System Builder Marathon, September 2011: 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 fill out this Google form, and be sure to read the complete rules before entering!
Our $500 System Builder Marathon gaming PC from June 2011 departed from the norm by centering on a budget-oriented Intel Sandy Bridge-based platform that could not be overclocked. At all. It had to stand or fall based on its out-of-box processing power.
The machine actually achieved its goals by providing the best stock performance, the best gaming performance, and, by far, the best efficiency to date for any build under $600 of our series. That's pretty incredible for a processor that couldn't be overclocked.
But there was also a bit of controversy surrounding the build, sparked by the author himself. You see, for the same cost, I could have taken the AMD configuration from the quarter prior and jumped up to an even more attractive Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition CPU.
Furthermore, price drops that went into effect by the time our last series went live meant the higher-end Phenom was available for just $113, which nearly covered the cost of even more powerful graphics hardware.
So, for those of you who read last quarter's series or participated in the discussion, it should come as no surprise to find a Black Edition Phenom II X4 and Radeon HD 6870 listed in the component table below.
|$500 Gaming PC System Components|
|CPU||AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition||$120|
|CPU Cooler||AMD boxed heatsink/fan||0|
|RAM||Crucial Ballistix sport 4 GB (2 x 2 GB) DDR3-1333 BL2KIT25664BA1339||$25|
|Graphics||Sapphire 100314-3L Radeon HD 6870 1 GB||$175|
|Hard Drive||Seagate Barracuda ST500DM002 500 GB SATA 6.0Gb/s||$40|
|Case||NZXT Gamma Classic Series GAMA-001BK||$36|
|Power||Antec EarthWatts Green EA430D 430 W||$44|
|Optical||Samsung 22x DVD Burner SATA Model SH-222AB||$19|
The Phenom II X4 955 BE gives us a nice frequency increase across its four physical cores and the flexibility of an unlocked CPU multiplier. The bundled cooler that comes with the Black Edition chips is a step above the all-aluminum versions bundled with AMD’s more mainstream quad-core offerings, so we expect more potential when it comes time to overclock.
While financial constraints kept us from stepping up to a fancier motherboard compared to past budget-oriented builds, at least we weren't forced to use a stripped-down microATX model, as we had to last quarter. Once again, then, the goal was to spend as close to $500 as possible and still beat the previous build. Although our Phenom II X4 of choice had settled back in at $120, we were still able to buy a nicer graphics card thanks to steep drops in memory prices (our 4 GB memory kit sold for just $25).
And while we're on the subject of money, let's take an opportunity to refresh you on some of our practices here. If you're familiar with our System Builder Marathon, then you know that the budget is dedicated to hardware components alone. It doesn't include software or peripherals. Also, we don't factor in Newegg's combo deals or manufacturer mail-in rebates, since they're often not available when it comes time for you to replicate our builds. Lastly, shipping costs and taxes don't get considered. In case you're interested, there was a $20 rebate available on our chosen graphics card, which could get our price down to $499. But we still would have had to pay $11 for shipping.