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System Builder Marathon, Dec. 2011: $2400 Performance PC

Motherboard, CPU, And RAM

Motherboard: MSI Z68A-GD55 (G3)

Overclocking is the biggest performance upgrade any builder can add to a PC, even though it comes at some risk. Our previous $2000 machine used a motherboard that had been awarded for its low-cost overclocking capability, yet our retail sample overheated when it was pushed past 1.35 V. In the famous words of a not-so-famous politician, “Oops.”

Read Customer Reviews of MSI's Z68A-GD55 (G3)

We were hoping to come back with the runner up from one of our previous motherboard round-ups to see if it would out-overclock the former winner in a real-world test. While MSI’s Z68A-GD55 was no longer available in its original form, the G3 version was priced only $10 higher.

Both versions include heat sinks on all CPU voltage regulator phases, and the extra $10 gets buyers a set of third-generation PCIe switches to keep their next-generation processors and graphics cards working at peak performance. That last part assumes that, between now and launch day, Intel won’t make its Ivy Bridge-based processors incompatible with existing platforms.

Processor: Intel Core i7-2600K

We ordered our System Builder Marathon machines prior to Intel’s Sandy Bridge-E launch, secure in the knowledge that at least the flagship would cost more than our $2400 budget could bear. Chris Angelini’s recent Core i7-3930K review did little to change that opinion, since such a small upgrade to our desktop-oriented benchmarks would have taken hundreds of dollars away from other components.

Read Customer Reviews of Intel's Core i7-2600K

That left Intel’s Core i7-2600K and Core i5-2500K as the only choices for top performance (Ed.: assuming the -2700K wasn't worth the increase either, right?). We’re counting on this processor’s legendary overclocking capability to push its value, even though the added benefit Hyper-Threading alone is somewhat questionable.

RAM: Corsair CMZ8GX3M2A1600C8R

Also known as Vengeance DDR3-1600 CAS 8, this is the same memory that won our recent 8 GB value-oriented round-up.

Read Customer Reviews of Corsair's CMZ8GX3M2A1600C8R Memory Kit

Differences between AMD and Intel memory controllers mean that we won’t see the exact results from that round-up, but we’re still certain this memory will give us excellent timings at low cost.

  • shak2300
    when i first saw "System Builder Marathon, Dec. 2011: $2400 Performance PC" first thing i thought was a x79 build, $2400 just for performance PC using a 2600k CPU i kinda cringe , i cant imagine how much more expensive it would be if u did it with a 3930k, yes i know it not a big different in performance between the two but was just wonder :)
    Reply
  • hmp_goose
    Retire Crysis? Blasphemy!
    Reply
  • Onus
    When I saw how much power this thing sucks down, I was glad to see that it pretty well shows the law of diminishing returns. This does nothing to change my opinion that only where time is money, i.e. for professional use, is this kind of cost justified. Spending this amount of money just to play games is a waste of resources all around, from the money to buy the parts, to the expense of running it. For future high-end builds, please specify the professional and/or his/her software that this machine is being designed to run. Justify the GPU choice by throwing in a GPGPU application that can take advantage whatever was selected. BTW, it does LOOK great; nice case choice.

    Also, as much as I understand the frustration with sacrifices, IMHO that's where the best lessons are.
    Fun to read, yes, but just not practical. Hmmm, I guess that means the downvoting is about to begin...
    Reply
  • Novulux
    The contest opens on December 19, 2011 9:00 PM PDT and closes on January 4, 2012 9:00 PM PDT.

    So, I wait until tomorrow to enter?
    Reply
  • cangelini
    NovuluxSo, I wait until tomorrow to enter?
    No, you're good today. It should start with today's story. I'll see if I can get that changed.
    Reply
  • one-shot
    $2400 and no i7 3930K?
    Reply
  • Crashman
    one-shot$2400 and no i7 3930K?What, and ditch one of the graphics cards for a reduced average-performance score? 3930K didn't show up until after the system was ordered, but I stand with the first argument, there's just not enough performance to be gained using these specific apps.jtt283For future high-end builds, please specify the professional and/or his/her software that this machine is being designed to run. Justify the GPU choice by throwing in a GPGPU application that can take advantage whatever was selected.We try to add professional apps that at least a few thousand of our readers have access to, but I'll ping Chris for more. Basically we try to spend our money boosting our own apps and adding a few more is probably justified. Suggestions? jtt283BTW, it does LOOK great; nice case choice.I was a little disappointed in my examination of the Arc Midi, that it's nowhere near as solid as the Arc Mini. I think it's because it's larger (so the bracing bends are further appart). As nice as the Arc Midi looks, the Antec Three Hundred is far sturdier at a similar size.jtt283Also, as much as I understand the frustration with sacrifices, IMHO that's where the best lessons are.Fun to read, yes, but just not practical. Hmmm, I guess that means the downvoting is about to begin...I almost voted you down for saying that... :P
    Reply
  • love the fractal case!!
    Reply
  • mattmock
    I can't find the storage benchmarks. Am I just overlooking them? I am thinking about getting the Crucial M4 for Christmas. It seems like a good overall value.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    MattMockI can't find the storage benchmarks. Am I just overlooking them? I am thinking about getting the Crucial M4 for Christmas. It seems like a good overall value.They're on the PCMark benchmark page. Tom's Hardware uses those four application-based results to calculate the storage score.
    Reply