System Builder Marathon: Day One

Cooler Master Centurion 5 Case

Welcome to the first of three articles in our first System Builder Marathon. Over the next three days, we will present three do-it-yourself PC systems. We chose the components for each system based on cost. As you might expect and as you'll see, cost is almost always related to performance. We'll discuss our choice of components for each system and show you how each system performs on a wide range of benchmarks. On May 10th we'll present a summary of our experience with the three systems. Each article has a main author. Today that's Don Woligroski.

The System Builder Marathon truly turned out to be a marathon. Our authors put in long, long hours getting the components together, making them work and then making them work together, benchmarking the systems, creating performance charts and writing up the results. Special thanks to Shelton Romhanyi who has slept very little over the last week doing and re-doing the tests for this article.

Of course, knowing Tom's Hardware enthusiasts, we're looking forward to a healthy dissection of our choices on the forums. Read the article and have at it.

Yesterday's high end parts quickly become the budget parts of today; this is one of the glorious tenets of the PC hardware world. You don't need unlimited financial resources to play the PC game, just a bit of patience. What was bleeding edge only a year ago can often be purchased for a fraction of its original cost now.

It is because of this that we relished the opportunity to pick components for the low-cost PC we've built for the System Builder Marathon. Honestly, it's a much more interesting job than picking the stuff for the high-end where budget doesn't matter as much: you simply pick the best you can get. The low end is where you really have to weigh your options and consider your choices to squeeze the best performance out of a meager $550 USD.

Power supply, CPU and cooler in place

Admittedly, our cost doesn't include the operating system, but then again we're not including any of the benchmarked software in the cost either. And hey, who are we to dictate that you can't use your favorite Linux distro? As far as the monitor, it doesn't really affect performance, so we'll be leaving that out of our assessment as well. Our system builder marathon will concentrate on the cost of the parts that directly affect performance, not the software or the display.

Join our discussion on this topic

  • I built the May 8, 2007 $500 system and was well pleased with it. I went with 2 GB ram but the rest was from the article. In 2011, the video card died from ruptured capacitors. I really miss that card as it was impressive.
    Now, I am considering going with 4 GB ram and upgrading the power supply to support a 22 amp video card. Maybe a processor upgrade also.