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Performance Summary, Efficiency, And Conclusion

System Builder Marathon, June 2010: $550 Gaming PC

Performance Summary

DiRT 2 results were not taken into account when comparing the June and March systems to each other. This title’s ability to utilize four cores would have further increased the gaming lead for the overclocked $750 PC, though.

Higher memory frequency likely aided the stock $750 March PC in edging out the June system in applications testing, but it’s the more powerful pair of graphics cards that account for a 16% lead in games. While the $550 build picked up an overall 17% performance increase from overclocking, the budget build’s unlocking misfortune kept it from competing with the value PC from March.


No, the $550 gaming machine’s single Radeon HD 5770 cannot keep pace with a rig sporting a pair of Radeon HD 4850s, but the budget build scores an easy victory in terms of efficiency.


Here’s the deal folks: buy enough AMD Phenom II or Athlon II X3 processors and you’ll find some will have fully functioning dormant cores. But rest assured, many will not, which is exactly why we suggest never banking on unlocking when purchasing a processor. Thankfully, the AMD Athlon II X3s already offers tremendous value right out of the box. Unlocking may be hit or miss, but given the right component combinations, it is reasonable to expect at least some success in terms of overclocking, making a triple-core Athlon II a stellar processor for any value-oriented gaming rig.

Overall, this June PC is a step backwards in terms of outright gaming performance, but at $550, we couldn’t possibly set a goal of increasing performance over the more expensive gaming box from the March SBM. Rather, here we just set out to build a potent $500 gaming rig and then chose to stretch the budget for higher frame rates and DirectX 11 support. At 1,080p, two overclocked Radeon HD 4850s delivered playable frame rates in Crysis with very high details, where the single Radeon HD 5770 now struggles at 1280x1024. This is exactly why many of our recent value builds have relied on a pair of bargain-priced graphics cards rather than a single mainstream card.

Now, make no mistake, the Radeon HD 5770 is still a decent gaming card, representing good value and a justifiable reason for stretching our budget $50 this month. It maxed out half of our gaming tests and offered decent 1,080p performance in the other games once settings were reduced. The $550 gaming PC won’t push high resolutions or the highest level of details in the most graphically-intensive titles, but it still delivers a super-enjoyable gaming experience, while being fairly easy on the wallet. Next up, we’ll see how well this budget build competes with the more expensive rigs from our other system builders.

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