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

Test System And Benchmarks

The gaming aspects of this comparison should be very interesting. While the AMD CPU in the previous machine may bottleneck low-resolution performance, it will be interesting to see how the four Radeon HD 4850 cards in quad-CrossFire will fare against two Radeon HD 5850 cards in the new build.

We have migrated our testing to Windows 7 64-bit. This will undoubtedly skew some results from our previous Windows Vista 64-bit tests, but Thomas Soderstrom's recent test of the new benchmark suite suggests that gaming results should be extremely close and even application benches should be comparable barring a rare exception in TMPGEnc when encoding DivX video.

Migrating to a new OS from time to time makes for a difficult transition, but it's a necessary evil of course.

$1,300 Enthusiast PC Test Settings
Standard SpeedOverclocked
MotherboardGigabyte P55-UD4P LGA-1156 Chipset: Intel P55-ExpressUnchanged
ProcessorIntel Core i5-750 2.66 GHz Four Cores, 8.0MB L3 Cache3.612 GHz at 1.15V,  172 MHz Base Clock
Memory2 x A-Data 2.0GB DDR3-1333 Kit 2 x 2.0GB (4.0GB Total), CAS 9-9-9-24DDR3-1376, CAS 9-9-9-24
Graphics2 x Radeon HD 5850 (CrossFireX) 1.0GB GDDR5-4000 Per Card Radeon HD 5870 GPU at 725 MHzGDDR5-4500 775 MHz GPU
Hard DrivesWestern Digital Caviar Black 640GB 7,200 RPM, 32MB Cache SATA 3.0 Gb/sUnchanged
OpticalSamsung SH-S2232C22x DVD+R, 8x DVD+RW, 16x DVD ROM, 48x CD ROMUnchanged
CaseNZXT M59Unchanged
PowerCorsair CMPSU-750HX 750W ATX12V, EPS12V , 80-Plus CertifiedUnchanged
$1,250 AMD Enthusiast PC (from previous SBM) Test Settings
 Standard SpeedOverclocked
MotherboardMSI 790FX-GD70 ATX AMD 790FX, AM3 Unchanged
ProcessorAMD Phenom II X4 945 @ 3 GHz, 200 MHz Reference Clock 3.675 GHz at 1.46V 245 MHz Reference Clock
MemoryPatriot PVS34G1333LLKN 4GB DDR3-1333 2 x 2GB, CAS 7-7-7-20 DDR3-1306
Graphics4 x Gigabyte GV-R485OC-1GH Radeon HD 4850 in CrossFire  1GB GDDR3-1998 Per Card, 700 MHz GPUUnchanged
Hard DriveWestern Digital Caviar Black 640GB 7,200 RPM, 32MB Cache SATA 3.0 Gb/sUnchanged
OpticalSony Optiarc AD-7240S-0B SATA 24X DVD±R Unchanged
CaseNZXT Tempest ATX Tower Unchanged
PowerPC Power and Cooling Silencer 750 Quad S75CF750W, ATX12V 2.2, 80-Plus Certified Unchanged
CPU CoolerXigmatek Dark Knight S1283 Unchanged

And now for the benchmarks:

Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
CrysisPatch 1.2.1, DirectX 10, 64-bit executable, benchmark tool Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA Test Set 2: Very High Quality, No AA
Fallout 3Patch 1.7, Saved Game "Capital Wasteland" (60 sec) Test Set 1: Highest Details, No AA, No AF Test Set 2: Highest Details, 4x AA, 15x AF
Far Cry 2Patch 1.03, DirectX 10, in-game benchmark Test Set 1: Very High Quality, No AA Test Set 2: Ultra High Quality, 4x AA
Tom Clancy's H.A.W.XPatch 1.02, DirectX 10.1, in-game benchmark Test Set 1: Highest Settings, No AA Test Set 2: Highest Settings, 4x AA
World in ConflictPatch 1009, DirectX 10, timedemo Test 1: Very High Details, No AA / No AF Test 2: Very High Details 4x AA / 16x AF
Audio/Video Encoding
iTunes 8Version: (x64) Audio CD ("Terminator II" SE), 53 min Default format AAC
Lame MP3Version: 3.98.2, wave to MP3 Audio CD "Terminator II" SE, 53 min wave to MP3
TMPGEnc 4.0 ExpressVersion: Import File: "Terminator 2" SE DVD (5 Minutes) Resolution: 720x576 (PAL) 16:9
DivX 6.8.5Encoding mode: Insane Quality Enhanced multithreading enabled using SSE4 Quarter-pixel search
XviD 1.2.2Display encoding status = off
MainConcept Reference 1.6.1 Reference H.264 Plugin Pro 1.5.1MPEG2 to MPEG2 (H.264), MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG2), Audio: MPEG2 (44.1 KHz, 2 Channel, 16-Bit, 224 Kb/s), Mode: PAL (25 FPS)
Adobe Photoshop CS4 (64-bit)Version: 11.0 Extended, Filter 15.7MB TIF Image Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates
Autodesk 3ds Max 2009Version: 11.0, Rendering Dragon Image at 1920x1080 (HDTV)
Grisoft AVG Anti-Virus 8.5Version: 8.5.287, Virus database 2094, Benchmark: Scan 334MB Folder of ZIP/RAR compressed files
WinRAR 3.90Version x64 3.90, Dictionary = 4,096KB, Benchmark: THG-Workload (334MB)
WinZip 12Version 12.1, WinZip Command Line Version 3.0 Compression = Best, Benchmark: THG-Workload (334MB)
Synthetic Benchmarks
3DMark VantageVersion: 1.01, GPU and CPU scores
PCMark VantageVersion: 1.00, System, Memory, Hard Disk Drive benchmarks, Windows Media Player
SiSoftware Sandra 2009 SP4aVersion 2009.9.15.130, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / MultiMedia, Memory Test = Bandwidth Benchmark
  • 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! =)