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System Builder Marathon: $625 Gaming PC

System Builder Marathon: $625 Gaming PC
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System Builder Marathon, February 2009: 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).

Introduction

Last month we explored the benefits of a more expensive CPU, so it should come as no surprise to the readers who weighed in with their thoughts in the comments section that this month we were determined to add more graphics power to the mix. With the same $625 hardware budget, we had to make sacrifices in pursuit of our goal of building a more capable gaming machine without hampering its performance during our applications and encoding tests. With that said, let’s take a look at the components selected for the task.

For an additional $20 we could have fit a CrossFire'd Radeon HD 4830 setup into this month’s system, but instead stayed within budget and went with the least expensive Radeon HD 4870. This Sapphire came with Molex power adapters and we wanted a name brand power supply with dual six-pin PCI Express (PCIe) power cables and at least 32 A of current available on the 12 V rail(s). This requirement put us in the $70 range (not including rebates), forcing us to put less money into our enclosure. For the CPU, we dropped back down to the Pentium E5200 that showed it could keep up with the more expensive E7300 once both were overclocked. In selecting a CPU cooler, the Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro had a price increase from $19 to $36, removing it as an option for both budget and value reasons alike.

$625 Gaming PC System Components
Component ModelPrice (USD)
CPU Intel Pentium E5200 2.5 GHz$83
CPU Cooler Xigmatek HDT-S963$25
Motherboard Gigabyte GA-EP45-DS3L$100
RAM G.Skill HK 4 GB DDR2-800 (PC2 6400)$45
Graphics Sapphire 100259L Radeon HD 4870 512 MB$200
Hard Drives Samsung SpinPoint T Series HD501LJ 500 GB
$55
Sound Integrated HD Audio0
Network Integrated Gigabit Networking0
Case Rosewill R222-P-BK$22
Power PC Power&Cooling Silencer PPCS500 500W$70
Optical LITE-ON 20X DVD±R SATA Model iHAS120-04$24

 Total Price:
$624


Again, it’s important to stress that prices are almost guaranteed to change for these components and the ones above reflect what we paid based on the availability at that time. This is especially true this month, as significant pricing drops have already now lowered the graphics card, CPU, and motherboard cost by $25, which would impact our component selection if we were making our purchase today. For one, we could easily have now gone with the same Antec Three Hundred case used in the past two months. The Radeon HD 4830 is also now priced at $100 before rebates, and with a change to an Asrock P45 CrossFire-ready motherboard, we could fit dual HD 4830s into the budget and have room left over to better the system’s cooling. C'est la vie, though.

Display 64 Comments.
  • 0 Hide
    xx12amanxx , February 10, 2009 6:11 AM
    Yeah Games are definatly more GPU bound than CPU bound at this time.But what about the user who decodes? Next month might be a good time to intro the new am3 triple core seeing as its being sodl for around 150$ and has been seen Oced up to 1ghz over stock.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , February 10, 2009 6:21 AM
    As I read this review I wonder, why this is only server I know that provides such a throughout testing and evaluation of OC benefit...
    *THUMBS UP*
  • -2 Hide
    nerrawg , February 10, 2009 7:43 AM
    Nice article guys, like how you seem squeeze the value out of the builds, definitely a good choice of build! My only question is one of personal interest, I wonder if disregarding the set price of $625, a crossfire set up of 2 4830s would give more bang for the buck in gaming then 1 4870? Of course as you have shown it would depend on the cpu, I was thinking around 4 Ghz on a dual core and 4 gigs ram. I am wondering because 2 x 4830 can be had for as little as $170-180 now, and thats pretty awesome.
  • -2 Hide
    nerrawg , February 10, 2009 8:21 AM
    Looking at the "Radeon HD 4830: High-Speed, Cheap CrossFire" article the results look fairly similar to that seen from this build, with maybe some very small gains in Supreme commander and crysis, while World in Conflict appears to due better on this newer january build. However the 4830 CF was on a test bed without an OC'ed cpu and without overclocking the 4830's, hence my curiosity to know if doing this would significantly increase performance and value over the single 4870?
  • 6 Hide
    StupidRabbit , February 10, 2009 9:01 AM
    great article as always.. but what happened to the international builder marathon?
  • 0 Hide
    jv_acabal , February 10, 2009 9:34 AM
    $43 difference bang for the buck. How about in the long run? Sure you'll be paying more than 43 bucks for the electricity bill. I think January's build is better. It might be slower than this month's build but is still very playable at most games.
  • -2 Hide
    maxwellsmart_80 , February 10, 2009 10:04 AM
    Why do you keep building the same system (practically) over and over again?

    It would have been awesome to see a system based on the Phenom II X3 "700 Series" at this price point....especially paired w/ the ATI 4830 or 4850. Dont'cha think a 4870 is a tad much for a "$625 system?" - you would have had a "Dragon Platform" - very doable at your price range. You wouldn't have had to do DDR3 either - DDR2 would have worked quite nicely.
  • 1 Hide
    cangelini , February 10, 2009 10:05 AM
    StupidRabbitgreat article as always.. but what happened to the international builder marathon?


    International competition is in edits--almost ready to go live! Interesting results there, too.
  • 1 Hide
    Onus , February 10, 2009 11:28 AM
    Excellent article. I think this was a good build.
    That Rosewill case (and all their cheap ones like it) will take a front mounted 120mm fan. You had $6 left over, so it would have fit in your budget.
  • -4 Hide
    jcknouse , February 10, 2009 11:44 AM
    THG Staff note:Here are links to each of the four articles in this month’s System Builder Marathon...


    I hate being picky...but...

    The links aren't imbedded in those 4 article designations at the top of the article, as of the writing of this note.
  • -4 Hide
    jcknouse , February 10, 2009 11:45 AM
    My bad...this negative to me...*this* month lol

    Sorry
  • 2 Hide
    cangelini , February 10, 2009 12:14 PM
    jcknouseI hate being picky...but...The links aren't imbedded in those 4 article designations at the top of the article, as of the writing of this note.


    Because they haven't been published yet ;-)
  • 2 Hide
    Tedders , February 10, 2009 12:46 PM
    I agree with some of the other posters. I would like to see the SBMs with the new Phenom II. Maybe even some of the new AM3 systems. From what I have read, it can be a little tricky to setup a new AM3 system with the correct processor, motherboard and memory configuration.
  • -5 Hide
    caamsa , February 10, 2009 2:08 PM
    Ahhh yet another "Intell System Builder Marathon" please call it what it is.
  • 0 Hide
    Onus , February 10, 2009 2:16 PM
    My present challenge is to come up with a $600 gaming build for a friend, AND the OS must be included in that price (so really a
  • 1 Hide
    Onus , February 10, 2009 2:22 PM
    caamsaAhhh yet another "Intell System Builder Marathon" please call it what it is.


    Couldn't edit my comment; trying again...

    ...so really a sub-$500 build). I was going to go AMD, but discovered that an Intel 5200 is actually going to be cheaper, unless I give up a lot of performance. So, Caamsa, I expect the SBM articles will continue to use Intel chips at this price point.
  • -3 Hide
    Tindytim , February 10, 2009 2:24 PM
    jtt283My present challenge is to come up with a $600 gaming build for a friend, AND the OS must be included in that price (so really a

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=ENE&N=2060350368%204027&bop=And&Order=PRICE

    Just cut $100 off for the OS, or go with Ubuntu.
  • -7 Hide
    allthatjazz , February 10, 2009 2:30 PM
    I still don't see how you can call it a 'System Build' without factoring in the OS! Just call it a $725 build and throw Vista on there, or specify that you're doing an open OS.
  • 2 Hide
    billiardicus , February 10, 2009 2:46 PM
    Nice Build. A few thoughts for anyone on a budget build:
    1. Don't buy a crappy case. A good case can be used over and over again. You'll upgrade the cpu, gpu, mobo, etc...but you can keep using a case. There's plenty of great $50 cases (Centurion CAC5, Antec 300, etc). Pony up another $25, and get a solid case.

    2. The same applies to the powersupply (Tom's picked a good one).
  • 2 Hide
    dirtmountain , February 10, 2009 2:47 PM
    Another very good SBM article. Shows what a builder has to do to reach a budget in real life pricing by going with a cheaper case, HSF, CPU to get a higher performance GPU to fit in a build. Good addition with the power consumption charts, i'd have no problem running a quality 430w PSU with this build. I'm interested in seeing an AMD build, perhaps they'll be available for the Feb/Mar SBM articles. Good job and thanks for this great writeup.
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