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

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


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

MSI 790FX-GD70
AMD 790FX, AM3



AMD Phenom II X4 945
Four Cores, 3.0 GHz, 6MB Cache



Patriot 4GB (2 x 2GB) PVS34G1333LLKN
Dual-Channel Memory Kit



4 x Gigabyte GV-R485OC-1GH Radeon HD 4850 in CrossFire
1GB GDDR3-1996 Per Card, 700 MHz GPU


Hard Drive

Western Digital Caviar Black
640 GB, 32 MB cache



Sony Optiarc AD-7240S-0B



NZXT Tempest ATX Tower



PC Power & Cooling S75CF, ATX12V 2.2, 80-Plus Certified


CPU Cooler

Xigmatek Dark Knight S1283



Total Cost


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.