System Builder Marathon, December 2010: $1000 PC

Although we were afraid of the results, this time around we decided to try something new, forgoing the Core i5 in favor of a dual-core Core i3 CPU in our build. Can the higher clock rate compensate for the loss of two physical cores in our $1000 system?

System Builder Marathon, December 2010: The Articles

Here are links to each of the four articles in this month’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.

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

Day 1: The $2,000 Performance PC
Day 2: The $1,000 Enthusiast PC
Day 3: The $500 Gaming PC
Day 4: Performance And Value, Dissected

Introduction

Our mid-range enthusiast systems have been a little predictable over the past year. The Core i5-750 and Core i7-920 proved themselves to be ideal starting points in the $1000-$1500 price range. And while we’ve been able to demonstrate some specific areas of success with Phenom II X3 and X4 alternatives, the quad-core Intel lineup continues to shine as the sweet-spot.

But what about Intel’s Core i3 lineup? Can a dual-core Hyper-Threaded processor deliver Core i5- 750-class performance with higher clock speeds? Is there superior overclocking potential to be exploited? Is the Core i3 a viable alternative for someone who wants to save a few dollars on the CPU now and upgrade to a Core i5 or i7 later? Can the money saved be better spent on other components?

Those are questions we try to answer in this month’s $1000 enthusiast system, and here are the components we are using to do that:

$1,000 Enthusiast System Components
MotherboardAsus Sabertooth 55i
LGA 1156, Intel P55 chipset
$150
ProcessorIntel Core i3-550
3.2 GHz, Dual-Core, 4 MB L3 Cache
$130
CPU Cooler
Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus
$30
MemoryGeIL Black Dragon 4 GB (2 x 2 GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3-1333
Dual-Channel Desktop Memory Kit
$80
Graphics2 x ECS NBGTX460
GeForce GTX 460 SLI configuration, 1 GB GDDR5 per card
$380
Hard DrivesWD Caviar Black 750 GB
750 GB, 7200 RPM, 32 MB Cache SATA 3Gb/s
$70
OpticalLG 22x DVD – GH22LS50 OEM
22x DVD+R, 8x DVD+RW, 48x CD ROM
$18
CaseNZXT Gamma
$40
Fans
2 x APEVIA CF12S-BK 120 mm$8
PowerCorsair CMPSU-650TX 650 W
ATX12V, EPS12V, 80 PLUS Certified
$90
 Total Cost$991
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116 comments
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  • 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
    *comprehension
  • sudeshc
    Not impressed, could have been better.
  • clownbaby
    add space is getting out of control on this site.
  • clownbaby
    worst i3 overclock ever. And a 750gb wd black? Waste! You could get a faster 1tb samsung for less.

    I normally enjoy these builds, but this is among the worst I've seen. For ~$10 you probably could have gotten a ddr3 1600 kit, not to mention money could have been saved on the motherboard. And with a measly 4ghz overclock, you can probably return the aftermarket cooler and get your money back.
  • tacoslave
    amirplike they said in the previous article even the 6000 series radeons weren't out when they made these articles,reading comprehensions noobs

    derp
  • exr
    nice
  • amdfangirl
    Two GTX 460s... with a dual-core... serious?
  • bigmantenor
    ...Cable...Management...
  • shrapnel_indie
    a dual-core i3 eh? Why not have tried a dual-core i5-655k? I know, more expensive... but I know some people out there may see "i5" and think that they are all the same. (n00bs, who haven't educated themselves yet.)

    The Intel Core i5-655K Clarkdale 3.2GHz LGA 1156 73W Dual-Core Unlocked Desktop Processor ( NewEgg p/n BX80616I5655K ) is the same price as the Intel Core i5-750 Lynnfield 2.66GHz LGA 1156 95W Quad-Core Processor ( NewEgg p/n BX80605I5750 ) at the time of this post.
  • dirtmountain
    I enjoyed this build, i don't see the sense in always using the same CPU, case,GPU combos. By changing to the i5, using the NZXT case, the 460 1GB in SLI you give your readers something different to consider and not the same old, same old. Good work and good builds in both the $2,000 and $1,000 SBMs.
  • freshnbaked
    WOW look at what I just put together from my local hub, Microcenter, I have a I7-950, 460sli, with blueray player, but the 70 buck from the blueray player could of took me to 8gb of 1600mhz ram.

    Western Digital Caviar Blue 500GB 7,200 RPM SATA ---49.99
    Micro Center 4GB DDR3-1333 (PC3-10666) CL9 Desktop ---49.99
    Samsung SH-B123L 12X BD Combo Drive ---49.99
    x2-Palit NE5TX460FHD79 GeForce GTX 460 ---329.98
    Intel Core i7-950 3.06GHz Boxed Processor ---199.99
    Diablotek PHD Series 650 Watt ATX12V Power Supply ---39.99
    PowerSpec Powerspec TX366 ATX Case ---17.98
    Gigabyte GA-X58-USB3 LGA 1366 X58 ATX Intel MotherBoard ---184.99

    for a grand total of ---999.48


    It would blow that PoS they built away, let me at them!

    Ps. if I were to spend it, I would say F the blue ray player and the I7-950 and get the I7-870 for 229.99 and the 97.99 X-fire mobo and go for 2 5850's with 8gbs of 1600 mhz ram. But what do I know ")
  • jj463rd
    FreshnbakedWOW look at what I just put together from my local hub, Microcenter, I have a I7-950, 460sli, with blueray player, but the 70 buck from the blueray player could of took me to 8gb of 1600mhz ram. Western Digital Caviar Blue 500GB 7,200 RPM SATA ---49.99Micro Center 4GB DDR3-1333 (PC3-10666) CL9 Desktop ---49.99Samsung SH-B123L 12X BD Combo Drive ---49.99x2-Palit NE5TX460FHD79 GeForce GTX 460 ---329.98Intel Core i7-950 3.06GHz Boxed Processor ---199.99Diablotek PHD Series 650 Watt ATX12V Power Supply ---39.99PowerSpec Powerspec TX366 ATX Case ---17.98Gigabyte GA-X58-USB3 LGA 1366 X58 ATX Intel MotherBoard ---184.99for a grand total of ---999.48It would blow that PoS they built away, let me at them! Ps. if I were to spend it, I would say F the blue ray player and the I7-950 and get the I7-870 for 229.99 and the 97.99 X-fire mobo and go for 2 5850's with 8gbs of 1600 mhz ram. But what do I know ")

    It's from Microcenter (and in store only option for the CPU and perhaps some other parts).The nearest one from me is thousands of miles away in the continental U.S.A.
    Toms Hardware I believe only will do a build from parts that are readily available for everyone.
  • freshnbaked
    and for the 500 dollar build, check this out, I might buy one for X-mas for fun. Again from microcenter, the AMD 560 x2BE comes with a free Mobo for a special that had been around for about 7 months. So its just kind of a standing offer instead of a deal now.

    Cooler Master USP 100 ATX Case with eXtreme 550W PS ---59.99
    AMD Phenom II X2 560 Black Edition Boxed Processor ---99.99
    MSI 785GM-P45 AM3 785G mATX Motherboard --- 0.00
    x2-HIS H575FN1GD Radeon HD 5750 1GB ---219.98
    Micro Center 4GB DDR3-1333 (PC3-10666) ---49.99
    CD-RW Internal Optical Drive ---9.99
    Samsung Spinpoint F3 500GB 7,200RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s ---44.99

    for a grand total of ---499.93

    The mobo supports X-fire and core unlocking, so 4 cores oc'd around 3.814ghz which my old one did stable. And Oc'd 5750's should be sufficient to knock off any other 500 dollar computer out there. you could also save 5-6 bucks with a 320gb HD. With the case supplied PSU and the bundle pack, its almost unbeatable. I
  • freshnbaked
    Lol, Microcenter is not a small shop, they do ship internationally. It's like walmart but for computers only.
  • freshnbaked
    and with refurb's and open box items they have available, you could really sqeeze in some power in there. But it's risky in the sense I wouldn't be able to afford to re buy stuff everytime it started on fire, lost data, or w/e reason it was returned for.
  • Tamz_msc
    Looks like going form quad core to dual core really hurts.