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System Builder Marathon, Sept. '09: $1,250 Enthusiast Build

System Builder Marathon: $1,250 AMD System

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

Introduction

I'm fully prepared for the legions of people who will call me crazy for the path I have chosen in this month's $1,250 System Builder Marathon (SBM) build, which addresses the legions of readers who wanted to see a series based on AMD-based platforms. A part of me would have liked to play it safe, but sometimes a hardware reviewer has to do what a hardware reviewer has to do. So, with my colleague Thomas Soderstrom wielding double my budget, I went outside the box a little bit to see if I could work a little magic from my build to keep this little competition interesting.

The heart of this beat remains fairly basic for a $1,250 AMD-based box: there's a nice Phenom II X4 945 CPU, 4GB of low-latency DDR3 memory, a premium 790FX-based motherboard, a solid power supply, and a good case. It's the choice of graphics cards--well, more specifically, the quantity of graphics cards where I left the tried-and-true formula behind:

$1,250 Enthusiast AMD PC Parts Prices
MotherboardMSI 790FX-GD70 AMD 790FX, AM3$165
ProcessorAMD Phenom II X4 945 Four Cores, 3.0 GHz, 6MB Cache$170
MemoryPatriot 4GB (2 x 2GB) PVS34G1333LLKNDual-Channel Memory Kit$85
Graphics4 x Gigabyte GV-R485OC-1GH Radeon HD 4850 in CrossFire1GB GDDR3-1996 Per Card, 700 MHz GPU$480
Hard DriveWestern Digital Caviar Black 640 GB, 32 MB cache$75
OpticalSony Optiarc AD-7240S-0B DVD Burner SATA$33
CaseNZXT Tempest ATX Tower$100
PowerPC Power & Cooling S75CF, ATX12V 2.2, 80-Plus Certified$120
CPU CoolerXigmatek Dark Knight S1283$37
 Total Cost$1,265

That's right folks, it's not a typo--there are four graphics cards in this $1,250 build. Read on, and I'll explain.

  • gkay09
    I would have preferred the i7 860 paired with 2x HD 4890s or 2x GTX 275s or even a single HD 5870 for this budget...
    Reply
  • drealar
    Monstrosity @1250!!
    Reply
  • frozenlead
    gkay09I would have preferred the i7 860 paired with 2x HD 4890s or 2x GTX 275s or even a single HD 5870 for this budget...
    I agree. I mean, props for quadfire, but it's not really the best choice for the best performance.
    Reply
  • HibyPrime
    Even though it turned out to only be faster at high resolution gaming, I have to commend you guys for skipping the obvious here.

    An i5 750 build probably would have turned out better numbers on the whole, I would probably call this a last hurrah (and the $2500 too, im sure that'll be a quad) for quad CF/SLi based systems being used to run a single 30" monitor.. I'm sure we'll start to see the high end gamers moving over to eyefinity and whatever equivalent nVidia comes up with.
    Reply
  • gkay09
    But as this is an all-AMD build, the X4 955 would have been a better choice...And did you people come across any driver issues when dealing with Quad-crossfire ?That setup looks like asking for trouble...
    Reply
  • IzzyCraft
    4 x Gigabyte GV-R485OC-1GH Radeon HD 4850 in CrossFire

    Interesting but frankly not a huge fan of multi gpu set ups to being with let alone a quad fire set up i mean at least with nvidia you have decent scaling, but who am i to complain for that price and it seems to run high rez just fine.

    But that is a *** load of load power draw, noise(not too much nice zalman heat sinks on those cards) and heat coming out of that thing.

    bit surprised when i saw the load Wattage you got i thought the older 1300 rig was a i7 with 2x260's in sli which should come out to be less power draw under load even with a modded 4870 cards

    Little risky build but on the bright side you could run 8 monitors lol

    Conventional would have landed this price in the i5/i7 build with 2x4890's or a bit more powerful cards really depends on which cpu you settle with. Ofc ionno how long ago you order this. Would have came out a bit more rounded but not as great for higher resolutions and AA AF settings.

    This build is more of a high resolution gaming specialist. Personally i've never built a system with just gaming in mind i've always been a man that favors a more rounded system where you spend at least 3/4th of what you put into your gpu into your cpu

    Thomas Soderstrom's $2,500 AMD build tomorrow
    bah $2,500 and no i7 not like the budget couldn't fit very expensive gpu card and cpu in there. Oh well it wont loose out too much in games even with mutli gpu set ups...best have a sound card in there it be very refreshing for tom's builds to sport one. Interesting what monstrosity he has made to share with us.
    Reply
  • kelfen
    I see some scaling issues with x4!!
    Reply
  • jj463rd
    I agree with gkay09 on spending the extra $20 and going with the Phenom II X4 955 BE instead even if it pushes the budget a little over.At this price level I would probably choose a Core i7 build though.I really liked the $650 SBM budget AMD build that was a great choice.
    Reply
  • Proximon
    Heh well, not all SBMs have to be perfect. I'm liking the whole experimental phase the SBMs are going through. More educational than just seeing a build I would have done myself.
    Reply
  • IzzyCraft
    jj463rdI agree with gkay09 on spending the extra $20 and going with the Phenom II X4 955 BE instead even if it pushes the budget a little over.At this price level I would probably choose a Core i7 build though.I really liked the $650 SBM budget AMD build that was a great choice.Well it was by demand to make AMD builds and this is what happens they timed it just right to be right after i5 release just to mess with us. AMD builds shouldn't hurt in games but in apps depending it can be murder or breaking even.
    Reply