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System Builder Marathon, Q1 2013: $600 Gaming PC

System Builder Marathon, Q1 2013: $600 Gaming PC
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System Builder Marathon, Q1 2013: The Articles

Here are links to each of the four 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!

Day 1: The $600 Gaming PC
Day 2: The $800 Enthusiast PC
Day 3: The $1,000 Performance PC
Day 4: Performance And Value, Dissected
Day 5: The $1,600 Alternative PC

Introduction

We ended 2012 with the best $500 System Builder Marathon gaming PC this series has ever seen, an accomplishment credited mostly to the impressive performance of AMD's Radeon HD 7850 graphics card. Also, the efficient and affordable Intel Pentium G850 ate up just $70 of our budget, allowing us to include 8 GB of RAM, a higher-end motherboard, and a nicer case.

That was our third $500 rig in a row built specifically to enable fluid gaming at 1920x1080 though, and our continued reliance on a dual-core CPU pretty much assured it'd trail far behind Don's $1,000 enthusiast-oriented build when we tabulated overall value. After all, 60% of our performance weighting comes from applications, and most of the tests in our suite are heavily threaded.

This quarter, we're trying something different and grouping our budgets more closely together. The idea is to see just how much value we can extract from our hardware at $600, $800, and $1,000 price points. Through a tighter competition that any system builder can win with a slight edge on the others, we're looking for that sweet spot where the performance you get from every dollar you spend can be considered optimal.

Given the stellar performance and massive overclocking potential of our last Pitcairn-based GPU, there was simply no need to sink more than $165 into graphics. So, we're again sticking with AMD's 1 GB Radeon HD 7850.

We also know that, in order to generate the best performance possible at $600, we need a more potent processor. Priced at $180, Intel's Core i5-3350P is the highest-end CPU we can afford, and it gives me my best shot at a gold medal in overall system value.

$600 Gaming PC System Components
Component Model Price
CPUIntel Core i5-3350P (Ivy Bridge): 3.1 GHz Base Clock Rate, 3.3 GHz Turbo Boost, 6 MB Shared L3 Cache
$180
CPU CoolerIntel Boxed Heat Sink and Fan
-
MotherboardASRock Z75 Pro3: LGA 1155, Intel Z75 Express
$85
RAMG.Skill Ripjaws Series 4 GB (2 x 2 GB) DDR3-1600 F3-12800CL9D-4GBRL$30
GraphicsHIS H785F1G2M: Radeon HD 7850 1 GB
$165
Hard DriveSeagate Barracuda ST500DM002: 500 GB, 7,200 RPM SATA 6Gb/s Hard Drive
$60
CaseXigmatek Asgard II B/B CPC-T45UC-U01 ATX Mid-Tower$34
Power Supply
Antec Neo Eco 400C 400 W$30
OpticalSamsung DVD Burner 24x SATA Model SH-224BB/RSBS $16

Total Price
$600


Unfortunately, memory prices are back up after last quarter's System Builder Marathon, forcing us back down to 4 GB of capacity. The savings allows us to grab a faster dual-channel kit, though, and a more enthusiast-oriented platform. We're hoping the tradeoff lets us tap into more of the Core i5's performance potential.

Just before we ordered our parts, the memory kit went up $3, putting us right at $600. However, there's also a $10 promo code on the hard drive that we aren't factoring into our pricing table. Through a few minor fluctuations between then and now, this machine's overall cost is up an additional $5.

Display 179 Comments.
Top Comments
  • 20 Hide
    slomo4sho , February 26, 2013 5:43 AM
    arich5i question the longevity of a 400w psu in a build like this though

    ~54%(216W) capacity when under CPU + GPU load. There shouldn't be any concern with the PSU failing under these loads.
  • 13 Hide
    g-unit1111 , February 26, 2013 5:20 AM
    Quote:
    Sounds about right. Not quite the sweet spot for a budget rig, but then we don't get too many requests for $600 firm. A higher clocked i3 would have been the way to go.


    That 3350P is a pretty nice CPU though. It performs at near FX-8320 levels while consuming 1/2 the power. I'd definitely use it in a low budget rig over anything else.
  • 11 Hide
    pauldh , February 26, 2013 12:08 PM
    arich5i question the longevity of a 400w psu in a build like this though

    Have no fear there. Our power measurements are what is pulled from the wall. Factoring the efficeincy (loss) of the PSU, this 400W unit was outputting under 190W at peak load. It was in fact overkill, as built, and could handle a bump in graphics if your willing to use a Molex power adaptor. I'd feel comfortable running the far more power hungry Tahiti LE based 7870 on this PSU, especially paired with a Core i3.
Other Comments
  • 5 Hide
    Proximon , February 26, 2013 5:04 AM
    Sounds about right. Not quite the sweet spot for a budget rig, but then we don't get too many requests for $600 firm. A higher clocked i3 would have been the way to go.
  • 6 Hide
    esrever , February 26, 2013 5:12 AM
    I think you can fit the 7870 LE in there if you choose a cheaper mobo and went with an i3 or an AMD build.
  • 6 Hide
    EzioAs , February 26, 2013 5:12 AM
    As usual, love the system builder article.

    This $600 build seems nice. Personally, I would drop the optical drive, replace the Z75 board with a cheaper H77 motherboard, get a cheap 8GB (2x4GB) memory kit and a 2GB version of the Radeon HD7850. I think it's possible that it'll be between $600-610.

    That's just what I would change. This build is still nice to be honest. :) 
  • 7 Hide
    itzsnypah , February 26, 2013 5:14 AM
    Why isn't noise a benchmark? Every build you showcase you ignore acoustics. A very noisy build should affect it's overall performance negatively, while a quiet one should affect it positively. Noise is a very important factor in Case Reviews so why isn't it a factor here?
  • -8 Hide
    ARICH5 , February 26, 2013 5:19 AM
    noise isnt a factor in a gaming rig...thats for htcp stuff
  • 13 Hide
    g-unit1111 , February 26, 2013 5:20 AM
    Quote:
    Sounds about right. Not quite the sweet spot for a budget rig, but then we don't get too many requests for $600 firm. A higher clocked i3 would have been the way to go.


    That 3350P is a pretty nice CPU though. It performs at near FX-8320 levels while consuming 1/2 the power. I'd definitely use it in a low budget rig over anything else.
  • 4 Hide
    slomo4sho , February 26, 2013 5:32 AM
    The CPU budget is higher than the GPU budget for this gaming machine? I understand the desire for a 4 core processor but you could definitely have a better gaming rig by investing more in the GPU and trimming the CPU budget.
  • 20 Hide
    slomo4sho , February 26, 2013 5:43 AM
    arich5i question the longevity of a 400w psu in a build like this though

    ~54%(216W) capacity when under CPU + GPU load. There shouldn't be any concern with the PSU failing under these loads.
  • 0 Hide
    lunyone , February 26, 2013 5:55 AM
    It would have been interesting with a 7870 GPU, like below:

    / /

    CPU: ($123.79 @ Amazon)
    Motherboard: ($76.99 @ Amazon)
    Memory: ($29.99 @ Newegg)
    Storage: ($49.99 @ Newegg)
    Video Card: ($209.99 @ Newegg)
    Case: ($25.98 @ Newegg)
    Power Supply: ($29.99 @ Newegg)
    Optical Drive: ($17.99 @ Newegg)
    Total: $564.71
    (Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
    (Generated by PCPartPicker 2013-02-26 02:52 EST-0500)

    But the 3350P makes things interesting when an app can benefit from more cores! I had to get a better PSU to fit the 7870 into the budget. There is also $50 in MIR's equated into the final price, so the actual price paid would be $614 out the door. I'm not sure the i3 would have been a better overall CPU, but it would have made things interesting in the gaming department :) 
  • 1 Hide
    lunyone , February 26, 2013 5:56 AM
    Links didn't work above, so I'll put out the Plain Text version, so you can see the parts details.

    PCPartPicker part list: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/G55N
    Price breakdown by merchant: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/G55N/by_merchant/
    Benchmarks: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/G55N/benchmarks/

    CPU: Intel Core i3-3220 3.3GHz Dual-Core Processor ($123.79 @ Amazon)
    Motherboard: ASRock Z75 Pro3 ATX LGA1155 Motherboard ($76.99 @ Amazon)
    Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws X Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($29.99 @ Newegg)
    Storage: Toshiba 500GB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($49.99 @ Newegg)
    Video Card: HIS Radeon HD 7870 2GB Video Card ($209.99 @ Newegg)
    Case: Zalman Z5 ATX Mid Tower Case ($25.98 @ Newegg)
    Power Supply: Corsair Builder 500W 80 PLUS Bronze Certified ATX12V Power Supply ($29.99 @ Newegg)
    Optical Drive: Samsung SH-224BB DVD/CD Writer ($17.99 @ Newegg)
    Total: $564.71
    (Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
    (Generated by PCPartPicker 2013-02-26 02:56 EST-0500)
  • 6 Hide
    de5_Roy , February 26, 2013 6:56 AM
    Nice. :) 
    going with a core i3 and 7870xt woulda allowed for better gpu-bound gaming experience, but imo a core i5 will likely offer better online multiplayer gaming experience than dual cores and amd counterparts.
    core i5's overclocked power consumption looks impressive, nearly same as sb pentium's with prime 95... i guess.
  • -2 Hide
    shikamaru31789 , February 26, 2013 7:50 AM
    It seems to me that the GPU was more of a bottleneck than the CPU in this build. I'd go with a cheaper H77 mobo, an i3, and a 7870 LE. I think you would have got more impressive numbers in games.
  • 1 Hide
    stickmansam , February 26, 2013 7:59 AM
    Why is Canada not included in the draw? I want my rights you hear me! QQ

    AFAIK there are no restrictions to contest stuff in Canada
  • 5 Hide
    vitornob , February 26, 2013 9:05 AM
    arich5i question the longevity of a 400w psu in a build like this though

    Do not question. Falcon northwest (a reliable company) builds the Tiki PC with a 450w psu.
    Uses an OC i7 3770k with the new GTX Titan.
  • 3 Hide
    abbadon_34 , February 26, 2013 9:06 AM
    No really surprise here, an i5 beats a Pentium, all other parts the same, an extra $100. I'd say keep the optical drive, if anything replace it with a Blu-Ray burner. If anything do a series of cpu/mobo/ram only, these are the true "system" upgrades, and show the true difference in AMD/Intel builds. Just as the monitor, keyboard, mouse, and OS are excluded (even though they are essential, the same OS & apps are used in each one) the case, psu, and hard drives either would be reused or be similar enough to be irrelevent or simply cover up the real differences. A $200, $400, $600 cpu/mobo/ram would be perfect.
  • -2 Hide
    MrPintar14 , February 26, 2013 10:01 AM
    Quote:
    Sounds about right. Not quite the sweet spot for a budget rig, but then we don't get too many requests for $600 firm. A higher clocked i3 would have been the way to go.


    Yeah it didn't make sense to me that they jumped from a Pentium to an i5 and kept the same graphics card. I would've gone with an i3 and got at least a 7850 (maybe I'm biased because that's what I have in my PC)
  • -1 Hide
    excella1221 , February 26, 2013 10:16 AM
    I would've done something like this for a gaming PC.
    If it *must* strictly be <=$600, then at least a 2gb 7850 or a GTX660.

    PCPartPicker part list: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/G6db
    Price breakdown by merchant: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/G6db/by_merchant/
    Benchmarks: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/G6db/benchmarks/

    CPU: Intel Core i3-3220 3.3GHz Dual-Core Processor ($122.98 @ SuperBiiz)
    Motherboard: ASRock H77M Micro ATX LGA1155 Motherboard ($69.99 @ Newegg)
    Memory: Corsair Vengeance 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($47.98 @ Amazon)
    Storage: Seagate Barracuda 500GB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($59.73 @ Compuvest)
    Video Card: HIS Radeon HD 7870 2GB Video Card ($219.99 @ Amazon)
    Case: NZXT Source 210 (White) ATX Mid Tower Case ($29.99 @ Newegg)
    Power Supply: Antec 450W ATX12V Power Supply ($38.24 @ Amazon)
    Optical Drive: Lite-On iHAS124-04 DVD/CD Writer ($18.98 @ Outlet PC)
    Total: $607.88
    (Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
    (Generated by PCPartPicker 2013-02-26 07:17 EST-0500)
  • 6 Hide
    phate1337 , February 26, 2013 10:27 AM
    nice work again guys!
  • 2 Hide
    Onus , February 26, 2013 11:15 AM
    While not really groundbreaking in any way, this was a good build. It should make a nice baseline; as a general purpose / family PC, it's what a LOT of people "ought to build," perhaps with minor tweaks.

    Btw, it is my understanding that these builds are sponsored by Newegg. This makes any pricing from any other store, no matter how nice, irrelevant in discussion of the build. Alternate vendors may be great suggestions in the forums, but not here.
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