System Builder Marathon: Sub-$4000 PC

This System Builder Marathon marks the first time in the series that we’ve felt significantly restricted by a $4,000 budget. Though lots of top parts can be had for less, it’s the combination that got us. It’s certainly a shame that, for example, our budget forced us to forgo any of the new “lower-cost” Blu-Ray optical drives. Keeping our focus on total system performance will pay off in the benchmarks, in spite of the fact that we feel just a little let down in the area of features.

SBM High June

Carrying over many of the components from our March System Builder Marathon allowed us to also carry over the finished photo, though the lighted audio module seen above has been replaced with a sound card. As we consider our updates, we’ll also detail why some of our previous choices simply couldn’t be improved upon.

June 2008 SBM High-End PC Component Cost
CPU Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650 1050
CPU Cooler Swiftech H20-120 Compact Cooler Kit 140
Swiftech MCR220 2x120mm Radiator 36
Silverstone RADSUPPORT09 13
Swiftech Chrome 3/8-Inch Fittings, 2-pack 5
Swiftech Plastic Hose Clamps, 4-pack 6
2x Swiftech 3/8-Inch Neoprene Tubing Packs 26
2x Scythe S-Flex SFF21E 120mm Fan 30
Motherboard Asus Striker II Extreme 450
RAM Patriot Extreme Performance DDR3-1333 - 4GB 315
Graphics 2x Gigabyte GeForce 9800 GX2 GV-NX98X1GHI-B 1040
Hard Drive Samsung Spinpoint F1 HD753LJ (750GB) x2 240
Sound ASUS Xonar DX 7.1 90
Case Silverstone Temjin TJ09BW 250
Power Coolermaster RS850-EMBA 850W 180
DVD-RW Toshiba Samsung Storage Technology SH-203B 30
Auxiliary Fan Antec SpotCool Motherboard Cooling Fan 15
Floppy Drive NEC 1.44MB Floppy Drive 9
Total Price $3925

While the system we built in March was several hundred dollars under budget, this month’s highest-end configuration is dangerously close to our budget limit. We added a sound card this time, but the substitution of higher-cost parts remains by far the largest contributor to our overall expense. The big question is whether or not the new configuration will outperform the former system by a similar amount, so lets take a closer look at the components.

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  • LePhuronn
    And I think this shows perfectly the problem with the "must have the biggest and best" mentality of today's consumer - just because it's out doesn't mean it's ready.

    If I were building a system right now I'd probably go for a pair of 8800GTXs knowing that when I needed to upgrade my graphics again I can stick a 3rd in.

    Of course, without the endlessly-pocketed show-off consumer, we'd never get refinement and improvement of such products so we sensible types can benefit 6 months down the line.