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

A Bigger Budget For A Better PC

System Builder Marathon, December 2011: The Articles

Here are links to each of the four articles in this month’s System Builder Marathon (we’ll update them as each story is published). And remember, these systems are all being given away at the end of the marathon.

To enter the giveaway, please fill out this SurveyGizmo form, and be sure to read the complete rules before entering!

Day 1: The $2400 Performance PC
Day 2: The $1200 Enthusiast PC
Day 3: The $600 Gaming PC
Day 4: Performance And Value, Dissected

Introduction

Although prices are up on just about everything (except memory), the real reason we increased the budget this quarter was that we grew weary of making sacrifices. Surely the most expensive PC had the most room for compromise, but in reality, nobody is going to give up big performance potential on a $2000 machine when an extra couple hundred bucks could help even more. For $300, we were able to fix some of the problems that plagued past builds.

The other $100 covered the recent hard drive price increase attributable to the horrible flooding in Thailand.

But what were those problems, specifically? And why did they cost so much to fix? Why the heck would we worry about hard drive prices in a machine powered by SSDs?

December 2011 $2400 PC Components
MotherboardMSI Z68A-GD55 (G3): LGA 1155, Intel Z68 Express$170
GraphicsPNY XLR8 VCGGTX580XPB-LC-CPU GeForce GTX 580PNY XLR8 VCGGTX580XPB-LC GeForce GTX 580 (for SLI)$1030
ProcessorIntel Core i7-2600K: 3.4-3.8 GHz, 8 MB Shared L3 Cache$320
MemoryCorsair CMZ8GX3M2A1600C8R: DDR3-1600 C8, 4 GB x2 (8 GB)$75
System DriveCrucial M4 CT128M4SSD2: 128 GB, SATA 6Gb/s SSD$210
Storage DriveWD Caviar Green WD15EARS: 1.5 TB, 7200 RPM Hard Drive$180
OpticalLG WH12LS38 BD-RE: 12x BD-R, 16x DVD±R$70
CaseFractal Design Arc Midi FD-CA-ARC-BL$110
PowerMushkin Joule MKNPSJL1000: 1000 W, ATX12V v2.31, 80 PLUS Gold$160
Heat SinkPNY XLR8 / Asetek Integrated Liquid Cooling
 Total Cost:$2325

The first problem suffered by our previous build, an overheated voltage regulator that severely limited overclocking, gets addressed by swapping out the motherboard. The second problem, a pair of graphics cards with built-in overclocking limits, get exchanged for a pair known to overclock more readily. And the third issue (one we didn’t worry all that much about), a lack of TRIM support in our RAID 0 SSD array, is eliminated by picking a single drive with the combined capacity of the previous pair. A real-world user still needs more space for movies, music, and other user files, but hard drive shortages force us to pay $100 more for 500 GB less compared to the last time around. It's a bad time to have to buy a hard drive, for sure.

  • 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