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CPU And Graphics

System Builder Marathon, Sept. 2010: $2000 Performance PC

CPU: AMD Phenom II X6 1055T

Component cost is always important when building within a budget, but striking the perfect balance between game and application performance makes our choices even more challenging. Determined to have six physical cores in this month’s $2000 PC, we rejected Intel’s $900 Core i7-970 because it would eat into our graphics budget. Instead, we went with AMD.

Read Customer Reviews of AMD's Phenom II X6 1055T

Based on the same Thuban core as the more expensive “Black Edition” flagship model, AMD's Phenom II X6 1055T costs 1/3 less and is clocked at 5/6 the speed. Stock performance wasn’t a big factor in our decision, since we intend to overclock, and we hoped that this less-expensive model would offer similar overclocking capability using reference clock-, rather than multiplier-based, adjustments.

Graphics: 2 x MSI GeForce GTX 480 in SLI

Using Nvidia’s reference GPU cooler and clock speeds, MSI’s N480GTX-M2D15-B stood out on the day we bought it thanks to its low price and $30 mail-in rebate (per card). While we don’t use limited-time rebates in our budget calculations, that rebate might be enough to win over some readers.

Read Customer Reviews of MSI's GeForce GTX 480

While at least one of MSI’s competitors includes a mini-HDMI-to-HDMI monitor cable, MSI instead addresses the need for full-sized HDMI with a DVI-based adapter. Also included is a certificate for a free game, a 6-pin-to-8-pin power adapter, a passive DVI-to-VGA adapter, and a driver CD with MSI’s famed Afterburner overclocking utility.

Note that we ordered these cards before our recent test revealed that much of their performance potential is wasted at resolutions below 2560x1600. While the lucky winner of our SBM giveaway might use the excess capability of these cards in Surround gaming, the high price will definitely hurt this build at the lower resolutions used in our upcoming system value comparison.

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