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Benchmark Setup

Build Or Buy? Five Sub-$500 Store-Bought Systems Compared
By
Graphics Drivers
Intel
15.17.16.64.2302
AMD
Catalyst 11.4
Nvidia
nForce 15.49
Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
Crysis 2
Test Set: High Quality, Fraps, DirectX 9 Rendering, A Walk In The Park
Just Cause 2Steam Version, Built-in Benchmark "Concrete Jungle"
Test Set: Custom High Details, No AA, 8x AF
World of Warcraft: Cataclysm
Fair Quality Settings, No AA, From Crushblow to The Krazzworks, Fraps, DirectX 9 Rendering
Audio/Video Encoding
Blender
Version: 2.54 beta
Syntax blender -b thg.blend -f 1, Resolution: 1920x1080
 Anti-Aliasing: 8x, Render: THG.blend frame 1
Handbrake 0.9.4Version 0.9.4
Convert first .vob file from The Last Samurai (1 GB) to .mp4, High Profile
LameVersion 3.98.3
Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 min.
Convert WAV to MP3 audio format
Command: -b 160 --nores (160 Kbps)
Productivity
WinRAR 4.00 x64
Version x64 4.00, Benchmark: THG-Workload (334 MB)
Adobe Photoshop CS5CS5 Extended (64-bit)
Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates filters
Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
3DMark Vantage
Version: 1.1.0, Performance
PCMark VantageVersion: 1.0.1.0 x64
Display all 120 comments.
Top Comments
  • 28 Hide
    lordravage , June 3, 2011 4:55 AM
    I have a real problem with this article. It isn't comparing a $500 prebuilt system to a $500 home build at all. It compares 5 computers from Best Buy that range from $299 to $409, versus a $500 machine that lacks an OS, mouse and keyboard. Factor everything in and the home build costs almost TWICE as much as the cheapest competitor.

    I know you mentioned the discrepancies in the article, but if you aren't going to try a little harder to make a good comparison you shouldn't even make the article. Shop around online at better retailers than Best Buy, find the very best systems you can that cost about $550, THEN compare those to your own system.

    I still expect the prebuilt systems to fall behind, but the article we have here isn't even a real comparison.
  • 27 Hide
    cmcghee358 , June 3, 2011 5:18 AM
    Why wasn't the $500 Homebuilt PC placed on the chart to show comparison?

    All you did was compared the systems performance and then list the Custom-built specs at the end without any benchmark comparison.

    I was going to use this article for ALL of my friends to understand why they should build their own. But, since you guys compared the rainbow of feces available at Best Buy without showing the splendor that is home build, it's useless.

    Come on...
  • 21 Hide
    JohnnyLucky , June 3, 2011 4:49 AM
    Grandma's idea of gaming is a few rounds of Solitaire. The pre-builts will do for her.
Other Comments
  • 21 Hide
    JohnnyLucky , June 3, 2011 4:49 AM
    Grandma's idea of gaming is a few rounds of Solitaire. The pre-builts will do for her.
  • 20 Hide
    cknobman , June 3, 2011 4:53 AM
    hmmm what is up with the crappy big vendor choices only? If you ordered these online why not go with a "boutique" vendor.

    I just configured an iBuyPower rig for $489. It has Athlon X2 250, 4gb Ram, 500GB HDD, 500w Power Supply, Liquid cooling, Radeon 6570. For $24 more bucks I could get a 6670.

    I know its not a killer machine but it puts these big box vendors to shame.
  • 8 Hide
    sinfulpotato , June 3, 2011 4:54 AM
    On a real budget I wouldn't get a 6850. Even more so if you are staying below 500 clams. There are power house GPUs that can be had for less then 100 dollars. My 4850 still runs strong and as shown by Tom's very own review a Athlon x4 will compete with the Phenom x4.

    Also if you already have windows OEM you can get it reactivated on a new PC if you get the right Microsoft rep, also lie about motherboard dieing and not replaceable... Some will choke up a code.
  • 28 Hide
    lordravage , June 3, 2011 4:55 AM
    I have a real problem with this article. It isn't comparing a $500 prebuilt system to a $500 home build at all. It compares 5 computers from Best Buy that range from $299 to $409, versus a $500 machine that lacks an OS, mouse and keyboard. Factor everything in and the home build costs almost TWICE as much as the cheapest competitor.

    I know you mentioned the discrepancies in the article, but if you aren't going to try a little harder to make a good comparison you shouldn't even make the article. Shop around online at better retailers than Best Buy, find the very best systems you can that cost about $550, THEN compare those to your own system.

    I still expect the prebuilt systems to fall behind, but the article we have here isn't even a real comparison.
  • 0 Hide
    deadcold94 , June 3, 2011 5:06 AM
    constructive criticism but on i think its page 5 your adobe photoshop graph has a 1 instead of an 11. thanks for fixing it; when and if your do.

    sincerely,

    Mackenzie
  • 1 Hide
    JOSHSKORN , June 3, 2011 5:06 AM
    If you're a serious FPS gamer, don't waste your money on a pre-build. Do the research and have a computer built for you or build it yourself. You'll spend the same price most likely and come out with a much better machine. The difference is the cost of the name brand.
  • -6 Hide
    vaughn2k , June 3, 2011 5:16 AM
    I can build a better system for U$450.00
  • 27 Hide
    cmcghee358 , June 3, 2011 5:18 AM
    Why wasn't the $500 Homebuilt PC placed on the chart to show comparison?

    All you did was compared the systems performance and then list the Custom-built specs at the end without any benchmark comparison.

    I was going to use this article for ALL of my friends to understand why they should build their own. But, since you guys compared the rainbow of feces available at Best Buy without showing the splendor that is home build, it's useless.

    Come on...
  • 0 Hide
    alikum , June 3, 2011 5:40 AM
    cknobmanhmmm what is up with the crappy big vendor choices only? If you ordered these online why not go with a "boutique" vendor.I just configured an iBuyPower rig for $489. It has Athlon X2 250, 4gb Ram, 500GB HDD, 500w Power Supply, Liquid cooling, Radeon 6570. For $24 more bucks I could get a 6670.I know its not a killer machine but it puts these big box vendors to shame.

    iBuyPower is not globally available
  • 5 Hide
    rohitbaran , June 3, 2011 5:43 AM
    mayankleoboy1WTF??

    I second that. If I hadn't bought it on steam, I would have sold it somewhere. It is bad compared to the first in terms of gameplay and even graphics. Yeah, Crytek are touting that they made a better looking game with lesser system requirements, but that is not true.
  • 10 Hide
    boletus , June 3, 2011 5:55 AM
    I have been looking for an article along these lines for some time, and this one was informative at least. However, I do agree with some of the criticisms regarding the unfairness of the comparison.

    But here is a real challenge for Tom's that I would like to see: what can you build for $300-400 that includes what the pre-built's supply (keyboard and mouse, OS, etc)? Yes, I know the builder will have to receive therapy once it is over, but maybe you could let him throw it out a third-story window when the article is finished.

    Let's assume you can get the OS at the discounted rate Dell or HP gets, and you can even add $50 to your budget by pre-loading crapware if you want. I won't expect the labor cost to be added in, since the assumption is that someone is doing this on their own time.

    If you can beat the performance of those off-the-shelf pieces of carp, even by a little, I will be impressed (and happy to know it can be done). Now that is a real challenge: is anyone there strong enough to take it on?
  • 17 Hide
    drakepandor , June 3, 2011 6:06 AM
    I found this article to be quite lacking. You say you looked for the best sub $500 pre-built to compare to your system (which was $525) and all you can find are sub $400? I just looked at bestbuy's site and found:

    http://www.bestbuy.com/site/Dell+-+Inspiron+Desktop+/+Intel%26%23174%3B+Core%26%23153%3B+i3+Processor+/+4GB+Memory+/+1TB+Hard+Drive/1677209.p?id=1218278292663&skuId=1677209

    http://www.bestbuy.com/site/HP+-+Pavilion+Desktop+/+AMD+Athlon%26%23153%3B+II+Processor+/+4GB+Memory+/+1TB+Hard+Drive/1757098.p?id=1218289373194&skuId=1757098

    That are right at the same price point as your built system, and that's not even figuring in the OS cost, which gets you in the range of:

    http://www.bestbuy.com/site/Asus+-+Essentio+Desktop+/+AMD+Phenom%26%23153%3B+II+X6+Processor+/+8GB+Memory+/+1TB+Hard+Drive/2634102.p?id=1218341075428&skuId=2634102

    I don't disagree that you can build a better system for your specific use than what a pre-built can do for you at a given price point, but I don't think you did a good job of actually showing that with this shockingly one-sided article.
  • 4 Hide
    compton , June 3, 2011 6:13 AM
    Well, I for one don't have a problem with the article. Even if you take all the caveats into the equation, you can still build a superior system with Win 7 and discrete graphics. If you had to build a new system (instead of using the SBM $500) configured to compare to off the shelf models, it really wouldn't change anything. The conclusion is still valid. If you have to include Win 7 in with the price, you're left with $430. It can still be done and will still be superior. Also, you'll have more parts to upgrade with over time -- for instance, the SBM $500 could easily accept a Phenom X6, or a Sandy Bridge setup, or whatever comes along in the future. The ram, hdd, psu, case, and gpu will all work for quite some time. That won't work with the store bought systems. If you change the mobo and cpu (you won't really be able to upgrade the processor anyway) in the Dell, you'll probably have to get a new copy of Windows too, not to mention the nonstandard cases.

    I'd kinda like to see what's available from the smaller systems makers of the world, and take that into account. I for one wouldn't want it any other way than to build my own. And if building budget systems themselves aren't that exciting, I enjoy the challenge of working in the budgetary constraints. So, keep up the good work -- I'd like to see more of this in the future.
  • 3 Hide
    chriskrum , June 3, 2011 6:29 AM
    There are some serious flaws in this article. First, the only computer that should have been considered was the Dell--a little research should have eliminated the others because of the form factor which is unsuitable for adding a graphics card--a necessary upgrade.

    The Dell is 400 dollars. That includes everything: OS, keyboard, and even a warranty.

    The 500 dollar home-built costs quite a bit more than 500 dollars. It's actually closer to a 654 dollar build: 525 base + 99 for the OS (seriously, OEM copies of Windows 7 are 99 dollars) + 30 for mouse and keyboard (these are not negligible expenses for a true budget build).

    Does the home-built have an SD card reader? That's about another 20 dollars. So maybe it's a 674 dollar build

    So you are comparing a 654-674 dollar system to a 400 dollar one. The home-built computer is at least 60 percent more expensive than the Dell.

    Take the 255 dollar difference and use it to upgrade the power supply and the video card in the Dell (I could get a 6870 and a Corsair PSU in that Dell for 255 dollars). Then do your comparison.

  • 2 Hide
    kingnoobe , June 3, 2011 7:04 AM
    This is a fair article.. I think you all aren't really thinking things through. The prebuilts couldn't run any games at all! The other one could. Yes it doesn't take in the price of the OS/keyboard/mouse .. Only one of those things matter the OS (not to mention if somebody needed a mouse/keyboard and i liked them I just give them one of mine I don't use). As it can be somewhat costly..

    You just seen what it takes to make a prebuilt play games, and that's the cost give/take a few dollars of buying an OS. And that's if you only have to buy a graphics card.

    Also heres another way to look at it. Since prebuilt can't play games, pop a linux OS onto the other one, and bam takes that out of the equation. Although you would be able to find certain games that do run on a linux OS. And there are other ways to get an OS (although lets not get into the debate about that.)

    So look a little deeper, and it's clearly obvious how/why when you build yourself you get more bang for the buck.
  • 2 Hide
    haplo602 , June 3, 2011 7:08 AM
    where do you get Win 7 so cheap ? OEM version? I was looking for something I can run in VMs. MS licensing and naming scheme is so confusing. I came to Win 7 Professinal for 258 euro as the only viable choice (to either not violate any EULA/licensing or have all the features). I scraped the project. HW was less expensive thant that (Tyan 2927-E, 8GB DDR-2 ECC ram, 2x opteron 2220 for a total of 230e from ebay).

    Btw I'd realy like to see a guide to windows versions and licensing. I am lost there ...
  • 9 Hide
    allomancer , June 3, 2011 7:19 AM
    For those who say you can't build an under $500 system that beats those, I wanted to take a stab at it, so here goes.

    Case + PSU: IN WIN BK623.BN300BL 0.6mm SECC Steel MicroATX Desktop Computer Case 300W Power Supply - $61.99
    Motherboard: Foxconn M61PMP-K AM3 NVIDIA MCP61P Micro ATX AMD Motherboard - $44.99
    CPU: AMD Athlon II X2 255 Regor 3.1GHz 2 x 1MB L2 Cache Socket AM3 65W Dual-Core Desktop Processor - $57.99
    RAM: G.SKILL NS 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10600) - $39.99
    Video Card:HIS H567FO1G Radeon HD 5670 1GB - $59.99
    Hard Drive: Seagate Barracuda ST3500413AS 500GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive - $39.99
    Optical Drive: LG Black 22X SATA CD/DVD Burner - $19.99
    Keyboard: Rosewill RK-101 Keyboard - $5.99
    Mouse: Rosewill RM-C2U 3 Buttons 1 x Wheel USB Optical 800 dpi Mouse - $5.99
    OS: Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 64-bit English 1-Pack - OEM $99.99

    Total: $436.90

    It's got the same CPU and hard drive space, more RAM, and vastly superior graphics as all those pre-builts for well under $500. Obviously I can't vouch for the quality of those components, but they're not going to be worse than what's in those budget boxes from Best Buy in any case. Oh, and I even checked on shipping, and it's under $30, so that's about what you would pay in tax anyway if you bought a PC at the store. I did find it a little ironic that the OS was the single most expensive item in that build.
  • 0 Hide
    WR2 , June 3, 2011 10:15 AM
    A useful article to recommend when we find someone thinking about a low cost gaming rig built on an OEM budget system.

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