System Builder Marathon, Sept. 2010: $2000 Performance PC

CPU And Graphics

CPU: AMD Phenom II X6 1055T

Component cost is always important when building within a budget, but striking the perfect balance between game and application performance makes our choices even more challenging. Determined to have six physical cores in this month’s $2000 PC, we rejected Intel’s $900 Core i7-970 because it would eat into our graphics budget. Instead, we went with AMD.

Read Customer Reviews of AMD's Phenom II X6 1055T

Based on the same Thuban core as the more expensive “Black Edition” flagship model, AMD's Phenom II X6 1055T costs 1/3 less and is clocked at 5/6 the speed. Stock performance wasn’t a big factor in our decision, since we intend to overclock, and we hoped that this less-expensive model would offer similar overclocking capability using reference clock-, rather than multiplier-based, adjustments.

Graphics: 2 x MSI GeForce GTX 480 in SLI

Using Nvidia’s reference GPU cooler and clock speeds, MSI’s N480GTX-M2D15-B stood out on the day we bought it thanks to its low price and $30 mail-in rebate (per card). While we don’t use limited-time rebates in our budget calculations, that rebate might be enough to win over some readers.

Read Customer Reviews of MSI's GeForce GTX 480

While at least one of MSI’s competitors includes a mini-HDMI-to-HDMI monitor cable, MSI instead addresses the need for full-sized HDMI with a DVI-based adapter. Also included is a certificate for a free game, a 6-pin-to-8-pin power adapter, a passive DVI-to-VGA adapter, and a driver CD with MSI’s famed Afterburner overclocking utility.

Note that we ordered these cards before our recent test revealed that much of their performance potential is wasted at resolutions below 2560x1600. While the lucky winner of our SBM giveaway might use the excess capability of these cards in Surround gaming, the high price will definitely hurt this build at the lower resolutions used in our upcoming system value comparison.

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  • LePhuronn
    I think the conclusion of this piece says it all - the desire to cram 6 cores and top-end SLI into a system blinded the author to the viability of it all. Isn't it pretty common knowledge that top-end multi GPU setups are ALWAYS a waste running below crazy resolutions? Haven't there been enough benches to show that the 1055T isn't as great as we all hoped, especially compared to similarly-priced i7s?

    Always nice to see system builds, but this one was a real shame in both the final results and also the mentality behind the component selection.
  • Phoenixlight
    Should have used the 1090T instead, it's not that much more expensive.
  • LePhuronn
    phoenixlightShould have used the 1090T instead, it's not that much more expensive.

    Arguably shouldn't have used a X6 at all - if you're dropping in SLI GTX 480s then you're building a gaming rig and the X6 doesn't give much more than the X4s.

    Or if you're dropping in a 6-core then you're building a productivity unit so you don't need the SLI.

    I know both sets of benches are included to show what performance is like, but you just can't really get a machine that does both for "only" 2 grand.

    Maybe the builds should be more focused to one or other in the future - we get monthly gaming CPU and GPU analysis and nothing about media creators, so perhaps the system builds should focus on gaming too?

    Just a thought.
  • 10hellfire01
    I just wonder if the system is bottlenecking at all. I know 3x 480s with an i7 930 for example starts to bottleneck. But I've always wanted to see more indepth results with 2-3x GTX 480s and an X6.
  • damian86
    Read Customer Reviews of G.Skill's Ripjaws DDR3-1333 Kit, you will see the good customer service from G Skill in the rating of someone.That makes you want to buy it.