The low-cost system might have set the baseline in performance, but it also sets the baseline in price. We converted the mid-priced and high-end configuration prices to percent increases over the low-cost system to make our value assessment easier. Grouping all benchmark results for each system gave us its performance ranking, while dividing performance by price provides its value percentage.
According to these charts, you'll have to pay nearly three times as much for a system to double its performance. That's actually a little better than we expected, but it still drives home the point that the lowest-cost system will always provide the best "value".
But what is value? The low-cost system wasn't quite capable of playing certain games at good quality and moderate resolutions. Similarly, buyers who actually need extra performance in applications will find that they can finish twice as much work per unit of time on the high-cost system. If you're looking for excuses to splurge, you now have two good ones.
Mid-priced systems can suit buyers who want acceptable performance in every application including games. But while the sub-$1000 system didn't quite make the grade in some games, those who really can't afford anything better will make whatever sacrifices in graphics quality they must in order to justify their purchase.
Anyone looking for enhanced graphics capabilities and killer speed would do well to build a high-end system similar to ours, but it also stood out in storage capacity. Nothing beats multiple high-capacity drives for archiving video, and our high-end system can hold ten times the data of our mid-priced configuration.
Yet none of our systems are perfect for everyone. Those looking for speed and capacity could easily build a system with a fast processor, good cooling, high-capacity drives, and a lower-cost graphics solution. Meanwhile, buyers in mid-cost markets looking for enhanced high-resolution gaming power could add a second 8800GTX graphics card to the mid-priced configuration, and possible save money in other areas such as the processor. Most games can't use more than two CPU cores, and low-cost Core 2 Duos overclock even better than Core 2 Quads based on the same technology.
Our machines were intended to serve as examples of balanced machines for various price brackets, but your particular needs should govern any purchasing decision.
Here's a list of the System Builder Marathon (SBM) articles in this five day series.
- Day 1: The Low-Cost PC
- Day 2: The Mid-Cost PC
- Day 3: The High-Cost PC
- Day 4: All Three SBM PCs Overclocked
- Day 5: Summary - The Price/Performance Winner