Covering Our Bases
System Builder Marathon, June 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!
Market levels are defined by enthusiasts just as much as manufacturers, since different buyers have completely different needs.
While a high-end office PC might have a super-fast processor and terabytes of storage, a similarly-priced gaming system forgoes the expensive CPU and hard drives in favor of graphics power. Funnily enough, then it gets labeled “mid-priced.”
Tom’s Hardware usually favors across-the-board performance, yet graphics cards are so expensive that these often consume the budgets of otherwise well-balanced systems. When 3D games are included in the list of tasks a computer is meant to perform, we’ve found that $500, $1,000, and $2,000 are roughly the entry points for low-cost, mid-priced, and high-end markets.
While our previous System Builder Marathon targeted market midpoints, this month we’ve decided to forgo unnecessary expenditure and aim directly for the highest performance-per-dollar each builder could achieve. As is the case with most real-world builds, our $500, $1,000, and $2,000 budgets were secondary targets that we attempted to align, while aiming primarily for the best performance value within our selected markets.
|March 2010 System Builder Marathon Components|
|$550 PC||$1,000 PC||$2,000 PC|
|Motherboard||Asus M4A77TD Chipset: AMD 770/SB710||MSI 790X-G45 Chipset: AMD 790X/SB710||Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R Chipset: Intel X58-Express|
|Processor||AMD Athlon II X3 435 2.9 GHz Three Cores, 1.5MB L2 Cache||AMD Phenom II X3 720 BE Three Cores, 6MB L3 Cache||Intel Core i7-930 2.80 GHz Four Cores, 8MB L3 Cache|
|Memory||Crucial DDR3-1333 CAS 9 2 x 1GB (2GB Total)||Crucial DDR3-1333 CAS 9 2 x 2GB (4GB Total)||Crucial DDR3-1333 CAS 9 3 x 2GB (6GB Total)|
|Graphics||PowerColor AX5770 1GBD5-H 1GB GDDR5-4800 at 128-bits Radeon HD 5770 GPU at 800 MHz||2 x Gigabyte GV-R583UD-1GD 1GB GDDR5-4000 at 256-bits Radeon HD 5830 GPU at 800 MHz||2 x Gigabyte GV-N470D5-13I-B 2 x 1.28GB GDDR5-3482 607 MHz GTX 470 GPU|
|Hard Drive||Samsung HD502HJ 500MB, SATA 3Gb/s 7,200 RPM, 16MB Cache||Western Digital WD3200AAJS 320GB, SATA 3Gb/s 7,200 RPM, 8MB Cache||Samsung HD103SJ 1TB, SATA 3Gb/s 7,200 RPM, 32MB Cache|
|Optical||Samsung SH-S223C 22x DVD±R, 48X CD-R||Lite-On iHAS124 24x DVD±R, 48X CD-R||Lite-On iHES208-08 8x BD-ROM, 16X DVD±R|
|Case||Cooler Master Elite 330||Antec Three Hundred||Antec Three Hundred Illusion|
|Power||CM RS-500-PCAR-A3 500W, Dual 12V at 18A||Corsair CMPSU-650TX 650W, Single 12V at 52A||SilverStone DA750 750W Modular, 80-Plus Silver|
|CPU Cooler||Cooler Master Hyper TX3||Cooler Master Hyper TX3||Prolimatech Megahalems Rev.B|
|CPU Fan||Included with cooler||Included with cooler||Scythe SY1225SL12LM-P|
Our recent move into DirectX 11 gaming convinced $500 system builder Paul Henningsen to rename his project the “$550” machine, with a newer graphics card that would allow these titles to be played natively at his target 1680x1050 resolution.
Our $2,000 PC looks a little light at the other end of the pricing scale, simply because the elaborate storage solutions familiar to the high-end market have a negligible impact on the benchmarks we use to determine value.