System Builder Marathon, Q3 2013: $2550 Performance PC

Test System And Benchmarks

Test System And Benchmarks

The following tables include the stock and overclocked settings for this quarter's machine, along with what we achieved with our mini-ITX-based build. Under those details are our benchmark settings for your information.

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Test Hardware Configurations
Row 0 - Cell 0 Current $2550 PCQ2 2013 $2500 PC
Processor (Overclock)Intel Core i7-3930K, 3.2 GHz, Six Physical CoresO/C to 4.2 GHz, 1.25 VIntel Core i7-3770K, 3.5 GHz, Four Physical CoresO/C to 4.6 GHz, 1.3 V
Graphics (Overclock)3 x EVGA GTX-760: 980-1033 MHz GPU, GDDR5-6008 O/C to 1130 MHz GDDR5-6680Asus GTX690-4GD5: 915-1019 MHz GPU, GDDR5-6008 O/C to 1200 MHz GDDR5-6400
Memory (Overclock)16 GB Mushkin DDR3-1600, CAS 9-9-9-24Not Overclockable16 GB Crucial DDR3-1600, CAS 8-8-8-24O/C at 1.50 V to DDR3-2133 CL 9-9-9-24
Motherboard (Overclock)ASRock X79 Extreme6: LGA 2011, Intel X79 ExpressStock 100 MHz BCLKAsus P8Z77-I Deluxe: LGA 1155, Intel Z77 ExpressStock 100 MHz BCLK
OpticalPioneer BDR-2208: 15x BD-RAsus BW-14D1XT: 14x BD-R
CaseLian Li PC-9NABitfenix Prodigy w/Mesh Front
CPU CoolerNoctua NH-D14 SE2011NZXT Kraken X40
Hard DriveMushkin Chronos Deluxe DX 240 GB, SATA 6Gb/s SSD
PowerCorsair HX850: 850 W Modular, ATX12V v2.3, 80 PLUS GoldSeasonic SS-660XP2: 660 W Modular, ATX12V v2.3, 80 PLUS Platinum
OSMicrosoft Windows 8 Pro x64
GraphicsNvidia GeForce 326.80 BetaNvidia GeForce 314.22
ChipsetIntel INF

Each new build gets a new opportunity for new drivers, since the old ones are given away every quarter. While overclocking issues will hamper the newer system’s six-core performance scores, a trio of 4 GB graphics cards gives me hope for a high-resolution gaming coup.

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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)
F1 2012Steam Version, In-Game Test Test Set 1: High Quality Preset, No AA Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Preset, 8x AA
Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimUpdate 1.5.26, 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
Far Cry 3V. 1.04, DirectX 11, 50-sec. Fraps "Amanaki Outpost" Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA, Standard ATC., SSAO Test Set 2: Ultra Quality, 4x MSAA, Enhanced ATC, HDAO
Adobe Creative Suite
Adobe After Effects CS6Version x64: Create Video which includes 3 Streams, 210 Frames, Render Multiple Frames Simultaneosly
Adobe Photoshop CS6Version 13 x64: Filter 15.7 MB TIF Image: Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates
Adobe Premeire Pro CS6Version, 6.61 GB MXF Project to H.264 Blu-ray, Output 1920x1080, Maximum 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: 0.98: Video from Canon Eos 7D (1920x1080, 25 FPS) 1 Minutes 22 Seconds Audio: PCM-S16, 48,000 Hz, Two-Channel, to Video: AVC1 Audio: AAC (High Profile)
TotalCode Studio 2.5Version: MPEG-2 to H.264, MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG-2), Audio: MPEG-2 (44.1 kHz, Two-Channel, 16-Bit, 224 Kb/s), Codec: H.264 Pro, Mode: PAL 50i (25 FPS), Profile: H.264 BD HDMV
ABBYY FineReaderVersion Read PDF save to Doc, Source: Political Economy (J. Broadhurst 1842) 111 Pages
Adobe Acrobat XVersion Print PDF from 115 Page PowerPoint, 128-bit RC4 Encryption
Autodesk 3ds Max 2012Version 14.0 x64: Space Flyby Mentalray, 248 Frames, 1440x1080
BlenderVersion: 2.64a, Cycles Engine, Syntax blender -b thg.blend -f 1, 1920x1080, 8x Anti-Aliasing, Render THG.blend frame 1
Visual Studio 2010Version 10.0, Compile Google Chrome, Scripted
File Compression
WinZipVersion 17.0 Pro: THG-Workload (1.3 GB) to ZIP, command line switches "-a -ez -p -r"
WinRARVersion 4.2: THG-Workload (1.3 GB) to RAR, command line switches "winrar a -r -m3"
7-ZipVersion 9.28: THG-Workload (1.3 GB) to .7z, command line switches "a -t7z -r -m0=LZMA2 -mx=5"
Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
3DMark 11Version: 1.0.3, Benchmark Only
PCMark 7Version: 1.0.4 x64, System, Productivity, Hard Disk Drive benchmarks
SiSoftware Sandra 2013Version 2013.10.19.50, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / Cryptography, Memory Test = Bandwidth Benchmark
Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • rolli59
    Nice one I got surprised, Tri SLI! I can see why editors wanted to try it knowing that the GTX770 is just an power efficient and overclocked GTX680.
  • CaptainTom
    3x7970's would decimate this build for the same amount of money...
  • slomo4sho
    The gaming benchmarks are surprisingly disappointing. Maybe going with a 3770K/4770k with three 7970 or 770 may have provides better results.
  • Crashman
    11596966 said:
    3x7970's would decimate this build for the same amount of money...
    Not sure about decimating, but it would have cost a little more and not filled Paul's curiosity. IIRC, the 760 4GB's were around $20 cheaper on order day.

    On the other hand, Paul's single GPU was OK with 2GB. I figured we'd need a jump to 4GB with 3-way on his GPU, but 3GB on the 7970 probably would have been enough. Also, a total difference of $60 still would have fit within the budget limit, so, maybe Ivy-Bridge E and Radeons for the next build?

    11597019 said:
    This build proves that spending the most money does not equal to best performance.
    In order to prove what you're saying, I would have needed to search for worse-performing overpriced parts. You'll see on Day 4 that this build has the best performance of the three. So this build actually doesn't prove anything, except maybe that six core processors boost six-core benchmarks and that more graphics power gives you better frame rates at 5760x1080 (etc). But we didn't actually need any proof for those things, did we?
  • lp231
    This build proves that spending the most money does not equal to best performance. It's all about balance and most of the time, it's getting 2 or more graphic cards that drives these systems pass the $2K mark. If I had $2550 to spend on a build, I know that half of the $2550 won't be going towards 3 graphic cards.
  • slomo4sho
    11596998 said:
    Maybe Ivy-Bridge E and Radeons for the next build?

    Tom, the future builds need to have better budget tiers. The doubling of the funds in each tier is fine in certain cases but it doesn't provide real insight into hardware choices. Having the tiers with a fixed figure increase such as a $250-400 increase in budget per tier would make more sense. Also, I would love to see the comeback of the $500 budget builds.

    Lastly, what happen to the idea of themes each quarter?
  • CaptainTom
    ^ Check the prices. A 7970 is the same price as the 4GB 760's. A 7970 is 20% faster than the a 760 and that lead grows at higher resolutions. Just look at how 3x7970's gain on 3xTitans...
  • CaptainTom
    ^ Check the prices. A 7970 is the same price as the 4GB 760's. A 7970 is 20% faster than the a 760 and that lead grows at higher resolutions. Just look at how 3x7970's gain on 3xTitans...
  • Yargnit
    I'm assuming going with Nvida as opposed to AMD video cards had to do with AMD not fully supporting frame-pacing across multiple monitors and all settings. Thus with 3-way video cards they wanted to go with what would provide the smoothest experience.
  • persuse
    not overclockable ram ?