Skip to main content

System Builder Marathon: $1,250 Mid-Range PC

System Components List

System Builder Marathon, February 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).

Introduction

Our second-to-the-last System Builder Marathon (SBM) enthusiast PC had the tried-and-true Core 2 Duo E8500 and our last system was equipped with the brand-new Core i7 920, so we have a really good idea of the strengths and weaknesses when comparing these two CPU architectures in similarly-priced systems. The short version of the conclusion is that the inexpensive and highly overclockable Core 2 Duo E8500 is still a great value choice when overclocked, as it leaves a lot of room in the budget for an expensive video card. While the Core i7 920 is the better choice for most CPU-oriented tasks, the relatively expensive processor and X58-based platform doesn't leave a lot of room for a high-end video card. 

This month, we explore where the Core 2 Quad fits into the scheme of things. While Core 2 Quad processors can be just as expensive as the Core i7 920, there is an abundance of inexpensive motherboards with which to pair the processor. This leaves a lot of wiggle room for a better graphics card, among other things.

Before we go over the components, please note that, since the SBMs take a few weeks to execute, Nvidia's new GeForce GTX 295 was not yet available for purchase when we ordered the components (Ed.: tomorrow, you'll see that we cheated a little after ordering the parts right before the GTX 295 launched). Swapping out the Radeon HD 4870 X2 for a tasty new GeForce GTX 295 for the same price would have been a no-brainer, but the Radeon HD 4870 X2 will allow us to get a better apples-to-apples comparison with the E8500/4870 X2 system we built in November.

Let's look at the components. First, keep in mind that only a few weeks ago all of these components spec'd out at $1,244, which was close to our $1,250 limit. Today, the components add up to about $100 less, at $1,150. Primarily, we can thank the price drops of the Q9550 ($310 down to $274) and the Sapphire Radeon 4870 X2 ($490 down to $449) for the huge savings. It goes to show you how quickly prices can drop in the computer industry, especially when new products are launched.

$1,250 Mid-Range System Components
ComponentModelPrice (USD)
CPUIntel Core 2 Quad Q9550$274
CPU CoolerXigmatek HDT-S1283 (& ACK-I7751 Retention Bracket)$46
MotherboardGigabyte GA-EP45-UD3LR$103
RAMG.Skill HK 2 x 2GB$50
GraphicsSapphire Radeon 4870 X2$449
Hard DrivesWestern Digital Caviar Black 640 GB 32 MB cache$80
SoundIntegrated0
NetworkIntegrated Gigabit Networking0
CaseRosewill Wind Ryder RZLS142A-P YE$30
PowerCorsair 650TX$100
OpticalLite-On 20X DVD±R SATA Model iHAS120-04$22
Total Price$1,154
  • johnyeah
    I just checked, I was wondering if the HD 4850 x2 (2x1gb) was a better choice at only $240? That would cut the cost by an additional.
    Reply
  • xx12amanxx
    Phenom 2 940 is 40$ dollars cheaper overclock's to 3.7-3.9 on air runs cooler and performs the same. Not sure why you went with an equal performing lower overclocking higher power using and almost 40$ more expensive cpu.
    Reply
  • Tindytim
    You're $96 under budget, but you couldn't splurge on a better case?

    Unless you made a Typo on one of those prices, they all add up to the 1154 total. So why are you so under budget?
    Reply
  • Crashman
    xx12amanxxPhenom 2 940 is 40$ dollars cheaper overclock's to 3.7-3.9 on air runs cooler and performs the same. Not sure why you went with an equal performing lower overclocking higher power using and almost 40$ more expensive cpu.
    Can't use a processor that doesn't exist. They weren't on the market when the parts were ordered...what, you thought these articles were produced overnight?

    TindytimYou're $96 under budget, but you couldn't splurge on a better case?Unless you made a Typo on one of those prices, they all add up to the 1154 total. So why are you so under budget?
    Prices dropped after the parts were ordered: The same thing happens to EVERY builder, the system loses value almost as soon as you can click the "buy" icon.
    Reply
  • Tindytim
    CrashmanPrices dropped after the parts were ordered: The same thing happens to EVERY builder, the system loses value almost as soon as you can click the "buy" icon.Wait, wait, wait.

    You mention that in the $625 article, but those were the prices at purchase. Why the inconsistency?
    Reply
  • Crashman
    TindytimWait, wait, wait.You mention that in the $625 article, but those were the prices at purchase. Why the inconsistency?
    Ask the author of the other article? I only know that the more expensive a part is, the more money you loose when the price drops.
    Reply
  • maxwellsmart_80
    *SIGH* Yet ANOHTER "Intel System Build Marathon" machine...just kidding - I understand what you are saying about the Phenom II 940 not being available at the time of component purchase - It would be nice to see some AMD in next months articles though!

    P.S. - you were under budget, why not go w/ the Antec Three Hundred Case - it's 1000% nicer than the Rosewill Piece 'o Junk you picked, and would have cooled your Overclock a lot better IMHO...just a thought - it's a killer case for the money - have you ever used it in a system build?
    Reply
  • yellowfever
    This is my first time commenting on any article at Tom's after reading everyday for 6+ years, but seeing the UD3LR motherboard pick instead of the equally priced UD3R ($2 more after rebate) or UD3P($12 more after rebate) is ridiculous for a computer hardware website. Both boards would let you do 24/7 clocks of 4+ at decent voltages on air for an E0 stepping Q9550. Gigabyte isn't going to iron out bios wrinkles on their cheapest UD3, don't forget even the UD3R was easilly beaten in stability against the UD3P until two to three months ago when better bioses started popping up. Maybe it's late, but some strange hardware gets picked on this site to save $12.
    Reply
  • SlyNine
    I would have thought your OC would have been more limited by the 4pin CPU Power on the motherboard
    Reply
  • _horse
    Im diggin' the build here, regardless of newer hardware being available later, and prices dropping after purchase.

    Suggestion: Why not split these articles up into two forms? Why not submit an "initial/at time of order" article and have that listed first to let people argue, then do all the benchmarking and submit a followup article later, attached to the initial article?

    People can still bicker over price range and stuff before the benchmarks even come out, that way you know what/when the article is being based off of.

    I know, Im the new guy and Im probably spitting in to the wind here, but...

    :)

    -Horse
    Reply