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Performance Summary

System Builder Marathon, Q2 2014: Our Budget Gaming PC

Let's compare how well this pair of gaming-oriented PCs measure up to each other. As you've seen us do so many times before, we use the older machine as our baseline. The difference in performance is what we give up in the quest to shave $250 off of our system cost.

Perhaps surprisingly, tallying the average frame rates in each of our tested resolutions demonstrates big demands on the respective CPUs. It's fairly clear that the Trinity-based Athlon I used this quarter is a step below Intel's Core i3.

But I didn't pick the Athlon because I thought it could be faster. Rather, it was selected to maintain adequate gaming performance as we shaved expense from our budget, while leaving funds available for capable graphics.

Cranking up the eye candy and isolating 1920x1080 naturally shifts the bottleneck over to graphics processing. AMD's Radeon R7 265 doesn't stand a chance against a GeForce card priced twice as high. The Curaçao GPU isn't a bad choice for gaming at Full HD resolution. In fact, for what we had available to spend, we couldn't have done better. But be prepared to drop your quality settings a bit.

Gaming at 4800x900 requires three panels, which aren’t exactly cheap. Ultimately, you'll also want a larger graphics budget for truly playable performance. This wasn't the target resolution for today's build. Nevertheless, AMD's Radeon fared admirably at reduced detail settings.

Although these two machines were built for gaming, most entertainment-oriented PCs are used for other tasks, too. Our System Builder Marathons place a high priority on balanced overall system performance, and this quarter's PC does well in well-threaded workloads (even winning a few comparisons, after overclocking). This is an area of weakness for Intel’s dual-core, Hyper-Threaded processors. I’m not expecting to keep up as well when Don and Thomas compare their costlier machines.

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