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“Bang for the Buck” Conclusion

System Builder Marathon: Performance & Value
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We used the cheapest system from today’s charts as the basis for comparing the performance advantages of “spending up.”

At 2.5 times the price of the cheapest system, our new $1,250 enthusiast-level build shines with 2.4 times its gaming performance. On the other hand, the lack of a quad core allowed the same system to fall behind its predecessor in our audio/video encoding suite.

The $625 gamer appears equally impressive, but in a different way, having nearly 30% performance gains across-the-board for its 30% price increase.

Spending more to get added performance typically results in lower value, since the bottom of the market is where manufacturers compete most vigorously. Yet this month’s performance differences look far better relative to price than in past System Builder Marathons. Dividing the percent performance advantage of each system by its percent cost provides an accurate gauge of performance-per-price, or “bang for the buck” ratio.

Gaming enthusiasts will be very pleased with the value of this month’s $1,250 system, as it only loses 4% in “Gaming Value” compared to the cheapest system. That’s an acceptable loss, considering the fact that the $500 system wasn’t even useful for anything but the most basic settings and resolutions of some games. Compare this month’s 4% loss in value to October’s 30% value loss for the $1,500 system, and the $1,250 build looks even better.

Yet the $1,250 enthusiast system didn’t hold its value nearly so well in other tests, and finished with a combined value score of 71%. By comparison, the $625 gaming system’s 97% combined value finish appears almost stunning.

The $625 gamer was, in fact, the best-balanced of all, even though its actual gaming performance came up short of mediocre. But even though “workable settings” for demanding games such as Crysis were below the base settings of our charts, we’re sure that many—if not most—gamers would be happy to give up a little visual panache in order to save a few dollars.

To put it another way, the budget builder can often get all of the gaming smoothness of the enthusiast system, at around half the detail levels, for around half the price. With both the $1,250 and $625 build providing similar value, today’s article is sure to fan the flames of this rivalry.

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