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System Builder Marathon, March 2012: $1250 Enthusiast PC

A Surprisingly Robust Gaming System

Before we wrap this up, let’s consider the aggregate performance data. Keep in mind that we removed the Skyrim results from the following chart because the game's patch altered performance too significantly, rendering a comparison completely invalid.

First up is application performance. On average, the Core i5-2400 does quite well against AMD's FX-6100, especially in light of its motherboard, which artificially hamstrung it with a single memory channel and an inability to specify a constant 3.8 GHz. We did see a couple of benchmark situations where the FX-6100 took a first-place finish when it was overclocked to 4.5 GHz, due to its high clock rate, dual-channel memory, hexa-core architecture, or a combination of the three. In general, though, the Core i5-2400 comes out on top.

As far as game performance goes, the new build's Radeon HD 7970 performs admirably up to the charted resolution of 1920x1080. If we were to focus more intently on 2560x1600, though, the benchmarks suggested to us that the two Radeon HD 6950s in CrossFire would have fared much better.

It’s a real shame that ASRock's P67 Pro3 SE isn't equipped with better BIOS overclocking options, and especially unfortunate that it was unable to run our memory kit in dual-channel mode. We’re not sure how much of an impact this had on the final results, but it's possible that we'll try a Core i5-2400 on a different motherboard next time around just to compare the two platforms.

Regardless, looking at the average performance and power consumption of this quarter's build, a Core i5-2400 and Radeon HD 7970 combo are a better bet than an overclocked FX-6100 with two Radeon HD 6950s. Despite its well-documented flaws, the new build is a powerful little system more deserving of our $1250 budget.

We're especially looking forward to Day 4 of our System Builder Marathon, where Thomas will compare the overall value of our three systems. Not to give too much away, but our top-end machine also centers on Radeon HD 7970, so it'll be interesting to see how much platform alacrity impacts gaming performance.

  • zanny
    Sad thing is dollar for dollar the 7970 is maddeningly inefficient. It only says good things for this summer, when hopefully AMD drops the prices on their cards in response to Kepler kicking their collective butts in performance per dollar.
    Reply
  • ojas
    typo in the table on the first page, a 6970 isn't for $560! :P
    Reply
  • sempifi99
    A 64GB ssd seems very restrictive, can you even load all of the games in the test suite on it? I would think that for any real gamer you would want a SSD at least large enough to load 6 games and considering most modern games take ~10GB there is no room left for windows on it.

    For the price, the lack of a larger SSD seems like an oversight. I would think anyone really considering this build would have done better to get a larger SSD and a 7950 or 7870. Or perhaps a single large hybrid HD would be a better option.
    Reply
  • 7970 guess you wrote this before the GTX 680 review. No way you'd make that recommendation after.
    Reply
  • sempifi99
    9529252 said:
    7970 guess you wrote this before the GTX 680 review. No way you'd make that recommendation after.

    When you compare their overclocking potentials, they have about the same performance. And then there is the availability of the GTX 680, which is not. So it makes since why the 7970 was chosen.

    The 7970 has better compute potential too. But I don't think that is relevant for a gaming box.
    Reply
  • killabanks
    i would say wait for the price to come down
    Reply
  • ksampanna
    stm11857970 guess you wrote this before the GTX 680 review. No way you'd make that recommendation after.
    My thoughts exactly. This story was probably done before Kepler, but now with the 680 launched, the editor sure must be feeling a bit shortchanged.
    Of course, the fact that the 680 has disappeared off the shelves is a different story entirely. In any case, within the next few weeks, we should see significant price cuts on the 7970, potentially making this build relevant once again.
    Reply
  • ringzero
    This article has so many typos and data errors that I can't make any sense of it.
    Reply
  • pharoahhalfdead
    Mushkin, Mushkin, Mushkin... How about trying something along the lines of Corsair XMS3 or another brand? We've seen Mushkin so much, and you sometimes say you want to build different configs, but I never see Corsair in the builds.
    Reply
  • ringzero
    "Whoa. The Radeon HD 6950s in CrossFire from last quarter's System Builder Marathon beat the Radeon HD 7970 at every combination of resolutions and settings, except 1280x1600 at Ultra details."

    I desperately want a monitor at that resolution.
    Reply