Skip to main content

System Builder Marathon, March 2012: System Value Compared

Benchmark And Overclock Settings

Test Hardware Configurations
 $2600 Perfomance PC  $1300 Enthusiast PC  $650 Gaming PC 
Motherboard (Overclock)Asus P9X79 Pro: LGA 2011, Intel X79 Express,No BCLK O/CASRock P67 Pro3 SE: LGA 1155, Intel P67 Express,No BCLK O/CGigabyte GA-H61MA-D3V: LGA 1155, Intel H61 Express,No BCLK O/C
Processor (Overclock)Intel Core i7-3930K: 3.20 GHz, Hexa-Core O/C at 1.38 V to 4.60 GHzIntel Core i5-2400: 3.10 GHz, Quad-Core O/C at 1.19 V to 3.69 GHzIntel Core i3-2120: 3.3 GHz Dual-Core, No O/C
Memory (Overclock)16 GB G.Skill DDR3-1600 CL 9-9-9-24, O/C at 1.60 V to DDR3-1866 CL 9-10-9-168 GB Corsair DDR3-1600, CL 7-9-8-24,No DRAM O/C4 GB Team Elite DDR3-1333 CL 9-9-9-24, O/C at 1.60 V to DDR3-1333 CL 7-8-7-22
Graphics (Overclock)MSI R7970-2PMD3GD5/OC: 1010 MHz GPU,GDDR5-5500 O/C to 1100 MHz GDDR5-6000PowerColor Radeon HD 7970: 975 MHz GPU, GDDR5-5500, O/C to 1125 MHz GDDR5-6300XFX Radeon HD 6950 1GB: 840 MHz GPU, GDDR5-5000, O/C to 840 MHz GDDR5-5200
OpticalPioneer BDR-206DBKS 12x BD-RSamsung TS-H353C 16x DVD-ROMLG GH22NS90B 22x DVD±R
CaseAntec P280 Case w/Rosewill FansApevia X-Trooper JuniorRosewill FBM-01
CPU CoolerZalman CNPS12XCooler Master Hyper TX3Intel Boxed Heatsink
Hard DriveMushkin Chronos Deluxe 240 GB, SATA 6Gb/s SSDCrucial m4 64 GB, SATA 6Gb/s SSDSeagate ST500DM002,0.5 TB SATA 6Gb/s HDD
PowerSeasonic SS-860XP: 860 W, ATX12V, 80 PLUS PlatinumCorsair CMPSU-650TXV2 650 W, 80 PLUS BronzeRosewill  Green RG630-S12: 630 W, 80 PLUS
Software
OSMicrosoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64
GraphicsAMD Catalyst Graphics 12.2
ChipsetIntel INF 9.2.0.1030Intel INF 9.2.0.1030

The most controversial component in the entire round-up could be the $1300 PC’s 64 GB SSD. Although performance numbers for the system drive are intended to represent general use, our benchmark image weighs in at around 80 GB. Moving data, such as our workload files, onto the secondary drive does allow our programs to fit within a 64 GB envelope, and it'd be easy to argue that a tiered storage subsystem is designed to split information up exactly like that. Even then, though, it’s hard to imagine that anyone would intentionally operate their system drive near its full capacity all the time.

The $2600 build had drive issues of a different kind: Intel’s enterprise-oriented RST drive slowed performance so much that we reverted to Windows 7’s default AHCI driver for the overclocked test.

Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
Battlefield 3Campaign Mode, "Going Hunting" 90-Seconds Fraps Test Set 1: Medium Quality Defaults (No AA, 4x AF) Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Defaults (4x AA, 16x AF)
DiRT 3V1.01, Run with -benchmark example_benchmark.xml Test Set 1: High Quality Preset, No AA Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Preset, 8x AA
Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimUpdate 1.4.27, Celedon Aethirborn Level 6, 25 Seconds Fraps Test Set 1: DX11, High Details No AA, 8x AF, FXAA enabled Test Set 2: DX11, Ultra Details, 8x AA, 16x AF, FXAA enabled
StarCraft IICustom map "Tom's Hardware Guide V2", 60 seconds Fraps Test Set 1: High Details, High Quality Test Set 2: Ultra Details, Extreme Quality
Audio/Video Encoding
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)
HandBrake CLIVersion 0.95: "Big Buck Bunny" (720x480, 23.972 FPS) 5 Minutes, Audio: Dolby Digital, 48 000 Hz, Six-Channel, English, to Video: AVC Audio: AC3 Audio2: AAC (High Profile)
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, 2 Channel, 16-Bit, 224 Kb/s), Codec: H.264 Pro, Mode: PAL 50i (25 FPS), Profile: H.264 BD HDMV
Productivity
Adobe Photoshop CS5Version 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
WinZipVersion 15.5 Pro: THG-Workload (650 MB) to ZIP, command line switches "-a -ez -p -r"
WinRARVersion 4.1: THG-Workload (650 MB) to RAR, command line switches "winrar a -r -m3"
7-ZipVersion 9.22: THG-Workload (650 MB) to .7z, command line switches "a -t7z -r -m0=LZMA2 -mx=5"
ABBYY FineReaderVersion 10.0.102.82: Read PDF save to Doc, Source: Political Economy (J. Broadhurst 1842) 111 Pages
Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
3DMark 11Version: 1.0.1.0, Benchmark Only
PCMark 7Version: 1.0.4 x64, System, Productivity, Hard Disk Drive benchmarks
SiSoftware Sandra 2011Version 2011.10.17.80, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / MultiMedia, Memory Test = Bandwidth Benchmark
Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • sonexpc
    Looks like $650 PC can do almost everything smoothly ! Even most of the game can get over 40fps...
    which is not bad... for Just $650 ...So the first piority for gaming PC is still the Video card!
    Reply
  • MMO Fan
    nobody needs a $600 cpu
    Reply
  • shoot you
    I always love seeing the System builder articles (even though I cant build one myself for now hahahaha).

    Great as always. It sad that the Nvidia GTX 680 has yet to be considered due to availability and pricing issues hehehehe.

    Reply
  • iamauser
    Translation: we don't actually stand behind any of these builds as being worthwhile to emulate.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    iamauserTranslation: we don't actually stand behind any of these builds as being worthwhile to emulate.The $650 and $2600 PC builders loved their machines, it's just hard to recommend either of those to "everyone" or even "most people" since most of the readers really want $800-1200 machines.
    Reply
  • MMO Fan
    CrashmanThe $650 and $2600 PC builders loved their machines, it's just hard to recommend either of those to "everyone" or even "most people" since most of the readers really want $800-1200 machines.It's hard to recomend them because they just are not real good for the large outlay of cash as in the money could have been spent on better parts but instead was spent on "balancing" and pleasing the TH memebers.
    Reply
  • Wave Fusion
    I'd love to build a PC with a beefy GPU someday.
    But coming from a notebook background, I more or less have to start from scratch.

    I can use my old mouse, and my TV as a monitor. But on top of the estimated build costs listed, I also need the OS, keyboard, and likely other misc. odds and ends.

    $200 ($100 OEM) for Windows 7 is brutal.

    I also don't want to waste time on a desktop that only has a GPU advantage over the notebook.
    Desktop upgrades over even a mobile i7 is still pricey.

    Since I know my 2720QM uses the same die as desktops; it'd be swell if I could just yank it out; plug it in a desktop board and call it a 2600k. In a desktop it wouldn't have to stay in a 45W TDP

    But.. *sigh*.. the parts are locked, the sockets don't match; and a real life desktop carbon copy of my notebook is out of my budget atm.
    --
    If I could find a way to attach a 7870 to my notebook motherboard, I wouldn't have a problem with the frankenstein-ish creation.

    The 6670 just doesn't cut it sometimes
    Reply
  • MMO Fan
    Wave FusionI'd love to build a PC with a beefy GPU someday.But coming from a notebook background, I more or less have to start from scratch.I can use my old mouse, and my TV as a monitor. But on top of the estimated build costs listed, I also need the OS, keyboard, and likely other misc. odds and ends.$200 ($100 OEM) for Windows 7 is brutal. I also don't want to waste time on a desktop that only has a GPU advantage over the notebook.Desktop upgrades over even a mobile i7 is still pricey.Since I know my 2720QM uses the same die as desktops; it'd be swell if I could just yank it out; plug it in a desktop board and call it a 2600k. In a desktop it wouldn't have to stay in a 45W TDPBut.. *sigh*.. the parts are locked, the sockets don't match; and a real life desktop carbon copy of my notebook is out of my budget atm.--If I could find a way to attach a 7870 to my notebook motherboard, I wouldn't have a problem with the frankenstein-ish creation.The 6670 just doesn't cut it sometimesAny Desktop CPU this side of C2Duo will substancially out perform any Laptop CPU
    Reply
  • Crashman
    MMO fanIt's hard to recomend them because they just are not real good for the large outlay of cash as in the money could have been spent on better parts but instead was spent on "balancing" and pleasing the TH memebers.I'll explain this the way I did in your other $2600 PC comments. You're simply wrong. I can't help you understand why someone would want a PC that performs well in multiple areas. I can't help you understand why someone would want their PC to be quiet. I can't help you to understand why someone would want their PC to store more applications on the faster device. I can't help you to understand these things because you have already rejected them. Your prejudice excludes any "balanced" analysis.

    But at least you're fairly nice about it.
    Reply
  • MMO Fan
    CrashmanI'll explain this the way I did in your other $2600 PC comments. You're simply wrong. I can't help you understand why someone would want a PC that performs well in multiple areas. I can't help you understand why someone would want their PC to be quiet. I can't help you to understand why someone would want their PC to store more applications on the faster device. I can't help you to understand these things because you have already rejected them. Your prejudice excludes any "balanced" analysis.But at least you're fairly nice about it.7970 is more than "well" it is the best of the best and Fractal Design Define R3 is $100 or some $30 less than the P280 and performance better these two points I made are just for starters. If you will I could go on and build a far better machine for $2600 but you seem to think this TH $2600 "performance" build is the best when it is far from it.
    Reply