System Builder Marathon, June 2012: $2000 Performance PC

Ivy Bridge And Kepler Come Together

System Builder Marathon, June 2012: The Articles

Here are links to each of the four articles in this quarter’s System Builder Marathon (we’ll update them as each story is published). And remember, these systems are all being given away at the end of the marathon.

To enter the giveaway, please fill out this SurveyGizmo form, and be sure to read the complete rules before entering!

Day 1: The $2000 Performance PC
Day 2: The $1000 Enthusiast PC
Day 3: The $500 Gaming PC
Day 4: Performance And Value, Dissected


Halving our System Builder Marathon budgets each day makes it easy to compare value. We can say things like "twice as fast for four times the money," and often be accurate without a lot of mental math.

On the other hand, small changes to our cheapest PC’s budget get multiplied by four by the time they reach our high-end build. While the $500 machine slowly climbed to $600 out of necessity, there really wasn't any good reason to add $400 to our flagship (even considering events like last year's spike in hard drive prices). So, our top-end machine eventually reached $2600 before Paul realized that he no longer needed the extra $150 to create a really solid list of parts.

So, we collectively punched the reset button.

But then something almost magical happened in the meantime: Intel launched its Ivy Bridge architecture, and Nvidia launched its GeForce GTX 680. Whiplash-inducing game performance no longer required a pair of cards or a stupidly-large (and expensive) dual-GPU part. And Intel’s new CPU technology gave us a perfect chance to ditch its pricey six-core Sandy Bridge-E and glorified P67 chipset.

Using the latest hardware, we thought we might be able to construct a machine boasting equal-or-better performance in most applications for less money.

The finished build looks eerily similar to a gaming PC, and that’s not by mistake. Many of the parts in this high-end build were picked in response to reader feedback. While former $2000+ machines were designed to be multipurpose transcoding machines that could game well, the lighter-duty processor in this system started us down the path of a gaming machine able to handle content creation in a passable way.

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Q2 2012 $2000 Enthusiast PC Components
ProcessorIntel Core i7-3770K (Ivy Bridge): 3.5 - 3.9 GHz, 8 MB Shared L3 Cache$350
GraphicsAsus GTX680-DC2T-2GD5: GeForce GTX 680 (Factory O/C)$540
MotherboardASRock Z77 Extreme6: LGA 1155, Intel Z77 Express$175
MemoryG.Skill F3-1600C8D-8GAB: DDR3-1600 C8, 4 GB x 2 (8 GB)$58
System DriveMushkin MKNSSDCR120GB-MX: 120 GB, SATA 6Gb/s SSD$120
Storage DriveSeagate Barracuda Green ST2000DL003: 2 TB, 5900 RPM Hard Drive$120
OpticalLite-On iHAS124-04: 24x DVD±R, 12x DVD±R DL$18
CaseAntec Nine Hundred w/USB 3.0$100
PowerSeasonic X750 Gold SS-750KM: ATX12V V2.3 80 PLUS Gold$160
CPU CoolerZalman CNPS12X$100
Row 10 - Cell 0  Total Cost $1741

And then there’s the price. By trimming some of last quarter's luxuries, like the BD-R (for ripping and long-term backups), a silent case (to avoid distractions when working), and a larger SSD (providing more room for performance-sensitive apps), we cut around $300 from this build. This is, after all, primarily a gaming machine, and the $259 we had left couldn't get us a second GeForce GTX 680.

It wasn't even possible to consider dual GeForce GTX 670s when we placed our order, though that's the route we'd probably go at this point (since we'd still likely end up within our budget range). GeForce GTX 690s weren't available either. But they're simply too expensive and too limited to be a viable option for most.

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • Trialsking
    Very nice build, if only I had $1800 to spare
  • rohitbaran
    Well, is GTX 680 availability good enough now?
  • mayankleoboy1
    i would never buy a green 5400 RPM over a 7200 RPM drive, no matter the cost.
  • Now imagine if two GTX 670 were available!!
  • vakuma5000
    Awesome Build!!

    I have the exact same GTX 680 from ASUS, and I love it. Managed to get 1337Mhz out of the core and 6800 out of the memory. I achieved that with only 115% power limit. If I raise the power limit any higher, i start to loose performance and stability. That is a truly awesome memory oveerclock you got out of it! Congrats!

    Very much looking foreward to the value comparison.
    Would LOVE to see the 1800$ build win the value comparo!
    GO GTX 680!!

    My vote goes towards keeping a gaming focus as opposed to a more "all-in-one" type build.
    Love the System Builder Articles, love Toms!
  • strandiam
    So many great cases to choose from with so many great features....
  • vakuma5000
    Unfortunately GTX 680 availability is still pretty spotty.
    Had to spend 2 days on newegg, refreshing the page every few mins to get the model i wanted.
    However, it IS looking better. They are listing them more often on newegg, and they don't sell-out as quickly as they were a few weeks ago.
    Check newegg daily from 5:30pm to 6:30 pm CST, and you should be able to catch one.
    The GTX 670's are in stock right now.
    Good luck rohitbaran!
  • slicedtoad
    should we keep the gaming focus or move back towards higher-cost do-it-all machines?
    Personally, I'm happy with the gaming focus. Don't know how others feel but gaming performance is more important than productivity benchmarks for me. I compile a lot of code and do some video encoding but I find gaining fps in games is more important than shaving seconds off my work. Besides, productivity follows gaming performance close enough.

    On another note, I dislike value comparisons when things like SSD size and optical drives have made an impact in price. A larger SSD does nothing for a benchmark but is awesome in practice. I'd prefer only comparing the combined price of the gpu, cpu, cooler(s) and mobo in the value chart. That's not a perfect solution but it annoys me that things like high quality PSUs, nice cases, blu-ray burners and large SSDs throw things off so much.
  • Crashman
    strandiamSo many great cases to choose from with so many great features....Perhaps the award-winning NZXT Phantom 410 next time?,3203-5.html
  • sam_fisher
    CrashmanPerhaps the award-winning NZXT Phantom 410 next time? 203-5.html
    My only dislike about this build is the case, for a $2000 PC I would prefer a case that was tidier and larger than the Antec Nine Hundred (especially with the layout of the HDD bays). The NZXT Phantom 410 would be much better for that budget.