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System Builder Marathon, March 2011: $2000 Bonus Build

Price Drops = More Graphics?

System Builder Marathon, March 2011: The Articles

Here are links to each of the five 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 fill out this Google form, and be sure to read the complete rules before entering!

Day 1: The $2,000 Performance PC
Day 2: The $1,000 Enthusiast PC
Day 3: The $500 Gaming PC
Day 4: Performance And Value, Dissected
Day 5: Tom's Hand-Picked SuperCombo

Introduction

So satisfied were we in our initial System Builder Marathon machines that it was difficult to find a “replacement” for this month’s hand-picked build. Yet careful consideration for Intel’s P67 re-launch and AMD’s Radeon HD 6970 price drop forced us to consider alternatives anyway. The Radeon HD 6970 offers both higher clock speeds and a greater number of shaders for improved game performance compared to the original $2000 build’s Radeon HD 6950s, and best value pricing came from MSI.

Yet, even at the reduced price, the graphics upgrade would still force us to economize on some other part of the PC. We still liked the rest of our original build too much to sacrifice any of it, so motherboard manufacturers made the decision for us. MSI’s P67A-GD65 (B3) was the only CrossFire-capable LGA 1155 motherboard at Newegg by the second week of this month, and this part would save us $90 compared to the NF200-equipped model it replaced.

Graphics lane width would drop from x16 to x8 mode for each of our cards, but that couldn’t hurt much could it? The rest of our machine appeared the same, after all.

$2000 PC Components
"Hand Picked" BuildOriginal $2000 PC
MotherboardMSI P67A-GD65 (B3): LGA 1155, Intel P67 ExpressAsus P8P67 WS Revolution: LGA 1155, Intel P67 Express
Graphics2 x MSI R6970-2PM2D2GD5: Radeon HD 6970 2 GB, CrossFire2 x XFX HD-695A-CNFC: Radeon HD 6950 2 GB, CrossFire
ProcessorIntel Core i7-2600K: 3.4 GHz-3.8 GHz, 8 MB Shared L3 Cache
MemoryG.Skill F3-12800CL8D-8GBXM: DDR3-1600 C8, 4 GB x 2 (8 GB)
System Drive2 x A-Data S599 64 GB, SATA 3Gb/s SSD
Storage DriveSamsung F3 HD103SJ 1 TB, 7200 RPM HDD
OpticalLite-On iHBS212 BD-RE: 12x BD-R, 24x DVD±R, 48x CD-R
CaseAntec Three Hundred Illusion
PowerSeasonic SS-850HT: 850 W, ATX12V v2.31, 80 PLUS Silver
Heat SinkScythe Mugen 2 Rev. B (SCMG-2100)
 $1,959  $1,975
Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • sandmanwn
    More opportunities to win a free giveaway!
    Reply
  • sabot00
    Yay! 1 more chance to win!
    Reply
  • hayest
    Great build! Can't wait to see what is in store for next quarter!
    Reply
  • Great SBM series. What about an AMD quad core vs. an AMD triple core (unlocked 4th core) vs. Core i3 value comparison?
    Reply
  • compton
    Now this is pretty interesting. I wouldn't have suspected that the memory bandwidth reduction in the alternate build would have been as big of deal as it is. I think both builds are fantastic, but the NF200-equiped Asus board was one I myself was trying to obtain. It has been deactivated on the Egg, and the winner of the original $2000 build will be extra lucky indeed. Hopefully, it's me.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    comptonNow this is pretty interesting. I wouldn't have suspected that the memory bandwidth reduction in the alternate build would have been as big of deal as it is. I think both builds are fantastic, but the NF200-equiped Asus board was one I myself was trying to obtain. It has been deactivated on the Egg, and the winner of the original $2000 build will be extra lucky indeed. Hopefully, it's me.It was deactivated, but has since been reactivated:
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131714
    Now when you win the second PC, there will be no need for sadness: You can upgrade it with the motherboard from the first!
    Reply
  • wolfram23
    I'd love to see more info on 16x/16x vs 8x/8x. I just looked at the last time you guys reviewed it, but it was only with a GTX480. Being one of many with a P55 8x/8x mobo, I really need to know what my best upgrade path would be... single top end card at 16x? Or CF/SLI again? Is the resolution going to be the deciding factor? Seems like high res sees less of a PCIe bottleneck at 8x, but maybe it's just due to framerates being lower? Need info! lol.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    Wolfram23I'd love to see more info on 16x/16x vs 8x/8x. I just looked at the last time you guys reviewed it, but it was only with a GTX480.Look for something in a week or two. And you're right to NOT bother with the GTX480 stuff, Nvidia cards need less bandwidth than AMD cards.
    Reply
  • compton
    It was deactivated, but has since been reactivated:
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod 6813131714
    Now when you win the second PC, there will be no need for sadness: You can upgrade it with the motherboard from the first!

    This is why the SBM is the best thing going. A few other sites do similar articles, but Tom's is far and away the champion. Another well respected site doesn't even build the systems, but Tom's builds three (or four!) and gives 'em away like sweet delicious candy. Every build has its's own quirks, issues, and performance wins (losses too) that can't always be understood until the gear arrives and goes together. If system building was entirely predictable, no one would build their own. It's just more fun this way.
    Reply
  • qwertymac93
    antec 300 again... im really not liking that case. you have any experience with the haf 912? it seems like a very nice case.

    Anyway, i never understood why intel went with just 16 lanes on SB yet all the mobo makers market their ultra high end cross fire boards. :pt1cable:
    Thing I'm wondering is, if intel switched to 24 lanes, could the graphics cards work at 12x each for 2 way, and 8x for 3 way? i know a full 32 lanes is unlikely, that's why I'm asking.
    Reply