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Value Conclusion

System Builder Marathon: TH's $2000 Hand-Picked Build

Value is the one place where the former $2000 build got kicked around, since it offered similar overall performance to the $1000 system. The old system gets boosted slightly in today’s comparison because we're including its 2560x1600 game performance (an area where its super-expensive graphics system excels). How well does its potential replacement fare?

The original $2000 build still looks bad at stock speed, but overclocking brings it up to 75% of the $1000 system’s base value. The new $2000 build does better, but doesn’t quite cross that baseline value when overclocked. Such is often the price of high-end hardware, though in this particular case, the processor’s extreme cost actually prevented us from buying the high-end cooling hardware needed to push it to an acceptable overclocking limit. Newegg's SuperCombo pricing increases the new system's value by 5% in this chart, reducing the "high-end hardware" value penalty significantly.

At least the new system was quiet, and that’s a metric not covered by our benchmarks.

We keep mentioning that the biggest problem with our former comparison was its lack of high-resolution gaming results, since the original $2000 PC’s apparent mismatch of GPU to CPU power could only be rectified at high resolutions. The lack of those results caused several readers to question whether its graphics cards were even in SLI mode, since a weak CPU caused it to fall behind a far-lesser $1000 build in several benchmarks. But what happens if we focus exclusively on 2560x1600 gaming performance?

With the CPU bottleneck at least partially obscured behind GPU limits, the original $2000 PC shines. In overclocked trim, it has twice the performance of our baseline single GeForce GTX 470, again in spite of its mismatched CPU. Even the high-flying alternative build suffers at the hand of the Phenom-powered GeForce GTX 480 SLI rig when resolutions are set this high.

In other words, it’s simply not fair to compare the gaming value of a GeForce GTX 480 SLI-equipped system at graphics resolutions below four megapixels (2560x1600). On the other hand, it’s not really fair to put a value score on the gaming performance of a low-cost system at resolutions higher than 2 megapixels (1920x1080). Because we always strive to prove the ultimate value of all three systems in the fairest possible manner, GeForce GTX 480 SLI joins SSD drives in the “too much cost, too little benchmark benefit” class of hardware that’s rarely (if ever) used in the System Builder Marathon series. AMD’s Phenom II X6 could reappear in a less-expensive system, however, and that becomes more likely as our benchmarks evolve to take advantage of its extra cores.

The bottom line is that today's alternative $2000 build beat up the original $2000 build in both performance and value, in part because half of our benchmarks are heavily skewed towards mainstream hardware. Yet, we design our benchmarks to represent real-world situations.

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