System Builder Marathon, June 2011: Value Compared

System Builder Marathon, June 2011: The Articles

Here are links to each of the five 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.

To enter the giveaway, please fill out this Google form, and be sure to read the complete rules before entering!

Day 1: The $2000 Performance PC
Day 2: The $1000 Enthusiast PC
Day 3: The $500 Gaming PC
Day 4: Performance And Value, Dissected
Day 5: Tom's Hand-Picked SuperCombo

Introduction

Much of the hardware in our previous few System Builder Marathon machines is pretty stagnant, and it has been since the end of last year. AMD still offers the best value in graphics and Intel still sells the the fastest CPUs.

AMD’s value in the low-cost CPU overclocking market remains unchallenged as well, and that’s where this round’s big surprise happened: Paul Henningsen picked a locked, low-end Intel CPU for his $500 build. Anyone who lives for change might have seen this move as confrontational. But a few gaming wins and a significant efficiency improvement at least partly vindicated his component choices.

Don Woligroski’s $1000 build lost its Radeon HD 6950 and gained a pair of Radeon HD 6850s, while this editor’s $2000 PC gave up some Blu-ray burn speed and CPU cooling to gain Quick Sync via Z68 Express and a more glamorous case.

June System Builder Marathon Components
 $500 PC$1000 PC$2000 PC
MotherboardASRock H61M-VS
LGA 1155, Intel H61 Express
MSI P67A-G43
LGA 1155, Intel P67 chipset
ASRock Z68 Extreme4
LGA 1155, Intel Z68 Express
GraphicsSapphire 100315L
Radeon HD 6850 1 GB
2 x Gigabyte GV-R685OC-1GD
Radeon HD 6850 1 GB, CrossFire
2 x MSI R6970-2PM2D2GD5
Radeon HD 6970 2 GB, CrossFire
ProcessorIntel Core i3-2100 LGA 1155
3.1-3.1 GHz, 3 MB Cache
Intel Core i5-2500K LGA 1155
3.3-3.7 GHz, 6 MB Cache
Intel Core i7-2600K LGA 1155
3.4-3.8 GHz, 8 MB Cache
MemoryCrucial CT2KIT25664BA1339
DDR3-133 C9, 2 GB x 2 (4 GB)
G.Skill F3-10666CL7D-4GBRH
DDR3-1333 C7, 2 GB x 2 (4 GB)
G.Skill F3-12800CL8D-8GBXM
DDR3-1600 C8, 4 GB x 2 (8 GB)
System DriveSeagate ST3500413AS
500 GB, 7200 RPM HDD
Western Digital WD7501AALS
750 GB, 7200 RPM HDD
2 x A-Data S599
64 GB MLC SSD
Storage DriveOn System DriveOn System DriveSamsung F3 HD103SJ
1 TB, 7200 RPM HDD
OpticalAsus DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS
24x DVD±R, 48x CD-R
LG GH22NS70 DVD-RW
22x DVD±R, 48x CD-R
LG WH10LS30 BD-RE
10x BD-R, 16x DVD±R
CaseXigmatek Asgard IIXclio NighthawkLian-Li PC-9F
PowerAntec EA380D 380 W
ATX12V v2.3, 80 PLUS Bronze
Corsair CMPSU-650TX 650 W
ATX12V v2.2, 80 PLUS
Seasonic SS-850HT 850 W
ATX12V v2.31, 80 PLUS Silver
Heat SinkIntel boxed heatsink/fanXigmatek Loki SD963Xigmatek Gaia SD1283
 Total Cost $526 $991 $1935


Will incremental changes in each builder’s system value add up to a surprise in our final comparison?

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37 comments
    Your comment
  • jricha51
    Would it be possible for me to run the same benchmarks? I have a AMD Athlon 64 X2 5600+ Windsor 2.8GHz Socket AM2 89W Dual-Core Processor (don't laugh). It is time to upgrade. I am considering the 2500K. Will I get 10X-20X faster video encodes? Even more?
    0
  • haplo602
    can you guys run the phoroxin test suite pts/multicore set in the future ? usualy the other sets are worthless but the multicore is a nice one to see.
    2
  • compton
    Well, here's to another SBM. For the last several quarters I've been lamenting AMDs inability to keep pace with Intel's relentless cadence. I sincerely hope that the next round of SBM will feature a AMD processor -- even better if it can claw out a spot one of the big-boy builds. I know I decided not to wait to get my Sandy on, but it AMD can come anywhere close I'll sell my SB rig on ebay. AMD, you know what you have to do, and if you can do it with Bulldozer, I'll be waiting in line to get one.
    4
  • jestersage
    Hmmm... that ridiculously cut-down asrock mobo in the $500 build makes me want to see another 'portable' lan-gaming-rig SBM. Emphasis on the portable because the SBM that tackled that theme came up with some really 'big' cases that still needed 2 hands to carry.

    With itx form factor increasingly available on the market for cases, PSUs, mobos, and even HSFs, I think another round might come up with a more exciting SFF-SBM.
    2
  • SpadeM
    jricha51Would it be possible for me to run the same benchmarks? I have a AMD Athlon 64 X2 5600+ Windsor 2.8GHz Socket AM2 89W Dual-Core Processor (don't laugh). It is time to upgrade. I am considering the 2500K. Will I get 10X-20X faster video encodes? Even more?


    See for yourself http://www.anandtech.com/bench/Product/30?vs=288
    0
  • DavC
    jricha51Would it be possible for me to run the same benchmarks? I have a AMD Athlon 64 X2 5600+ Windsor 2.8GHz Socket AM2 89W Dual-Core Processor (don't laugh). It is time to upgrade. I am considering the 2500K. Will I get 10X-20X faster video encodes? Even more?

    i doubt it will be that much of an improvement. Got a friend who upgraded from a 5000+ to i3-2100 and the improvment on video conversion was around 2-3 times quicker. I'd imagine the jump from the i3 to an i5 would be about the same for that task, so i'd guess it would be 5x faster or so.
    0
  • whysobluepandabear
    Anyone should have seen this coming, mid-range is ALWAYS the best value.


    You pay to have the latest and greatest, but like said, it carries diminishing returns.


    With that being the case, It's pretty amazing what you can get these days for under $500. Obviously the $1000 build is in a MUCH better position to be upgraded, as the PSU and Mobo give you greater options. The case and cpu-cooler also are breaking points for me - leaving the $1000 build as the most sensible; In terms of performance and future upgrade paths.
    1
  • whysobluepandabear
    DavCi doubt it will be that much of an improvement. Got a friend who upgraded from a 5000+ to i3-2100 and the improvment on video conversion was around 2-3 times quicker. I'd imagine the jump from the i3 to an i5 would be about the same for that task, so i'd guess it would be 5x faster or so.

    Not quite. If whatever he's doing can utilize Quick Sync, then expect some BLAZING ass encoding times.

    The 2500k on a Z68 with Quick Sync can dramatically cut down times....
    1
  • jricha51
    Quote:


    Thanks for the link. Did AMD release 2 different 5600+? "AMD Athlon X2 5600+ - 2.9GHz - 1MB L2" and "AMD Athlon 64 X2 5600+ Windsor 2.8GHz Socket AM2 89W Dual-Core Processor"

    On all video benchmarks you linked to, the i5 was ~3-5 times faster. My ancient dual core is hanging in there a bit better than I expected. But I think my CPU is a generation older than that link (2.8 vs 2.9GHz)??? And since it is not all about GHz, mine may suck more than it looks?

    The charts I find with my exact CPU (like http://www.tomshardware.com/charts/desktop-cpu-charts-q3-2008/Nero-8-Recode,838.html )have older benchmarks and don't include the newer chips.

    Quote:
    Not quite. If whatever he's doing can utilize Quick Sync, then expect some BLAZING ass encoding times. The 2500k on a Z68 with Quick Sync can dramatically cut down times....


    Does handbrake use Quick Sync? I do some video editing and light gaming, but mostly converting formats & compressing video in handbrake.
    0
  • cknobman
    Quote:
    More likely is that a gamer would buy a value-oriented system for resolutions of up to 1680x1050.


    I disagree with you here. I have been gaming with a $500/dollar value build for a while now and I refuse to go lower than 1920x1080. Due to that being the standard resolution for high definition and most monitors today start there and go up I think this is a more realistic starting point for resolutions for anyone building a NEW computer (considering they are buying a NEW display to go with it).
    0
  • torque79
    Nice to see that the $1000 segment is becoming a better value. This segment has always been the sweet spot for me of great current performance without big diminishing returns. I think you'll probably have to increase your budgets soon by 1-2 hundred though, it looks like you're having to cut some huge corners to build something for $500. Though, if you did stick with AMD the motherboard would not have been such a minimalist one.

    SATA 6gb and USB3 may seem overkill for a budget build, but most people on a budget will continually buy little component upgrades to keep up ok, such as a new SSD later (when prices are lower), higher speed external drives for backup, processor, video card, etc. That being said, buying a mobo to run the AMD chip would have meant you can't later upgrade the cpu without buying a new mobo, while getting an i3 gives you more flexibility. Without a doubt, buying AMD is a bad idea right now, but I think that means you need another $50+ to get a decent intel mobo (especially since they're historically ALWAYS more expensive) for more upgrade flexibility and mobo lifespan with USB3 and SATA 6gb.
    0
  • Onus
    If you buy a socket AM3+ AMD mobo, you can upgrade the CPU later.
    Anyway, keeping in mind that these systems are awarded as parts, if I won the first one, I'd build it with a lesser (or no) GPU and donate it, most likely to the local volunteer fire company.
    #2 is a tough call. Performance-wise, it blows past the rig I just built for myself, although it lacks the ports to take advantage of my preferred case's drive mounting and other options. I would need to think about it.
    #3 is a beautiful machine. I don't need the graphics horsepower, so I'd build it as-is but with a single GPU.

    I don't think the $500 machine is the value proposition it appears. Load it with typical software (that includes multiple background tasks), and I believe its performance could easily drop down into the "unacceptable" range, making it a horrible "value."
    0
  • jerreddredd
    Looks to me like for $500 bucks you can play most games at 1080p and with bells and whistles on too. encoding seems be a little lacking, but hey an extra $60 for i5 2400 and you fix that too!
    0
  • striker410
    ^ agree. They should really just go ahead and make a $600, with a better mobo, i5-2400 and 6870. It would be a helluva machine for only $100 more. But, it would ruin the clean 500x2=1000x2=2000.
    -1
  • gm0n3y
    striker410^ agree. They should really just go ahead and make a $600, with a better mobo, i5-2400 and 6870. It would be a helluva machine for only $100 more. But, it would ruin the clean 500x2=1000x2=2000.

    Yeah, I would never recommend to someone to build a $500 machine when you can get significantly better parts for 20% added cost.

    On another note, I guess it depends on the person, but I'd rather weight the percentages as 40% gaming, 25% encoding, 25% productivity, 10% storage.
    0
  • cookoy
    why spend on a BD-R optical drive when it doesn't factor in on performance and may impact value negatively?
    2
  • Crashman
    cookoywhy spend on a BD-R optical drive when it doesn't factor in on performance and may impact value negatively?
    For the same reason a storage drive was added: These need to be realistic builds for their price range, not "benchmark only" machines.
    0
  • Yuka
    CrashmanFor the same reason a storage drive was added: These need to be realistic builds for their price range, not "benchmark only" machines.


    I would like to argue that a little: a BD player costs as much as a new 500GB HDD. Why am I pointing out this? I gave away my DVDRW because I'm only getting "digital" copies of everything these days, so I'm all about getting more HDDs space instead of spending on a BD player (or RW for that matter). Hot swapping HDDs is getting more cost efficient ($/GB) than a disc format, so I also share cookoy's inquiry about the BD player in the build.

    Cheers!
    2
  • torque79
    Thanks for correcting me jtt283, a socket AM3+ mobo would be a possible option I guess. I still think it's a bad time to by though, when your (AMD) processor will be easily outdone by a similarly priced one in a few months when Bulldozer (finally) comes out. The upgrade path is there but it's too soon to be released, to be worth buying right now for the value. I honestly don't think anyone should buy a pc in the $500 range right now because of this, and I would even wait for the $1000 price point. Even if AMD does not prove to take a lot of segments over, there is bound to be some pricing pressure, or at least SOME alternative options. I'm very annoyed that I'm still waiting, but there is FAR too much potential for disappointment in buying so soon before big industry changes.
    0
  • Onus
    I'd agree torque, except for the global economic meltdown taking place. The defaults are spreading, and will include the U.S., where our elected parasites can't control their spending of even yet-to-be extorted OPM. QE2 ends in just another week, so that's when the next market jolt may occur. We'll see what happens...
    -1