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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
OSMicrosoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64
GraphicsAMD Catalyst Graphics 12.2
ChipsetIntel INF INF

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 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: 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
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 Read PDF save to Doc, Source: Political Economy (J. Broadhurst 1842) 111 Pages
Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
3DMark 11Version:, 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.