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System Builder Marathon, June 2010: $1,000 Enthusiast PC

System Builder Marathon, June 2010: $1,000 Enthusiast PC
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System Builder Marathon, June 2010: The Articles

Here are links to each of the four articles in this month’s System Builder Marathon (we’ll update them as each story is published). And remember, these systems are all being given away at the end of the marathon.

To enter the giveaway, please check out this Google form, and be sure to read the complete rules before entering!

Day 1: The $2,000 Performance PC
Day 2: The $1,000 Enthusiast PC
Day 3: The $550 Gaming PC
Day 4: Performance And Value, Dissected

Introduction

We are always trying to squeeze more value out of our systems. But in some cases, we’ve allowed the budgetary targets of our system builder marathons (SBMs) to rise a little over time and in response to your very valuable feedback. With an eye toward bringing things back down to a reasonable level, we’re lowering the midrange enthusiast system’s budget down to $1,000 (from the previous marathon's $1,500).

There are a few routes we can choose when it comes to putting together an enthusiast-class system at this lower price point, but our main choice inevitably becomes: CPU or graphics muscle? While the previous $1,500 system sported dual Radeon HD 5850 cards in CrossFire and a Core i7 CPU, there’s no way we can squeeze that much power into our lower budget.

We’d like to see what happens when we invest the lion’s share of the budget in either the CPU or graphics subsystem. This time, we plan to do most of our spending on the graphics cards. Next time around, however, we'll switch our budgetary focus to the platform and CPU so that we can measure the difference in results.

With a $500 deficit compared to our last SBM, equal performance is simply not in the cards. But we do hope that overclocking the $1,000 machine will bring us within spitting distance of the $1,500 system’s stock numbers. We’ll have to wait until the benchmarks to see if this is an attainable goal. And it's certainly reasonable to expect the performance per dollar to land in-line with last quarter.

Here are the components we chose at our lowered budgetary target:

$1,000 Enthusiast System Components
MotherboardMSI 790X-G45 AM3
Chipset: AMD 790X
$100
ProcessorPhenom II X3 720 Black Edition 2.8 GHz
  3Cores, 6MB L3 Cache (OEM)
$90
CPU Cooler
Cooler Master HyperTX 3
$20
MemoryCrucial 4GB (2x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3-1333
Dual-Channel Desktop Memory Kit
$112
Graphics2 x Radeon HD 5830 (CrossFireX)
1GB GDDR5-4000 Per Card
$480
Hard DrivesWD Caviar Blue 320GB
320GB, 7,200 RPM, 8MB Cache SATA 3.0 Gb/s
$48
OpticalLite-On iHas124
24x DVD+R, 8x DVD+RW, 48x CD ROM
$23
CaseAntec Three Hundred
$60
PowerCorsair CMPSU-650TX 650W
ATX12V, EPS12V , 80-Plus Certified
$90
 Total Current Cost$1,023


Yes, we went $23 over. When we placed our order, there was a combo deal that saved us some money in buying the case and the hard drive together. Unfortunately, that deal is no longer in effect. Nevertheless, we'll stand by these choices in the interest of our little experiment...

Display all 95 comments.
Top Comments
  • 26 Hide
    alikum , June 16, 2010 6:19 AM
    When you say SBM: Enthusiast System, I am expecting this to be more than just another gaming rig. You may have your own reason for sticking to a Phenom II x3 720 and HD5830 crossfire but I believe a Phenom II x4 955 and HD5770 crossfire would make more sense or more well-balanced (instead of trying your luck by unlocking cores). In fact, we could also grab a HD5870 and downgrade our mobo a little and that would make a truly well balanced enthusiast system.
  • 25 Hide
    adbat , June 16, 2010 6:37 AM
    I find it surprising that you are always successful in unlocking the 4th core
  • 17 Hide
    Crashman , June 16, 2010 6:47 AM
    one-shotIt would have been nice to see the PII X6 1055T with a moderate downgrade in GPUs to afford the higher cost of CPU and motherboard. The i7 embarrasses the PII X3.
    If you're going to make this about i7, you can point to the $2000 system and I can point out the 100% price difference. Do you really think the $2000 system is "more" than 100% better?
Other Comments
  • 26 Hide
    alikum , June 16, 2010 6:19 AM
    When you say SBM: Enthusiast System, I am expecting this to be more than just another gaming rig. You may have your own reason for sticking to a Phenom II x3 720 and HD5830 crossfire but I believe a Phenom II x4 955 and HD5770 crossfire would make more sense or more well-balanced (instead of trying your luck by unlocking cores). In fact, we could also grab a HD5870 and downgrade our mobo a little and that would make a truly well balanced enthusiast system.
  • 2 Hide
    manitoublack , June 16, 2010 6:29 AM
    I'm with one-shot, 6core AMD for $200 can't be beat.
  • 7 Hide
    one-shot , June 16, 2010 6:30 AM
    It would have been nice to see the PII X6 1055T with a moderate downgrade in GPUs to afford the higher cost of CPU and motherboard. The i7 embarrasses the PII X3.
  • 25 Hide
    adbat , June 16, 2010 6:37 AM
    I find it surprising that you are always successful in unlocking the 4th core
  • 3 Hide
    IzzyCraft , June 16, 2010 6:37 AM
    not a fan of the 5830's or the 720 cpu choice is all.

    Would have rather seen a dual 5770's or a 5870 with a i5-750 or a 955

    games more and more are using cpu for doing things. I also tend to use a comp for other things more then games.
  • 15 Hide
    Tamz_msc , June 16, 2010 6:38 AM
    A phenom II 955 BE:160$+2 Xfx hd 5770sfor320$+GIGABYTE GA-890GPA-UD3H for 140$=620$ would certainly have been a better choice than your 670$ for CPU+GPU+mobo.
  • 0 Hide
    Tamz_msc , June 16, 2010 6:39 AM
    Tamz_mscA phenom II 955 BE:160$+2 Xfx hd 5770s for 320$+GIGABYTE GA-890GPA-UD3H for 140$=620$ would certainly have been a better choice than your 670$ for CPU+GPU+mobo.

  • -1 Hide
    The Lady Slayer , June 16, 2010 6:43 AM
    A Thermaltake V3 instead of the Antec 300 would have saved you $15
  • 1 Hide
    manitoublack , June 16, 2010 6:45 AM
    adbatI find it surprising that you are always successful in unlocking the 4th core

    I've succeeded in unlocking cores in 3 out of 3 tries, but the point stands, buy the processor you want right off the bat. Imagine if it were a dud. 1055T is the only AMD processor on the market worth thinking about.
  • 17 Hide
    Crashman , June 16, 2010 6:47 AM
    one-shotIt would have been nice to see the PII X6 1055T with a moderate downgrade in GPUs to afford the higher cost of CPU and motherboard. The i7 embarrasses the PII X3.
    If you're going to make this about i7, you can point to the $2000 system and I can point out the 100% price difference. Do you really think the $2000 system is "more" than 100% better?
  • -2 Hide
    one-shot , June 16, 2010 6:58 AM
    CrashmanIf you're going to make this about i7, you can point to the $2000 system and I can't point out the 100% price difference. Do you really think the $2000 system is "more" than 100% better?


    This isn't about i7, but rather a better CPU choice. I would rather point to the $1500 system that the current system is being compared to. The $2000 system is twice the price, hardly comparable to a $1000 system. We both know there are marginal gains the higher the system cost is. In the graph above, it says September 2010, but I'm going to assume it was a misprint intended to be September 2009. Even so, prices have changed in that time frame.

    From the stock speeds of the June 2010 $1000 SBM, to the overclocked $1500 September 2009 SBM, one can see the large difference in performance for a relatively small increase in price. Even the overclocked speeds of each system leave a lot to be desired from the PII X3 system. However, another i7 build would be more of the same. It would be nice to see something different rather than two powerful GPUs limited by a slower CPU.
  • 6 Hide
    Crashman , June 16, 2010 7:19 AM
    one-shotFrom the stock speeds of the June 2010 $1000 SBM, to the overclocked $1500 September 2009 SBM, one can see the large difference in performance for a relatively small increase in price. Even the overclocked speeds of each system leave a lot to be desired from the PII X3 system. However, another i7 build would be more of the same. It would be nice to see something different rather than two powerful GPUs limited by a slower CPU.
    I probably would have started the list with a n X6 1055T, but I can appreciate Don's desire to save money for graphics. Were gaming my overwhelming concern, I would have angered everyone by picking an i3-530 for its overclocking capability. Either way, I wouldn't characterize the X3 720 as an embarrassment.
  • -5 Hide
    digiex , June 16, 2010 7:22 AM
    That's a whooping 48,000 pesos in the Philippines, I could build a more powerful rig with locally available parts.
  • 5 Hide
    requiemsallure , June 16, 2010 7:37 AM
    i5-750 or the 955 (as mentioned in another post)is where you should have gone unless you want hyper threading, in which case i recommend the i7-930 though it costs a bit more total system-wise, i would have been able to do it), or the 1055T (even if it doesn't have HT 6 physical cores is as good in my opinion, especially for the price.)
    also i would have gotten the Seagate 7200.12 500GB you can find it for 42 and free shipping. my system that im building now (bought 4 JUNE)

    specs:
    Phenom II x4 955
    ASRock 870 Extreme 3 (allows for xfire on a 870 board)
    Sapphire 5770
    OCZ platinum DDR3 1333 7-7-7-20
    Xigmatek Midgard
    $20 optical drive
    Antec EarthWatts 650W 80Plus
    Seagate 7200.12 500GB
    Total: $742

    If i added another 5770 would perform simmiler and even if i added another 5770 it would only cost $890, at that price you could also add in a good air cooler, and more fans for the excellent case i got. and i would only be at $960, oh i forgot to mention that the price includes the operating system, if i take that out (since it isn't included in the system builder marathon) the price is actually $870 for everything mentioned.

    i received discounts from combos and searching Google shopping, and came up with a savings of about $210 on this system.
  • 4 Hide
    kiren , June 16, 2010 8:04 AM
    I really can't see why they always stick to high end crossfire and skimp on the CPU either, at $1,000 it simply doesn't make sense to me to have anything less than a Phenom II x4(or x6) or an i5-750. I'd much rather see a slightly higher end single card, or 5770's if you really insist on crossfire to make up the price difference. Then again I do a fair amount of CPU-intensive things and have yet to want to play anything that didn't run fine on my 8800GT imo, so maybe I'm biased.
  • 14 Hide
    Crashman , June 16, 2010 8:56 AM
    jetbruceliI built one for under a thousand amd x6 1055tGTX 470700 w Corsairhaf9224gb 1333gigabyte 870dvd rw asusand 500 gb 7200rpm and this beats this system by a huge margin
    How does it do that?
  • 4 Hide
    doron , June 16, 2010 8:59 AM
    Brilliant build man! Stellar performance for the money!
    And while I wouldn't let myself build such a potent system without front fans or with this puny hdd the temperatures were in check and hdd isn't tested much here so these sacrifices are acceptable considering the circumstances.
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