Performance Is Value
System Builder Marathon, September 2010: 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!
Enthusiasts have a different mindset from the general public with regard to performance. While Joe down the street equates value with how cheap his PC is, real power users know that performance defines what their PC is worth. It doesn’t matter how inexpensive something is if it doesn’t work well, and a functional product certainly has no value if it isn't fast enough to perform its intended task.
While Joe certainly wouldn’t be foolish enough to put his child on the freeway with a moped, he might be tempted to buy that $300 discount PC for his little-Joe-gamer. Enthusiasts know better.
This month saw budget-builder Paul Henningsen attempt to provide little-Joe-gamer a convincing counter-offer, in a true gaming system that ran him only $400. Of course, the builder who follows in Paul's footsteps still has to find his own peripherals and operating system, but we hope he is able to reclaim much of that stuff from the waste of purchases past. Discontinued discounts have since pushed his system cost up to a still-acceptable $409.
Our mid-budget build followed a more conventional enthusiast-class plan, beginning with Intel’s popular, mid-range Core i5. Builder Don Woligroski nearly broke the bank with his choice of graphics card, but recent price cuts and limited-time discounts brought his system price back under the limit.
Our high-end build took a completely different direction when its builder caved to reader requests from System Builder Marathons past, fitting a six-core processor and two GeForce GTX 480 graphics cards within his $2000 budget. High GPU-oriented costs limited our six-core options to AMD’s cheapest Phenom II X6, in turn forcing the unconventional choice of Nvidia’s previous-generation SLI chipset to make it all work.
|September 2010 System Builder Marathon Components|
|$400 Budget PC||$1000 Budget PC||$2000 Budget PC|
|Motherboard||ASRock M3A770DE Chipset: AMD 770/SB710||Asus P7P55D-E LX Chipset: Intel P55 Express||MSI NF980-G65 Nvidia nForce 980a SLI|
|Processor||AMD Athlon II X3 440 3.0 GHz, Three Cores 1.5 MB L2 Cache, Socket AM3||Intel Core i5-750 2.66 GHz, Four Cores 8 MB L3 Cache, LGA 1156||AMD Phenom II X6 1055T 2.8 GHz, Six Cores 6 MB L3 Cache, Socket AM3|
|Memory||Crucial CT2KIT12864BA1339 2 x 1 GB (2 GB Total) DDR3-1333 CAS 9-9-9-24||Crucial CT2KIT25664BA1339 2 x 2 GB (4 GB Total) DDR3-1333 CAS 9-9-9-24||G.Skill F3-10666CL9D-8GBRL 2 x 4 GB (8 GB Total) DDR3-1333 CAS 9-9-9-24|
|Graphics||PowerColor AX5670 512MD5-H 512 MB GDDR5-4000 HD 5670 GPU at 775 MHz||MSI N470GTX-M2D12-B 1.2 GB GDDR5-3348 GTX 470 GPU at 607 MHz||2 x MSI N480GTX-M2D15-B 2 x 1.5 GB GDDR5-3696 2 x GTX 480 GPU at 700 MHz|
|Hard Drive||Western Digital WD2500AAJS 250 GB, 7200 RPM, 8 MB Cache, SATA 3Gb/s||Western Digital WD36401AALS 640 GB, 7200 RPM, 32 MB Cache, SATA 3Gb/s||Samsung F3 HD103SJ 1.0 TB, 7200 RPM, 32 MB Cache, SATA 3Gb/s|
|Optical||Samsung SH-S223C 22x DVD±R, 48X CD-R||Lite-On iHAS124 24x DVD±R, 48X CD-R||Lite-On iHAS124 24x DVD±R, 48X CD-R|
|Case||Rosewill Blackbone||Antec Three Hundred||SilverStone Raven RV02-BW|
|Power||Cooler Master Ext. Pwr. PlusRS-500-PCAR-A3-US 500 W, ~70% Efficiency||Corsair CMPSU-650TX 650 W, 80 PLUS Standard||Cooler Master Silent Pro RSA00-AMBAJ3-US 1000 W, Modular, 80 PLUS Bronze|
|CPU Cooler||AMD boxed heat sink & fan||Cooler Master Hyper TX3 (RR-910-HTX3-G1)||Scythe Mugen 2 Rev. B (SCMG-2100)|
Huge reductions in the budget-build’s price are almost certain to increase its value rating, but will that machine still perform adequately throughout our entire benchmark set?
Conversely, will AMD’s lower performance-per-clock throughput combine with the poorly-threaded nature of many desktop applications to sabotage our high-priced machine?
Before anyone assumes a big win for the mid-priced system, let’s take a closer look at the benchmark data.