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Power, Performance, And Value

System Builder Marathon: Performance & Value
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Power consumption is almost a perfect inverse of performance. The overclocked $5,000 system pulls nearly 800 W with all four CPU cores and all four graphics processors maxed, but it should be nearly impossible to replicate this load level using ordinary programs and games.

The $625 PC is miserly at all load levels, making it a great choice for buyers with simple needs:

Using the $625 PC as the basis for comparison, performance scales almost linearly with the $5,000 PC taking its biggest wins in productivity, rather than in games. The real shame is that while the $1,250 system is only twice as expensive as the $625 build, the $5,000 PC costs four times as much as the $1,250 configuration. How much will that hurt its value?

Overclocking added 39% to the value of our $625 PC, while it let the $1,250 system pass the standard-speed value of the $625 build. On the other hand, even record-breaking performance couldn’t have put a favorable light on the value of a $5,000 system, unless one considers what the other configurations couldn’t do.

Only the $5,000 PC could play Crysis smoothly at 1920x1200 and at very high settings, while the $625 couldn’t display that level of quality smoothly at any resolution. The $1,250 PC survived those same quality settings at a resolution of 1680x1050 and ran other games at 1920x1200 well enough to serve the needs of most gamers.

The $625 PC is adequate only for buyers willing to give up high visual quality in games to achieve smooth frame rates and also sacrifice high speed in other applications. The $5,000 system is perfect for buyers who believe that only the best is good enough and the $1,250 is probably the best balance of price and performance for the majority of computing enthusiasts.

Our biggest disappointment was a handful of money-wasters that were thrown into the $5,000 system in order to show the elitists what those components could do. At $800, the SSD drives made the system boot super-fast but they had little to no effect on gaming, encoding, or productivity benchmarks. The Extreme Edition processor didn’t overclock better than its cheapest sibling, but it did add over $700 to the system price. Our liquid-cooling system added around 5% to the system’s overclocking capability and around 10% to its total cost. Unless component prices or program requirements change significantly, we’ll likely scale back the budget on our next enthusiast-class system.

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