System Builder Marathon, August 2012: The Articles
Here are links to each of the five articles in this quarter’s System Builder Marathon (we’ll update them as each story is published). And remember, these systems are all being given away at the end of the marathon.
To enter the giveaway, please fill out this SurveyGizmo form, and be sure to read the complete rules before entering!
Realistic expectations have always been a problem for the highest-priced build in our System Builder Marathon. Mixing reader feedback with practicality, our benchmark set uses a wide range of games, single-threaded, and more thoroughly parallelized applications. The workstation-oriented processors available to our most generous budget (like the Core i7-3930K we used this quarter) lose much of their value when only one-third of our tests are able to exploit their extra cores. Altering our suite of metrics to unrealistically favor the most expensive configuration would simply be unfair to Don and Paul, whose affordable machines aren't meant to compete in those apps.
Rather than focusing on processor performance, the other pricey path we could follow would be emphasizing graphics. Plenty of enthusiasts understand the desire to cram in multiple GPUs, particularly as graphics card technology advances to the point where gaming across three screens is a truly viable prospect. And when you're not gaming, a trio of displays is great for productivity, too.
It used to be that 2560x1600 was the resolution used to evaluate enthusiast graphics cards. But with 30" screens selling for more than $1000, it remained a setting accessible to only a tiny segment of the folks who'd consider themselves power users. Small, affordable panels able to do 1920x1080 cost a lot less and offer more screen space.
And so we found ourselves wondering how else we might spend our $2000 budget this quarter. Why not tackle a more pointed graphics challenge, leaving the beefy six-core CPU aside in favor of a couple of GeForce GTX 670s? Of course, that'd also require an upgrade to our testing methodology, leaving the $500 and $1000 machines in the dust as we upgrade one of our labs to 5760x1080 testing.
Today’s story compares the original CPU-heavy $2000 configuration to a GPU-laden alternative setup. We're still running the full benchmark set to evaluate its overall value, but today’s test will also address gaming performance at 5760x1080. And, keeping reader feedback in mind, we’ve maintained a high-quality case and high-capacity SSD as part of today’s alternative system.
|Q3 2012 Alternative $2000 Gaming PC Components|
|Processor||Intel Core i5-3570K (Ivy Bridge): 3.4 GHz Base, 3.8 GHz Maximum Turbo Boost, 6 MB Shared L3 Cache||$230|
|Graphics||2 x EVGA 02G-P4-2670-KR: GeForce GTX 670 2 GB (SLI)||$800|
|Motherboard||Gigabyte G1.Sniper 3: LGA 1155, Intel Z77 Express||$280|
|Memory||G.Skill F3-1600C8D-8GAB: DDR3-1600 C8, 4 GB x 2 (8 GB)||$55|
|System Drive||Mushkin MKNSSDCR240GB-DX: 240 GB, SATA 6Gb/s SSD||$200|
|Storage Drive||Seagate ST500DM005: 500 GB, 7200 RPM Hard Drive||$70|
|Optical||Lite-On iHAS124: 24x DVD±R, 48x CD-R||$18|
|Case||Antec Eleven Hundred||$100|
|Power||Seasonic X-1050: 1050 W ATX12V V2.3 80 PLUS Gold||$200|
|CPU Cooler||Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo||$35|
In comparing our big splurge on a CPU versus today's big GPU expense, the biggest difference between today's machine versus the one you read about two days ago is the loss of a Core i7-3930K in favor of a Core i5-3570K. Stepping down from a super high-end Sandy Bridge-E part down to a lowly Core i5 was necessary in order to honor the budget.
Two other compromises, the loss of a Blu-ray writer and a smaller storage drive, opened up enough budget for a motherboard that supports future four-way SLI upgrades. And, dropping back from 16 to 8 GB of RAM left us enough money to upgrade the power supply for similar reasons.
Before anyone starts shooting these components choices down in the comments section, let's move on to the rationale for our decisions.
- Opening The Floodgates: 5760x1080 And More Graphics
- Budget Stretchers: The Motherboard And Power Supply
- Economizers: CPU, CPU Cooler, And RAM
- Breaking Point: Graphics Cards And Case
- SSD, Hard Drive, And Optical Drive
- Building Our Graphics-Oriented Beast
- CPU And GPU Overclocking
- Overclocked System and Benchmark Configurations
- Benchmark Results: 3DMark And PCMark
- Benchmark Results: SiSoftware Sandra
- Benchmark Results: Battlefield 3
- Benchmark Results: DiRT 3
- Benchmark Results: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
- Benchmark Results: Audio And Video Encoding
- Benchmark Results: Productivity
- Power, Heat, And Efficiency
- Which $2000 Machine Is Right For You?