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System Builder Marathon, June 2010: System Value Compared

Covering Our Bases

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 $500 Gaming PC
Day 4: Performance And Value, Dissected

Introduction

Market levels are defined by enthusiasts just as much as manufacturers, since different buyers have completely different needs.

While a high-end office PC might have a super-fast processor and terabytes of storage, a similarly-priced gaming system forgoes the expensive CPU and hard drives in favor of graphics power. Funnily enough, then it gets labeled “mid-priced.”

Tom’s Hardware usually favors across-the-board performance, yet graphics cards are so expensive that these often consume the budgets of otherwise well-balanced systems. When 3D games are included in the list of tasks a computer is meant to perform, we’ve found that $500, $1,000, and $2,000 are roughly the entry points for low-cost, mid-priced, and high-end markets.

While our previous System Builder Marathon targeted market midpoints, this month we’ve decided to forgo unnecessary expenditure and aim directly for the highest performance-per-dollar each builder could achieve. As is the case with most real-world builds, our $500, $1,000, and $2,000 budgets were secondary targets that we attempted to align, while aiming primarily for the best performance value within our selected markets.

March 2010 System Builder Marathon Components
$550 PC$1,000 PC$2,000 PC
MotherboardAsus M4A77TD Chipset: AMD 770/SB710MSI 790X-G45 Chipset: AMD 790X/SB710Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R Chipset: Intel X58-Express
ProcessorAMD Athlon II X3 435 2.9 GHz Three Cores, 1.5MB L2 CacheAMD Phenom II X3 720 BE Three Cores, 6MB L3 CacheIntel Core i7-930 2.80 GHz Four Cores, 8MB L3 Cache
MemoryCrucial DDR3-1333 CAS 9 2 x 1GB (2GB Total)Crucial DDR3-1333 CAS 9 2 x 2GB (4GB Total)Crucial DDR3-1333 CAS 9 3 x 2GB (6GB Total)
GraphicsPowerColor AX5770 1GBD5-H 1GB GDDR5-4800 at 128-bits Radeon HD 5770 GPU at 800 MHz2 x Gigabyte GV-R583UD-1GD 1GB GDDR5-4000 at 256-bits Radeon HD 5830 GPU at 800 MHz2 x Gigabyte GV-N470D5-13I-B 2 x 1.28GB GDDR5-3482 607 MHz GTX 470 GPU
Hard DriveSamsung HD502HJ 500MB, SATA 3Gb/s 7,200 RPM, 16MB CacheWestern Digital WD3200AAJS 320GB, SATA 3Gb/s 7,200 RPM, 8MB CacheSamsung HD103SJ 1TB, SATA 3Gb/s 7,200 RPM, 32MB Cache
OpticalSamsung SH-S223C 22x DVD±R, 48X CD-RLite-On iHAS124 24x DVD±R, 48X CD-RLite-On iHES208-08 8x BD-ROM, 16X DVD±R
CaseCooler Master Elite 330Antec Three HundredAntec Three Hundred Illusion
PowerCM RS-500-PCAR-A3 500W, Dual 12V at 18ACorsair CMPSU-650TX 650W, Single 12V at 52ASilverStone DA750 750W Modular, 80-Plus Silver
CPU CoolerCooler Master Hyper TX3Cooler Master Hyper TX3Prolimatech Megahalems Rev.B
CPU FanIncluded with coolerIncluded with coolerScythe SY1225SL12LM-P
Total Cost $545  $1,023  $1,808

Our recent move into DirectX 11 gaming convinced $500 system builder Paul Henningsen to rename his project the “$550” machine, with a newer graphics card that would allow these titles to be played natively at his target 1680x1050 resolution.

Our $2,000 PC looks a little light at the other end of the pricing scale, simply because the elaborate storage solutions familiar to the high-end market have a negligible impact on the benchmarks we use to determine value.

  • manitoublack
    Another great SBM. Goodluck to US Punters who get the chance to win theses systems. Look forward to the next round where Graphics hardware will take a step out of the lime light.
    Reply
  • wildeast
    marry me tom's :D
    Reply
  • touchdowntexas13
    It's interesting to see the performance/dollar shoot up for the $2000 pc when it comes to games. That just goes to show you how much of the budget went into graphics muscle. These machines were definitely built with gaming in mind.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    touchdowntexas13It's interesting to see the performance/dollar shoot up for the $2000 pc when it comes to games. That just goes to show you how much of the budget went into graphics muscle. These machines were definitely built with gaming in mind.Yes, the only way to smash those benchmarks is with a faster CPU (2/3 of tests) or graphics (1/3 of tests). The problem with upgrading the CPU is that the 980X would cost 50% of the total budget. We haven't seen a big improvement in overclocking by using a higher-model quad-core i7
    Reply
  • touchdowntexas13
    CrashmanYes, the only way to smash those benchmarks is with a faster CPU (2/3 of tests) or graphics (1/3 of tests). The problem with upgrading the CPU is that the 980X would cost 50% of the total budget. We haven't seen a big improvement in overclocking by using a higher-model quad-core i7
    Oh no I wasn't suggesting at all that you should have gone with a 980X for the $2000 build. That's way too expensive for a $2000 limit. The 930 does it's job just fine.

    It just amazed me that two 470's in SLI were able to best the performance/dollar of the cheaper builds. Typically you see diminishing gains as you get into the more expensive components.

    It was a very interesting set of articles any way you look at it. Gamers on a budget should especially be interested in this SBM.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    touchdowntexas13It just amazed me that two 470's in SLI were able to best the performance/dollar of the cheaper builds. Typically you see diminishing gains as you get into the more expensive components.I was pretty amazed too, but I really want to give credit to $1000 PC builder Don for making the GTX 470 SLI suggestion for the $2000 machine. Spot on Don!
    Reply
  • Tamz_msc
    Overall this month's SBM was good, especially the scalability of the 470s was brought into prominence.Though overclocking those in SLI is certainly not a viable option, unless one steals power from the Hoover Dam.
    Reply
  • Willroo
    Did anyone notice that the 858w microwave has a power supply rated for 750w.....sizzle.....pop.....anyone smell smoke...? Running f@h on that machine the power company would have to burn a ton of coal a day and you'd get threat mail from them when you cause a brown out. Ah....But all those PPD.
    Reply
  • Onus
    Interesting. Based on a previous article, an Athlon II X2 440 wouldn't be enough to let the 470s in SLI stretch out; I wonder what the minimum CPU there would be.
    AND, since many of us found problems in these builds, if those were "fixed" (possibly costing more), those results would be useful too.
    Lots of good information in this SBM round. Very nice.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    WillrooDid anyone notice that the 858w microwave has a power supply rated for 750w.....sizzle.....pop.....anyone smell smoke...? Running f@h on that machine the power company would have to burn a ton of coal a day and you'd get threat mail from them when you cause a brown out. Ah....But all those PPD.Silverstone says it outputs 77 to 80% of what you input. That's 670W of power output at 858W power input. It's rated at 750W continuous power output, but don't let the facts get in the way of a rant, eh?
    Reply