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System Builder Marathon, Q1 2013: $600 Gaming PC

Did We Accomplish Our Mission?

Intel's Core i5-3350P processor upgrade indeed propels our $600 gaming PC to an entirely new level of performance in our content creation and productivity benchmarks (particularly all of the threaded tests). A limited capacity for overclocking is better than no scalability at all. So, in the end, our extra $100 more than doubles performance in this critical piece of our quantitative analysis.

Because those applications account for 60% of our overall performance weighting, I'm expecting my $600 effort to hold its own really well when it comes to sizing up bang-for-the-buck at the end of this quarter's Marathon. The Day 4 comparison will show whether or not I achieved my true mission.

I've been asked by a few readers why we judge purpose-built gaming machines with so much of an application performance bias. The short answer is that our System Builder Marathon is about more than just gaming. By seeking out the best possible gaming system at the lowest price point possible, I frequently forfeit any chance that my machine might earn the overall value crown. In reality, $500 isn't enough money to do all things well, particularly when half of the budget goes into supporting hardware like storage, power, and a case. Moving forward, though, I’m going to judge these gaming-oriented systems within my own story based on how well they game overall, at their native resolutions, and how they behave in the application suite.

Even after we devalue its dominance in the applications, today's $600 setup picks up 47% more overall performance for a 20% increase in cost.

However, while I confidently declared last quarter's effort the best $500 gaming box I've ever built for this series, I can't say the same about today's $600 configuration. It offers outstanding performance for what I spent, but I suspect that matching up a lower-end CPU with a Radeon HD 7870 based on Tahiti LE might yield an even better experience at 1920x1080.

  • Proximon
    Sounds about right. Not quite the sweet spot for a budget rig, but then we don't get too many requests for $600 firm. A higher clocked i3 would have been the way to go.
  • esrever
    I think you can fit the 7870 LE in there if you choose a cheaper mobo and went with an i3 or an AMD build.
  • EzioAs
    As usual, love the system builder article.

    This $600 build seems nice. Personally, I would drop the optical drive, replace the Z75 board with a cheaper H77 motherboard, get a cheap 8GB (2x4GB) memory kit and a 2GB version of the Radeon HD7850. I think it's possible that it'll be between $600-610.

    That's just what I would change. This build is still nice to be honest. :)
  • itzsnypah
    Why isn't noise a benchmark? Every build you showcase you ignore acoustics. A very noisy build should affect it's overall performance negatively, while a quiet one should affect it positively. Noise is a very important factor in Case Reviews so why isn't it a factor here?
  • ARICH5
    noise isnt a factor in a gaming rig...thats for htcp stuff
  • g-unit1111
    10450191 said:
    Sounds about right. Not quite the sweet spot for a budget rig, but then we don't get too many requests for $600 firm. A higher clocked i3 would have been the way to go.

    That 3350P is a pretty nice CPU though. It performs at near FX-8320 levels while consuming 1/2 the power. I'd definitely use it in a low budget rig over anything else.
  • ARICH5
    i question the longevity of a 400w psu in a build like this though
  • slomo4sho
    The CPU budget is higher than the GPU budget for this gaming machine? I understand the desire for a 4 core processor but you could definitely have a better gaming rig by investing more in the GPU and trimming the CPU budget.
  • slomo4sho
    arich5i question the longevity of a 400w psu in a build like this though~54%(216W) capacity when under CPU + GPU load. There shouldn't be any concern with the PSU failing under these loads.
  • lunyone
    It would have been interesting with a 7870 GPU, like below:

    / /

    CPU: ($123.79 @ Amazon)
    Motherboard: ($76.99 @ Amazon)
    Memory: ($29.99 @ Newegg)
    Storage: ($49.99 @ Newegg)
    Video Card: ($209.99 @ Newegg)
    Case: ($25.98 @ Newegg)
    Power Supply: ($29.99 @ Newegg)
    Optical Drive: ($17.99 @ Newegg)
    Total: $564.71
    (Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)(Generated by PCPartPicker 2013-02-26 02:52 EST-0500)
    But the 3350P makes things interesting when an app can benefit from more cores! I had to get a better PSU to fit the 7870 into the budget. There is also $50 in MIR's equated into the final price, so the actual price paid would be $614 out the door. I'm not sure the i3 would have been a better overall CPU, but it would have made things interesting in the gaming department :)