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Core i5 And Radeon HD 7970 For $1000

System Builder Marathon, June 2012: $1000 Enthusiast PC

With all of the individual tests out of the way, we combine our results into average gaming and application performance results.

Knowing that these two PCs sport the same CPU and graphics processor, our results aren't particularly surprising. Then again, when you take into account that this quarter's system is priced $250 less, comes armed with 2 GB less memory, and doesn't include an SSD, we get a sense for this machine's reasonable balance.

Of course, we know that an SSD doesn't reflect well in our benchmark suite, despite the faster boot-up, quicker application loading, and overall improved responsiveness it offers. You'll just have to keep those endearing qualities in mind when you decide where to budget for your next machine.

As for the extra memory last quarter's machine feature, it does provide peace of mind, and it can come into play when you're using many applications concurrently. But, in general, 4 GB still gets the job done. As for our second memory channel, it didn't make much of a difference, either. Intel's Sandy Bridge architecture just doesn't seem all that bandwidth-starved, even when it's hobbled by a bad motherboard running in single-channel mode.

At the end of the day, Intel's Core i5-2400 remains a solid performer at its stock settings, though its locked clock multiplier makes it a bit of a challenge for overclocking. We really only picked it in order to stay under our budget, though. So don't feel guilty about splurging on a Core i5-2500K (or even an Ivy Bridge-based Core i5-3570K). We would have done the same, more than likely, given a little extra room for spending. Without question, we're done with this experiment, and we'll be aiming for a more potent processor in next quarter's effort.

And how about that Sapphire HD 7970 OC? Although it was priced well within the bounds of affordability a month ago, a recent shot up to $580 on Newegg pretty much takes it out of contention in today's build. As a result, we're happy to point you in the direction of Sapphire's non-overclocked Radeon HD 7970, which costs a little bit less.

Then again, if you're spending big money on graphics, we have a hard time ignoring the GeForce GTX 670 at $400 (though many models are creeping up higher). Were we to do this build over again today, it'd probably have a GK104-based card in it instead. If prices stay where they are today, you can count on us using the savings from a GeForce GTX 670 for a faster CPU or maybe an SSD next time around.

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