System Builder Marathon, Dec. 2009: System Value Compared

Test Settings

The following component lists includes the overclock settings used by each system to achieve its ultimate performance capability.

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December 2009 SBM Performance, O/C Settings
Row 0 - Cell 0 $700 PC$1,300 PC$2,500 PC
MotherboardDFI BI P45-T2RS O/C to FSB-1333Gigabyte P55-UD4P O/C to 172 MHz BCLKGigabyte P55-UD4P O/C to 203 MHz BCLK
ProcessorIntel Pentium E5300 2.60 GHz at 3.83 GHz 11.5x 333, 1.424VIntel Core i5-750 2.66 GHz at 3.61 GHz 21x 172, 1.168VIntel Core i7-860 2.80 GHz at 3.65 GHz 18x 203, 1.312V
MemoryCorsair DDR2-800 CAS 5-5-5-18, 1.80V UnchangedA-Data DDR3-1333 CAS 8-8-8-24, 1.65V O/C 1374, 9-9-9-242 x Crucial DDR3-1333 CAS 9-9-9-24, 1.50V O/C 1624, 8-8-8-18
Graphics2 x XFX HD 4870 750/3600 MHz O/C to 790/44002 x XFX HD 5850 725/4000 MHz O/C to 775/4400 MHz2 x Diamond HD 5870 850/4800 MHz O/C to 900/5080 MHz
Hard DrivesSamsung Spinpoint F3 500GB HD502HJ UnchangedWD Caviar Black 640GB WD6401AALS Unchanged2 x WD Caviar Black 2.0TB WD2001FASS Changed RAID 1 to 0
OpticalSamsung SH-S223C UnchangedSamsung SH-S223C UnchangedLG WH08LS20 BD-RE Unchanged
CaseAntec Two HundredNZXT M59Lian-Li LanCool PC-K7B
PowerAntec EarthWatts 650W Non-Modular UnchangedCorsair CMPSU-750TX 750W Non-Modular UnchangedCorsair CMPSU-850HX 850W Semi-Modular Unchanged
CPU CoolerXigmatek HDT-SD964Intel Core i5 Standard (Included w/CPU)Xigmatek HDT-S1284EE Crossbow ACK-15363 Cooler + Bracket Kit
OSMicrosoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64
GraphicsATI Catalyst 9.11
ChipsetIntel INF

Like most of our recent reviews, this month's System Builder Marathon relies on Microsoft’s latest operating system to assure the best performance and compatibility with the latest hardware.

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Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
CrysisPatch 1.2.1, DirectX 10, 64-bit executable, benchmark tool Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA Test Set 2: Very High Quality, No AA
Fallout 3Patch 1.7, Saved Game "Capital Wasteland" (60 sec) Test Set 1: Highest Details, No AA, No AF Test Set 2: Highest Details, 4x AA, 15x AF
Far Cry 2Patch 1.03, DirectX 10, in-game benchmark Test Set 1: Very High Quality, No AA Test Set 2: Ultra High Quality, 4x AA
Tom Clancy's H.A.W.XPatch 1.02, DirectX 10.1, in-game benchmark Test Set 1: Highest Settings, No AA Test Set 2: Highest Settings, 4x AA
World in ConflictPatch 1009, DirectX 10, timedemo Test 1: Very High Details, No AA / No AF Test 2: Very High Details 4x AA / 16x AF
Audio and Video Encoding
iTunes 8Version: (x64) Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 min Default format AAC
Lame MP3Version: 3.98.2, wave to MP3 Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 min wave to MP3
TMPGEnc 4.0 ExpressVersion: Import File: Terminator 2 SE DVD (5 Minutes) Resolution: 720x576 (PAL) 16:9
DivX 6.8.5Encoding mode: Insane Quality Enhanced multithreading enabled using SSE4 Quarter-pixel search
XviD 1.2.2Display encoding status = off
MainConcept Reference 1.6.1 Reference H.264 Plugin Pro 1.5.1MPEG2 to MPEG2 (H.264), MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG2), Audio: MPEG2 (44.1 kHz, 2 Channel, 16-Bit, 224 kbp/s), Mode: PAL (25 FPS)
Adobe Photoshop CS4 (64-bit)Version: 11.0 Extended, Filter 15.7 MB TIF Image Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates
Autodesk 3ds Max 2009Version: 11.0, Rendering Dragon Image at 1920x1080 (HDTV)
Grisoft AVG Anti-Virus 8.5Version: 8.5.287, Virus database 2094, Benchmark: Scan 334 MB Folder of ZIP/RAR compressed files
WinRAR 3.90Version x64 3.90, Dictionary = 4,096 KB, Benchmark: THG-Workload (334 MB)
WinZip 12Version 12.1, WinZip Command Line Version 3.0 Compression = Best, Benchmark: THG-Workload (334 MB)
Synthetic Benchmarks
3DMark VantageVersion: 1.01, GPU and CPU scores
PCMark VantageVersion: 1.00, System, Memory, Hard Disk Drive benchmarks, Windows Media Player
SiSoftware Sandra 2009 SP4aVersion 2009.9.15.130, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / MultiMedia, Memory Test = Bandwidth Benchmark
Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • DarkMantle
    Great conclusion Thomas, good System Building Marathon overall. My only wish is to see something with an AMD processor next time, specially on the market segment where they shine.
  • shubham1401
    I am really impressed by the performance of $1300 PC.

    It came so close to the $2500 PC without breaking the bank.
    Simply awesome!!
  • noob2222
    typo on the last page, overclocked $650, not sure if that was the value used in the chart, might check that also.
  • ibnsina
    Good conclusions..

    This article can get more interesting if you add previous systems data to the charts.
  • erdinger
    Yes the previous systems would have been really nice to compare, espacially in the conclusion.
  • Crashman
    ibnsinaGood conclusions..This article can get more interesting if you add previous systems data to the charts.
    Sorry, but that wouldn't be fair. First of all, September's systems used different benchmarks, settings, and OS. Second, September's systems used both AMD graphics that pre-date these, plus AMD processors, and people would have used the older graphics as an excuse to beat up on the CPU. AMD fans would have gone nuts as well, claiming the authors were trying to use the superior graphics of this SBM to skew readers against AMD. Tom's isn't interested in publishing invalid results or creating fake controversy.
  • Crashman
    psycho sykesA question..Does those come with Windows 7 installed? Or they won't be real 700-1300-2500 machines.. Right?!
    Windows 7 was only installed for the benchmark analysis. For anyone who would like to copy one of the builds and still stay on budget, Ubuntu is suggested.
  • kick_pixels
    Crashman First of all, September's systems used different benchmarks. AMD fans would have gone nuts as well
    If you compare the benchmarks, is more or less identical with 1-2 minor differences. What’s wrong with idea of comparing different configurations? I don’t agree with the thought of AMD fans getting upset about it, to contrary they will be happy about gaining new knowledge.
  • Onus
    First of all, Merry Christmas everyone!
    Second of all, congratulations to Don. His tweaking contributed heavily to the superiority of the $1300 machine. The $700 machine pulled up lame when not gaming, and the $2500 machine was crippled by inadequate cooling.
    If I win the big guy, I'll put it in my CM-RC690 and see how it does. The little guy will get my Q9450, but Don's build just needs a better cooler.
    Nice series.
  • Niva
    Merry xmas to the staff and thanks for writing these articles at an otherwise slow time of the year due to holidays. I've enjoyed reading them.