System Builder Marathon, December 2010: Value, Compared

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cadder

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I think the SSD is of interest, but where is the data to show us load times, boot times, etc. of the SSD machine vs. mechanical hard drive machines? If you can time itunes down to the nearest second, surely you could do that with some load times and with boot times.

 

caamsa

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Again I am not sure why the X3 445 was picked over the 450 or the 455. You would have gotten a small boost in speed and less power draw.
 

TeraMedia

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I really like what this article did in an effort to capture the value of having a faster storage system. I think maybe a fraction other than 25% (perhaps 10% or 15%?) might better represent the impact of faster storage on overall user experience, but it makes sense to at least put something in there.

For a future SBM, it would be nice to see HTPC functionality targeted. A potential list of target criteria could be:
- 1080p video output (or even 3x this for eyefinity)
- DVD playback
- Blu-ray playback
- Blu-ray 3D playback
- "light" gaming
- Gaming in 3D
- Dolby Digital / DTS pass-thru output or decoding and analog out
- Dolby TrueHD / DTS Master Audio pass-thru output or decoding
- Status display (nothing; LCD, VFD; touchscreen)
- Control (KBD,Mouse/Touchpad/Trackball/Motion,Remote; Wired/IR/RF/BT)
- Analog (cable/satellite) TV tuning, number of tuners
- Digital TV tuning, number of tuners
- Storage for recorded TV, music, pics and video
- Low noise level
- Form factor / appearance

By targeting high-efficiency, low-power CPUs and GPUs, and with form-factor and peripherals factoring in, you would have a very different set of trade-offs from the current CPU vs. GPU (vs. SSD) scenario.
 

Crashman

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[citation][nom]ScrewySqrl[/nom]the $500 PC with a $100 A.Data 64 GB SSD is still a fantastic $600 PC.[/citation]I just rechecked with the new benchmarks, and we're down to around 82GB for the test programs. If someone were to use anything less than 82GB for the system drive, I'd scratch those results and give them zero for cheating. Realistically we could drop to a 100GB minimum now.[citation][nom]coldmast[/nom]929 W for the $2000 overclock (that's peak load) but still that 850W PSU is getting maxed.[/citation]Not really, it's really 808W since the power supply is 87% efficient.
http://www.plugloadsolutions.com/psu_reports/SILVERSTONE_SST-ST85F-P_ECOS%201785_850W_Report.pdf

 

tom thumb

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What you will notice with an SSD is that levels will load in 1/8th the time, and that for every other practical usage scenario (internet, productivity, file copying, booting, program installation etc...) you'll notice a huge difference by spending a few bucks on an SSD.
SSDs are a lot faster but you are overestimating their speed. If you are comparing the SSD raid you have in this build with, say, a 7200 RPM HDD, load times will NOT be 1/8th as long. The best you can do with most games is about 1/3 - despite the fact that the SSD array is more than 3 times as fast. You have to consider other potential bottlenecks.
 

pauldh

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Pricing and availability. The X3 455 was introduced Dec 7th, after these arcticles were finished. So, being the top clocked X3 at order time, the 450 was more money ($87 I believe). The 445 was the quickest Athlon II X3 that didn't increase cost over the the model below it.

This isn't exactly accurate today, but to illustrate let's say the current options were 1) X3 445 or 450 for $75 and 2) X3 455 for $87. I'd then either go with the 450 for $75 or attempt to fit in a quad. The 445 would make no sense, and the 455 a bit hard to justify when already maxing the budget.
 

caamsa

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I also question the choice of the video card for the 500 build. You get an AMD/ATI chipset that can run crossfire but then you do not get an AMD/ATI video card?
 
[citation][nom]helpme3948[/nom]There's a flaw in what you're saying. If the hardest game to run was Counter Strike and everyone could already max it out at over 90FPS constantly, then buying a better GPU would be stupid. As it is now, only the overclocked $2000 build can get over 60FPS AVERAGE at 1080p in Crysis at Very High, that's not even taking minimums into account. There's also no AA turned on in those tests. Any of those builds would still benefit from more GPU power and it would show up as more AA and more FPS on the screen, not just discarded frames. There's also some people who like 2560x1600 monitors. What if someone wanted to use that $2000 build to play Metro 2033 at 1080p with all the settings maxed? There's no way having more GPU power would be "just for bragging rights." He'd actually get FPS closer to what his screen could output. Whether or not X part is worth the extra cost is up to the individual, but you can't say there would be no benefit from having a better GPU. Also, yes, people can tell the difference between ~30FPS and ~60FPS ($500 vs $2000). Now, I'm not saying whether an SSD or a better GPU would be a smarter choice. I'm just saying that a better GPU wouldn't be a complete waste. This point really comes down to what the priorities of the builder are and that gets pretty subjective, IMO.[/citation]

Not quite subjective. Like you stated at the end, we build PCs with the bottom line in sight: gaming, "productivity" (excel, word and internet), "pro-work" (3DSM/blender, Photoshop, local data bases, etc). So it ain't "blurry" when you want to build something. In this case, they offered a "balanced" system.

Now, we should debater the meaning of "balanced". What I understand in balance is that for every task I throw at my PC, he's going to respond in a good/superior way to that of the not specific task oriented PC. In this case, the 2K build is not balanced at all; it excels in every way, but power (not efficiency, brute power consumption), which is good IMO.

Now, the value proposition was lost on the 1k and 500 build, since those were merely gaming oriented PCs; at least, that's the way I see it.

Cheers!
 

K2N hater

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Those who claim SSD is a waste of money are gamers. And most gamers don't care about anything except FPS... Would the editor mention app load timing is very relevant to games there wouldn't be that much criticism.

By the way, how about a test with minimal/average FPS for GTA 4?
 

gm0n3y

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Overall, a good SBM. I like that you guys keep making changes and taking risks. Even if there is a tried and true component, what's the point in continually adding it to every build?

As for the SSD debate. I think that testing out a change like this was a good idea (again, its good to try new things). However, it definitely skewed the results too much, maybe it needs to be 10% of the score instead of 25%. Or you could cap the amount it is allowed to affect the score.
 

hellwig

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While I think that for $1000 or less, sdd is too pricey, I'm not sure what could have been put into the 2000 build instead. I also don't think it should have counted for a full 25% of the total performance. I think instead of having hard drive specific tests, just include a list of application load times. How much faster does windows boot, how much faster does a game go from loading screen to playable? Rather than showing me that it scores 5000 more points in HDD Embarrasser 2010, show me that I'll save 10 seconds loading up office 2007. That is a much better way to help us decide if the performance gain is worth the tremendous cost increase. Besides, your tests are unrealistic becausE no true gamer's collection could fit on a 120gb sdd. I have over 260gb downloaded off steam alone.
 

pauldh

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[citation][nom]caamsa[/nom]I also question the choice of the video card for the 500 build. You get an AMD/ATI chipset that can run crossfire but then you do not get an AMD/ATI video card?[/citation]

For the Dec $500 Gaming box, I looked to maximize the bang within the budget, and AMD did not have a Radeon that could touch the GTX 460 for $160.

Are you saying we should avoid a better performing NVidia card just to allow potential of someday utilizing the 770's x16/x4 Crossfire capabilities? I wouldn't recommend that approach, but if so it's certainly not a bad option to save money and step down to an HD 5770 like was used in the June $550 PC.

We didn't have the option at the time, but now jumping to a 6850 is also an option to consider. But IMO x16/x4 Crossfire'd 6850s isn't exactly an optimal upgrade path (if that's the plan).


 

terr281

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My most recent home builds used Intel M 30 GB drives (mid range) for the OS, fast mechanical drives for applications, and slow/large drives for data storage. With this basis and experience...

Including the SSD drives at 25% for the entirety of the value comparison is ridiculous. They have their uses, but not for your entire benchmarking suite. If you had not, in my opinion, wasted the extra $110 on the 2nd SSD, you could have done a couple/some of the following:

1. Guaranteed yourself quality ram. (Your own admission of issues.)
2. Up'ed the ram to 12 GB. (Your "How much ram do you need?" article.)
3. Spent an extra $20 on a 2nd DVD+R drive for optical redundancy. (A personal issue for me on all systems. Especially for copying disks.)
4. Up'ed the storage drive from 1 TB to 1.5 or 2 TB. (More data storage.)
5. 2x AMD 5870 CF instead of the 2x Nvidia GTX 470. (Slightly faster in some benchmarks.) [Since the new cards weren't available yet.)

Take you pick(s) for the money. But, any of them would have made the system better overall for true "use".
 

Crashman

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Former Staff
[citation][nom]terr281[/nom]My most recent home builds used Intel M 30 GB drives (mid range) for the OS, fast mechanical drives for applications, and slow/large drives for data storage. With this basis and experience...Including the SSD drives at 25% for the entirety of the value comparison is ridiculous. They have their uses, but not for your entire benchmarking suite. If you had not, in my opinion, wasted the extra $110 on the 2nd SSD, you could have done a couple/some of the following:1. Guaranteed yourself quality ram. (Your own admission of issues.)2. Up'ed the ram to 12 GB. (Your "How much ram do you need?" article.)3. Spent an extra $20 on a 2nd DVD+R drive for optical redundancy. (A personal issue for me on all systems. Especially for copying disks.)4. Up'ed the storage drive from 1 TB to 1.5 or 2 TB. (More data storage.)5. 2x AMD 5870 CF instead of the 2x Nvidia GTX 470. (Slightly faster in some benchmarks.) [Since the new cards weren't available yet.)Take you pick(s) for the money. But, any of them would have made the system better overall for true "use".[/citation]

1.) No, the CASE would have been cut back to get the higher-priced RAM if anyone thought the "wrong parts" might show up.
2.) No, because the benchmarks used in the SBM don't benefit from it.
3.) No, because two optical drives could have just been two DVD-R's and, with the expensive case, still would have left room for the RAM upgrade that nobody knew would be needed.
4.) No, because too many readers complain about drives larger than 2TB being useless for anything but warez and it's not worth arguing with them about.
5.) No, because THERE WAS NO SUCH THING.

#5 of course is the most important because it proves you didn't inform yourself before commenting.
 

bounty

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I know how to even out the SSD performance, add a gpu test that measures the GDDR5's MB/second and give it 25% weight. /sarcasm

 

robisinho

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editor is right about the $1000 build with ssds .. and I kinda appreciate the honesty even if any weakness in the presentation faults a $1000 build in price/performance comparisons. Now, next month they should turn around and do a $1200 system with that 120GB SSD on the $1000 build framework and add that to the comparisons :)
 

burnley14

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Wow, seeing how newer "weaker" cards (GTX 460) are powerful enough for nearly all games at most resolutions, spending hundreds and hundreds on the bleeding edge just got even more absurd.
 

caamsa

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[citation][nom]pauldh[/nom]For the Dec $500 Gaming box, I looked to maximize the bang within the budget, and AMD did not have a Radeon that could touch the GTX 460 for $160. Are you saying we should avoid a better performing NVidia card just to allow potential of someday utilizing the 770's x16/x4 Crossfire capabilities? I wouldn't recommend that approach, but if so it's certainly not a bad option to save money and step down to an HD 5770 like was used in the June $550 PC. We didn't have the option at the time, but now jumping to a 6850 is also an option to consider. But IMO x16/x4 Crossfire'd 6850s isn't exactly an optimal upgrade path (if that's the plan).[/citation]

If you were to upgrade the cpu and add another card in crossfire I see noting wrong with the x16/x4 crossfire. Most tests show you only loose about 5% with the pci-e 2.0 x4 slot. But that is a good price for the GTX 460 and the AMD SLI boards are overpriced IMO.
 

caamsa

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[citation][nom]burnley14[/nom]Wow, seeing how newer "weaker" cards (GTX 460) are powerful enough for nearly all games at most resolutions, spending hundreds and hundreds on the bleeding edge just got even more absurd.[/citation]

It has kinda always been like that. I will never pay more than 200 dollars for a video card ever again! Did it once and boy was it a mistake.
 

Crashman

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Former Staff
[citation][nom]caamsa[/nom]If you were to upgrade the cpu and add another card in crossfire I see noting wrong with the x16/x4 crossfire. Most tests show you only loose about 5% with the pci-e 2.0 x4 slot. But that is a good price for the GTX 460 and the AMD SLI boards are overpriced IMO.[/citation]Tom's Hardware lost around 5% going from x16 to x8, and there has to be more than 0% difference going from x8 to x4.
 

terr281

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[citation][nom]Crashman[/nom]1.) No, the CASE would have been cut back to get the higher-priced RAM if anyone thought the "wrong parts" might show up.2.) No, because the benchmarks used in the SBM don't benefit from it.3.) No, because two optical drives could have just been two DVD-R's and, with the expensive case, still would have left room for the RAM upgrade that nobody knew would be needed.4.) No, because too many readers complain about drives larger than 2TB being useless for anything but warez and it's not worth arguing with them about.5.) No, because THERE WAS NO SUCH THING.#5 of course is the most important because it proves you didn't inform yourself before commenting.[/citation]

1. Yes, you could have cut back on the case cost. However, the most important thing about a first time purchase system of this cost is getting a quality case. Since the purpose of the SBM is to build an entire new system, then you shouldn't cut the cost of getting a quality case. Did you spend too much ($250) on the case? In my opinion, yes. However, some people would disagree. As a result, I didn't touch the case cost.
2. So, just because the benchmarks don't benefit from it... means that a gaming computer shouldn't have it? From the Tom's article: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/ram-memory-upgrade,2778-9.html

"Based on our measurements and impressions (and taking falling prices into account), we thoroughly recommend a minimum RAM size of 8 GB. Using 12 or 16 GB only makes sense if you're planning on using 4 GB of more of this higher amount as a RAM disk, helping accelerate the reading and writing of temporary files. This applies equally to file compression, video encoding, and heavy image editing.

Other than this, you might want more RAM so the graphics card can allocate more system memory for its own use. We saw this pay dividends in GTA IV, for example. You won't see an overwhelming performance increase unless you're using very memory-hungry programs, but you will get a system with enough RAM for the foreseeable future."

There is also the issue of /trying/ to future proof, which is another arguable point. But, with prices as they are now... there is no reason, in my opinion, to not guarantee you will get the same TYPE and MODEL of ram for all slots by filling them at creation. The system will benefit in 2-3 years from this. (Example: Your ram fiasco.)

3. My post directly states "couple/some" in regard to my upgrade options. Upgrade your OEM drive (assuming the link is accurate in the $2k SBM article) to a retail one for the proper software to even read BR disks. Then, pay ~$18 for an OEM DVD+/-R drive. (Or, if your picture in the article is accurate, keep the Retail BR drive you chose and buy the OEM DVD+/-R.)

4. If the SBM was changed to include SSD drives, then it can be changed in this regard as well. Further, no where did I say to go past 2 TB... as I agree with your Warez comment. (I said 1.5 or 2 TB.)

5. I just confirmed that A. The chosen MB supports CF. And, since when could you have not bought 2 AMD 5870's? (Or, should I have incorrectly stated ATI 5870's, since the company label has changed... but the current boards are still listed as ATI?). Yes, I know the ATI 6xxx series and the Nvidia 5xx series didn't exist. There was reason I didn't mention them.

Yes, I'll agree number 5 was the most important. It means you either didn't read the 5870 portion (assuming I meant the 6xxx series), or the ATI to AMD label change isn't being considered. (Yes, Newegg is still listing the cards as ATI. This doesn't mean they are accurate, the product packaging that was pre-printed 6 months ago is accurate, or anything of the such.) Informed users, as many here at Toms are, know that ATI = AMD and that the 5870 "existed." (Those same people, however, probably never remember past "today" to realize that the 6xxx AMD or 5xx Nvidia cards didn't exist, nor that it takes you 2-4 weeks from part ordering to print for these articles.)

One of the first rules of buying from Newegg is to not look at the pictures as stated fact and to not treat Newegg comments as 100% accurate.

In the end, none of the above changes one very important fact. With the change to the value comparison, no computer in the SBM series will be able to win the value category and be a "gaming" computer without a SSD drive. Change the SSD value, or make that portion of the series useless to most users (and readers).
 

xAlex79

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Good SBM overall.

I think SBM Should not include SLI or CF builds though, I understand that sometimes from a value point they are good, but I have the following issue with those builds.

1-there is still too many issues with them (Driver problems and good support only in mainstream games)
2-Blocks future upgrading path bar selling your current GPUs (at a loss)
3-Often in a budget build to go Dual GPU you end up buying a generation behind meaning you sacrifice on features (directx, new architechtures)

I think most users that build a PC on a budget would benefit more from a single GPU considering that 1 year down the road they could pay very little for adding a 2nd GPU (since they would have gone down in price alot due to new GPUs comming out)

With that in mind it would also allow to get a better motherboard with two 16x pcie and a better CPU that would have enough horse power to support the later addon GPU.

On the SSD Issue I dont think it should be added to the score either. Simply because as it was mentionned before buying/wanting an SSD is just frills, if you want the faster loading times you just have to spend 100$ extra and you will get them no matter what system class you are after. I think it is much more interesting to see CPUGPU value comparisons because it causes much more bottlenecks and finding a good balance is hard unlike adding an SSD which is a 0/1 factor.
 

iamtheking123

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I'm in the "no ssd" crowd. They're just too expensive per gb to justify using as a program drive (over say 1TB Caviar Blacks in raid 0 for $130), and it doesn't matter if Windows boots in 15 seconds vs 20 seconds or Microsoft Word opens a half second faster. The unrealistic hard drive score (ie you're not really going to see 8x the performance) definitely taints the value results.
 

wasupmike

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If you're a casual user who's biggest app is MS Word... then ya... who cares about 1/2 a second

But, if let's say you're a hardcore Photoshop CS5 user (and yes, it opens with an SSD as fast as 'My Doc's', literally a blink of an eye), than it's quite the pleasure to have... video editing apps? game loading? forget about it... it's amazing

and you can compare the "slickness" and speed of an SSD over a HHD.. much like you would compare how it's worth it to spend a little extra on the better video card... just for that little more frame-rates... and higher efx settings

and for a clean install (especially for all you people who install their OS often... (hopefully not too often :)) -> Windows 7 64 will install in about ~10 minutes... like the days of Windows NT4 Workstation... ahh...

 
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