System Builder Marathon, Q4 2012: $2,000 Performance PC

Power, Heat, And Efficiency

High-performance graphics cards are the most egregious power consumers in every machine we test, and this quarter's build has two of them.

On the other hand, the previous machine's Sandy Bridge-E-based Core i7-3930K processor suffers poor efficiency scaling when it gets overclocked. Those factors put last quarter's configuration at the top and bottom of our power consumption chart, depending on its host clock rate.

Last quarter's CPU starts out cooler and stays cooler, even as its overclock dissipated an additional 200+ W of heat compared to our newest creation. A better case could be part of its advantage, but the temporary unavailability of a value-oriented oversized cooler undoubtedly hurt us this quarter.

Our new machine's superior gaming alacrity helps it nearly catch up to our previous system's average performance. A great overclock could have helped it match our prior effort, but, simply, we ran into motherboard issues and were forced to use a heat sink other than the one we really wanted. Both factors inhibit what we think the Core i7-3770K should be capable of.

Overclocking efficiency has always been a problem for Intel's Sandy Bridge-E design, but at least it does well at stock frequencies. Last quarter's default sets the baseline today, and we subtract 100% from all results to show only the efficiency lost by other configurations.

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • Novuake
    Yeah, should have gone for an ASRock board at the same price point...
  • Crashman
    NovuakeYeah, should have gone for an ASRock board at the same price point...Maybe, maybe not, motherboard market has changed a little since the parts were bought and I've since seen some D5-series Gigabyte boards (with their better PWM) drop to $ least temporarily.
  • mayankleoboy1
    Too much of cheap CPU coolers
  • For the next SBM build, use the "SAMSUNG 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) MV-3V4G3D/US". People are posting low timings with very high frequencies. Plus it is low profile (half the size of every other non-heatsink memory modules on the market) and operates at 1.35v (overvolt it to 1.65v without worry).
  • kj3639
    After building that awful piledriver rig you go ahead and do something like this... and totally REDEEM YOURSELVES!!!

    -Good Job
  • herooftimex
    Suggested changes:

    Core i5 3570k - savings of $120
    2x - MSI N670 PE 2GD5/OC - $800 (gtx 670 OC'd to 1019 core clock)

    Rosewill FORTRESS-750 - $140 (80 plus platinum + 7 year limited warranty)
    LIAN LI PC-7B plus II - $100 (gamer cases look tacky, less is more)
    I think Toms needs a new article: "The Dream Build" with gaming in mind.
  • Darkerson
    kj3639After building that awful piledriver rig you go ahead and do something like this... and totally REDEEM YOURSELVES!!!-Good JobThey really had nothing to redeem themselves about. They went with something a little different, just to try it out. Id rather they go off the beaten path so we can get a better idea of how these builds would turn out without having to buy and build them ourselves.
    Also, if they didnt try something different, they would almost always be cookie-cutter builds until the next big thing came out. No thanks!
    At any rate, this is a really nice build. Have to say, though, I would be happy to win any of these.
  • C12Friedman
    My first thought, I kept going back to it also, was the motherboard, why? I kept going 2nd page, 1st page, 2nd page, back to first page, confusion reigned in my head. Took me a while to get past the second page. But since it was addressed at the end of the article, I guess it's known.
  • One think to consider are both Q3 and Q4 systems future proof. It's important for games and serious task to be able to extend life of your PC and Q4 in this category is certainly penny wise but pound foolish.