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System Builder Marathon: Performance & Value

System Builder Marathon: Performance & Value
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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

The best performance per dollar is usually found in low-cost components that are, unfortunately, often too weak to perform high-end tasks. That is to say, if the most-expensive system has the minimum required performance, the others, even if vastly cheaper but only slightly slower, fail. We certainly didn’t see many failures in our $625 or $1,250 builds, but is the $5,000 system ever really needed? That’s something each buyer must decide based on his or her personal expectations.

The $625 system certainly looks cheap and the $5,000 system certainly looks pricey, but appearances can’t begin to distinguish the vast differences of internal components. Our $1,250 system, for example, looks cheap because our builder picked the best-ventilated low-cost case in an effort to allocate a greater portion of his budget to advanced internal parts.

System Builder Marathon Components
Component

$625 PC

$1,250 PC

$5,000 PC

CPU

Intel Pentium E5200

Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550

Intel Core i7 Extreme 965

CPU Cooler

Xigmatek HDT-S963

Xigmatek HDT-S1283
ACK-I7751 Retention Bracket

Cooler Master Aquagate Max
Swiftech MCR320-QP Radiator
3x Scythe S-FLEX SFF21F Fan
Swiftech Apogee GTZ W/B

Motherboard

Gigabyte GA-EP45-DS3L

Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3LR

Asus Rampage II Extreme

RAM

G.Skill F2-6400CL4D-4GBHK 4 GB

G.Skill F2-6400CL4D-4GBHK 4 GB

Mushkin 998679 DDR3-1600 6.0 GB

Graphics

Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 512 MB

Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 X2

2x MSI GeForce GTX 295

System Hard Drives

Samsung HD501LJ 500 GB

WD Caviar Black 640 GB

2x Intel X25-M 80GB SATA SSD
SYBA Mobile Rack for 2.5" SATA

Added Storage


Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 1.5 TB

Sound

Integrated HD Audio

Integrated HD Audio

Asus SupremeFX X-Fi

Networking

Integrated Gigabit Networking

Integrated Gigabit Networking

Integrated Gigabit Networking

Chassis

Rosewill R222-P-BK

Rosewill RZLS142A-P YE

Cooler Master Cosmos-S RC-1100

Power

PC Power&Cooling PPC-S500

Corsair TX650W

Cooler Master RS-850-EMBA

Optical

Lite-On 20X DVD±R iHAS120-04

Lite-On 20X DVD±R iHAS120-04

LG Blu-ray Burner GGW-H20LK

Total Price

$624

$1,154

$4,563


Because today’s article is a value comparison, we’ll carefully consider the successes and failings of each model before comparing performance per dollar.

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  • 8 Hide
    timelist , February 13, 2009 5:30 AM
    Next time when you do this, can you please do a 1250 AMD pc? and see how it compares and all that good stuff?
  • 0 Hide
    gkay09 , February 13, 2009 5:35 AM
    Well can u please do a comparision of various builds considering its alternatives both from the Green and the Blue company ...so that we can guess at what price point, which will be better....that will be more informative...
  • 5 Hide
    katmai , February 13, 2009 5:42 AM
    i would really be interested to see amd into this also, because so far it has been all intel, but as far as i know the phenom II's are not quite bad, in fact i noticed lots of praises for their performance, so a 1250 $ AMD pc , and compare it to the 1250 intel would be awesome.
  • -1 Hide
    sleepychink125 , February 13, 2009 6:06 AM
    they should just do whatever gives the best performance/price... people only care about how far their money will get them, not this AMD fanboy crap. If TH feels that a AMD chip will get them farther than an intel chip of the same price, then they should by all means go for it... if not, please stop complaining.
  • -5 Hide
    sleepychink125 , February 13, 2009 6:07 AM
    btw, its not just these 2 above comments that bug me...its people like them spamming the boards EVERY SINGLE MONTH about AMD builds.
  • -8 Hide
    gkay09 , February 13, 2009 6:23 AM
    sleepychink125btw, its not just these 2 above comments that bug me...its people like them spamming the boards EVERY SINGLE MONTH about AMD builds.

    Well tats such a dumb way of saying give me anything but don bother me wit many optons :p  ...but people would really like to know more abt comparision rather than just sticking wit the options posted here...
  • -3 Hide
    gkay09 , February 13, 2009 6:27 AM
    sleepychink125they should just do whatever gives the best performance/price... people only care about how far their money will get them, not this AMD fanboy crap. If TH feels that a AMD chip will get them farther than an intel chip of the same price, then they should by all means go for it... if not, please stop complaining.

    Well how would they knw if the options chose by them are the best unless they compare it wit the other options available...rather than jus posting the components they chose...mayb a more explained reason in comparision rather than jus a single component review would be gud...
  • -1 Hide
    sleepychink125 , February 13, 2009 6:32 AM
    im sorry if i offended u... i just wanted to see some constructive conversation that i can learn from or join in, not just amd guys complaining.
  • -8 Hide
    gkay09 , February 13, 2009 6:35 AM
    sleepychink125im sorry if i offended u... i just wanted to see some constructive conversation that i can learn from or join in, not just amd guys complaining.

    Lolz its nt jus that we are amd guys(I use a Core2 :p ) Its jus that we want to see more competition come into play rather than jus stick to the Blue company...Its jus tat we want this competition to be alive so we gt better components...
  • -1 Hide
    gkay09 , February 13, 2009 6:41 AM
    The Green company has come a far way...(from the Phenom I failure that is) there are many CPUs like the 7750, the new Phenoms, which can provide some competition (mayb nt beat the other)...

    The reason behind people posting request to see an AMD m/c is tat we cant buy all the components that are coming in the market and then sticking to the better ones...for which the THG come into play...they have the resources and manpower to do this and give the general public the pros and cons of the h/w out there...thus helping us...
  • -1 Hide
    sleepychink125 , February 13, 2009 6:43 AM
    well right. but my point is, if amd gets close enough where there really was a competition in terms of the price/performance that the core2 offers, then u would think that TH might use them in some of the SBM builds since this article is just that...system build marathon: performance &value.
  • -5 Hide
    gkay09 , February 13, 2009 6:55 AM
    sleepychink125well right. but my point is, if amd gets close enough where there really was a competition in terms of the price/performance that the core2 offers, then u would think that TH might use them in some of the SBM builds since this article is just that...system build marathon: performance &value.

    Well ya... but still no Green company in sight... :p 
    Mayb they should give a fair trail to both head-on...tat is the requirement here...tats all...
    Obviously we knw that THG chose their parts carefully...but its better to go off the track...come up with more than 1 standard config for the particluar price segments...and check the price/performance there...
    Reason is If a person is willing to spend $1250, certainly after seeing this article, he is not going to go for the $625 m/c because of its higher price/peformance ratio...
    So put 2 or more different m/c config in the same price segment and give their price/performance comparision...tat will be better than this type of comparision...
  • 0 Hide
    hobbitcy , February 13, 2009 6:57 AM
    i think concentration on bank for buck might be a better way to go in the begging i found my self reading all of them now its just whats the best product that will give me best performance (value for money)
    and then maybe tier it downwards e,g
    x gfx card at 300 dollars is the best value for money but option 2 and option 3 are also comparable coming in at 200 dollars and 180 dollars or something to that effect
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , February 13, 2009 7:34 AM
    I would like to see AMD Phenom II included in the reviews, not because i'm a fanboy but i couldn't help be intrigued by cris angelini's follow up with the "phenom II beats i7 in gaming" The part with the nvidia architecture not lovin' i7 but lovin AMD .. that i found interesting. So if Nvidia+AMD = love and good performance but ATI + AMD = love and better performance well that would peak my interest
  • 9 Hide
    JustPlainJef , February 13, 2009 8:13 AM
    Here are a few issues with getting AMD into the mix.

    This article was started a few months ago. They had to decide on the parts, contact NewEgg and get them all shipped, assembled, benchmarked, re-priced, and then write the article. As they have said a few times, they can't use hardware that's not available when they start. Before the new Phenoms, AMD really didn’t have much to show up with.
    Also, as they said multiple times, the prices are constantly falling. So a $1250 AMD PC that you start ordering today is going to have better hardware components than the $1250 Intel PC in the current article. There's a fairly easy fix for that. If the Intel system prices out (for example, as I don't remember) at $1100 today, then pick the AMD components today at $1100. And when the article is published, re-price both the AMD and Intel systems and give current prices on both. Now that AMD seems to have a worthy CPU again, I’d like to see an AMD article, but I’m not running my own site reviewing hardware, so it’s not my choice.

    My final beef for these articles is that they are adding components that don't increase performance. In the $5000 PC, the 1.5Tb HDD isn't going to help performance at all, and the external sound card they wanted to put in there is going to be of marginal help, if any. Spend the money on performance increases only. If I'm building this gaming system (and with $1000 worth of VGA cards, that's really what you have to call it), I may not be worried about additional storage over the 160Gb of SSD. You don't choose a monitor or an OS, don't throw anything in there that isn't going to make it faster. Let us make those choices.

    Here's what I'd like to see in future articles. Forgetting the synthetic benchmarks, I'd like to see the differences in the $5000 system with some changes to that hardware. What does the *AID 0 SSDs get you for performance versus a Raptor or a plain old 7200RPM drive? How does 6Gb of RAM compare to 3Gb or 12Gb? Maybe the switch from a standard HDD to the SSD drives and the RAM upgrade from 3Gb to 6Gb gives a 5% performance increase. If that's the case, I'm saving myself that $500(ish). I know there are benchies out there that show the differences between these, but those are usually done in lab conditions and done to put the emphasis on the pieces being changed. Let's see some real world numbers. In this system, how does a pair of 4870X2's compare? What about less expensive memory with not as tight timings?

    Anyway, that's my thoughts.

    Jef
  • 0 Hide
    2shea , February 13, 2009 8:23 AM
    you don't need more than $2500, or € 2000 to build a top of the line pc (without that ridicous retarded overpriced xtreme edition i7) in fact the 920 gave more oc headroom than the "extreme" edition...
    maybe it is time to get a little more realistic and build pc's that ppl actually would like to buy if going for a real good game pc.

    Also without being any fanboy whatsoever, I really want to see a comparison with amd's phenom II cpu based systems to see what performance that would give in relation to the cost.

    From tests here, it has been proven that it can stand its ground against the 920 in a lot of benches. Especially when you want best performance for the lowest price, then WHY use the most expensive, intelfanboy moneymakingcow for the best price?
    And yes it would take a lot more time that way though.

    this also shows that 1000-1500 is the best price for a good pc with a good value, with oc-ing it even more. why bother going 5 times more expensive? particulairy in a economical crisis as we face today. :) 

    For the rest flaming 'fanboys' is so sad, let everyone have its favorite brand, I dont go whining about anyone drinking expensive export heineken, while in the Netherlands its just plain tapbeer...
  • -1 Hide
    gkay09 , February 13, 2009 8:30 AM
    joeman42You're beating a dead horse here. The reason the components chosen were used is based on experience and knowledge gained from the other articles populating this site. Please review and adjust your expectations accordingly for whatever design you had in mind. Perhaps the Phenom II in the future, but it is too soon now (remember that these articles/PCs take time to acquire, build, test, analyze and compose).

    Well actually true...but still one can wish for... :D 
  • -5 Hide
    spearhead , February 13, 2009 10:59 AM
    timelistNext time when you do this, can you please do a 1250 AMD pc? and see how it compares and all that good stuff?

    indeed i find tomshardwar becomming crap too because they all keep excluding AMD from the game, and its not im pro AMD or something i personaly own intel configs too, maybe they get some sort of benefit from it if they do in money or hardware who knows i find it pretty disturbing that they do that. AMD has cpus that preform on the simular level for even less money then intels setups and its not that only core I7 counts for this 1% marketshare in the high-end and that all core 2 's are superB because of that no, phenom and core 2 are actualy perfet competition for eachoter so it only matters what the costumer prefers and not what the seller wants him to buy. atleast according to fudzilla it is and core I7 is not selling to well at the moment http://www.fudzilla.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=11948&Itemid=1 Dont just flameon me because iam saying this but i would like to see comparible systems from both camps just like the old days back in 2003-2005. and if toms is not giving this i might provide you guys with a cool forum topic soon with both Intel and AMD builds iam personaly considering to buy as replacement for my pentium 4 system. and it is mainly price which will make my choice but also upgradebility and lifespan are importment to consider. for $1250 AmD would be a better deal for gamers because you could invest the money in either the radoen 4870x2 or 4850x2 that you can save on CPU and motherboard.
  • 0 Hide
    jcknouse , February 13, 2009 11:37 AM
    I hope they show some AMD too. I would just like them to wait til the Phenom II 945 is out. I want to see how it compares to the i7...especially in gaming...with a hoss video card setup...and decked out with smoking RAM.

    As for components in the $5000 that didn't make sense, per the TH author's comments:

    1) Most enthusiats who would use a custom block on a water-cooled system would (from what I have read on a couple other sites) build part by part instead of upgrading a low-to-moderate end kit, or go with a real high-end kit in the first place. (Not that Cooler Master isn't good...but, other sites specializing in OCing recommend other kits...and yes, I understood you went mainly with NewEgg stuff...hopefully they will add a few more water-cool options in the future). I think a slightly higher-priced, better water cooling kit might have yielded somewhat better results in temperature.

    2) Having the dual Intel SSDs was cool, since they are the fastest thing. But they (like the processor) were "bang for the buck" killers. Like you said, drop the $700 CPU added expense, drop the $400 SSD drives and put in a set of 1TB drives for about $175 and put a less-costly SSD model with a little less speed in (say a 128GB or 256GB Patriot?), and forget the Asus motherboard and get something a step below (ASRock...which they make?) for half the price. That would save about $1000 and give a better cost-to-performance I think.

    I agree. The enthusiat PC needs to be a system costing $3-4k. Any more than that is just glitz and glamour and flash.

    I love the series tho. Good job. Keep up the good work! :) 
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