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
Processor
(Overclock)
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
Graphics
(Overclock)
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
Memory
(Overclock)
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
Motherboard
(Overclock)
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
Software
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 9.3.0.1025Intel INF 9.3.0.1025Intel INF 9.3.0.1026
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 11.0.0.378 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 6.0.0.0, 6.61 GB MXF Project to H.264 to H.264 Blu-ray, Output 1920x1080, Maximum Quality
Benchmarks: Audio/Video Encoding
iTunesVersion 10.4.1.10 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: 2.5.0.10677: 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 10.0.102.95: Read PDF save to Doc, Source: Political Economy (J. Broadhurst 1842) 111 Pages
Adobe Acrobat XVersion 10.0.0.396: 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: 1.0.1.0, 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
This thread is closed for comments
116 comments
    Your comment
  • thymanbearpig
    You would think with an extra $200 you can get a noticeable difference in fps..
  • plasmaj12345
    thymanbearpigYou would think with an extra $200 you can get a noticeable difference in fps..


    The only real difference between the $800 and $1000 PC is that the $1000 has an SSD. They both have the same CPU, RAM, and GPU. Gaming should be about the same on both.
  • saxplayingcompnerd
    @thymanbearpig They use the same GPU, most games are GPU bottle-necked. That's how they get nearly the same FPS.
  • mayankleoboy1
    Something i posted last quarter too :

    Why would all the machines have same percent emphasis on games and productivity apps ? Why would a $600 gaming PC be evaluated similarly to a $800 enthusiast PC ? The percentwise distribution of each metric should be based on what usage the build was meant for.

    Something like : games, apps, storage.

    $600 build : 85%, 15% . (cheapest, best gaming. Very few apps. Doesnt need fast storage. )
    $800 build : 55%, 35%, 10% (slightly better games over apps. Great apps. fast storage for OS + apps OR games)
    $1000 build. : 42.5%, 42.5%, 15% (equally good games and apps. fast storage should be plenty for OS+apps+games)
  • Crashman
    ankit0x1still waiting for 2000$ build
    How about building up the $1000 machine into a dual-GPU added-storage $1600 PC?
  • mayankleoboy1
    can we have a chart of the combined totals of :
    1) FPS in games
    2)time taken in apps
    for each build?

    so that we may draw our own conclusions from the data? I am not entirely satisfied with the conclusions you have drawn.
  • System Builder Marathons should use a $600, $1200, and $1800 dollar standard.
  • Crashman
    mayankleoboy1can we have a chart of the combined totals of :1) FPS in games2)time taken in appsfor each build?so that we may draw our own conclusions from the data? I am not entirely satisfied with the conclusions you have drawn.
    Percentages are just as accurate, you'll find those on Page 13 along with power numbers.
  • bdizzle11
    For next SBM how about a $800, $1200, $1600. A little bit higher but more spread. I think that would better determine the sweet spot...
  • atomicWAR
    Honestly i would like to see an up-graders marathon. With price points of 600, 800, 1000, 1300, 1600, 2000 covered all using the same case, CD/dvd, and mech HDD (not included in cost). Those are the most common carry over parts besides my water-cooling that carries over build to build. I believe it would be a very useful and realistic application of funds many of your readers could relate to.
  • Crashman
    bdizzle11For next SBM how about a $800, $1200, $1600. A little bit higher but more spread. I think that would better determine the sweet spot...
    I like that idea too! But the $800 PC...would that be the $600 PC with GPU upgrade and an added SSD? Because the $600 PC topped the charts this time.
  • Crashman
    atomicWARHonestly i would like to see an up-graders marathon. With price points of 600, 800, 1000, 1300, 1600, 2000 covered all using the same case, CD/dvd, and mech HDD (not included in cost). Those are the most common carry over parts besides my water-cooling that carries over build to build. I believe it would be a very useful and realistic use of funds many of your readers could relate to.
    That's an awesome idea too! We could get some old-fashioned Chieftech Dragon (or similarly-popular) cases, maybe some older 700W power supplies and hard drives, match everything and just change the platform. Anyone else think this is a good idea?
  • mayankleoboy1
    edit.
  • lunyone
    I would too like to see a system built with the Case/PSU/HD/DVD not included in the price, since most people building their own builds would most likely transfer those parts over (but I would probably upgrade the PSU, because it might be 4-5 yrs. old). So if we just didn't include the Case/HD/DVD into the cost than we could actually subtract about ($35 case/$50 HD/$20 DVD) $100-110 from the build costs on these SBM's. This would leave us with $500/$700/$900 build options, if we would like to consider those price points. I myself would like to see $400/$650/$900 builds with the above mentioned parts left out. This would get us a similar results, unless one would use a different GPU from the $650 to $900 build. One could possibly upgrade the GPU and get a 120/128gb SSD to fit within the $250 difference in price.
  • _Pez_
    maybe avoiding the same hardware between setups would be a better system comparison.

    I think that there is no point of comparison between the last two setups.... I would have picked an amd setup just to change things...
  • atomicWAR
    lunyoneI would too like to see a system built with the Case/PSU/HD/DVD not included in the price, since most people building their own builds would most likely transfer those parts over (but I would probably upgrade the PSU, because it might be 4-5 yrs. old). So if we just didn't include the Case/HD/DVD into the cost than we could actually subtract about ($35 case/$50 HD/$20 DVD) $100-110 from the build costs on these SBM's. This would leave us with $500/$700/$900 build options, if we would like to consider those price points. I myself would like to see $400/$650/$900 builds with the above mentioned parts left out. This would get us a similar results, unless one would use a different GPU from the $650 to $900 build. One could possibly upgrade the GPU and get a 120/128gb SSD to fit within the $250 difference in price.


    yeah i think the PSU is one always worth updating as it is the heart of any system.

    so maybe a psu/cpu/mobo/ram/cooling/graphic +what ever extras you can afford on said budget.
  • agnickolov
    I'd suggest stepping the budget up by $200 for the next SBM - $800, $1000, $1200.
  • agnickolov
    And a comment on the Visual Studio results - the $1000 machine's lead is almost exclusively due to the SSD, not the faster memory. C++ compilation has lots of disk I/O that dwarfs memory access. Speaking as a professional C++ developer myself.
  • Crashman
    _Pez_maybe avoiding the same hardware between setups would be a better system comparison.I think that there is no point of comparison between the last two setups.... I would have picked an amd setup just to change things...
    BS :) Seriously, if you think there's no point in comparing two similar systems, you're completely missing THE point. Two builders were given full license to build anything they wanted within their budgets, and you ended up with two of the same CPU and GPU because those parts were the parts that made the most sense from a value perspective.

    You're saying that these builds should have been coordinated, rather than competitive, and that a builder should have "took one for the team" by using inferior hardware? This was a competition, that's the point.
  • chesteracorgi
    I think the spread between the builds was too small to show a significant difference. I suggest that you increase the spread with $600/$900/$1200 or $700/$1100/$1500 targets. It would give the builders a better chance to differentiate their hardware.
  • pauldh
    ChesteracorgiI think the spread between the builds was too small to show a significant difference. I suggest that you increase the spread with $600/$900/$1200 or $700/$1100/$1500 targets. It would give the builders a better chance to differentiate their hardware.

    6/9/12 was another we had considered. The thing is, we've assumed $800 was the sweet spot, and $1000 was the reigning champ, so 6/8/10 was tha natural starting point.
  • pauldh
    CrashmanBS Seriously, if you think there's no point in comparing two similar systems, you're completely missing THE point. Two builders were given full license to build anything they wanted within their budgets, and you ended up with two of the same CPU and GPU because those parts were the parts that made the most sense from a value perspective.You're saying that these builds should have been coordinated, rather than competitive, and that a builder should have "took one for the team" by using inferior hardware? This was a competition, that's the point.

    Yes, this! Excellent reply, agree 100%!
    CrashmanI like that idea too! But the $800 PC...would that be the $600 PC with GPU upgrade and an added SSD? Because the $600 PC topped the charts this time.

    I’m game! And we continue to think alike. After what we have learned here, that is exactly what you will get from me at $800… The $600 PC + Tahiti LE (assuming these don’t disappear), 8GB RAM, slight power bump (mostly so I don’t need a molex adapter) and a 64-128GB (maybe a bit of a cheat, but a practical real-world use of an SSD on the cheap). If there are a few bucks left, then a bump in the case with USB 3.0 and an intake fan, (you got us there for sure). But prior to this experiment, I would have ended up right in Don’s camp, treating the SSD as a luxury and seeking an i5 K-series and big graphics.

    Nice write-up BTW, and I totally agree with the three winners analysis! We traded blows, (yet the irony, the non-K-series on boxed cooling, loses stock but wins overclocked!? lol) and Don’s was indeed the best "gaming rig" of the bunch. Pop Core-i3 into his, lose the $15 cooler, maybe shed some from the mobo, and IMO you get an affordable gaming beast! (edit: but of course, one that get's smoked in this competition.)
  • shadowhammer
    I think you have hit the sweet spot for value oriented builds. $600 to $1000 is a spot in the chain. Only $400 separates the builds from lowest to highest and the value ends up being close.

    This gives people witrh a lower budget the ability to game without breaking the bank while providing those with higher budgets the ability to add extras.

    I think that you forget a sweet spot is not looking for an exact dollar amount. It is looking for a spot or a range within which to work. That spot for value oriented builds looks to be between $600 and $1000.
  • matagilis
    Lower the cheap machine's price!

    It's amazing how much gaming performance you can get for not much, and many of us have very tight budgets