System Builder Marathon, March 2012: $1250 Enthusiast PC

CPU, Motherboard, And Cooler

CPU: Intel Core i5-2400

With our sights set on a $550 Radeon HD 7970 for our $1250 build, we have to cut some corners. And it's not like the $190 Core i5-2400 is a bad CPU. After all, we’ve been recommending it in the sub-$200 space for some time now. Moreover, in our recent sub-$200 CPU gaming comparison, this processor performed very closely to the Core i5-2500K overclocked to 4 GHz.

Read Customer Reviews of Intel's Core i5-2400

Although the Core i5-2400’s multiplier ratio is locked, we’re interested in seeing how much speed this 3.1 GHz model gains when we peg it at its highest available 38x Turbo Boost ratio.

Motherboard: ASRock P67 Pro3 SE

Read Customer Reviews of ASRock's P67 Pro3 SE

We heard good things about ASRock’s P67 Pro3, so we thought we’d give the SE version a try. At $95, it certainly didn’t hurt that this was also the lowest-priced motherboard we could find with Intel's P67 chipset.

On paper, it has everything else we need: DDR3 memory support up to 2133 MT/s and a PCIe x16 slot. Reality turned out to be a little different though, as we suffered from from a BIOS limitation that we’ll discuss in the overclocking section. Know this: if you plan on overclocking, spend a few more dollars on a platform with more complete firmware settings. If you’re not overclocking, you might appreciate the Pro3 SE’s thin footprint, which fit into our mid-tower enclosure with ease.

CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper TX3

Read Customer Reviews of Cooler Master's Hyper TX3

We know that there are better coolers out there, but you’ll have a hard time finding one for $20. Given tight budget constraints, we opted for Cooler Master’s low-budget option. It just so happens to be a decent model for the price, and it's significantly better than the solution you get bundled with Intel's Core i5-2400. 

  • 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.
  • ojas
    typo in the table on the first page, a 6970 isn't for $560! :P
  • 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.
  • 7970 guess you wrote this before the GTX 680 review. No way you'd make that recommendation after.
  • 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.
  • killabanks
    i would say wait for the price to come down
  • 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.
  • ringzero
    This article has so many typos and data errors that I can't make any sense of it.
  • 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.
  • 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.