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System Builder Marathon, August 2012: System Value Compared

Test System Configurations, With Overclocks

Test Hardware Configurations
$500 Gaming PC$1000 Enthusiast PC$2000 Performance PC
Processor (Overclock)Intel Pentium G860, 3.0 GHz, Two Physical CoresNo OverclockingIntel Core i5-3570K, 3.4 GHz, Four Physical CoresO/C to 4.60 GHz at +.1 VIntel Core i7-3930K, 3.2 GHz, Six Physical CoresO/C to 4.60 GHz at 1.32 V
Graphics (Overclock)MSI N560GTX-M2D1GD5: 810 MHz GPU, GDDR5-4008, O/C to 950 MHz GDDR5-4410Gigabyte GV-N670OC-2GD: 980 MHz GPU, GDDR5-6008, O/C to 1241 MHz GDDR5-6504EVGA 02G-P4-2670-KR: 980 MHz GPU, GDDR5-6008, O/C to 1301 MHz GDDR5-7048
Memory (Overclock)4 GB G.Skill DDR3-1600, CAS 9-9-9-24, 1.50 VNo Overclocking8 GB Mushkin DDR3-1600, CAS 8-8-8-24, O/C at 1.60 V to DDR3-1866 CL 9-9-9-2416 GB G.Skill DDR3-1600, CAS 8-8-8-24, O/C at 1.60 V to DDR3-2133 CL 10-11-10-24
Motherboard (Overclock)Gigabyte GA-B75M-D3V: LGA 1155, Intel B75 Express, Stock 100 MHz BCLKASRock Fatal1ty P67: LGA 1155, Intel P67 Express, Stock 100 MHz BCLKASRock X79 Extreme4: LGA 2011, Intel X79 Express, Stock 100 MHz BCLK
OpticalSamsung SH-222BB 22x DVD±RSamsung SH-222BB 22x DVD±RAsus BW-12B1ST 16x BD-R
CaseRosewill R218-P-BKRosewill Redbone BlackNZXT Phantom 410
CPU CoolerPentium G860 Boxed CoolerXigamtek Loki SD963Scythe Mugen 3 Rev. B SCMG-3100
Hard DriveWestern Digital WD5000AAKX: 500 GB, 7200 RPM Hard DriveOCZ AGT3-25SAT3-60G: 60 GB, SATA 6Gb/s SSDMushkin Chronos Deluxe DX 240 GB, SATA 6Gb/s SSD
PowerAntec VP-450: 450 W, ATX 12V v2.3Corsair CX600 V2: 600 W,  ATX12V v2.3,  80 PLUSSeasonic SS-850HT: 850 W, ATX12V V2.3, 80 PLUS Silver
Software
Operating SystemMicrosoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64
GraphicsNvidia GeForce 301.42
ChipsetIntel INF 9.2.3.1020

Differences in CPU overclocking strategies are very apparent; Don followed ASRock’s recommended added-voltage method, while I set a fixed voltage. ASRock prefers added voltage because it allows its motherboards to retain some power-saving features, while I simply don't trust auto-voltage mechanics to stay within safe parameters while overclocked (and I've caught vendors violating this in the past).

An Ivy Bridge-based processor manufactured at 22 nm, a less complex die, and automatic voltage management are three attributes that should let the $1000 machine completely thrash my $2000 build in efficiency comparisons. Let the games begin!

Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
Battlefield 3Campaign Mode, "Going Hunting" 90-Seconds Fraps Test Set 1: Medium Quality Defaults (No AA, 4x AF) Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Defaults (4x AA, 16x AF)
DiRT 3V1.01, Run with -benchmark example_benchmark.xml Test Set 1: High Quality Preset, No AA Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Preset, 8x AA
Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimUpdate 1.5.26, Celedon Aethirborn Level 6, 25 Seconds Fraps Test Set 1: DX11, High Details No AA, 8x AF, FXAA enabled Test Set 2: DX11, Ultra Details, 8x AA, 16x AF, FXAA enabled
StarCraft IIV1.5.1, "Tom's Hardware Guide V2" custom map, 60s Fraps Test Set 1: High Details, High Quality Test Set 2: Ultra Details, Extreme Quality
Audio/Video Encoding
iTunesVersion 10.4.1.10 x64: Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 minutes, default AAC format
Lame MP3Version 3.98.3: Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 min, convert WAV to MP3 audio format, Command: -b 160 --nores (160 Kb/s)
Handbrake CLIVersion 0.95: "Big Buck Bunny" (720x480, 23.972 FPS) 5 Minutes, Audio: Dolby Digital, 48 000 Hz, Six-Channel, English, to Video: AVC Audio: AC3 Audio2: AAC (High Profile)
MainConcept ReferenceVersion: 2.2.0.5440: MPEG-2 to H.264, MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG-2), Audio: MPEG-2 (44.1 kHz, Two-Channel, 16-Bit, 224 Kb/s), Codec: H.264 Pro, Mode: PAL 50i (25 FPS), Profile: H.264 BD HDMV
Productivity
Adobe Photoshop CS5Version 12.1 x64: Filter 15.7 MB TIF Image: Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates
Autodesk 3ds Max 2012Version 14.0 x64: Space Flyby Mentalray, 248 Frames, 1440x1080
WinZipVersion 15.5 Pro: THG-Workload (650 MB) to ZIP, command line switches "-a -ez -p -r"
WinRARVersion 4.1: THG-Workload (650 MB) to RAR, command line switches "winrar a -r -m3"
7-ZipVersion 9.22: THG-Workload (650 MB) to .7z, command line switches "a -t7z -r -m0=LZMA2 -mx=5"
ABBYY FineReaderVersion 10.0.102.82: Read PDF save to Doc, Source: Political Economy (J. Broadhurst 1842) 111 Pages
Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
3DMark 11Version: 1.0.1.0, Benchmark Only
PCMark 7Version: 1.0.4 x64, System, Productivity, Hard Disk Drive benchmarks
SiSoftware Sandra 2011Version 2011.10.17.80, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / MultiMedia, Memory Test = Bandwidth Benchmark
  • abitoms
    (double post)
    Reply
  • abitoms
    The statistician (really) in me wonders wat might have happened to the $500 system's value if a quad FX was used in it...

    I mean swapping the G860 for a FX 4100 and a Radeon 7770 *might'* have provided an interesting contrast to the above $500 system.

    Productivity up by 20% and games down by 20% I guess. Can only speculate.

    Btw, thanks crashman for the tip.
    This is just me wondering aloud. So...dunno why the thumbs down
    Reply
  • Crashman
    abitomsdamn,.... thought there was an Edit button somewhere.(sorry)So adding to my prev comment, swapping the G860 for a FX 4100 and a Radeon 7770 *might'* have provided an interesting contrast to the above $500 system.Above your first post there's a link "Read the comments in the forums". In the forums you can quick edit (on the view pane) or full edit (on a new page), and in full edit mode you can even delete your second post. That is, if you add the missing information the the first post.
    Reply
  • mayankleoboy1
    Since the benchmarks give a fair weight to the 'pro' applications, GPGPU benchmarks should be there as well.

    And those gaming benchmarks are ridiculous. Most are getting FPS in the 100+ range. So really, there is no comparison between the systems. all values above 60 are the same. How can 150 FPS be better than 120FPS on a 60HZ monitor?
    Reply
  • Crashman
    mayankleoboy1How can 150 FPS be better than 120FPS on a 60HZ monitor?Hopefully it will go along with a maximum frame time drop from 500ms to 50ms :)
    Reply
  • I know it's probably hard to do, but it would be awesome if Tom's could find out the price where price/performance is optimal instead of searching for the optimal build for a set price.
    Reply
  • frihyland
    Great article, seems like it might be time to switch up the price points for your builds though. $600, $1200, and $1800 seem much more reasonable and would give us better comparisons I think.

    Edit: Ninja'd by chmr
    Reply
  • perishedinflames
    frihylandGreat article, seems like it might be time to switch up the price points for your builds though. $600, $1200, and $1800 seem much more reasonable and would give us better comparisons I think.Edit: Ninja'd by chmr
    current price-tags feel awkward i have to agree.
    to be more specific:
    a. Entry level gaming pc ($500): you try to pick the cheapest parts so that you save for the best GPU the rest of your money can buy
    b. Enthusiast gaming pc ($1000): how most people try to build, save here and there (either by finding good deals or by dropping quality in RAM and Chassis mostly) so that you can get an awesome CPU & GPU (prolly a SSD too)
    c. Hardcore gaming pc ($2000): the tag is too high so you just blindly buy the most expensive parts (like a sheikh on vacation)

    what would show more accurate results might be one of the following two:
    1. two builds; one of $700-$800 and one of around $1500 (+/- $100)
    2. three builds again but with some $150-$200 offset; entry-lvl 650-700, enthusiast 1200-1400, hardcore 1700-1900
    Reply
  • noob2222
    abitomsThe statistician (really) in me wonders wat might have happened to the $500 system's value if a quad FX was used in it...I mean swapping the G860 for a FX 4100 and a Radeon 7770 *might'* have provided an interesting contrast to the above $500 system.Productivity up by 20% and games down by 20% I guess. Can only speculate.Btw, thanks crashman for the tip.This is just me wondering aloud. So...dunno why the thumbs downToms did a bunch of game reviews showing how bad AMD is so they don't have to use them for the SBM articles. 11 of the past 12 SBM have all been Intel, and the one AMD was bugged with a cheap cpu.

    Even though SBM was I thought to test hardware with different components, apparently as long as its only with Intel.

    BF3 as a test needs to be done online, wether its controlled or not, you can at least get a feel of how its going to work. Especially with a dual core cpu.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    noob2222Toms did a bunch of game reviews showing how bad AMD is so they don't have to use them for the SBM articles.Nice conspiracy theory, but I'm not party to it. So, go back to bugging the $500 and $1000 PC builders. They must know something I don't.
    Reply