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System Builder Marathon, Q2 2013: $2500 Performance PC

DRAM, SSD, And Mass Storage

DRAM: Crucial Ballistix Tactical 16 GB DDR3-1600 Kit

We know for a fact that one benchmark in particular responds well to gobs of memory when it's run on a platform capable of scheduling eight threads (alright, it's After Effects). With an original budget of $2600, that sounded like a good reason to chase some diminishing returns.

Read Customer Reviews of Crucial's Ballistix Tactical 16 GB DDR3-1600 Kit

Hoping to reach the same DDR3-2133 CAS 9 achieved in previous SBM builds with 8 GB, I decided to go large with Crucial’s 16 GB BLT2K8G3D1608ET3LX0 kit. Will lightning strike the same place three times?

SSD: Mushkin Chronos Deluxe MKNSSDCR240GB-DX

Mushin’s Chronos Deluxe DX drives are getting a little old, yet storage expert Andrew Ku’s latest SSD value comparison shows that the faintly-better next-step-up costs 30% more. That probably explains why Andrew still picks this one as top value at or near its price.

Read Customer Reviews of Mushkin's Chronos Deluxe 240 GB SSD

Upgrading from Mushkin to Samsung would have cost more than half as much as the CPU upgrade, but it would have yielded far less than half of the comparative performance benefit. The potential improvement was simply too small to push me out of my comfort zone, even though I still had cash laying on the table.

Hard Drive: Western Digital WD2002FAEX

Western Digital’s Caviar Black is a continued favorite with readers who need large capacity, and the 2 TB version is a reasonable value at $160. A somewhat-fast 7200 RPM rotational speed and 64 MB of data cache boosts performance when retrieving those large files that simply won’t fit on the 240 GB SSD.

Read Customer Reviews of Western Digital's Black 2 TB Hard Drive

There was almost enough money left in the original budget to add a second unit for RAID 1 redundancy but, as with the expensive optical drive, this un-benchmarked part represents a single strike against our Day 4 performance-per-dollar comparison. I like extra features, but didn’t want to compound that issue.

  • sherlockwing
    Interesting $2500 MITX build, granted most people(including me) would have built a $2500 rig around 780 SLI in a ATX case.
    Reply
  • burnley14
    This just might be my favorite SBM ever, and this particular build my favorite machine of all time. Even if the relative value is slightly lower, many people including myself are willing to pay a small premium for a smaller footprint. Well done!
    Reply
  • nvidiamd
    this is the best build on toms ever! no substandards and overkills. two thumbs up!
    Reply
  • slomo4sho
    Seems I was pretty close in my initial guess:

    11002870 said:
    PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks
    CPU: Intel Core i7-3770K 3.5GHz Quad-Core Processor ($319.99 @ Newegg)
    CPU Cooler: Corsair H110 94.0 CFM Liquid CPU Cooler ($119.99 @ Newegg)
    Motherboard: Asus P8Z77-I DELUXE/WD Mini ITX LGA1155 Motherboard ($207.55 @ Newegg)
    Memory: Corsair Dominator Platinum 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-2133 Memory ($149.99 @ Newegg)
    Storage: Samsung 840 Series 500GB 2.5" Solid State Disk ($353.98 @ Newegg)
    Storage: Western Digital Caviar Black 2TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($159.99 @ Newegg)
    Video Card: Asus GeForce GTX 690 4GB Video Card ($999.99 @ Newegg)
    Case: BitFenix Prodigy (Black) Mini ITX Tower Case ($95.98 @ Newegg)
    Power Supply: SeaSonic 660W 80 PLUS Platinum Certified ATX12V / EPS12V Power Supply ($148.54 @ Newegg)
    Optical Drive: LG WH14NS40 Blu-Ray/DVD/CD Writer ($59.99 @ Newegg)
    Total: $2597.99
    Reply
  • Madn3ss795
    Assembling part reminds me of LEGO...
    Reply
  • agnickolov
    I wish the build had a 512GB SSD, but I understand the builder's value sentiment. The fast HDD is pure waste, however. A 2TB HDD can be found for under $100.
    Reply
  • sarinaide
    Still struggling to get my mind on a high performance ITX system, to me its more a case of how much high end you can chuck into a psuedo M-ITX chassis which for all intents and purposes are not small form factor by any stretch of the imagination. Having owned a Prodigy they can hardly be said to be SFF when their total surface area is as much as a ATX chassis, it is like calling a HAF XB M-ITX.

    The main point of the article is that diminishing returns are high at that price point, only a overclocked system (again not a fan of in the confineds of a ITX system) give it value.
    Reply
  • csf60
    I would take a 770 and water-cool that rig any day, but I suppose that's personal preference.
    Reply
  • sarinaide
    It is safe to say that the purpose of the machine is gaming, for that is there any particular reason to go with the i7 other than to say you maxed the platforms highest capable chip but in terms of true benefits there is little over an i5 yet over a $100 been dropped on it. The next question is why not a GTX Titan, most of a 690 's performance but on less power and heat which is quite punishing in a Prodigy's confinds.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    11028708 said:
    Still struggling to get my mind on a high performance ITX system, to me its more a case of how much high end you can chuck into a psuedo M-ITX chassis which for all intents and purposes are not small form factor by any stretch of the imagination. Having owned a Prodigy they can hardly be said to be SFF when their total surface area is as much as a ATX chassis, it is like calling a HAF XB M-ITX.

    The main point of the article is that diminishing returns are high at that price point, only a overclocked system (again not a fan of in the confineds of a ITX system) give it value.
    At the initialization's initiation, SFF meant "Shuttle Form Factor". The term has since been abused for everything from Micro ATX gaming cubes to book-sized PCs. Book-sized system builders would argue that Shuttle's fairly big traditional boxes aren't true SFF because they're too big, even though the term originally referred to these! If you remove the handles, this case is roughly the size of Shuttle's old 2-slot boxes (it's around 2 inches taller and 2 inches shorter in length)
    11028926 said:
    It is safe to say that the purpose of the machine is gaming
    Gaming only? Then when the Core i7?
    11028926 said:
    is there any particular reason to go with the i7
    Read pages 16 and 17
    11028926 said:
    other than to say you maxed the platforms highest capable chip but in terms of true benefits there is little over an i5
    Did you see the overclocking section? Three mediocre i5's in a row and i7 leads to O/C victory, in addition to the gains on pages 16 and 17.
    11028926 said:
    The next question is why not a GTX Titan, most of a 690 's performance but on less power and heat which is quite punishing in a Prodigy's confinds.
    Did you see a heat issue? I did not. Why would someone want to spend more money for less gaming performance? Or are you now saying that this is not a gaming PC?

    Reply