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

Does This Quarter's Build Beat Our Previous Effort?

A somewhat-disappointing overclock hurt the average performance we were able to coax from this quarter's machine. But is it still a better value than its predecessor? A recent price drop on the parts we ordered (from $1,985 down to $1,900) should certainly help!

Our fourth-quarter build begins with a stellar 28% value lead over the third-quarter system. But it ends up only 2% ahead when both boxes get overclocked. Even though its value leadership tapers off after overclocking, even a small lead is good for the win.

But overclocking limitations are only one part of the overclocked machine’s diminished lead. It was also prone to bottlenecks in our low-resolution gaming tests. We can't get mad about that; it's just a side-effect of pitting one high-end build against a couple of less expensive machines. But a value comparison at 2560x1600 should more convincingly demonstrate the true advantage of this system's beefier graphics array.

Even though the new build had overclocking problems, it retains in excess of 50% gaming superiority versus last quarter's build, overclocked.

Powerful in both productivity and media transcoding applications, the new build shines most brightly in games. Casual gamers could probably have this system serve double duty as a workstation, if only it didn't look like a kid's toy. Our former build took the opposite approach, pairing killer productivity and encoding performance with moderately-high gaming capability.

Built-up today, what could we change about the Q4 configuration to match the strengths of last quarter's setup? Well, thanks to recent price drops on several of the components we ordered, we definitely could have bought a more professional-looking case. But that's not the first place we would have put our extra money. Instead, we’d begin by looking for a huge CPU cooler, ignoring the $50 budget we set for ourselves. Then, we might have picked a motherboard with a stronger voltage regulator. Only after solving our overclocking issues would we have considered a sharper-looking enclosure.

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.