Three Well-Built Machines Face Off
System Builder Marathon, March 2012: The Articles
Here are links to each of the five 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, including the Bonus Customer Choice PC, which we picked out using the highest-rated components in Newegg's feedback system.
To enter the giveaway, please fill out this SurveyGizmo form, and be sure to read the complete rules before entering!
Without the benefit of an unlimited budget, improving performance in one area typically means making a sacrifice somewhere else. Recent changes to our benchmark suite slightly deemphasize the importance of beefy graphics at the high-end, since CPU bottlenecks hamper some of its games. On the other hand, Paul, the guy building our entry-level machine, usually can’t afford a fast enough graphics card to see those CPU bottlenecks. Those concepts drive this quarter's cheapest and most expensive systems in opposite directions. I dropped SLI from my $2600 machine, while Paul gave up a capable Core i5 processor from his $650 contender.
More controversial were the choices made by Don, who picked parts for our $1250 PC. He went with the same high-end graphics card as me in an attempt to match the expensive machine in at least the gaming segment of our metrics. Knowing that his affordable quad-core CPU couldn't stand up to my Sandy Bridge-E-based Core i7-3930K in the content creation apps, Don made his stand where he knew he stood a chance. Frequency (rather than core count) determines where most games run into a bottleneck, so Don pinned his hopes on topping-out Turbo Boost technology, since his Core i5-2400 is one of those "partially-unlocked" models.
So, we end up with two purpose-built gaming machines taking on a fully-loaded $2600 heavyweight in the productivity and content creation suites. That's definitely not going to be a fair fight. But you could also look at this match-up as one feature-oriented (overpriced) behemoth taking on two budget-oriented game systems in a battle for the best value. That may be equally unfair. We’ll do our best to present both sides of the performance/value debate, though.
|Q1, 2012: System Builder Marathon PC Components|
|$2600 Perfomance PC||$1300 Enthusiast PC||$650 Gaming PC|
|Processor||Intel Core i7-3930K 3.2GHz Hexa-Core||Intel Core i5-2400 3.10 GHz Quad-Core||Intel Core i3-2120 3.3 GHz Dual-Core|
|Motherboard||Asus P9X79 Pro LGA 2011, Intel X79 Express||ASRock P67 Pro3 SE LGA 1155, Intel P67 Express||Gigabyte H61MA-D3V LGA 1155, Intel H61 Express|
|Graphics||MSI R7970-2PMD3GD5/OC Radeon HD 7970 3 GB O/C||PowerColor AX7970 3GBD5 Radeon HD 7970 3 GB||XFX HD-395X-ZNFC Radeon HD 6950 1 GB|
|Memory||G.Skill F3-1600C9Q-16GAB 16 GB (4 x 4 GB) DDR3-1600||Mushkin Enhanced 996981 8 GB (2 x 4 GB ) DDR3-1600||Team Elite TED34096M1333C9DC 4 GB (2 x 2 GB) DDR3-1333|
|System Drive||Mushkin MKNSSDCR240GB-DX 240 GB, SATA 6Gb/s SSD||Crucial m4 CT064M4SSD2 64 GB SATA 6Gb/s SSD||Seagate ST500DM002 0.5 TB 7200 RPM HDD|
|Storage Drive||Seagate ST1500DL003 1.5 TB, 5900 RPM HDD||Hitachi HDS721075DLE630 0.75 TB 7200 RPM HDD||Uses System Drive|
|Optical||Pioneer BDR-206DBKS 12x BD-R||Samsung TS-H353C 16x DVD-ROM||LG GH22NS90B 22x DVD±R|
|Case||Antec P280 Case w/Rosewill Fans||Apevia X-Trooper Junior||Rosewill FBM-01|
|Power||Seasonic Platinum-860 860 W, 80 PLUS Platinum||Corsair CMPSU-650TXV2 650 W, 80 PLUS Bronze||Rosewill Green RG630-S12 630 W, 80 PLUS|
|Heat Sink||Zalman CNPS12X||Cooler Master Hyper TX3||Intel Boxed Cooler|
Notice that the title for each build refers to its budget limit, not its actual cost. Two days ago, we saw Don call his configuration the $1250 build, though he did have another $50 available to him. Amounts left unspent simply contribute to each PC’s price-per-performance calculations.