System Builder Marathon: $625 Gaming PC

Higher FPS

System Builder Marathon, February 2009: 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).


Last month we explored the benefits of a more expensive CPU, so it should come as no surprise to the readers who weighed in with their thoughts in the comments section that this month we were determined to add more graphics power to the mix. With the same $625 hardware budget, we had to make sacrifices in pursuit of our goal of building a more capable gaming machine without hampering its performance during our applications and encoding tests. With that said, let’s take a look at the components selected for the task.

For an additional $20 we could have fit a CrossFire'd Radeon HD 4830 setup into this month’s system, but instead stayed within budget and went with the least expensive Radeon HD 4870. This Sapphire came with Molex power adapters and we wanted a name brand power supply with dual six-pin PCI Express (PCIe) power cables and at least 32 A of current available on the 12 V rail(s). This requirement put us in the $70 range (not including rebates), forcing us to put less money into our enclosure. For the CPU, we dropped back down to the Pentium E5200 that showed it could keep up with the more expensive E7300 once both were overclocked. In selecting a CPU cooler, the Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro had a price increase from $19 to $36, removing it as an option for both budget and value reasons alike.

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$625 Gaming PC System Components
ComponentModelPrice (USD)
CPUIntel Pentium E5200 2.5 GHz$83
CPU CoolerXigmatek HDT-S963$25
MotherboardGigabyte GA-EP45-DS3L$100
RAMG.Skill HK 4 GB DDR2-800 (PC2 6400)$45
GraphicsSapphire 100259L Radeon HD 4870 512 MB$200
Hard DrivesSamsung SpinPoint T Series HD501LJ 500 GB$55
SoundIntegrated HD Audio0
NetworkIntegrated Gigabit Networking0
CaseRosewill R222-P-BK$22
PowerPC Power&Cooling Silencer PPCS500 500W$70
OpticalLITE-ON 20X DVD±R SATA Model iHAS120-04$24
Row 12 - Cell 0 Total Price:$624

Again, it’s important to stress that prices are almost guaranteed to change for these components and the ones above reflect what we paid based on the availability at that time. This is especially true this month, as significant pricing drops have already now lowered the graphics card, CPU, and motherboard cost by $25, which would impact our component selection if we were making our purchase today. For one, we could easily have now gone with the same Antec Three Hundred case used in the past two months. The Radeon HD 4830 is also now priced at $100 before rebates, and with a change to an Asrock P45 CrossFire-ready motherboard, we could fit dual HD 4830s into the budget and have room left over to better the system’s cooling. C'est la vie, though.

  • xx12amanxx
    Yeah Games are definatly more GPU bound than CPU bound at this time.But what about the user who decodes? Next month might be a good time to intro the new am3 triple core seeing as its being sodl for around 150$ and has been seen Oced up to 1ghz over stock.
  • As I read this review I wonder, why this is only server I know that provides such a throughout testing and evaluation of OC benefit...
  • nerrawg
    Nice article guys, like how you seem squeeze the value out of the builds, definitely a good choice of build! My only question is one of personal interest, I wonder if disregarding the set price of $625, a crossfire set up of 2 4830s would give more bang for the buck in gaming then 1 4870? Of course as you have shown it would depend on the cpu, I was thinking around 4 Ghz on a dual core and 4 gigs ram. I am wondering because 2 x 4830 can be had for as little as $170-180 now, and thats pretty awesome.
  • nerrawg
    Looking at the "Radeon HD 4830: High-Speed, Cheap CrossFire" article the results look fairly similar to that seen from this build, with maybe some very small gains in Supreme commander and crysis, while World in Conflict appears to due better on this newer january build. However the 4830 CF was on a test bed without an OC'ed cpu and without overclocking the 4830's, hence my curiosity to know if doing this would significantly increase performance and value over the single 4870?
  • StupidRabbit
    great article as always.. but what happened to the international builder marathon?
  • jv_acabal
    $43 difference bang for the buck. How about in the long run? Sure you'll be paying more than 43 bucks for the electricity bill. I think January's build is better. It might be slower than this month's build but is still very playable at most games.
  • maxwellsmart_80
    Why do you keep building the same system (practically) over and over again?

    It would have been awesome to see a system based on the Phenom II X3 "700 Series" at this price point....especially paired w/ the ATI 4830 or 4850. Dont'cha think a 4870 is a tad much for a "$625 system?" - you would have had a "Dragon Platform" - very doable at your price range. You wouldn't have had to do DDR3 either - DDR2 would have worked quite nicely.
  • cangelini
    StupidRabbitgreat article as always.. but what happened to the international builder marathon?
    International competition is in edits--almost ready to go live! Interesting results there, too.
  • Onus
    Excellent article. I think this was a good build.
    That Rosewill case (and all their cheap ones like it) will take a front mounted 120mm fan. You had $6 left over, so it would have fit in your budget.
  • jcknouse
    THG Staff note:Here are links to each of the four articles in this month’s System Builder Marathon...
    I hate being picky...but...

    The links aren't imbedded in those 4 article designations at the top of the article, as of the writing of this note.