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System Builder Marathon, Q2 2013: $650 Gaming PC

Graphics Card And Hard Drive

Graphics Card: PowerColor PCS+ AX7870 Myst Edition 2GBD5-2DHPPV3E

By now, you're probably pretty familiar with PowerColor’s AX7870 Myst Edition. Last quarter, three-quarters of our builds relied on this Tahiti LE-based board. Our bonus configuration sported two of them in CrossFire, in fact. Humorously, the biggest criticism my $600 setup endured came from gamers who thought this very card should have swept all of our budgets, no matter what it took to cram it in.

As the only Radeon HD 7870 with a Tahiti GPU at our disposal, PowerColor's board gives us the most performance available for $250, sporting a 925 MHz base and 975 MHz boost frequency, 1536 shaders, and 2 GB of 1500 MHz GDDR5 memory.

Read Customer Reviews of PowerColor's PCS+ AX7870 Myst Edition (opens in new tab)

Hard Drive: Western Digital Blue WD5000AAKX 500 GB

Western Digital’s Blue-series WD5000AAKX gives us a balance between capacity, performance, and cost. The 500 GB SATA 6Gb/s-capable drive comes with 16 MB of cache, a 7200 RPM spindle, and a limited two-year warranty.

Read Customer Reviews of Western Digital's WD50000AAKX 500 GB (opens in new tab)

  • Madn3ss795
    Just 1 question: Why not a 4gb ram stick instead? That board only has 2 RAM slots, so wouldn't it be better to use just one and save another for upgrading later?
    Reply
  • nokiddingboss
    a great starting build at a very reasonable cost. it was a good read mate. gotta <3 the 7870xt for gaming. best bang for the buck. if only the i5's are a little cheaper... next quarter perhaps?
    Reply
  • sbudbud
    10984766 said:
    Just 1 question: Why not a 4gb ram stick instead? That board only has 2 RAM slots, so wouldn't it be better to use just one and save another for upgrading later?
    I think this is for performance reasons, dual channel memory beats single channel in performance but more memory is better. I guess the reason is that 4gb is the sweet spot in terms of what is recommended and that going single channel 4gb for future upgrade to 8gb dual channel will has diminishing returns..
    Reply
  • thasan1
    ahh finally, i was wondering what happened to system builder marathon..
    Reply
  • thasan1
    but why mini ITX rigs?
    Reply
  • sarinaide
    $650 called budget, clearly my definition and the going opinion is far from budget, with it possible to build a ATX Intel or AMD system for a little extra but a lot more performance. I did see the Day5 $400 Ultimate Purist M-ATX, this I gotta see, my guess is another Intel build.
    Reply
  • jestersage
    Thank you for acceding to reader requests for an itx based SBM!

    I have similar preferences as the author when it comes to what I'd change here... a step down in graphics, a step up in CPU performance and bring up RAM to 8gb. I'm not very concerned about noise. I almost always put on a headset when I game.
    Reply
  • MuadDibTM
    Great job on the build and the article. Would have liked a noise comparison as well. Just so we'd know what we're talking about when going for a mini-ITX build.
    Reply
  • bigshootr8
    Yea I'm a bit confused why you wouldn't go down to a 7850 2 gigabyte model and then spend the extra money on 8 gigabytes of memory instead ><
    Reply
  • ARICH5
    jeez, it sounds like your face-palming yourself for getting the i3 through this whole article.
    Reply