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System Builder Marathon: The $5,000 Extreme PC

Tom’s Hardware editors love a great performance value, but did we expect a $5,000 PC to have twice the performance of a $2,500 system? Of course we didn’t. Buyers who break out of the mainstream market should always expect limited return on investment, and the more they spend, the less they get for their money.

But there are always a few builders willing to spend nearly any amount of money to stay on top. For them, practicality means far less than superiority, and our $5,000 PC might not be enough to meet their demands. But even if our $5,000 budget limit can’t create the “ultimate system,” its performance should be similar. Let’s have a look at just how much performance we gained and how much it cost us in value.

3D performance is where the bulk of most high-end system budgets go, and gains of up to 35% over the overclocked December PC are nothing short of amazing.

Encoding gains are fairly small and reflect the 5% increase between our December and February overclocks.

Productivity gains are better than encoding differences and the larger difference is likely a reflection of the new system’s extra RAM.

A combined performance chart shows the February extreme build with a noticeable 13% lead in average performance. The lead was even larger in non-overclocked systems, at 19%.

Even with its 13% performance lead, our $5,000 overclocked PC lost 53% in average value compared to our $2,500 overclocked system. This doesn’t bode well for tomorrow's price/performance shootout, but extreme builders can ignore the price and continue focusing on the system’s performance superiority.

Recent price drops would have allowed us to reconsider our sound card selection and a second 1.5 TB storage drive for redundancy, which are two changes that anyone who likes today’s system should likewise consider. However, neither of these would significantly improve benchmarks, so the added features are just one more step away from the notion of “bang for the buck.”

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