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


Hard drives: Dual WD Caviar Black 2.0TB

Recent surges in solid state drive (SSD) prices forced us to make a tough choice in addressing the capacity and performance needs of a high-end system. Using the two Intel X25-M drives of our previous build would have eliminated our ability to add high-capacity devices, while using a single X25-M and a single high-capacity drive would have eliminated much of the throughput performance and all of the redundancy found in our previous build. Fortunately, Western Digital has made significant gains in the performance level of its high-capacity Caviar Black WD2001FASS.

Read Customer Reviews of Western Digital's 2TB Caviar Black

These still won’t provide the access times of even a single SSD, but the pair does offer excellent read and write rates when used in the P55 Express RAID controller’s Level 0 mode. While striping is required to present “performance value” in our later system comparison, we suggest the redundancy of RAID 1 for daily use.

Optical Drive: LG WH08LS20 BD-RE

If 2.0TB (in RAID 1) isn’t enough capacity to meet all of your long-term storage needs, perhaps a few 50GB BD-R dual-layer discs could fill the gap? LG’s WH08 can burn those at 4x, as well as single-layer BD-Rs at 8x, and if you think you’ll need to make later revisions, BD-REs at 2x will work.

Read Customer Reviews of LG's WH08LS20 BD-RE

The WH08 Blu-ray drive is the only place we didn’t make any sacrifices in storage compared to our previous $2,500 build. We simply didn’t feel that any multipurpose system could truly be considered “high-end” without support for the latest optical media formats.

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.