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Conclusion

System Builder Marathon: $500 Gaming PC
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Conclusion

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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  • 4 Hide
    radguy , October 30, 2008 5:15 AM
    Thanks for the article. I always enjoy these sbm builds you guys do. I guessed wrong again but actually think you guys picked a better choice. Nice to know build quality is still taken into consideration even at the 500 dollar range. Also just to mention this again next time noise and power consumption charts please.
  • -3 Hide
    Anonymous , October 30, 2008 6:11 AM
    "The silicon hard drive grommets"

    That wouldn't dampen much noise.

    Try silicone hard drive grommets
    (They are usually silicon-oxygen based polymers)
  • 4 Hide
    slomo4sho , October 30, 2008 6:44 AM
    I wish you used the E5200 CPU for this build, current prices reflect a difference of $14 only.

    Also, in the future, would it be possible for you to have two builds for the $500 budget build. One based on Intel AND the other on AMD?
  • -5 Hide
    xx12amanxx , October 30, 2008 6:44 AM
    I would have spent maybe 30$ on a cheapo case and put the 50$ toward's a hd4850! Most people building a 500$ pc are going to want maximun performance and not care what the case looks like.
  • 5 Hide
    cangelini , October 30, 2008 6:57 AM
    xX12amanXxI would have spent maybe 30$ on a cheapo case and put the 50$ toward's a hd4850! Most people building a 500$ pc are going to want maximun performance and not care what the case looks like.


    $30 for a case and PSU? Sounds like a build asking for trouble. I personally don't think $80 for a nice chassis and power supply is bad.
  • 2 Hide
    cangelini , October 30, 2008 6:57 AM
    Slomo4shOI wish you used the E5200 CPU for this build, current prices reflect a difference of $14 only. Also, in the future, would it be possible for you to have two builds for the $500 budget build. One based on Intel AND the other on AMD?


    Heya Slo! We're actually weighing the possibility of simply switching off each month on the $500 system since AMD has some very compelling hardware in that range.
  • 0 Hide
    slomo4sho , October 30, 2008 7:14 AM
    cangeliniHeya Slo! We're actually weighing the possibility of simply switching off each month on the $500 system since AMD has some very compelling hardware in that range.


    Well in this case, an AMD build might have allowed for a 4850. I look forward to seeing what you decide upon but I still think a monthly build of each platform at the $500 build is definitely something worthwhile.

    Transitioning month to month between the two usually does not allow for comparative annalist in your "Performance And Value, Dissected" write-ups
  • 2 Hide
    cangelini , October 30, 2008 7:17 AM
    Slomo4shO


    Gotcha. We'll discuss that as a possibility, then.
  • 1 Hide
    lounge lizard , October 30, 2008 7:34 AM
    I love the article and second the notion that it would be a great idea to run it every month. I for one am a firm believer of upgrading more consistently at a reasonable cost per component rather then just throwing $1500 at new machine.

    At some point it would be interesting if you guys could run an Upgrade Edition of the $500 system builder. Most people that have the courage and knowledge to overclock their new parts by over 50% (wow the E2180 rocks!)would almost definitely have components that they could and would want to swap between rigs.

    Again, great article.
  • 3 Hide
    reasonablevoice , October 30, 2008 7:37 AM
    king_edgar"The silicon hard drive grommets" That wouldn't dampen much noise.Try silicone hard drive grommets(They are usually silicon-oxygen based polymers)


    What the hell are you saying?
  • 1 Hide
    JustPlainJef , October 30, 2008 7:55 AM
    Personally, I wouldn't skimp on the power supply. If that goes, you could be out most of your $500 investment.

    Seeing an AMD build would be nice, but I'm not gonna be too upset if it doesn't happen.
  • 0 Hide
    V3NOM , October 30, 2008 8:18 AM
    Slomo4shOI wish you used the E5200 CPU for this build, current prices reflect a difference of $14 only. Also, in the future, would it be possible for you to have two builds for the $500 budget build. One based on Intel AND the other on AMD?

    i know! im getting a e5200 on the 11/11 (:S bad omen?) cant wait to oc!
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , October 30, 2008 8:27 AM
    Good article,

    I am one of the proud owners of a very similar $500 machine. (though in my case R5000). My only key differences was that I went for a 9600 GT and got a Audigy Value.

    I overclocked it like crazy and can blissfully play Crysis on high at native resolution no problems.
  • 0 Hide
    Shadow703793 , October 30, 2008 10:27 AM
    Looks good. The E2180 should OC to about 3GHz but usually less than 3.3Ghz (will only Pass P95 for 6hrs at 3.3Ghz). Also use the BETA BIOS on the EP35-DS3L for best OCing.
  • -2 Hide
    Shadow703793 , October 30, 2008 10:50 AM
    one more thing: Should have gotten a E5200 and a 9800GT. There's a EVGA 9800GT for $100 after MIR on Newegg. See:
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814130380
  • 1 Hide
    zak_mckraken , October 30, 2008 12:08 PM
    Shadow703793one more thing: Should have gotten a E5200 and a 9800GT. There's a EVGA 9800GT for $100 after MIR on Newegg. See:http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6814130380


    You have to understand that their parts were ordered at the beginning of the month. The prices of computer parts go down almost every day. By the time the build, configure, overclock, benchmark and publish, prices are bound to go down and MIR or other promotions that wasn't there at the time of ordering may appear.
  • 3 Hide
    nafhan , October 30, 2008 12:21 PM
    If you aren't going to overclock, and are willing to go AMD... you can make the following substitutions, and get a system that will be alot faster in many games and $40 cheaper (also swapped out the HD, I love the WD6400AAKS) all straight from Newegg:

    AMD Athlon 64 X2 5000+ Brisbane 2.6GHz 2 x 512KB - Retail - $60.00
    Foxconn A74MX-K AM2+/AM2 AMD 740G Micro ATX - $48.96
    OCZ Platinum (2 x 1GB) DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500) - $33.99
    ASUS EAH4850 TOP/HTDI/512M Radeon HD 4850 512MB - $139.99
    Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD6400AAKS 640GB - $74.99
    Antec NSK4480B - $80.00
    LITE-ON Black SATA 20X DVD±R DVD Burner - $23.99
    TOTAL: $461.92
  • 2 Hide
    lambofgode3x , October 30, 2008 12:45 PM
    nafhanIf you aren't going to overclock, and are willing to go AMD... you can make the following substitutions, and get a system that will be alot faster in many games and $40 cheaper (also swapped out the HD, I love the WD6400AAKS) all straight from Newegg:AMD Athlon 64 X2 5000+ Brisbane 2.6GHz 2 x 512KB - Retail - $60.00Foxconn A74MX-K AM2+/AM2 AMD 740G Micro ATX - $48.96OCZ Platinum (2 x 1GB) DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500) - $33.99ASUS EAH4850 TOP/HTDI/512M Radeon HD 4850 512MB - $139.99Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD6400AAKS 640GB - $74.99Antec NSK4480B - $80.00LITE-ON Black SATA 20X DVD±R DVD Burner - $23.99TOTAL: $461.92


    since you're still about 40 bucks below the 500 mark, add a good cooler and use the left over money to upgrade that motherboard
  • -2 Hide
    Pei-chen , October 30, 2008 12:50 PM
    nafhanIf you aren't going to overclock, and are willing to go AMD... you can make the following substitutions, and get a system that will be alot faster in many games and $40 cheaper (also swapped out the HD, I love the WD6400AAKS) all straight from Newegg:AMD Athlon 64 X2 5000+ Brisbane 2.6GHz 2 x 512KB - Retail - $60.00Foxconn A74MX-K AM2+/AM2 AMD 740G Micro ATX - $48.96OCZ Platinum (2 x 1GB) DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500) - $33.99ASUS EAH4850 TOP/HTDI/512M Radeon HD 4850 512MB - $139.99Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD6400AAKS 640GB - $74.99Antec NSK4480B - $80.00LITE-ON Black SATA 20X DVD±R DVD Burner - $23.99TOTAL: $461.92

    You saved nothing. You swapped a good CPU and board for an outdated chip and OEM board. Tom's could save on the CPU cooler & board and go with an E5200 + 4850 and it would whip your AMD build.

    I like AMD but unless you’re building an HTPC, Intel is the way to go. Even then, Intel has Geforce 9300.
  • 0 Hide
    Pei-chen , October 30, 2008 12:56 PM
    It is nice to see Tom's managed to overclock the 8800GT so much. My EVGA 55nm 9800GT only managed 720 MHz core, 1,728 MHz shaders and 1,065 MHz memory. I paid $100 for the 9800GT + OCZ 2GB PC2-6400 ram so it's a great deal at about $75.
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