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System Builder Marathon, Sept. '09: AMD System Value Compared

Going Green To Save Some Green?

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

We answered overwhelming requests to use AMD in our latest System Builder Marathon and found the excellent gaming, good prices, and mediocre overclocking our previous component reviews had lead us to expect. Value seekers should be especially pleased with our processor selection while criticizing a few of the “unnecessary expenses” in our highest-priced build. Yet supposedly-superfluous features aren’t the most surprising differences in today’s comparison: Let’s also reconsider a few of the performance-oriented component choices.

September SBM PC Component Prices
$650-Limit Build$1,250-Limit Build$2,500-Limit Build
MotherboardGigabyte GA-MA790X-UD4PMSI 790FX-GD70MSI 790FX-GD70
ProcessorAMD Phenom II X2 550 BE 3.1 GHz Dual-CoreAMD Phenom II X4 945 3 GHz Quad-CoreAMD Phenom II X4 955 3.2 GHz Quad-Core
MemoryOCZ Gold OCZ2G10664GK 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR2-1066Patriot PVS34G1333LLKN 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3-13332 x Crucial CT2KIT25664BA1339 8GB (4 x 2GB) DDR3-1333
Graphics2 x Sapphire 100245HDMI Radeon HD 4850 512MB4 x Gigabyte GV-R485OC-1GH Radeon HD 4850 1GB3 x MSI R4890-T2D1G OC Radeon HD 4890 1GB
OS/Program DrivesWD Blue WD5000AAKS 500GB, 7200 RPMWD Black WD6401AALS 640GB, 7200 RPM2 x Intel X25-M 80GB Model SSDSA2MH080G1 (RAID 0)
Storage Hard Drives2 x WD Black 1TB 7200 RPM Model WD1001FALS (RAID 1)
OpticalSamsung SATA DVD±RW Model SH-S223B (22x)Optiarc 24X SATA DVD±RW Model AD-7240S-0BDVD/CDLG SATA BD-RE/HD-DVD Model GGW-H20L (6x BD-R)
CaseRosewill Wind RyderNZXT TempestNZXT Panzerbox
PowerAntec EarthWatts EA650 650WPC Power & Cooling S75CF 750WCorsair CMPSU-1000HX 1000W
CPU CoolerAMD Boxed HeatsinkXigmatek HDT-S1283Swiftech H20-220
Component CoolingAntec 0761345-75018-9 "SpotCool" LED Fan
SSD TraySNT SNT-SATA2221B Hot-Swappable Backplane
Bay AdapterVantec MRK-250FD
Total Cost $647  $1,265  $2,490

The cheapest build in today’s lineup is a lean, mean gaming machine, fitting two Radeon HD 4850 graphics cards and a high-speed dual-core processor into a sub-$650 package. At the other end of the scale, the high-end build takes an “everything but the kitchen sink” approach, adding liquid cooling and SSD drives to fill reader demands, plus redundant traditional drives to fill the storage demands of high-end buyers. The $1,265 machine attempts to trump the highest-priced build with a total of four graphics cards, sacrificing storage redundancy to fit these within its budget.

But with only 512MB per graphics card, will the cheapest system be powerful enough to provide the best gaming value? Will the middle-priced system’s four mainstream-performance graphics cards really be able to overtake the triple-threat high-end cards of its expensive competitor? And for the high-end system, is there really any good reason for gamers to spend this much on drives and cooling? Let’s find out.

  • 08nwsula
    So when will these things be given away?
    Reply
  • ColMirage
    Wait one more day, they should have the contest page up tomorrow (I guess so anyway)
    Reply
  • SpadeM
    Out of the 3 of them, got to love the $1250 one. Especially since it has "quadfire" on-board. Don, u made at least one reader happy :).

    On another note, this reminds me of the 3x260 vs 2x280 article you guys wrote a while back so i would like to see, if possible, another follow up article based on this concept of "the more the merrier"

    Lastly, don't be shy in using more then 2 graphics cards in future system builder marathons since it's a nice change of air.
    Reply
  • uruz
    that 650 SBM would look great on my desk beside my aging computer... Btw does it run on diesel?
    Reply
  • anamaniac
    SpadeMOut of the 3 of them, got to love the $1250 one. Especially since it has "quadfire" on-board. Don, u made at least one reader happy . On another note, this reminds me of the 3x260 vs 2x280 article you guys wrote a while back so i would like to see, if possible, another follow up article based on this concept of "the more the merrier"Lastly, don't be shy in using more then 2 graphics cards in future system builder marathons since it's a nice change of air.Now I want to see a Pentium four paired with 4x 5870... I'm serius.
    Though some of us are iffy about multiple cards. Heavily diminishing returns do come into effect with a multi-card setup.
    Reply
  • liquidsnake718
    Now can we get a comparison between these SBM Ati/AMD setups vs an updated Intel/Nvidia SBM setups. Instead of the previous April setups you guys compared these ATi/AMD computers it would be great if you could build updated systems with Nvidia cards in SLI with the new i5 and updated i7 chips. Perhaps still including the Qextreme chips if need be. It would be a true comparison to see which system would be the most worth it to buy for the price ranges.

    Then it would be great to see a chart with all of these systems being compared. For instance seeing the 3x4890 $2,500 build vs an i7 3xGTx285 build for the same price! Pls try to include AA in crysis benches even though they might be low in 2560x1600, at least we will get an idea of how important the next gen cards will stack up and utilize the AA x4 and DX11. Thanks and nice work as these articles are interesting. You guys should make a magazine or supply articles to the likes of PC world for real bench testing and not general reviews.
    Reply
  • Sharft6
    I always thought more than 2 gfx cards was a waste of money but it seems to work ok for you guys despite the slugish cpus.

    good marathon.
    Reply
  • jj463rd
    All of these builds look great to me.I am impressed by the ingenious way you folks have put these together it was very inventive.I liked the quadfire $1,250 system build as well.You have shocked us all here I think (well many of us) and done these builds in some unusual ways quite a surprise.
    Reply
  • Sharft6
    demonhorde665why the hell does every ioen call amd cpu's "sluggish" for f--ks sake theya re any thing butr sluggish , sure they arn't teh fastest player in teh field but shit they arn't sluggish you fanboy. if some oen could run a 40 in 3.1 seconds but stil gets beat by some one that can run it in 3.02 would you call the loser a slug ?? (for the record average athelete running time for a 40 meter dash is about 4.5 seconds)
    if anything i'm an amd fanboy - 5600+ and 4850 over here.

    I didn't call them slugs i called them slugish. THG have shown i7s do better at gaming especially when u stack up the gfx.
    Reply
  • cangelini
    08nwsulaSo when will these things be given away?
    I'll be updating the link to the contest today sometime in all three stories, then having the news team post a news piece letting everyone know that the contest is ready! Good luck!!
    Reply