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System Builder Marathon: $1,250 Mid-Range PC

This month we wanted to really illustrate the strengths and weaknesses of a Core 2 Quad-based system compared to Core 2 Duo and Core i7 systems at a $1,250 price point.

I think we've achieved that goal, now let's have a look at the final analysis:

In the last SBM, we saw the Core i7 sport a notable lead over the E8500, but we weren't sure how much of this lead was due to quad-core optimizations and how much of this lead was due to the superior architecture of the new Core i7.

Well, this chart says it all. All three of these overclocked systems are being compared to the stock Q9550. While the gaming numbers are skewed by different video cards and driver versions and we removed the anomalous AVG results from the application score, we're still seeing a clear winner in the final combined score: the Core i7 is the best CPU for the money when purchasing a system at this price point.

The only Achilles' heel of the i7 at the $1,250 price point was its inability to be paired with a $500 video card. With X58 motherboard prices dropping, this limitation won't exist for long. In fact, we anticipate that the next SBM will allow us to pair an i7 920 with a single GTX 295 for $1,250. That should make for a powerful combination that would also be readily affordable for PC enthusiasts with moderate means.

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