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Three Core i7 Systems From Boutique Builders

Introduction

Unless you’ve been living in a cave the past five months, you know that Intel’s Core i7 is the fastest, most powerful, and most overclockable CPU to hit the market since, well, since Intel’s last major CPU rollout: the Core 2 Duo.

The Core i7 is a quad-core CPU manufactured using Intel’s 45 nm process technology. It’s currently available in three flavors: The 2.66 GHz Core i7 920, the 2.93 GHz Core i7 940, and the 3.2 GHz Core i7 965 Extreme Edition. All three parts have 8 MB of cache and an integrated memory controller; only the Extreme Edition features an unlocked multiplier.

We’ve been curious to find out what boutique PC vendors might build around this new processor, so we invited three of the big names in this space—Alienware, AVADirect, and Cyberpower—to send us their best efforts for a rigorous round of benchmarking.

We instructed them to build the best all-around Core i7 PC they were capable of—something that would be suitable for everything: gaming and other forms of entertainment, productivity, and hobbies like digital photo and video editing. And to make the challenge just a little more interesting, we told each manufacturer that they had to hold their final retail price tags to $2,500 or less.

Would they be able to leverage all that the Core i7 has to offer at that price point? Would we see systems with six gigs of DDR3 in order take advantage of the triple-channel memory architecture? How far would they push the clock speeds? Would they make use of the extra PCI Express lanes Intel’s X58 chipset has to offer? What other goodies might they be able to squeeze into that budget? Let’s find out.

  • 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