System Builder Marathon: $500 Gaming PC

Benchmark Results: Crysis, Unreal Tournament 3

3D Games: Crysis, Unreal Tournament 3

We start out with one of the most hardware-demanding games currently available. It’s no surprise that even when overclocked, our $500 System, with its single $110 graphics card, is unable to offer playable performance when running the maximum DirectX10 at very high details. These settings are better suited for the more capable GPU solutions found in the $1,500 and $4,500 machines.

After adding even more demands to the GPU by enabling 4x AA, our $500 build begs for mercy. Not even the lowest resolution tested is even close to being playable. At 1920x1200, both setups were full of pauses and seemed to be starving for more memory.

Taking a look at more realistic Crysis settings for this system comprising 1680x1050, no AA, and all medium details, the $500 PC averaged 32.98 FPS at stock speeds and 46.62 FPS once overclocked, which represented a 41% boost. At 1280x1024, no AA, and all high details, it managed 30.17 FPS stock and 38.71 FPS once overclocked, for a 28% increase in performance. We would call this a successful overclock at both these playable settings.

Unlike Crysis, in Unreal Tournament 3 we see the $500 PC offering very playable performance at the highest detail levels. Looking at the results, it would seem things were quite CPU-limited with the E2180 at its stock 2.0 GHz clock speed. Once overclocked, we see huge gains in performance with a drop in speed at the highest resolution showing the GPU becoming the limiting factor.

At 1280x1024, the 2.0G Hz E2180 was indeed the limiting factor in our testing, since enabling 4x AA and 8x AF had no effect on the frame rates. Things quickly change as we up the resolution and increase the demands on the 8800 GT. Even when enabling eye candy, the $500 machine does well at all resolutions and we again see significant gains with our overclocking efforts.

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  • radguy
    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.
    4
  • Anonymous
    "The silicon hard drive grommets"

    That wouldn't dampen much noise.

    Try silicone hard drive grommets
    (They are usually silicon-oxygen based polymers)
    -3
  • slomo4sho
    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 $500 budget build. One based on Intel AND the other on AMD?
    4
  • xx12amanxx
    I would have spent maybe 30$ 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
  • cangelini
    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.
    5
  • cangelini
    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.
    2
  • slomo4sho
    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
    0
  • cangelini
    Slomo4shO


    Gotcha. We'll discuss that as a possibility, then.
    2
  • lounge lizard
    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.
    1
  • reasonablevoice
    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?
    3
  • JustPlainJef
    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.
    1
  • V3NOM
    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
  • Anonymous
    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
  • Shadow703793
    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.
    0
  • Shadow703793
    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
    -2
  • zak_mckraken
    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.
    1
  • nafhan
    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
    3
  • lambofgode3x
    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
  • Pei-chen
    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.
    -2
  • Pei-chen
    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.
    0