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System Builder Marathon, June 2010: System Value Compared

System Builder Marathon, June 2010: System Value Compared
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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 $500 Gaming PC
Day 4: Performance And Value, Dissected

Introduction

Market levels are defined by enthusiasts just as much as manufacturers, since different buyers have completely different needs.

While a high-end office PC might have a super-fast processor and terabytes of storage, a similarly-priced gaming system forgoes the expensive CPU and hard drives in favor of graphics power. Funnily enough, then it gets labeled “mid-priced.”

Tom’s Hardware usually favors across-the-board performance, yet graphics cards are so expensive that these often consume the budgets of otherwise well-balanced systems. When 3D games are included in the list of tasks a computer is meant to perform, we’ve found that $500, $1,000, and $2,000 are roughly the entry points for low-cost, mid-priced, and high-end markets.

While our previous System Builder Marathon targeted market midpoints, this month we’ve decided to forgo unnecessary expenditure and aim directly for the highest performance-per-dollar each builder could achieve. As is the case with most real-world builds, our $500, $1,000, and $2,000 budgets were secondary targets that we attempted to align, while aiming primarily for the best performance value within our selected markets.

March 2010 System Builder Marathon Components 
 $550 PC$1,000 PC$2,000 PC
MotherboardAsus M4A77TD
Chipset: AMD 770/SB710
MSI 790X-G45
Chipset: AMD 790X/SB710
Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R
Chipset: Intel X58-Express
ProcessorAMD Athlon II X3 435 2.9 GHz
Three Cores, 1.5MB L2 Cache
AMD Phenom II X3 720 BE
Three Cores, 6MB L3 Cache
Intel Core i7-930 2.80 GHz
Four Cores, 8MB L3 Cache
MemoryCrucial DDR3-1333 CAS 9
2 x 1GB (2GB Total)
Crucial DDR3-1333 CAS 9
2 x 2GB (4GB Total)
Crucial DDR3-1333 CAS 9
3 x 2GB (6GB Total)
GraphicsPowerColor AX5770 1GBD5-H
1GB GDDR5-4800 at 128-bits
Radeon HD 5770 GPU at 800 MHz
2 x Gigabyte GV-R583UD-1GD
1GB GDDR5-4000 at 256-bits
Radeon HD 5830 GPU at 800 MHz
2 x Gigabyte GV-N470D5-13I-B
2 x 1.28GB GDDR5-3482
607 MHz GTX 470 GPU
Hard DriveSamsung HD502HJ
500MB, SATA 3Gb/s
7,200 RPM, 16MB Cache
Western Digital WD3200AAJS
320GB, SATA 3Gb/s
7,200 RPM, 8MB Cache
Samsung HD103SJ
1TB, SATA 3Gb/s
7,200 RPM, 32MB Cache
OpticalSamsung SH-S223C
22x DVD±R, 48X CD-R
Lite-On iHAS124
24x DVD±R, 48X CD-R
Lite-On iHES208-08
8x BD-ROM, 16X DVD±R
CaseCooler Master Elite 330Antec Three HundredAntec Three Hundred Illusion
PowerCM RS-500-PCAR-A3
500W, Dual 12V at 18A
Corsair CMPSU-650TX
650W, Single 12V at 52A
SilverStone DA750
750W Modular, 80-Plus Silver
CPU CoolerCooler Master Hyper TX3Cooler Master Hyper TX3Prolimatech
Megahalems Rev.B
CPU FanIncluded with coolerIncluded with coolerScythe SY1225SL12LM-P
Total Cost $545  $1,023  $1,808


Our recent move into DirectX 11 gaming convinced $500 system builder Paul Henningsen to rename his project the “$550” machine, with a newer graphics card that would allow these titles to be played natively at his target 1680x1050 resolution.

Our $2,000 PC looks a little light at the other end of the pricing scale, simply because the elaborate storage solutions familiar to the high-end market have a negligible impact on the benchmarks we use to determine value.

Display all 44 comments.
  • 6 Hide
    manitoublack , June 18, 2010 6:15 AM
    Another great SBM. Goodluck to US Punters who get the chance to win theses systems. Look forward to the next round where Graphics hardware will take a step out of the lime light.
  • 0 Hide
    wildeast , June 18, 2010 6:23 AM
    marry me tom's :D 
  • 3 Hide
    touchdowntexas13 , June 18, 2010 6:31 AM
    It's interesting to see the performance/dollar shoot up for the $2000 pc when it comes to games. That just goes to show you how much of the budget went into graphics muscle. These machines were definitely built with gaming in mind.
  • 0 Hide
    Crashman , June 18, 2010 7:14 AM
    touchdowntexas13It's interesting to see the performance/dollar shoot up for the $2000 pc when it comes to games. That just goes to show you how much of the budget went into graphics muscle. These machines were definitely built with gaming in mind.

    Yes, the only way to smash those benchmarks is with a faster CPU (2/3 of tests) or graphics (1/3 of tests). The problem with upgrading the CPU is that the 980X would cost 50% of the total budget. We haven't seen a big improvement in overclocking by using a higher-model quad-core i7
  • 3 Hide
    touchdowntexas13 , June 18, 2010 7:26 AM
    CrashmanYes, the only way to smash those benchmarks is with a faster CPU (2/3 of tests) or graphics (1/3 of tests). The problem with upgrading the CPU is that the 980X would cost 50% of the total budget. We haven't seen a big improvement in overclocking by using a higher-model quad-core i7


    Oh no I wasn't suggesting at all that you should have gone with a 980X for the $2000 build. That's way too expensive for a $2000 limit. The 930 does it's job just fine.

    It just amazed me that two 470's in SLI were able to best the performance/dollar of the cheaper builds. Typically you see diminishing gains as you get into the more expensive components.

    It was a very interesting set of articles any way you look at it. Gamers on a budget should especially be interested in this SBM.
  • 0 Hide
    Crashman , June 18, 2010 7:55 AM
    touchdowntexas13It just amazed me that two 470's in SLI were able to best the performance/dollar of the cheaper builds. Typically you see diminishing gains as you get into the more expensive components.
    I was pretty amazed too, but I really want to give credit to $1000 PC builder Don for making the GTX 470 SLI suggestion for the $2000 machine. Spot on Don!
  • 3 Hide
    Tamz_msc , June 18, 2010 8:46 AM
    Overall this month's SBM was good, especially the scalability of the 470s was brought into prominence.Though overclocking those in SLI is certainly not a viable option, unless one steals power from the Hoover Dam.
  • -6 Hide
    Willroo , June 18, 2010 9:20 AM
    Did anyone notice that the 858w microwave has a power supply rated for 750w.....sizzle.....pop.....anyone smell smoke...? Running f@h on that machine the power company would have to burn a ton of coal a day and you'd get threat mail from them when you cause a brown out. Ah....But all those PPD.
  • 4 Hide
    Onus , June 18, 2010 9:56 AM
    Interesting. Based on a previous article, an Athlon II X2 440 wouldn't be enough to let the 470s in SLI stretch out; I wonder what the minimum CPU there would be.
    AND, since many of us found problems in these builds, if those were "fixed" (possibly costing more), those results would be useful too.
    Lots of good information in this SBM round. Very nice.
  • 3 Hide
    Crashman , June 18, 2010 10:58 AM
    WillrooDid anyone notice that the 858w microwave has a power supply rated for 750w.....sizzle.....pop.....anyone smell smoke...? Running f@h on that machine the power company would have to burn a ton of coal a day and you'd get threat mail from them when you cause a brown out. Ah....But all those PPD.

    Silverstone says it outputs 77 to 80% of what you input. That's 670W of power output at 858W power input. It's rated at 750W continuous power output, but don't let the facts get in the way of a rant, eh?
  • 0 Hide
    dirtmountain , June 18, 2010 11:53 AM
    Nice work on all the builds with some interesting choices. I would never have thought that a 1,000w power supply would really be needed for those 470s. I enjoyed reading about every build, nice work by the SBM crew.
  • 1 Hide
    Onus , June 18, 2010 12:51 PM
    I'd like to win any of these. The first just needs a quality PSU, then I'd give it to a family member. If I won one of the others, I'd probably do some parts swapping with my current system(s), keeping the result as my primary system and giving the other one to a family member, and would likely have a GPU left over for another system.
  • 1 Hide
    Otus , June 18, 2010 1:16 PM
    Quote:
    Moreover, the shockingly power-hungry $2,000 overclocked system offers a similarly-surprising 95% efficiency rating compared to our $550 baseline.


    Image says 84%, which is rather less surprising.
  • -5 Hide
    Poisoner , June 18, 2010 2:06 PM
    Okay, we know Fermi uses a lot of power, big deal. So does the 4870. Damn Fermi jokes are already played out more than "Can it play Crysis?"
  • 2 Hide
    shovenose , June 18, 2010 2:13 PM
    i think the psu choices are a bit odd. the $550 needs a better psu, and the $2000 needs a bigger psu of the same quality...
    but they are great otherwise!
  • 1 Hide
    EnderYeah , June 18, 2010 4:03 PM
    I love these system builder marathon articles! Keep up the great work!
  • 0 Hide
    ta152h , June 18, 2010 4:11 PM
    I'm still not sure the 720BE is tested right. Unlocking a core could be completely misleading for someone buying the CPU, because they might not be so lucky, and then are going to be disappointed. It might be more meaningful if the core wasn't used. It's also a little scary running one since CPUs don't always fail dramatically, and sometimes just failed a small test that might not reveal itself for a while, and give bad results later on. I'm not that comfortable with that.

    But, perhaps more importantly, the 720BE might overclock better were it not for using the "bad" core. It's not that including the extra core results are so bad, but I think including the results without the core would have been very meaningful as well.

    It's almost contradictory to say you may or may not unlock a core, so beware, and then not include results in the event you can't unlock the core. Even with the uncertainty with CPUs in terms of overclockability, this adds more than is necessary.
  • 0 Hide
    rutoojinn , June 18, 2010 5:32 PM
    This SBM mainly the budget gaming system is great, shows you don't have to break the bank to get a pretty adequate gaming system. Of course it is hard to please everyone at every level but this one did a decent job. I would also like to see the 5770 in crossfire and how that performs and hopefully the Nvidia GTX460 will be out for testing also.
  • 2 Hide
    Pei-chen , June 18, 2010 5:48 PM
    I normally support Intel and Nvidia but I gotta say this test isn't fair. 5830 is the worst value in AMD/ATI's line up while 470 is Nvidia's best value.

    The $1000 would have a clear lead over the $2000 machine if it is paired with two 5770 or 5850.
  • -4 Hide
    misha87 , June 18, 2010 5:59 PM
    i have a pc that almost like about 700$ it is a quad core and it is even better than the 1000$ dollar one it is faster
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