System Builder Marathon, Q1 2013: $800 Enthusiast PC

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


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
ProcessorIntel Core i5-3570K: 3.4 GHz Base Clock Rate, 3.8 GHz Turbo Boost, 6 MB Shared L3 Cache
Heat Sink
Rosewill RCX-ZAIO-92
MemoryCrucial Ballistix Tactical BLE2KIT4GD31608DE1TX0: DDR3-1600 C8, 8 GB (2 x 4 GB)$53
GraphicsPowerColor PCS+ AX7870 Myst Edition 2GBD5-2DHPPV3E
Hard Drive
Seagate Barracuda ST500DM002, 500 GB, 7,200 RPM, SATA 6Gb/s
OpticalSamsung SH-224BB: DVD Burner
CaseXigmatek Asgard II B/B
PowerAntec Neo Eco 520C: 520 W, ATX12V v2.3, 80 PLUS-Certified
 Total Cost

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).