In Search Of The Best Possible Value
System Builder Marathon, Q1 2013: The Articles
Here are links to each of the four articles in this quarter’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.
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Our System Builder Marathon series typically includes three builds that target the best gaming value, the best overall value, and the best overall performance. That formula usually works well for us, and the mid-priced setup does take top honors in our final analysis (at least it has the previous three quarters). Of course, we also use a really wide spread of price points most of the time: $500, $1,000, and $2,000, or some variation of doubling price two times. With time, we've figured out that you usually get the best performance for your dollar somewhere in the $1,000 range.
Can we get even more precise, though?
This quarter, we're zooming in on that sweet spot by narrowing our focus to price points all around it. I typically find that the most value-oriented components can be combined into a complete hardware solution (minus peripherals) that costs around $800. That price falls closest to our usual mid-range build. So, our results almost always support my theory.
Don, Paul, and Chris decided that it was time to put some money on that claim, which is how $800 became the mid-point for this quarter's System Builder Marathon. I was forced to give up half of my $2,000 budget to build a $1,000 system, while Don dropped from $1,000 to $800. Paul, on the other hand, jumped from $500 to $600 (lucky him). Knowing that an $800 system win would hand me the debate and a $1,000 system win would hand me the competition, I had only one thing left to say to those odds: Game on!
The one thing I didn't anticipate was that an extra $100 would give Paul the opportunity to use an Ivy Bridge-based processor with limited overclocking to the tune of 400 MHz over its stock setting. Surely that small speed-up wouldn't be enough to let the $600 machine keep up with fully-unlocked $800 and $1,000 boxes, right?
|Q1 2013 System Builder Marathon Components|
|Row 0 - Cell 0||$600 Gaming PC||$800 Enthusiast PC||$1000 Performance PC|
|Processor||Intel Core i5-3350P: 3.1-3.3 GHz, Quad Core, 6 MB L3 Cache||Intel Core i5-3570K: 3.4-3.8 GHz, Quad Core, 6 MB L3 Cache||Intel Core i5-3570K: 3.4-3.8 GHz, Quad Core, 6 MB L3 Cache|
|Graphics||HIS Radeon HD 7850 1 GB H785F1G2M||PowerColor PCS+ AX7870 Myst Edition 2GBD5-2DHPPV3E||PowerColor PCS+ AX7870 Myst Edition 2GBD5-2DHPPV3E|
|Motherboard||ASRock Z75 Pro3: LGA 1155, Z75 Express||ASRock Z77 Pro3: LGA 1155, Intel Z77 Express||ASRock Z77 Extreme4: LGA 1155, Intel Z77 Express|
|Memory||G.Skill Ripjaws F3-12800CL9D-4GBRL: DDR3-1600 C9, 2 GB x 2 (4 GB)||Crucial Ballistix Tactical BLE2KIT4GD31608DE1TX0: DDR3-1600 C8, 4 GB x 2 (8 GB)||Crucial Ballistix Tactical BLT2K4G3D1608ET3LX0: DDR3-1600 C8, 4 GB x 2 (8 GB)|
|System Drive||Seagate Barracuda ST500DM002: 500 GB SATA 6Gb/s HDD||Seagate Barracuda ST500DM002: 500 GB SATA 6Gb/s HDD||Mushkin MKNSSDCR240GB-DX: 240 GB, SATA 6Gb/s SSD|
|Storage Drive||Uses System Drive||Uses System Drive||Uses System Drive|
|Optical||Samsung SH-224BB/RSBS: 24x DVD±R, 8x DVD±R DL||Samsung SH-224BB: 24x DVD±R, 12x DVD±R DL||Lite-On iHAS124: 24x DVD±R, 12x DVD±R DL|
|Case||Xigmatek Asgard II B/B||Xigmatek Asgard II B/B||Rosewill Redbone U3|
|Power||Antec Neo Eco 400C: 400 W, ATX12V v2.3, 80 PLUS||Antec Neo Eco 520C: 520 W, ATX12V v2.3, 80 PLUS||Antec Neo Eco 520C: 520 W, ATX12V v2.3, 80 PLUS|
|CPU Cooler||Intel Boxed Heat Sink And Fan||Rosewill RCX-ZAIO-92||Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus RR-B10-212P-G1|