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System Builder Marathon: $500 Gaming PC


As expected, at stock clock speeds, our $500 build was often short of impressive. But we aimed to achieve our lofty goals that we had for this entry-level system by overclocking the CPU far beyond out-of-box speeds. There is almost an addiction among hardware enthusiasts to squeeze extra performance out of their components and maximize the value they get for their money. Let’s sum up the total performance gains we achieved with our overclocking endeavors and see how well we measured up to our expectations.

Even overclocked, our $500 PC didn’t fair too well in the Crysis and Supreme Commander Forged Alliance max-quality detail levels, but it managed quite well for the other two games at the highest details. We’ll still say that our choice of components and overclocking efforts were successful on the gaming front, as they raise the bar for our maximum playable settings versus stock speeds and offer a very enjoyable gaming experience. Until 4 GB of RAM and an even more powerful graphics card can be squeezed into this tight budget, it would be difficult to beat out a highly overclocked 512 MB 8800 GT, a 3.2 GHz dual-core E2180 and 2 GB of RAM for gaming.

The biggest percentage increase in performance was in the Audio/Video Encoding suite. Our little $70 dual-core CPU may have low stock clocks, FSB and very limited L2 cache, but cranking up the clock speeds proved to be well worth it, making this low-budget system perform like a much more expensive machine.

Rounding out our other applications, we were rewarded with exceptional gains in three of the five benchmarks with the overclocked PC. Low gains in AVG and WinRAR brought the overall application average down by quite a bit, though.

Our aim was to build a solid, dependable entry-level system that would offer as much performance possible in a broad range of games and applications. Did we make every dollar count? We think so and feel the $500 overclocked PC is a well balanced system offering about as good of a performance as could be expected for the money. But, a big part of this System Builder Marathon is still to come, as we see how our low-budget PC fares against the more expensive machines in overall value.

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