System Builder Marathon: $2,500 Enthusiast PC

System Builder Marathon, December 2008: 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).


Intel’s Core i7 release schedule forced us to omit the high-priced configuration from November’s System Builder Marathon (SBM), but the intermission gave us time to reevaluate our priorities. With a price of over $4,000, our previous elite-performance systems had become too costly for most enthusiast builders, let alone everyday value-seekers. And so we listened to your comments and dialed our highest-end configuration down a couple of notches.

A better-balanced approach was sought for this month’s SBM, with a high-end budget that would appeal to former $5,000 system builders who, given the realities of today’s economy, might have otherwise looked for an excuse to delay discretionary spending. Manufacturers have obliged with reduced-price versions of their highest-end components, while sellers are cutting deeper into profit margins simply to maintain market share. With a little effort, we’re hoping today’s $2,500 system can leave October’s $4,500 PC as a distant memory of money needlessly squandered.

$2500 High-End System Components



Price (USD)


Intel Core i7 920


CPU Cooler

Vigor Monsoon III LT



EVGA X58 3X SLI (P/N: 132-BL-E758-A)



Super Talent 3GB DDR3-1333 Triple-Channel Kit



3x EVGA GeForce GTX 260 Core 216 Superclocked Edition (SLI)


Hard Drives

3x Samsung Spinpoint F1 HD103UJ 1.0 TB






Integrated Gigabit Networking



Cooler Master Stacker 830 Evolution (Black)



Silverstone OP1000 Evolution





Additional Fans

2x Scythe S-FLEX SFF21F 120 mm 1,600 RPM


Fan Accessories

2x Rosewill RCW-308 3-pin Fan Extension, 12"


Total Price


A quick look at its components reveals that our $2,500 system does away with an "overpriced" liquid cooling system found in previous high-end builds, but when it comes to overclocking, extra cooling is often money well spent. We definitely would have chosen high-value liquid cooling components if any well-priced Core i7 water blocks had been available. 

Also notice that our $2,500 component list has already dropped by a total of 10% in the two weeks it took us to build and test the system. This bonus value could be spent in many ways or saved for use in future upgrades.

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  • daglesj
    Hmm why bother with RAID5 on what is essentially a gaming rig?

    If it was for your home business, a server or your machine that you keep everything 'precious' on maybe. But this is a gaming rig first (if it isnt why have 3xGPUS?) and foremost. If it crashes out so what, just reinstall the games.

    Nice to have but no way essential. Rather have a Raptor for system and a 1TB for junk.
  • Rocketeer007
    To Daglesj - I can see the point of the RAID5. While you may consider a "Gaming Rig" to contain nothing but games, sheer laziness means that my "Gaming Rig" does everything around the house. It's spec'd up to play games blisteringly fast, but I still have all my photos, emails and important documents on it. I did have a "Work" rig for all these, but I'm too lazy to wait for it too boot!

    Just one point regarding this review though: Can you please re-do the graphs so they all show the four computers (December OC, December PC, October OC, October PC) in the same order? There's no consistency here, which means I have to keep consulting the tiny key at the bottom to see which is which - it's not even always in "Fastest first" order, so that justification won't fly!
  • Anonymous
    Optical - LG GGC-H20LK 6X Blu-Ray/HD DVD-ROM, 16X DVD±RW - $23
    ok a Blu-Ray/HD DVD drive for $23 where from?????

    ijn the uk there £50+ still! and iv not seen them that cheap in the us! (newegg is $110) so think somone made a mistake on costings there!