System Builder Marathon, Dec. 2011: $1200 Enthusiast PC

System Builder Marathon, December 2011: The Articles

Here are links to each of the four articles in this month’s System Builder Marathon (we’ll update them as each story is published). And remember, these systems are all being given away at the end of the marathon.

To enter the giveaway, please fill out this SurveyGizmo form, and be sure to read the complete rules before entering!

Day 1: The $2400 Performance PC
Day 2: The $1200 Enthusiast PC
Day 3: The $600 Gaming PC
Day 4: Performance And Value, Dissected

Introduction

We've already seen that Intel's Core i5-2500K is a great processor at this price point, and we've been using that model in our mid-range System Builder Marathon configuration since it was introduced. Needless to say, it hasn't disappointed us yet.

But we already know what Intel's Core i5-2500K is capable of achieving, and we know there are plenty of readers who want to see another option, if we're only cautiously hopeful about its potential.

With this round’s mid-range hardware budget increased by $200, we have an opportunity to see if AMD’s FX can exploit a powerful CrossFire-enabled graphics card configuration. Without further ado, here’s the parts list for the last middle-of-the-road SBM build of 2011:

$1200 Enthusiast System Components
MotherboardBiostar TA990FXE
Socket AM3+, AMD 990FX Northbridge
$130
ProcessorAMD FX-6100
3.3 GHz (3.9 GHz Max Turbo Core), Hexa-Core, 8 MB Shared L3 Cache
$160
CPU Cooler
Xigmatek Gaia SD1283$30
MemoryMushkin Enhanced Redline 4 GB (2 x 2 GB) 240-Pin DDR3-1600 Kit
Dual-Channel Desktop Memory Kit
$40
Graphics2 x Gigabyte Radeon HD 6950 1 GB
  1 GB GDDR5
$480
Hard DriveOCZ Vertex Plus 60 GB SATA II SSD
60 GB, SATA 3Gb/s
$80
Hard DriveWestern Digital Caviar Black 750 GB
750 GB, 7200 RPM, 32 MB Cache SATA 3Gb/s
$180
OpticalLite-On iHAS124-04
24x DVD Burner
$22
CaseRosewill Challenger-U3$50
PowerCorsair TX650 V2 650 W
ATX12V, EPS12V, 80 PLUS-Certified
$95
 Total Cost$1267


As you can see, current pricing forces our total about $67 above the original $1200 budget. We have to thank skyrocketing hard drive prices for that, as the 750 GB Western Digital Black was closer to $60 when we placed our orders last month.

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128 comments
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  • Zero_
    Something is not right here :pfff: . But awesome review of a bulldozer rig. It fails, big time.

    Bring on $600! FX-4100? :kaola:
  • compton
    I understand that the SBM doesn't have the flexibility to utilize sales or rebates, but seriously, the Vertex Plus is neither a Vertex or a Plus. There are better options for less money even. I just bought several new Vertex and Vertex Turbos for less than a dollar per GB. If you're not dead-set on one particular drive, have flexibility and when and where the drive is purchased, you can do much better for $87. I'd rather take my chances with buying a used drive than purchase a new drive I know is a turkey. There is probably also a reason that Arrowana FW has yet to be released for older Indilinx controlled drives with 3xnm NAND.
  • Dacatak
    Bulldozer is dozing all right.
  • manu 11
    your hd, seagate 1tb is only 130$
    fx 6100, i was surprised that it was such a deep bottlencek.
    biostar ta 990fx?, you can get asrock extreme 4 with sli and xfire support for 110$

    overall, indeed you have taken a chance.

    i was in a mood to buy fx but wow, this changed my ming, i will now surely go with i5.
  • slicedtoad
    I was shocked an disappointed when I saw 'fx' on that first page, but now I've changed my mind.
    It's quantified the exceeding suck of bulldozer far better than the official bulldozer review.

    Maybe win8 will change everything, but I think it dubious.
  • gtx_560tiuser
    lol 2 fps in metro 2033...
  • king_maliken
    Just to point something out, should it not say in the graphs current $1200 PC and not current $1000?

    Also on the article, why try something out on a system builder marathon, the FX should of been tested in an other article, such as a review. It does not really matter that yes in fact the GPUs are much better but the CPU is holding them way back... Why cheap out on a motherboard? that Biostar TA990FXE from what I've read is not great, not good even.

    *Thought this was for people who didn't really know what to build, or how to build a computer? I wouldn't recommend this build.
  • pharoahhalfdead
    Awesome article. Despite people bashing AMD's new BD, this is actually a build that needed to be done. Alot of people are building systems around the new BD, and these benchmarks can be helpful, since just about all of the reviews are centered around the 8100 series. I decided to go with a Phenom 980 instead of the 8150 after reviews, but I never saw anythang about the 6100 series.

    I still want to see how it handles multi-tasking compared to Intel.
  • cleeve
    king_malikenWhy cheap out on a motherboard? that Biostar TA990FXE from what I've read is not great, not good even.


    Based on what? It was a fantastic overclocker and stable as hell.

    What is your beef with the board?
  • pharoahhalfdead
    The vast majority of people who criticize BD does not have a system that is anywhere near as fast a this or as fast as an i5-2500k. They are mainly running slower and ancient dual cores from years ago, with 8600GT video card, yet they judge any new product that comes out.

    Personally, I don't care who has the fastest processor, becuase I don't have the money to purchase every new cpu or video card that come out, but when I do upgrade, I just want it to be significantly faster than my previous build. 80% of the benchmarks posted are not programs that most of us even use in everyday life.
  • king_maliken
    CleeveBased on what? It was a fantastic overclocker and stable as hell. What is your beef with the board?

    Let me edit part out, for some reason I thought it was another board that I have had many issues with, my bad. Just did a quick read up on that board and yeah you're correct, it seems to be alright.
  • a4mula
    I tend to agree with king_maliken. Perhaps the SBM's aren't meant to be direct guides to building a new system but that doesn't stop people for using them in that exact manner. From a personal standpoint I enjoyed the article. It really hit home the reasons why AMD has openly admitted no longer competing with Intel in this segment. I just think most people associate the SBM with the best value/performance pc at a given price point.
  • Crashman
    a4mulaI tend to agree with king_maliken. Perhaps the SBM's aren't meant to be direct guides to building a new system but that doesn't stop people for using them in that exact manner. From a personal standpoint I enjoyed the article. It really hit home the reasons why AMD has openly admitted no longer competing with Intel in this segment. I just think most people associate the SBM with the best value/performance pc at a given price point.
    Actually I think Don was trying to pull a magic rabbit out of his A...

    AMD-logo'd baseball cap!

    C'mon guys, can't you see the man bleeds green? And on top of that, he's Canadian! You know, land of the ATI and home of the AMD takeover? If you can't see how broken up he is about all of this please, just try to imagine it and be gentle!
  • Memory bandwidth seems too low
  • joytech22
    pharoahhalfdeadThe vast majority of people who criticize BD does not have a system that is anywhere near as fast a this or as fast as an i5-2500k. They are mainly running slower and ancient dual cores from years ago


    Are you sure about that? That's a big thing to say.
    Sure BD was a flop but the patch looks promising, 10-15% improvement isn't a small increase.

    Although BD isn't exactly a competitor when it comes to single threaded applications, multi-core performance is on-par or slightly ahead/behind when comparing to a 2500k.

    AMD has something, that's better then nothing.
    Although.. Nobody's buying it really. lol.
  • Crashman
    joytech22Are you sure about that? That's a big thing to say.Sure BD was a flop but the patch looks promising, 10-15% improvement isn't a small increase..l.
    Nor realistic. I spent a day testing it with Tom's Hardware's motherboard test suite and saw 0% increase. Straight up, I pulled one of the boards from the review (Asus Sabertooth 990FX), plopped it on the bench, remounted the original test drive, added the patch and got zip.

    Nothing.

    Nadda.

    A day wasted during the holiday season, a day behind on my other articles.
  • cleeve
    CrashmanActually I think Don was trying to pull a magic rabbit out of his A...AMD-logo'd baseball cap!C'mon guys, can't you see the man bleeds green? And on top of that, he's Canadian! You know, land of the ATI and home of the AMD takeover? If you can't see how broken up he is about all of this please, just try to imagine it and be gentle!


    Haha funny Crash, funny.

    Its all explained in the intro. I can't imagine doing something new with the 2500K, we've seen it all before and I've used the CPU in most of my SBM builds for a year. Sometimes it's nice to mix it up.

    I was never under any illusions that it'd challenge the Core i5, but I did want to see if it could compete in the graphics arena with a pair of 6950's.

    And boy oh boy, it couldn't. Not too much of a surprise except I expected it to do a little better.
  • Any chance you could drop in a 1055T and run the tests again. I'd be curious if the old Thuban would outperform the FX chip!
  • Todd Sauve
    Hi Guys,

    Sad to see that the new FXs are such poor performers with current software. I wonder how long it will be before the multi-threaded software AMD claims its new line is built for actually becomes somewhat mainstream and of everyday use to the average PC user?

    What I am really interested in finding out is whether or not any of these new AMD FX CPUs can be successfully run in the original AMD 890 series motherboards, because Asus, Gigabyte, MSI and most of the others claimed that they would, and also posted updated BIOSes to prove it. Yet Tom's has never tested this out for us and neither has any other website that I'm aware of.

    Come on Tom's! Check this out for us! You guys are one of the top authorities in the PC world, so show your fans some love and get down to it! ;)
  • cleeve
    stm1185Any chance you could drop in a 1055T and run the tests again. I'd be curious if the old Thuban would outperform the FX chip!


    Actually, I'll be using the same board for a sub-$200 CPU gaming comparo coming up
  • a4mula
    CleeveIts all explained in the intro.

    It is, and by all rights you did an excellent job of expressing that this build was going to be a little off the beaten path and perhaps less than mainstream. The problem is now people looking for advice at the 1000-1200 bracket either have to revert back to the September build or wait another few months. This bracket also represents what I'd call the mainstream buyer. I know my words have come out wrong in a few of my posts, so hopefully this isn't taken wrong. It was a great article that I think was extremely balanced in looking at the AMD. It was an enjoyable read especially for someone that doesn't follow AMD quite as much as Intel. This was my first close look at Bulldozer and quite frankly anyone that believes it would be a good option for gaming probably needs a little more help than the average SBM would offer anyways.
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  • one-shot
    Bulldozer wins in the power consumption benchmark with the highest score!
  • DavC
    nice article. good to see a change from the 2500k. got to mix it up a bit, even if you know it's going to be a bit of a flop.

    so what if someone has to look at the last one for buying advice. at least it gives them things to compare to. and things havent changed that much in 3 months, all the hardware from the previous one is still relavent.

    nice review. just hope AMD can pick it up again in the future. competition is always good.