Introduction

When the System Buyers Guide: $1000 to $2000 was published a few weeks ago it was obvious the last system guide in the series should be the High End Buyers Guides for systems above $2000. It was our full intention at that point to present both AMD and Intel systems for our High-End Buyers Guide, but an AnandTech meeting with all the editors quickly changed that idea. It was the consensus that as of today there is only one CPU at the top of the performance heap, and that CPU is the Intel Core i7.

With the introduction of the Phenom II, AMD now has a legitimate competitor to Intel Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Quad systems. The recent price cuts by both Intel and AMD in that market segment just reinforced the fact that Phenom II competes very well with Intel Penryn. Perhaps with higher speeds Phenom II processors might make the High-End Buyers Guide in the future, but as of today the Intel Core i7 owns the high-end of the CPU market.

With that reality in mind, it seemed almost pointless to publish a high-end system guide that just presented a dream Core i7 system. It is also clear to us that, despite the fact that Phenom II does not compete well at the very top, it is still a significant achievement for AMD and the processor market, and it deserves better than to be ignored.

Therefore you will see two specialty guides in the next few weeks. This guide will concentrate on Intel Core i7 systems. After some announcements by AMD, we will also be posting a guide for Phenom II systems. While Core i7 and Phenom II now cover different market segments and different price points, they both are significant CPUs in their own right and both deserve a spotlight on CPU compatibility and getting the most from each CPU. Core i7 and Phenom II are where the action and interest are in today's computer market, and the guides will try to provide help in selecting components for your new Core i7 or Phenom II system.

This Core i7 Buyers Guide looks at three different i7 builds that you might consider. The Core i7 is high on the performance tree but it is also expensive compared to other solutions. Not everyone can afford the $2000 Core i7 system presented in the $1000 to $2000 Buyers Guide. For builders who want an i7 system for as little money as possible we put together a Core i7 Entry system. The goal is simple: build a competent i7 system for as little money as possible. We managed to cut more that 25% from our last Core i7 system price without significant compromises.

Another typical buyer is attracted to the Core i7 because of the tremendous overclocking potential of the processor. As seen in Overclocking Core i7 and other Core i7 articles, the 2.66GHz 920 can reach 3.6GHz to 4GHz with proper air cooling. That is faster than the stock speed available even with the $1000 Core i7 965. The goal of the Core i7 Overclocking System build is a system that provides the flexibility and components to maximize overclocking. The slant is to the value end of overclocking - overclocking to increase value - rather than the absolute highest performance options. However, we do make some recommendations for those who overclock strictly for performance.

Finally, there is the Core i7 High-End System. The goal is to select the best performing components available, and not just the most expensive. The very high end of any system in the computer industry will rarely yield the best bang for the buck. Squeezing the last bit of performance from a component usually means spending a great deal more money than buying the component that delivers the best performance for the dollar. However, luxury and top performance sell well, and these components are still the stuff that computer dreams are made of. Our Dream Core i7 system reaches around $5000, and frankly we could have extended the cost much further by expanding storage and selecting a RAID 5 controller and drive array. Still, the components in the High-End Guide should be food for thought as you select your own Core i7 System.

Core i7 Entry
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  • quan111000 - Wednesday, March 17, 2010 - link


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  • Tacoeater - Tuesday, March 03, 2009 - link

    I am thinking about building a system very similar to this. However, I want to break away from MS licensing and tax. If I install a Linux distribution, am I neutering the video card? In particular, I play 2 games: WOW and Civ4. I see that WINE will run these games in linux, but I suspect not at the quality I could play the games at in a Windows environment.

    Does it make sense to install a premium video card in this kind of systemd if I am going to be using Linux as my main OS?

    I am also considering virtualization or dual booting with a min install of WinXP just for these 3 applications. However, I am a noob to virtualization.

    And no, I do not want MS as the main OS while using something like Cygwin or virtualizing a unix environment in Windows. The point is to minimize my use of MS to hopefully get off it completely at some point and choose to use it based on its merits versus needing it for DirectX. For instance, Windows seems to make a media

    BTW, what is the advantage of Vista versus Linux anyways aside from DirectX? Is it driver support?
    Reply
  • nycter - Tuesday, February 10, 2009 - link

    I built a very similar system last week and ended up returning that power supply unopened for the smaller one. (850W) The box on my GTX295 recommended a higher amps rating on the 12v rail than this 1000W ps provides according to its box. FYI correct me if I was wrong. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, February 10, 2009 - link

    The GTX 295 has a recommended minimum 12V rating of 46 Amps, the 1000HX is a dual rail design with each rail providing 40 Amps or a total of 80 Amps. The Corsair 850W is a single rail design with a specified 12V rail of 70 Amps.

    The GTX 295 is a dual GPU card and I really doubt there would be any issue with the dual rail 1000HX which has a total 12V Rail capacity of 80 amps. You may want to check out our review of the Corsair 1000HX at http://www.anandtech.com/casecoolingpsus/showdoc.a...">http://www.anandtech.com/casecoolingpsus/showdoc.a....
    Reply
  • MadBoris - Sunday, February 08, 2009 - link

    Thanks for the guide AT & Wesley!
    Glad to know what good components are around today and their prices.

    Core I7 is too prohibitive in price even on Entry for the performance gains I would get. The motherboard and CPU are generally just plain too expensive still.
    $200 - $300 for a mobo, got to still be kidding me.

    I really chose a great time to pull the trigger for my last upgrade, a couple years ago, got a great Gigabyte 965p DS3 mobo and C2D 1.8 w/ 4GB DDR2 for very little $. Updated to a Q6600 quad about a year ago at $200 and am at 3GHZ OC.

    Core I7 performance is not that attractive compared to when I was going from a P4 to C2D. Maybe when the next USB spec and next SATA spec comes out and next gen SSD's are attractive enough then upgrading to a new mobo will be worth considering. I will be tempted around Windows 7 release time, I hope the landscape changes significantly with an upgrade making more sense then.

    There's no reason for me to consider an upgrade until the next "sweet spot" to upgrade comes up. But these articles all help someone hone in on knowing when the next sweet spot with performance/price and longevity comes up.
    Reply
  • Bolas - Saturday, February 07, 2009 - link

    Maybe it would look something like this. I'm thinking I would probably want a larger case and larger power supply, though.

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    Qty. Image Product Description Unit Price Savings Total Price

    Update SILVERSTONE FT01-BW Black Aluminum ATX Mid Tower Uni-body Computer Case - Retail
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    Note (Add)


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    Reply
  • Bolas - Saturday, February 07, 2009 - link

    Alternately, you could just about configure what you wanted from cyberpower, if you don't feel like building it yourself, I would think. Their high end system seems price competitive with what anandtech recommended for a dream system, if you aren't good at system builds yourself I would think this would be another way to go. No I don't work for newegg or cyberpowerpc, just web sites I like, that's all. :)

    http://www.cyberpowerpc.com/system/Gamer_Xtreme_XI...">http://www.cyberpowerpc.com/system/Gamer_Xtreme_XI...
    Reply
  • JonnyDough - Friday, February 06, 2009 - link

    but you never listed the price of the LG Blu-Ray HD-DVD reader. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Friday, February 06, 2009 - link

    The LG Blu-Ray Reader/16X DVD Writer varies between $99 to $115 depending on when it is on sale. It was $105 when the Guide went to press. The 6X LG Blu-Ray writer has been around $250, but recently settled in at $200. It was on sale for $190 as the guide was posted. Reply
  • JonnyDough - Friday, February 06, 2009 - link

    Alright, well it's in the chart...but not in the article. You mentioned raising the price to $200 by adding BR burning capability but failed to mention the drive price prior to that. Reply

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