System Builder Marathon, Q1 2013: System Value Compared

Hardware, Software, And Overclock Settings

Today's chart shows the stock and overclocked settings for each system, but it doesn’t show the baseline memory differences between our $800 and $1,000 PCs. Both systems use RAM that’s rated at DDR3-1600, but defaults to DDR3-1333, relying on Intel Extreme Memory Profiles (XMP) to reach its full ratings. Since XMP is an overclocking technology, Don chose DDR3-1333 as his baseline. Since XMP is a default overclock, I used that as my baseline. Don then “overclocked” his 1.35 V RAM to its 1.50 V secondary XMP profile, while I shot straight for 1.60 V and far-higher data rates. History will dictate whether 1.60 V is too much for this 1.35 V kit over the long term.

The $600 PC starts off with 1.5 V RAM, so Paul's 1.6 V overclock settings is comparatively less aggressive. His higher bandwidth is ready to give the $800 machine a run for its money in a few of our applications, even though the machine is limited to half the capacity.

Test Hardware Configurations
 $600 Gaming PC$800 Enthusiast PC$1000 Peformance PC
Intel Core i5-3350P
3.10 GHz, Four Physical Cores
O/C to 3.70 GHz
Intel Core i5-3570K
3.40 GHz, Four Physical Cores
O/C to 4.40 GHz, +0.085 V
Intel Core i5-3570K
3.40 GHz, Four Physical Cores
O/C to 4.40 GHz, 1.28 V
HIS H785F1G2M: 860 MHz GPU,  GDDR5-4800
O/C to 1,220 MHz GDDR5-4800
PowerColor 2GBD5-2DHPPV3E: 975 MHz GPU, GDDR5-6000
O/C to 1,150 MHz GDDR5-6200
PowerColor 2GBD5-2DHPPV3E: 975 MHz GPU, GDDR5-6000
O/C to 1,200 MHz GDDR5-6400
4 GB G.Skill DDR3-1600
CAS 9-9-9-24, O/C at 1.60 V
to DDR3-1866 CL 9-9-9-24
8 GB Crucial DDR3-1600
CAS 8-8-8-24 1T, O/C at 1.50 V
to 800 MHz CL 8-8-8-24 2T
8 GB Crucial DDR3-1600
CAS 8-8-8-24, O/C at 1.60 V
to DDR3-2133 CL 9-9-9-24
ASRock Z75 Pro3:
LGA 1155, Intel Z75 Express
Stock 100 MHz BCLK
ASRock Z77 Pro3:
LGA 1155, Intel Z77 Express
Stock 100 MHz BCLK
ASRock Z77 Extreme4:
LGA 1155, Intel Z77 Express
Stock 100 MHz BCLK
OpticalSamsung SH-224BB/RSBS 24x DVD±RSamsung SH-224BB 24x DVD±RLite-On iHAS124 24x DVD±R
CaseXigmatek Asgard II B/BXigmatek Asgard II B/BRosewill Redbone U3
CPU CoolerIntel Boxed Heat Sink and Fan
Rosewill RCX-ZAIO-92Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus
StorageSeagate Barracuda 500 GB, 7,200 RPM SATA 6Gb/s HDDSeagate Barracuda 500 GB, 7,200 RPM SATA 6Gb/s HDDMushkin Chronos Deluxe DX 240 GB, SATA 6Gb/s SSD
PowerAntec Neo Eco 400C: 400 W, ATX12V v2.3, 80 PLUSAntec Neo Eco 520C: ATX12V v2.3, 80 PLUSAntec Neo Eco 520C: ATX12V v2.3, 80 PLUS
OSMicrosoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64
GraphicsAMD Catalyst 13.1AMD Catalyst 13.2 Beta 5AMD Catalyst 13.1
ChipsetIntel INF INF INF
Benchmarks: 3D Games
Battlefield 3Campaign Mode, "Going Hunting" 90-Second Fraps
Test Set 1: Medium Quality Defaults (No AA, 4x AF)
Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Defaults (4x AA, 16x AF)
DiRT 3V1.01, Run with -benchmark example_benchmark.xml
Test Set 1: High Quality Preset, No AA
Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Preset, 8x AA
The Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimUpdate 1.5.26, Celedon Aethirborn Level 6, 25-Second Fraps
Test Set 1: DX11, High Details No AA, 8x AF, FXAA enabled
Test Set 2: DX11, Ultra Details, 8x AA, 16x AF, FXAA enabled
Far Cry 3V. 1.04, DirectX 11, 50-Second Fraps "Amanaki Outpost"
Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA, Standard ATC., SSAO
Test Set 2: Ultra Quality, 4x MSAA, Enhanced ATC, HDAO
Benchmarks: Adobe Creative Suite
Adobe After Effects CS6Version x64: Create Video which includes 3 Streams, 210 Frames, Render Multiple Frames Simultaneosly
Adobe Photoshop CS6Version 13 x64: Filter 15.7 MB TIF Image: Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates
Adobe Premeire Pro CS6Version, 6.61 GB MXF Project to H.264 to H.264 Blu-ray, Output 1920x1080, Maximum Quality
Benchmarks: Audio/Video Encoding
iTunesVersion x64: Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 minutes, default AAC format 
Lame MP3Version 3.98.3: Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 min, convert WAV to MP3 audio format, Command: -b 160 --nores (160 Kb/s)
HandBrake CLIVersion: 0.98: Video from Canon Eos 7D (1920x1080, 25 FPS) 1 Minutes 22 Seconds
Audio: PCM-S16, 48,000 Hz, 2-Kanal, to Video: AVC1 Audio: AAC (High Profile)
TotalCode Studio 2.5Version: MPEG-2 to 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), Codec: H.264 Pro, Mode: PAL 50i (25 FPS), Profile: H.264 BD HDMV
Benchmarks: Productivity
ABBYY FineReaderVersion Read PDF save to Doc, Source: Political Economy (J. Broadhurst 1842) 111 Pages
Adobe Acrobat XVersion Print PDF from 115 Page PowerPoint, 128-bit RC4 Encryption
Autodesk 3ds Max 2012Version 14.0 x64: Space Flyby Mentalray, 248 Frames, 1440x1080
BlenderVersion: 2.64a, Cycles Engine, Syntax blender -b thg.blend -f 1, 1920x1080, 8x Anti-Aliasing, Render THG.blend frame 1
Visual Studio 2010Version 10.0, Compile Google Chrome, Scripted
Benchmarks: File Compression
WinZipVersion 17.0 Pro: THG-Workload (1.3 GB) to ZIP, command line switches "-a -ez -p -r"
WinRARVersion 4.2: THG-Workload (1.3 GB) to RAR, command line switches "winrar a -r -m3"
7-ZipVersion 9.28: THG-Workload (1.3 GB) to .7z, command line switches "a -t7z -r -m0=LZMA2 -mx=5"
Synthetic Benchmarks
3DMark 11Version:, Benchmark Only
PCMark 7Version: 1.0.4 x64, System, Productivity, Hard Disk Drive benchmarks
SiSoftware Sandra 2011Version Version 2013.01.19.11, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / Cryptography, Memory Test = Bandwidth Benchmark
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  • 13thmonkey
    thomas, your assertion that you'd expect an overall power drop as a result of the SSD is utter rubbish, the difference in power draw between an ssd and a hdd is perhaps 5W (at the outside?) whilst this is measurable for a drive on its own, any minor variations in other components, a better mobo, an extra fan (as you pointed out) and just general noise (what is idle really) will mask that benefit.

    Yes SSD's are more power efficient but you should only expect to see the benefit when you have optimised the whole build for lower power levels. Its a bit of a marketing ploy really, 7W or 2W doesn't really matter if your total system load is 150-400W, don't fall for the marketing, we need our reviewers to be immune to that and to cut through the BS.
  • Anonymous
    excellent very interesting i enjoyed reading every bit of it!
    I personally would like to take your conclusions and suspicions and see them followed through it would be nice to see a system builder marathon with the same price points but have each team given a standard ssd to start their build with. i think this would give us a good idea of the additional performance of ssd and prevent the compromise we see every time with storage vs cpu/gpu
  • Steveymoo
    Another experiment in system building. I'm guessing 90% of people that visit this site are PC gamers, and every single time I read these system builder marathons, I see poorly balanced builds. Never enough money spent on the GPU, or a single GPU option when dual GPUs would have kicked much more ass.

    Though, in absolute fairness, games are so graphically none intensive now, I don't suppose there's much point blowing a wad on GPUs.
  • Kef
    Interesting, but how about a test based around something we would prefer to live with (semi enthusiast level). The marathon series has been much of a muchness for quite a while, so I'd like to see something investigating price points. How about all three investigate at a specific price point with a list of objectives at that value - (say 600, 1000, 1300, 1800)
    1. Say all three get an 1300 budget
    2. each toss a coin between AMD/NVIDIA single card setups (some variation please)
    3. All systems should have an SSD boot drive + separate storage drive
    4. Air cooled vs water cooled vs stock cooling
    5. Would be nice to have a case that wouldn't frighten the pets.
    6. Gaming and video encoding as the objectives

    other variations might include a HTPC challenge

    A couple of these until the next big jump in GPU's / CPU's would be nice.
  • MajinCry
    Many systems built here!

    But wait, there seems to be a SMALL issue here...

    "" | "$600 Gaming PC $800 Enthusiast PC $1000 Performance PC"

  • SchizoFrog
    Just looking at the % of the price levels and who ever is working out the sums needs to go back to school. $800 is 1 third of $600 on top, which should be 133.3% not 132.5% and as for $1000, well that is 2 thirds of $600 on top so it should be 166.6% and not 163.3%. Not nearly, not about, without going in to infinite decimals it is exactly that. If they can't even get these basic sums right then how can we trust any of the figures given here?
  • moberr
    When do tomshardware.CO.UK plan to hand out Pounds?