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

Our Most Powerful Build Yet?

System Builder Marathon, December 2009: The Articles

Here are links to each of the four articles in this month’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 check out this Google form, and be sure to read the complete rules before entering!

Day 1: The $2,500 Performance PC
Day 2: The $1,300 Enthusiast PC
Day 3: The $700 Gaming PC
Day 4: Performance And Value, Dissected


Constant advancements in technology mean that, at least every few months, we can say “it has never been a better time to build a PC,” and really mean it. Yet, the popular catch phrase means a little more today. That’s because we haven’t seen a graphics release as stunning as ATI’s Radeon HD 5800-series in a very long time. For gamers, this really is a phenomenal time to build a PC.

Past System Builder Marathons (SBMs) have reviewed awesome technologies such as 3-way SLI, CrossFireX, and Core i7 in systems costing up to $4,500, but because of ATI’s advancement, today’s $2,500 build likely overpowers them all. What’s true in game performance applies to average performance, simply because the expected improvements to our gaming suite are so large. Yet this big improvement comes at such a price that we were forced to select some components that definitely do not fall under the high-end category.

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$2,500 Performance PC Component Prices
MotherboardGigabyte P55-UD4P LGA 1156 Chipset: Intel P55 Express$170
ProcessorIntel Core i7-860 2.80 GHz 4 Cores, 8.0MB L3 Cache$280
Memory2 x Crucial 4.0GB DDR3-1333 Dual Channel Kit 4 x 2.0GB (8.0GB Total), CAS 9-9-9-28$168
Graphics2 x Diamond HD 5870 (CrossFireX) 1.0GB GDDR5-4800 Per Card Radeon HD 5870 GPU at 850 MHz$860
Hard Drives2 x WD Caviar Black WD2001FASS (RAID 1) 2.0TB, 7,200 RPM, 64MB Cache SATA 3.0 Gb/s$600
OpticalLG WH08LS20 BD-RE 8x BD-R, 2x BD-RE, 16x DVD±R$190
CaseLian-Li LanCool PC-K7B$90
PowerCorsair CMPSU-850HX Modular 850W ATX12V 2.2, EPS12V 2.91, 80 PLUS Gold$180
CPU CoolerXigmatek HDT-S1284EE Cooler Plus Crossbow ACK-I5363 Bracket Kit$47
Row 9 - Cell 0 Total Current Cost$2,585

Regular readers can point to the loss of liquid cooling and SSD drives as huge steps backwards compared to our most recent $2,500 build, although the above list doesn’t represent the actual price paid. Increases in memory, graphics, and optical drive prices have pushed the build cost upward by $88 compared to the day when we ordered our parts. On a more positive note, the $10 discount reduction for our case was replaced by a $20 discount on our power supply.

Rather than get sidetracked by recent price shifts, let’s take a look at the machine that our $2,497 purchase produced.

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.