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System Builder Marathon, August 2012: $2000 Performance PC

Sometimes, Lower Value Is OK

Designed specifically for gaming, last quarter's $2000 build came up a little short in CPU-dependent benchmarks. Its SSD didn't necessarily have enough capacity. And its optical drive was found lacking. Some of those hardware decisions were necessary in order to make room for its particularly expensive graphics card, while others were part of its real secret weapon: a price tag that came in 15% under budget.

This quarter, we brought back the things we gave up, consuming all of our available funds in the process. And that wouldn't have even been possible were it not for a more affordable GeForce GTX 670 from Nvidia.

Such a massive difference in pricing really hurt our value score this quarter, particularly at stock settings. Fortunately, the situation isn't quite so dire once we overclock. And we'd gladly give up 2% of our value for a much larger SSD, twice as much memory, and a Blu-ray drive that doesn't add anything to performance, but contributes the joy of watching movies in high-definition. As for the addition of two extra x86 cores, those are already factored in to the performance side of our equation.

As you can see, our value assessment is based on averages, and we're sure that running a benchmark suite optimized exclusively for six-core processors could shift our results in favor of this quarter's machine. On the other hand, it'd be a lot harder to make up for weaker gaming performance at 2560x1600, which is a consequence of stepping back to a slower graphics card.

The new machine on our test bench is a higher-quality build that's more flexible than its predecessor, but gamers don't necessarily care. Then there's the problem of power consumption; our third-quarter build uses energy at a higher rate than it boosts performance.

Nevertheless, we think that most users would be happier to own our latest effort, even though its value and efficiency take a step backward. But, given the option to combine the best parts of our two configurations, we'd mix last quarter's efficient motherboard and CPU with the other components from today's setup. That'd likely provide the best balance of power, efficiency, and value.

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • Darkerson
    Interesting setup. I would have favored a way beefier single GPU or a nice dual GPU setup, but I mainly only game, and dont do a lot of encoding or whatnot.
  • The contest opens on August 20, 2012 9:00 PM PDT and closes on September 3, 2012 9:00 PM PDT.
    So... i notice now that it opens at August 20, not August 19 when the $500 SBM appeared. I submitted my entry at August 19 10:30 PM. So that means that i haven't entered into the sweepstakes, or did i? I am confused, cause only one entry can be accepted.
  • Nice quality build! Enough said!
  • trumpeter1994
    That has got to be one of the luckiest GTX 670s I've ever seen.
  • sarinaide
    Gigabyte G1 Assassin Z77
    120GB SSD
    500GB HDD
    2xGTX 670
    2x4GB DDR3 1866

    And still probably cheaper with obviously better performance.
  • Crashman
    sarinaidei5-3570k/i7-3770kGigabyte G1 Assassin Z77120GB SSD500GB HDD2xGTX 6702x4GB DDR3 1866And still probably cheaper with obviously better performance.Probably not, unless you're only testing games. But we should probably test that anyway. Does anyone else want to see it?
  • zander1983
    Ditch the BR Writer, get a BR combo drive and save yourself $60
  • Crashman
    zander1983Ditch the BR Writer, get a BR combo drive and save yourself $60Sorry, I don't see any combo drives for $30 so the savings would be much less than $60. Plus, you'd lose BD-RE backup capability, which can be handy.
  • sarinaide
    CrashmanProbably not, unless you're only testing games. But we should probably test that anyway. Does anyone else want to see it?
    It would be very interesting, the IvyBridge chips in productivity numbers hold quite well with the SB-E chips that is the only area which should be a contest.
  • crisan_tiberiu
    16GB ram pointless imo. 2 TB 5400rpm hdd? ...i rather get a 1 TB 7200 rpm hdd. i7 3970k ... i rather get the i7 3770k. From theese i would squeeze in a gtx 680.