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System Builder Marathon, Q4 2012: System Value Compared

System Builder Marathon, Q4 2012: System Value Compared
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System Builder Marathon, December 2012: The Articles

Here are links to each of the four articles in this quarter’s System Builder Marathon (we’ll update them as each story is published). And remember, these systems are all being given away at the end of the marathon.

To enter the giveaway, please fill out this SurveyGizmo form, and be sure to read the complete rules before entering!

Day 1: The $500 Gaming PC
Day 2: The $1,000 Enthusiast PC
Day 3: The $2,000 Performance PC
Day 4: Performance And Value, Dissected

Introduction

Most people learn from experience, and a consistent benchmark suite makes it easy for the three builders who participate in our SBM every quarter to figure out where they're going to get the best bang for their buck. Call it gaming the system, if you will. Since most of our benchmarks favor the same types of hardware, we typically end up with three builds that reflect a trio of budgets, but employ the same technologies. Our builds became mostly predictable over the past year, with occasional deviations coming up short in both performance and value.

Windows 8 and its impact on the performance of AMD's Bulldozer proved to be underwhelming, but AMD timed the introduction of more capable hardware to coincide with Microsoft latest, giving us Piledriver-based FX CPUs that do help the company's performance story.

We're also adding a number of new threaded benchmarks this time around. So, the CPUs best able to handle taxing workloads are going to rise to the top, naturally. Could Don's FX-8350 upset the balance of this often-familiar retrospective with eight integer cores in a sub-$1000 system, will my Core i7-3770K-based build brute-force its way through the benchmarks, or will the addition of a Radeon HD 7850 help catapult Paul's $500 build to the top of our value charts?

Q4 2012 System Builder Marathon PC Components
 $500 Gaming PC$1,000 Enthusiast PC$2,000 Performance PC
ProcessorIntel Pentium G850: 2.9 GHz, 3 MB Shared L3 CacheAMD FX-8350: 4.0 GHz - 4.2 GHz, 8 MB Shared L3 CacheIntel Core i7-3770K: 3.5 GHz - 3.9 GHz, 8 MB Shared L3 Cache
GraphicsPowerColor AX7850 1GBD5-DH: Radeon HD 7850 1 GBGigabyte GV-N670OC-2GD: GeForce GTX 670 2 GB2 x MSI R7970-2PMD3GD5/OC: Radeon HD 7970 3 GB, CrossFire
MotherboardASRock H77 Pro4/MVP: LGA 1155, Intel H77 ExpressGigabyte GA-970A-D3: Socket AM3+, AMD 970/SB950Gigabyte GA-Z77X-D3H: LGA 1155, Intel Z77 Express
MemoryG.Skill F3-10600CL9D-8GBNT: DDR3-1333 C9, 2 x 4 GB (8 GB)Mushkin Blackline 997043: DDR3-1600 C8, 2 x 4 GB (8 GB)G.Skill F3-1600C8D-8GAB: DDR3-1600 C8, 2 x 4 GB (8 GB)
System DriveWestern Digital WD3200AAKX: 320 GB, 7,200 RPM HDDOCZ AGT3-25SAT3-60G: 60 GB, SATA 6Gb/s SSDMushkin MKNSSDCR240GB-DX: 240 GB, SATA 6Gb/s SSD
Storage DriveUses System DriveHitachi Deskstar 7K1000.C: 1 TB 7,200 RPM Hard Drive
Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 ST31500341AS: 1.5 TB, 7,200 RPM Hard Drive
OpticalLG GH24NS90: 24x DVD±R, 48x CD-RLG GH24NS90: 24x DVD±R, 48x CD-RAsus BW-12B1ST: 12x BD-R, 16x DVD±R, 2x BD-RE
CaseRosewill BlackboneHEC BlitzCooler Master Storm Enforcer SGC-1000-KWN1
PowerAntec VP-450: 450 W, ATX 12V v2.3Corsair CX600 V2: 600 W,  ATX12V v2.3,  80 PLUS
Corsair HX750: ATX12V V2.3 80 PLUS Gold
CPU CoolerIntel Boxed Heat Sink and Fan
Xigamtek Loki SD963Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo RR-212E-20PK-R2 
 Total Cost $501 $1,009 $1,900
Display all 76 comments.
Top Comments
  • 29 Hide
    mohit9206 , December 7, 2012 4:11 AM
    wow its unbelievable to see a $500 gaming pc achieve 50+ fps in Battlefield 3 at 1080p on ultra settings.
    goes to show how even a $500 pc can thrash and destroy xbox 360 and ps3.
  • 22 Hide
    Crashman , December 7, 2012 9:14 AM
    pchisholmI know thats there, but you obviously didn't read all of the last page where it clearly states that power was deliberately factored out for the overall value comparison tables.
    No it doesn't. Show me the word "deliberately" or anything else of similar meaning. Then go back to the last SBM. And the one before it. And the one before that. Efficiency has never been used in the SBM performance-per-price comparison.
    It would be far more accurate to say that the methodology of this SPECIFIC SBM was not deliberately ALTERED to PENALIZE AMD. The site has too much integrity to pull such a stunt.
  • 20 Hide
    lengcaifai , December 7, 2012 3:23 AM
    actually the piledriver based build is more all-rounded, it can be a decent workstation and a decent gaming desktop for those who have tight budget
Other Comments
  • 20 Hide
    lengcaifai , December 7, 2012 3:23 AM
    actually the piledriver based build is more all-rounded, it can be a decent workstation and a decent gaming desktop for those who have tight budget
  • -4 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , December 7, 2012 3:29 AM
    Which of these builds is the most future-proof ?
  • -5 Hide
    stickmansam , December 7, 2012 3:33 AM
    The piledriver build should have had some parts swapped out for cheaper ones to reflect the changes in pricing changes from last Quarter. That would have been a more fair comparison to the $1000 build from last quarter.
  • 10 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , December 7, 2012 3:56 AM
    For the $500 build, why would it have 60% of its value calculated by apps, when it was build for gaming purpose ?
    Just a thought, but shouldnt the percentwise distribution of value for each built based on the purpose for which it was built ?
    Something like : games, apps, storage.

    $500 build : 80%, 15%, 5% (cheapest best gaming with lots of cheap storage. )
    $1000 build : 50%, 40%, 10% (slightly better games over apps. Great apps. fast storage for boot)
    $2000 build. : 42.5%, 42.5%, 15% (equally good games and apps. fast storage should be plenty and fast)
  • 29 Hide
    mohit9206 , December 7, 2012 4:11 AM
    wow its unbelievable to see a $500 gaming pc achieve 50+ fps in Battlefield 3 at 1080p on ultra settings.
    goes to show how even a $500 pc can thrash and destroy xbox 360 and ps3.
  • 11 Hide
    the1kingbob , December 7, 2012 4:32 AM
    lengcaifaiactually the piledriver based build is more all-rounded, it can be a decent workstation and a decent gaming desktop for those who have tight budget


    I was pleasantly surprised how well it turned out. I believe I would have gone with one that had less cores and spent the money elsewhere. Overall though, it turned out to be a pretty good machine. Now only if they could get the power usage under control.
  • 11 Hide
    slicedtoad , December 7, 2012 6:07 AM
    You need to use a slightly more complicated performance comparison algorithm. Something that takes into account the fact that over 120fps is useless and doesn't run into problems with things like fps caps at low res.
  • 17 Hide
    Marcus52 , December 7, 2012 6:12 AM
    mohit9206wow its unbelievable to see a $500 gaming pc achieve 50+ fps in Battlefield 3 at 1080p on ultra settings.goes to show how even a $500 pc can thrash and destroy xbox 360 and ps3.


    Yeah the AMD 7850 really pulled its gaming performance up. Very nice too that the Intel G850 didn't choke it off. A sweet build!
  • 11 Hide
    ojas , December 7, 2012 7:17 AM
    Um i must ask this, BF3, 2560x1600, ultra: is cross-fire not working? Why should 2 7970s serve up the same performance as a single 670? Or am i missing something? Thomas mentions the drop being "extreme" in his build's article but...something's wrong, i think...
  • 10 Hide
    ojas , December 7, 2012 7:30 AM
    Hmmm. I wonder what will happen if you put the FX8350 into the $2000 machine?

    pchisholmAlso, this comparison deliberately factored out power consumption, which was rather convenient for AMD.

    second last page?
  • 0 Hide
    MxMatrix , December 7, 2012 7:43 AM
    Although I can understand the choices made for all 3 systems I think a X79 & i73970EX should be added for comparison.
    - it would give an interesting value over performance overview
    - there are still people interested in X79 builds today (like me)
    - everyone likes to see them for xmas
  • 6 Hide
    iam2thecrowe , December 7, 2012 8:14 AM
    ojasHmmm. I wonder what will happen if you put the FX8350 into the $2000 machine?

    It would make it game a fair bit worse, and app performance would be on par or worse than the i7. And there is nothing more you could really spend the extra money on. Maybe a nicer monitor........ but for a gaming build if looking to cut price from the i7, you would just get the i5 for the same price as an 8350.
  • 22 Hide
    Crashman , December 7, 2012 9:14 AM
    pchisholmI know thats there, but you obviously didn't read all of the last page where it clearly states that power was deliberately factored out for the overall value comparison tables.
    No it doesn't. Show me the word "deliberately" or anything else of similar meaning. Then go back to the last SBM. And the one before it. And the one before that. Efficiency has never been used in the SBM performance-per-price comparison.
    It would be far more accurate to say that the methodology of this SPECIFIC SBM was not deliberately ALTERED to PENALIZE AMD. The site has too much integrity to pull such a stunt.
  • 5 Hide
    jtd871 , December 7, 2012 9:19 AM
    I understand that the $500/$1000/$2000 ratios make a nice exponential progression (factor of two), but the performance and value increases definitely diminish. Unless you are speccing a boutique gaming laptop, I think that I would prefer to see how creative your top-price builder can get for $1500. I am willing to bet that the value could be increased substantially - both in terms of power and price.

    By switching to i53570K, 2x7870, CM Hyper TX3, ~$100 + $260 + 10 = $370 could have been saved. Also, do you really need the Barracuda? Not for SBM (I doubt it makes a difference to the performance one way or the other with a 240GB SSD primary) so another $80 saved. There's $450 saved for a great all-around performer and probably decent overclocker (not that I would ever dream of overclocking - system fans get too loud) too. For the price of the CM case, you could probably get a Silverstone PS07 and a couple of case fan upgrades and have a rig that also looks more appropriate in the office.
  • 6 Hide
    Crashman , December 7, 2012 9:25 AM
    ojasUm i must ask this, BF3, 2560x1600, ultra: is cross-fire not working? Why should 2 7970s serve up the same performance as a single 670? Or am i missing something? Thomas mentions the drop being "extreme" in his build's article but...something's wrong, i think...
    I think it has something to do with the graphics memory getting used up. It's not a system-wide problem, it's a BF3+CrossFire problem. We used to see a similar thing in Crysis, again only at 2560x1600

    Look at the scaling for BF3 high settings, from 1280 to 1920. Everything looks good up to that point, in single-monitor testing the problem only occurs at 2560x1600 (though it may also affect high Eyefinity resolutions).
  • 6 Hide
    army_ant7 , December 7, 2012 9:33 AM
    Woah! Spotted an inconsistency here... It says in this article that the $2000 build has 16GB of RAM, but in its own article it says it has 8GB. I'm thinking that the former is correct, but this warrants a correction in whichever article needs it. :) 
  • 3 Hide
    salgado18 , December 7, 2012 9:58 AM
    /fanboymodeon

    That's so good to read two days after I bought an FX-8120 for the price of an i3! (hoping performance is similar to 8320)

    Go AMD!

    /fanboymodeoff
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