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System Builder Marathon, March 2012: $2600 Performance PC

Au Contraire: More CPU, Less GPU

System Builder Marathon, March 2012: The Articles

Here are links to each of the five 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, including the Bonus Customer Choice PC, which we picked out using the highest-rated components in Newegg's feedback system.

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

Day 1: The $650 Gaming PC
Day 2: The $1250 Enthusiast PC
Day 3: The $2600 Performance PC
Day 4: Performance And Value, Dissected
Day 5: Bonus Newegg Customer Choice PC

Introduction

Regardless of budget, maximizing performance per dollar is the first priority of every System Builder Marathon machine. Games account for 30% of our evaluation, and the most cost-effective way to increase our overall performance score is to sink more of our money into graphics. But even throwing cash at higher frame rates hits a point of diminishing returns, since CPU bottlenecks always seem to rear their ugly heads more quickly when you go heavy on GPU muscle.

Recent changes to our benchmark suite make CPU bottlenecks an even bigger issue. Thankfully, Intel’s six-core Sandy Bridge-E architecture is available in a trim that doesn't require spending $1000 on a processor. The Core i7-3930K even gives us an unlocked multiplier with which to work. A moderately high price tag prevents us from really going all-out with a high-end CrossFire or SLI graphics configuration, but AMD gives us hope for greater single-GPU performance with its Radeon HD 7970.

While we didn’t have enough money left over for a second flagship graphics card, a $200 budget boost still gave us a little more flexibility to focus on our top system’s second priority: perceived quality. Increasing the perception of quality involves simple tweaks, such as case design, as well as more focused efforts to bring down system noise. Keeping those factors in mind, we design today’s system to provide the best possible overall user experience.

$2600 Performance PC Components
ProcessorIntel Core i7-3930K: 3.2-3.8 GHz, 12 MB Cache$600
GraphicsMSI R7970-2PMD3GD5/OC: Radeon HD 7970 (Factory O/C)$590
MotherboardAsus P9X79 Pro: LGA 2011, Intel X79 Express$320
MemoryG.Skill F3-1600C9Q-16GAB: DDR3-1600 C9, 4 GB x 4 (16 GB)$90
System DriveMushkin MKNSSDCR240GB-DX: 240 GB, SATA 6Gb/s SSD$274
Storage DriveSeagate Barracuda Green ST1500DL003: 1.5 TB, 5900 RPM Hard Drive$100
OpticalPioneer BDR-206DBKS: 12x BD-R, 16x DVD±R$95
CaseAntec P280 Case, 2x Rosewill ROCF-11004 Fan, Okgear FC444PWM-12 Cable$162
PowerSeasonic Platinum-860: 860 W, ATX/EPS12V Full Modular, 80 PLUS Platinum$220
CPU CoolerZalman CNPS12X$90
Total Cost$2,541

Aside from personal tastes in aesthetics, none of the components in this quarter's high-end build should be controversial. And while we fully expect a lively debate about some of the other parts we could have picked in the comments section, our primary concern is to see if this system works as well in practice as it looks on a build sheet.

  • 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?
    Reply
  • llguitargr8
    Sorry, *write. It's late.
    Reply
  • g-unit1111
    Not sure if I agree with that choice of cooler but I definitely like the rest of the setup!
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • mjmjpfaff
    I like it a lot. I am glad you mixed it up and went with the x79 platform.
    Reply
  • esrever
    I like the build except the x79 adds like $500 extra that I see very little benefit from.
    Reply
  • Pezcore27
    Love the build. Do want!
    Reply
  • e56imfg
    Dang I need to win this one!! I'm so happy they balanced the CPU with the GPU this time around.
    Reply
  • hmp_goose
    Good job: Working through the details of the CPU cooler like that is half the fun of this hobby. Great build.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply