Going Green To Save Some Green?
System Builder Marathon, September 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. After some delay (sorry folks), the contest is ready to be entered. Please visit the entry page, here.
We answered overwhelming requests to use AMD in our latest System Builder Marathon and found the excellent gaming, good prices, and mediocre overclocking our previous component reviews had lead us to expect. Value seekers should be especially pleased with our processor selection while criticizing a few of the “unnecessary expenses” in our highest-priced build. Yet supposedly-superfluous features aren’t the most surprising differences in today’s comparison: Let’s also reconsider a few of the performance-oriented component choices.
|September SBM PC Component Prices|
|$650-Limit Build||$1,250-Limit Build||$2,500-Limit Build|
|Motherboard||Gigabyte GA-MA790X-UD4P||MSI 790FX-GD70||MSI 790FX-GD70|
|Processor||AMD Phenom II X2 550 BE 3.1 GHz Dual-Core||AMD Phenom II X4 945 3 GHz Quad-Core||AMD Phenom II X4 955 3.2 GHz Quad-Core|
|Memory||OCZ Gold OCZ2G10664GK 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR2-1066||Patriot PVS34G1333LLKN 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3-1333||2 x Crucial CT2KIT25664BA1339 8GB (4 x 2GB) DDR3-1333|
|Graphics||2 x Sapphire 100245HDMI Radeon HD 4850 512MB||4 x Gigabyte GV-R485OC-1GH Radeon HD 4850 1GB||3 x MSI R4890-T2D1G OC Radeon HD 4890 1GB|
|OS/Program Drives||WD Blue WD5000AAKS 500GB, 7200 RPM||WD Black WD6401AALS 640GB, 7200 RPM||2 x Intel X25-M 80GB Model SSDSA2MH080G1 (RAID 0)|
|Storage Hard Drives||2 x WD Black 1TB 7200 RPM Model WD1001FALS (RAID 1)|
|Optical||Samsung SATA DVD±RW Model SH-S223B (22x)||Optiarc 24X SATA DVD±RW Model AD-7240S-0BDVD/CD||LG SATA BD-RE/HD-DVD Model GGW-H20L (6x BD-R)|
|Case||Rosewill Wind Ryder||NZXT Tempest||NZXT Panzerbox|
|Power||Antec EarthWatts EA650 650W||PC Power & Cooling S75CF 750W||Corsair CMPSU-1000HX 1000W|
|CPU Cooler||AMD Boxed Heatsink||Xigmatek HDT-S1283||Swiftech H20-220|
|Component Cooling||Antec 0761345-75018-9 "SpotCool" LED Fan|
|SSD Tray||SNT SNT-SATA2221B Hot-Swappable Backplane|
|Bay Adapter||Vantec MRK-250FD|
The cheapest build in today’s lineup is a lean, mean gaming machine, fitting two Radeon HD 4850 graphics cards and a high-speed dual-core processor into a sub-$650 package. At the other end of the scale, the high-end build takes an “everything but the kitchen sink” approach, adding liquid cooling and SSD drives to fill reader demands, plus redundant traditional drives to fill the storage demands of high-end buyers. The $1,265 machine attempts to trump the highest-priced build with a total of four graphics cards, sacrificing storage redundancy to fit these within its budget.
But with only 512MB per graphics card, will the cheapest system be powerful enough to provide the best gaming value? Will the middle-priced system’s four mainstream-performance graphics cards really be able to overtake the triple-threat high-end cards of its expensive competitor? And for the high-end system, is there really any good reason for gamers to spend this much on drives and cooling? Let’s find out.