System Builder Marathon, Dec. 2011: System Value Compared

System Builder Marathon, December 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 SurveyGizmo form, and be sure to read the complete rules before entering!

Day 1: The $2400 Performance PC
Day 2: The $1200 Enthusiast PC
Day 3: The $600 Gaming PC
Day 4: Performance And Value, Dissected


Bigger budgets make room for better hardware. Bigger cases facilitate more cooling. Bigger motherboards allow more cards to be installed.

And yet, somewhere along the way this quarter, that concept went horribly wrong. We ended up with a $1200 PC that underperformed its $1000 predecessor, a $600 PC that went way over budget, and a $2400 full-sized PC that never lived up to the high-expectations set by the microATX build upon which its hardware choices were based.

We're perhaps most sympathetic to the $600 gaming machine's budge woes, since its builder was most vulnerable to recent price surges. Those same price surges also hit the high-capacity drives used in the larger machines, but they weren't as disruptive as an overall percentage of the budgets. Besides, it’s hard to feel sorry for an over-achiever (Ed.: Haters gonna hate?).

Q4 2011 System Builder Marathon PC Components
  $2400 Perfomance PC  $1200 Enthusiast PC  $600 Gaming PC 
ProcessorIntel Core i7-2600K
3.4 - 3.8 GHz, 8 MB L3 Cache
AMD FX-6100
3.3 - 3.9 GHz, 8 MB L3 Cache
Intel Core i5-2400
3.1 - 3.4 GHz, 6 MB L3 Cache
MotherboardMSI Z68A-GD55 (G3)
LGA 1155, Intel Z68 Express
Biostar TA990FXE
Socket AM3+, AMD 990FX
LGA-1155, Intel H61 Express
2 x Gigabyte GV-R695OC-1GD
Radeon HD 6950 1 GB
Sapphire 100314-3L
Radeon HD 6870 1 GB
MemoryCorsair CMZ8GX3M2A1600C8R
DDR3-1600 C8, 4 GB x2 (8 GB)
Mushkin Redline 997013
DDR3-1600 C7, 2 GB x2 (4 GB)
Wintec 3AMD31333-4G2K-NHR
DDR3-1333 C9, 2 GB x2 (4 GB)
System DriveCrucial M4 CT128M4SSD2
128 GB, SATA 6Gb/s SSD
60 GB, SATA 6Gb/s SSD
Seagate ST3500413AS
500 GB, 7200 RPM HDD
Storage DriveWD Caviar Green WD15EARS
1.5 TB, 7200 RPM HDD
WD Caviar Black WD7501AALS
750 GB, 7200 RPM HDD
Uses System Drive
OpticalLG WH12LS38 BD-RE
12x BD-R, 16x DVD±R
Lite-On iHAS124-04 DVD±R/W
24x DVD±R, 48x CD-R
Samsung SH-222AB DVD±R/W
22x DVD±R, 48x CD-R
CaseFractal Design Arc MidiRosewill Challenger-U3Xigmatek Asgard II 
PowerMushkin Joule MKNPSJL1000
1000 W, 80 PLUS Gold
Corsair CMPSU-650TXV2
650 W, 80 PLUS Bronze
Antec EarthWatts EA430D
430 W, 80 PLUS Bronze
Heat SinkPNY XLR8 / Asetek
Integrated Liquid Cooling
Xigmatek Gaia SD1283Intel Boxed Cooler
 Total Cost $2325$1267$654

Concern about the fact that Paul Henningsen’s $600 PC wouldn't overclock at all was quickly squelched by its clean sweep in benchmark performance over the previous System Builder Marathon's overclocked $500 machine.

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  • aje21
    shows the $1200 machine’s so-called six-core processor performing as though it had only three cores, which it does if you classify a module as a core instead of an integer pipeline

    I think you hit the nail on the head - AMD have followed Intel and done a version of SMT, but instead of saying "three cores, six threads" they are saying "six cores". Shame on you AMD, I'm finding it harder and harder to consider anything other than an i3 for my next home machine...
  • HEXiT
    i find it hard to justify spending over 1000 pounds or dollars (yep in the uk we spend the same in pounds as the Americans do in dollars even though the pound has 1.5 times the value) if you cant buld a performance machine for that then its a waste of money... the performance increase is nominal for the extra money. 600 is under powerd but a worthy system because the owner ha had to pick the best parts he can afford so really does get what he pays for...the 2000 rig is way over the top hardware wise and and only gives x2 the performance for x3.5 times the money. so in the real world it harldy warrants its price tag. 1 thing is for sure though if im gonna spend a grand on a pc i will get the best bang for buck and that crown is now intels...