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Smaller System, More Money, And Greater Performance

System Builder Marathon, Q2 2013: $1300 Enthusiast PC

The results in the chart below pretty much mirror what I expected to see from two machines with the same exact CPUs, different graphics cards, and very divergent storage subsystems. Application performance falls very, very close thanks to those identical processors. Game performance favors the system with the GeForce GTX 680 (though we know a more graphics-bound suite would extend that lead further). And the SSD makes a massive difference when it comes to drive speed benchmarks, though benchmark workloads won't necessarily execute any faster due to the solid-state storage.

Our gaming comparison was limited to 1920x1080, so we also know that higher-resolution testing would expose an even bigger difference between the GeForce and Radeon cards. We don't have those results here, but you'll get to see triple-monitor 4800x900 results in our upcoming Day 4: Performance And Value, Dissected article, where this system will go up against the least-expensive Tahiti-powered Radeon HD 7870 mini-ITX build.

We gave ourselves additional budget in order to fit within a mini-ITX chassis. But to be honest, we could have dropped the cost a lot closer to last quarter's $800 target if we had picked the Radeon HD 7870 with a Tahiti GPU, given up the SSD, and settled for a cheaper power supply. Really, the mini-ITX form factor only demanded more money when it came to the case, motherboard, and cooling system. Of course, we're not complaining about those extra amenities; every new system should come with an SSD, we think. But hopefully, more experimental pieces like these embolden some of our readers to give smaller form factors a try.

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