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In the performance PC market, differences in price are usually larger than differences in performance. Exceptions to that observation usually occur outside the performance market with “low-energy” parts that cost more while providing less performance, and low-cost parts that perform so poorly they can’t be held to performance-market standards. The value sweet spot for our builds has often been around $700, so it’s going to be interesting to see how effective our budget reductions have been at knocking the cheapest PC off its bang-for-the-buck pedestal.
The chart below is based on a $500 target price for the cheapest PC even though its actual price was $545, because the other budgets are multiples of $500.
The cheapest PC wins with an overclocked value of 107%. While we expected the low price of the $550 machine’s AMD Athlon II processor to offer excellent value in our encoding and productivity suites, gaming value for the $2,000 machine’s pair of GeForce GTX 470 graphics took us by surprise. The incredible performance of this SLI configuration surpassed the machine's overall value by an impressive 10%.
While the chart above might provide numeric value analysis, empirical value will be different for every buyer. Only the $2,000 PC’s Core i7 processor, for example, was capable of rendering 3ds Max animations at less then 30 seconds per frame. Similarly, nothing less than the $1,000 system’s Radeon HD 5830 CrossFire configuration could be consistently relied upon to play high-quality games smoothly at 1080p. Individual requirements aside, the numerical winner is still Paul Henningsen’s overclocked $550 PC.