System Builder Marathon, Sept. 2011: $2000 Performance PC

Test Settings And Benchmarks

Test Hardware Configurations
 Q3 $2000 PCQ2 $2000 PC
Motherboard
(Overclock)
Gigbyte Z68XP-UD3
LGA 1155, Intel Z68 Express
102 MHz BCLK
ASRock Z68 Extreme4
LGA 1155, Intel Z68 Express
100.1 MHz BCLK
Processor
(Overclock)
Intel Core i7-2600K
3.40 GHz, Four Physical Cores
O/C to to 4.48 GHz, 1.36 V
Intel Core i7-2600K
3.40 GHz, Four Physical Cores
O/C to to 4.70 GHz, 1.38 V
Memory
(Overclock)
8 GB G.Skill DDR3-1866
CAS 9-10-9-28, O/C at 1.60 V
to DDR3-1901 CL 9-10-9-16
8 GB G.Skill DDR3-1600
CAS 8-8-8-24, O/C at 1.60 V
to DDR3-1602 CL 8-8-8-24
Graphics
(Overclock)
2 x EVGA 015-P3-1580-AR: 772 MHz GPU,  GDDR5-4008
No O/C
2 x MSI R6970-2PM2D2GD5: 880 MHz GPU,  GDDR5-5500
O/C to 950 MHz, GDDR5-5800
OpticalLite-On iHAS224-06 24x/8x DVD±R/RWLG WH10LS30 BD-RE: 10x BD-R, 16x DVD±R
CaseAntec Three Hundred IllusionLian-Li PC-9F
CPU CoolerCooler Master Hyper 212 PlusXigmatek Gaia SD1283
Hard DriveAdata S511 120 GB, SATA 6Gb/s SSD2 x Adata S599 SSD, Striped: 64 GB x2 (128 GB Combined)
PowerSeasonic SS-850HT: 850 W, ATX12V v2.31, 80 PLUS Silver
Software
OSMicrosoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64
GraphicsNvidia GeForce 280.26AMD Catalyst 11.5
ChipsetIntel INF 9.2.0.1030


Our previous $2000 build sets the baseline for today’s performance analysis.

Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
CrysisPatch 1.2.1, DirectX 10, 64-bit executable, benchmark tool
Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA
Test Set 2: Very High Quality, 8x AA
F1 2010V1.01, Run with -benchmark example_benchmark.xml
Test Set 1: High Quality Preset, No AA
Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Preset, 8x AA
Just Cause 2Version 1.0.0.2, Built-In Benchmark "Concrete Jungle"
Test Set 1: Medium Details, No AA, 8x AF
Test Set 2: Highest Details, 8x AA, 16x AF
Metro 2033Full Game, Built-In Benchmark, "Frontline" Scene
Test Set 1: DX11, High, AAA, 4x AF, No PhysX, No DoF
Test Set 2: DX11, Very High, 4x AA, 16x AF, No PhysX, DoF On
Audio/Video Encoding
iTunesVersion 9.0.3.15 x64: Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 minutes, default AAC format 
Lame MP3Version 3.98.3: Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 min, convert WAV to MP3 audio format, Command: -b 160 --nores (160 Kb/s)
Handbrake CLIVersion 0.94: "Big Buck Bunny" (720x480, 23.972 FPS) 5 Minutes, Audio: Dolby Digital, 48 000 Hz, Six-Channel, English, to Video: AVC Audio: AC3 Audio2: AAC (High Profile)
MainConcept ReferenceVersion: 2.0.0.1555: MPEG-2 to H.264, MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG-2), Audio: MPEG-2 (44.1 kHz, 2 Channel, 16-Bit, 224 Kb/s), Codec: H.264 Pro, Mode: PAL 50i (25 FPS), Profile: H.264 BD HDMV
Productivity
Adobe Photoshop CS5Version 12.0 x64: Filter 15.7 MB TIF Image: Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates
Autodesk 3ds Max 2010Version 12.0 x64: Space Flyby Mentalray, 248 Frames, 1440x1080
WinZipVersion 14.0 Pro: THG-Workload (464 MB) to ZIP, command line switches "-a -ez -p -r"
WinRARVersion 4.0 Beta 4: THG-Workload (464 MB) to RAR, command line switches "winrar a -r -m3"
7-ZipVersion 9.2: THG-Workload (464 MB) to .7z, command line switches "a -t7z -r -m0=LZMA2 -mx=5"
ABBYY FineReaderVersion 10.0.102.82: Read PDF save to Doc, Source: Political Economy (J. Broadhurst 1842) 111 Pages
Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
3DMark 11Version: 1.0.1.0, Benchmark Only
PCMark 7Version: 1.0.4 x64, System, Productivity, Hard Disk Drive benchmarks
SiSoftware Sandra 2011Version 2011.1.17.15, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / MultiMedia, Memory Test = Bandwidth Benchmark
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120 comments
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    Top Comments
  • anonymous x
    decembermousePoor case decision. Inadequate PSU (did you seriously expect good overclocking results?).

    No, this case cools better than many (most?) cases more expensive than it. 2x 120mm intake is more than adequate for SLI cards with room for air to flow between them. Did you even look at the power consumption numbers? The system when overclocked only consumed 697w at load from the wall (actual consumption is less), while the PSU is rated at 850w.
    15
  • cangelini
    iam2thecroweand also, there is no crysis 2 benchmark? why not? get some newer games to use for benching toms please.


    Check out Scott Wasson's excellent story about Crysis 2 on The Tech Report. Tons of artificial geometry to favor Nvidia's tessellation-emphasizing architecture. Not sure that's something we want to fold into our benchmark suite. We are looking at new games, but bear in mind that as soon as we ditch these, we kill the comparison points from the previous quarter. That's why you don't see the SBMs shift benchmark suites as often!
    12
  • Other Comments
  • wrazor
    Great article. I am wondering, if instead you had gone with the EVGA 3GB GTX 570 SLI, maybe OC would have been possible? 2000$ is quite a bit of money. I wonder how these babies would hold out for Nvidia's 3D experience? Personally I am not a big 3D fan in theatres(headache and stuff), but gaming has to have a chance. You had an article on projectors gaming experience? Do it with 3d performance\eyefinity with the system marathon builds? That would be really cool. :)
    4
  • Yargnit
    I'm actually surprised that after the recent micro-stutter article you didn't opt for 3x 570's/6950's/6970's instead of 2x 580's. the First two should be cheaper than 2x 580's, while the third would cost very similarly.

    All three should have provided at least equal performance, and been better on intangible benefits to micro stuttering.
    -1
  • DjEaZy
    ... a bit of stagnation in performance department... no big difference in Q2 and Q3 models... gonna wait til bulldozer...
    -1
  • decembermouse
    Poor case decision. Inadequate PSU (did you seriously expect good overclocking results?). Nice graphics, but severely limited by the other components. Hence, "nice graphics" doesn't matter. It's like putting a V10 inside a Dodge Neon. Just... why? I make a point of using good cases even in less-expensive builds. Compromising on PSU and the case are two things I've learned are no-nos. We can see how this hurt the outcome, When any OC whatsoever results in instability, you've made a mistake (or several).

    Now I know we'll see the usual "well this is meant to be a learning experience, learn from our errors and improve for next time" comments, but these are not mistakes I expect to see Tom's writers making. Even non-uber-enthusiast readers can probably see that some of the imbalances here. No result is horrible, but I'd have expected Tom's to look at that Newegg shopping cart and immediately think "nope guys, this isn't right. This gfx setup... in an Antec 300?" etc.

    Always love these articles guys, keep them up! Even if I do disagree with some of the choices obviously ;) Really looking forward to $1k and $500 builds in the coming days!
    -21
  • anonymous x
    decembermousePoor case decision. Inadequate PSU (did you seriously expect good overclocking results?).

    No, this case cools better than many (most?) cases more expensive than it. 2x 120mm intake is more than adequate for SLI cards with room for air to flow between them. Did you even look at the power consumption numbers? The system when overclocked only consumed 697w at load from the wall (actual consumption is less), while the PSU is rated at 850w.
    15
  • Pawessum16
    Where the heck did they get that SSD for $170????? It's $205 on Newegg, and that's after a $35 price drop. What a steal....
    -1
  • Hupiscratch
    These SBM keep becoming cheaper. At first was 5k, then 2.5k and now is 2k for the enthusiast one. The recession is beating hard.
    0
  • karma831
    All I can say is...WOW you guys have bad luck with overclocking.
    8
  • jestersage
    maybe one of the 120mm fans should have been placed on the side panel? just wondering...
    -1
  • iam2thecrowe
    all i have to say is, ditch the crappy Gigabyte motherboard and get sonething better, and for the price difference get the i5 2500k, its no real loss to the i7.
    9
  • iam2thecrowe
    and also, there is no crysis 2 benchmark? why not? get some newer games to use for benching toms please.
    -4
  • crisan_tiberiu
    I have my i7 2600k @ 4,2 GHZ. But @ 4,4 my PC will shut down in Intel Burn test extreme setting. Try that aswell :), without disabling the CPU protection in BIOS.
    2
  • shoelessinsight
    Personally, I would have gone with a 1.5 TB storage drive and used the extra cash on a motherboard with more overclocking potential. Still, it's good to see a GPU upgrade.

    Thanks for the builds!
    4
  • cangelini
    pawessum16Where the heck did they get that SSD for $170????? It's $205 on Newegg, and that's after a $35 price drop. What a steal....


    It was purchased on Newegg about a month ago in preparation for this series, actually =)
    3
  • cangelini
    YargnitI'm actually surprised that after the recent micro-stutter article you didn't opt for 3x 570's/6950's/6970's instead of 2x 580's. the First two should be cheaper than 2x 580's, while the third would cost very similarly.All three should have provided at least equal performance, and been better on intangible benefits to micro stuttering.


    As you saw in that piece, micro-stutter was most apparent on more mainstream cards. Something like the GTX 580 isn't going to demonstrate the issues seen there, whereas a GTX 560/HD 6850 might.
    6
  • cangelini
    iam2thecroweand also, there is no crysis 2 benchmark? why not? get some newer games to use for benching toms please.


    Check out Scott Wasson's excellent story about Crysis 2 on The Tech Report. Tons of artificial geometry to favor Nvidia's tessellation-emphasizing architecture. Not sure that's something we want to fold into our benchmark suite. We are looking at new games, but bear in mind that as soon as we ditch these, we kill the comparison points from the previous quarter. That's why you don't see the SBMs shift benchmark suites as often!
    12
  • hmp_goose
    Very educational. Thank you for the insight on what panned out and what didn't. (Tower CPU coolers like to feel ducted?)
    0
  • Crashman
    decembermouseNow I know we'll see the usual "well this is meant to be a learning experience, learn from our errors and improve for next time" comments, but these are not mistakes I expect to see Tom's writers making.
    No, because the only serious issue with the build was the motherboard VRM not outputting enough current to go to 1.38V. Everything else was great, which means everything else you commented on was wrong. You only need to look at the power and heat page to see how wrong. The big question is, what we should sacrifice to get the extra $100...in order to achieve an extra 5% O/C with another motherboard.
    6
  • ScrewySqrl
    A question I have is why none of the system builder marathon PCs at any price level spend $15-20 on additional fans? More airflow usually equals a cooler system.
    1
  • qwertymac93
    TBH i would've traded the 580s for 570s(or 6970s) and got a better case. The 300 is a nice case on a budget, but this is a high end enthusiast PC, we can spare a few extra $ for better cable management, more airflow, better water cooling support, more expansion slots...

    Overall the build certainly wasn't bad, just not quite 10/10 for me :)
    Oh, and do you think the overclocking would've been improved with a cooler that blows over the vrms, like the Cooler master GeminII S?
    -5