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System Builder Marathon: $1,250 Mid-Range PC

Test System And Benchmarks

Now that we’ve looked at our choices and justifications in detail, let’s recap our components one more time before getting into the benches and comparing them to the previous two $1,250 enthusiast PCs against which we'll benchmark this month's machine:

February's $1,250 Mid-Range System Test Configuration
ComponentBase SettingsOverclock Setting
CPUIntel Core 2 Quad Q9550 2.83 GHz, FSB-1333, 12 MB Cache3.61 GHz (8.5 x 425 MHz), FSB-1700 1.35 V Core, 1.3 V MCH/ICH Core
CPU CoolerXigmatek HDT-1283
MotherboardGigabyte GA-EP45-UD3LR Intel P45, BIOS F1 (10/14/2008)
RAM4.0 GB G.SKILL HK 2x 2,048 MB, DDR2-800, CL 4-4-4-12 at 1.8 V2x 2,048 MB, DDR2-850, CL 5-6-6-16 at 1.9 V
GraphicsSapphire Radeon HD 4870 X2 2x AMD RV770 GPU, 750 MHz 2x 1,024 MB GDDR5 900 MHz780 MHz GPU, 1,100 GDDR5
Hard DrivesWestern Digital Caviar Black 640GD 640 GB, 7,200 RPM, 32 MB Cache
SoundOnboard
NetworkIntegrated Gigabit Networking
PowerCorsair 650TX ATX 12 V2.2, 52A on a single 12 V Rail
OpticalLITE-ON 20X DVD±R SATA Model iHAS120-04
Software and Drivers
Operating SystemWindows Vista Ultimate 32-bit, SP1
Graphics DriverCatalyst 8.12 32-bit Edition

You now know the hardware and the overclock, so let’s have a detailed look at the benchmarks and settings before we scrutinize the results.

CrysisVersion: 1.2.1, Video Quality: Very High Details, Demo: CPU-Benchmark + Tom’s Hardware Tool
Supreme CommanderForged AllianceVersion: 1.5.3599, Video Quality: Highest Settings, Demo: WallaceTX_006_006, Benchmark: Fraps 2.9.4 - Build 7037
Unreal Tournament 3Version: 1.2, Sound and DirectX10, Texture Details: 5, Level Details: 5, Demo: vCTF-Reflection_bot, Time: 12/60
World in ConflictVersion: 1.0.0.9, Video Quality: Very High details, Demo: Game-Benchmark
iTunesVersion: 7.7.0.43, Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 min, Default format AAC
Lame MP3Version: 3.98 Beta 3 (05-22-2007), Audio CD ""Terminator II" SE, 53 min, wave-to-MP3, 160 Kb/s
TMPEG 4.5Version: 4.5.1.254, Import File: "Terminator 2" SE DVD (5 Minutes), Resolution: 720x576 (PAL) 16:9
DivX 6.8.3Encoding mode: Insane Quality, Enhanced Multi-threading, Enabled using SSE4, Quarter-pixel search
XviD 1.1.3Display encoding status = off
Mainconcept Reference 1.5.1Reference H.264 Plugin Pro 1.5.1MPEG2 to MPEG2 (H.264), MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG2), Audio: MPEG2 (44.1 kHz, 2 Channel, 16-Bit, 224 Kb/s), Mode: PAL (25 FPS), Profile: Tom’s Hardware Settings for Qct-Core
Autodesk 3D Studio Max 9Version: 9.0, Rendering Dragon Image at 1920x1080 (HDTV)
Adobe Photoshop CS 3Version: 10.0x20070321, Filtering from a 69 MB TIF-Photo, Benchmark: Tomshardware-Benchmark V1.0.0.4, Filters: Crosshatch, Glass, Sumi-e, Accented Edges, Angled Strokes, Sprayed Strokes
Grisoft AVG Anti-Virus 8Version: 8.0.134, Virus base : 270.4.5/1533, Benchmark: Scan 334 MB Folder of ZIP/RAR compressed files
Winrar 3.80Version 3.70 BETA 8, WinZIP Commandline Version 2.3, Compression=Best, Dictionary=4,096 KB, Benchmark: THG-Workload (334 MB)
Winzip 11Version 11.2, Compression=Best, Benchmark: THG-Workload (139 MB)
3DMark VantageVersion: 1.02, GPU and CPU scores
PCMark VantageVersion: 1.00, System, Memory, Hard Disk Drive benchmarks, Windows Media Player 10.00.00.3646
SiSoftware Sandra XII SP2Version 2008.5.14.24, CPU Test=CPU Arithmetic/MultiMedia, Memory Test= Bandwidth Benchmark
  • johnyeah
    I just checked, I was wondering if the HD 4850 x2 (2x1gb) was a better choice at only $240? That would cut the cost by an additional.
    Reply
  • xx12amanxx
    Phenom 2 940 is 40$ dollars cheaper overclock's to 3.7-3.9 on air runs cooler and performs the same. Not sure why you went with an equal performing lower overclocking higher power using and almost 40$ more expensive cpu.
    Reply
  • Tindytim
    You're $96 under budget, but you couldn't splurge on a better case?

    Unless you made a Typo on one of those prices, they all add up to the 1154 total. So why are you so under budget?
    Reply
  • Crashman
    xx12amanxxPhenom 2 940 is 40$ dollars cheaper overclock's to 3.7-3.9 on air runs cooler and performs the same. Not sure why you went with an equal performing lower overclocking higher power using and almost 40$ more expensive cpu.
    Can't use a processor that doesn't exist. They weren't on the market when the parts were ordered...what, you thought these articles were produced overnight?

    TindytimYou're $96 under budget, but you couldn't splurge on a better case?Unless you made a Typo on one of those prices, they all add up to the 1154 total. So why are you so under budget?
    Prices dropped after the parts were ordered: The same thing happens to EVERY builder, the system loses value almost as soon as you can click the "buy" icon.
    Reply
  • Tindytim
    CrashmanPrices dropped after the parts were ordered: The same thing happens to EVERY builder, the system loses value almost as soon as you can click the "buy" icon.Wait, wait, wait.

    You mention that in the $625 article, but those were the prices at purchase. Why the inconsistency?
    Reply
  • Crashman
    TindytimWait, wait, wait.You mention that in the $625 article, but those were the prices at purchase. Why the inconsistency?
    Ask the author of the other article? I only know that the more expensive a part is, the more money you loose when the price drops.
    Reply
  • maxwellsmart_80
    *SIGH* Yet ANOHTER "Intel System Build Marathon" machine...just kidding - I understand what you are saying about the Phenom II 940 not being available at the time of component purchase - It would be nice to see some AMD in next months articles though!

    P.S. - you were under budget, why not go w/ the Antec Three Hundred Case - it's 1000% nicer than the Rosewill Piece 'o Junk you picked, and would have cooled your Overclock a lot better IMHO...just a thought - it's a killer case for the money - have you ever used it in a system build?
    Reply
  • yellowfever
    This is my first time commenting on any article at Tom's after reading everyday for 6+ years, but seeing the UD3LR motherboard pick instead of the equally priced UD3R ($2 more after rebate) or UD3P($12 more after rebate) is ridiculous for a computer hardware website. Both boards would let you do 24/7 clocks of 4+ at decent voltages on air for an E0 stepping Q9550. Gigabyte isn't going to iron out bios wrinkles on their cheapest UD3, don't forget even the UD3R was easilly beaten in stability against the UD3P until two to three months ago when better bioses started popping up. Maybe it's late, but some strange hardware gets picked on this site to save $12.
    Reply
  • SlyNine
    I would have thought your OC would have been more limited by the 4pin CPU Power on the motherboard
    Reply
  • _horse
    Im diggin' the build here, regardless of newer hardware being available later, and prices dropping after purchase.

    Suggestion: Why not split these articles up into two forms? Why not submit an "initial/at time of order" article and have that listed first to let people argue, then do all the benchmarking and submit a followup article later, attached to the initial article?

    People can still bicker over price range and stuff before the benchmarks even come out, that way you know what/when the article is being based off of.

    I know, Im the new guy and Im probably spitting in to the wind here, but...

    :)

    -Horse
    Reply