System Builder Marathon, March 2012: $1250 Enthusiast PC

Test System And Benchmarks

It will be interesting to see how AMD’s FX-6100 will fare compared to Intel’s Core i5-2400, especially when overclocked since the FX chip has an unlocked multiplier and two extra execution cores. Plus, the FX-6100 system’s dual Radeon HD 6950 CrossFire setup has a theoretical advantage over the Radeon HD 7970 when it comes to raw frame rates, although the single card is a more elegant solution.

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Current $1250 Enthusiast PC Test Settings
Row 0 - Cell 0 Standard SpeedOverclocked
MotherboardASRock P67 Pro3 SE LGA 1155, Intel P67 chipsetUnchanged
ProcessorIntel Core i5-24003.1 GHz (3.4 GHz Turbo Boost), Quad-Core, 6 MB L3 Cache3.6 to 3.7 GHz@ +0.1 V
MemoryMushkin Enhanced Redline 8 GB (2 x 4 GB) 240-Pin DDR3-1600 Kit Dual-Channel Desktop Memory Kit, CAS 7-9-8-24-2T(run in single channel mode due to motherboard issue)Unchanged
GraphicsPowerColor Radeon HD 7970 3 GB  3 GB GDDR5 @ 5500 MT/sGPU @ 925 MHzGDDR5 @ 6300 MT/s GPU @ 1125 MHzPower @ +20%
Hard DriveCrucial m4 64 GB SATA III SSD 64 GB, SATA 6 Gb/sUnchanged
Hard DriveHitachi Deskstar 750 GB 750 GB, 7200 RPM, 32 MB Cache SATA 3Gb/sUnchanged
OpticalSamsung TS-H353C OEMDVD BurnerUnchanged
CaseApevia X-Trooper JuniorUnchanged
PowerCorsair TX650 V2 650 W ATX12V, EPS12V, 80 PLUS-CertifiedUnchanged
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December $1250 Enthusiast PC Test Settings
Row 0 - Cell 0 Standard SpeedOverclocked
MotherboardBiostar TA990FXE AM3+, AMD 990FX chipsetUnchanged
ProcessorAMD FX-61003.3 GHz (3.9 GHz Max Turbo Core), Hexa-Core, 8 MB L3 Cache4450 MHz at 1.476 V,207 MHz bus
MemoryMushkin Enhanced Redline 4 GB (2 x 2 GB) 240-Pin DDR3-1600 Kit Dual-Channel Desktop Memory Kit, CAS 9-9-9-24-1T7-8-8-24 1T @ 690 MHz
Graphics2 x Gigabyte Radeon HD 6950 1 GB  1 GB GDDR5 @ 5000 MT/sGPU @ 870 MHzGDDR5 @ 5040 MT/s GPU @ 880 MHz
Hard DriveOCZ Vertex Plus 60 GB SATA II SSD 60 GB, SATA 3 Gb/sUnchanged
Hard DriveWestern Digital Caviar Black 750 GB 750 GB, 7200 RPM, 32 MB cache SATA 3Gb/sUnchanged
OpticalSony Optiarc DVD Burner24x DVD BurnerUnchanged
CaseRosewill Challenger-U3Unchanged
PowerCorsair TX650 V2 650 W ATX12V, EPS12V, 80 PLUS-CertifiedUnchanged

And here's the list of benchmarks:

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Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
Battlefield 3Campaign Mode, "Going Hunting" 90-Seconds Fraps Test Set 1: Medium Quality Defaults (No AA, 4x AF) Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Defaults (4x AA, 16x AF)
DiRT 3V1.01, Run with -benchmark example_benchmark.xml Test Set 1: High Quality Preset, No AA Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Preset, 8x AA
Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimUpdate 1.4.27, Celedon Aethirborn Level 6, 25 Seconds Fraps Test Set 1: DX11, High Details No AA, 8x AF, FXAA enabled Test Set 2: DX11, Ultra Details, 8x AA, 16x AF, FXAA enabled
StarCraft IICustom map "Tom's Hardware Guide V2", 60 seconds Fraps Test Set 1: High Details, High Quality Test Set 2: Ultra Details, Extreme Quality
Audio/Video Encoding
iTunesVersion x64: Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 minutes, default AAC format
Lame MP3Version 3.98.3: Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 min, convert WAV to MP3 audio format, Command: -b 160 --nores (160 Kb/s)
HandBrake CLIVersion 0.95: "Big Buck Bunny" (720x480, 23.972 FPS) 5 Minutes, Audio: Dolby Digital, 48 000 Hz, Six-Channel, English, to Video: AVC Audio: AC3 Audio2: AAC (High Profile)
MainConcept ReferenceVersion: MPEG-2 to H.264, MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG-2), Audio: MPEG-2 (44.1 kHz, 2 Channel, 16-Bit, 224 Kb/s), Codec: H.264 Pro, Mode: PAL 50i (25 FPS), Profile: H.264 BD HDMV
Adobe Photoshop CS5Version 12.1 x64: Filter 15.7MB TIF Image: Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates
Autodesk 3ds Max 2012Version 12.0 x64: Space Flyby Mentalray, 248 Frames, 1440x1080
WinZipVersion 15.5 Pro: THG-Workload (650 MB) to ZIP, command line switches "-a -ez -p -r"
WinRARVersion 4.1: THG-Workload (650 MB) to RAR, command line switches "winrar a -r -m3"
7-ZipVersion 9.22: THG-Workload (650 MB) to .7z, command line switches "a -t7z -r -m0=LZMA2 -mx=5"
ABBYY FineReaderVersion Read PDF save to Doc, Source: Political Economy (J. Broadhurst 1842) 111 Pages
Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
3DMark 11Version:, Benchmark Only
PCMark 7Version: 1.0.4 x64, System, Productivity, Hard Disk Drive benchmarks
SiSoftware Sandra 2011Version 2011.10.17.80, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / MultiMedia, Memory Test = Bandwidth Benchmark
  • 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.