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

Test System And Benchmarks

Now that we’ve looked at our choices and justifications in detail, let’s recap our components one more time before getting into the benches and compare them to last month's $1,250 enthusiast PC against which we'll benchmark this month's machine:

ComponentBase SettingsOverclock Setting
CPUIntel Core i7 920 2.66 GHz, QPI-2429, 8 MB Cache3.7 GHz (20x 185 MHz), QPI-1330 1.32 V Core, QPI/VTT 1.3 V, IOH Core 1.2 V
CPU CoolerStockUnchanged
MotherboardGigabyte EX58-DS4 Intel X58, BIOS F3 (11/12/2008)
RAM3.0 GB PNY XLR8 3x 1024 MB, DDR3-539, CL 7-7-7-20 at 1.50 V3x 1024 MB, DDR3-555, CL 8-8-8-21 at 1.50 V
GraphicsPowercolor Radeon 4870 X2 2x AMD 4850 GPU, underclocked 575 MHz 2x 1,024 MB GDDR3 900 MHz575 MHz GPU, GDDR3 (1,060 MHz)
Hard DrivesWestern Digital Caviar black 640GD 640 GB, 7,2000 RPM, 32 MB CacheUnchanged
NetworkIntegrated Gigabit NetworkingUnchanged
PowerCorsair 650TX ATX 12 V2.2, 52A on a single 12 V RailUnchanged
OpticalLG 20X DVD±R DVD Burner SATA Model GH20NS15Unchanged
Software and Drivers
Operating SystemWindows Vista Ultimate 32-bit, SP1Unchanged
Graphics DriverCatalyst 8.10 32-bit EditionUnchanged
ComponentBase SettingsOverclock Setting
CPUIntel Core 2 Duo E8500 3.16 GHz, FSB-1333, 6 MB Cache4.25 GHz (9.5x 448 MHz), FSB-1792 1.3 V Core
CPU CoolerXigmatek HDT-S1283Xigmatek HDT-S1283
MotherboardDFI Lanparty X38 Intel X38, BIOS 6.00 (10/03/2008) Northbridge Voltage : 1.30 V
RAM4.0 GB PNY XLR8 2x 2,048 MB, DDR2-800, CL 4-4-4-12 at 1.80 V2x 2,048 MB, DDR2-896, CL 5-5-5-14 at 1.90 V
GraphicsPowercolor Radeon 4870 X2 2x AMD 4870 GPU , 750 MHz 2x 1,024 MB GDDR5 (Per Card) 900 MHz777 MHz GPU, GDDR5 (950 MHz)
Hard DrivesWestern Digital Caviar black 640GD 640 GB, 7,2000 RPM, 32 MB CacheUnchanged
NetworkIntegrated Gigabit NetworkingUnchanged
PowerAntec Neo 650W ATX 12 V/EPS 12 V, 57A between three 12 V RailsUnchanged
OpticalLITE-ON 20X DVD±R SATA Model iHAS120-04Unchanged
Software and Drivers
Operating SystemWindows Vista Ultimate 32-bit, SP1Unchanged
Graphics DriverCatalyst 8.11 32-bit EditionUnchanged

You now know the hardware and the overclock, so let’s have a detailed look at the benchmarks and settings before we scrutinize the results.

CrysisVersion: 1.2.1, Video Quality: Very High Details, Demo: CPU-Benchmark + Tom’s Hardware Tool
Supreme CommanderForged AllianceVersion: 1.5.3599, Video Quality: Highest Settings, Demo: WallaceTX_006_006, Benchmark: Fraps 2.9.4 - Build 7037
Unreal Tournament 3Version: 1.2, Sound and DirectX10, Texture Details: 5, Level Details: 5, Demo: vCTF-Reflection_bot, Time: 12/60
World in ConflictVersion:, Video Quality: Very High details, Demo: Game-Benchmark
iTunesVersion:, Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 min, Default format AAC
Lame MP3Version: 3.98 Beta 3 (05-22-2007), Audio CD ""Terminator II SE, 53 min, wave to MP3, 160 Kb/s
TMPEG 4.5Version:, Import File: Terminator 2 SE DVD (5 Minutes), Resolution: 720x576 (PAL) 16:9
DivX 6.8.3Encoding mode: Insane Quality, Enhanced Multi-threading, Enabled using SSE4, Quarter-pixel search
XviD 1.1.3Display encoding status = off
Mainconcept Reference 1.5.1Reference H.264 Plugin Pro 1.5.1MPEG2 to MPEG2 (H.264), MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG2), Audio: MPEG2 (44.1 kHz, 2 Channel, 16-Bit, 224 Kbp/s), Mode: PAL (25 FPS), Profile: Tom’s Hardware Settings for Qct-Core
Autodesk 3D Studio Max 9Version: 9.0, Rendering Dragon Image at 1920x1080 (HDTV)
Adobe Photoshop CS 3Version: 10.0x20070321, Filtering from a 69 MB TIF-Photo, Benchmark: Tomshardware-Benchmark V1.0.0.4, Filters: Crosshatch, Glass, Sumi-e, Accented Edges, Angled Strokes, Sprayed Strokes
Grisoft AVG Anti-Virus 8Version: 8.0.134, Virus base : 270.4.5/1533, Benchmark: Scan 334 MB Folder of ZIP/RAR compressed files
Winrar 3.80Version 3.70 BETA 8, WinZIP Commandline Version 2.3, Compression=Best, Dictionary=4,096 KB, Benchmark: THG-Workload (334 MB)
Winzip 11Version 11.2, Compression=Best, Benchmark: THG-Workload (139 MB)
3DMark VantageVersion: 1.02, GPU and CPU scores
PCMark VantageVersion: 1.00, System, Memory, Hard Disk Drive benchmarks, Windows Media Player
SiSoftware Sandra XII SP2Version 2008.5.14.24, CPU Test=CPU Arithmetic/MultiMedia, Memory Test= Bandwidth Benchmark
  • Hellcatm
    Personally I'd get a cheaper processor and motherboard and go with a Gforce 280 video card. You can get a $180 processor and a $145 motherboard and the 280 card has PhysX built in which is really nice.
  • enewmen
    I will hope to see how a high-clocked q9550/q9650 E0 will compare with a i7 920. The Motherboard and RAM will be cheaper. So, you can also get more RAM and faster RAM with the q9550 than the i7 920 with the same cash. Or the high-bandwidth/ lower total memory DDR3 tri-channel might actually do better?
    I don't think a i7 920 /w 3 gigs RAM will work as quickly as a q9550 @ 4.0Ghz with a 470mhz fsb and 4+ gigs RAM -even with quad-core supported apps.
    Anyway, I think the outcome will be hard to predict.
  • one-shot
    I think the Q9550/i7 920 comparison would be very informative. I have been considering purchasing a Q9950 in the near future. Let's see it happen.
  • chriscusano
    I agree with I'd agree with trying to run a comparison with the Q9550. Throwing in an nvidia card would also prove interesting.
  • pcgamer12
    Very good article. I just want to say that the Crucial 3GB triple-channel DDR3 1066 kit costs only $73.99; its price surprised me. Go Crucial! I'm definitely looking into a Crucial memory kit for my next upgrade or build, which might or might not be Core i7, depending how the price wars progress between nVidia and ATI (saying AMD still feels wierd to me when referring to video cards). I noticed how the budget had to "settle" for a 4850 X2 when they Core 2 Duo build had money for a 4870 X2. Hopefully, prices will go down faster, and soon.
  • Pei-chen
    Page 2 - E8500 has 6MB L2 cache, not 4MB.
  • Yes, please try the next system with the Q9550! I would love to see how this processor compares again the new kid on the block. Of course this is the processor I have and also want to see what you get out of it. It would be nice if you chose another Gigabyte board as well to get a more apples to apples comparison with this month's build.
  • Huttfuzz
    Yes we want to see Q9550 against Core i7 920. Both overclocked at the same speed. Let's say 3.8 or something like that.
  • JeanLuc
    Good article, well done. At first I was a bit worried for the Core i7 was going to get humiliated against the higher clocked E8500 but you summary shows just how much progress has been made with developing software that can take advantage of multiple cores.

    The Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance benchmark was surprising out of all the games you tested I expected that game to be the one which showed off what quad cores can do for games. Perhaps you could add in GTA IV into your future benchmarks as that games seems to love quad cores?

    The temps were a little worrying but the Intel Stock cooler isn’t designed with overclocking in mind and you can pretty much guarantee a decent 3rd party cooler will slash those temps by a third.

    One last thing it might be an idea to compare your very first mid range build to your current mid range build, it would give the readers an idea as to how much more bang for buck we get now days.
  • kelfen
    well 4850x2 there is only two in newegg 2gb and 1gb which not sure if ATI rly supported as far as drivers compared to its bigger brother