System Builder Marathon, Q1 2013: $600 Gaming PC

System Builder Marathon, Q1 2013: The Articles

Here are links to each of the four articles in this quarter’s System Builder Marathon (we’ll update them as each story is published). And remember, these systems are all being given away at the end of the marathon.

To enter the giveaway, please fill out this SurveyGizmo form, and be sure to read the complete rules before entering!

Day 1: The $600 Gaming PC
Day 2: The $800 Enthusiast PC
Day 3: The $1,000 Performance PC
Day 4: Performance And Value, Dissected
Day 5: The $1,600 Alternative PC


We ended 2012 with the best $500 System Builder Marathon gaming PC this series has ever seen, an accomplishment credited mostly to the impressive performance of AMD's Radeon HD 7850 graphics card. Also, the efficient and affordable Intel Pentium G850 ate up just $70 of our budget, allowing us to include 8 GB of RAM, a higher-end motherboard, and a nicer case.

That was our third $500 rig in a row built specifically to enable fluid gaming at 1920x1080 though, and our continued reliance on a dual-core CPU pretty much assured it'd trail far behind Don's $1,000 enthusiast-oriented build when we tabulated overall value. After all, 60% of our performance weighting comes from applications, and most of the tests in our suite are heavily threaded.

This quarter, we're trying something different and grouping our budgets more closely together. The idea is to see just how much value we can extract from our hardware at $600, $800, and $1,000 price points. Through a tighter competition that any system builder can win with a slight edge on the others, we're looking for that sweet spot where the performance you get from every dollar you spend can be considered optimal.

Given the stellar performance and massive overclocking potential of our last Pitcairn-based GPU, there was simply no need to sink more than $165 into graphics. So, we're again sticking with AMD's 1 GB Radeon HD 7850.

We also know that, in order to generate the best performance possible at $600, we need a more potent processor. Priced at $180, Intel's Core i5-3350P is the highest-end CPU we can afford, and it gives me my best shot at a gold medal in overall system value.

$600 Gaming PC System Components
Component Model Price
CPUIntel Core i5-3350P (Ivy Bridge): 3.1 GHz Base Clock Rate, 3.3 GHz Turbo Boost, 6 MB Shared L3 Cache
CPU CoolerIntel Boxed Heat Sink and Fan
MotherboardASRock Z75 Pro3: LGA 1155, Intel Z75 Express
RAMG.Skill Ripjaws Series 4 GB (2 x 2 GB) DDR3-1600 F3-12800CL9D-4GBRL$30
GraphicsHIS H785F1G2M: Radeon HD 7850 1 GB
Hard DriveSeagate Barracuda ST500DM002: 500 GB, 7,200 RPM SATA 6Gb/s Hard Drive
CaseXigmatek Asgard II B/B CPC-T45UC-U01 ATX Mid-Tower$34
Power Supply
Antec Neo Eco 400C 400 W$30
OpticalSamsung DVD Burner 24x SATA Model SH-224BB/RSBS $16

Total Price

Unfortunately, memory prices are back up after last quarter's System Builder Marathon, forcing us back down to 4 GB of capacity. The savings allows us to grab a faster dual-channel kit, though, and a more enthusiast-oriented platform. We're hoping the tradeoff lets us tap into more of the Core i5's performance potential.

Just before we ordered our parts, the memory kit went up $3, putting us right at $600. However, there's also a $10 promo code on the hard drive that we aren't factoring into our pricing table. Through a few minor fluctuations between then and now, this machine's overall cost is up an additional $5.