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System Builder Marathon, June 2010: System Value Compared

Test Settings

March 2010 System Builder Marathon Components
$550 PC$1,000 PC$2,000 PC
Motherboard (Overclock)Asus M4A77TD Chipset: AMD 770/SB710O/C to 254 MHz Ref. Clk.MSI 790X-G45 Chipset: AMD 790X/SB710 O/C to 214 MHz Ref. Clk.Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R Chipset: Intel X58 ExpressO/C to 195 MHz BCLK
Processor (Overclock)AMD Athlon II X3 435 2.9 GHz Three Cores, 1.5MB L2 CacheO/C to 3.556 GHz at 1.488VPhenom II X3 720 2.8 GHz Three Cores, 6MB L3 CacheO/C at X4 to 3.4 GHz, 1.5VIntel Core i7-930 2.80 GHz Four Cores, 8MB L3 CacheO/C to 4.1 GHz at 1.44V
Memory (Overclock)2GB Crucial DDR3-1333 CL 9-9-9-24, O/C at 1.60V to DDR3-1355, CL 8-8-8-244GB Crucial DDR3-1333 CL 9-9-9-24, O/C at 1.50V to DDR3-1426, CL 9-9-9-246GB Crucial DDR3-1333 CL 9-9-9-24, O/C at 1.60V to DDR3-1560, CL 8-8-8-20
Graphics (Overclock)PowerColor Radeon HD 5770 800 MHz GPU,  GDDR5-4800O/C to 910MHz, GDDR5-56402 x Gigabyte Radeon HD 5830 800 MHz GPU, GDDR5-4000O/C to 820 MHz, GDDR5-44002 x Gigabyte GeForce GTX 470 607MHz GPU, GDDR5-3482O/C to 643 MHz, GDDR5-3584
Hard DriveSamsung HD502HJ 500MB, SATA 3Gb/s 7,200 RPM, 16MB CacheWestern Digital WD3200AAJS 320GB, SATA 3Gb/s 7,200 RPM, 8MB CacheSamsung HD103SJ 1TB, SATA 3Gb/s 7,200 RPM, 32MB Cache
OpticalSamsung SH-S223C 22x DVD±R, 48X CD-RLite-On iHAS124 24x DVD±R, 48X CD-RLITE-ON iHES208-08 8x BD-ROM, 16X DVD±R
CaseCooler Master Elite 330Antec Three HundredAntec Three Hundred Illusion
PowerCM RS-500-PCAR-A3 500W, Dual 12V at 18ACorsair CMPSU-650TX 650W, Single 12V at 52ASilverStone DA750 750W Modular, 80-Plus Silver
CPU CoolerCooler Master Hyper TX3Cooler Master Hyper TX3Prolimatech Megahalems Rev.B with Scythe Slip Stream SY1225SL12LM-P fan
Software
OSMicrosoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64
GraphicsAMD Catalyst 10.5Nvidia Forceware 197.75
ChipsetIntel INF 9.1.1.1020

Overclocking requires extensive stability tests, which in turn consume huge quantities of time. Yet, there are legitimate shortcuts that can reduce the number of settings tested. For example, we’ve seen processors based Intel’s 45 nm production technology deteriorate fairly quickly (months rather than years) when pushed slightly beyond 1.45V, so the $2,000 machine’s CPU overclock stopped short of 1.45V, even though the machine had enough cooling to support the higher voltage levels needed to achieve even better clock rates.

Similarly, we’ve tested enough of these particular Crucial modules to know that they consistently exceed DDR3-1960 at CAS 9 and reach DDR3-1600 at CAS 8. With that tidbit of information, limited test time is the only somewhat-acceptable excuse today’s builders can use for not pushing the above modules farther into performance realms.

Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2Campaign, Act III, Second Sun (45 sec. FRAPS) Test Set 1: Highest Settings, No AA Test Set 2: Highest Settings, 4x AA
CrysisPatch 1.2.1, DirectX 10, 64-bit executable, benchmark tool Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA Test Set 2: Very High Quality, No AA
DiRT 2Run with -benchmark example_benchmark.xml Test Set 1: High Quality Preset, No AA Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Preset, 8x AA
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call Of PripyatCall Of Pripyat Benchmark version Test Set 1: High Preset, DX11 EFDL, No AA Test Set 2: Ultra Preset, DX11 EFDL, 4x MSAA
Audio/Video Encoding
iTunesVersion:9.0.2.25 x64 Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 minutes Default format AAC
Handbrake 0.9.4Version 0.9.4, convert first .vob file from The Last Samurai (1.0GB) to .mp4, High Profile
TMPEGEnc 4.0 XPressVersion: 4.7.3.292 Import File: Terminator 2 SE DVD (5 Minutes) Resolution: 720x576 (PAL) 16:9
DivX Codec 6.9.1Encoding mode: Insane Quality Enhanced multithreading enabled using SSE4 Quarter-pixel search
XviD 1.2.2Display encoding status = off
MainConcept Reference 1.6.1MPEG2 to MPEG2 (H.264), MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG2), Audio: MPEG2 (44.1 KHz, 2 Channel, 16-Bit, 224 Kb/s), Mode: PAL (25 FPS)
Productivity
Adobe Photoshop CS4Version: 11.0 x64, Filter 15.7MB TIF Image Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates
Autodesk 3ds Max 2010Version: 11.0 x64, Rendering Dragon Image at 1920x1080 (HDTV)
Grisoft AVG Anti-Virus 9.0Version: 9.0.663, Virus base: 270.14.1/2407, Benchmark: Scan 334MB Folder of ZIP/RAR compressed files
WinRAR 3.90Version x64 3.90, Dictionary = 4,096 KB, Benchmark: THG-Workload (334MB)
7-ZipVersion 4.65: Format=Zip, Compression=Ultra, Method=Deflate, Dictionary Size=32KB, Word Size=128, Threads=8 Benchmark: THG-Workload (334MB)
Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
3DMark VantageVersion: 1.0.1, GPU and CPU scores
PCMark VantageVersion: 1.0.1.0 x64, System, Productivity, Hard Disk Drive benchmarks
SiSoftware Sandra 2010Version 2010.1.16.11, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / MultiMedia, Memory Test = Bandwidth Benchmark
Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • manitoublack
    Another great SBM. Goodluck to US Punters who get the chance to win theses systems. Look forward to the next round where Graphics hardware will take a step out of the lime light.
    Reply
  • wildeast
    marry me tom's :D
    Reply
  • touchdowntexas13
    It's interesting to see the performance/dollar shoot up for the $2000 pc when it comes to games. That just goes to show you how much of the budget went into graphics muscle. These machines were definitely built with gaming in mind.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    touchdowntexas13It's interesting to see the performance/dollar shoot up for the $2000 pc when it comes to games. That just goes to show you how much of the budget went into graphics muscle. These machines were definitely built with gaming in mind.Yes, the only way to smash those benchmarks is with a faster CPU (2/3 of tests) or graphics (1/3 of tests). The problem with upgrading the CPU is that the 980X would cost 50% of the total budget. We haven't seen a big improvement in overclocking by using a higher-model quad-core i7
    Reply
  • touchdowntexas13
    CrashmanYes, the only way to smash those benchmarks is with a faster CPU (2/3 of tests) or graphics (1/3 of tests). The problem with upgrading the CPU is that the 980X would cost 50% of the total budget. We haven't seen a big improvement in overclocking by using a higher-model quad-core i7
    Oh no I wasn't suggesting at all that you should have gone with a 980X for the $2000 build. That's way too expensive for a $2000 limit. The 930 does it's job just fine.

    It just amazed me that two 470's in SLI were able to best the performance/dollar of the cheaper builds. Typically you see diminishing gains as you get into the more expensive components.

    It was a very interesting set of articles any way you look at it. Gamers on a budget should especially be interested in this SBM.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    touchdowntexas13It just amazed me that two 470's in SLI were able to best the performance/dollar of the cheaper builds. Typically you see diminishing gains as you get into the more expensive components.I was pretty amazed too, but I really want to give credit to $1000 PC builder Don for making the GTX 470 SLI suggestion for the $2000 machine. Spot on Don!
    Reply
  • Tamz_msc
    Overall this month's SBM was good, especially the scalability of the 470s was brought into prominence.Though overclocking those in SLI is certainly not a viable option, unless one steals power from the Hoover Dam.
    Reply
  • Willroo
    Did anyone notice that the 858w microwave has a power supply rated for 750w.....sizzle.....pop.....anyone smell smoke...? Running f@h on that machine the power company would have to burn a ton of coal a day and you'd get threat mail from them when you cause a brown out. Ah....But all those PPD.
    Reply
  • Onus
    Interesting. Based on a previous article, an Athlon II X2 440 wouldn't be enough to let the 470s in SLI stretch out; I wonder what the minimum CPU there would be.
    AND, since many of us found problems in these builds, if those were "fixed" (possibly costing more), those results would be useful too.
    Lots of good information in this SBM round. Very nice.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    WillrooDid anyone notice that the 858w microwave has a power supply rated for 750w.....sizzle.....pop.....anyone smell smoke...? Running f@h on that machine the power company would have to burn a ton of coal a day and you'd get threat mail from them when you cause a brown out. Ah....But all those PPD.Silverstone says it outputs 77 to 80% of what you input. That's 670W of power output at 858W power input. It's rated at 750W continuous power output, but don't let the facts get in the way of a rant, eh?
    Reply