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Test Settings

System Builder Marathon, March 2010: System Value Compared
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March 2010 SBM Test Configuration

$750 PC$1,500 PC$3,000 PC
Motherboard
(Overclock)
Gigabyte MA790GPT-UD3H
Socket AM3, 790GX
Overclocked to 257 MHz HyperTransport Clock
ASRock X58 Extreme
LGA-1366, X58 Express
Overclocked to 195 MHz BCLK
Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD7
LGA-1366, X58 Express
Overclocked to 205 MHz BCLK
Processor
(Overclock)
AMD Athlon II X3 435
2.90 GHz at 3.60 GHz
Fourth Core Unlocked, 1.49V
Intel Core i7-920
2.66 GHz at 3.90 GHz
Overclocked 20x 195 MHz, +0.0V
Intel Core i7-920
2.66 GHz at 4.30 GHz
Overclocked 21x 205 MHz, 1.36V
Memory
(Overclock)
G.Skill DDR3-1600 CAS 9
CAS 9-9-9-24 at 1.60V
Overclocked to 1,369 MHz, 7-8-7-15, 1.65V
Crucial DDR3-1333 CAS 9
CAS 9-9-9-24, 1.50V
Overclocked to 1,540 MHz, 8-8-8-18, 1.60V
3 x Crucial DDR3-1333 2GB
CAS 9-9-9-24, 1.50V
Overclocked to 1,640 MHz, 8-8-8-18, 1.65V
Graphics
(Overclock)
2 x Sapphire HD 4850
625 MHz, GDDR3-1986
Overclocked to 700/2,360 MHz
2 x Visiontek HD 5850
725 MHz, GDDR5-4000
Overclocked to 775/4,500 MHz
PowerColor HD 5970
750 MHz, GDDR5-4200
Overclocked to 980/4,880 MHz
System
Hard Drives
WD WD6401AALS
640GB, 7,200 RPM, 32MB
WD WD7501AALS
750GB, 7,200 RPM, 32MB
2 x Crucial CT64M225 SSD
64GB x2 (RAID 0)
CaseAntec Three HundredCooler Master CM 690Cooler Master Cosmos-S
PowerAntec EarthWatts EA650
650W 
Corsair CMPSU-750TX
750W
SilverStone ST1000-P
1,000W Modular
CPU CoolerXigmatek HDT-SD964
92mm Tower
Rosewill FORT120
120mm Tower
Swiftech H20-220
Ultima XT Liquid Kit
Software
O/SMicrosoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64
GraphicsAMD Catalyst 10.2
ChipsetAMD Catalyst 10.2Intel INF 9.1.1.1020


All three systems achieved at least somewhat-admirable clock speeds and the $1,500 build amazingly reached 3.90 GHz at stock voltage after it was determined that increased voltage wasn’t helping. Gone is the problematic Core i7-860 of last-month’s high-cost build, while the new system’s liquid-cooled i7-920 reached 4.30 GHz with ease. The $750 system builder was even able to unlock his processor’s fourth core without suffering a major loss in stability, although his memory couldn’t match the CAS 6 capability of equally-priced award-winning modules from our previous shootout.

Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2Campaign, Act III, Second Sun (45 sec. FRAPS)
Test Set 1: Highest Settings, No AA
Test Set 2: Highest Settings, 4x AA
CrysisPatch 1.2.1, DirectX 10, 64-bit executable, benchmark tool
Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA
Test Set 2: Very High Quality, 8x AA
Dirt 2 DemoIn-game benchmark
Test Set 1: High Quality Preset, No AA
Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Preset, 8x AA
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call Of PripyatS.T.A.L.K.E.R: Call Of Pripyat Benchmark version
Test Set 1: High Preset, DX11 EFDL, No AA
Test Set 2: Ultra Preset, DX11 EFDL, 4x MSAA
Audio/Video Encoding
iTunesVersion:9.0.2.25 x64
Audio CD ("Terminator II" SE), 53 min.
Default format AAC
Handbrake 0.9.4Version 0.9.4, convert first .vob file from "The Last Samurai" (1GB) to .mp4, High Profile
MainConcept Reference 1.6.1MPEG2 to MPEG2 (H.264), MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG2), Audio: MPEG2 (44.1 KHz, 2 Channel, 16-Bit, 224 Kb/s), Mode: PAL (25 FPS)
Productivity
Adobe Photoshop CS4Version: 11.0 x64, Filter 15.7MB TIF Image
Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates
Autodesk 3ds Max 2010Version: 11.0 x64, Rendering Dragon Image at 1920x1080 (HDTV)
Grisoft AVG Anti-Virus 9.0Version: 9.0.663, Virus base: 270.14.1/2407, Benchmark: Scan 334MB Folder of ZIP/RAR compressed files
WinRAR 3.90Version x64 3.90, Dictionary = 4,096KB, Benchmark: THG-Workload (334MB)
7-ZipVersion 4.65: Format=Zip, Compression=Ultra, Method=Deflate, Dictionary Size=32KB, Word Size=128, Threads=8
Benchmark: THG-Workload (334MB)
Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
3DMark VantageVersion: 1.0.1, GPU and CPU scores
PCMark VantageVersion: 1.0.1.0 x64, System, Productivity, Hard Disk Drive benchmarks
SiSoftware Sandra 2010Version 2010.1.16.11, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / MultiMedia, Memory Test = Bandwidth Benchmark


Our new benchmark suite is working fairly well, although we’re still seeing somewhat temperamental results in AVG. We’re currently working on a new antivirus application.

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Top Comments
  • 25 Hide
    dirtmountain , March 19, 2010 6:30 AM
    The performance of the $750 system is great for the price and i certainly agree with your statement "Yet the real winner is not the machine but its builder, as Paul Henningsen achieved a best value coup with AMD’s low-cost, overclockable, and unlockable Athlon II X3 435 processor."
    A big +1 to Mr. Henningsen and the other builders.
  • 13 Hide
    gkay09 , March 19, 2010 8:47 AM
    I too agree that the credit should go to the builder - Mr. Henningsen
    But I would say that it should also go to AMD for giving such a CPU...
    Low-Mid segment, AMD still rules in terms of value and performance...
  • 12 Hide
    shubham1401 , March 19, 2010 7:04 AM
    Wow!!

    Now I'm even more impressed with the Athlon II X3 435.

    The 750$ Rig was the most impressive for me.
Other Comments
  • 4 Hide
    DearSX , March 19, 2010 6:09 AM
    Great comparison. I guess being poor is not all bad.
  • 25 Hide
    dirtmountain , March 19, 2010 6:30 AM
    The performance of the $750 system is great for the price and i certainly agree with your statement "Yet the real winner is not the machine but its builder, as Paul Henningsen achieved a best value coup with AMD’s low-cost, overclockable, and unlockable Athlon II X3 435 processor."
    A big +1 to Mr. Henningsen and the other builders.
  • 12 Hide
    shubham1401 , March 19, 2010 7:04 AM
    Wow!!

    Now I'm even more impressed with the Athlon II X3 435.

    The 750$ Rig was the most impressive for me.
  • 7 Hide
    skora , March 19, 2010 8:33 AM
    Its nice to know "Go BIG or Go Home" can GO AWAY!!!

    Drop to a 500gb HDD and step up for the 1gb 4850s, and you have a very well balanced high power system with budget parts. Bravo Paul. Good showing Don and Tom.
  • 13 Hide
    gkay09 , March 19, 2010 8:47 AM
    I too agree that the credit should go to the builder - Mr. Henningsen
    But I would say that it should also go to AMD for giving such a CPU...
    Low-Mid segment, AMD still rules in terms of value and performance...
  • 4 Hide
    Onus , March 19, 2010 10:20 AM
    Outstanding results. I hope this helps kids who are building with Daddy's money understand that they don't need to waste it on a big edong. Furthermore, for all practical intents and purposes, FPS may be capped at 120Hz for 3D displays and 60Hz for the other 99.9+% of us, and higher [minimum] framerates ignored in the value comparisons as not being a visible improvement. Unlocking being partly a matter of luck though, it does still support the value of a quad-core processor, even in a budget build.
    On the subject of AVG, I'd leave it in the benchmarks as a valid example of a program a lot of people use, making its results relevant even if they look a little odd.
  • -2 Hide
    axekick , March 19, 2010 10:57 AM
    I built my first build last October using a very similar setup.

    Antec 300 Illusion (same case)
    Gygabyte GA-MA790GPT-UD3H (same motherboard)
    Western Digital Caviar Black WD5001AALS
    G.Skill (2x2GB) DDR3 1333
    AMD Phenom II X3 720
    Sapphire Vapor-X Radeon HD 5750 (recently added)
    Corsair 450VX
    Samsung SH-S223B DVD Burner

    At the time it cost slightly less, without OS and including the recently added Radeon HD 5750 totals $737.55

    I have very similar benchmarks, slightly better actually and am very satisfied with the system. I have successfully unlocked the fourth core of the BE 720 and ran benchmarks after overclocking the processor and video card. It's an outstanding system for the price, more than I need. Actually I have locked back down the fourth core and do not keep it over-clocked as I don't do a lot of gaming.
  • 2 Hide
    gilbertfh , March 19, 2010 11:07 AM
    IMO both the $750 and $1500 systems perform extremely well for the cost. From the looks of it the $3000 pc would be more of a status symbol.
  • 10 Hide
    bustapr , March 19, 2010 11:34 AM
    I hope u guys start selling PCs on Newegg. "THG SMB Gaming PCs", I would like to buy that $750 PC, already built at that price or similar. It would save me alot of trouble building and ordering parts and it will become an instant best seller. You guys can destroy cyberpower and alienware and others. Paul Henningson, you can get rich fast.
  • 2 Hide
    jeverson , March 19, 2010 12:05 PM
    I'm just a little curious though about the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. results. It says that the benchmark is using DX11. The $750 system is being evaluated there but is using HD4xxx video cards. How are you getting results for DX11 for that build? Anyway, great job as always guys! Although, I would have to say that to me the winning PC would be the $1500 OC as it was capable of staring down the $3k box and not flinch. Of course, I also say it because I have a 24" monitor and the $750 rig just doesn't cut it there unfortunately. Lastly, in one of the articles you guys asked if you should go back to the old $500/$1k/$2k builds. I think you guys are now in the new "sweet spots" for PC now. $750-$800/$1200-$1500/$2500-Obscene are good ranges these days. Hmm... maybe the "Obscene" should be a forth "bonus" build ;) 
  • 0 Hide
    schwizer , March 19, 2010 12:22 PM
    I believe there are certain elements of DX11 that are backwards compatible with 10.1 cards. I could be wrong though.
  • 3 Hide
    coldmast , March 19, 2010 1:01 PM
    What really ..... is newegg is in Canada, and I still can't join these delectable contests. Lucky 'Mericans.
  • 0 Hide
    huron , March 19, 2010 1:54 PM
    Thanks for another fine series. Congrats again to Paul for such a great build at a very respectable price-point. I love seeing how well the lower-priced rigs do.

    Great work!
  • 0 Hide
    CBaca , March 19, 2010 2:12 PM
    I enjoyed reading about all 3 SBM builds. Very impressive and congratulations to Paul. Based on the results I am seriously considering going with AMD whenever I get the money to build a new computer. Hopefully by then, RAM and video card prices will have dropped.
  • 0 Hide
    maydaynomore , March 19, 2010 2:22 PM
    The rules for the giveaway state that you DO NOT get the assembled PC, but the parts instead. I wonder why that is. Can someone from Toms comment on this?
  • 1 Hide
    dlochinski , March 19, 2010 3:02 PM
    Quote:
    The rules for the giveaway state that you DO NOT get the assembled PC, but the parts instead. I wonder why that is. Can someone from Toms comment on this?

    Probably for shipping purposes. Shipping as is would be iffy, and plus, this is a SYSTEM BULDERS marathon, so it wouldn't make since to send the pc built already
  • 0 Hide
    triculious , March 19, 2010 3:24 PM
    Great marathon this time. While the most expensive builds have nearly never interested me due to budget constrains, this time the cheapest one is a hell of a machine!

    Usually I set for the 'enthusiast' build, but this marathon brought up a real champion of the masses with the 750 build.

    With a little budget Paul achieved what should be the core of the SBM series: the best performance on a given budget.
    Mind you: not awesome synthetics that almost never translate into real world performance, not best bang/buck with cramped performance... real value where it really matters.

    Grats to Paul and here's to waiting for the next SBM, you've set a really high bar here, mister.
  • 0 Hide
    heartburnkid , March 19, 2010 3:56 PM
    Two things that strike me here:

    1) That $750 rig packs an impressive amount of power for something so inexpensive.
    2) You actually get very, very little for the money jumping from $1500 to $3000.
  • 0 Hide
    soulbro , March 19, 2010 4:51 PM
    Great job, guys. The SBM articles are always my favorite, and this batch was even better than usual!
  • -4 Hide
    notty22 , March 19, 2010 4:51 PM
    I enjoyed the whole series. Heres MY solution for a ultimate bargain rig. Use the case,psu,gpu's,ddr3 from the 750 build. Replace with Intel i5 750, and GA-P55A-UD4P. That would raise your costs about 150.00 dollars. Not counting a possible combo savings.
    Use your hsf money for a h50-1 corsair self contained water unit.
    Build
    Conquer
    Relish and enjoy :) 
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