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March 19, 2010

$1500 Enthusiast System Components

In this installment of the System Builder Marathon (SBM) series, our mid-priced PC is more than just a solid machine built from great components. Instead, it's also an experiment to see exactly what benefits Intel's Core i7-920 offers when compared to the cheaper Core i5-750.

We used the Core i5-750 in our last SBM, and this is an excellent opportunity to show the difference between the two. With the price of some Core i7-capable X58-based motherboards dropping, the real-world difference in price between a home computer based on either of these CPUs is probably in the $150 range. Since we'll use the same type of Radeon HD 5850 graphics cards in CrossFire that we did in our previous SBM, this new build gives us a really good idea of what the extra cash invested in the X58 platform and Core i7-920 provides in the way of performance.

Here are the components we chose:

$1,500 Enthusiast System Components
Motherboard ASRock X58 Extreme LGA 1366
Chipset: Intel X58 Express
Processor Intel Core i7-920 2.66 GHz
4 Cores, 8MB L3 Cache
CPU Cooler
Rosewill Fort 120 LGA 1366
Memory Crucial 6GB (3x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3-1333
Triple-Channel Desktop Memory Kit
Graphics 2 x Radeon HD 5850 (CrossFireX)
1GB GDDR5-4000 Per Card
Radeon HD 5870 GPU at 725 MHz
Hard Drives WD Caviar Black 750GB
750GB, 7,200 RPM, 32MB Cache SATA 3.0 Gb/s
Optical Samsung SH-S2232C
22x DVD+R, 8x DVD+RW, 16x DVD ROM, 48x CD ROM
Case Cooler Master CM 690
Power Corsair CMPSU-750TX 750W
ATX12V, EPS12V , 80-Plus Certified
  Total Current Cost $1,582

We call this the $1,500 build because that's what we paid when we ordered it, but prices have changed quickly in the past couple of months. The PowerColor Radeon HD 5850 graphics cards we selected have increased in price to $320 each, but only a short while ago these cards could be had for $290. This accounts for the lion's share of the price increase and is an unfortunate side effect of what happens when a company has a virtual monopoly in the high-end graphics card space. If Nvidia provides some competition with its next-gen parts in the near future, we might see some healthy competition on the price front, which can only be a good thing for the consumer.


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