System Builder Marathon, March 2012: $2600 Performance PC

Test Settings And Benchmarks

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Test Hardware Configurations
Row 0 - Cell 0 March 2012 $2600 PCDecember 2011 $2400 PC
Processor (Overclock)Intel Core i7-3930K 3.20 GHz, Six Physical CoresO/C to 4.60 GHz, 1.38 VIntel Core i7-2600K 3.40 GHz, Four Physical CoresO/C to 4.60 GHz, 1.37 V
Graphics (Overclock)MSI R7970-2PMD3GD5/OC: 1010 MHz GPU,  GDDR5-5500O/C to 1100 MHz GDDR5-60002 x PNY GeForce GTX 580: 857 MHz GPU,  GDDR5-4212O/C to 951 MHz GDDR5-4312
Memory (Overclock)16 GB G.Skill DDR3-1600 CAS 9-9-9-24, O/C at 1.60 V to DDR3-1866 CL 9-10-9-168 GB Corsair DDR3-1600 CAS 8-8-8-24, O/C at 1.60 V to DDR3-1636 CL 7-8-7-12
Motherboard (Overclock)Asus P9X79 Pro LGA 2011, Intel X79 ExpressStock 100 MHz BCLKMSI Z68A-GD55 (G3) LGA 1155, Intel Z68 ExpressO/C at 102 MHz BCLK
OpticalPioneer BDR-206DBKS 12x BD-RLG WH12LS38 BD-RE: 12x BD-R, 16x DVD±R
CaseAntec P280 Case w/Rosewill FansFractal Design Arc Midi
CPU CoolerZalman CNPS12XPNY XLR8 Integrated Liquid Cooling
Hard DriveMushkin Chronos Deluxe 240 GB, SATA 6Gb/s SSDCrucial m4 128 GB, SATA 6Gb/s SSD
PowerSeasonic SS-860XP: 860 W, ATX12V, 80 PLUS PlatinumMushkin Joule MKNPSJL1000: 1000 W, ATX12V v2.31, 80 PLUS Gold
OSMicrosoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64
GraphicsAMD Catalyst 12.2Nvidia GeForce 285.62
ChipsetIntel INF INF
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Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
Battlefield 3Campaign Mode, "Going Hunting" 90-Seconds Fraps Test Set 1: Medium Quality Defaults (No AA, 4x AF) Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Defaults (4x AA, 16x AF)
DiRT 3V1.01, Run with -benchmark example_benchmark.xml Test Set 1: High Quality Preset, No AA Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Preset, 8x AA
Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimUpdate 1.4.27, Celedon Aethirborn Level 6, 25 Seconds Fraps Test Set 1: DX11, High Details No AA, 8x AF, FXAA enabled Test Set 2: DX11, Ultra Details, 8x AA, 16x AF, FXAA enabled
StarCraft IICustom map "Tom's Hardware Guide V2", 60 seconds Fraps Test Set 1: High Details, High Quality Test Set 2: Ultra Details, Extreme Quality
Audio/Video Encoding
iTunesVersion x64: Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 minutes, default AAC format
Lame MP3Version 3.98.3: Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 min, convert WAV to MP3 audio format, Command: -b 160 --nores (160 Kb/s)
HandBrake CLIVersion 0.95: "Big Buck Bunny" (720x480, 23.972 FPS) 5 Minutes, Audio: Dolby Digital, 48 000 Hz, Six-Channel, English, to Video: AVC Audio: AC3 Audio2: AAC (High Profile)
MainConcept ReferenceVersion: MPEG-2 to H.264, MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG-2), Audio: MPEG-2 (44.1 kHz, 2 Channel, 16-Bit, 224 Kb/s), Codec: H.264 Pro, Mode: PAL 50i (25 FPS), Profile: H.264 BD HDMV
Adobe Photoshop CS5Version 12.1 x64: Filter 15.7 MB TIF Image: Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates
Autodesk 3ds Max 2012Version 14.0 x64: Space Flyby Mentalray, 248 Frames, 1440x1080
WinZipVersion 15.5 Pro: THG-Workload (650 MB) to ZIP, command line switches "-a -ez -p -r"
WinRARVersion 4.1: THG-Workload (650 MB) to RAR, command line switches "winrar a -r -m3"
7-ZipVersion 9.22: THG-Workload (650 MB) to .7z, command line switches "a -t7z -r -m0=LZMA2 -mx=5"
ABBYY FineReaderVersion Read PDF save to Doc, Source: Political Economy (J. Broadhurst 1842) 111 Pages
Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
3DMark 11Version:, Benchmark Only
PCMark 7Version: 1.0.4 x64, System, Productivity, Hard Disk Drive benchmarks
SiSoftware Sandra 2011Version 2011.10.17.80, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / MultiMedia, Memory Test = Bandwidth Benchmark
Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • llguitargr8
    Just curious, did you guys purchase all these parts and right these articles before the GTX 680 was released? I really thought you guys would have gone with that, and if it wasn't because they weren't available at the time, then what makes the 7970 better in your opinion?
  • llguitargr8
    Sorry, *write. It's late.
  • g-unit1111
    Not sure if I agree with that choice of cooler but I definitely like the rest of the setup!
  • bystander
    llguitargr8Just curious, did you guys purchase all these parts and right these articles before the GTX 680 was released? I really thought you guys would have gone with that, and if it wasn't because they weren't available at the time, then what makes the 7970 better in your opinion?Almost all these build articles are based on purchases that took place 2 months ago. Even if they were to have bought these parts today, it would be hard to purchase a 680, as stock is a major issue.
  • mjmjpfaff
    I like it a lot. I am glad you mixed it up and went with the x79 platform.
  • esrever
    I like the build except the x79 adds like $500 extra that I see very little benefit from.
  • Pezcore27
    Love the build. Do want!
  • e56imfg
    Dang I need to win this one!! I'm so happy they balanced the CPU with the GPU this time around.
  • hmp_goose
    Good job: Working through the details of the CPU cooler like that is half the fun of this hobby. Great build.
  • theuniquegamer
    Good build . But there could be more improvement by replacing a $600 cpu and $320 mother board with a i7 2600k and a $200 z68 mother board . And also replacing the 7970($590) with 2x680 at 2x$500(from the money saved from cpu and motherboard and 7970). It may give better gaming result than this build.