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System Builder Marathon: TH's $2000 Hand-Picked Build

The Perfect PC?

System Builder Marathon, December 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!

Day 1: The $2,000 Performance PC
Day 2: The $1,000 Enthusiast PC
Day 3: The $500 Gaming PC
Day 4: Performance And Value, Dissected

Editor's Note: The purpose of the System Builder Marathon is extracting maximum value from enthusiast components at a variety of price points. We come together at the end of the series to see whose build exemplified our goal.

This time around, like last time, Newegg gave us an opportunity to pick the parts we as editors wanted to see--after the fact. Our follow-up build adds a *lot* of value to the first $2000 build, and we're much happier recommending the components in this story.

As before, we've worked with Newegg to make this entire configuration available as a combo build--at a discount to Tom's Hardware readers. The parts we ordered added up to $1920. The prices later dropped to $1865. Using Newegg's Combo link, the same setup is selling for $1752. That's pretty impressive for a setup we already thought was a solid value close to $2000!

Introduction

This is the second System Builder Marathon where we’ve had a chance to address the shortcomings of a previous build, and the second time we’ve chosen to focus on the $2000 PC for those improvements. After all, we were incredibly impressed with the performance profile of the original, yet still saw some incredible opportunities for betterment.

Minor misgivings over things like the price of the case aside (it was a very nice case), the real issue was that we tried to get more value for our dollar by purchasing highly-overclockable D9KPT-based memory in a budget kit, only to find that the manufacturer had changed suppliers.

This time, we’d start with memory of guaranteed quality. But the increased price for memory would force us to scale back our case budget. We’d also ditch the overkill cooling fan for something that didn’t require management software to retain OSHA-compliant noise levels, and address the improvements AMD recently made to the enthusiast graphics market with a product released after our original system had been ordered.

$2000 Performance PC Components
Alternative $2000 PCOriginal $2000 PC
MotherboardGigabyte X58A-UD3R: LGA 1366, Intel X58 Express, ICH10R
ProcessorIntel Core i7-950: 3.06 GHz, Quad-Core, Eight-threads
MemoryKingston KHX1600C7D3K3/6GX: DDR3-1600 CAS 7, 6 GBMushkin 998586: DDR3-1333 CAS 9, 6 GB
Graphics2 x Gigabyte GV-R687D5-1GD-B 1 GB Radeon HD 68702 x EVGA 012-P3-1470-AR 1.28 GB GeForce GTX 470
System Drive2 x A-Data S599 64 GB: SATA 3Gb/s MLC SSD
Storage DriveSamsung F3 HD103SJ: 1 TB, 7200 RPM HDD
OpticalLite-On iHBS212 BD-RE: 12x BD-R, 2x BD-RE, 16x DVD±RLite-On iHBS112 BD-RE: 12x BD-R, 2x BD-RE, 16x DVD±R
CaseCorsair Graphite Series 600TSilverStone Fortress FT02B
PowerSeasonic SS-850HT: 850 W, 80 PLUS SilverSilverStone ST85F-P: 850 W, Modular, 80 PLUS Silver
Heat SinkProlimatech Megahalems Rev.B
CPU FanCooler Master R4-BMBS-20PK-R0 2000 RPM, 120 mmDelta AFC1212D-PWM 3400 RPM, 120 mm
Total Price$1920 $2000

Can this build provide better performance, lower cost, and more efficiency than the original? Let’s have a closer look.

  • dogman_1234
    Can't Wait untill Bulldozer and Sandy Brodge Editions come out. I know it sounds cliche but...
    Reply
  • Tamz_msc
    This is probably the best way of spending 2000$ for a PC.
    Reply
  • hardcore_gamer
    Performance / watt of this build is really impressive.
    Reply
  • A price table for the new build would be nice too, so i can see how much would it cost when i remove the BD and Case.
    Reply
  • gti88
    Tamz_mscThis is probably the best way of spending 2000$ for a PC.I don't think so, considering that cheaper and less power-hungry Sandy Bridge is coming.
    Reply
  • scook9
    gti88I don't think so, considering that cheaper and less power-hungry Sandy Bridge is coming.You forgot weaker ;)
    Reply
  • scrumworks
    Decent review but it seems that in nvidia setups, even the same CPUs can somehow overclock better. And the speed of RAM has negligible or no effect on overall system performance so no point tuning that component.
    Reply
  • Luay
    "Familiarity in overclocking and a third PCIe x16 graphics card slot that operates in x8 mode when occupied are two reasons why we chose the X58A-UD3R over the similarly-priced Asus Sabertooth X58."

    Ok, fine. Wouldn't hurt to familiarize anew with a better board and that 3rd slot wasn't used anyways. Megahalems over Noctua? Seasonic over Corsair AX? :(

    Or was it last minute budget cuts to make it less than $2000?
    Reply
  • nerrawg
    scrumworksDecent review but it seems that in nvidia setups, even the same CPUs can somehow overclock better. And the speed of RAM has negligible or no effect on overall system performance so no point tuning that component.
    What do you mean, this was the same model processor but not the same one. They got a new one for this build - so how does that show that the graphics have anything to do with the overclock? If anything it says exactly what is stated in the article, that the overclockability of the i7 950 varies between each sample quite a margin.

    NVidia or for that matter AMD graphics have no effect on the CPU overclock.
    Reply
  • Yuka
    How does a Core i5 @~4.3Ghz or a Phenom II X6 @~4Ghz stack up against the Core i7? Well, that's using the same other components, 'cept RAM and MoBo :P

    I'd like to know that.

    Cheers!
    Reply