System Builder Marathon: Performance & Value

System Builder Marathon, November 2008 : The Articles

Here are links to each of the three articles in this month’s System Builder Marathon (we’ll update them as each story is published).

Taking Feedback Into Consideration

One of the most commonly brought-up reader comments in past System Builder Marathons was that our fixed price structures often guided the mid-budget builder to choose a few parts that exceeded an ideal “enthusiast-level” price/performance ratio, while limiting the low-cost gaming system builder to parts that were simply too cheap to offer an ideal entry-level price/performance ratio. The value of both systems was handicapped by component prices that were outside what many readers thought would be normal for the intended market.

A large amount of feedback resulted in our selection of new pricing guidelines for both systems. Increasing our low-cost gaming PC budget to $625 allowed us to eliminate the under-performing graphics card and processor found in the previous $500 machine. Decreasing the mid-priced enthusiast build to $1,250 compelled us to ditch the controversial quad-core processor and over-sized liquid cooling system found in the previous $1,500 build. As a result, the newly-chosen dual-core processor is better-optimized for gaming than professional-level applications. Here’s a recap of each system’s components and the overclock settings used to achieve even more performance value.

November System Builder Marathon Component Details
Component $1,250 PC $625 PC
CPU Intel Core 2 Duo E8500 3.16 GHz
Overclocked to 4.25 GHz, FSB-1792
Intel Pentium E5200 2.50 GHz
Overclocked to 4.00 GHz, FSB-1336
CPU Cooler Xigmatek HDT-S1283 Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro
Motherboard DFI Lanparty DK X38-T2R Gigabyte GA-EP45-DS3L
RAM 4.0 GB PNY XLR8 PC2-6400 CAS 4
Overclocked to DDR2-896 CAS 5
4.0 GB PNY XLR8 PC2-6400 CAS 4
Clocked at DDR2-802 CAS 4
Graphics Powercolor Radeon 4870 X2 2048MB
Overclocked to 777 MHz GPU, GDDR5-3800
Sapphire 100245L Radeon HD 4850 512MB
Overclocked to 700 MHz GPU, GDDR3-2340
Hard Drives WD Caviar Black WD6401AALS
640 GB, 72000 RPM, 32MB Cache
Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 ST3500320AS
500GB, 72000 RPM, 32MB Cache
Sound Integrated 8-Channel HD Audio Integrated 8-Channel HD Audio
Network Integrated Gigabit Networking Integrated Gigabit Networking
Case Antec Three Hundred Antec Three Hundred
Power Antec NeoPower 650W Antec NeoPower 650W
Optical LITE-ON 20X DVD±R SATA Model iHAS120-04 LITE-ON 20X DVD±R SATA Model iHAS120-04
Total Price $1,250 $654

Vanishing discounts bumped up the price of our $625 PC after its components were ordered, but we did receive everything within budget from NewEgg. In the longer term, all of these pieces will fall in price, almost guaranteeing a total build price under what we originally forecast the machines to cost.

A closer look at each system’s performance will help us gauge the effectiveness of our new budget limits in increasing value, while comparing the two new systems to each other will help us to define situations where the new enthusiast build might actually be worth twice as much as the new budget system.

For those of you who’ve read this far through the series, today is when we’ll present comparison’s to last month’s System Builder Marathon builds as well.

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  • waxdart
    I like this last month price this month price thing.
    I look forward to seeing a years worth of results.

    I'd also like to see - to reach this frame rate you'll need to spend X.

    Time to put a new machine together next year. I'm wondering what the mins spend will be so I just peak 30-35 fps on Crysis (or whatever the next banchmark game is by then).

    Good job.
  • wild9
    Impressive overclocking. There's practically nothing those systems couldn't run, game or Windows application.
  • wild9
    Be interesting to see the audio/video benchmarks once GPU-based processing is further refined. Who knows..we may even see the AMD systems being a viable alternative compared to Core 2 Duo, depending on the amount of data being thrown around. It's also interesting to see, just how well that $625 dollar system is able to 'run with the pack', considering it's price. For that price you'd hardly expect it to keep up and where games are concerned just look at the results. I can see a lot more people interesting in overclocking after having read this article, which was very useful and concise.
  • blibba
    It's a little unfiar comparing the $625 system to the $500 - $125 makes a big difference in this price range, and you didn't exactly manage a stunning overclock on the $500 build either.

    I'd also say you're unfair in saying that it "wasn’t even useful for anything but the most basic settings and resolutions of some games" - I know plenty of people who still game quite happily on Pentium Ds and HD2600 Pros / 8500GTs, and at very good framratres - the most basic settings, in your opinion, seems to mean medium settings.

    All in all though, a good article.
  • Anonymous
    72000 RPM!!!How Fast It Is~
  • Anonymous
    Why not using the same dir for the 2 compressor tests (winrar & winzip)?
  • hoodlol
    Im gonna order the parts for the $625 system and i was wondering if anyone could go through the trouble of explaining to me what kind fo performance it would have in a game like World of warcraft since i dont know anything about crysis or supreme commander

    please =D
    thanks in advance message me with a reply :)