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Power And Efficiency

System Builder Marathon, August 2012: System Value Compared
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Economy and efficiency are often two different things. Efficiency is a measurement of work per watt. Intel’s marketing department doesn’t always appear to realize the difference; we often find the term efficiency thrown around in discussions of its weakest products.

In today’s example, Paul's $500 PC consumes a lot more than half of the power of Don's $1000 effort. And yet, we already know from the benchmark results that it's not a lot more than 50% as fast. Really diving down is going to require some math in Excel.

The $2000 machine’s stock power consumption doesn’t look terrible, but the amount of extra juice required for its overclock is simply scary. This huge increase in consumption occurred in spite of our efforts to keep its core voltage relatively moderate, at 1.32 V.

We used the $500 machine’s performance as our baseline and instantly spotted a problem, as the $1000 PC produced far more than twice its performance. My system's numbers are even higher, though the delta between its performance and Don's $1000 system is much smaller.

Keeping the $500 PC as our baseline, we moved the chart scale to better reflect efficiency differences, rather than absolutes. After all, there is no such thing as 100% efficiency.

Paul's $500 PC boasts low power consumption. But it's power use isn't as low as its performance relative to the other machines, unfortunately. In fact, even my overclocked $2000 PC produces 19% more work per watt, in spite of its 200% higher average power consumption.

The $500 machine’s poor performance is almost completely responsible for the $1000 PC’s huge efficiency victory, though we have to give credit to Don's system's Ivy Bridge-based processor.

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Top Comments
  • 19 Hide
    abitoms , August 23, 2012 5:28 AM
    The statistician (really) in me wonders wat might have happened to the $500 system's value if a quad FX was used in it...

    I mean swapping the G860 for a FX 4100 and a Radeon 7770 *might'* have provided an interesting contrast to the above $500 system.

    Productivity up by 20% and games down by 20% I guess. Can only speculate.

    Btw, thanks crashman for the tip.
    This is just me wondering aloud. So...dunno why the thumbs down
  • 15 Hide
    Anonymous , August 23, 2012 8:05 AM
    I know it's probably hard to do, but it would be awesome if Tom's could find out the price where price/performance is optimal instead of searching for the optimal build for a set price.
  • 12 Hide
    frihyland , August 23, 2012 8:13 AM
    Great article, seems like it might be time to switch up the price points for your builds though. $600, $1200, and $1800 seem much more reasonable and would give us better comparisons I think.

    Edit: Ninja'd by chmr
Other Comments
  • -6 Hide
    abitoms , August 23, 2012 5:23 AM
    (double post)
  • 19 Hide
    abitoms , August 23, 2012 5:28 AM
    The statistician (really) in me wonders wat might have happened to the $500 system's value if a quad FX was used in it...

    I mean swapping the G860 for a FX 4100 and a Radeon 7770 *might'* have provided an interesting contrast to the above $500 system.

    Productivity up by 20% and games down by 20% I guess. Can only speculate.

    Btw, thanks crashman for the tip.
    This is just me wondering aloud. So...dunno why the thumbs down
  • 9 Hide
    Crashman , August 23, 2012 5:39 AM
    abitomsdamn,.... thought there was an Edit button somewhere.(sorry)So adding to my prev comment, swapping the G860 for a FX 4100 and a Radeon 7770 *might'* have provided an interesting contrast to the above $500 system.
    Above your first post there's a link "Read the comments in the forums". In the forums you can quick edit (on the view pane) or full edit (on a new page), and in full edit mode you can even delete your second post. That is, if you add the missing information the the first post.
  • 9 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , August 23, 2012 5:40 AM
    Since the benchmarks give a fair weight to the 'pro' applications, GPGPU benchmarks should be there as well.

    And those gaming benchmarks are ridiculous. Most are getting FPS in the 100+ range. So really, there is no comparison between the systems. all values above 60 are the same. How can 150 FPS be better than 120FPS on a 60HZ monitor?
  • 5 Hide
    Crashman , August 23, 2012 7:49 AM
    mayankleoboy1How can 150 FPS be better than 120FPS on a 60HZ monitor?
    Hopefully it will go along with a maximum frame time drop from 500ms to 50ms :) 
  • 15 Hide
    Anonymous , August 23, 2012 8:05 AM
    I know it's probably hard to do, but it would be awesome if Tom's could find out the price where price/performance is optimal instead of searching for the optimal build for a set price.
  • 12 Hide
    frihyland , August 23, 2012 8:13 AM
    Great article, seems like it might be time to switch up the price points for your builds though. $600, $1200, and $1800 seem much more reasonable and would give us better comparisons I think.

    Edit: Ninja'd by chmr
  • 2 Hide
    perishedinflames , August 23, 2012 9:14 AM
    frihylandGreat article, seems like it might be time to switch up the price points for your builds though. $600, $1200, and $1800 seem much more reasonable and would give us better comparisons I think.Edit: Ninja'd by chmr


    current price-tags feel awkward i have to agree.
    to be more specific:
    a. Entry level gaming pc ($500): you try to pick the cheapest parts so that you save for the best GPU the rest of your money can buy
    b. Enthusiast gaming pc ($1000): how most people try to build, save here and there (either by finding good deals or by dropping quality in RAM and Chassis mostly) so that you can get an awesome CPU & GPU (prolly a SSD too)
    c. Hardcore gaming pc ($2000): the tag is too high so you just blindly buy the most expensive parts (like a sheikh on vacation)

    what would show more accurate results might be one of the following two:
    1. two builds; one of $700-$800 and one of around $1500 (+/- $100)
    2. three builds again but with some $150-$200 offset; entry-lvl 650-700, enthusiast 1200-1400, hardcore 1700-1900
  • -9 Hide
    noob2222 , August 23, 2012 9:21 AM
    abitomsThe statistician (really) in me wonders wat might have happened to the $500 system's value if a quad FX was used in it...I mean swapping the G860 for a FX 4100 and a Radeon 7770 *might'* have provided an interesting contrast to the above $500 system.Productivity up by 20% and games down by 20% I guess. Can only speculate.Btw, thanks crashman for the tip.This is just me wondering aloud. So...dunno why the thumbs down

    Toms did a bunch of game reviews showing how bad AMD is so they don't have to use them for the SBM articles. 11 of the past 12 SBM have all been Intel, and the one AMD was bugged with a cheap cpu.

    Even though SBM was I thought to test hardware with different components, apparently as long as its only with Intel.

    BF3 as a test needs to be done online, wether its controlled or not, you can at least get a feel of how its going to work. Especially with a dual core cpu.
  • 8 Hide
    Crashman , August 23, 2012 9:30 AM
    noob2222Toms did a bunch of game reviews showing how bad AMD is so they don't have to use them for the SBM articles.
    Nice conspiracy theory, but I'm not party to it. So, go back to bugging the $500 and $1000 PC builders. They must know something I don't.
  • 5 Hide
    abitoms , August 23, 2012 10:28 AM
    chmrI know it's probably hard to do, but it would be awesome if Tom's could find out the price where price/performance is optimal instead of searching for the optimal build for a set price.


    Similar to your view, i have one more thought. Since most users are already set/fixed/limited to their monitors or preferred resolutions, i reckon resolution is (or should be) the deciding factor while planning for system components.

    For instance, When I built my system
    -- I was on a budget of INR 35000 (This converts to around $750 - though if ppl in the USA bought these parts at that time, they would have spent just around $600 - due to various reasons beyond me)
    -- I started with my *desired* resolution - 1920x1080.
    -- For acceptable gaming AT THIS RESOLUTION within my budget, Radeon 5770 was the choice (NV also had options like the GTX 260 but were too power hungry for me).
    -- This in turn decided the CPU for me, the Athlon II X3 435, which balanced the 5770 (meaning the 5770 and the X3 435 provided equal bottleneck to my system)
    -- the CPU decided the appropriate motherboard for me
    -- all this decided the power supply
    -- and so on

    Coming to how the reviews are laid here and most other sites, it is by game - i.e. each game on a new page. My humble opinion is to split them by resolution. Have 1 (or 2) page dedicated to games on 1440x900 then come to 16** resolutions and cover all games at this, followed by games at 1920x resolutions and then finally 2560x if needed.

    i believe with such a layout, we need to see only one page in any review - the page representing the monitor resolution applicable to us

    Sorry for the long post.
  • 10 Hide
    AstroTC , August 23, 2012 11:41 AM
    I don't think its a conspiracy or anything but it hurts not to see a single AMD product in any of these builds
  • -2 Hide
    Onus , August 23, 2012 12:00 PM
    For these value assessments, once again, I think a FPS cap is needed. A machine that plays a game at 100FPS is not any more valuable than one that plays it at 75FPS (provided it isn't 3D). Expressed another way, a "Pass/Fail" grading system may apply. This dramatically increases the value of the $500 system for games, as it can run them all at playable FPS. I agree with a sentiment expressed in the $2K build comments however, that a professional may indeed value every second shaved off an application's run time. This makes fitness for purpose an important target when building.
  • 8 Hide
    vitornob , August 23, 2012 12:11 PM
    jtt283For these value assessments, once again, I think a FPS cap is needed. A machine that plays a game at 100FPS is not any more valuable than one that plays it at 75FPS (provided it isn't 3D). Expressed another way, a "Pass/Fail" grading system may apply. This dramatically increases the value of the $500 system for games, as it can run them all at playable FPS. I agree with a sentiment expressed in the $2K build comments however, that a professional may indeed value every second shaved off an application's run time. This makes fitness for purpose an important target when building.


    Try to think in another aspect. In heavy parts of a game, performance suffers. Let's say, performance cut by half. The 100FPS falls to 50FPS, and the 75FPS falls to 38FPS. In this case the 100FPS actually is more valuable.
    This could be a good metric in the next SBM (wherever this is applicable, with scripted benchmarks) minimum FPS achieved.
  • 9 Hide
    pauldh , August 23, 2012 12:12 PM
    noob2222The reason the $500 buld used a dual core pentium was because SC2 ran better, conspiracy ... come on dude read what he said.
    openly admitted conspiracy basing all cpu decisions on one article and in particular one game.

    Pure nonsense. Way to take a quote out of context. :non: 

    That comment was a direct response to someone who called the use of a Pentium G860 CRAP for our pure gaming system, while instead suggesting a Llano-based Athlon II as a better option, with zero proof offered to back up his claim.

    I was simply showing how the Pentium is a far better processor for the intended purpose and provided one example review proving my claim. The RTS I referenced being an extreme case which also happens to make up 25% of our SBM gaming suite. His solution would have been far worse, and probably failed misreably, at the machine's intended purpose, which was to increase our processing fortitude for gaming alone (vs. the G530), and not winning an overall SBM. Winning will take more CPU cores. Specifically of available options in range, 4 overclocked AMD cores (preferably Phenom II) would indeed be better in today's comparison, if that were the machine's goal. I covered that in the text. Shoot, likely the best way to win this thing is with OC'ed i5-2500K and make graphics an afterthought, yet then we'd have to lose the gaming name and accept failure at the higher game settings.

    Like it or not, Tom's consistently has found Intel's Sandy Bridge offerings to offer stellar gaming value, and chips like the Pentium G860 have ruled their price bracket and repeatedly earned the site's monthly recommendation for "Best Gaming CPU for the Money". Not based on one game, based on all our time spent testing various CPU's. It has nothing to do with brand preference, we long for either company to trump current top performers, and do NOT like using an enthusiast-unfriendly "locked" dual-core CPU. We are begging for better options, yet appreciate the amazing per-clock performance and affordable gaming abilities Sandy Bridge offers.

    So many are bashing a CPU found to offer the best value at this machine's intended purpose, because it is not their preferred brand. Others may not like the Pentium because they wanted a different goal for the $500 system; That is fair enough. But let me ask, I also chose five AMD processors in a row when they best fit the intended purpose for the money. In fact, make that 7 out of 9 systems, spanning 2+ years, were all AMD processors, all my choice. Did you bash the whole site just as much then because I ignored Intel's budget offerings? Or did you understand we do this 4 times a year, having one shot each quarter, covered Intel's best already, and moved on to addressing the weakness we found with what could best serve the purpose (Athlon II and Phenom II X3 & X4).
  • 4 Hide
    jaquith , August 23, 2012 1:03 PM
    Quote:
    "We’ve discussed the constraints of our benchmark suite thoroughly, concluding that any set of tests designed specifically to emphasize the capabilities of a more expensive machine wouldn't represent an adequate number of real-world buyers."

    Well I sure can't ague with that realization.

    In my world a sub-$2K rig is a nice terminal. However, I clearly don't represent the 'typical' end user. Most folks (here) are using their PC's to play games, surf the web, check their email and rip media. There is no doubt the occasional person actually uses their PC for something more productive, but the 'productive' uses are so far and wide that you'll be stretched to find a compilation of suitable benchmarks that are going to be useful.

    Any decent 2-core+ CPU can game and the differences stem from the games 'physics/computations/etc' (CPU) and last Jan you guys did such an article comparing CPU's; it would be nice to see a 'plus-$200' version - http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/gaming-fx-pentium-apu-benchmark,3120.html otherwise in the $1K/$2K you'll have fluctuations in GPU's which forces me to read the 'fine' print of the GPU's clocks & settings not to mention you can run the same test 5 times and have 5 different results. So spitting hairs on FPS ±2%~3% might not mean a thing or worst misleading.

    Also, a very important note between Marathon's AMD and/or nVidia may update their drivers so retrospective (old) comparisons become a mute point and are indeed very misleading. You can have a 5%~20% jump in performance just as a matter of a driver patch/update.

    Statistical Errors & Standard Deviation - Run 3DMark11 10 times and if you achieve the same results you're either a lair or it's a fluke. Further, the duration's of the test are way too short which adds to more potential errors; 3 sec/60 sec vs 4 sec/10 min (600 sec); 5% vs 0.67%.

    There are several bench suites that actually will show the differences between then number of cores and hyper-threading so I suggest you explore those benchmarks in future Marathon's.
  • 0 Hide
    halls , August 23, 2012 1:14 PM
    Any thoughts on how cheap SSDs would have to get before you'd ditch mechanical hard drives entirely in the $500 PC? If it's categorized as a "$500 Gaming PC", you could definitely get away with lower capacity if you had to. I wouldn't mind seeing what would happen if you could score a 90 or ~120GB drive for a few more bucks than the 500GB you used this time around.
  • 0 Hide
    cknobman , August 23, 2012 1:34 PM
    hallsAny thoughts on how cheap SSDs would have to get before you'd ditch mechanical hard drives entirely in the $500 PC? If it's categorized as a "$500 Gaming PC", you could definitely get away with lower capacity if you had to. I wouldn't mind seeing what would happen if you could score a 90 or ~120GB drive for a few more bucks than the 500GB you used this time around.


    I could argue for right now. Today NewEgg has a shell shocker deal for an OCZ Agility 3 240GB SSD for only $139.99!!!!!!!!!!

    (I know its OCZ and SandForce but I have a 120GB version of same drive and with latest firmware it seems to be doing just fine)
  • 1 Hide
    toddybody , August 23, 2012 1:37 PM
    I understand the CPU choice for the 2k build from productivity applications perspective...but it seems silly to choose in light of a nicer middle ground being the 3770k (HT over 3570 and TDP benefits over 3930K).

    Scrimping here and there would allow for higher graphics options, and better differentiating from the 1k build in gaming benchmarks.

    Anyways, great articles as always! Thanks Tom's Team :) 
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