System Builder Marathon, Q1 2013: $1,000 Performance 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


I typically approach our highest-priced performance build as an attempt to squeeze value out of top-shelf parts by prioritizing performance. Versatility takes a somewhat-distant secondary position; really, I want to make the most expensive configuration feel like it's worth what I'm paying for the parts. After all, when you spend thousands of dollars on a do-everything PC, you expect it to actually do everything.

Generally, though, when we analyze performance-per-dollar for each System Builder Marathon machine on Day 4 (the story coming tomorrow), our top setup tends to suffer compared to more affordable builds, since I often use nicer parts that don't help performance. 

As you know, though, this quarter's angle involves a tight price spread. I'm most affected by this, and my distinctly high-end $2,000 budget gets cut to $1,000, putting it in the mainstream category (or, at least the mid-priced market enthusiasts are used to). Gone are high-capacity SSD and hard disk combinations, as well as most CrossFire, SLI, or even Core i7 configurations. We even need to skip out on a quiet case, a huge CPU cooler, extra RAM, and a Blu-ray drive.

We have the easiest time pushing additional performance in games, so this quarter's more versatility-oriented creation looks uncomfortably similar to last year's mid-end machine (Ed.: Little did Thomas know when he ordered these parts, his system is really, really similar to what Don published yesterday).

Q1 2013 $1000 PC Components
ProcessorIntel Core i5-3570K: 3.4 GHz Base Clock Rate, 3.8 GHz Turbo Boost, 6 MB Shared L3 Cache$230
GraphicsPowerColor PCS+ AX7870 Myst Edition 2GBD5-2DHPPV3E $240
MotherboardASRock Z77 Extreme4: LGA 1155, Intel Z77 Express$135
MemoryCrucial Ballistix Tactical BLT2K4G3D1608ET3LX0: DDR3-1600 C8, 8 GB (2 x 4 GB)$48
System DriveMushkin MKNSSDCR240GB-DX: 240 GB, SATA 6Gb/s SSD$180
Storage DriveUses System Drive-
OpticalLite-On iHAS124: 24x DVD±R, 12x DVD±R DL$17
CaseRosewill Redbone U3: USB 3.0, eSATA, 3 x 120mm$45
PowerAntec Neo Eco 520C 520 W, ATX12V v2.3, 80 PLUS-Certified$55
CPU CoolerCooler Master Hyper 212 Plus RR-B10-212P-G1$30
  Total Cost $980

On a per-gigabyte basis, hard drives are really cheap. But adding secondary storage would have cut deeply enough into our budget that we would have needed to drop from 240 to 120 GB of solid-state storage. I simply couldn’t find a 120 GB SSD I liked enough to make that compromise, and the lack of tiered storage makes this system even more gamely.

When in gaming territory, I do what gamers do: focus on graphics performance. Thankfully, AMD quietly started shipping its Tahiti LE-equipped Radeon HD 7870 not too long ago, and we reviewed it in Tahiti LE, Tested: PowerColor's HD7870 PCS+ Myst Edition. We had enough time before ordering our parts to check out its performance and decide it'd be appropriate here.