System Builder Marathon, March 2012: System Value Compared

Benchmark And Overclock Settings

Test Hardware Configurations
  $2600 Perfomance PC  $1300 Enthusiast PC  $650 Gaming PC 
Motherboard
(Overclock)
Asus P9X79 Pro:
LGA 2011, Intel X79 Express,
No BCLK O/C
ASRock P67 Pro3 SE:
LGA 1155, Intel P67 Express,
No BCLK O/C
Gigabyte GA-H61MA-D3V:
LGA 1155, Intel H61 Express,
No BCLK O/C
Processor
(Overclock)
Intel Core i7-3930K: 3.20 GHz,
Hexa-Core O/C at 1.38 V to 4.60 GHz
Intel Core i5-2400: 3.10 GHz,
Quad-Core
O/C at 1.19 V to 3.69 GHz
Intel Core i3-2120:
3.3 GHz Dual-Core, No O/C
Memory
(Overclock)
16 GB G.Skill DDR3-1600
CL 9-9-9-24,
O/C at 1.60 V to DDR3-1866
CL 9-10-9-16
8 GB Corsair DDR3-1600,
CL 7-9-8-24,
No DRAM O/C
4 GB Team Elite DDR3-1333
CL 9-9-9-24,
O/C at 1.60 V to DDR3-1333
CL 7-8-7-22
Graphics
(Overclock)
MSI R7970-2PMD3GD5/OC:
1010 MHz GPU,GDDR5-5500
O/C to 1100 MHz GDDR5-6000
PowerColor Radeon HD 7970:
975 MHz GPU, GDDR5-5500,
O/C to 1125 MHz GDDR5-6300
XFX Radeon HD 6950 1GB:
840 MHz GPU, GDDR5-5000,
O/C to 840 MHz GDDR5-5200
OpticalPioneer BDR-206DBKS 12x BD-RSamsung TS-H353C 16x DVD-ROMLG GH22NS90B 22x DVD±R
CaseAntec P280 Case w/Rosewill FansApevia X-Trooper JuniorRosewill FBM-01
CPU CoolerZalman CNPS12XCooler Master Hyper TX3Intel Boxed Heatsink
Hard DriveMushkin Chronos Deluxe 240 GB,
SATA 6Gb/s SSD
Crucial m4 64 GB,
SATA 6Gb/s SSD
Seagate ST500DM002,
0.5 TB SATA 6Gb/s HDD
PowerSeasonic SS-860XP:
860 W, ATX12V, 80 PLUS Platinum
Corsair CMPSU-650TXV2
650 W, 80 PLUS Bronze
Rosewill  Green RG630-S12:
630 W, 80 PLUS
Software
OSMicrosoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64
GraphicsAMD Catalyst Graphics 12.2
ChipsetIntel INF 9.2.0.1030Intel INF 9.2.0.1030


The most controversial component in the entire round-up could be the $1300 PC’s 64 GB SSD. Although performance numbers for the system drive are intended to represent general use, our benchmark image weighs in at around 80 GB. Moving data, such as our workload files, onto the secondary drive does allow our programs to fit within a 64 GB envelope, and it'd be easy to argue that a tiered storage subsystem is designed to split information up exactly like that. Even then, though, it’s hard to imagine that anyone would intentionally operate their system drive near its full capacity all the time.

The $2600 build had drive issues of a different kind: Intel’s enterprise-oriented RST drive slowed performance so much that we reverted to Windows 7’s default AHCI driver for the overclocked test.

Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
Battlefield 3Campaign Mode, "Going Hunting" 90-Seconds Fraps
Test Set 1: Medium Quality Defaults (No AA, 4x AF)
Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Defaults (4x AA, 16x AF)
DiRT 3V1.01, Run with -benchmark example_benchmark.xml
Test Set 1: High Quality Preset, No AA
Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Preset, 8x AA
Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimUpdate 1.4.27, Celedon Aethirborn Level 6, 25 Seconds Fraps
Test Set 1: DX11, High Details No AA, 8x AF, FXAA enabled
Test Set 2: DX11, Ultra Details, 8x AA, 16x AF, FXAA enabled
StarCraft IICustom map "Tom's Hardware Guide V2", 60 seconds Fraps
Test Set 1: High Details, High Quality
Test Set 2: Ultra Details, Extreme Quality
Audio/Video Encoding
iTunesVersion 10.4.1.10 x64: Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 minutes, default AAC format 
Lame MP3Version 3.98.3: Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 min, convert WAV to MP3 audio format, Command: -b 160 --nores (160 Kb/s)
HandBrake CLIVersion 0.95: "Big Buck Bunny" (720x480, 23.972 FPS) 5 Minutes, Audio: Dolby Digital, 48 000 Hz, Six-Channel, English, to Video: AVC Audio: AC3 Audio2: AAC (High Profile)
MainConcept ReferenceVersion: 2.2.0.5440: MPEG-2 to H.264, MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG-2), Audio: MPEG-2 (44.1 kHz, 2 Channel, 16-Bit, 224 Kb/s), Codec: H.264 Pro, Mode: PAL 50i (25 FPS), Profile: H.264 BD HDMV
Productivity
Adobe Photoshop CS5Version 12.1 x64: Filter 15.7 MB TIF Image: Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates
Autodesk 3ds Max 2012Version 14.0 x64: Space Flyby Mentalray, 248 Frames, 1440x1080
WinZipVersion 15.5 Pro: THG-Workload (650 MB) to ZIP, command line switches "-a -ez -p -r"
WinRARVersion 4.1: THG-Workload (650 MB) to RAR, command line switches "winrar a -r -m3"
7-ZipVersion 9.22: THG-Workload (650 MB) to .7z, command line switches "a -t7z -r -m0=LZMA2 -mx=5"
ABBYY FineReaderVersion 10.0.102.82: Read PDF save to Doc, Source: Political Economy (J. Broadhurst 1842) 111 Pages
Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
3DMark 11Version: 1.0.1.0, Benchmark Only
PCMark 7Version: 1.0.4 x64, System, Productivity, Hard Disk Drive benchmarks
SiSoftware Sandra 2011Version 2011.10.17.80, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / MultiMedia, Memory Test = Bandwidth Benchmark
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65 comments
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    Top Comments
  • Crashman
    iamauserTranslation: we don't actually stand behind any of these builds as being worthwhile to emulate.
    The $650 and $2600 PC builders loved their machines, it's just hard to recommend either of those to "everyone" or even "most people" since most of the readers really want $800-1200 machines.
    21
  • sonexpc
    Looks like $650 PC can do almost everything smoothly ! Even most of the game can get over 40fps...
    which is not bad... for Just $650 ...So the first piority for gaming PC is still the Video card!
    20
  • Crashman
    MMO fanIt's hard to recomend them because they just are not real good for the large outlay of cash as in the money could have been spent on better parts but instead was spent on "balancing" and pleasing the TH memebers.
    I'll explain this the way I did in your other $2600 PC comments. You're simply wrong. I can't help you understand why someone would want a PC that performs well in multiple areas. I can't help you understand why someone would want their PC to be quiet. I can't help you to understand why someone would want their PC to store more applications on the faster device. I can't help you to understand these things because you have already rejected them. Your prejudice excludes any "balanced" analysis.

    But at least you're fairly nice about it.
    19
  • Other Comments
  • sonexpc
    Looks like $650 PC can do almost everything smoothly ! Even most of the game can get over 40fps...
    which is not bad... for Just $650 ...So the first piority for gaming PC is still the Video card!
    20
  • MMO Fan
    nobody needs a $600 cpu
    -9
  • shoot you
    I always love seeing the System builder articles (even though I cant build one myself for now hahahaha).

    Great as always. It sad that the Nvidia GTX 680 has yet to be considered due to availability and pricing issues hehehehe.
    0
  • iamauser
    Translation: we don't actually stand behind any of these builds as being worthwhile to emulate.
    -12
  • Crashman
    iamauserTranslation: we don't actually stand behind any of these builds as being worthwhile to emulate.
    The $650 and $2600 PC builders loved their machines, it's just hard to recommend either of those to "everyone" or even "most people" since most of the readers really want $800-1200 machines.
    21
  • MMO Fan
    CrashmanThe $650 and $2600 PC builders loved their machines, it's just hard to recommend either of those to "everyone" or even "most people" since most of the readers really want $800-1200 machines.

    It's hard to recomend them because they just are not real good for the large outlay of cash as in the money could have been spent on better parts but instead was spent on "balancing" and pleasing the TH memebers.
    -13
  • Wave Fusion
    I'd love to build a PC with a beefy GPU someday.
    But coming from a notebook background, I more or less have to start from scratch.

    I can use my old mouse, and my TV as a monitor. But on top of the estimated build costs listed, I also need the OS, keyboard, and likely other misc. odds and ends.

    $200 ($100 OEM) for Windows 7 is brutal.

    I also don't want to waste time on a desktop that only has a GPU advantage over the notebook.
    Desktop upgrades over even a mobile i7 is still pricey.

    Since I know my 2720QM uses the same die as desktops; it'd be swell if I could just yank it out; plug it in a desktop board and call it a 2600k. In a desktop it wouldn't have to stay in a 45W TDP

    But.. *sigh*.. the parts are locked, the sockets don't match; and a real life desktop carbon copy of my notebook is out of my budget atm.
    --
    If I could find a way to attach a 7870 to my notebook motherboard, I wouldn't have a problem with the frankenstein-ish creation.

    The 6670 just doesn't cut it sometimes
    9
  • MMO Fan
    Wave FusionI'd love to build a PC with a beefy GPU someday.But coming from a notebook background, I more or less have to start from scratch.I can use my old mouse, and my TV as a monitor. But on top of the estimated build costs listed, I also need the OS, keyboard, and likely other misc. odds and ends.$200 ($100 OEM) for Windows 7 is brutal. I also don't want to waste time on a desktop that only has a GPU advantage over the notebook.Desktop upgrades over even a mobile i7 is still pricey.Since I know my 2720QM uses the same die as desktops; it'd be swell if I could just yank it out; plug it in a desktop board and call it a 2600k. In a desktop it wouldn't have to stay in a 45W TDPBut.. *sigh*.. the parts are locked, the sockets don't match; and a real life desktop carbon copy of my notebook is out of my budget atm.--If I could find a way to attach a 7870 to my notebook motherboard, I wouldn't have a problem with the frankenstein-ish creation.The 6670 just doesn't cut it sometimes

    Any Desktop CPU this side of C2Duo will substancially out perform any Laptop CPU
    -13
  • Crashman
    MMO fanIt's hard to recomend them because they just are not real good for the large outlay of cash as in the money could have been spent on better parts but instead was spent on "balancing" and pleasing the TH memebers.
    I'll explain this the way I did in your other $2600 PC comments. You're simply wrong. I can't help you understand why someone would want a PC that performs well in multiple areas. I can't help you understand why someone would want their PC to be quiet. I can't help you to understand why someone would want their PC to store more applications on the faster device. I can't help you to understand these things because you have already rejected them. Your prejudice excludes any "balanced" analysis.

    But at least you're fairly nice about it.
    19
  • MMO Fan
    CrashmanI'll explain this the way I did in your other $2600 PC comments. You're simply wrong. I can't help you understand why someone would want a PC that performs well in multiple areas. I can't help you understand why someone would want their PC to be quiet. I can't help you to understand why someone would want their PC to store more applications on the faster device. I can't help you to understand these things because you have already rejected them. Your prejudice excludes any "balanced" analysis.But at least you're fairly nice about it.

    7970 is more than "well" it is the best of the best and Fractal Design Define R3 is $100 or some $30 less than the P280 and performance better these two points I made are just for starters. If you will I could go on and build a far better machine for $2600 but you seem to think this TH $2600 "performance" build is the best when it is far from it.
    -10
  • InsaneScientist
    Anonymous said:
    Any Desktop CPU this side of C2Duo will substancially out perform any Laptop CPU


    You sure about that? That's a quad core Sandy Bridge CPU that can turbo up to 3.0GHz on all 4 cores...
    It's roughly equivalent to the desktop i5 2300, a chip that stomps nearly everything available for socket 1156 (Excepting only the highest end Lynnfields) and even half of the lineup for 1366, let alone any older stuff.

    Also, keep in mind that there is at least one cheap desktop CPU being sold today that a C2Duo will outperform.
    The Celeron G440 is a 1.6GHz (ouch), single core (double ouch) Sandy Bridge derived chip.
    My aging laptop's T7500 would eat that thing for lunch.


    While desktop chips are certainly more powerful than laptop chips on average, saying that they are all better is a bit disingenuous. ;)
    14
  • quixoticism
    Since the $1300 and $2600 systems have (essentially) the same video card spending the extra $600 on the cpu does absolutely nothing for gaming that is perceptively noticeable. When gpu bound they performed almost identically, with the $1300 O/C winning out with the better overclock.
    When not graphics bound both cpus deliver framerates well above smooth(70+) in every title.

    I was quite impressed with how much faster those 6 cores proved to be in the productivity segment. It's too bad we probably won't see 6 cores on the 1155 socket.
    3
  • Crashman
    MMO fan7970 is more than "well" it is the best of the best and Fractal Design Define R3 is $100 or some $30 less than the P280 and performance better these two points I made are just for starters. If you will I could go on and build a far better machine for $2600 but you seem to think this TH $2600 "performance" build is the best when it is far from it.
    You got me there, the Define R3 has similar performance for $30 less money and I chose the P280 instead. Perhaps USB 3.0 had something to do with it, or that I wanted a case with front panel ports accessible from the front. Or maybe I just thought it was too fat. Hmmm. But yeh, if I wanted to compromise on features and have a fatter case I could have saved $30.

    And Fractal does have good quality, I've nothing against the company. We even used them in a couple of our past builds and look forward to working with them on an upcoming story.
    9
  • agnickolov
    If I were to build a $2600 machine for gaming, I'd go with i7 2700K and Z68 and use the saved cash for a second video card. 2x Radeon 7950 would certainly outperform a single Radeon 7970. And now we also "have" the option of GeForce GTX 680 (sans that little availability nuisance...).
    0
  • Darkerson
    I know Id be pretty happy with any of those. Thanks for the comparisons and the builds in general.
    6
  • weatherdude
    Minor typo in the "Benchmark And Overclock Settings" page. In the $1300 Enthusiast PC column it says it uses a Powercolor Radeon HD 6970 for it's graphics. It should be the Radeon HD 7970 right? Yeah yeah I know, minor details that don't bother anybody but me.

    Anyways it's always fun to experiment in the SBM. Nice to see that gamble with the GPU in the $1300 payoff in gaming. Good stuff all around here. That chipset driver on the X79 though is somewhat worrying. Does it affect all SSD's? Although it doesn't affect me since the LGA 2011 platform is way out of my league...
    2
  • Anonymous
    Thanks for doing something different, Don. Continue the good work!
    I think that the $2600 build is a really intelligent and elegant solution, and furthermore, I think we should be all looking forward to June build with hopefully Ivy Bridge and more 28nm solutions at better prices!!
    2
  • Crashman
    weatherdudeMinor typo in the "Benchmark And Overclock Settings" page. In the $1300 Enthusiast PC column it says it uses a Powercolor Radeon HD 6970 for it's graphics. It should be the Radeon HD 7970 right?
    Fixed, thanks!
    1
  • de5_Roy
    good builds, nice articles as usual.
    i think i am the only one who's a bit bored because of the absence of an amd cpu in one of the builds. last quarter was very interesting with the $1200 pc's performance. i actually liked how the current $1250 pc's i5 2400 (4 core) kept up with last quarter's fx 6100 (6 cores) in productivity and apps and outperformed it despite it's hardware issues.
    this quarter it's just intel vs intel vs intel. cpus are less priority in gaming but higher priority in productivity and performance in apps which $1200 and $2500~ builds seem to focus on. i am just nitpicking because i don't find anything wrong with any of the builds. i am more or less okay with the part choices except the asrock p67 motherboard.
    i found the comments various people made on gtx 680 hilarious.
    7
  • SpadeM
    Even though I don't agree with every choice of components or how they're put to use (maybe a ramdisk for the 2600$ could have been fun to create) I do believe that no reader expects the builders to be all knowing and impartial when they pick their parts. We all have different esthetic tastes and prioritize functionality points on a case by case situation. That being said, looking forward to the next SBM, hope you guys deliver something crazy and don't play it safe :)
    1