System Builder Marathon: $625 Gaming PC

Graphics Card And Hard Drive

Graphics Card : Sapphire 100245L Radeon HD4850 512MB

The PNY 8800GT hit some high clock speeds and served us well last month, but nothing short of an AMD Radeon HD 4850 was going into this month’s $625 Gaming PC. A price of $160 was low for in-stock HD 4850, and we opted for the Sapphire 100245L with high hopes that its dual-slot cooler would allow us to push the card to high clock speeds. Factor in a $20 mail-in rebate, and it was an even better value.

Read Customer Reviews of Sapphire’s Radeon HD 4850 512MB

The Sapphire HD 4850 does not follow the reference design and has a shorter blue PCB. An Orb-style cooler provides excellent core cooling but Sapphire did not include heatsinks on the RAM chips, so we did question how much the memory could be pushed.

Also note that the PCB has a two-pin fan header, unlike the four-pin header on reference cards. Expectations were for a fan that ran 100% all the time, but that was not the case. However, this fan does offer variable speeds and testing was performed to confirm that fan speeds could even be manually set in Catalyst Control Center (CCC) as well. At 100%, the fan is rather loud, but would provide a massive amount of air flow and cooling performance. But for overclocking, it was unnecessary to manually control the fan speed as the card ran plenty cool at auto settings. The downside of this cooler is that, at idle, it isn’t very quiet. Even when setting the fan speed to CCC’s lowest setting of 20%, it’s not at all what could be called a quiet card. Unplugging the fan confirmed that the one fan that was audible over all the others was the HD 4850, and those who value a very quiet PC should not consider this Sapphire card.

Hard Drive : Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 ST3500320AS 500GB

Read Customer Reviews of Seagate’s Barracuda 7200.11 500 GB HDD

The 400 GB Seagate used in the October $500 PC had dropped to $50, but was no longer in stock when pricing up this month’s system. While retaining Seagate’s reliability and five-year warranty, we increased capacity 100 GB and doubled the cache buffer to 32 MB with the 7200.11 series. Considering the cost was just $5 more than for the one in last month’s system, we are definitely getting more storage value for the money this month.

  • slomo4sho
    Very nice write up. I like the new price point :)
  • slomo4sho
    I forgot to mention that I still would like to see power consumption charts and possibly a AMD based build at this price point.
  • nerrawg
    Impressive results! Who says a system price has to adhere to budget figures of 500, 1500 and 4500 dollars, you guys really showed how much added value can be had when the right OC parts are purchased and assembled into a nice package. Well done!
  • cloudbase
    Hiya. Can you guys give a bit more detail about the 'further upgrades' you were inferring in the text of this article? So: Which P45 crossfire motherboard would have been nice; which RAM was out of stock; what would have been the benefiot of the more expensive CPU?

    Im looking to spend a similar amount, but as I already have the case, PSU etc it makes sense to explore those options.

    Presumably a 4870 would be better again?
  • radguy
    Thats a pretty awesome build thanks for the article. Although I am sorry but I have to ask. Do we have our real 4ghz dual core for $84 now?
  • jaragon13
    Sorry? What's with the comment box? I can't see what I'm typing.
    Anyways,my GTX 260 suffers on Crysis,so it's nothing new.
  • Pei-chen
    Great choice, let the AMD fan boys whiny; I would have picked the same setup if I am to build a cheap gaming PC.
  • matt2k
    Nice build for the money, though i personally would have sprung for a crossfire ready motherboard, the MSI P45 Neo2-FR for example.
    The only problem i have with this though is the operating system. surely that should be quite a major factor when creating a whole new system? and it would be nice to have the different vista's compared for gamers. i.e. is ultimate worth the bump in price for the extra's or is xp professional still the best option.
    just my thoughts.
  • zodiacfml
    Nicest article, not only you did not stick to any budget but also the parts chosen could not have been any better. This is a build i'm planning except i could have chosen a less performing 9800GT since its only in Crysis where a 4850 has a usable advantage over it.
    I am an AMD user for years but this pentium dual core overclocks so far over an athlon x2.
  • wh3resmycar
    someone from the forums was asking me months back where i can find a 4ghz e5200.. i guess this is it.