor that didn't overclock well and relied on 3 or 4 thread apps to beat Core 2 Duo, with these dual-thread and single-thread benchmarks.
    -3
  • slomo4sho
    Good write up, I would have chosen a P45 board and used the saved money for a water cooling system.

    I would like to see a E7200 make it in the next $625 budget build.
    1
  • V3NOM
    omg graphics cards arent like cpus >< they dont need sub 60/70 degree temps.
    -4
  • zodiacfml
    the build is good,the case,powersupply,memory. though i'm still puzzled on the temperatures made by the dual core on 1.4 volts.

    but, i don't agree a lot of points in the conclusion.
    water cooling is still too expensive and complicated, why not get a thermalright heatsink if you think you could have gone higher speeds, yet i still doubt it even if you watercool,maybe additional 200MHz.
    i know, you know that a single 4850 is more practical than a 4870x2 since it as though we're paying for a dual card setup just to improve gaming only in Crysis or Farcry and other games don't give noticeable difference.
    yet, that core i7 system you're planning is quite interesting. could lose a couple of FPS from this $1250 system but miles apart in rendering and encoding tasks.
    around this budget, an overclocked quadcore makes more sense since this system won't differ much in performance compared to $625 build that also has a 4 GHz chip on it.
    -1
  • WheelsOfConfusion
    Now see, this is a much more realistic build. I even like the selection of case! That didn't hurt TOO much, did it? :)

    I'd like to see what kind of performance the 4+ GHz dual-core and 4870x2 can do against the last SMB's mid-range system.
    1
  • chavy
    Please build the I7 system as soon as possible. I return from Iraq in January 2009 and what to build a I7 system like the one mentioned.
    Also is there any way you can start adding a monitor in with the system price since you need one to use the system.
    -2
  • kitsilencer
    This is a very realistic bang-for-the-buck build. Thanks for a great article.
    2
  • MingoDynasty
    You said the typical user isn't going to see a difference with a raid 0 setup. But I thought you also said this is an "enthusiast" build?
    0