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System Builder Marathon, Sept. 2010: $2000 Performance PC

CPU And Graphics

CPU: AMD Phenom II X6 1055T

Component cost is always important when building within a budget, but striking the perfect balance between game and application performance makes our choices even more challenging. Determined to have six physical cores in this month’s $2000 PC, we rejected Intel’s $900 Core i7-970 because it would eat into our graphics budget. Instead, we went with AMD.

Read Customer Reviews of AMD's Phenom II X6 1055T

Based on the same Thuban core as the more expensive “Black Edition” flagship model, AMD's Phenom II X6 1055T costs 1/3 less and is clocked at 5/6 the speed. Stock performance wasn’t a big factor in our decision, since we intend to overclock, and we hoped that this less-expensive model would offer similar overclocking capability using reference clock-, rather than multiplier-based, adjustments.

Graphics: 2 x MSI GeForce GTX 480 in SLI

Using Nvidia’s reference GPU cooler and clock speeds, MSI’s N480GTX-M2D15-B stood out on the day we bought it thanks to its low price and $30 mail-in rebate (per card). While we don’t use limited-time rebates in our budget calculations, that rebate might be enough to win over some readers.

Read Customer Reviews of MSI's GeForce GTX 480

While at least one of MSI’s competitors includes a mini-HDMI-to-HDMI monitor cable, MSI instead addresses the need for full-sized HDMI with a DVI-based adapter. Also included is a certificate for a free game, a 6-pin-to-8-pin power adapter, a passive DVI-to-VGA adapter, and a driver CD with MSI’s famed Afterburner overclocking utility.

Note that we ordered these cards before our recent test revealed that much of their performance potential is wasted at resolutions below 2560x1600. While the lucky winner of our SBM giveaway might use the excess capability of these cards in Surround gaming, the high price will definitely hurt this build at the lower resolutions used in our upcoming system value comparison.

  • IzzyCraft
    Love the case choice everything else is pretty much can't really hate it or love it, but i mean you can't really hate any of the parts when they cost that much as they are all good but some just not right for some jobs.
    I do not care for AMD and SLI just because you'll be using an nvidia chipset and my past experiences with them have been poor.
    I also do not care for 6 cores for games although i mostly use my computer for other things which may like those 6 cores, but i don't find too many uses for 2 480's outside of gaming.

    Hopefully the next one will be one i can't help but agree with, A i5-750/760 with 2 460's in sli :D
  • Tamz_msc
    This month's SBM is forgettable.It confirms that AMD+SLI = BIG fail.
  • Tamz_msc
    A better option( without sacrificing GTX 480 SLI) in my opinion is:
    Core i7 950 (add 100$)
    GIGABYTE GA-X58A-UD3R (add 50$)
    GSkill 6GB RAM(subtract 70$)
  • proofhitter
    Big CPU fail. I love your honesty, good one Tom's! Nice try nevertheless. Keep it up!
  • jrharbort
    The lesson here? AMD hexacores are still the best value on the market, but is still unable to keep up with the i7 in overall performance clock for clock. It's sadly not the best choice in high end systems, but it still wont stop me from recomending it to friends interested in sub-$1000 systems.
  • sassan_88
    I dont like systems Based on AMD's chipset
  • jj463rd
    With Sandybridge and Bulldozer just right around the corner I don't think that it makes any sense to build right now with current (especially CPU + motherboard)components.
  • Crashman
    jj463rdWith Sandybridge and Bulldozer just right around the corner I don't think that it makes any sense to build right now with current (especially CPU + motherboard)components.Maybe not...this system was built a couple months ago.
  • makwy2
    Love the honesty. I think this is just shows that a MUCH cheaper AMD chip ($700 less) is close but not quite in true competition with the top of the line Intel chip. I'll stick to my AMD chips because I am not made of money.

    Again, I love the honesty and straight talk TH brings with these bi-monthly features that give system builders a real idea about performance and cost-effective parts.
  • aaron92
    I really do value the AMD Hex vs Intel, 6 cores is already cutting edge and 12 threads is going beyond a desktop computer for this year atleast.