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

CPU And Graphics

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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    Top Comments
  • Folks,
    Please bear in mind that the choices for these System Builder Marathon systems are often the product of reader feedback. We do three or four Intel-based builds in a row and everyone starts asking why we're not giving AMD a chance to shine. This quarter, Thomas wanted to address those comments.
    The next two builds will come over the next two days--that's why we call it a marathon ;)
    Thanks all!
    Chris
    26
  • Big CPU fail. I love your honesty, good one Tom's! Nice try nevertheless. Keep it up!
    25
  • Love the case choice everything else is pretty much can't really hate it or love it, but i mean you can't really hate any of the parts when they cost that much as they are all good but some just not right for some jobs.
    I do not care for AMD and SLI just because you'll be using an nvidia chipset and my past experiences with them have been poor.
    I also do not care for 6 cores for games although i mostly use my computer for other things which may like those 6 cores, but i don't find too many uses for 2 480's outside of gaming.

    Hopefully the next one will be one i can't help but agree with, A i5-750/760 with 2 460's in sli :D
    22
  • Other Comments
  • Love the case choice everything else is pretty much can't really hate it or love it, but i mean you can't really hate any of the parts when they cost that much as they are all good but some just not right for some jobs.
    I do not care for AMD and SLI just because you'll be using an nvidia chipset and my past experiences with them have been poor.
    I also do not care for 6 cores for games although i mostly use my computer for other things which may like those 6 cores, but i don't find too many uses for 2 480's outside of gaming.

    Hopefully the next one will be one i can't help but agree with, A i5-750/760 with 2 460's in sli :D
    22
  • This month's SBM is forgettable.It confirms that AMD+SLI = BIG fail.
    15
  • A better option( without sacrificing GTX 480 SLI) in my opinion is:
    Core i7 950 (add 100$)
    GIGABYTE GA-X58A-UD3R (add 50$)
    GSkill 6GB RAM(subtract 70$)
    8
  • Big CPU fail. I love your honesty, good one Tom's! Nice try nevertheless. Keep it up!
    25
  • The lesson here? AMD hexacores are still the best value on the market, but is still unable to keep up with the i7 in overall performance clock for clock. It's sadly not the best choice in high end systems, but it still wont stop me from recomending it to friends interested in sub-$1000 systems.
    14
  • I dont like systems Based on AMD's chipset
    -25
  • With Sandybridge and Bulldozer just right around the corner I don't think that it makes any sense to build right now with current (especially CPU + motherboard)components.
    -13
  • jj463rdWith Sandybridge and Bulldozer just right around the corner I don't think that it makes any sense to build right now with current (especially CPU + motherboard)components.

    Maybe not...this system was built a couple months ago.
    3
  • Love the honesty. I think this is just shows that a MUCH cheaper AMD chip ($700 less) is close but not quite in true competition with the top of the line Intel chip. I'll stick to my AMD chips because I am not made of money.

    Again, I love the honesty and straight talk TH brings with these bi-monthly features that give system builders a real idea about performance and cost-effective parts.
    21
  • I really do value the AMD Hex vs Intel, 6 cores is already cutting edge and 12 threads is going beyond a desktop computer for this year atleast.
    2
  • Good article, you never know how some things will work out until you try them. Kudos to Mr. Soderstrom for putting a different build together and not sticking to the same old pattern.
    22
  • If you looked at Tom's best CPU for the money every month. The tier list at the end of the articles shows what tier the AMD x6 is at. Basically an i5 750 or 760 cpu is ranked higher than the Phoenom II x6 cpu. They are basically the same price around $200. So around that price range it just depends which brand you would go for. I prefer the i5 and this months set up I appreciate what Tom tried to do.
    9
  • sassan_88I dont like systems Based on AMD's chipset

    As opposed to Nvidia's chipset of which many in the past few years are well known for their overheating and failing? I've had an 8200m fail on me completely. My friend had his 6150 in his notebook overheat so badly his battery was at less than max capacity within a year (from heat exposure).
    The only good ones have been the 6100 and the 7xxx series.
    -1
  • 8 GB of RAM is still excessive...
    -4
  • well, all the adds i see for the amd six cores read "our six or their four?". I think a 1055 should be tested against a Hyperthreaded quad, and a non hyperthreaded quad. that would be an interesting test
    2
  • What is with the AMD chip in this machine? I would have thought that a CoreI7 chip would have been a better choice!
    -9
  • Stardude828 GB of RAM is still excessive...

    I would actually like to see a small article on RAM usage on a PC during various uses and scenarios and to show where more RAM or faster RAM would be more beneficial.
    15
  • They are only showing the $2000 computer? What about the $500 and $1000 one?
    -14
  • Just plain stupid choice of components, don't blame AMD.Why didn't you choose single Radeon 5970 and 1090T,even with 8 gigs of RAM.
    -11
  • Folks,
    Please bear in mind that the choices for these System Builder Marathon systems are often the product of reader feedback. We do three or four Intel-based builds in a row and everyone starts asking why we're not giving AMD a chance to shine. This quarter, Thomas wanted to address those comments.
    The next two builds will come over the next two days--that's why we call it a marathon ;)
    Thanks all!
    Chris
    26