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System Builder Marathon: TH's $2000 Hand-Picked Build

System Builder Marathon: TH's $2000 Hand-Picked Build
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System Builder Marathon, December 2010: The Articles

Here are links to each of the four articles in this month’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 check out this Google form, and be sure to read the complete rules before entering!

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

Editor's Note: The purpose of the System Builder Marathon is extracting maximum value from enthusiast components at a variety of price points. We come together at the end of the series to see whose build exemplified our goal.

This time around, like last time, Newegg gave us an opportunity to pick the parts we as editors wanted to see--after the fact. Our follow-up build adds a *lot* of value to the first $2000 build, and we're much happier recommending the components in this story.

As before, we've worked with Newegg to make this entire configuration available as a combo build--at a discount to Tom's Hardware readers. The parts we ordered added up to $1920. The prices later dropped to $1865. Using Newegg's Combo link, the same setup is selling for $1752. That's pretty impressive for a setup we already thought was a solid value close to $2000!

Introduction

This is the second System Builder Marathon where we’ve had a chance to address the shortcomings of a previous build, and the second time we’ve chosen to focus on the $2000 PC for those improvements. After all, we were incredibly impressed with the performance profile of the original, yet still saw some incredible opportunities for betterment.

Minor misgivings over things like the price of the case aside (it was a very nice case), the real issue was that we tried to get more value for our dollar by purchasing highly-overclockable D9KPT-based memory in a budget kit, only to find that the manufacturer had changed suppliers.

This time, we’d start with memory of guaranteed quality. But the increased price for memory would force us to scale back our case budget. We’d also ditch the overkill cooling fan for something that didn’t require management software to retain OSHA-compliant noise levels, and address the improvements AMD recently made to the enthusiast graphics market with a product released after our original system had been ordered.

$2000 Performance PC Components
 Alternative $2000 PCOriginal $2000 PC
MotherboardGigabyte X58A-UD3R: LGA 1366, Intel X58 Express, ICH10R
ProcessorIntel Core i7-950: 3.06 GHz, Quad-Core, Eight-threads
MemoryKingston KHX1600C7D3K3/6GX:
DDR3-1600 CAS 7, 6 GB
Mushkin 998586:
DDR3-1333 CAS 9, 6 GB
Graphics2 x Gigabyte GV-R687D5-1GD-B
1 GB Radeon HD 6870
2 x EVGA 012-P3-1470-AR
1.28 GB GeForce GTX 470
System Drive2 x A-Data S599 64 GB: SATA 3Gb/s MLC SSD
Storage DriveSamsung F3 HD103SJ: 1 TB, 7200 RPM HDD
OpticalLite-On iHBS212 BD-RE:
12x BD-R, 2x BD-RE, 16x DVD±R
Lite-On iHBS112 BD-RE:
12x BD-R, 2x BD-RE, 16x DVD±R
CaseCorsair Graphite Series 600TSilverStone Fortress FT02B
PowerSeasonic SS-850HT:
850 W, 80 PLUS Silver
SilverStone ST85F-P:
850 W, Modular, 80 PLUS Silver
Heat SinkProlimatech Megahalems Rev.B
CPU FanCooler Master R4-BMBS-20PK-R0 2000 RPM, 120 mmDelta AFC1212D-PWM 3400 RPM, 120 mm
Total Price$1920 $2000


Can this build provide better performance, lower cost, and more efficiency than the original? Let’s have a closer look.

Display 46 Comments.
  • 0 Hide
    dogman_1234 , December 27, 2010 4:15 AM
    Can't Wait untill Bulldozer and Sandy Brodge Editions come out. I know it sounds cliche but...
  • 2 Hide
    Tamz_msc , December 27, 2010 4:46 AM
    This is probably the best way of spending 2000$ for a PC.
  • 0 Hide
    hardcore_gamer , December 27, 2010 6:03 AM
    Performance / watt of this build is really impressive.
  • 5 Hide
    Anonymous , December 27, 2010 7:25 AM
    A price table for the new build would be nice too, so i can see how much would it cost when i remove the BD and Case.
  • -6 Hide
    gti88 , December 27, 2010 7:32 AM
    Tamz_mscThis is probably the best way of spending 2000$ for a PC.

    I don't think so, considering that cheaper and less power-hungry Sandy Bridge is coming.
  • 0 Hide
    scook9 , December 27, 2010 8:48 AM
    gti88I don't think so, considering that cheaper and less power-hungry Sandy Bridge is coming.

    You forgot weaker ;) 
  • -3 Hide
    scrumworks , December 27, 2010 9:19 AM
    Decent review but it seems that in nvidia setups, even the same CPUs can somehow overclock better. And the speed of RAM has negligible or no effect on overall system performance so no point tuning that component.
  • -2 Hide
    Luay , December 27, 2010 10:13 AM
    "Familiarity in overclocking and a third PCIe x16 graphics card slot that operates in x8 mode when occupied are two reasons why we chose the X58A-UD3R over the similarly-priced Asus Sabertooth X58."

    Ok, fine. Wouldn't hurt to familiarize anew with a better board and that 3rd slot wasn't used anyways. Megahalems over Noctua? Seasonic over Corsair AX? :( 

    Or was it last minute budget cuts to make it less than $2000?
  • 5 Hide
    nerrawg , December 27, 2010 11:37 AM
    scrumworksDecent review but it seems that in nvidia setups, even the same CPUs can somehow overclock better. And the speed of RAM has negligible or no effect on overall system performance so no point tuning that component.


    What do you mean, this was the same model processor but not the same one. They got a new one for this build - so how does that show that the graphics have anything to do with the overclock? If anything it says exactly what is stated in the article, that the overclockability of the i7 950 varies between each sample quite a margin.

    NVidia or for that matter AMD graphics have no effect on the CPU overclock.
  • 1 Hide
    Yuka , December 27, 2010 11:51 AM
    How does a Core i5 @~4.3Ghz or a Phenom II X6 @~4Ghz stack up against the Core i7? Well, that's using the same other components, 'cept RAM and MoBo :p 

    I'd like to know that.

    Cheers!
  • 2 Hide
    elbert , December 27, 2010 12:14 PM
    I would like to see an E5620 $2000 build. I suggest cutting 2 SSD to get this beast under $2000. Should win the gaming and CPU tests with no problem.
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819117234

    The ASUS Rampage III I understand works well with this server CPU.
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131666

    Due to the low multiplier on the E5620 we will need some highly OCing RAM. Would like have used the 2000 patriot but it breaks the budget.
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820104118

    Three AMD 6950's and it would be great to have a small scaling test. I would like to see what benefit the third card adds. I choose this GPU because many reviews say its the best FPS for the dollar.
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814102914

    Western Digital Caviar Black WD6401AALS 640GB.
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822136319

    ASUS black DVD burner.
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16827135204

    An Antec Three Hundred Illusion case.
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811129066

    Antec CP-850 850W. The PSU has only 4 PCI-E but the Sapphire's come with a 6 PIN to 4 PIN Power Cable and
    a 8-PIN to 4 PIN x2 Power Cable.
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817371024

    H&S Prolimatech Megahalems Rev.B.
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16835242001&Tpk=Prolimatech%20Megahalems%20Rev.B

    Build total $2000



    If you want to try for 4.8GHz change the CPU to an E5630, 2 X 6970's, and get the patriot 2000 RAM for a $2000 build.
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820220500
  • 3 Hide
    Anonymous , December 27, 2010 12:47 PM
    @ Luay: "Ok, fine. Wouldn't hurt to familiarize anew with a better board and that 3rd slot wasn't used anyways. Megahalems over Noctua? Seasonic over Corsair AX? :( "

    "better board"--clearly your opinion. That Gigabyte board is an excellent board.
    Megahalems: They liked the cooling performance of it with the 4.35MHz i7-950 and saw no reason to change. And it is to laugh at your "Seasonic over Corsair AX"--guess who builds the Corsair AX?
  • 0 Hide
    tapher , December 27, 2010 1:23 PM
    nerrawgWhat do you mean, this was the same model processor but not the same one. They got a new one for this build - so how does that show that the graphics have anything to do with the overclock? If anything it says exactly what is stated in the article, that the overclockability of the i7 950 varies between each sample quite a margin.NVidia or for that matter AMD graphics have no effect on the CPU overclock.


    This debate is easily enough resolved; pop the processor out of the original build and swap it into this build. See if it will overclock to the same degree in this configuration as it did the 1st. I'd like to know!
  • 0 Hide
    ScrewySqrl , December 27, 2010 1:45 PM
    YukaHow does a Core i5 @~4.3Ghz or a Phenom II X6 @~4Ghz stack up against the Core i7? Well, that's using the same other components, 'cept RAM and MoBo I'd like to know that.Cheers!


    Look at the june builds. The $2000PC there used a Phenom II X6 1055 and sorely disappointed.
  • 0 Hide
    jaquith , December 27, 2010 2:28 PM
    I've never been a CF {Crossfire} fan, and this build is just another illustration of SLI vs CF. As far as Delta - they offer excellent CFM BUT are EXTREMELY loud @ 46.5 dBA / 3400 RPM - therefore they MUST be run on a fan controller. Anything above >30 dBA is loud and annoying.
    CM R4-BMBS-20PK-R0 -> {76.8 CFM} 32 dBA / 2000 RPM
    Delta AFC1212D-PWM -> {113.11 CFM} 46.5 dBA / 3400 RPM

    Next, I also not a big fan of transverse mounted cases; thermal dynamically 'I get it' but the design pulls the more dusty ground air and the space is often cramped which defeats any advantages.

    I absolutely loath the GA-X58A-UD3R MOBO, and instead would have opted for either EVGA or ASUS. Example ASUS P6X58D-E.
  • 1 Hide
    youssef 2010 , December 27, 2010 2:34 PM
    articleSoft blue lighting accents both the front and the top fan, appearing bright only in contrast to the case’s black finish.


    The lighting of the case fans is white as stated on corsair's web site
  • 0 Hide
    youssef 2010 , December 27, 2010 2:43 PM
    gti88I don't think so, considering that cheaper and less power-hungry Sandy Bridge is coming.


    sandy bridge is a mainstream processor. Intel made it clear that their flagship will remain to be the i7 900 series. This makes sense as AMD still couldn't beat intel in raw performance.
  • 0 Hide
    g00fysmiley , December 27, 2010 3:11 PM
    nice build, i actually agree with using a new processor and hsowing how it can overclock to. it shows real world performance and how you shouldn't bank on your parts being able to do much mroe beyond stock. overclocking is a bonus, i myself do it, but if i buy a part and it operates at stock speeds fine well... to be fair that is really what i paid for so while it may impact me buying that companies products down the road i can't rma or complain much
  • -2 Hide
    Haiku214 , December 27, 2010 3:17 PM
    SB is a mainstream processor? Lol! Again, the i7 2600K will beat all the i7 900 CPUs except the $1000 6 core ones. So the i7 2600K will be faster than the i7 950 and below CPUs. Remember that it has 3.4 GHz quad core HT and the i7 950 only has 3.0 GHz stock clock. That in itself will make SB faster plus it should be around %10 faster clock per clock against nehalem.
  • 3 Hide
    tbhall77 , December 27, 2010 4:08 PM
    Any reason why Tom's Hardware doesn't make a public wishlist on newegg.com with each build and link it off the story? It'd benefit your sponsor as well as your readers interested in duplicating your efforts.
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