System Builder Marathon, Sept. 2011: $500 Gaming PC

Test System Configuration And Benchmarks

Current $500 Gaming PC System Test Configuration
Component Base Settings Overclock Setting
CPUAMD Phenom II X4 955 BE (Deneb), 3.2 GHz, 1.40 V
2000 MT/s HyperTransport Link, 2000 MT/s CPU-NB,
6 MB L3 Cache
3.800 GHz (19 x 200 MHz), 1.3375 V
2000 MT/s HT Link, 2200 MT/s CPU-NB
CPU CoolerAMD boxed heatsink/fan, 60-100% target  RPM70-100% target RPM
MotherboardASRock M3A770DE
AMD 770 / SB710, BIOS P1.70 (09/17/10)
Unchanged
RAM4 GB Crucial Ballistix PC3-10600 kit
2 x 2 GB, DDR3-1333, CL 9-9-9-24 1T at 1.53 V
DDR3-1333, CL 8-8-8-22 1T at 1.65 V
GraphicsSapphire 100314-3L Radeon HD 6870 1 GB
900 MHz GPU, 1050 MHz (4200 MT/s) Memory
960 MHz GPU, 1180 MHz (4720 MT/s) GDDR5 Memory
Hard DriveSeagate Barracuda ST500DM002
500 GB, 7200 RPM, 16 MB Cache
Unchanged
SoundIntegrated 7.1-Channel HD AudioUnchanged
NetworkIntegrated Gigabit NetworkingUnchanged
PowerAntec EarthWatts Green 430 W Unchanged
OpticalSamsung 22x DVD Burner SATA Model SH-222ABUnchanged
 Software and Drivers
Operating SystemWindows 7 Ultimate Edition x64Unchanged
Graphics DriverAMD Catalyst 11.8Unchanged
Platform DriverAMD All-in-1 Ver. 8.631_W7_logoUnchanged
June 2011 $500 PC System Test Configuration
Component Base Settings Overclock Setting
CPUIntel Core i3-2100 (Sandy Bridge), 3.1 GHz (31 * 100 MHz), LGA 1155, 3 MB Shared L3, Hyper-Threading enabled, power savings enabledUnchanged
CPU CoolerIntel retail boxed heatsink & fanUnchanged
MotherboardASRock H61M-VS
Intel H61, BIOS P1.00 (03-04-11)
Unchanged
RAM4 GB Crucial PC3-10600 kit
2 x 2 GB, DDR3-1333, CL 9-9-9-24 1T at 1.5 V
DDR3-1333, CL 8-8-8-24 1T at 1.60 V
GraphicsSapphire 100315L Radeon HD 6850 1 GB
775 MHz GPU, 1000 MHz (4000 MT/s) Memory
850 MHz GPU, 1150 MHz (4600 MT/s) GDDR5 Memory
Hard DriveSeagate Barracuda ST3500413AS
500 GB, 7200 RPM, 16 MB Cache
Unchanged
SoundIntegrated 6-Channel HD AudioUnchanged
NetworkIntegrated Gigabit NetworkingUnchanged
PowerAntec EarthWatts Green 380 W
Unchanged
OpticalAsus 24x DVD Burner SATA DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/ASUnchanged
 Software and Drivers
Operating SystemWindows 7 Ultimate Edition x64Unchanged
Graphics DriverAMD Catalyst 11.5Unchanged
Platform DriverIntel 6-series Inf v. 9.2.0.1021Unchanged
Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
CrysisPatch 1.2.1, DirectX 10, 64-bit executable, benchmark tool
Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA
Test Set 2: Very High Quality, No AA
F1 2010V.1.01, Direct X 11, -benchmark example_benchmark.xml
Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA
Test Set 2: Ultra Quality, 8x AA
Just Cause 2Steam Version, Built-in Benchmark "Concrete Jungle"
Test Set 1: Custom Medium Details, No AA, 8x AF
Test Set 2: Highest Settings, 8x AA, 16x AF
Metro 2033Steam Version, Built-In Benchmark
Test Set 1: High, DX11, AAA, 4x AF, No DoF, No PhysX
Test Set 2: Very High, DX11, 4x MSAA, 16x AF, DoF, No PhysX
Audio/Video Encoding
Handbrake CLIVersion 0.94: "Big Buck Bunny" (720x480, 23.972 FPS) 5 Min., Audio: Dolby Digital, 48 000 Hz, Six-Channel, English, to Video: AVC Audio: AC3 Audio2: AAC (High Profile)
iTunesVersion 9.0.3.15 x64: Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 minutes, default AAC format 
Lame MP3Version 3.98.3: Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 min, convert WAV to MP3 audio format, Command: -b 160 --nores (160 Kb/s)
Mainconcept ReferenceVersion: 2.0.0.1555: MPEG-2 to H.264, MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG-2), Audio: MPEG-2 (44.1 kHz, 2 Channel, 16-Bit, 224 Kb/s), Codec: H.264 Pro, Mode: PAL 50i (25 FPS), Profile: H.264 BD HDMV
Productivity
ABBYY FineReaderVersion 10.0.102.82: Read PDF save to Doc, Source: Political Economy (J. Broadhurst 1842) 111 Pages
Adobe Photoshop CS5Version 12.0 x64: Filter 15.7 MB TIF Image: Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates
Autodesk 3ds Max 2010Version 12.0 x64: Space Flyby Mentalray, 248 Frames, 1440x1080
7-ZipVersion 9.2: THG-Workload (464 MB) to .7z, command line switches "a -t7z -r -m0=LZMA2 -mx=5"
WinRARVersion 4.0 Beta 4: THG-Workload (464 MB) to RAR, command line switches "winrar a -r -m3"
WinZipVersion 14.0 Pro: THG-Workload (464 MB) to ZIP, command line switches "-a -ez -p -r"
Sythetic Benchmarks and Settings
3DMark 11Version: 1.0.1, Entry, Performance, Extreme Suite
PCMark 7Version: 1.0.4, System, Productivity, Hard Disk Drive benchmarks
SiSoftware Sandra 2011Version 2011.2.17.36, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / MultiMedia, Memory Test = Bandwidth Benchmark
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84 comments
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    Top Comments
  • very nice article, i was wondering how the 955 oced would do against the i3.

    While there are many unthinkable things in this build, the low price of $500 is also unthinkable. That's less than an ipad....
    23
  • Time to bring on the usual motley crew of fanboys and everyone who just knows that they could do better.
    17
  • Its a good $500 build .except it cost $520 and the motherboard is a dead end part .
    For another $30 you can include an AM3+ board with the latest 970 series chip set that is fully compatible with Bulldozer.
    As it is this build is a dead end , and its out of date in 3 weeks

    But its still a better computer than the previous intel build
    17
  • Other Comments
  • Time to bring on the usual motley crew of fanboys and everyone who just knows that they could do better.
    17
  • Ugly case! I know I am stating the obvious, but seriously...
    4
  • The i3 2100 is a remarkable cpu , but it just cant beat 4 physical cores and a bit of overclocking .
    13
  • very nice article, i was wondering how the 955 oced would do against the i3.

    While there are many unthinkable things in this build, the low price of $500 is also unthinkable. That's less than an ipad....
    23
  • Why have the charts reduced to an unreadable size for this article?
    6
  • Nice. Finally someone who knows how to get value for money. I approve :P
    12
  • This is my favorite build this sbm. I just love the fact that you can have a true 1080p gaming experience for $500 bucks.
    16
  • whats with the fuzzy and unreadable charts?
    7
  • This is a tad bit better then the one I built off of the earlier build i used from toms. (Built it soon after school ended).
    -2
  • This is probably the ONLY $500 build (except for the very 1st one) that I've agreed on mostly (not liking the case too much, but it works in this budget).

    The last $500 build just was crap generally (micro-ATX and not many options on the mobo, IMHO).

    This budget gaming rig is really close to what I'd build for a friend/family member that wanted to have a gaming rig. I'd change a few things, of coarse, but the overall direction (and selection of parts) is SPOT ON, IMHO!! Good job guys at TH!!!
    11
  • What's that? The Surprise Fourth Build will not be the $2k version? Someone's going to poke around in the grey area between the i3-2100 and the i5-2500? How much extra cash will be allowed?

    Why do posts like this "sound" like the something from the '60s Batman TV show?

    Tune in tomorrow! :-P
    2
  • First off, great build, the balance of parts is great, and almost exactly what I would recommend to someone in this budget area.

    But seriously, what is going on with the small/ low res charts?
    3
  • This Rig Rocks ! I would only change the case :) maybe a cooler master storm.
    4
  • The first of this months builds that are great and you can see there is a budget that was thought of.
    1
  • Its a good $500 build .except it cost $520 and the motherboard is a dead end part .
    For another $30 you can include an AM3+ board with the latest 970 series chip set that is fully compatible with Bulldozer.
    As it is this build is a dead end , and its out of date in 3 weeks

    But its still a better computer than the previous intel build
    17
  • It was a good comparison, and the right build to do, because we got an honest look at the differences and advantages to each platform.
    That said, I would have to say that it's not the right $500 system for most gamers. The P II X2 555BE would perhaps let you get a better board, making it a smarter buy at $520, and of course some excellent Rosewill combo deals (that are always on) would help out with the case and PSU.
    1
  • Nice to see the 955 finally get to stick it to the i-3. That and the old boy is what, two years old? Way to go AMD! Its a shame Tom's could'nt point that out. Not really surprising though, with the tiny charts hiding how the 955, DOMINATED, the i-3 at high resolution.
    -4
  • Nicely done. I can atest to the volume of that freaking stock fan too. I had mine up to 7000 RPM on my HTPC. I HAD to replace it, it sounded like an old ventalation fan in a bathroom
    0
  • @Cobra5000 - Are you really that happy that a stock SB I3 is beaten by a P-II x4 OC'd just past the AMD X4 top end proc? Ya, its 2 years old but the I3 isn't exactly a high end part. If the P-II had kept up or beaten a I5, then you should be cheering. I think you meant "the tiny charts hiding how the 6780, DOMINATED, the 6850 at high resolutions." The wins the 955 got were in productivity apps due to its 4 physical cores.

    I'm hoping that bulldozer will finally give Intel something to worry about. Some pricing wars would be really nice. But I'm not holding my breath.

    I think it would be interesting if they changed the video card to a 6850 and show how much the processor change actually made a difference.
    4
  • mayankleoboy1whats with the fuzzy and unreadable charts?


    Toms is saving up bandwidth by annoying readers.
    2