System Builder Marathon, March 2011: Value Compared

System Builder Marathon, March 2011: 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 fill out this Google form, and be sure to read the complete rules before entering!

Day 1: The $2,000 Performance PC
Day 2: The $1,000 Enthusiast PC
Day 3: The $500 Gaming PC
Day 4: Performance And Value, Dissected
Day 5: Tom's Hand-Picked SuperCombo


I find it almost ironic that folks who use the value label in talking about their most affordable finds will then go on to talk about the value of their most expensive purchases. The true meaning of value varies between all of us, so long as the product we're talking about does its job the way we want it to. Any product that doesn’t perform adequately then becomes worthless.

Putting aside those qualitative assessments, value can also be determined mathematically by comparing performance to price. The numeric “bang-for-the-buck” result is an easy tool for picking winners, but doesn’t do a good enough job explaining whether the winning product can sufficiently fill the buyer’s needs. A perfect comparison would discuss numeric expressions of performance-value, as well as the suitability of each system for specific tasks.

System Builder Marathon Components
 $550 PC$1000 PC$2000 PC
MotherboardASRock M3A770DE
Socket AM3, AMD 770/SB710
ARock P67 Extreme4
LGA 1155, Intel P67 Express
Asus P8P67 WS Revolution
LGA 1155, Intel P67 Express
ProcessorAMD Phenom II X4 925 2.8GHz
Quad-Core, 6MB Cache
Intel Core i5-2500K 3.30 GHz
Quad-Core, 6 MB Cache
Intel Core i7-2600K 3.40 GHz
Quad-Core, HT, 8 MB Cache
MemoryG.Skill F3-10666CL9D-4GBNS
DDR3-1333 C9, 2GB x2 (4GB)
G.Skill F3-10666CL7D-4GBRH
DDR3-1333 C7, 2GB x2 (4GB)
G.Skill F3-12800CL8D-8GBXM
DDR3-1600 C8, 4GB x2 (8GB)
GraphicsSapphire 100315L
Radeon HD 6850 1GB
Gigabyte GV-R695D5-2GD-B
Radeon HD 6950 2GB
Radeon HD 6950 2GB, XFire
System 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)
Storage DriveUses System DriveUses System DriveSamsung F3 HD103SJ 1.0 TB
7200 RPM, 32MB Cache
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
Heat SinkAMD Boxed CoolerCooler Master Hyper 212 PlusScythe Mugen 2 Rev. B
 Total Price

The cheapest PC in today’s comparison is already equipped with a high-performance graphics card and, as always, will receive the same level of overclocking attention as its high-priced competitors. The real question, then, is how far up the performance ladder the $550 PC can climb, and whether the superior components in the $1000 and $2000 builds will allow them to double and quadruple the less-expensive machine's performance?

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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.