System Builder Marathon: $1,250 Enthusiast PC

System Builder Marathon: The Enthusiast's System

System Builder Marathon, November 2008 : The Articles

Here are links to each of the three articles in this month’s System Builder Marathon (we’ll update them as each story is published).


We got a lot of feedback from our last System Builder Marathon concerning the choice of words used to describe that $1,500 machine. A lot of readers just didn’t think a water-cooled box priced at $1,500 could be called "mainstream," so we’ve taken this into consideration and lowered the price range a bit. We’ll also be careful not to reuse that naughty term this time around, since it seems to be such a subjective word. Instead, with this builder’s eye toward great bang-for-the-buck performance coupled with high overclocking expectations, we’re calling it the "enthusiast" system.

With plenty of requests steering us clear from water-cooling and luxury components, like $180 cases, we’ve re-focused on good value-oriented performance parts, spec’d a good air cooler, and decided to leave the luxurious extras to you folks for this mid-range $1,250 machine.

We even went to the forums to get some feedback as to the direction our readers would like to see us take the $1,250 system. So let’s see how this month’s components stack up :

Swipe to scroll horizontally
ComponentModelPrice (USD)
CPUIntel Core 2 Duo E8500190
CPU CoolerXigmatek HDT-S1283 (& ACK-I7751 Retention Bracket)42
MotherboardDFI LanParty X38-T2R175
GraphicsPowercolor Radeon 4870 X2529
Hard DrivesWestern Digital Caviar black 640GB 32 MB cache85
NetworkIntegrated Gigabit Networking0
CaseAntec Three Hundred55
PowerAntec Neo 650W90
OpticalLITE-ON 20X DVD±R SATA Model iHAS120-0424
Total Price$1,250
    yea for that kind of money i would definatly be buying a entry lvl core i7 920 setup with ddr3 1333, 3gb memory. for gaming, maybe go with a 4870, but in my opinion a geforce 260 or 280 would be better, because it's powerfull with games and you can use CUDA. cuda is really taking off tmperg has a video encoding software withat uses the graphics card, and it gives you a +400% to rendering video and such. such as bluray- and DVD encoding
  • theblade
    Nice build, good performer for the price, looking forward for the next article.
    It would be great to see an article in which several options of cooling would be compared to see which one gives a better overclock using the 8500 or 8600, including air and water cooling, this chips are awesome to do some OC.
  • craig hallworth
    I'd be interested to see the GTX 260 (216) in SLI on the mid range build as the price for two is a bit more but still comparable with the 4870x2 and, from what I've read, should be more powerful than the radeon card.

    I don't know that you can consider the i7 a mid range platform when you have to spend ~350-400 bucks on the montherboard alone. I'd certainly use the i7 for the high end build though.

    Thank you for your efforts.
  • gallesol
    There are some of us who who receive a great deal of disconfort thinking of Intel as the only microprocessor manufacturer around. If for no other reason than to maintain some competition in this critical industry, please include an AMD based system.
  • marraco
    It look like you never waited crysis to load.

    ... and the power is far overkilling. It could be saved money on it
  • Rifte
    Would of liked to see a direct comparison to the $625 build in all but the gaming benches. Is the more expensive mobo, ram, cpu combo worth it?
    Put the 4850 in the $1250 system then do some game benches or put the 4870x2 in the $625 system.
  • derek_c
    I would definitely like to see a Core i7 configuration next time.
  • Rifte
    $276 vs $467 for a 5-8% increase in performance?

    direct comparison

    $1250 $625 %dif
    Itunes 00:49 00:52 +6.1%
    lame 01:30 01:36 +6.6%
    TMPGE 04:46 05:04 +6.2%
    Xvid 02:26 02:52 +17.8%
    Mainconcept 03:04 03:17 +7.1%
    Photoshop 01:12 01:15 +4.2%
    3d Studio 00:45 00:49 +8.8%
    Average +8.1%
    Price diff for cpu,ram,mobo +69%
  • 3lvis
    For the next build I would like to see an i7 920, a gigabyte extreme x58 board, 6GB of Gskill DDR3 1333 PC 10666 with cas 7, a pair of 4870x2's water cooled and 2,3,and 4 64GB Gskill SSD's in raid 0. As the price of SSD's comes down, my interest in how a bunch of them in Raid 0 perform goes up(inversely proportionally).
  • radguy
    I think I would have picked up a cheaper p45 board and used the extra cash to pick up a couple of fans to help with the cooling issues. Otherwise pretty nice gaming build. I don't know if Enthusiast is the name I would use with 530 bucks going to graphics but thats me. Appreciate the info. Nice to kinda be able to compare the E2180 E5200 E8500 and Q6600 all at stock and oc'ed. Core i7 would be nice to add to the list as well as phenom in your upcoming builds.