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

Hard Drive: Samsung Spinpoint F3 1 TB

With a Newegg price of only $75, Samsung’s model HD103SJ is amazingly inexpensive for a drive that frequently tops our high-capacity-drive performance comparisons.

Read Customer Reviews of Samsung's Spinpoint F3 1 TB

Other options, such as an array of smaller high-performance drives, would have eaten heavily into the budgets of other components, while only generating marginally better results (at best) in our final value analysis. Even faster SSD drives would have put an even bigger dent in system value, since our benchmarks focus on operational performance rather than launch times.

Optical Drive: Lite-On iHAS124

While we hate to leave modern media capabilities out of any high-end system, big price tags on graphics and memory left us only $85 to spend on an optical drive. Rather than fret over the loss of Blu-ray disc reading in our DVD writer, we looked for the best write-speed for the money.

Read Customer Reviews of Lite-On's iHAS124

Four things that made Lite-On’s iHAS124 stand out were its 24x rated writes (maximum), Lite-On’s reputation for having “real world” performance that more closely corresponds to its ratings, the firm’s reputation for dependability, and a low $19 price.

While we couldn’t find a better brand of drive for less than twice the iHAS124’s price, we might have spent an extra $1 to get LightScribe support in the iHAS224, had it been in stock when our order was placed.

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