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System Builder Marathon, Q1 2013: $800 Enthusiast PC

Building A PC: What Do We Get For $800?

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.

To enter the giveaway, please fill out this SurveyGizmo form, and be sure to read the complete rules before entering!

Day 1: The $600 Gaming PC
Day 2: The $800 Enthusiast PC
Day 3: The $1,000 Performance PC
Day 4: Performance And Value, Dissected
Day 5: The $1,600 Alternative PC

Introduction

As Paul let us know yesterday, this quarter's System Builder Marathon is a little different in that we're putting a bigger emphasis on performance per dollar by narrowing our budgets to $600, $800, and $1,000. Thomas has long maintained that there is this point of diminishing returns that shows up right around $800. Above it, and you pay more for every unit of performance you get. Under it, and you're leaving easy gains on the table. By the end of our experiment, we hope to know whether Soderstrom's Theorem is sound enough to become law, or if the line is blurrier than he thinks.

Unfortunately for me, a shifting price target means that my mid-range enthusiast-oriented build loses $200 compared to the $1,000 system I built back in December. As a result, I decided to ditch the SSD. Also, I can no longer afford a powerful GeForce GTX 670 for $370.

The good news is that AMD's Radeon HD 7870 is now available from a couple of different companies with a stripped-down Tahiti GPU, delivering strong graphics performance under $300. Although we're going to miss the snappy boot-up times and almost-instant application launches the solid-state drive enabled, we probably won't be penalized too much in the benchmark results.

We're still expecting great things from this $800 setup. I even have my hopes that it'll give last quarter's pricier $1,000 configuration a run for its money.

$800 Enthusiast System Components
MotherboardASRock Z77 Pro3: LGA 1155, Intel Z77 Express$90
ProcessorIntel Core i5-3570K: 3.4 GHz Base Clock Rate, 3.8 GHz Turbo Boost, 6 MB Shared L3 Cache$230
Heat SinkRosewill RCX-ZAIO-92$15
MemoryCrucial Ballistix Tactical BLE2KIT4GD31608DE1TX0: DDR3-1600 C8, 8 GB (2 x 4 GB)$53
GraphicsPowerColor PCS+ AX7870 Myst Edition 2GBD5-2DHPPV3E$240
Hard DriveSeagate Barracuda ST500DM002, 500 GB, 7,200 RPM, SATA 6Gb/s$60
OpticalSamsung SH-224BB: DVD Burner$18
CaseXigmatek Asgard II B/B$34
PowerAntec Neo Eco 520C: 520 W, ATX12V v2.3, 80 PLUS-Certified$55
Total Cost$795

Just to show you that we really try to abide by our budgets, I'm listing the prices I paid for the components back when they were ordered. Some of the components might have fluctuated a bit (for example, the memory now costs $11 bucks extra, though we're happy to report that the PowerColor card should be in stock again at Newegg this week for less than $210).

  • DragonClaw
    The table outlining the components of the build. It should read 800$ and not 1000$, I think?
    Reply
  • abbadon_34
    guessed they reused the previous template, sure it'll be fixed soon and people will wonder what we're talking about
    Reply
  • mayankleoboy1
    Although we're going to miss the snappy boot-up times and almost-instant application launches the solid-state drive enabled, we probably won't be penalized too much in the benchmark results.

    And therein lies the problem with benchmarks.
    An enthusiast PC, without a SSD boot drive?
    Reply
  • manitoublack
    That's a great value PC there. Would be hard pressed to think of a more compelling combination for the money. Well done.

    Reply
  • qTrueno
    The heat sink breaks easily but it is a good cheap solution, as long it doesn't break.
    Reply
  • ipwn3r456
    If this machine were at $1000 budget, might as well add a 128GB SSD, and replace the HD 7870 to a HD 7950.
    Reply
  • butremor
    "Overclocking

    Overclocking the Core i5-3550K is"
    Reply
  • ARICH5
    i think you couldve found a cheaper z77 solution and squieezed in a 64mb cache hdd
    Reply
  • dudewitbow
    ipwn3r456If this machine were at $1000 budget, might as well add a 128GB SSD, and replace the HD 7870 to a HD 7950.

    there would be marginal performance boost from switching from a 7870 LE(nerfed 7950, heck can call it a 7930 and it would be partially correct in a way) to an actual 7950. Though its likely the outcome for the 1k budget coming up next.
    Reply
  • abhijitkalyane
    I really wasn't expecting the AMD chip to be so close to the i5. I'm a bit surprised. The power consumption figures look bad for the FX though.
    Reply