System Builder Marathon, Sept. 2010: $2000 Performance PC

The Quest For Six-Core Value

System Builder Marathon, September 2010: 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 check out this Google form, and be sure to read the complete rules before entering!

Day 1: The $2,000 Performance PC
Day 2: The $1,000 Enthusiast PC
Day 3: The $400 Gaming PC
Day 4: Performance And Value, Dissected


SSD drives and six-core processors are the two most frequently-requested items missing from our typical high-end builds. Up until now, we've made that an intentional decision. This is a competition between builders, after all, and most of our benchmarks gain little from either of these components.

At the same time, we aren’t completely inflexible, and careful deliberation led us to choose the six-core CPU as perhaps the more beneficial (benchmark-wise) of those two technologies. Of course, we're keenly aware of the experiential gains attributed to SSDs as well, and we might have been able to include solid state storage as well with a larger budget. But high prices without corresponding testable improvements would have lead to some loss in our System Builder Marathon Day 4 value comparison.

Another thing missing from our June 2010 $2000 build was a pretty case. The case we picked for today’s build was chosen for its superior ventilation (with little thought for aesthetics), sporting three enormous 180 mm intake fans. A quick look at our configuration reveals why so much ventilation was needed.

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$2000 Performance PC Component Prices
MotherboardMSI NF980-G65, Socket AM3 Chipset: Nvidia nForce 980a SLI$160
ProcessorAMD Phenom II X6 1055T 2.8GHz Six Cores, 6 MB L3 Cache, Socket AM3$200
MemoryG.Skill Ripjaws Series F3-10666CL9D-8GBRL 2 x 4 GB (8 GB Total), DDR3-1333 CAS 9-9-9-24$200
Graphics2 x MSI N480GTX-M2D15-B in SLI 2x 1.5 GB GDDR5-3696 2 x GeForce GTX 480 GPU at 700 MHz$920
Hard DriveSamsung Spinpoint F3 HD103SJ 1 TB, 7200 RPM, 32 MB Cache, SATA 3Gb/s$75
OpticalLite-On DVD±R/W iHAS124-04 24X DVD±R, 8X DVD+RW, 12X DVD-RAM$19
CaseSilverStone Raven RV02-BW$160
PowerCooler Master Silent Pro RSA00-AMBAJ3-US 1000 W, ATX12V 2.3, EPS12V 2.92, 80 PLUS Bronze$165
CPU CoolerScythe Mugen 2 Rev. B (SCMG-2100)$35
Row 9 - Cell 0 Total Cost$1934

Packing two GeForce GTX 480 graphics cards into a $2000 build required a few sacrifices, but we hoped that our planned overclock would address many of its inadequacies. The following pages explain how each component was selected, followed by an overview of component installation, overclocking, and evaluation.

Could this monster be the one that usurps our lower-cost value builds during our week-long competition?

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • IzzyCraft
    Love the case choice everything else is pretty much can't really hate it or love it, but i mean you can't really hate any of the parts when they cost that much as they are all good but some just not right for some jobs.
    I do not care for AMD and SLI just because you'll be using an nvidia chipset and my past experiences with them have been poor.
    I also do not care for 6 cores for games although i mostly use my computer for other things which may like those 6 cores, but i don't find too many uses for 2 480's outside of gaming.

    Hopefully the next one will be one i can't help but agree with, A i5-750/760 with 2 460's in sli :D
  • Tamz_msc
    This month's SBM is forgettable.It confirms that AMD+SLI = BIG fail.
  • Tamz_msc
    A better option( without sacrificing GTX 480 SLI) in my opinion is:
    Core i7 950 (add 100$)
    GIGABYTE GA-X58A-UD3R (add 50$)
    GSkill 6GB RAM(subtract 70$)
  • proofhitter
    Big CPU fail. I love your honesty, good one Tom's! Nice try nevertheless. Keep it up!
  • jrharbort
    The lesson here? AMD hexacores are still the best value on the market, but is still unable to keep up with the i7 in overall performance clock for clock. It's sadly not the best choice in high end systems, but it still wont stop me from recomending it to friends interested in sub-$1000 systems.
  • sassan_88
    I dont like systems Based on AMD's chipset
  • jj463rd
    With Sandybridge and Bulldozer just right around the corner I don't think that it makes any sense to build right now with current (especially CPU + motherboard)components.
  • Crashman
    jj463rdWith Sandybridge and Bulldozer just right around the corner I don't think that it makes any sense to build right now with current (especially CPU + motherboard)components.Maybe not...this system was built a couple months ago.
  • makwy2
    Love the honesty. I think this is just shows that a MUCH cheaper AMD chip ($700 less) is close but not quite in true competition with the top of the line Intel chip. I'll stick to my AMD chips because I am not made of money.

    Again, I love the honesty and straight talk TH brings with these bi-monthly features that give system builders a real idea about performance and cost-effective parts.
  • aaron92
    I really do value the AMD Hex vs Intel, 6 cores is already cutting edge and 12 threads is going beyond a desktop computer for this year atleast.