System Builder Marathon, Sept. 2010: $400 Gaming PC


Assembling this simple PC was a breeze compared to high-end boxes featuring exotic cooling, multiple graphics cards, and RAID arrays. Our modest selection of hardware easily fits inside the Blackbone’s roomy interior, with gobs of space left for expansion or inexperienced hands. The case’s glossy front bezel is easily removed with just a tug. This makes it easier to prep the external drive bays and clean the foam filter linings when they get dirty.

The stock heatsink requires no special attention, and the pad of pre-applied thermal paste allows for a quick, easy installation. While a handy access hole in the Blackbone’s tray would aid in bolt-on aftermarket cooler installations, given this system’s design and initial cost, any future upgrade would probably use the built-in socket clips anyway.

The Blackbone can accommodate up to 11.5” graphics cards, although anything in the 9 to 9.5” range requires you to leave adjacent hard drive bays vacant. At 7.25”, our single Radeon HD 5670 leaves all of those bays available for more storage in the future.

The drive bays themselves are not as snug as they are on Cooler Master's Elite 330. But the twist and lock mounting clips still provide an acceptably-secure solution. Once again, we’d revert back to conventional screws if we shipped this system to the winner fully-configured. In order to make shipping a safer proposition, though, we'll box everything up first. Rosewill populates the visible left side of the enclosure with a full deck of these drive clips, but it only includes a few extras for the reverse side of the cage.

ASRock’s sensible motherboard layout, coupled with Rosewill’s routing holes, allows for tidy cable management. The low-RPM case fans use 3-pin header connectors, but Rosewill also includes Molex adapters.

  • SpadeM
    Given the motherboard’s basic passive cooling measures, though, there was really no point in putting more time into lowering the CPU multiplier, pushing a high reference clock, and attempting to maximize northbridge and memory frequencies.

    +1 for making this statement, glad someone considered it at least. All in all decent build for the money.
  • AMW1011
    I'll be honest, I think a $450 budget is a little more reasonable than a $400 budget. At that price a 5750 or even a 5770 can be had, which would have worked fine with all of the other parts and likely would have matched the $550 June build.

    Even this $400 build packs a punch, you can get one HELL of a rig for the money any more. It really is insane, and that's not even considering the used or refurb market!

    Awesome article, probably one of my favorite SBM, atleast the best I've seen in a long time.
  • micr0be
    very nice build, interesting to see how much performance can be squeezed out of the budget. i was expecting worse results.
  • nevertell
    Conclusion ?

    150$ buys you a lot better gaming capabilities, and nothing else.
  • Gamer-girl
    It went $1 over-budget if we substituted in a GeForce 9800 GT.

    I doubt someone spending $400 can't afford to add an extra dollar. although i realize that the point in these articles is to stay under the budget, it would have been interesting to see the price/perforamce difference.
  • haplo602
    nice case, looks very good ... pity that rosewill does not have a downloadable manual for it ...
  • HibyPrime
    I'd be interested to know how much more overclocking headroom you could pull out of it if you left it at 3 cores - and would that net you more performance in most of the benchmarks?

    I'd bet if you could pull ~200 mhz more out of it, it would begin to match up with the missing core, and maybe start to pull away around 400mhz.
  • Proximon
    The Cooler Master Elite 460 is a falsely labeled piece of crap. You can find the review (with proper testing) here:

    You'll have to spend a little bit more there. Rosewill has a 430W (RG430 S12) unit or the Antec Neo 400W is almost the same price as the CM after a discount and rebate.
  • Proximon
    Clicked once but got a double post somehow.
  • What do the best price/performance we can have?