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System Builder Marathon, December 2010: $1000 PC


We wanted to see how the Core i3-550 would perform relative to its often-recommended stable mate, the Core i5-750. Let’s look at the raw numbers:

Right off the bat, the Core i3-550 shows dismally compared to the Core i5-750 when it comes to application speed. While our knee-jerk instinct is to call the Core i3-550 a poor choice compared to the core i5-750, there are a couple of ways to interpret these results.

Consider the $115 Core i3-540 and a single $190 GeForce GTX 460 1 GB (or the Radeon HD 6850 for that matter). This makes for a cheap startup combo, and the LGA 1156 interface leaves the buyer with the option to upgrade to a Core i5-700-series CPU in the future, to a second graphics card for SLI/CrossFire gaming, or both (depending on the motherboard).

In fact, while the Core i3-550 might be the bottleneck when it comes to gaming, the CPU bottleneck still does not prevent fluid frame rates. Frankly, our game selection is a little too CPU-restricted, and we’ll be switching it up to more challenging titles in our next SBM. In any case, the new Core i3-550 system slightly beats the Core i5-750 setup on average at 1920x1080 as the summary chart shows.

In the final analysis, we can recommend the Core i3-500 series as a good budget/starter CPU with enough overclocking potential to deliver stock Core i5- 700-class performance. But the real gem here would have been the LGA 1156 platform, allowing for an upgrade to the Core i5-700 (or even Core i7-800) CPU family in the future. It's unfortunate, then, that the Sandy Bridge launch in two weeks will see LGA 1156 kneecapped by Intel in favor of LGA 1155.

The only question left is how will this $1000 enthusiast system stand against the other PCs in this month’s series? For that, you’ll have to wait for Thomas Soderstrom's final comparison article to find out.

  • AMW1011
    I can't say I'm impressed this time. You should never have went with a clarksdale, they are simply bad. Getting a more reasonably priced motherboard, cutting another $20 from the HDD and PSU, and an i5 750, would have been much better.

    Still, we have more information than before so I can't complain.
  • Poisoner
    That PSU only has 2 PCI-E hook ups. So you'll have to use adapters in this build. Pathetic.
  • ivan_chess
    The CPU choice was a little disappointing this time around. A Core i5 or even a comparably priced AMD processor would have done much better (especially in productivity because four cores are typically better than two).
  • adbat
    I think it would be good to include previous build in the test system page it would make comparison easier.
  • duk3
    1 tb 7200.12 hard drive?
    GTX 570? (debatable)
    Cheaper motherboard, maybe not supporting SLI if gtx 570 is taken over 460 sli?
    $50 corsair ddr3 1600?
    i5 760 with these savings?
  • Core2uu
    I think we're missing the point of including the Core i3 in this month's build. The purpose was to explore the CPU bottle-necking that can be observed on today's common applications because threading implementation has managed to find itself actually put into effect. Throwing in an i5 760 would have been too predictable and too boring. This puts perspective on the fact that dual-cores matched with high clock speeds are no longer the performance kings as was true more than a year ago.
  • scrumworks
    Tom's nvidia -line continues. No surprises there.
  • amirp
    like they said in the previous article even the 6000 series radeons weren't out when they made these articles,
    reading comprehensions noobs
  • amirp
  • sudeshc
    Not impressed, could have been better.