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).
- Day 1: The $625 Gaming PC
- Day 2: The $1,250 Mid-Range PC
- Day 3: The $5,000 Enthusiast PC
- Day 4: Performance and Value Dissected
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|
|CPU||Intel Pentium E5200 2.5 GHz||$83|
|CPU Cooler||Xigmatek HDT-S963||$25|
|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 Audio||0|
|Network||Integrated Gigabit Networking||0|
|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.
- Higher FPS
- CPU And Cooler
- Motherboard And Memory
- Graphics Card And Hard Drive
- Case, Power Supply, And Optical Drive
- Assembly And Overclocking
- Test System Configuration And Benchmarks
- Benchmark Results: Crysis And Unreal Tournament 3
- Benchmark Results: World In Conflict And Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance
- Benchmark Results: Audio/Video Encoding
- Benchmark Results: Productivity
- Benchmark Results: Synthetics
- Power Consumption