System Builder Marathon, November 2008 : The Articles
Here are links to each of the three articles in this month’s System Builder Marathon (we’ll update them as each story is published).
- Day 1 : The $650 Gaming PC
- Day 2 : The $1,250 Enthusiast PC
- Day 3 : Performance and Value, Dissected
Taking Feedback Into Consideration
One of the most commonly brought-up reader comments in past System Builder Marathons was that our fixed price structures often guided the mid-budget builder to choose a few parts that exceeded an ideal “enthusiast-level” price/performance ratio, while limiting the low-cost gaming system builder to parts that were simply too cheap to offer an ideal entry-level price/performance ratio. The value of both systems was handicapped by component prices that were outside what many readers thought would be normal for the intended market.
A large amount of feedback resulted in our selection of new pricing guidelines for both systems. Increasing our low-cost gaming PC budget to $625 allowed us to eliminate the under-performing graphics card and processor found in the previous $500 machine. Decreasing the mid-priced enthusiast build to $1,250 compelled us to ditch the controversial quad-core processor and over-sized liquid cooling system found in the previous $1,500 build. As a result, the newly-chosen dual-core processor is better-optimized for gaming than professional-level applications. Here’s a recap of each system’s components and the overclock settings used to achieve even more performance value.
|Component||$1,250 PC||$625 PC|
|CPU|| Intel Core 2 Duo E8500 3.16 GHz|
Overclocked to 4.25 GHz, FSB-1792
| Intel Pentium E5200 2.50 GHz|
Overclocked to 4.00 GHz, FSB-1336
|CPU Cooler||Xigmatek HDT-S1283||Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro|
|Motherboard||DFI Lanparty DK X38-T2R||Gigabyte GA-EP45-DS3L|
|RAM|| 4.0 GB PNY XLR8 PC2-6400 CAS 4|
Overclocked to DDR2-896 CAS 5
| 4.0 GB PNY XLR8 PC2-6400 CAS 4|
Clocked at DDR2-802 CAS 4
|Graphics|| Powercolor Radeon 4870 X2 2048MB|
Overclocked to 777 MHz GPU, GDDR5-3800
| Sapphire 100245L Radeon HD 4850 512MB|
Overclocked to 700 MHz GPU, GDDR3-2340
|Hard Drives|| WD Caviar Black WD6401AALS|
640 GB, 7200 RPM, 32MB Cache
| Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 ST3500320AS |
500GB, 7200 RPM, 32MB Cache
|Sound||Integrated 8-Channel HD Audio||Integrated 8-Channel HD Audio|
|Network||Integrated Gigabit Networking||Integrated Gigabit Networking|
|Case||Antec Three Hundred||Antec Three Hundred|
|Power||Antec NeoPower 650W||Antec NeoPower 650W|
|Optical||LITE-ON 20X DVD±R SATA Model iHAS120-04||LITE-ON 20X DVD±R SATA Model iHAS120-04|
Vanishing discounts bumped up the price of our $625 PC after its components were ordered, but we did receive everything within budget from NewEgg. In the longer term, all of these pieces will fall in price, almost guaranteeing a total build price under what we originally forecast the machines to cost.
A closer look at each system’s performance will help us gauge the effectiveness of our new budget limits in increasing value, while comparing the two new systems to each other will help us to define situations where the new enthusiast build might actually be worth twice as much as the new budget system.
For those of you who’ve read this far through the series, today is when we’ll present comparison’s to last month’s System Builder Marathon builds as well.