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System Builder Marathon, June 2010: $2,000 Performance PC

Enhancing High-End Value

System Builder Marathon, June 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 $550 Gaming PC
Day 4: Performance And Value, Dissected

Introduction

Our past System Builder Marathons (SBMs) have used various budgets for high-priced machines, culminating in a March $3,000 PC that we think hit the performance sweet spot, while leaving almost $100 in the budget for optional upgrades, such as redundant storage. However, our less-expensive systems did an even better job of proving value, and we’re always left to question whether we could have generated similar performance for a lower price.

The two technologies that had the biggest effect on our $3,000 machine’s prices were liquid cooling and solid-state drive (SSD) storage. While the liquid cooler itself wasn’t very expensive, added components, such as a special case (to hold the radiator internally) and a liquid-cooled graphics card, pushed the total expense for this upgrade beyond $500. Yet, the VGA cooler at least allowed us to overclock a reputedly ultra-hot pair of graphics processors, while the SSD drives had a negligible impact on the real-world benchmarks we use in the final value analysis. Our chosen $380 SSD configuration certainly sped up boot times, but superb performance that only occurs outside those benchmarks will always undermine the machine’s value score.

The biggest problem with those potential excesses could be that many high-end buyers are feeling the pinch of an unstable economy. As many begin to seriously consider paying off small debts and beefing up emergency funds, it appears almost frivolous to spend significant money on anything that doesn’t provide equally-significant improvements in performance or quality.

A well-built, mid-priced case is just the beginning of a carefully planned value assault on our previous project’s performance profile. Other cost-conscious changes include a switch from the previous system’s expensive X58A-UD7 motherboard to its award-winning -UD3R sibling. The switch to air cooling saves even more money, though the CPU heat sink we chose requires the additional expense of a separate fan.

$2,000 Performance PC Component Prices
MotherboardGigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R Chipset: Intel X58 Express$210
ProcessorIntel Core i7-930 2.80 GHz Four Cores, 8MB L3 Cache$289
MemoryCrucial 6GB DDR3-1333 Triple-Channel Kit 3 x 2GB (6GB Total), CAS 9-9-9-28$168
Graphics2 x Gigabyte GV-N470D5-13I-B in SLI 2 x 1.28GB GDDR5-3482 2 x GeForce GTX 470 GPU at 607 MHz$700
Hard DriveSamsung Spinpoint F3 HD103SJ 1TB, 7,200 RPM, 32MB Cache, SATA 3 Gb/s$80
OpticalLite-On Blu-ray Disc Combo Model iHES208-08 8X BD-ROM, 12X DVD-ROM DL, 16X DVD±R$108
CaseAntec Three Hundred Illusion$70
PowerSilverStone DA750 750W Modular ATX12V 2.2, EPS12V 2.91, 80-Plus Silver$110
CPU CoolerProlimatech Megahalems Rev.B$62
CPU FanScythe Slip Stream SY1225SL12LM-P$11
Total Current Cost$1,808

As with our previous month’s $3,000 machine, the builder took this month’s $2,000 budget as an absolute limit, and picked what he thought might be the best performance-value combination to approach that price threshold. Intended to address the higher expectations of high-end buyers, a Blu-ray combo drive is the only component in today’s build to add functionality without improving performance or reliability.

  • gkay09
    ^ Very good selection of parts IMO...
    It still has a room for a SSD -> OCZ Vertex 2/ Agility 2 50GB or Vertex/ Agility 60GB...these both retail under $200...
    Reply
  • Aatish
    That's just sad! in 3 months your 2000$-3000$ investments depreciated at awful rate! and usually when an average customer builds a PC he at-least don't expect to repeat the process with-in few months.

    But, a good rig!for someone who is just about to build his new PC with that much budget!
    Reply
  • frye
    Maybe you guys should give away a $10,000 PC in September ;)

    Oh, and are those temps right? Nearly 93 C CPU temp when overclocked? I'd scale that back a bit...
    Reply
  • TomD_1
    I wanted to enter the competition... but I live on the other side of the world :(

    Great build though, might have put a bit more money towards the case if I was building it
    Reply
  • Flamango
    I love SBMs, and the fact that I haven't built my p55 setup yet, and I'm sure the Megahalems will look great in my new case. Can't wait for the cheaper builds!
    Reply
  • Relayer
    Need a bigger PSU. Why are you using the one you did? You have the funds to buy one that will drive this system properly.
    Reply
  • a4mula
    Can't say I agree with much here. You pick up a budget case that's going to restrict airflow due to lack of wire management, and then drop 75 on a cooler. Megahalems are spectacular, I own one myself but you've defeated any gain by placing it in a subpar enclosure. Should have just went with a 902 and a CM 212+. Would have been cheaper and less restrictive.

    I still fail to see the love of 1366 in these builds where there is no intention of upgrading to hexacore. Save the $100 and do a p55 i7-860 build. You're going to get performance that rivals the 930 on every benchmark including those that take x8/x8 into consideration. You'll surpass the 930 in a few.

    700 for dual 470s when you can get dual 5850s for 560.

    PSU that is being heavily overtaxed. You're risking the entire 2k machine by running 100w over the psus rated value. The only thing keeping this machine running is the fact that Silverstone makes high quality parts and you have a single rail. Had this of been a multi-rail you would have been pulling out a gpu, scaling back your overclocks, or buying a new psu. At some point you have to wonder if this is a safety hazard.

    Sorry Thomas, just not feeling this build at all. I see about $400 of budget that could have easily have been trimmed and would have been within a few percentage points of the current build. This could have gone towards anything from your much wanted redundant storage to SSD drives.
    Reply
  • madass
    $50 cases with side opened>hiogh end case with side closed.
    And no, I've never had problems with dust. And I own a dog. Go figure.
    Reply
  • madass
    IMO they should have taken an i5 750 (USD80 saved) and 4GB of CL7 1066-no game out there uses more than 2GB, more than 4GB is a waste(at least another USD40 saved). P55 mobo with 2x x8= USD 120. 80 saved. Total: USD200. Dual 5870's anyone? Don't forget- the 5970 has a lot of problems with CFire scaling- even a pair of 5850's can beat it in most cases, especially at 2560-blame crappy ATI drivers.......
    Reply
  • Crashman
    RelayerNeed a bigger PSU. Why are you using the one you did? You have the funds to buy one that will drive this system properly.Nobody thought it would draw more than 750W peak load. Even so, the article has been revised to show that the actual power output was only 660W to 680W, well below the unit's limits.
    a4mulaCan't say I agree with much here. You pick up a budget case that's going to restrict airflow due to lack of wire management, and then drop 75 on a cooler. Megahalems are spectacular, I own one myself but you've defeated any gain by placing it in a subpar enclosure. Should have just went with a 902 and a CM 212+. Would have been cheaper and less restrictive.I still fail to see the love of 1366 in these builds where there is no intention of upgrading to hexacore. Save the $100 and do a p55 i7-860 build. You're going to get performance that rivals the 930 on every benchmark including those that take x8/x8 into consideration. You'll surpass the 930 in a few.I'm not seeing the point of the Blueray drive. If this was a bare bones value to performance build it sticks out like a sore thumb. 700 for dual 470s when you can get dual 5850s for 560. Sorry Thomas, just not feeling this build at all. I see about $400 of budget that could have easily have been trimmed and would have been within a few percentage points of the current build. This could have gone towards anything from your much wanted redundant storage to SSD drives.It's OK a4mula, but you're completely wrong.
    1.) The air temperature in the case was excellent. Tom's has tested enough cases to know that smaller models that fit tightly around the CPU cooler do an excellent job of cooling the CPU area, so long as the rear fan is fast enough.
    2.) Tom's tested the 212+, and it's only fair (not great). This months build was expected to reach high overclocks.
    3.) Tom's has also done an i7-860 build around six months ago, that CPU was one of the worst-overclocking i7's Tom's has ever used. Subtract around 4-8% in game performance for using x8 slots, and the value evaporates.
    4.) Would you build a $1000 machine that can't run DVD's? Then why would you build a $2000 machine that can't play BRD's? BRD's are close enough to mainstream that not having the capability should be the thing that "sticks out" IMO, but you do make a decent argument since this pick was based on an opinion.
    5.) Yeh, you saw how dual 470's smashed the performance of dual 5870's? Oh, that was a 5970...well there you go. 470's take the big win.
    So a4mula, points 1-3 and 5 are purely factual and based on testing. You might be able to win the opinion-based argument on #4, but whoever gave you the thumbs-up was also wrong so don't let popularity mislead you.
    Reply