Tom's SBM: The $1,500 Mainstream PC

Motherboard, Cooler, And Memory

Motherboard : DFI LANPARTY DK X38-T2RB

DFI has a great reputation for overclocking-friendly motherboards, and the Intel X38 chipset has a good reputation as a solid foundation for a high-performance PC that won’t break the budget.

Read Customer Reviews of DFI’s Lanparty X38

One of the main features of the X38 is full-speed PCI Express dual-slot x16 support, which is a real plus when planning to run dual video cards. The high bus speed options are a real bonus for those who upgrade their systems on a regular basis. Finally, at $175, the price is attractive for this level of performance and quality, compared to other solutions.

Cooler : Swiftech H20-220 APEX-GT

Read Customer Reviews of Swiftech’s H20-220

Our previous mid-range build sported Swiftech’s H20-120, but with our eyes set on higher overclocking heights, we splurged on Swiftech’s H20-220 kit. Compared to the H20-120, the radiator in the H20-220 is twice as large, the pump is much more powerful and is separate from the CPU cooling block, and there is a convenient see-through reservoir. For $140, the H20-220 is an excellent value for those wishing to lower CPU temperatures.

Unfortunately, due to a slight mix-up, we ordered the superior Swiftech H20-220 APEX-GT kit. It offers an upgrade over the base model H20-220 by utilizing a better water block and pump, and including a reservoir. At a $60 premium over the regular H20-220 model, the APEX-GT kit is a great solution for those looking for even lower temperatures.

With the base H20-220 offering very good cooling performance, we’re recommending that model to shave a few dollars from our mid-range machine. The APEX-GT is certainly an attractive option, though, for those looking for a little more out of their CPU cooler.

Memory : 4 GB of Patriot Viper DDR2-800 Model PVS24G6400LLK

Read Customer Reviews of Patriot’s Viper 2 x 2GB DDR2-800 Model PVS24G6400LLK

Patriot memory has a good price/performance ratio, and the dual-channel 4 GB Viper DDR2-800 kit stood out as an attractive choice for the price. For only $88 we got 4 GB of memory with a CAS latency of—just the kind of value we look for when putting together our System Builder Marathon machines (Ed.—and the sort of choice that could give Don an advantage over Thomas when it comes to weighing value against performance in the last story in this series.

  • Hi,
    This is my first comment although I have reading this website for the past 8 years. Anyway to th point - Usuallt I agree 90% with you on components you choose, especially in the high-end and budget configuration. But this time a lot of tings strikes me: First it is the CPU - I am pleased You have addressed the issue to a great degree in the article later, but still I think it will be appropriate to try to further increase the voltage because this is a watercooled 65nm CPU; Second the chipset I think it`s ot the best choise, X38 is a former high-end chipset so when You`re overclocking you should get the faster binned X48, but because this is mid-range configuration I think it`s best to taka advantage of the super popular P45; Third the motherboard I am not sure if a motherboard with a not so stron PWM is the best tool for overclocking such a power-hungry chip, You should try to overclock on a different motherboard to see why are yuo`re not receiving a more descent overclock;Forth and last the price difference to a 1066MHz kit is pretty small so I think it`s preferable because tis will give You flexibility to try higher FSB with lower multiplier, wchich should give another notch of performance. I am saying all this because I want to help You make this website even better.
    Best Regards. Bobby
  • I think it would be interesting to see power consumption and noise benchmarks for the PCs you build in this article series.
  • JeanLuc
    I can see why you wanted to use a water cooling kit so that you got the best possible overclock from the CPU but water cooling is hardly ‘mainstream’ which is what I thought this system builder marathon was all about. The same goes for the choice of motherboard, the X38 is an enthusiast’s motherboard, something like the Biostar T Power i45 would have been more appropriate and according to CustomPC UK is just as good at overclocking as any other motherboard.

    Good choice in video cards, I’m glad you didn’t choose 4850’s with the stock coolers because those bad boys run really hot.
  • Proximon
    Well it was a good try. Would have preferred a more truly mainstream rig, but then the forums are full of those.
  • Malovane
    And I thought a $400 Dell or E-Machine was mainstream..
  • fallen2004
    P45 wouldnt have workd cos it would bottleneck the crossfire as it only runs at 8x and 4850's need 16x
  • neiroatopelcc
    JeanLucI can see why you wanted to use a water cooling kit so that you got the best possible overclock from the CPU but water cooling is hardly ‘mainstream’ which is what I thought this system builder marathon was all about.
    I agree with this dude really. Anything watercooled is enthusiast, not mainstream. I don't know if americans just treat themselves to better hardware, but here in europe anyone with watercooling is considered an enthusiast. Nobody with a reasonable budget is going to 'waste' money on water cooling. Imo a tuniq, tr120 or a scythe something cooler would've been a more appropriate midrange guess. Also I'd expect anyone building a pc today to pick a p45 over an x38 (though I like the red slots on this one)
  • neiroatopelcc
    fallen2004P45 wouldnt have workd cos it would bottleneck the crossfire as it only runs at 8x and 4850's need 16xBtw I'm running a 4870 on an x16 pcie v1 - that equals an x8 pcie v2 connection. And I can hardly claim that my system's limited by the bandwidth.
  • dirtmountain
    A E8500, single socket P45, HD4870x2,Sunbeam core contact cooler and a Coolermaster 690 would have made their budget and blown the socks off that build.
  • grumps01
    How about some info on this "mainstream" system sound wise. How Loud or quite is this system use this Swiftech H20-220 Kit with larger pumps etc. Also what's the temperatures like (heat dissipation) like in general with this combination please?

    I know most ppl are probably more interested with the benchmarks, but I'm sure this might interest some people on what's it like to live with, thanks!