Raising The Stakes
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!
Builders with different budgets have different priorities. While a gamer working with a limited amount of spare cash might prefer the most powerful graphics card he can fit into a tight $500 budget, someone with a Benjamin Franklin party in their pants should be able to afford a system that does everything well. Taking the middle ground is more representative of most enthusiasts' minimum performance requirements, and our $1000 system tries to do everything well, while putting game frame rates first. At least, that’s how things normally work out when we build with balance in mind.
SSD drives were one of the most persistent requests for our high-end build, but those offered little performance gain in our traditional benchmark set. That’s a problem for our value comparison, since the scant performance difference could never offset the high price of these parts. Yet, our readers made their voices heard, stating that the gain in responsiveness from a machine that loads programs almost instantly was a necessity at the high-end price point. After much discussion, we struck a deal with a few of our readers, and today we’re adding hard drive performance to the value analysis.
|SBM System Comparison|
|Row 0 - Cell 0||Current $500 PC||Current $1000 PC||Current $2000 PC|
|Motherboard||ASRock M3A770DE AMD 770, SB710||Asus Sabertooth 55i Intel P55 Express PCH||Gigabyte X58A-UD3R X58 Express, ICH10R|
|Processor||AMD Athlon II X3 445 3.1 GHz Triple-Core||Intel Core i3-550 3.2 GHz Dual-Core||Intel Core i7-950 3.06 GHz Quad-Core|
|Memory||Mushkin 996586 4 GB DDR3-1333 CAS 9||GeIL GB34GB1333C7DC DDR3-1333 CAS 7||Mushkin 998586 6 GB DDR3-1333 CAS 9|
|Graphics||Sparkle SXX460768D5UNM 768 MB GeForce GTX 460||2 x ECS NBGTX460 1 GB GeForce GTX 460||2 x EVGA 012-P3-1470-AR 1.28 GB GeForce GTX 470|
|System Drive||Samsung F4 HD322GJ/U 320 GB, 7200 RPM HDD||WD WD7501AALS 750 GB, 7200 RPM HDD||2 x A-Data S599 64 GB MLC SSD|
|Storage Drive||Uses System Drive||Uses System Drive||Samsung F3 HD103SJ 1 TB, 7200 RPM HDD|
|Optical||Lite-On iHAS 124-04 24x DVD±R, 48x CD-R||LG GH22LS50 DVD-RW 22x DVD±R, 48x CD-R||Lite-On iHBS112 BD-RE 12x BD-R, 16x DVD±R|
|Case||Antec NSK 4482B||NZXT Gamma||SilverStone Fortress FT02B|
|Power||Antec EA-380D 380 W, 80 PLUS Bronze||Corsair CMPSU-650TX 650 W, 80 PLUS||SilverStone ST85F-P 850 W Modular, 80 PLUS Silver|
|Heat Sink||Rosewill RCX-ZAIO-92||Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus||Prolimatech Megahalems Rev.B|
|CPU Fan||Included with H.S.||Included with H.S.||Delta AFC1212D-PWM 3400 RPM, 120 mm|
Because hard drive tests would represent program launch performance, in addition to Windows load times, we required a system partition at least large enough to hold all of our programs with room to spare. Our $1000 builder considered his SSD options and chose to add a second graphics card instead, taking advantage of the GeForce GTX 460’s amazing SLI scaling in games that would make up ¼ of our total performance score. The questions that remain are whether low-cost SLI or high-priced SSDs will help the $1000 or $2000 systems beat the $500 PC in value.
Let’s find out!