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


Main Storage: Adata S511 120 GB SSD

Every high-end build deserves an SSD, and picking one wasn’t very difficult since our storage guru Andrew Ku has tested most of them. When faced with the choice between models based on the same controller logic, this editor simply asked his colleague to decide.

Read Customer Reviews of Adata's S511 120 GB SSD

Adata’s S511 is one of the fastest 120 GB models we could afford. Though it’s outpaced by some higher-capacity versions, none of those would fit within our budget. Adata’s inclusion of a 3.5” adapter tray would save us even more money, since our low-cost case does not include native support for the 2.5” drive form factor.

Mass Storage: Western Digital Caviar Green 2 TB

A 120 GB SSD fills up fairly quickly when lots of applications are hosted on it. And data can chew up anything left over, particularly when a system is designed as much for video encoding as it is for gaming. Fortunately, 2 TB of magnetic storage is cheap when performance isn’t your priority.

Read Customer Reviews of Western Digital's Caviar Green 2 TB

An upgrade from our previous system’s 1 TB Samsung drive costs us around $15 more, while doubling capacity.

Optical Storage: Lite-On iHAS224-06 DVD Rewriter

The only functional feature reduction from our previous build is the loss of Blu-ray support. Unfortunately, we needed to make that change in order to free up room in the budget for increased graphics capability. While we still recommend a Blu-ray drive in all high-end builds, we’re counting on the sacrifice here to boost our benchmark performance elsewhere.

Read Customer Reviews of Lite-On's iHAS224-06 DVD Burner

DVD write speed improves to 24x compared to the previous build’s 16x, so our downgrade isn’t a complete loss. This OEM version of the iHAS224-06 even includes Nero 9 Essentials to assist burning and playback needs, and the entire package costs a mere $21.