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More Powerful Storage At The Same Budget

System Builder Marathon, Sept. 2011: $1000 Enthusiast PC
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The results turn out to be pretty close, though we did notice a few interesting things.

Starting with application performance, despite the identical CPU clock rates, our June machine averages a couple of percentage points higher at stock speeds. This is probably due to the lower memory bandwidth we saw manifest in the Sandra synthetic benchmark.

Our new machine leaps ahead when it gets overclocked, and this probably has something to do with the increase in memory bandwidth when using the XMP memory profile. Though we know this architecture isn't particularly starved for throughput, the higher data rates and lower latencies are a potent pair.

The gaming results are also mixed. They're easier to explain, though. Two Radeon HD 6850s are a bit faster than a couple GeForce GTX 460s at stock speeds. Nvidia's cards have more overclocking headroom, though. This accounts for the increased performance when tweaked.

The moral of this story is that the SSD is here to stay. Yes, you can afford solid-state storage on a thousand-dollar budget. When you’re putting a system together, you simply can't ignore the SSD. Despite very similar application benchmarks, you really see the benefit when it comes to launching software, and PCMark 7 does a fair job of demonstrating that.

In addition, we learned that GeForce GTX 460s in SLI and Radeon HD 6850s in CrossFire have similar overall performance. This is nothing new, but it’s good to put our own recommendations to the test every once in a while.

Now all we can do is wait for the last day of this System Builder Marathon, where we see how the three competing systems size up to each other. We're curious to see how the SSD affects the $1000 PC’s ability to compete with the pricer configuration in PCMark. Stay tuned!

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Top Comments
  • 20 Hide
    scubba85 , September 21, 2011 5:13 AM
    Why would you go with the 750gb WD, when the samsung spinpoint f3 1tb is the same price?
  • 19 Hide
    Zero_ , September 21, 2011 5:16 AM
    Why all the overpriced components? This is bad...

    Off the top of my head,

    1. There are a number of decent Z68 motherboards for around $130.
    2. Hyper 212+ costs $30
    3. A Corsair 2x4GB 1600MHz CL9 kit costs $50
    4. There are plenty of good 1TB drives for $55
    5. Antec Earthwatts 650W costs around $60

    And don't give me any crap about price increases over the past month. All of these have remained the same for the past 2 months.
  • 14 Hide
    slicedtoad , September 21, 2011 5:26 AM
    I'd prefer either a larger ssd or none, 30GB would be annoying.
    At the $1000 mark i'd opt for 8GB of ram, no ssd and a better hdd. And not a microATX.

    Also why isn't micro stuttering mentioned? If i remember correctly, these cards have issues with it.

    Guess that was mostly negative stuff, i liked reading it anyway though, keep em coming.
Other Comments
  • 12 Hide
    aznshinobi , September 21, 2011 4:20 AM
    Mobo is overpriced, and so is ram. The cost of the 460's you could equally get 2x6870s. PSU kinda sucks, for $1000 you can at least save else where (IE RAM+MB) and still get the Antec HCG750, while also getting 2x6870. Just personal opinion.
  • 20 Hide
    scubba85 , September 21, 2011 5:13 AM
    Why would you go with the 750gb WD, when the samsung spinpoint f3 1tb is the same price?
  • 19 Hide
    Zero_ , September 21, 2011 5:16 AM
    Why all the overpriced components? This is bad...

    Off the top of my head,

    1. There are a number of decent Z68 motherboards for around $130.
    2. Hyper 212+ costs $30
    3. A Corsair 2x4GB 1600MHz CL9 kit costs $50
    4. There are plenty of good 1TB drives for $55
    5. Antec Earthwatts 650W costs around $60

    And don't give me any crap about price increases over the past month. All of these have remained the same for the past 2 months.
  • 0 Hide
    Kridian , September 21, 2011 5:23 AM
    Where exactly on this site do they announce the winners of these contests?
  • 14 Hide
    slicedtoad , September 21, 2011 5:26 AM
    I'd prefer either a larger ssd or none, 30GB would be annoying.
    At the $1000 mark i'd opt for 8GB of ram, no ssd and a better hdd. And not a microATX.

    Also why isn't micro stuttering mentioned? If i remember correctly, these cards have issues with it.

    Guess that was mostly negative stuff, i liked reading it anyway though, keep em coming.
  • 2 Hide
    decembermouse , September 21, 2011 5:44 AM
    I like this system a lot better than yesterday's. A more balanced build. Kudos! It's always interesting to see similar setups and how they compare, for instance in this case the 6850s versus the 460s. Glad you are switching it up. I'd say you were right on the CPU front to stick with the 2500K. Nice work overclocking those GTX 460s and the CPU. And I'd say this is an appropriate chose of computer case for this kind of setup. I had my reservations about using Antec's cheapest "gaming" enclosure for the $2000 build, but this is spot on.

    Nice PSU as well. I do wonder though why you didn't go with the CX600V2, as it's 80+ Certified and sells for the same price as the CX600 (actually, a $10 MIR right now so $59.99).

    Also, and this isn't a critique but purely personal preference, I would probably forego the SSD for myself and stick with a cheap HDD like a WD Green. Loading times aren't that important to me; I'm willing to wait a few more seconds if it means I can put the $ I saved towards a better mobo, HSF, or better non-reference GPU cards. Call me crazy but I'm willing to wait a bit longer, as well as not having to worry about my OS drive wearing out, in order to get very slightly better performance/temps. I realize that drive performance is an important metric for most people though so I'm glad you are incorporating that into these modern builds. Can't wait to see the $500 one :) 
  • 3 Hide
    iam2thecrowe , September 21, 2011 6:05 AM
    interestingly still going for dual mid-range cards despite the whole microstuttering article you guys wrote up recommending against dual mid range cards. Better motherboard than the high end build, at least its not Gigabyte. A 30GB SSD is completely pointless, i was unaware they even made them that small. But i suppose its something different to you usual, there are so many possibilities with a mid range build. Will be more interesting to see what you can fit into the lower end build.
  • 3 Hide
    _Pez_ , September 21, 2011 6:23 AM
    I wouldn't had chosen a pair of gtx 460 because those are not quite power efficient as pair of gtx 560 non TI would be, I would had picked up to two HDD over a SSD. Overall I like this dynamic "System Builder Marathon" that uses TH, It helps you to take better decisions.
  • 2 Hide
    spookie , September 21, 2011 6:27 AM
    I would get a different: motherboard (not a mAtx), hdd (samsung spinpoint 1tb), case (I don't like the look of this case) and maby a different cooler (212+)
    other than that, its a realy nice build
  • -1 Hide
    _Pez_ , September 21, 2011 6:31 AM
    _Pez_I wouldn't had chosen a pair of gtx 460 because those are not quite power efficient as pair of gtx 560 non TI would be, I would had picked up to two HDD over a SSD. Overall I like this dynamic "System Builder Marathon" that uses TH, It helps you to take better decisions.

    I want to delete this comment, I made some mistakes with grammar. If I had chosen, I wouldn't have gotten a pair of ... so embarrassing..
  • 4 Hide
    crisan_tiberiu , September 21, 2011 6:38 AM
    _Pez_I want to delete this comment, I made some mistakes with grammar. If I had chosen, I wouldn't have gotten a pair of ... so embarrassing..

    YOU ARE FIRED!
    :p 
  • 3 Hide
    cangelini , September 21, 2011 6:49 AM
    KridianWhere exactly on this site do they announce the winners of these contests?


    In the news section. Every single quarter.
  • 5 Hide
    cangelini , September 21, 2011 6:50 AM
    iam2thecroweinterestingly still going for dual mid-range cards despite the whole microstuttering article you guys wrote up recommending against dual mid range cards. Better motherboard than the high end build, at least its not Gigabyte. A 30GB SSD is completely pointless, i was unaware they even made them that small. But i suppose its something different to you usual, there are so many possibilities with a mid range build. Will be more interesting to see what you can fit into the lower end build.


    Don claims he's not affected by micro-stuttering. Indeed, everyone's sensitivity to this seems to be different.
  • 2 Hide
    Onus , September 21, 2011 11:33 AM
    I don't think I learned anything from the choices made in this one. Once I loaded a few programs, I was hitting the limit on a 64GB SSD, so there's no way I'd ever put a miniscule 30GB SSD into a system (except possibly as swap space).
    That is specifically not to imply that I could build a $1K system offering better performance, just that this one didn't offer any of the revelations often seen in SBM builds.

  • -1 Hide
    cmcghee358 , September 21, 2011 11:53 AM
    jtt283 the size of Win7 64 and Win7 32 are quite significant. 32 bit can actually fit on a 30GB np.

    Also my Win7 64 bit Home Premium fits on my Intel X-25V 40 GB SSD, with Office and Chrome/Firefox with 8 GB to spare. So it's really not too bad.

  • 0 Hide
    ojas , September 21, 2011 11:56 AM
    I remember reading on the Corsair site that the CX- ("Builder") series of PSUs are rated for an ambient temp of 30*C. That's not exactly a good idea in warm regions or in a case in which the PSU doesn't have a fresh supply of air, as the inside temp can easily cross 30*C.

    Maybe the Corsair GS600 would be a better choice? :o 
  • 4 Hide
    tfbww , September 21, 2011 11:59 AM
    A couple questions as I look to build a new machine...

    Why not go with a Z68 and get the advantage of QuickSync? The cost is virtually the same if you go with your own Gigabyte Z68XP-UD3 recommendation for $150, especially if you ditch the SSD which seems too small to be worthwhile ({Danny Vermin voice} I did a 30GB partition once. Once!)

    What are the thoughts on getting a 6970 2GB instead of twin 460's? Wouldn't the performance be comparable in the near term and provide more upside down the road (by crossfiring later)?
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , September 21, 2011 12:16 PM
    Nice mix up!

    Good to see you try different approaches to the builds! cant complain as it helps show what different hardware performs like without having to spend your own money!

    I would use this build, with the change of dropping the SSD, using a 1TB HDD and spending the savings on a full atx Mobo (Which can be had for the same price as your mATX board) 8GB Ram and 2 6870 with better PSU ( The Corsair is a good PSU but not for Xfire as you mention)
  • 3 Hide
    AppleBlowsDonkeyBalls , September 21, 2011 12:30 PM
    These last two builds have been pretty bad, I must say. The AsRock P67 Extreme4 is better than the EVGA Micro SLI, the Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB is quieter and faster than the Caviar 750GB, not to mention the same price. The SSD is overpriced and slow, and the Power Supply is not a very good unit at that price. For $70, you're better off getting an Antec HCG-620, a Seasonic S12II 620, or an Antec NEO ECO 620C. The heatsink, why did you skimp on it? You're only saving $10 and getting a huge downgrade in heat dissipation...
  • 3 Hide
    kriswone , September 21, 2011 1:04 PM
    I think they use parts they have lying around, i don't think they actually try to build a sweet setup, they are just trying to clear storage space.
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