System Builder Marathon, March 2011: $2000 Performance PC


Following a flurry of CPU reviews, it’s not surprising to see the current $2000 build’s Core i7-2600K wiping the floor with the previous build’s Core i7-950 performance numbers. Likewise, few would be surprised to see the new CPU exhibit higher overclocking and lower power numbers, so the only real point in this exercise is to see how much we gained in performance, efficiency, and value.

While some of that data was revealed on the previous page, a breakdown of individual test suites could provide the additional information builders will need before making their purchase decision.

From the above chart, it appears that our upgrade from the previous build’s dual Radeon HD 6870s to the new system’s dual 6950s is money well spent, with a gaming boost of around 20%. Yet, some of that gaming capability came courtesy of a processor that performs 18% better at stock speed and 30% better when both systems are overclocked. Best of all, these remarkable gains only cost us a modest 3% premium on our build.

A big performance increase at a small cost increase sets the current build up for an enormous value win. Starting with an 8% value lead at stock settings, its advantage climbs to 12% when both systems are overclocked. Disabling C-States pushes the current build’s lead even further by boosting drive performance, though we prefer the long-term energy, heat, and “wear” savings that can be achieved by leaving the integrated clock and voltage management feature enabled.

Finally, there’s the matter of why someone would really want this much graphics power. While our System Builder Marathon doesn’t focus on Eyefinity and Surround gaming, a resolution of 2560x1600 has only a few more pixels than the Eyefinity baseline of 3 x 1280x1024. What happens when we narrow our focus down to that high resolution?

At 2560x1600, even the current baseline is able to exceed the capabilities of the previous overclocked build. We’re really doing this system an injustice by testing it at anything less than 2560x1600, but the other scores will be needed in order to compare the lower-priced builds in our final value analysis.

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • wribbs
    Was wondering when the SBM would return. Now if I just had an extra $2K. Now lets see how the lower price models hold up.

    Sure is a good time to be building a new PC.
  • duk3
    I'd love to win one of these.
    Especially this one
  • dragonsqrrl
    Wow, nice system this time around. Excellent performance and efficiency, although I personally would've chosen a nicer case for a $2000 system. I know you guys have your reasons, and for the purposes of a purely price/performance oriented build it makes sense to skimp on the aesthetic qualities of a case, but for me personally, it's still nice to see a high-end case complement some high-end hardware.
  • toxxel
    Nice system for 2k, wondering what the other systems will offer for their respective tier.
  • sparky2010
    since the 6990 is out, wouldn't getting that one card be a legitimate choice too? isn't it also at around $600?
  • illuminatuz
    oh wow!!! you know what if you can really think you can make a performance pc.. i mean same performance.. but lesser cost..
    i am not saying OC and AMD thing.. same hardware..
  • dertechie
    That system looks familiar. Very familiar. Almost. . . have you been spying on me?

    I built a system exactly like that, except with an 2500K, P8P67 Pro, single 6950 2GB, single SSD, DVD rather than BD, H50 and a cheaper PSU. Tears through Metro 2033 maxed at 1920x1200 like butter. When prices on 6950s fall some more I'll add a card and see if they can handle Eyefinity.
  • illuminatuz
    and its possible.. just take a nice gtx 560ti rather two amd sli and take 8 gig ram.. since anything above 8 gig will give diminishing returns and 500 gb hdd is more than enough i think.. buy a cheaper case, (punch holes to make it cooler :P) thats it.. same cpu same mobo and everything else same. you can also opt for cheaper 1155 mobo. i think gigabyte's got some.. or asus maybe.. no need for some two pcie and crap.. you can take a higher gpu.. say like gtx 580 or 6990.. well sli will give value if you are going for long term.. and you can install server's power.. they are cheap and of higher quality (thats what i heard from my pc vendor). i think there better be another marathon where there are the best pc at lowest cost.. that would make more sense rather giving budget.. so that people can know what they can make with the money they got.. since not all have exactly 1000$ or 2000$ there are people from other countries as well following so keep up the good work fellas ^_^/~~
  • tapher

    Props on the build, dawgs. Daddy likes!

    Breath is bated for the bevy of builds to come!
  • andy5174
    Contest is limited to residents of the USA

    not again.....