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System Builder Marathon, June 2010: $2,000 Performance PC

A little market uncertainty isn’t going to prevent die-hard builders from pursuing their performance goals, but a closer look at the performance potential of lower-cost parts brought enormous increases in value. We saved many hundreds of dollars this month by not using a complex liquid-cooling configuration and associated parts, yet achieved acceptable CPU temperatures in spite of the higher voltage required to overclock this month’s less-accommodating CPU. We also saved several hundred dollars by eliminating the SSD drive array, sacrificing only our PCMark score in the conversion.

While the liquid-cooling system of March’s $3,000 build allowed its “too hot to overclock” graphics card to be pushed significantly beyond its stock settings, our current $2,000 build dissipates an even greater amount of heat by simply using two stock GPU coolers. And while the price of the previous system’s SSD drives made it less competitive in the final-value analysis, the only benchmark slowed by the single mechanical drive of this month’s machine—PCMark—is one we don’t even use in our value assessment.

Today’s $2,000 build is the closest thing to a pure competition machine as our System Builder Marathon has seen at the high end, as the only money we “wasted” on premium features was for the Blu-ray-reading capability of the optical drive. We even skipped the opportunity to add redundant storage—something this builder perceives as a must-have feature—simply because it increases costs without improving the performance of our real-world benchmark set.

In conclusion, this month’s $2,000 machine costs 38% less than its predecessor while providing 4% better overall performance and giving up very few features. That combination should make this machine particularly competitive in our SBM Day Four value comparison.

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