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Three Core i7 Systems From Boutique Builders

Test Setup

Hardware Comparison

MODELAlienware Area-51 X-58AVADirect Custom Gaming PCCyberPower Xtreme Gamer
CPUIntel Core i7 920, 2.67 GHzIntel Core  i7 920, 2.67 GHz (OC'd to 3.33 GHz)Intel Core i7 940 2.93 GHz (OC'd to 3.61 GHz)
MotherboardAsus Custom Socket 1366Asus P6T DeluxeAsus P6T Deluxe
RAM6 GB DDR3 at 1,066 MT/s (Elipida)6 GB DDR3 at 1,333 MT/s (Corsair XMS3)6GB DDR3 at 1,600 MT/s (Kingston HyperX)
ChipsetIntel X58Intel X58Intel X58
Video CardNvidia GeForce GTX 295EVGA GeForce GTX 260 (two cards in SLI)Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 X2
AudioAnalog Devices SoundMAXAnalog Devices SoundMAXAnalog Devices SoundMAX
Hard DriveTwo Seagate Barracuda ST3500620AS (500 GB) in RAID 0Fujitsu MBA3147RC SAS (147 GB) and Seagate Barracuda ST315003141AS (1.5 TB)Two Hitachi Deskstar (500 GB) in RAID 0 and Western Digital WD10EACS (1 TB)
OpticalLG Electronics Super-Multi GH22NP20Two TSST CDDVDW SH-S223QSony BR-5100S 20X Blu-ray, plus Sony 20x DVD-RW
CPU CoolingAlienware custom heatsink/fanCoolIT Domino ALCAsetek LCLC
GPU CoolingStock heatsink/fanStock heatsink/fanStock heatsink/fan
LANMarvell Yukon 88E8056 (dual Gigabit)Marvell Yukon 88E8056 (dual Gigabit)Marvell Yukon 88E8056 (dual Gigabit)
Media  ReaderNone68-in-112-in-1
Operating SystemWindows Vista Home Premium (64-bit)Windows Vista Home Premium (64-bit)Windows Vista Home Premium (64-bit)
EnclosureAlienware CustomThermaltake V9Cooler Master Storm Sniper
Power SupplyAlienware Custom (750 watts)Corsair TX750W (750 watts)Thermaltake Toughpower (600 watts)

Benchmarks and Settings

3D Games Benchmarks and Settings
BenchmarksDetails
Far CryVersion: 1.02, Video Mode: 1280x960, no AA, Overall Quality Very High and 1920x1200, 4x AA, Overall Quality Very High, Demo: Far Cry 2 benchmark tool, Ranch Mediu
Supreme CommanderVersion: 1.5.359, Video Mode: 1920x1200 Fidelity Preset: Low and 1920x1200 Fidelity Preset: High, Demo: WallaceTX_006_00,  Benchmark: Fraps 2.9.4 – Built 7037
Unreal Tournament 3Version: 1.2, Video Mode: 1920x1200, Texture and Level Details 1; and 1920x1200, Texture and Level Details 5, Sound and DirectX 10; Window off, Demo: CTF-Reflection_fly, Time: 12/60
World In ConflictVersion 1.0.0.9, Video mode: 1920x1200, Very Low Details and 1920x1200, Very High Detail, Demo: Game Benchmark

Media Benchmarks and Settings
BenchmarksDetails
DivXVersion: 6.8.3,- Main Menu -, Default, - Codec Menu -, Encoding Mode: Insane Quality, Enhanced multi-threading, Enabled using SSE4, Quarter-pixel search, - Video Menu -, Quantization: MPEG-2
iTunesVersion: 8.0.2Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 minDefault format to AAC
LAME MP3Version 3.98Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 minWAV to MP3, 160Kbps
MainConcept Reference Reference H.264 Plugin Pro Version 1.5.1 MPEG2 to MPEG2 (H.264) MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG2)Audio: MPEG2 (44.1KHz, 2 channel, 16-bit, 224Kbs)Codec: H.264Mode: PAL (25 FPS)Profile: Tom’s Hardware Settings for Qct-Core
Nero 8 RecodeVersion: Nero Recode 3.1.4.0 Record entire DVD to DVDDefault settings
Pinnacle Studio UltimateVersion: 12.0.0.6163Encoding and Transition RenderingDV camcorder movieVideo:720 x 576 Pixel, PAL, 25 fps, 6000 Kbits/secAudio:MPEG Layer 2, 224 Kbits/sec 16 Bit, Stereo 44.1 KHzFile Type: MPEG-2 (DVD Compatible)
TMPEGnc XpressVersion: 4.5.1.254Video: Terminator 2 SE DVD (720x576, 16:9) 5 Minutes Audio: Dolby Digital, 48000 Hz, 6-channel EnglishAdvanced Acoustic Engine MP3 Encoder (160Kbs, 44.1KHz)
XvidVersion: 1.1.3 - Other Options / Encoder Menu - Display encoding status = off
Applications Benchmarks and Settings
BenchmarkDetails
3ds Max 9Version: 9.0, Benchmark: Render Dragon image at 1920x1080 (HDTV)
Grisoft AVG Anti-virusVersion: 8.0.134, Virus base: 270.4.5/1533, Benchmark: Scan some compressed ZIP and RAR archives
WinRARVersion 3.70 Beta 8, WinZIP Commandline Version 2.3, Compression = Best, Dictionary: 4096KB, Benchmark: THG-Workload
WinZIPVersion: 11.2, Compression = Best, Benchmark: THG-Workload
Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
3DMark VantageVersion: 1.02, GPU and CPU Scores obtained with Performance Preset
PCMark VantageVersion 1.00, System, Memories, Productivity and Hard Drive Benchmarks
SiSoftware Sandra XIIVersion:  2008.5.14.24, CPU Test=CPU Arithmetic/MultiMedia, Memory Test=Bandwidth Benchmark
A/C Power Consumption
Kill-A-Watt P4400Each system’s A/C power draw measured at the wall in watts at idle and then while running the Far Cry 2 benchmark using a P3 Kill-A-Watt P4400 power meter
  • gkay09
    Well this article would help people buying preassembled computer very much...
    Reply
  • crisisavatar
    all 3 suck concidering you can add a 24 inch monitor, high quality speakers, audio card, gaming mouse/keyboard and still have money to spare.

    ps. running a couple of gtx 260s at stock will be more than enough to pull 45 fps in crysis and everything else at idk fps.
    Reply
  • crisisavatar
    ups forgot to add the new OCZ vortex 30g ssd in raid 0 to boot up and still be in budget.
    Reply
  • pivalak
    Hummm, what I tend to miss on these reviews is an actual measurement of the noise generated by the system.

    I mean, the subjective evaluation provided is still useful, but... how noisy is "surprisingly quiet" or "the loudest of the three machines"?
    Reply
  • pivalak
    Hummm, what I tend to miss on these reviews is an actual measurement of the noise generated by the system.

    I mean, the subjective evaluation provided is still useful, but... how noisy is "surprisingly quiet" or "the loudest of the three machines"?
    Reply
  • pivalak
    Hummm, what I tend to miss on these reviews is an actual measurement of the noise generated by the system.

    I mean, the subjective evaluation provided is still useful, but... how noisy is "surprisingly quiet" or "the loudest of the three machines" in this case?
    Reply
  • pivalak
    Oooops... sorry for the multiple posts. I had some issues with my browser (does anyone know how to delete them?) :(
    Reply
  • nerrawg
    Kind of surprised that Thomas Soderstrom's (is he swedish btw?) $2,500 core i7 build from December wasn't mentioned from what I could see for comparison.
    If anyone is curious how tom's home-build system compares to the boutiques here's the link: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/core-i7-overclock,2116.html

    From the gaming benches on that review it appears that the now slightly outdated december build still trumps the above builds with its triple 260 SLI and 4.0 Ghz overclocked 920. Best value award goes Tom's own Build! Now if only that one came pre-built with a 3 year warranty .... guess I'll still be getting out my toolkit (no pun intended)
    Reply
  • MrMick
    pivalakHummm, what I tend to miss on these reviews is an actual measurement of the noise generated by the system.I mean, the subjective evaluation provided is still useful, but... how noisy is "surprisingly quiet" or "the loudest of the three machines" in this case?
    Hi, I'm the author of the story. Trying to objectively measure a system's noise levels without sophisticated measurement equipment is as problematic as describing them subjectively.

    I have a level meter, but decided not to use it because it wasn't sensitive enough to measure noise levels where it mattered--at ear level where I was seated. I needed to measure the ambient room noise with no computers running to set a basis for comparison, and the meter wasn't sensitive enough to do that.

    And even if the meter was sensitive enough for my purpose, the decibel measurement would be relevant only for the environment in which I was testing (my home office, which measures 13.6x8 feet).
    Reply
  • “No one ever got laughed at for buying an Alienware.”

    Are you kidding? They have to be the most overpriced POS on the market.

    Pfft. Alienware = glorified console.

    Real PC gamers build their own. Period.
    Reply