System Builder Marathon: $625 Gaming PC

More CPU, Please

System Builder Marathon, December 2008: 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).

Ed.—You’ll notice that we have once again paired up with NewEgg to deliver this month’s SBM. It’s an arrangement that gives us access to the latest retail components, which ideally delivers an experience more representative of what our readers would go through and eliminates the uncertainty associated with engineering/cherry-picked samples. Good news--you'll notice that this month we're back to three distinct system builds. That's because i7 is now widely available and we were able to build it into our high-end. There's also a bit of a surprise on day two. But for now, check out what Paul was able to piece together for $625!


Readers seemed to appreciate the November SBM pricing points so we again stick to the $625 budget for this month’s Gaming PC. Many of our previous components also found their way into this system, but there was a little extra room in the budget to allow for a potential upgrade or two.

Our maximum-detail SBM gaming settings have so far brought our single-GPU gaming PCs to their knees, so attempts were first made to fit more GPU power into this month’s build. Ideally, dual HD 4830s or 9800 GTs were the goal, but unfortunately a CrossFire- or SLI-capable motherboard, dual $115 graphics cards, and a sufficient power supply unit (PSU) did not even come close to meeting the constraints of this budget. Even a single GTX 260 or HD 4870 would have required the HDD capacity or system memory to be cut in half and would have also limited us to $30 cases. While more GPU power remained just out of reach, there were enough pricing changes to instead increase our CPU budget so we could take a look at the Intel Core 2 Duo E7300.

With slightly higher stock clock speeds, a higher front side bus (FSB) clock, and more L2 cache, we expected the E7300-powered system to outperform November's E5200 setup right out of the box. But since this is an SBM review, we are thus more interested in seeing just what this rig will do once we find its maximum stable overclocked speeds. Let’s take a look at the other components selected for this month’s $625 Gaming PC.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
$625 Gaming PC System Components
ComponentModelPrice (USD)
CPUIntel Core 2 Duo E7300 2.66 GHz120
CPU CoolerArctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro27
MotherboardGigabyte GA-EP45-DS3L105
RAMPatriot Viper 4 GB (2 x 2 GB) DDR2 800 (PC2 6400)53
GraphicsSapphire 100245L Radeon HD 4850 512 MB150
Hard DrivesSeagate Barracuda 7200.11 ST3500320AS 500 GB 7200 RPM 32 MB65
SoundIntegrated HD Audio0
NetworkIntegrated Gigabit Networking0
CaseAntec Three Hundred50
PowerAntec NeoPower 430 430 W ATX12V40
OpticalLITE-ON 20X DVD±R SATA Model iHAS120-0422
Row 12 - Cell 0 Total Price:$632

A few pricing changes on order day brought the $624 in selected components up to a slightly over-budget $632.  The one change most worth mentioning is that the $10 savings on the E7300 expired, meaning we needed to obtain an extra $38 worth of performance out of this CPU vs. last month's E5200. And while we are on the topic, once again keep in mind that these prices and even availability are almost guaranteed to change by the time you read this article.  Also, some readers may value knowing there were $40 worth of mail-in rebates available for these components at order time. With that said, it’s time to take a closer look at each of the components used in the December $625 PC.

  • spirto
    once again no amd setup? i thought you said you were going to give us amd users a smb
  • DFGum
    Sure they could give a 625 dollar AMD setup, but it just wouldnt be as good at this time so why bother?
    Its always about value at the price points.
  • JeanLuc
    What’s the point in an AMD setup when the Intel option gives you better value for money?
  • Claimintru
    Negative'd you Spirto for being a mindless fanboy.
  • V3NOM
    lol... my e5200 crapped out at 3.7ghz 1.4vcore... someone i know got his e7300 to 4.0ghz at some ridiculous vcore though lol... it really depends on teh chip. some get good VID's, some get bad. some overclock good, some overclock crap, its the natura of binning. naturally e8400's would be binned more than the 5 and 7 series, and the e8500/8600 would be better still.
  • when r u guys gonna write about the nvidia ion platform?!?!?!?!
  • zodiacfml
    i wouldn't risk buying an e7300 over an e5200. i have built amd systems, now i'm regretting why i didn't bought pentium dual core which are practically core2duo's with less cache.

    regarding nvidia ion, i think intel is thinking deeply of whether they allow nvidia to Atom since netbooks still sell without it.
  • Veesofnaught
    I actually just got done purchasing parts for a new pc that ended up being around that same price. This is my first time building a PC so I'm not sure if I could have done better, but I think it's worth mentioning if anyone is interested in going for a Quad Core instead of the Dual Core.

    Intel Quad Core Q6600
    Asus P5QL Pro Motherboard
    NVidia 9800 GTX
    GSkill 4 Gb Ram
    580 Watt PSU
    Rosewill Mid-Tower
    160 GB 7200 RPM Hard Drive
    SATA CD/DVD Burner
  • Master Exon
    I guess I will share my for-Christmas build with TH.

    $82 2.5GHz E5200 45nm C2D
    $0 (no CPU cooler)
    $54 ASUS P5KPL-CM
    $34 A-DATA 2x2GB (4GB) DDR2 800
    $200 GeForce 260
    $55 WD 320GB WD3200AAKS
    $0 integrated sound
    $0 integrated network
    $12 Spray painted an old beige case black.
    $67 500W SeaSonic
    $22 LG DVD burner
    $10 card reader

    $526 Total

    I don't see why they didn't shave off $40 for the cheaper CPU
  • weinheimer
    That is a nicely configured system at fair pricing