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System Builder Marathon, Q4 2012: $1,000 Enthusiast PC

CPU, Motherboard, And Cooler

CPU: AMD FX-8350

We all know that AMD recently updated its FX processor family with a new architecture called Piledriver. Improvements to the design allow the company to increase the operating frequency of its fastest models, while ducking in under the same thermal ceilings. AMD also launched its Piledriver-based chips at lower price points than the previous-generation CPUs.

Although those evolutionary changes aren't significant enough to challenge Intel's highest-end processors, they do pick a fight with the mid-range Core i5s, particularly in heavily-threaded tests. And it just so happens that we're adding more demanding benchmarks this quarter, too.

Read Customer Reviews of AMD's FX-8350

This is the first processor from AMD we've used in a mid-range build for a long time, and we look forward to seeing what it can do. Currently, the chip sells for $220, which is 10% more than AMD says it should sell for.

Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-970A-D3

Read Customer Reviews of Gigabyte's GA-970A-D3

If we want to keep this build under budget, we can't afford to spend too much on a motherboard. The good news is that Gigabyte's GA-970A-D3 is feature-complete enough for us, and we've heard it does fairly well in overclocking. We also have to like the fact that it's selling for $70 on Newegg.

This board's only limiting factor is a single PCIe x16 slot. That second connector is limited to x4 signaling. But, since we're only using one graphics card today anyway, we're not going to worry too much about slot layout.  

CPU Cooler: Xigmatek Loki SD963

Read Customer Reviews of Xigmatek's Loki SD963

Xigmatek’s Loki has proven itself as a great budget-oriented cooler, and we'd like to see if it can handle the 125 W FX-8350 as well as it cools Intel's 77 W Core i5-3570K.

Selling for $25, there's not a lot of worthy competition for this model.