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System Builder Marathon, Q1 2013: System Value Compared

Hardware, Software, And Overclock Settings

Today's chart shows the stock and overclocked settings for each system, but it doesn’t show the baseline memory differences between our $800 and $1,000 PCs. Both systems use RAM that’s rated at DDR3-1600, but defaults to DDR3-1333, relying on Intel Extreme Memory Profiles (XMP) to reach its full ratings. Since XMP is an overclocking technology, Don chose DDR3-1333 as his baseline. Since XMP is a default overclock, I used that as my baseline. Don then “overclocked” his 1.35 V RAM to its 1.50 V secondary XMP profile, while I shot straight for 1.60 V and far-higher data rates. History will dictate whether 1.60 V is too much for this 1.35 V kit over the long term.

The $600 PC starts off with 1.5 V RAM, so Paul's 1.6 V overclock settings is comparatively less aggressive. His higher bandwidth is ready to give the $800 machine a run for its money in a few of our applications, even though the machine is limited to half the capacity.

Test Hardware Configurations
$600 Gaming PC$800 Enthusiast PC$1000 Peformance PC
Processor (Overclock)Intel Core i5-3350P 3.10 GHz, Four Physical CoresO/C to 3.70 GHzIntel Core i5-3570K 3.40 GHz, Four Physical CoresO/C to 4.40 GHz, +0.085 VIntel Core i5-3570K 3.40 GHz, Four Physical CoresO/C to 4.40 GHz, 1.28 V
Graphics (Overclock)HIS H785F1G2M: 860 MHz GPU,  GDDR5-4800O/C to 1,220 MHz GDDR5-4800PowerColor 2GBD5-2DHPPV3E: 975 MHz GPU, GDDR5-6000O/C to 1,150 MHz GDDR5-6200PowerColor 2GBD5-2DHPPV3E: 975 MHz GPU, GDDR5-6000O/C to 1,200 MHz GDDR5-6400
Memory (Overclock)4 GB G.Skill DDR3-1600 CAS 9-9-9-24, O/C at 1.60 V to DDR3-1866 CL 9-9-9-248 GB Crucial DDR3-1600 CAS 8-8-8-24 1T, O/C at 1.50 V to 800 MHz CL 8-8-8-24 2T8 GB Crucial DDR3-1600 CAS 8-8-8-24, O/C at 1.60 V to DDR3-2133 CL 9-9-9-24
Motherboard (Overclock)ASRock Z75 Pro3: LGA 1155, Intel Z75 ExpressStock 100 MHz BCLKASRock Z77 Pro3: LGA 1155, Intel Z77 ExpressStock 100 MHz BCLKASRock Z77 Extreme4: LGA 1155, Intel Z77 ExpressStock 100 MHz BCLK
OpticalSamsung SH-224BB/RSBS 24x DVD±RSamsung SH-224BB 24x DVD±RLite-On iHAS124 24x DVD±R
CaseXigmatek Asgard II B/BXigmatek Asgard II B/BRosewill Redbone U3
CPU CoolerIntel Boxed Heat Sink and FanRosewill RCX-ZAIO-92Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus
StorageSeagate Barracuda 500 GB, 7,200 RPM SATA 6Gb/s HDDSeagate Barracuda 500 GB, 7,200 RPM SATA 6Gb/s HDDMushkin Chronos Deluxe DX 240 GB, SATA 6Gb/s SSD
PowerAntec Neo Eco 400C: 400 W, ATX12V v2.3, 80 PLUSAntec Neo Eco 520C: ATX12V v2.3, 80 PLUSAntec Neo Eco 520C: ATX12V v2.3, 80 PLUS
OSMicrosoft Windows 8 Pro x64
GraphicsAMD Catalyst 13.1AMD Catalyst 13.2 Beta 5AMD Catalyst 13.1
ChipsetIntel INF INF INF
Benchmarks: 3D Games
Battlefield 3Campaign Mode, "Going Hunting" 90-Second Fraps Test Set 1: Medium Quality Defaults (No AA, 4x AF) Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Defaults (4x AA, 16x AF)
F1 2012Version 1.2, Direct X 11, Built-in Benchmark Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA Test Set 2: Ultra Quality, 8x MSAA
The Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimUpdate 1.5.26, Celedon Aethirborn Level 6, 25-Second 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-Second Fraps "Amanaki Outpost" Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA, Standard ATC., SSAO Test Set 2: Ultra Quality, 4x MSAA, Enhanced ATC, HDAO
Benchmarks: 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 to H.264 Blu-ray, Output 1920x1080, Maximum Quality
Benchmarks: 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, 2-Kanal, 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, 2 Channel, 16-Bit, 224 Kb/s), Codec: H.264 Pro, Mode: PAL 50i (25 FPS), Profile: H.264 BD HDMV
Benchmarks: Productivity
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
Benchmarks: 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
3DMark 11Version:, Benchmark Only
PCMark 7Version: 1.0.4 x64, System, Productivity, Hard Disk Drive benchmarks
SiSoftware Sandra 2011Version Version 2013.01.19.11, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / Cryptography, Memory Test = Bandwidth Benchmark
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • thymanbearpig
    You would think with an extra $200 you can get a noticeable difference in fps..
  • plasmaj12345
    thymanbearpigYou would think with an extra $200 you can get a noticeable difference in fps..
    The only real difference between the $800 and $1000 PC is that the $1000 has an SSD. They both have the same CPU, RAM, and GPU. Gaming should be about the same on both.
  • saxplayingcompnerd
    @thymanbearpig They use the same GPU, most games are GPU bottle-necked. That's how they get nearly the same FPS.
  • mayankleoboy1
    Something i posted last quarter too :

    Why would all the machines have same percent emphasis on games and productivity apps ? Why would a $600 gaming PC be evaluated similarly to a $800 enthusiast PC ? The percentwise distribution of each metric should be based on what usage the build was meant for.

    Something like : games, apps, storage.

    $600 build : 85%, 15% . (cheapest, best gaming. Very few apps. Doesnt need fast storage. )
    $800 build : 55%, 35%, 10% (slightly better games over apps. Great apps. fast storage for OS + apps OR games)
    $1000 build. : 42.5%, 42.5%, 15% (equally good games and apps. fast storage should be plenty for OS+apps+games)
  • Crashman
    ankit0x1still waiting for 2000$ buildHow about building up the $1000 machine into a dual-GPU added-storage $1600 PC?
  • mayankleoboy1
    can we have a chart of the combined totals of :
    1) FPS in games
    2)time taken in apps
    for each build?

    so that we may draw our own conclusions from the data? I am not entirely satisfied with the conclusions you have drawn.
  • System Builder Marathons should use a $600, $1200, and $1800 dollar standard.
  • Crashman
    mayankleoboy1can we have a chart of the combined totals of :1) FPS in games2)time taken in appsfor each build?so that we may draw our own conclusions from the data? I am not entirely satisfied with the conclusions you have drawn.Percentages are just as accurate, you'll find those on Page 13 along with power numbers.
  • bdizzle11
    For next SBM how about a $800, $1200, $1600. A little bit higher but more spread. I think that would better determine the sweet spot...
  • atomicWAR
    Honestly i would like to see an up-graders marathon. With price points of 600, 800, 1000, 1300, 1600, 2000 covered all using the same case, CD/dvd, and mech HDD (not included in cost). Those are the most common carry over parts besides my water-cooling that carries over build to build. I believe it would be a very useful and realistic application of funds many of your readers could relate to.