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System Builder Marathon, June 2012: $2000 Performance PC

Ivy Bridge And Kepler Come Together

System Builder Marathon, June 2012: The Articles

Here are links to each of the four articles in this quarter’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 SurveyGizmo form, and be sure to read the complete rules before entering!

Day 1: The $2000 Performance PC
Day 2: The $1000 Enthusiast PC
Day 3: The $500 Gaming PC
Day 4: Performance And Value, Dissected


Halving our System Builder Marathon budgets each day makes it easy to compare value. We can say things like "twice as fast for four times the money," and often be accurate without a lot of mental math.

On the other hand, small changes to our cheapest PC’s budget get multiplied by four by the time they reach our high-end build. While the $500 machine slowly climbed to $600 out of necessity, there really wasn't any good reason to add $400 to our flagship (even considering events like last year's spike in hard drive prices). So, our top-end machine eventually reached $2600 before Paul realized that he no longer needed the extra $150 to create a really solid list of parts.

So, we collectively punched the reset button.

But then something almost magical happened in the meantime: Intel launched its Ivy Bridge architecture, and Nvidia launched its GeForce GTX 680. Whiplash-inducing game performance no longer required a pair of cards or a stupidly-large (and expensive) dual-GPU part. And Intel’s new CPU technology gave us a perfect chance to ditch its pricey six-core Sandy Bridge-E and glorified P67 chipset.

Using the latest hardware, we thought we might be able to construct a machine boasting equal-or-better performance in most applications for less money.

The finished build looks eerily similar to a gaming PC, and that’s not by mistake. Many of the parts in this high-end build were picked in response to reader feedback. While former $2000+ machines were designed to be multipurpose transcoding machines that could game well, the lighter-duty processor in this system started us down the path of a gaming machine able to handle content creation in a passable way.

Q2 2012 $2000 Enthusiast PC Components
ProcessorIntel Core i7-3770K (Ivy Bridge): 3.5 - 3.9 GHz, 8 MB Shared L3 Cache$350
GraphicsAsus GTX680-DC2T-2GD5: GeForce GTX 680 (Factory O/C)$540
MotherboardASRock Z77 Extreme6: LGA 1155, Intel Z77 Express$175
MemoryG.Skill F3-1600C8D-8GAB: DDR3-1600 C8, 4 GB x 2 (8 GB)$58
System DriveMushkin MKNSSDCR120GB-MX: 120 GB, SATA 6Gb/s SSD$120
Storage DriveSeagate Barracuda Green ST2000DL003: 2 TB, 5900 RPM Hard Drive$120
OpticalLite-On iHAS124-04: 24x DVD±R, 12x DVD±R DL$18
CaseAntec Nine Hundred w/USB 3.0$100
PowerSeasonic X750 Gold SS-750KM: ATX12V V2.3 80 PLUS Gold$160
CPU CoolerZalman CNPS12X$100
 Total Cost $1741

And then there’s the price. By trimming some of last quarter's luxuries, like the BD-R (for ripping and long-term backups), a silent case (to avoid distractions when working), and a larger SSD (providing more room for performance-sensitive apps), we cut around $300 from this build. This is, after all, primarily a gaming machine, and the $259 we had left couldn't get us a second GeForce GTX 680.

It wasn't even possible to consider dual GeForce GTX 670s when we placed our order, though that's the route we'd probably go at this point (since we'd still likely end up within our budget range). GeForce GTX 690s weren't available either. But they're simply too expensive and too limited to be a viable option for most.

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.