System Builder Marathon, March 2012: $1250 Enthusiast PC

Giving It Up For More Gaming Performance

System Builder Marathon, March 2012: The Articles

Here are links to each of the five articles in this quarter’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, including the Bonus Customer Choice PC, which we picked out using the highest-rated components in Newegg's feedback system.

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

Day 1: The $650 Gaming PC
Day 2: The $1250 Enthusiast PC
Day 3: The $2600 Performance PC
Day 4: Performance And Value, Dissected
Day 5: Bonus Newegg Customer Choice PC


Up until now, we've used Intel’s Core i5-2500K in our mid-range enthusiast builds without ever having been disappointed. We gave AMD’s lower-priced FX-6100 a chance last time around, but that build wasn’t very successful. Despite its impressive graphics subsystem (a powerful pair of Radeon HD 6950 cards in CrossFire), it just couldn't compete.

I suppose we could crawl back to the Core i5-2500K, begging for forgiveness. It's the safe bet, after all. But we're tired of making it, and we're never going to learn anything new if we go down that road again.

No. This time we’ll try something a little different, and we’ll give up some of the processor and platform budget to make room for a shiny new Radeon HD 7970. We think the result has the potential to be a very capable gaming machine.

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$1250 Enthusiast System Components
MotherboardASRock P67 Pro3 SE LGA 1155, Intel P67 Express PCH$95
ProcessorIntel Core i5-24003.1 GHz (3.4 GHz Max Turbo Boost), Quad-Core, 6 MB Shared L3 Cache$190
CPU CoolerCooler Master Hyper TX3$20
MemoryMushkin Enhanced Redline 8 GB (2 x 4 GB) 240-Pin DDR3-1600 Kit Dual-Channel Desktop Memory Kit$60
GraphicsPowerColor Radeon HD 7970  3 GB GDDR5$560
Hard DriveCrucial m4 64 GB SATA III SSD 64 GB, SATA 6 Gb/s$95
Hard DriveHitachi Deskstar 750 GB 750 GB, 7200 RPM, 32 MB Cache SATA 3Gb/s$100
OpticalSamsung TS-H353C OEMDVD Burner$13
CaseApevia X-Trooper Junior$40
PowerCorsair TX650 V2 650 W ATX12V, EPS12V, 80 PLUS-Certified$90
Row 10 - Cell 0 Total Cost$1263

Prices haven't changed much between the time we ordered our parts and now, although Crucial’s m4 SSD did go up by $5. The original cost of this box ducked in just over our $1250 budget. Now we're slightly north of $1260.

  • 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.