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System Builder Marathon, Q4 2012: System Value Compared

Hardware And Software Test Configurations

Test Hardware Configurations
$500 Gaming PC$1,000 Enthusiast PC$2,000 Performance PC
Processor (Overclock)Intel Pentium G850 2.9 GHz, Two Physical CoresNo OverclockingAMD FX-8350 4 GHz, Eight Physical CoresO/C to 4.33 GHz at 1.34 VIntel Core i7-3770K 3.5 GHz, Four Physical CoresO/C to 4.40 GHz, 1.26V
Graphics (Overclock)PoweColor AX7850 1GBD5-DH: 860 MHz GPU, GDDR5-4800, O/C to 1200 MHz GDDR5-5240GIGABYTE GV-N670OC-2GD:  980 MHz GPU, GDDR5-6008, O/C to 1137 MHz GDDR5-70122 x MSI R7970-2PMD3GD5/OC: 1010 MHz GPU, GDDR5-5500O/C to 1125 MHz GDDR5-6300
Memory (Overclock)8 GB G.Skill DDR3-1333 CAS 9-9-9-24, O/C at 1.60 V to DDR3-1333 CL 7-8-7-228 GB Mushkin DDR3-1600 CAS 8-8-8-24, O/C at 1.60 V to DDR3-1866 CL 9-9-9-248 GB G.Skill DDR3-1600 CAS 8-8-8-24, O/C at 1.60 V to DDR3-2133 CL 10-11-10-24
Motherboard (Overclock)ASRock H77 Pro4/MVP: LGA 1155, Intel H77 ExpressStock 100 MHz BCLKGigabyte GA-970A-D3: Socket AM3+, AMD 970/SB950Stock 200 MHz RCLKGigabyte GA-Z77X-D3H: LGA 1155, Intel Z77 ExpressStock 100 MHz BCLK
OpticalLG GH24NS90 24x DVD±RLG GH24NS90 24x DVD±RAsus BW-12B1ST 16x BD-R
CaseRosewill BlackboneHEC Compucase BlitzCooler Master Storm Enforcer
CPU CoolerPentium G850 Boxed CoolerXigamtek Loki SD963Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo
Hard DriveWestern Digital WD3200AAKX: 320 GB, 7200 RPM HDDOCZ AGT3-25SAT3-60G: 60 GB, SATA 6Gb/s SSDMushkin Chronos Deluxe DX 240 GB, SATA 6Gb/s SSD
PowerAntec VP-450: 450 W, ATX 12V v2.3Corsair CX600 V2: 600 W,  ATX12V v2.3,  80 PLUSCorsair HX750: ATX12V V2.3 80 PLUS Gold
Software
OSMicrosoft Windows 8 Professional RTM x64
GraphicsAMD Catalyst 12.10Nvidia GeForce 310.54AMD Catalyst 12.10
ChipsetIntel INF 9.3.1025AMD Platform Driver 8.00.881Intel INF 9.3.0.1020

A great amount of overclocking effort turned into a spectacular fiasco when both the $1,000 and $2,000 systems reached their cooling limits long before their CPUs could be fully performance-optimized. Paul's $500 build couldn't be overclocked, so he never had to face the embarrassment that Don and I did.

Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
Battlefield 3Campaign Mode, "Going Hunting" 90-Seconds Fraps Test Set 1: Medium Quality Defaults (No AA, 4x AF) Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Defaults (4x AA, 16x AF)
F1 2012Steam version, in-game benchmark Test Set 1: High Quality Preset, No AA Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Preset, 8x AA
Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimUpdate 1.5.26, Celedon Aethirborn Level 6, 25 Seconds Fraps Test Set 1: DX11, High Details No AA, 8x AF, FXAA enabled Test Set 2: DX11, Ultra Details, 8x AA, 16x AF, FXAA enabled
Adobe Creative Suite
Adobe After Effects CS6Version 11.0.0.378 x64: Create Video which includes 3 Streams, 210 Frames, Render Multiple Frames Simultaneosly
Adobe Photoshop CS6Version 13 x64: Filter 15.7 MB TIF Image: Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates
Adobe Premeire Pro CS6Version 6.0.0.0, 6.61 GB MXF Project to H.264 to H.264 Blu-ray, Output 1920x1080, Maximum Quality
Audio/Video Encoding
iTunesVersion 10.4.1.10 x64: Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 minutes, default AAC format
Lame MP3Version 3.98.3: Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 min, convert WAV to MP3 audio format, Command: -b 160 --nores (160 Kb/s)
HandBrake CLIVersion: 0.98: Video from Canon Eos 7D (1920x1080, 25 FPS) 1 Minutes 22 Seconds Audio: PCM-S16, 48,000 Hz, Two-Channel, to Video: AVC1 Audio: AAC (High Profile)
TotalCodeStudio 2.5Version: 2.5.0.10677: MPEG-2 to H.264, MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG-2), Audio: MPEG-2 (44.1 kHz, Two-Channel, 16-Bit, 224 Kb/s), Codec: H.264 Pro, Mode: PAL 50i (25 FPS), Profile: H.264 BD HDMV
Productivity
ABBYY FineReaderVersion 10.0.102.95: Read PDF save to Doc, Source: Political Economy (J. Broadhurst 1842) 111 Pages
Adobe Acrobat XVersion 10.0.0.396: Print PDF from 115 Page PowerPoint, 128-bit RC4 Encryption
Autodesk 3ds Max 2012Version 14.0 x64: Space Flyby Mentalray, 248 Frames, 1440x1080
BlenderVersion: 2.64a, Cycles Engine, Syntax blender -b thg.blend -f 1, 1920x1080, 8x Anti-Aliasing, Render THG.blend frame 1
Visual Studio 2010Version 10.0, Compile Google Chrome, Scripted
File Compression
WinZipVersion 17.0 Pro: THG-Workload (1.3 GB) to ZIP, command line switches "-a -ez -p -r"
WinRARVersion 4.2: THG-Workload (1.3 GB) to RAR, command line switches "winrar a -r -m3"
7-ZipVersion 9.28: THG-Workload (1.3 GB) to .7z, command line switches "a -t7z -r -m0=LZMA2 -mx=5"
Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
3DMark 11Version: 1.0.1.0, Benchmark Only
PCMark 7Version: 1.0.4 x64, System, Productivity, Hard Disk Drive benchmarks
SiSoftware Sandra 2011Version Version 2013.01.19.11, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / Cryptography, Memory Test = Bandwidth Benchmark
  • lengcaifai
    actually the piledriver based build is more all-rounded, it can be a decent workstation and a decent gaming desktop for those who have tight budget
    Reply
  • mayankleoboy1
    Which of these builds is the most future-proof ?
    Reply
  • stickmansam
    The piledriver build should have had some parts swapped out for cheaper ones to reflect the changes in pricing changes from last Quarter. That would have been a more fair comparison to the $1000 build from last quarter.
    Reply
  • mayankleoboy1
    For the $500 build, why would it have 60% of its value calculated by apps, when it was build for gaming purpose ?
    Just a thought, but shouldnt the percentwise distribution of value for each built based on the purpose for which it was built ?
    Something like : games, apps, storage.

    $500 build : 80%, 15%, 5% (cheapest best gaming with lots of cheap storage. )
    $1000 build : 50%, 40%, 10% (slightly better games over apps. Great apps. fast storage for boot)
    $2000 build. : 42.5%, 42.5%, 15% (equally good games and apps. fast storage should be plenty and fast)
    Reply
  • mohit9206
    wow its unbelievable to see a $500 gaming pc achieve 50+ fps in Battlefield 3 at 1080p on ultra settings.
    goes to show how even a $500 pc can thrash and destroy xbox 360 and ps3.
    Reply
  • the1kingbob
    lengcaifaiactually the piledriver based build is more all-rounded, it can be a decent workstation and a decent gaming desktop for those who have tight budget
    I was pleasantly surprised how well it turned out. I believe I would have gone with one that had less cores and spent the money elsewhere. Overall though, it turned out to be a pretty good machine. Now only if they could get the power usage under control.
    Reply
  • slicedtoad
    You need to use a slightly more complicated performance comparison algorithm. Something that takes into account the fact that over 120fps is useless and doesn't run into problems with things like fps caps at low res.
    Reply
  • Marcus52
    mohit9206wow its unbelievable to see a $500 gaming pc achieve 50+ fps in Battlefield 3 at 1080p on ultra settings.goes to show how even a $500 pc can thrash and destroy xbox 360 and ps3.
    Yeah the AMD 7850 really pulled its gaming performance up. Very nice too that the Intel G850 didn't choke it off. A sweet build!
    Reply
  • ojas
    Um i must ask this, BF3, 2560x1600, ultra: is cross-fire not working? Why should 2 7970s serve up the same performance as a single 670? Or am i missing something? Thomas mentions the drop being "extreme" in his build's article but...something's wrong, i think...
    Reply
  • So we're left with the AMD platform winning out the value comparison for no other reason than the mid-range Intel solution was not permitted to compete - so without filling all the places at the table this test is meaningless. The AMD solution only gets a default win due to no other permitted competition in that price range. This is garbage.

    Firstly, the bulk of sane consumers with even half a clue and with $1000 in their pocket would not have given the AMD platform a 2nd look if given the choice. Are we really suggesting that they would have thrown $1000 at a solution that would not give them a 3770K upgrade option later on if they felt like it?

    Also, this comparison deliberately factored out power consumption, which was rather convenient for AMD. I'm afraid you can't factor this out in this day and age, just because it's hard to quantify the cost across the entire globe. What you could do is produce some sythetics that represent average consumption over a given task and mutliply it up to get the total power over a year - then folk can work out what that would cost them in their own location. What I would like to know is how much that AMD solution would cost me to run for a couple of years when compared to a comparible Intel solution, and then work out what I could have bought with the money saved - it might not be much but I think it's valid - it could be the difference between a decent cooler or a piece of trash.

    Please make these value comparisons tell the whole story by including both platforms within that price bracket - I know that makes life hard for the reviewing team but boo hoo hoo, you're the ones that set out to prove a point, so do a full job please. Tell us the full story, not half of it.
    Reply