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).
- Day 1: The $650 Gaming PC
- Day 2: The $1,250 Mid-Range PC
- Day 3: The $2,500 Enthusiast PC
- Day 4: Performance and Value Dissected
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.
|$625 Gaming PC System Components|
|CPU||Intel Core 2 Duo E7300 2.66 GHz||120|
|CPU Cooler||Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro||27|
|RAM||Patriot Viper 4 GB (2 x 2 GB) DDR2 800 (PC2 6400)||53|
|Graphics||Sapphire 100245L Radeon HD 4850 512 MB||150|
|Hard Drives||Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 ST3500320AS 500 GB 7200 RPM 32 MB||65|
|Sound||Integrated HD Audio||0|
|Network||Integrated Gigabit Networking||0|
|Case||Antec Three Hundred||50|
|Power||Antec NeoPower 430 430 W ATX12V||40|
|Optical||LITE-ON 20X DVD±R SATA Model iHAS120-04||22|
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.