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System Builder Marathon, August 2012: Alternative $2000 Gaming PC

Overclocked System and Benchmark Configurations

Test Hardware Configurations
Alternative $2000 Gaming PCQ3 2012 $2000 PC
Processor (Overclock)Intel Core i5-3570K (Ivy Bridge), 3.4 GHz, Four Physical CoresO/C to 4.50 GHz, 1.25 VIntel Core i7-3930K (Sandy Bridge-E), 3.2 GHz, Six Physical CoresO/C to 4.60 GHz, 1.32 V
Graphics (Overclock)EVGA 02G-P4-2670-KR: 980 MHz GPU, GDDR5-6008O/C to 1215 MHz GDDR5-6610EVGA 02G-P4-2670-KR: 980 MHz GPU, GDDR5-6008O/C to 1301 MHz GDDR5-7048
Memory (Overclock)8 GB G.Skill DDR3-1600, CAS 8-8-8-24O/C at 1.65 V to DDR3-2000 CL 10-11-10-2416 GB G.Skill DDR3-1600, CAS 8-8-8-24 O/C at 1.60 V to DDR3-2133 CL 10-11-10-24
Motherboard (Overclock)Gigabyte G1.Sniper 3: LGA 1155, Intel Z77 ExpressStock 100 MHz BCLKASRock X79 Extreme4: LGA 2011, Intel X79 ExpressStock 100 MHz BCLK
OpticalLite-On iHAS124 24x DVD±RAsus BW-12B1ST 16x BD-R
CaseAntec Eleven HundredNZXT Phantom 410
CPU CoolerCooler Master Hyper 212 EvoScythe Mugen 3 Rev. B SCMG-3100
Hard DriveMushkin Chronos Deluxe 240 GB, SATA 6Gb/s SSDMushkin Chronos Deluxe 240 GB, SATA 6Gb/s SSD
PowerSeasonic SS-1050XM: 1050 W ATX12V V2.3 80 PLUS GoldSeasonic SS-850HT: 850 W, ATX12V, 80 PLUS Silver
Software
OSMicrosoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64
GraphicsNvidia GeForce 301.42
ChipsetIntel INF 9.2.3.1020

Apart from the overclocking issues we ran into on the alternative gaming PC, which don't particularly reflect well on Ivy Bridge, this looks like a fair match between a big CPU with respectable graphics and a beefy graphics subsystem with a mainstream CPU. Since Ivy Bridge-based processors are expected to reach 4.6 GHz, we’ll make sure to keep the small clock rate deficiency for this particular sample in mind during our final value analysis.

Only three of our games could be made to work properly under Nvidia Surround's 5760x1080 graphics resolution, and Skyrim required a hack to correct its aspect ratio.

Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
Battlefield 3Campaign Mode, "Going Hunting" 90-Seconds Fraps Test Set 1: Medium Quality Defaults (No AA, 4x AF) Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Defaults (4x AA, 16x AF)
DiRT 3V1.01, Run with -benchmark example_benchmark.xml Test Set 1: High Quality Preset, No AA Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Preset, 8x AA
Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimUpdate 1.5.26, Celedon Aethirborn Level 6, 25 Seconds Fraps Test Set 1: DX11, High Details No AA, 8x AF, FXAA enabled Test Set 2: DX11, Ultra Details, 8x AA, 16x AF, FXAA enabled
Audio/Video Encoding
iTunesVersion 10.4.1.10 x64: Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 minutes, default AAC format
Lame MP3Version 3.98.3: Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 min, convert WAV to MP3 audio format, Command: -b 160 --nores (160 Kb/s)
HandBrake CLIVersion 0.95: "Big Buck Bunny" (720x480, 23.972 FPS) 5 Minutes, Audio: Dolby Digital, 48 000 Hz, Six-Channel, English, to Video: AVC Audio: AC3 Audio2: AAC (High Profile)
MainConcept ReferenceVersion: 2.2.0.5440: MPEG-2 to H.264, MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG-2), Audio: MPEG-2 (44.1 kHz, Two-Channel, 16-Bit, 224 Kb/s), Codec: H.264 Pro, Mode: PAL 50i (25 FPS), Profile: H.264 BD HDMV
Productivity
Adobe Photoshop CS5Version 12.1 x64: Filter 15.7 MB TIF Image: Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates
Autodesk 3ds Max 2012Version 14.0 x64: Space Flyby Mentalray, 248 Frames, 1440x1080
WinZipVersion 15.5 Pro: THG-Workload (650 MB) to ZIP, command line switches "-a -ez -p -r"
WinRARVersion 4.1: THG-Workload (650 MB) to RAR, command line switches "winrar a -r -m3"
7-ZipVersion 9.22: THG-Workload (650 MB) to .7z, command line switches "a -t7z -r -m0=LZMA2 -mx=5"
ABBYY FineReaderVersion 10.0.102.82: Read PDF save to Doc, Source: Political Economy (J. Broadhurst 1842) 111 Pages
Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
3DMark 11Version: 1.0.1.0, Benchmark Only
PCMark 7Version: 1.0.4 x64, System, Productivity, Hard Disk Drive benchmarks
SiSoftware Sandra 2011Version 2011.10.17.80, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / MultiMedia, Memory Test = Bandwidth Benchmark
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • idroid
    now THAT'S a real 2000$ PC, not the other 2000$
    Reply
  • zander1983
    Now this is a $2000 machine. The 3930k is a nice-to-have, but not a need-to-have. If you need more horse power, swap the 3570k for a 3770k.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    idroidnow THAT'S a real 2000$ PC, not the other 2000$Actually, this one is the fake, as in the experimental PC designed specifically for gaming. The other one was picked by reader recommendations, and that's why it made it into the "main event".

    That is to say, as much as this one costs, it's still pretty much worthless to the majority of high-end users. Basically it's a $1000 PC with a bunch of extras.

    To put it another way, money "wasted" on the other one went towards making it more flexible and practical. Money "wasted" on this one went towards supporting future upgrades to its SLI array. It's nothing more than an expensive toy.
    Reply
  • brucek2
    I enjoyed the article and am glad Tom's ran it. I agree with Crashman though about this being an experimental system: while I may rarely have call to exercise six cores, it is something that would come in handy from time to time. Meanwhile, I will never be gaming at 5760x1080. I'd get more value out of the original system.
    Reply
  • hmp_goose
    Why aren't they in portrait mode?
    Reply
  • dudewitbow
    orz, using blue ares ram and an antec eleven hundred together makes me think back to my wishlist changes I wish I could have gotten instead.(albeit im still deficient on other parts)
    Reply
  • Crashman
    hmp_gooseWhy aren't they in portrait mode?Too narrow. The wide bezels are a major distraction when they're that close together. I think manufacturers should make some 5x4 or at least some 4x3 mid-sized displays specifically for this purpose.dudewitboworz, using blue ares ram and an antec eleven hundred together makes me think back to my wishlist changes I wish I could have gotten instead.(albeit im still deficient on other parts)Ares is cool because it lets you run pretty much any CPU cooler you want, without sacrificing memory frequency or timings.
    Reply
  • EzioAs
    9536498 said:
    Actually, this one is the fake, as in the experimental PC designed specifically for gaming. The other one was picked by reader recommendations, and that's why it made it into the "main event".

    That is to say, as much as this one costs, it's still pretty much worthless to the majority of high-end users. Basically it's a $1000 PC with a bunch of extras.

    To put it another way, money "wasted" on the other one went towards making it more flexible and practical. Money "wasted" on this one went towards supporting future upgrades to its SLI array. It's nothing more than an expensive toy.

    Really? If it were me, I'd pick this one over the original $2000 PC. There are a lot more people gaming at 5760x1080 and 2560x1600 than they used to be so having more GPU performance is much more beneficial. Although that's primarily for the gamers, for other 3D purposes, video editing, etc the 6-cores 3930K and single GPU might be the best choice
    Reply
  • bawchicawawa
    Would have went with crossfire 7970 for that res.
    Reply
  • killabanks
    they are both great machines!! i personally think the sweet spot is somewhere around 1500 if you can get acceptable 5760x1080 performance
    Reply