System Builder Marathon, March 2011: Value Compared

Systems and Benchmark Configurations

Test Hardware Configurations
 $550 PC$1000 PC$2000 PC
ASRock M3A770DE
Socket AM3, AMD 770/SB710
O/C to 243 MHz RCLK
ARock P67 Extreme4
LGA 1155, Intel P67 Express
No BCLK Overclock
Asus P8P67 WS Revolution
LGA 1155, Intel P67 Express
No BCLK Overclock
AMD Phenom II X4 925
2.80 GHz Quad-Core
O/C to 3.40 GHz, 1.30V
Intel Core i5-2500K
3.30 GHz Quad-Core
O/C to 4.40 GHz, 1.30V
Intel Core i7-2600K
3.40 GHz, Four Physical Cores
O/C to 4.80 GHz, 1.40V
4 GB G.Skill DDR3-1333
CAS 9-9-9-24, U/C at 1.59V
to DDR3-1296, CL 8-8-8-24
4 GB G.Skill DDR3-1333
CAS 7-7-7-20,1.50 V
No Overclock
8 GB G.Skill DDR3-1600
CAS 8-8-8-24, O/C at 1.60V
to DDR3-1866 CL 8-9-8-24
Sapphire HD 6850 1GB
775 MHz GPU, GDDR5-4000
O/C to 800 MHz, GDDR5-4400
Gigabyte HD 6950 2GB
800 MHz GPU,  GDDR5-5000
O/C to 880 MHz, GDDR5-5200
2x XFX Radeon HD 6950 2GB
800 MHz GPU,  GDDR5-5000
O/C to 840 MHz, GDDR5-5300
Hard DriveSamsung F4 HD322GJ/U 320GB
7200 RPM, 16MB Cache
Samsung F3 HD103SJ 1.0 TB
7200 RPM, 32MB Cache
2x A-Data S599 SSD, Striped
64 GB x2 (128 GB Combined)
OpticalLite-On iHAS 124-04
24X DVD±R, 48X CD-R
Asus DRW-24B1ST
24X DVD±R, 48X CD-R
Lite-On iHBS212 BD-RE
12X BD-R, 16X DVD±R
CaseXigmatek ASGARD IIIn-Win AndroidAntec Three Hundred Illusion
PowerAntec EA380D 380W
ATX12V v2.3, 80 PLUS Bronze
Corsair CMPSU-650TX 650W
ATX12V v2.2, 80 PLUS
Seasonic SS-850HT 850W
ATX12V v2.31, 80 PLUS Silver
CPU CoolerAMD Boxed CoolerCooler Master Hyper 212 PlusScythe Mugen 2 Rev. B
OSMicrosoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64
GraphicsAMD Catalyst 11.2
ChipsetAMD All-in-1 Ver. 8.631Intel INF

Limited by its stock cooling solution, the $550 PC still reaches a moderate 3.40 GHz CPU overclock. Larger coolers and newer core technologies enable higher frequencies, such as the $1000 system’s 4.40 GHz at 1.30 V and the $2000 build’s 4.80 GHz at 1.40 V. Low-budget builder Paul Henningsen relied on reduced latencies to boost his system’s memory performance, while the high-end build used higher frequencies for similar purposes.

Perhaps the most extreme technique for extracting additional performance, $1000 system builder Don Woligroski flashed the BIOS of his single Radeon HD 6950 graphics card to HD 6970 GPU specifications, though its memory didn’t support the full clock rate of the higher-model card.

Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
CrysisPatch 1.2.1, DirectX 10, 64-bit executable, benchmark tool
Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA
Test Set 2: Very High Quality, 8x AA
F1 2010V1.01, Run with -benchmark example_benchmark.xml
Test Set 1: High Quality Preset, No AA
Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Preset, 8x AA
Just Cause 2Version, Built-In Benchmark "Concrete Jungle"
Test Set 1: Medium Details, No AA, 8x AF
Test Set 2: Highest Details, 8x AA, 16x AF
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: 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 GB) to .mp4, High Profile
TMPGEnc 4.0 XPressVersion:
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 1.6.1MPEG-2 to MPEG-4 (H.264), MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG-2), Audio: MPEG-2 (44.1 KHz, 2 Channel, 16-Bit, 224 Kb/s), Mode: PAL (25 FPS)
Adobe Photoshop CS4Version: 11.0 x64, Filter 15.7 MB TIF Image
Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates
Autodesk 3ds Max 2010Version: 11.0 x64, Rendering Dragon Image at 1920x1080 (HDTV)
WinRAR 3.90Version x64 3.90, Dictionary = 4096 KB, Benchmark: THG-Workload (334 MB)
7-ZipVersion 4.65: Format=Zip, Compression=Ultra, Method=Deflate, Dictionary Size=32 KB, Word Size=128, Threads=8
Benchmark: THG-Workload (334 MB)
Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
3DMark 11Version:, Benchmark Only
PCMark VantageVersion: x64, System, Productivity, Hard Disk Drive benchmarks
SiSoftware Sandra 2011Version 2011.1.17.15, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / MultiMedia, Memory Test = Bandwidth Benchmark
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  • Anonymous
    These articles are always interesting, but...

    Could you please do an EU/UK SBM at some point? It's all very well looking at these to help decisions for our builds, but there can be big differences in relative pricing over here. It would, if nothing else, be an interesting comparision, plus you could run the giveaway open to us folks this side of the pond for a change...
  • evilgenius134
    For builds across the ocean to the UK you can simply change the symbol as hardware has a tendency to be the same numerical value from US to the UK.