System Builder Marathon, March 2010: $1,500 Enthusiast PC

CPU, Motherboard, And Cooler

CPU: Intel Core i7 920

Pardon the pun, but Intel's Core i7-920 CPU is at the core of our component selection. We wanted to pit a comparably-priced Core i7 system against the Core i5-750, and when that's the goal, the i7-920 is the only model in the budgetary neighborhood. It was at least a month ago when we selected components for this SBM--now that the Core i7-930 model is available, it would probably have been our pick, but the Core i7-920 remains a fine choice for our purposes.

Read Customer Reviews of Intel's Core i7-920

The comparison between the Core i5-750 and Core i7-920 is very interesting because, from a practical standpoint, the more visible difference between these processors is the Core i7-920’s ability to utilize Hyper-Threading. Both CPUs have four physical cores running at 2.66 GHz at nominal speeds (and 2.8 GHz with all of the cores active), but the Core i7-920 presents eight logical processors to the operating system. Of course, there are many more technical differences than that.

The Lynnfield-based Core i5-750 employs an on-die PCI Express controller limited to 16 lanes of second-generation connectivity. Compare that to the X58 Express chipset's 36 lanes. Also, the Core i7-920 sports a triple-channel memory controller versus Core i5-750's dual-channel logic.

Motherboard: ASRock X58 Extreme

Read Customer Reviews of ASRock's X58 Extreme

To compete in the same ballpark as Core i5-750, we need an appropriately-priced motherboard, but we don't want to give up any performance, features, or overclocking potential. We want our cake and we want to eat it, too.

Fortunately, my fellow editor Thomas Soderstrom has already done the ground work for us in his sub-$200 Core i7 board roundup. When the dust settled, the ASRock X58 Extreme took the “recommended buy” honor with a combination of great overclocking and performance capabilities and the lowest price. At $160, it's actually $10 cheaper than the Gigabyte P55-UD4P we used in tandem with the Core i5 750 CPU in the previous SBM.

CPU Cooler: Rosewill Fort 120

Read Customer Reviews of Rosewill's Fort 120

Rosewill's FORT 120 has proven itself to be an effective LGA 1366 cooler that can handle the Core i7's massive heat output, but without breaking the bank. At $40 online when this review was written, it's an easy choice for overclockers looking for big performance on a small budget.

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  • voodooburger
    Interesting comparison but I think you got some numbers wrong on the test-results. It says 'Current $1300 system' vs 'Dec 2009 1250$'.
    Not that I can't figure out which is which, but It just confuses a bit!
  • Starges
    Damnn!! I should migrate to tthe US.
  • donovands
    Sorry,I'm confused. The tests are matching today's $1,500 pc with the $1,250 December build but the graphs refer to today's (current) build as a $1,300?
  • donovands
    Can't see much of a reason to put out the extra cash for the i7, even on the overclock. It isn't worth the handful of FPS it squeezes out of games or the couple seconds on productivity apps for the price gap. Then you take a look at your power consumption and the choice is clear. At least it is to me. For gamers, GPU continues to be the place to put your cash.