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System Builder Marathon, Dec. 2009: $1,300 Enthusiast PC

Memory, Hard Drive, And Optical Drive

Memory: A-DATA 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3 1333G (PC3 10666) Model AX3U1333GB2G8-AG

Memory prices have gone up recently, and the best stuff we could find available for the price was A-Data's 4GB dual-channel kit. With 8-8-8-24 timings and a $92 price tag that can be reduced with a $10 mail-in rebate, this RAM will do the job.

Read Customer Reviews of A-Data's AX3U1333GB2G8-AG

Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar Black 640GB w/32MB cache

Read Customer Reviews of Western Digital's Caviar Black 640GB

A single drive is more cost-effective than a RAID setup, and a striped RAID array won’t offer a perceptible performance increase for the typical user. Of course, a redundant array is appealing for data protection, but it wouldn’t easily fit within our $1,300 price ceiling.

Once again, we went with the same Western Digital 640GB with 32MB of cache that we have chosen for months in this price range. At $75, this drive is a great choice with good speed and a good amount of space.

Optical Drive: OEM Samsung SH-S223C CD/DVD Burner SATA

Read Customer Reviews of Samsung's SH-S223C

When we're pushing our budgetary limits, the optical drive we choose becomes cheaper. But that doesn't mean the quality has to suffer. We went with the cheapest drive we could find, an OEM Samsung model SH-S223C. For $27, the drive offers good 22x DVD+R write speeds and a 2MB cache.

  • Crashman
    Great build Don! The only thing I'd change is to use the RAM from the $2500 system! It's too bad you didn't have enough money left over to buy a big cooler.
  • noob2222
    Very smoothe build, pretty limited with the 5850s with the pricing once past that, but this thing handles it well, esp since the cpu was lucky enough to stay fast while undervolted.

    Not all cpus are the same, this one compared to the $2500 build definatly shows it. Takes a bit of luck sometimes or bad luck.
  • Tridec
    Just a thought, but why not use an I7 920 CPU, with an asrock x58 Extreme motherboard? I see a lot of people bought their I7 920 CPU for 199 dollars and the motherboard costs 170 dollars.
    Pair that up with OCZ 1333 platinum 7-7-7-24 memory, that can easily be overclocked to 1600 7-7-7-24 and you'll have a powerful system with 36 PCI-e lanes and loads of CPU overclocking room thanks to asrock's great motherboard.
  • SpadeM
    Good article, and yes the quadfire setup was sweet back then!! I just have a question/suggestion to make, and if you find worthy of a replay I'd much appreciate it.

    Since you are willing to experiment with different setups, and since we see the problem with the Phenom in the application suite, why not try something more exotic like pairing a nvidia based card with the crossfire cards to act like a PPU / video transcoding accelerator (TMPEng supports CUDA at least to act as a filter). I don't know if this makes sense in a marathon build, but I'd like to see something like this benchmarked.
  • alchemy69
    Those delta T over ambient figures worry me. We don't all live in Fairbanks, AK.
  • shubham1401
    This is an excellent build.
    With an aftermarket cooler this build will be flawless.

    Power Draw,Performance all were nice.

    The case looks nice too.
  • burnley14
    I'm not especially interested in the gaming results per se, but this build certainly solidifies my choice to go with an Intel processor over AMD based on productivity benchmarks.
  • optional22
    Aside from the video cards, this is essentially the same build as the $2,500 build recently posted performance-wise. What is the point?
  • kick_pixels
    Good system over all… an extra hard drive for backup is essential and the wiring needs some tiding up.

  • cangelini
    More specifically, these guys are trying different things each time we do a round of SBMs--sometimes the results are great, and sometimes they're not as good. The point is that we're putting the machines together and reporting on the results so that you can decide if you want to do the same or not. And hopefully, when we come across a result that doesn't look so hot, we'll call out where our mistake was in building the box.

    Just think how boring these would be if every quarter we did a Core i7-920-based machine at $2,500, a Core i5-750 machine at $1,500, and a Phenom II-based box at $700! =)