System Builder Marathon, Sept. '09: $2,500 Performance PC

System Builder Marathon, September 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). And remember, these systems are all being given away at the end of the marathon. After some delay (sorry folks), the contest is ready to be entered. Please visit the entry page, here.

Day 1: The $650 Gaming PC
Day 2: The $1,250 Enthusiast PC
Day 3: The $2,500 Performance PC
Day 4: Performance and Value Dissected


One thing sorely lacking from our System Builder Marathon (SBM) articles has been AMD, and that's not because we don’t like the green team. Putting most of our focus into overall system performance caused us to overlook some of the excellent value AMD offers almost exclusively in the gaming market. Thus, we’ve added a couple of titles for our game benchmark tests where AMD really shines.

But AMD’s competitive prices don’t extend only to gaming processors and graphics, as the company also has a thriving chipset business. You certainly won’t find a northbridge with 42 PCI Express (PCIe) lanes from Intel, and otherwise similarly-equipped X58 motherboards come with an approximate $100 price premium.

$2,500 Portable Performance PC Component Prices
MSI 790FX-GD70 Socket AM3
Chipset: AMD 790FX/SB750
AMD Phenom II X4 955
Four Cores, 3.2 GHz, 8MB Cache
3 x MSI R4890-T2D1G OC (CrossFireX)
1GB GDDR5-3996 Per Card
Radeon HD 4890 GPU at 880 MHz
8GB Crucial DDR3-1333 CAS 9
2 x P/N CT2KIT25664BA1339 Kit
OS/Program Drives2 x Intel X25-M SSDSA2MH080G1 (RAID 0)
80GB per drive, MLC, 160GB total
Storage Hard Drives 2 x WD Caviar Black WD1001FALS (RAID 1)
1TB, 7,200 RPM, 32MB Cache SATA 3.0 Gb/s
6x BD-R, 2x BD-RE, 16x DVD±R
CaseNZXT Panzerbox ATX Mid-Tower$120
PowerCorsair CMPSU-1000HX Modular 1,000W
ATX12V 2.2, EPS12V 2.91, 80-Plus Certified
CPU CoolerSwiftech H20-220 2 x 120mm Liquid-Cooling Kit$140
Component CoolingAntec 0761345-75018-9 "SpotCool" LED Fan$15
SSD TraySNT SNT-SATA2221B Hot-Swappable Backplane$22
Bay AdapterVantec MRK-250FD 3.5" to 5.25" adapter$13
Total Cost

We were even able to put the money saved on the motherboard (as well as a few other areas) into storage, adding two 80GB Intel X25-M solid-state disk (SSD) drives for super-fast load times and upgrading the optical unit from a Blu-ray reader to a BD-RE writer, all in an effort to satisfy a multitude of reader requests. Let’s take a closer look at how it all went together.