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System Builder Marathon, December 2010: $1000 PC

CPU, Motherboard, And Cooler

CPU: Intel Core i3-550

Our Core i3-550 experiment saves us about $75 on what we would have spent on a Core i5-760. For that lower price, we’re giving up two physical CPU cores in exchange for two logical cores enabled by Hyper-Threading, and getting half the L3 cache--that is, 4 MB instead of 8 MB.

On the other hand, the Core i3-550 has a 3.2 GHz clock rate, while the Core i5-760 only hits that under optimal conditions in Turbo mode, usually running at a 2.8 GHz clock in threaded applications.

Read Customer Reviews of Intel's Core i3-550

Common sense tells us the $75 upgrade to the Core i5-760 is money well spent in the scheme of things, but we keep an open mind until we see the benchmarks and overclocking performance.

Motherboard: Asus Sabertooth 55i

Read Customer Reviews of Asus' Sabertooth 55i

Asus’ Sabertooth 55i is arguably one of the most robust LGA 1156 overclocking boards available, and the $150 sale price is too good for us to pass up. This board is designed to deliver an improved overclocking experience for LGA 1156-based CPUs using ceramic-coated heat sinks on the PCH and MOSFETS, binned capacitors and MOSFETS, and automatic phase switching.

CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus

Read Customer Reviews of Cooler Master's Hyper 212 Plus

Since Cooler Master’s Hyper TX3 costs more at retail, the Hyper 212 takes its place as our recommended cooler. At the same $30 price tag, the Hyper 212 has larger, more capable cooling hardware. And it’s quieter, to boot.