System Builder Marathon, Dec. 2009: $2,500 Performance PC

Graphics And Power

Graphics: Dual Radeon HD 5870 in CrossFire

ATI’s latest Radeon HD 5970 dual-GPU graphics cards were not yet available when we placed our order. Knowing about the upcoming release and the minimal gains achieved when moving from three to four graphics processors, we really wanted to try three Radeon HD 5850s instead. Unfortunately, neither solution would fit our budget unless we made major compromises for the rest of the system, and we simply couldn’t wait for even a single Radeon HD 5970 to reach the market.

Read Customer Reviews of Diamond's 5870PE51G Radeon HD 5870

Recent shortages of Radeon HD 5870 processors have added $30 to the price of each Diamond Radeon HD 5870 graphics card--when in stock. The Radeon HD 5870 pair adds $860 to our price list, but the Eyefinity surround-graphics option and competition-slaughtering frame rates make these cards worth every penny when it comes to gaming and user experience.

Buyers who can wait for Radeon HD 5970 availability might consider purchasing one of these Radeon HD 5970 cards, thereby saving around $190 in system costs. While often slower than two of its single-GPU predecessors, the potential to reach identical speeds makes its larger case requirement the biggest drawback of this dual-GPU card.

Power Supply: Corsair CMPSU-850HX

While today’s $2,500 build aims for the best balance of performance, it still contains the graphics components of a high-end gaming system. We thus expect the graphics cards to consume the majority of system power and based our power supply selection upon those needs.

Read Customer Reviews of Corsair's CMPSU-850HX

Our previous $2,500 build used a monster-sized 1,000W power supply that turned out to be pure overkill for the application. The potential energy savings of an 80-Plus Gold Certification, the cost savings of a lower-capacity unit, and a semi-modular design that reduces cable clutter while maintaining its high-efficiency rating, Corsair’s HX850W (CMPSU-850HX) was an easy choice for today’s build.

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • noob2222
    If you went with the 5970, this build would have been fine, but with using 2 5870s, I would have opted a little different, x58 isn't that much more.

    Cpus are almost identical in price, wich leaves only the MB.

    UD4P - 170
    UD3R - 188

    I think in my book it would have been worth the $18.

    The other thing thats a bit overpriced is the HDD as mentioned. At $300 for 2TB, thats $150/TB. 1.5TB drives cost that much, put in 3 drives and save $150 and have .5TB more space.

    Aside from that, good build.
  • ColMirage
    Wait, why is the contest limited to the USA now?

    I am disappoint.

    Aside from that, the build is nice, and I can't wait to see the other ones.
  • scook9
    This article has me second guessing me selling my desktop!
  • Onyx2291
    Very powerful, but if I were to have it. I think I'd steer clear of overclocking myself haha.
  • Gigahertz20
    Horrible build, $2,500 and no SSD drive? That is inexcusable, a SSD drive is one of the best parts you can add to a high end computer, the noticeable performance improvement going from a regular hard drive is like night and day.

    The $860 dollars spent on video cards and $600 for hard drives is a waste. This system should have went with one 2TB WD Caviar Black hard drive for storage and then a 160GB SSD hard drive as the main drive. For a video card, one Radeon 5870 is more then enough, the money saved by not buying a second 5870 should have gone to buying a good full tower case and better CPU cooler.
  • enzo matrix
    Good all round build.
  • rambo117
    Great read, as always. Gosh, if you guys are calling last SBM performance PC "outdated", id hate to know what my rig is... =/
  • liquidsnake718
    enzo matrixGood all round build.

    Yes I was thinking just that.... an SSD for the master, and a 1tb or a 2tb for backup slave drive.... then a 5970. That would have been ideal as this is considered high end.....
  • tacoslave
    ColMirageWait, why is the contest limited to the USA now?Tom's.I am disappoint.Aside from that, the build is nice, and I can't wait to see the other ones.
    Yes we know you're a disappointment. Geez you're worse than kevin parrish.
  • wft, you put crossfire on a P55 chipset? You do know that there are only 16 PCIX lanes to the CPU right?

    $300 for a 2TB drive? Are you insane? How can you possibly justify not getting 2 x 1TB Caviar Blacks for $200 total and then getting an SSD?

    2 X 5870 for $860 over 5970 for $650? How much of a performance difference can you possibly expect with Crucial CAS 9-9-9-28 over CORSAIR XMS3 9-9-9-24 which costs $90 for 4GB?

    No water cooling on a system that costs $2500?

    This is the worst build I've ever seen at this price point.