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System Builder Marathon, June 2012: $500 Gaming PC

Test System Configuration And Benchmarks

Current $500 PC System Test Configuration
ComponentBase SettingsOverclock Setting
CPUIntel Celeron G530 (Sandy Bridge), 2.4 GHz, LGA 1155, 2 MB Shared L3, power savings enabledUnchanged
CPU CoolerIntel retail boxed heat sink and fanUnchanged
MotherboardGigabyte GA-H61MA-D3V Intel H61 Express, BIOS F3 (02-16-2012)Unchanged
RAM4 GB Pareema PC3-10600 kit 2 x 2 GB @ DDR3-1066, CL 7-7-7-19 1T at 1.5 VDDR3-1066, CL 6-6-6-14 1T at 1.6 V
GraphicsECS NGT560TI-1GPI-F1 GeForce GTX 560 Ti 823 MHz GPU, 1002 MHz (4008 MT/s) Memory891 MHz GPU, 1102.5 MHz (4410 MT/s) GDDR5 Memory
Hard DriveWestern Digital WD3200AAKX 320 GB 320 GB, 7200 RPM, 16 MB CacheUnchanged
SoundIntegrated Eight-Channel HD AudioUnchanged
NetworkIntegrated Gigabit NetworkingUnchanged
PowerAntec VP-450 450WUnchanged
OpticalLG 22x DVD Burner SATA Model GH22NS90B-OEMUnchanged
Software and Drivers
Operating SystemWindows 7 Ultimate Edition x64Unchanged
Graphics DriverGeForce R295 Drive v.296.10Unchanged
Platform DriverIntel 6-series Inf v.9.2.0.1030Unchanged
March $650 Gaming PC System Test Configuration
ComponentBase SettingsOverclock Setting
CPUIntel Core i3-2120 (Sandy Bridge), 3.3 GHz, LGA 1155, 3 MB Shared L3, Hyper-Threading enabled, Power-savings enabledUnchanged
CPU CoolerIntel retail boxed heat sink and fanUnchanged
MotherboardGigabyte GA-H61MA-D3V Intel H61 Express, BIOS F3 (02-16-2012)Unchanged
RAM4 GB Team Elite PC3-10600 kit 2 x 2 GB, DDR3-1333, CL 9-9-9-24 1T at 1.5 VDDR3-1333, CL 7-8-7-22 1T at 1.6 V
GraphicsXFX HD-695X-ZNFC Radeon HD 6950 1 GB 800 MHz GPU, 1250 MHz (5000 MT/s) Memory840 MHz GPU, 1300 MHz (5200 MT/s) GDDR5 Memory
Hard DriveSeagate Barracuda ST500DM002 500 GB, 7200 RPM, 16 MB CacheUnchanged
SoundIntegrated Eight-Channel HD AudioUnchanged
NetworkIntegrated Gigabit NetworkingUnchanged
PowerRosewill Green Series RG630-S12 630 WUnchanged
OpticalLG 22x DVD Burner SATA Model GH22NS90B-OEMUnchanged
Software and Drivers
Operating SystemWindows 7 Ultimate Edition x64Unchanged
Graphics DriverAMD Catalyst 12.1Unchanged
Platform DriverIntel 6-series Inf v. 9.2.0.1030Unchanged
Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
Battlefield 3Version 1.0.0.0, DirectX 11, 90-sec. FRAPS "Going Hunting" Test Set 1: Medium Quality Preset, No AA, 4X AF, SSAO Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Preset,  4X MSAA, 16X AF, HBAO
DiRT 3Version 1.2, Direct X 11, Built-in Benchmark Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA Test Set 2: Ultra Quality, 8x AA
Elders Scroll V: SkyrimVersion 1.5.26.05, 25-Sec. FRAPS Test Set 1: High Preset, No AA, 8x AF, FXAA Enabled Test Set 2: Ultra Preset, 8x AA, 16x AF, FXAA Enabled
StarCraft IIVersion 1.4.3.21029, Toms Hardware Map, 60-sec. FRAPS Test Set 1: High, DX11, AAA, 4x AF, No DoF, No PhysX Test Set 2: Very High, DX11, 4x MSAA, 16x AF, DoF, No PhysX
Audio/Video Encoding
HandBrake CLIVersion 0.95: "Big Buck Bunny" (720x480, 23.972 FPS) 5 Min., Audio: Dolby Digital, 48 000 Hz, Six-Channel, English, to Video: AVC Audio: AC3 Audio2: AAC (High Profile)
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)
MainConcept ReferenceVersion: 2.2.0.5440: 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 10.0.102.82: Read PDF save to Doc, Source: Political Economy (J. Broadhurst 1842) 111 Pages
Adobe Photoshop CS5.1Version 12.1 x64: Filter 15.7 MB TIF Image: Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates
Autodesk 3ds Max 2012Version 14.0 x64: Space Flyby Mentalray, 248 Frames, 1440x1080
7-ZipVersion 9.22: THG-Workload (650 MB) to .7z, command line switches "a -t7z -r -m0=LZMA2 -mx=5"
WinRARVersion 4.01: THG-Workload (650 MB) to RAR, command line switches "winrar a -r -m3"
WinZipVersion 15.5 Pro: THG-Workload (650 MB) to ZIP, command line switches "-a -ez -p -r"
Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
3DMark 11Version: 1.0.1, Entry, Performance, Extreme Suite
PCMark 7Version: 1.0.4, System, Productivity, Hard Disk Drive benchmarks
SiSoftware Sandra 2011Version 2011 17.80, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / MultiMedia, Memory Test = Bandwidth Benchmark
  • cloakster
    It is just incredible how well the G530 performs in gaming.
    Reply
  • slomo4sho
    Would have liked to see Diablo 3 and SC 2 benchmarks for this build.
    Reply
  • mayankleoboy1
    why are you not increasing the voltages on the GPU to get more clocks ?
    any enthusiast with limited budget would want to maximize his core clocks with higher voltages.. the card can keep cool by increasing the fan speed.
    More noise for a gaming session is acceptable.
    Reply
  • mayankleoboy1
    Dumping the bulk of our funding into graphics is sure to spell disaster throughout the media encoding and productivity benchmarks. But it's time to face the music.

    pun intended ? ;)
    Reply
  • s3anister
    Celeron G530 is what I'm rocking in my gaming rig. It is definitely a capable processor, surprising given the legacy behind anything labeled Celeron.
    Reply
  • s3anister
    Slomo4shOWould have liked to see Diablo 3 and SC 2 benchmarks for this build.I can't give you exact fps rates, but my machine is very similar to this one (only difference is the GPU: 6950+Z68) and I get similar frame rates in all the tested games. So I'll infer to you what this rig would probably get close to.

    Diablo 3 maxes out at 60fps with occasional dips down to ~30fps when getting mobbed on hell. As for SC2, frame rates for me tended to be around 35fps on average with everything maxed out at 1920x1080 for both games.
    Reply
  • pauldh
    s3anisterCeleron G530 is what I'm rocking in my gaming rig. It is definitely a capable processor, surprising given the legacy behind anything labeled Celeron.Ah, but think way back.... slot 1, 440BX, and the Celeron 300A? I had a 266@412MHz, a 300A@464MHz, a 300A@450MHz, and a 333(that topped out down at an 83 MHz FSB).

    While not the first chips I had overclocked, those slot 1 Celeron's gave me the incurable OC bug! *dreams of G530K*
    Reply
  • jestersage
    Amazing! I never thought an SBM machine would ever come this close to my own rig. And confirm for me that my drooling over $200+ graphics cards is not an impractical fantasy for my current rig. I've been dreaming of retiring my old GT240 for a newer card and had the HD7850 (or comparable Nvidia counterpart when it comes out) in mind, or even an HD7770. I now feel justified and my wife will go nuts over the pc part purchase, again.

    I did notice one thing when I compared this build with my system - mine idles at 48-52 watts, too, and I use a 500W S12II. I think right-sizing the PSU will add to the efficiency. A 350w PSU is my bet for bringing the idle power draw closer to the 20% mark of the PSU rating where efficiency starts to pick up (as per 80plus requirements). I say 350w because whoever gets this will likely want to upgrade the CPU to something beefier sooner or later. Nah, sooner!

    Thanks, Paul! for tackling love and system-building with reckless abandon.
    Reply
  • bustapr
    i got a question. if I were to use a phenom 2x4 965 BE(3.4ghz) for a gaming rig on a similar budget to this, would it bottleneck me in gaming and other applications?
    Reply
  • pauldh
    mayankleoboy1why are you not increasing the voltages on the GPU to get more clocks ?any enthusiast with limited budget would want to maximize his core clocks with higher voltages.. the card can keep cool by increasing the fan speed.More noise for a gaming session is acceptable.As mentioned, it was maiinly a matter of consistency with the past few builds. Dealing with fixed CPU clocks and memory frequency, I just haven't been too aggresive with previous efforts with Radeons, and thus didn't want to boost voltage here with the GTX. Trying to play it fair, that's all. Maybe once we revisit overclockable platforms, and are already dealing with increaded noise, I'll get itchy to max-out the GPU.

    Thanks for the feedback though. I'm actually surprised given the balance of the system, that people would desire to see aggressive GPU overclocking.
    Reply