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System Builder Marathon, Sept. 2011: $2000 Performance PC

Is There Value In A $2000 Build?

Our new build outperforms the previous machine in both overclocked and stock trim, in spite of the fact that its overclock was far from what we were hoping to see. Most of that win was due to its improved graphics performance, though better benchmark results attributable to newer platform helped to offset those comparatively low overclocked frequencies.

The only problem, then, is that the former build was far cheaper than the current setup, partly because its price went down during the review process. In contrast, today’s machine got more expensive as we reviewed it. The new build still has its performance win though, and we’ll take any win we can get at this point.

We do, however, prefer a system with high-end graphics to game at the resolutions and quality levels that enable as much realism as possible. Remember those tests where both systems were too slow at 2560x1600 to play smoothly, but the new build was the choppier of the two? Even though the performance delta was meaningless at frame rates that low, these results add high-end gaming to the new build’s list of value deficits. This editor again accepts the new build’s performance win as the consolation prize in lieu of poor value.

Looking back at the comparison from which this motherboard was chosen, perhaps MSI’s Z68A-GD55, with heat sinks on all of its voltage regulator phases, would have been the better platform to drop in a system destined to contend with lots of heat. On the other hand, recent verification that, sometimes, a higher-priced motherboard yields far better overclocking results could have compelled us to forgo the graphics card upgrade altogether and spend our money elsewhere. Now that would have been a real coup for the motherboard vendors, right?

  • wrazor
    Great article. I am wondering, if instead you had gone with the EVGA 3GB GTX 570 SLI, maybe OC would have been possible? 2000$ is quite a bit of money. I wonder how these babies would hold out for Nvidia's 3D experience? Personally I am not a big 3D fan in theatres(headache and stuff), but gaming has to have a chance. You had an article on projectors gaming experience? Do it with 3d performance\eyefinity with the system marathon builds? That would be really cool. :)
  • Yargnit
    I'm actually surprised that after the recent micro-stutter article you didn't opt for 3x 570's/6950's/6970's instead of 2x 580's. the First two should be cheaper than 2x 580's, while the third would cost very similarly.

    All three should have provided at least equal performance, and been better on intangible benefits to micro stuttering.
  • DjEaZy
    ... a bit of stagnation in performance department... no big difference in Q2 and Q3 models... gonna wait til bulldozer...
  • decembermouse
    Poor case decision. Inadequate PSU (did you seriously expect good overclocking results?). Nice graphics, but severely limited by the other components. Hence, "nice graphics" doesn't matter. It's like putting a V10 inside a Dodge Neon. Just... why? I make a point of using good cases even in less-expensive builds. Compromising on PSU and the case are two things I've learned are no-nos. We can see how this hurt the outcome, When any OC whatsoever results in instability, you've made a mistake (or several).

    Now I know we'll see the usual "well this is meant to be a learning experience, learn from our errors and improve for next time" comments, but these are not mistakes I expect to see Tom's writers making. Even non-uber-enthusiast readers can probably see that some of the imbalances here. No result is horrible, but I'd have expected Tom's to look at that Newegg shopping cart and immediately think "nope guys, this isn't right. This gfx setup... in an Antec 300?" etc.

    Always love these articles guys, keep them up! Even if I do disagree with some of the choices obviously ;) Really looking forward to $1k and $500 builds in the coming days!
  • anonymous x
    decembermousePoor case decision. Inadequate PSU (did you seriously expect good overclocking results?).No, this case cools better than many (most?) cases more expensive than it. 2x 120mm intake is more than adequate for SLI cards with room for air to flow between them. Did you even look at the power consumption numbers? The system when overclocked only consumed 697w at load from the wall (actual consumption is less), while the PSU is rated at 850w.
  • Pawessum16
    Where the heck did they get that SSD for $170????? It's $205 on Newegg, and that's after a $35 price drop. What a steal....
  • Hupiscratch
    These SBM keep becoming cheaper. At first was 5k, then 2.5k and now is 2k for the enthusiast one. The recession is beating hard.
  • karma831
    All I can say is...WOW you guys have bad luck with overclocking.
  • jestersage
    maybe one of the 120mm fans should have been placed on the side panel? just wondering...
  • iam2thecrowe
    all i have to say is, ditch the crappy Gigabyte motherboard and get sonething better, and for the price difference get the i5 2500k, its no real loss to the i7.