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System Builder Marathon: $500 Gaming PC

Conclusion

Conclusion

As expected, at stock clock speeds, our $500 build was often short of impressive. But we aimed to achieve our lofty goals that we had for this entry-level system by overclocking the CPU far beyond out-of-box speeds. There is almost an addiction among hardware enthusiasts to squeeze extra performance out of their components and maximize the value they get for their money. Let’s sum up the total performance gains we achieved with our overclocking endeavors and see how well we measured up to our expectations.

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Even overclocked, our $500 PC didn’t fair too well in the Crysis and Supreme Commander Forged Alliance max-quality detail levels, but it managed quite well for the other two games at the highest details. We’ll still say that our choice of components and overclocking efforts were successful on the gaming front, as they raise the bar for our maximum playable settings versus stock speeds and offer a very enjoyable gaming experience. Until 4 GB of RAM and an even more powerful graphics card can be squeezed into this tight budget, it would be difficult to beat out a highly overclocked 512 MB 8800 GT, a 3.2 GHz dual-core E2180 and 2 GB of RAM for gaming.

The biggest percentage increase in performance was in the Audio/Video Encoding suite. Our little $70 dual-core CPU may have low stock clocks, FSB and very limited L2 cache, but cranking up the clock speeds proved to be well worth it, making this low-budget system perform like a much more expensive machine.

Rounding out our other applications, we were rewarded with exceptional gains in three of the five benchmarks with the overclocked PC. Low gains in AVG and WinRAR brought the overall application average down by quite a bit, though.

Our aim was to build a solid, dependable entry-level system that would offer as much performance possible in a broad range of games and applications. Did we make every dollar count? We think so and feel the $500 overclocked PC is a well balanced system offering about as good of a performance as could be expected for the money. But, a big part of this System Builder Marathon is still to come, as we see how our low-budget PC fares against the more expensive machines in overall value.

  • radguy
    Thanks for the article. I always enjoy these sbm builds you guys do. I guessed wrong again but actually think you guys picked a better choice. Nice to know build quality is still taken into consideration even at the 500 dollar range. Also just to mention this again next time noise and power consumption charts please.
    Reply
  • "The silicon hard drive grommets"

    That wouldn't dampen much noise.

    Try silicone hard drive grommets
    (They are usually silicon-oxygen based polymers)
    Reply
  • slomo4sho
    I wish you used the E5200 CPU for this build, current prices reflect a difference of $14 only.

    Also, in the future, would it be possible for you to have two builds for the $500 budget build. One based on Intel AND the other on AMD?
    Reply
  • xx12amanxx
    I would have spent maybe 30$ on a cheapo case and put the 50$ toward's a hd4850! Most people building a 500$ pc are going to want maximun performance and not care what the case looks like.
    Reply
  • cangelini
    xX12amanXxI would have spent maybe 30$ on a cheapo case and put the 50$ toward's a hd4850! Most people building a 500$ pc are going to want maximun performance and not care what the case looks like.
    $30 for a case and PSU? Sounds like a build asking for trouble. I personally don't think $80 for a nice chassis and power supply is bad.
    Reply
  • cangelini
    Slomo4shOI wish you used the E5200 CPU for this build, current prices reflect a difference of $14 only. Also, in the future, would it be possible for you to have two builds for the $500 budget build. One based on Intel AND the other on AMD?
    Heya Slo! We're actually weighing the possibility of simply switching off each month on the $500 system since AMD has some very compelling hardware in that range.
    Reply
  • slomo4sho
    cangeliniHeya Slo! We're actually weighing the possibility of simply switching off each month on the $500 system since AMD has some very compelling hardware in that range.
    Well in this case, an AMD build might have allowed for a 4850. I look forward to seeing what you decide upon but I still think a monthly build of each platform at the $500 build is definitely something worthwhile.

    Transitioning month to month between the two usually does not allow for comparative annalist in your "Performance And Value, Dissected" write-ups
    Reply
  • cangelini
    Slomo4shO
    Gotcha. We'll discuss that as a possibility, then.
    Reply
  • lounge lizard
    I love the article and second the notion that it would be a great idea to run it every month. I for one am a firm believer of upgrading more consistently at a reasonable cost per component rather then just throwing $1500 at new machine.

    At some point it would be interesting if you guys could run an Upgrade Edition of the $500 system builder. Most people that have the courage and knowledge to overclock their new parts by over 50% (wow the E2180 rocks!)would almost definitely have components that they could and would want to swap between rigs.

    Again, great article.
    Reply
  • reasonablevoice
    king_edgar"The silicon hard drive grommets" That wouldn't dampen much noise.Try silicone hard drive grommets(They are usually silicon-oxygen based polymers)
    What the hell are you saying?
    Reply