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System Builder Marathon: $2,500 Enthusiast PC

Upgrading To First Class…On The Cheap

System Builder Marathon, December 2008: 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).


Intel’s Core i7 release schedule forced us to omit the high-priced configuration from November’s System Builder Marathon (SBM), but the intermission gave us time to reevaluate our priorities. With a price of over $4,000, our previous elite-performance systems had become too costly for most enthusiast builders, let alone everyday value-seekers. And so we listened to your comments and dialed our highest-end configuration down a couple of notches.

A better-balanced approach was sought for this month’s SBM, with a high-end budget that would appeal to former $5,000 system builders who, given the realities of today’s economy, might have otherwise looked for an excuse to delay discretionary spending. Manufacturers have obliged with reduced-price versions of their highest-end components, while sellers are cutting deeper into profit margins simply to maintain market share. With a little effort, we’re hoping today’s $2,500 system can leave October’s $4,500 PC as a distant memory of money needlessly squandered.

$2500 High-End System Components
ComponentModelPrice (USD)
CPUIntel Core i7 920$285
CPU CoolerVigor Monsoon III LT$60
MotherboardEVGA X58 3X SLI (P/N: 132-BL-E758-A)$300
RAMSuper Talent 3GB DDR3-1333 Triple-Channel Kit$79
Graphics3x EVGA GeForce GTX 260 Core 216 Superclocked Edition (SLI)$780
Hard Drives3x Samsung Spinpoint F1 HD103UJ 1.0 TB$300
NetworkIntegrated Gigabit Networking0
CaseCooler Master Stacker 830 Evolution (Black)$180
PowerSilverstone OP1000 Evolution$200
OpticalLG GGC-H20LK 6X Blu-ray/HD DVD-ROM, 16X DVD±RW$115
Additional Fans2x Scythe S-FLEX SFF21F 120 mm 1,600 RPM$31
Fan Accessories2x Rosewill RCW-308 3-pin Fan Extension, 12"$2
Total Price$2,332

A quick look at its components reveals that our $2,500 system does away with an "overpriced" liquid cooling system found in previous high-end builds, but when it comes to overclocking, extra cooling is often money well spent. We definitely would have chosen high-value liquid cooling components if any well-priced Core i7 water blocks had been available. 

Also notice that our $2,500 component list has already dropped by over 7% in the two weeks it took us to build and test the system. This bonus value could be spent in many ways or saved for use in future upgrades.

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