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Performance Summary

System Builder Marathon, Q4 2013: $800 Gaming PC
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Let’s wrap up the comparison between my two machines in our gaming tests. Tallying average frame rates throughout all of the tested resolutions interestingly emphasizes CPU performance. The new $800 PC achieves results that are between 30 and 42% higher in the titles we tested on both boxes.

Moving forward, the addition of Battlefield 4, Arma III, and Grid 2 should balance much of the weight back to our graphics cards.

After all, when it comes down to it, you don't build an $800 box to play at 1280x720 with low details and jagged edges. So, we'll isolate the quality settings more interesting to PC gaming enthusiasts.

Cranking up the eye candy at 1920x1080 obviously shifts demands from the platform to the GPU. Huge numbers in Skyrim favoring this quarter's Core i5-based system mask the narrower victory in our most demanding game, Far Cry 3. The overclocking headroom of last quarter’s GeForce GTX 760 even came pretty close to matching the stock $800 PC in that one game.

How about gaming across three monitors? There’s no doubt that my $800 machine is more capable, requiring fewer quality setting compromises to remain playable. It is interesting, though, that the overall tally doesn’t change much, regardless of whether we factor in all gaming tests, or just 1920x1080 and 4800x900 at the highest details. Any way we stack the charts, all three end up showing a 34-35% average boost in frame rates. Minimum frame rates follow a similar pattern also. This tells us we're dealing with two well-balanced gaming platforms.

Of course, our System Builder Marathon isn't just about gaming, and overall performance is important too. Last quarter’s $650 PC spanked the preceding Core i3-based rig in threaded workloads. AMD's six-core Vishera design made light work of our productivity applications. However, stepping up to a Core i5 yields an additional 25% average increase over that impressive FX-6300-based build. Even after folding in limited overclocking headroom, the $800 PC turns in better numbers than both of the last two $650 machines in just about every individual test.

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