System Builder Marathon, June 2011: $2000 Performance PC

System Builder Marathon, June 2011: The Articles

Here are links to each of the five 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 Google form, and be sure to read the complete rules before entering!

Day 1: The $2000 Performance PC
Day 2: The $1000 Enthusiast PC
Day 3: The $500 Gaming PC
Day 4: Performance And Value, Dissected
Day 5: Tom's Hand-Picked SuperCombo


While last year’s systems often focused on the expandability of high-end platforms, those platforms (largely based on Intel's X58 Express chipset) no longer support the fastest CPUs for our applications. Even enthusiasts must live with the reality that most programs can use no more than four CPU cores, and the fastest four-core processors have used decidedly mainstream chipsets since January. Those are the parts on which our most recent $2000 builds have centered.

Intel’s compelling upgrade for its mainstream processor interface turned the market on its head by adding ultra-fast video transcoding that could not be matched even by today’s fastest discrete GPUs, let alone an ultra-expensive six-core CPU. We've already seen what Quick Sync can do. With that said, none of the tests in our System Builder Marathon suite are optimized to exploit it; perhaps that's something we'll change going into next quarter's comparison. The real question is: should we even bother to upgrade?

Of course, the answer is yes. We've shown via extensive testing that Intel's Z68 Express platform loses nothing by way of overclocking or performance compared to the P67-based boards previously included in this series. These motherboards do cost a little more, which means today’s system takes a small hit in the value calculations, especially given that our transcoding-oriented benchmarks are processor-bound, and not able to enjoy the speed-up enabled through Quick Sync. Still, we had to follow our hearts on this one and think of what we’d build if these were our own machines. At the end of the day, Z68's additional functionality is really worthwhile.

Oh yes, and we ditched the often-favored Antec Three Hundred Illusion for something with a little more flash and twice the cost. With the same CPU, GPUs, and SSDs carried over from our most recent $2000 build, we're leaning hard on our partner's Newegg's recent price drops to retain the high-end value score of our former build.

$2000 PC Components
MotherboardASRock Z68 Extreme4: LGA 1155, Intel P67 Express $190
Graphics2x MSI R6970-2PM2D2GD5: Radeon HD 6970 2 GB, CrossFire $680
ProcessorIntel Core i7-2600K: 3.4 GHz-3.8 GHz, 8 MB Cache $315
MemoryG.Skill F3-12800CL8D-8GBXM: DDR3-1600 C8, 4 GB x2 (8 GB) $90
System Drive2x A-Data S599 64 GB, SATA 3Gb/s SSD $240
Storage DriveSamsung F3 HD103SJ 1 TB, 7200 RPM HDD $55
OpticalLG WH10LS30 BD-RE: 10x BD-R, 16x DVD±R $70
CaseLian-Li PC-9F $140
PowerSeasonic SS-850HT: 850W, ATX12V v2.31, 80-Plus Silver $125
Heat SinkXigmatek Gaia SD1283 $30
  Total Cost  $1935

Yet, value can’t completely be quantified by our scoring system. For example, how would a real-world user feel about having only 128 GB of storage? We added a 1 TB drive for that, along with a BD-RE for backups. This month’s disc burner is also cheaper than that of our previous build, which helps to offset the cost of that gorgeous case. Many of our readers have, after all, voiced concern that one of the things they value is the look on their friends’ faces when they show off their latest creation!

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  • Anonymous
    Really? The 3rd generation of SSDs are well and truly here and you stick with 2 older ones? I am disappoint. The main reason I enjoy these System building articles (I used one as a base to build my current rig) is that you guys tend to swap the components around a bit more and you really get a sense of what's better. I would have loved to see the productivity differences between the RAIDed aData drives and say a new Vertex 3 120G or something similar. Anyway, keep it up!
  • blubbey
    Hmmmm.... Just nit-picking, but what if it used a normal optical drive, some 6950 2gb's (possible unlock to 6970's) and the old case. That'd be what.. possibly $300+ saving? ~50 for the drive, 75 for the case and the cards are 90 less than the cheapest 6970. That'd be enough for triple 6950's (possibly triple 6970's, then again if you did brick the cards that'd be a lot of money wasted).
  • aje21
    ASRock Z68 Extreme4: LGA 1155, Intel P67 Express

    Hmm, not quite right me thinks!
  • kajabla
    Mistake in the GPU section: it claims that "A pair of Radeon HD 6850s beats a pair of GeForce GTX 570s at our 2560x1600 target resolution, and the HD 6970 is even faster." That should be the 6950s that beat 570s (6850s would be pretty awesome, but I don't think so).
  • malloot
    It's weird how you guys somewhat 'forget' to mention the 25+ bad ratings for the adata ssd's on newegg. Its almost like you want to help newegg get rid of there bulk of bad adata ssd's.

    Is there any info on those ssd's you could mention? is the sleep bug resolved in a new firmware version? are the new ssd's updated to work properly for more then a month?..

    none of those questions seems to even have risen in your build. i expect better from this site