System Builder Marathon, December 2009: The Articles
Here are links to each of the four articles in this month’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 check out this Google form, and be sure to read the complete rules before entering!
This month’s System Builder Marathon was full of surprises, the biggest being that our stock-cooled $1,300 build overclocked far easier than its big-air $2,500 competitor. But overclocking capacity is never guaranteed, and our final results reflect real-world challenges that every builder must face.
In the face of recent memory price surges and a shortage of high-end graphics processors, it was hardly surprising that prices on many of our components went up almost immediately after clicking the “buy” button at Newegg. The day our order was placed, the $700 build was within 1% of its target price, while the $2,500 PC actually came in under budget. Yet, we’re forced to use current pricing (or most-recent pricing for deactivated parts) in today’s value comparison with hopes that recent price increases won’t completely dismantle the efforts put forth by each builder to achieve the greatest “bang for the buck.”
Unlike September’s gaming-system shootout, today’s machines are designed to provide as much performance as possible across a wide variety of uses, while staying within certain budget limits. We have, like most readers, broken the budget on rare occasions where a little extra money would yield significant gains. But like most readers, we're still faced with the realities that our money supply is far from endless. Here’s a quick run-down of the parts we chose several weeks ago and the final cost at most-recent prices:
|December 2009 System Builder Marathon Component Prices|
|Row 0 - Cell 0||$700 PC||$1,300 PC||$2,500 PC|
|Motherboard||DFI BI P45-T2RS LGA 775, P45/ICH10R||Gigabyte P55-UD4P LGA 1156, P55 PCH||Gigabyte P55-UD4P LGA 1156, P55 PCH|
|Processor||Intel Pentium E5300 2.60 GHz Dual-Core||Intel Core i5-750 2.66 GHz Quad-Core||Intel Core i7-860 2.80 GHz Quad-Core|
|Memory||Corsair DDR2-800 CAS 5.0 2 x 2GB, 4GB Total Memory||A-Data DDR3-1333 CAS 8.0, 2 x 2GB, 4GB Total Memory||2 x Crucial DDR3-1333 CAS 9.0, 4GB Kits, 8GB Total Memory|
|Graphics||2 x XFX HD 4870 HD-487A-YWFC 512MB GDDR5-3600||2 x XFX HD 5850 HD-585A-ZNBC 1GB GDDR5-4000||2 x Diamond HD 5870 5870PE51G 1GB GDDR5-4800|
|Hard Drives||Samsung Spinpoint F3 500GB HD502HJ||WD Caviar Black 640GB WD6401AALS||2 x WD Caviar Black 2.0TB WD2001FASS|
|Optical||Samsung SH-S223C 22x DVD±R 48x CD-R 16x DVD-ROM||Samsung SH-S223C 22x DVD±R 48x CD-R 16x DVD-ROM||LG WH08LS20 BD-RE 8x BD-R, 2x BD-RE, 16x DVD±R|
|Case||Antec Two Hundred||NZXT M59||Lian-Li LanCool PC-K7B|
|Power||Antec EarthWatts 650W Non-Modular 80-Plus Standard||Corsair CMPSU-750TX 750W Non-Modular 80-Plus Standard||Corsair CMPSU-850HX 850W Semi-Modular 80-Plus Gold Certified|
|CPU Cooler||Xigmatek HDT-SD964||Intel Core i5 Standard (Included w/CPU)||Xigmatek HDT-S1284EE Crossbow ACK-15363 Cooler + Bracket Kit|
Stuck with last-year’s mainstream technology, the $700 configuration looks almost like a lamb before wolves. Yet, all three builders managed to find graphics-boosting CrossFire technology within or near their budgets, so perhaps the least of these will still be fast enough to at least meet our gaming needs? As other questions, such as the potentially close performance of the two costlier system’s processors lay heavily on our minds, we’re ready to examine our performance comparison charts.