System Builder Marathon, August 2012: $500 Gaming PC

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pacioli

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This $500 system was clearly better balanced than the previous $500 system.
I loved how you were able to dial in the CPU performance vs GPU performance sweet spot even better.
It is going to be very hard for the $1000 and $2000 machines to beat the price/performance ratio of this build.
 

pacioli

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[citation][nom]bustapr[/nom]hey Paul. would you consider doing some other tests on your next $500 build with games like starcraft 2 and witcher 2(preferably witcher 2) to see how the dual core(if you choose one) handles those cpu intensive games?really good build however. looking forward to the next ones.[/citation]
He did test SC2...
 

bustapr

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[citation][nom]pacioli[/nom]He did test SC2...[/citation]
hmm, sorry about that, the scroll down menu only shown skyrim and I skipped over that benchmark(as it doesnt really intrerest me). didnt know it said starcraft 2 next to it. ignore my last comment(except the witcher 2 part XD).

If anyone knows, how exactly would thois rig compare to a phenom 2 955 or an fx-4100 build? considering both builds with these processors can easily be brought to the $500 area.

seeing so many comments during all the SBM500 articles about phenom cpus, I think it would be interesting to see a multiple pc blowout to see which cpu how it goes. again, these are just my thoughts, dont take them too seriously.
 

bavman

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[citation][nom]sarinaide[/nom]We need to enforce the "no celeron please" rule, terrible for that $500 PC.[/citation]

Shows how much you know. Those "terrible" celerons outperform amd phenom x4s in gaming
 
[citation][nom]bavman[/nom]Shows how much you know. Those "terrible" celerons outperform amd phenom x4s in gaming[/citation]

That may be true, but the Phenom II x4s are even better than the Celerons and Pentiums, especially when overclocking is considered.
 

gondor

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[citation][nom]emad_ramlawi[/nom]Now thats what i call an balanced build, good job .Also i agree with itzsnypah, Tom hardware should make an article on PC build with maximum performance that you can squeeze out of lowest watt, some people started to care about those things, and being green to the environment is nothing to be ashamed of.[/citation]

Personally, I don't care much about being green to the environment as far as the power consumption of my computer is concerned but I do care about less heat and noise in my room. So yeah, even somebody who only has his own interests in mind would find such an article useful :)

I run my CPU undervolted as far as I was able to get it and I bought a graphics card with a relatively quiet cooling solution (and HD5770 was not a power hog to begin with when I bought it). When I go for the upgrade I'll definitely keep power efficiency in mind.
 
[citation][nom]raydog[/nom]http://www.microcenter.com/special [...] PROMO.htmlpentiums or AMD bundle??[/citation]

I'd recommend the Phenom II x4 955 if you don't mind overclocking much. If you don't want to overclock, then an i3 is another great option. Pentiums are kinda specific because they are best not used in titles that are well-threaded and very CPU-limited. For example, the Pentiums did fine in BF3, but go into BF3 MP and the Pentiums probably won't be able to keep up whatsoever.

What graphics card do you intend to use?
 

RedJaron

Splendid
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But is it an upgrade path you want to go down? For the casual user ( or the enthusiast who only needs a modest system, ) yes, it's a path that offers more power than you need for very little money. But considering what you get with an Ivy Bridge vs a Piledriver, I can't think of many tech savvy people who wouldn't want or need the extra power the current Intel generation gives.

Like many others, I like this more balanced build compared to last quarter. I think it's more indicative of what enthusiasts want from a budget build. Sure, some people may be willing to sacrifice general computing for maximum 3D performance, but I think most people are a little more sensible in what can be expected. Any reasonable person that wants to max out current games and also do some serious computing on the side will sooner or later have to realize a ~$650 budget minimum.
 


FX-8120 or FX-6100. Disable one core per module, letting the remaining core utilize the entire module's resources. This is a roughly up to 25% performance increase at the same clock frequency just when you manually tell a program to only use one thread per module in the task manager or a specialize short-cut, something that pretty much anyone could do with a simple, sub-minute tutorial. This also has the added benefit of decreasing power consumption at the same time because you have half of the cores either idling or disabled, depending on whether or not they are set to be inaccessible or completely disabled.

This is a huge performance per core per watt increase and increases thermal headroom substantially. You could easily get such a CPU up to and possibly past 5GHz on affordable air cooling. In this scenario, that's enough to put up a good fight against overclocked LGA 1155 i5s. The CPU/NB frequency can also be overclocked significantly with a considerably high performance boost as a result because it controls, among other things, the frequency of the L3 cache which defaults to a mere 2.2GHz if it isn't changed.

Bulldozer can already can already put up an excellent fight against Sandy/Ivy Bridge if you know how to use it well. Piledriver CPUs would be a large improvement over Bulldozer in that even Trinity is already a considerable increase in performance over Bulldozer despite not even having L3 cache. The performance of Steamroller and its subsequent successors is not something that I'm aware of, but if they are improvements over their immediate predecessors as Piledriver is over Bulldozer, that would be an excellent upgrade path.

By the time that a Phenom II x4 with an overclock is no longer practical for a $500 machine, we'll be a good two or three years down the road and Ivy will be no better then than it is now, but AM3+'s last families will probably be around Ivy in performance per core even without the enhancements other than overclocking that I mentioned earlier in this post. Combine that with the enhancements and overclocking and I don't see any advantage in going LGA 1155. Now if we were talking Haswell versus AMD once it is out, then there might be a great argument in that, but not Ivy/Sandy Bridge versus AMD's future.

I consider myself a tech savvy person and I'd easily choose the future of AM3+ over the future of LGA 1155. Right now, I'd go Intel over AMD for top performance because even with those above-mentioned enhancements to compete in performance, it would get hot and suck a lot of power, although it would most certainly not be nearly as bad as overclocking Bulldozer CPUs without the enhancements.
 

artk2219

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http://www.microcenter.com/single_product_results.phtml?product_id=0389133
http://www.cpu-world.com/CPUs/K10/AMD-Phenom%20II%20X3%20B73%20-%20HDXB73WFK3DGI.html
http://www.microcenter.com/single_product_results.phtml?product_id=0389134
http://www.cpu-world.com/CPUs/K10/AMD-Phenom%20II%20X4%20B93%20-%20HDXB93WFK4DGI.html

If I were on a tight budget and looking to overclock I would be looking long and hard at those two options. Granted they do not come with heat sinks, but that's only another 20 to 30 dollars on top for a decent cooler. They do not have the power or thermal efficiency of the SB/IB chips but they will hang with the Pentiums and I3's in single thread and destroy them in multithread performance, and with an AM3+ board there should be an upgrade path in the future with piledriver. I mean 40 dollars for a triple core (which may unlock to a quad core) or 50 for a quad core Phenom II, thats an insane deal, even with the relatively slow (for AMD) stock clock of 2.8. Add in the ability to take the CPU from stock to 3.5 - 4 Ghz by overclocking and thats a tremendous value.
 
[citation][nom]artk2219[/nom]http://www.microcenter.com/single_ [...] id=0389133http://www.cpu-world.com/CPUs/K10/ [...] K3DGI.htmlhttp://www.microcenter.com/single_ [...] id=0389134http://www.cpu-world.com/CPUs/K10/ [...] K4DGI.htmlIf I were on a tight budget and looking to overclock I would be looking long and hard at those two options. Granted they do not come with heat sinks, but that's only another 20 to 30 dollars on top for a decent cooler. They do not have the power or thermal efficiency of the SB/IB chips but they will hang with the Pentiums and I3's in single thread and destroy them in multithread performance, and with an AM3+ board there should be an upgrade path in the future with piledriver. I mean 40 dollars for a triple core (which may unlock to a quad core) or 50 for a quad core Phenom II, thats an insane deal, even with the relatively slow (for AMD) stock clock of 2.8. Add in the ability to take the CPU from stock to 3.5 - 4 Ghz by overclocking and thats a tremendous value.[/citation]

Problem is that the links say that those are in-store purchases only. You probably can't have them shipped to you from Microcenter. Also, they'll only hang with the Pentiums and i3s in single-threaded performance after they're overclocked. Despite this, for people who live near a Microcenter, you are correct about them being a great deal.
 
G

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there is one "fact" this build provides and dispels the myth that an intel gaming build has to be expensive:

Total Price $501

just 25% more than what a lot of people spend on a grfx card.
 

artk2219

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[citation][nom]blazorthon[/nom]Problem is that the links say that those are in-store purchases only. You probably can't have them shipped to you from Microcenter. Also, they'll only hang with the Pentiums and i3s in single-threaded performance after they're overclocked. Despite this, for people who live near a Microcenter, you are correct about them being a great deal.[/citation]


You're right, unfortunately I realized it was an in store only deal after I had submitted the comment, and I did leave out that they needed to be overclocked to around 3.2 - 3.4 to bring them to around an I3/Pentium single thread performance level.
 
[citation][nom]artk2219[/nom]You're right, unfortunately I realized it was an in store only deal after I had submitted the comment, and I did leave out that they needed to be overclocked to around 3.2 - 3.4 to bring them to around an I3/Pentium single thread performance level.[/citation]

Actually, thy need to be overclocked closer to 3.8-4GHz to meet Intel in single-threaded performance. Phenom II is a lit better than FX in performance per Hz, but it's still quite far from Sandy Bridge.
 

artk2219

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[citation][nom]blazorthon[/nom]Actually, thy need to be overclocked closer to 3.8-4GHz to meet Intel in single-threaded performance. Phenom II is a lit better than FX in performance per Hz, but it's still quite far from Sandy Bridge.[/citation]

:) I never said to SB performance, just around. 3.2 to 3.4 was within a 20 percent difference and close enough that for most tasks most people wouldnt notice. But again, yes your right lol.
 

pauldh

Illustrious
[citation][nom]Abegnale[/nom]@Paul Henningsen,Why not substitute some existing parts for either an I3-2100 and/or an eVGA 560 Superclocked?[/citation]
You could, or increase productivity by droping in an i5-2400 or higher.

We didn't consider an i3 here simply for price. $30 more the CPU alone, robs $30 from the GPU and/or mobo. Meeting budget, that would have meant i3-2100, HD 6850, and a $60 H61 mobo.


 

pauldh

Illustrious
[citation][nom]sarinaide[/nom]We need to enforce the "no celeron please" rule, terrible for that $500 PC.[/citation]
[citation][nom]sarinaide[/nom]"Pentium"[/citation]
Why? When building a pure gaming rig, why would we rule out the best gaming processor for the money? It's FPS per dollar/Watt/heat/noise are all outstanding.



And just an FYI, this is the very first Sandy Bridge Pentium we have ever used in a SBM.
 

pauldh

Illustrious
[citation][nom]emad_ramlawi[/nom]Now thats what i call an balanced build, good job .Also i agree with itzsnypah, Tom hardware should make an article on PC build with maximum performance that you can squeeze out of lowest watt, some people started to care about those things, and being green to the environment is nothing to be ashamed of.[/citation]
Thank you.

He presents an interesting idea. I'd consider it most for an HTPC or small form factor build, where power = heat = noise to some extent. Or it could also be the start of a nice $400 build, that happens to sip power either on purpose or just from lack of GPU funding.

Oh, we did do a bang/Watt build 3.5 years ago. Mildly overclocked e8500 did quite well.
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/overclock-undervolt-efficiency,2134.html
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/overclock-power-efficiency,2155.html

 

pacioli

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[citation][nom]bustapr[/nom]hmm, sorry about that, the scroll down menu only shown skyrim and I skipped over that benchmark(as it doesnt really intrerest me). didnt know it said starcraft 2 next to it. ignore my last comment(except the witcher 2 part XD). If anyone knows, how exactly would thois rig compare to a phenom 2 955 or an fx-4100 build? considering both builds with these processors can easily be brought to the $500 area. seeing so many comments during all the SBM500 articles about phenom cpus, I think it would be interesting to see a multiple pc blowout to see which cpu how it goes. again, these are just my thoughts, dont take them too seriously.[/citation]

AMD Phenoms have recently mysteriously appeared back on the market after a 6 month absence. (I'm not sure what is going on with AMD's CPU marketing team...) They were likely not available at the time of the build. The FX 4100 doesn't do so good in gaming as it gets beaten by the lower end Sandy Bridge at stock and can only equal them when overclocked (Which creates a power sucking system that makes me cringe at the electrical bill)
 

pauldh

Illustrious
Many are talking about a Phenom II X4, and there is certainly nothing wrong with that choice. It's especially attractive when we consider competing throughout the whole test suite, not just games.

While available again, PH II quads are still a bit more expensive, and that funding comes from where? A Boxed 965 BE is $110, (same as the FX4100). The stock PHII cooler is loud, but would likely take the chip near 3.8 GHz. Alternately, an oem 955BE is $95, add $10-20 for a cooler as desired. Either way, we are dipping into our GPU and Mobo budget. I’d want to break budget a bit to do the platform justice. I’m not crazy about an AMD build (Deneb, or Zambezi, or Llano) forced to use a $50 mobo and CAS 9 DDR3-1333.

Anyway, my take on PH II X4 is this: power consumption would be way up, noise and/or cost up, productivity (overall) once overclocked would be way up, the machine's overall "score" or value standing vs. the other two machine's would also improve (requires more cores).

However the focus here was gaming, and I suspect little difference in 3 of our games (BF3, Skyrim, and DiRT3). StarCraft II though, our testing has shown even a 3.7 GHz X4 980 trails the G860 by about 10%. We'd probably need at least 4.0GHz to match the G860 in SC2.

Bottom line, we have now seen what Intel has to offer gamers at this budget. If we shift focus towards all-round performance, not just games, then we need more processing cores. We can't grab 4 Sandy Bridge cores and maintain our GPU funds, so attention must shift towards AMD.
 
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