System Builder Marathon, June 2010: System Value Compared

System Builder Marathon, June 2010: 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 check out this Google form, and be sure to read the complete rules before entering!

Day 1: The $2,000 Performance PC
Day 2: The $1,000 Enthusiast PC
Day 3: The $500 Gaming PC
Day 4: Performance And Value, Dissected


Market levels are defined by enthusiasts just as much as manufacturers, since different buyers have completely different needs.

While a high-end office PC might have a super-fast processor and terabytes of storage, a similarly-priced gaming system forgoes the expensive CPU and hard drives in favor of graphics power. Funnily enough, then it gets labeled “mid-priced.”

Tom’s Hardware usually favors across-the-board performance, yet graphics cards are so expensive that these often consume the budgets of otherwise well-balanced systems. When 3D games are included in the list of tasks a computer is meant to perform, we’ve found that $500, $1,000, and $2,000 are roughly the entry points for low-cost, mid-priced, and high-end markets.

While our previous System Builder Marathon targeted market midpoints, this month we’ve decided to forgo unnecessary expenditure and aim directly for the highest performance-per-dollar each builder could achieve. As is the case with most real-world builds, our $500, $1,000, and $2,000 budgets were secondary targets that we attempted to align, while aiming primarily for the best performance value within our selected markets.

March 2010 System Builder Marathon Components 
 $550 PC$1,000 PC$2,000 PC
MotherboardAsus M4A77TD
Chipset: AMD 770/SB710
MSI 790X-G45
Chipset: AMD 790X/SB710
Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R
Chipset: Intel X58-Express
ProcessorAMD Athlon II X3 435 2.9 GHz
Three Cores, 1.5MB L2 Cache
AMD Phenom II X3 720 BE
Three Cores, 6MB L3 Cache
Intel Core i7-930 2.80 GHz
Four Cores, 8MB L3 Cache
MemoryCrucial DDR3-1333 CAS 9
2 x 1GB (2GB Total)
Crucial DDR3-1333 CAS 9
2 x 2GB (4GB Total)
Crucial DDR3-1333 CAS 9
3 x 2GB (6GB Total)
GraphicsPowerColor AX5770 1GBD5-H
1GB GDDR5-4800 at 128-bits
Radeon HD 5770 GPU at 800 MHz
2 x Gigabyte GV-R583UD-1GD
1GB GDDR5-4000 at 256-bits
Radeon HD 5830 GPU at 800 MHz
2 x Gigabyte GV-N470D5-13I-B
2 x 1.28GB GDDR5-3482
607 MHz GTX 470 GPU
Hard DriveSamsung HD502HJ
500MB, SATA 3Gb/s
7,200 RPM, 16MB Cache
Western Digital WD3200AAJS
320GB, SATA 3Gb/s
7,200 RPM, 8MB Cache
Samsung HD103SJ
1TB, SATA 3Gb/s
7,200 RPM, 32MB Cache
OpticalSamsung SH-S223C
22x DVD±R, 48X CD-R
Lite-On iHAS124
24x DVD±R, 48X CD-R
Lite-On iHES208-08
8x BD-ROM, 16X DVD±R
CaseCooler Master Elite 330Antec Three HundredAntec Three Hundred Illusion
PowerCM RS-500-PCAR-A3
500W, Dual 12V at 18A
Corsair CMPSU-650TX
650W, Single 12V at 52A
SilverStone DA750
750W Modular, 80-Plus Silver
CPU CoolerCooler Master Hyper TX3Cooler Master Hyper TX3Prolimatech
Megahalems Rev.B
CPU FanIncluded with coolerIncluded with coolerScythe SY1225SL12LM-P
Total Cost $545  $1,023  $1,808

Our recent move into DirectX 11 gaming convinced $500 system builder Paul Henningsen to rename his project the “$550” machine, with a newer graphics card that would allow these titles to be played natively at his target 1680x1050 resolution.

Our $2,000 PC looks a little light at the other end of the pricing scale, simply because the elaborate storage solutions familiar to the high-end market have a negligible impact on the benchmarks we use to determine value.

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  • Redsnake77
    Great article, really interesting figures! SLI'd 470's power consumption is still scary as hell, especially if you get close to 5 or 6 hours a day of gaming.
  • ksampanna
    OK, so the OCd $550 wins. But as any twat with an ounce of common sense will tell you that a single 5770 is just not good enough for all games at full HD.
  • Silmarunya
    ksampannaOK, so the OCd $550 wins. But as any twat with an ounce of common sense will tell you that a single 5770 is just not good enough for all games at full HD.

    True. But then again, any twat will be able to tell you that in this competition, the most expensive and the cheapest PC generally speaking aren't worth buying anyway. The cheap one lacks performance, the high end one doesn't deliver a real world benefit whatsoever.

    Conclusion: as with all things in life, being moderate is usually the best approach...
  • Silmarunya
    doive1231Wow. Tom's works better with compatability mode turned off (IE8).

    And it works even better when not using the slowest, least stable and least safe browser around...
  • Anonymous
    Has anyone else noticed but the COD:MW2 results for the $550 PC are actually the crysis benchmark results thus being a lot lower!
  • Anonymous
    has anyone noticed it says "march 2010" when i believe we're already in june?
  • Anonymous
    500MB should be 500GB

    on the Samsung HD502HJ
  • Anonymous
    A database connection error has occured. Please try again