System Builder Marathon, March 2010: $1,500 Enthusiast PC

The Components

System Builder Marathon, March 2010: 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.

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

Day 1: The $3,000 Performance PC
Day 2: The $1,500 Enthusiast PC
Day 3: The $750 Gaming PC
Day 4: Performance And Value, Dissected


In this installment of the System Builder Marathon (SBM) series, our mid-priced PC is more than just a solid machine built from great components. Instead, it's also an experiment to see exactly what benefits Intel's Core i7-920 offers when compared to the cheaper Core i5-750.

We used the Core i5-750 in our last SBM, and this is an excellent opportunity to show the difference between the two. With the price of some Core i7-capable X58-based motherboards dropping, the real-world difference in price between a home computer based on either of these CPUs is probably in the $150 range. Since we'll use the same type of Radeon HD 5850 graphics cards in CrossFire that we did in our previous SBM, this new build gives us a really good idea of what the extra cash invested in the X58 platform and Core i7-920 provides in the way of performance.

Here are the components we chose:

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$1,500 Enthusiast System Components
MotherboardASRock X58 Extreme LGA 1366 Chipset: Intel X58 Express$160
ProcessorIntel Core i7-920 2.66 GHz 4 Cores, 8MB L3 Cache$289
CPU CoolerRosewill Fort 120 LGA 1366$40
MemoryCrucial 6GB (3x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3-1333 Triple-Channel Desktop Memory Kit$165
Graphics2 x Radeon HD 5850 (CrossFireX) 1GB GDDR5-4000 Per Card Radeon HD 5870 GPU at 725 MHz$640
Hard DrivesWD Caviar Black 750GB 750GB, 7,200 RPM, 32MB Cache SATA 3.0 Gb/s$80
OpticalSamsung SH-S2232C22x DVD+R, 8x DVD+RW, 16x DVD ROM, 48x CD ROM$20
CaseCooler Master CM 690$80
PowerCorsair CMPSU-750TX 750W ATX12V, EPS12V , 80-Plus Certified$110
Row 9 - Cell 0 Total Current Cost$1,582

We call this the $1,500 build because that's what we paid when we ordered it, but prices have changed quickly in the past couple of months. The PowerColor Radeon HD 5850 graphics cards we selected have increased in price to $320 each, but only a short while ago these cards could be had for $290. This accounts for the lion's share of the price increase and is an unfortunate side effect of what happens when a company has a virtual monopoly in the high-end graphics card space. If Nvidia provides some competition with its next-gen parts in the near future, we might see some healthy competition on the price front, which can only be a good thing for the consumer.

Regardless, the point is that even though the new system's price is almost $250 higher than the Core i5 system we tested in November, the price of building that same Core i5 system today would be much closer. Is the Core i7-920 CPU worth the price spread when compared to the i5-750? That's what we'll try to answer with this comparison. Now, let's examine our specific component selections.

  • shubham1401
    Now this is an excellent PC for overall usage...

  • sabot00
    Love to have this PC. Great components, really wish Fermi at least drops prices.
  • skora
    I find it funny Cleeve that you mention the effects of ATIs monopoly on the high end GPU market but nothing on the CPU front. How much better off would we all be if AMD had a competing product for the Core i5/7s.

    Out of curiosity, how big is the storage capacity needed for your benchmark suit? I know you were over budget, but how close could you have come to one of the lower capacity SSDs and their performance advantages?
  • The labels on all the charts appear to be wrong. They're mentioning a "Current $1300 System" but I thought the current system was $1500?
  • anamaniac
    To be honest, this just somehow seems disappointing to me.
    But then I think of how much I spent on my rig, and got less, I'm even more disappointed.

    It's crazy that prices keep raising on everything though. 6 months ago I was $9/GB for DDR2, in Canadian dollars. $12.50/GB for DDR3. It's absolutely ridiculous.
  • Otus
    It looks like i5->i7 is not worth it for gamers. The increases when FPS
  • Crashman
    OtusIt looks like i5->i7 is not worth it for gamers. The increases when FPS
    I've got news for you: i3->i7 is not worth it for gamers. Tom's Hardware has an interesting article in the works.
  • p1n3apqlexpr3ss
    Sounds good, this something to do with the i3 HTed vs traditional quad thing?
  • Crashman
    p1n3apqlexpr3ss@CrashmanSounds good, this something to do with the i3 HTed vs traditional quad thing?
    I think it's a Windows 7 thread shifting and dual-threaded games thing, since both the i3 and i7 have HT.
  • Stardude82
    SethVNThe labels on all the charts appear to be wrong. They're mentioning a "Current $1300 System" but I thought the current system was $1500?
    The whole comparison is BS. $200 is a lot of money where I come from and the stock cooling on the i5 750 is garbage. The low-end Conroes had much better cooling and they were only 65W TDP. I say stick your no-name heatsink on last quarters machine, call it a $1400 box, redo the overclocking and then publish the results as that way they will be at least somewhat relevant.