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Value Conclusion

System Builder Marathon, Q4 2012: System Value Compared

We’ve determined through trial and error that the best bang for the buck, when it comes to building your own PC, is usually around $800. Any less and you're leaving performance on the table. Any more and you're subject to diminishing returns from higher-end components. Our $500 PC builder, Paul, almost always expects to lose the value comparison to Don's $1,000 build, and vice versa. 

Today, Paul's machine sets our baseline, and is exceeded by Don's. Yes, as we saw on the previous page, the FX-8350 is less efficient. However, when you factor power out and look only at performance per dollar, this quarter's $1,000 configuration rises to the top in its stock form and even more so after overclocking.

Productivity applications prove to be the $1,000 machine’s forte, adding street cred to its Piledriver-based AMD FX-8350. The $2,000 machine clearly outpaces it everywhere, but not by enough to justify its far higher price.

We’ve grown accustomed to the $2,000 machine being on the wrong end of the performance-cost curve, so I’m happy whenever I see my finished product push an average value score over 80%. On the other hand, a few overclocking enhancements might have gotten it a few percent higher still.

But poor overclocking isn't the expensive build's biggest problem. Built for gaming, its lowest three test resolutions are all capped by Battlefield 3's 200 FPS limit. Worse still, the performance of its Radeon HD 7970 CrossFire array drops off in the same game at 2560x1600. As a result, anticipated performance wins of 50% at stock speed and 100% when overclocked drop to 34% and 51%, respectively.

The second chart completes Don Woligroski's win, and should put a smile on the face of anyone hoping for a tighter competition in the desktop processor space.

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