Power, Heat, Efficiency And Value
Graphics card manufacturers tend to overstate the power requirements of their products, taking into account consumption from the rest of the system and factoring in the efficiency of different power supplies.
With a fully loaded CPU and GPU, not one of these configurations pulls more than 300W from the wall. Applying an 82% efficiency figure to this quarter's overclocked system, peak output from its power supply is only about 235W. Powered by an 80 PLUS Gold-rated unit, my Q1 2014 effort consumes the least amount of power at idle and under host processor loads.
Intel’s Haswell architecture runs cool at idle. Still, it's good that the quad-core models include a more effective heat sink and fan. Intel also treats enthusiasts to this same cooler with the unlocked Pentium G3258, leaving some room for augmenting its clock rate.
None of these systems gave us a reason to worry about thermals, and each graphics card’s fan profile had reserve airflow if we wanted to pursue lower temperatures.
Since these are all intended to be gaming machines, I’ll weigh their overall performance accordingly at 80% games and 20% applications. Tallying average frame rates using every resolution puts a big emphasis on CPU performance. The current Core i3-based machine delivers between 15%- and 38%-higher numbers than last quarter’s baseline. My processor upgrade further bolstered performance in our application workloads.
The highest-performing machine also leads in efficiency, although this can be attributed largely to Rosewill's Capstone power supply. While last quarter’s conservative approach to overclocking the Pentium G3258 improved efficiency, my latest graphics-only tweaking efforts delivered the opposite effect.
If you have no plans to overclock, then Intel’s Core i3 line-up is a highly capable starting point for your gaming needs. Our current performance platform starts off delivering 9%-greater value.
But the true value of Intel's Pentium G3258 is only realized when you access its “free” clock rates, which helped last quarter’s tuned effort to earn a narrow victory. The oldest machine is handicapped in this comparison, as a year ago we paid $320 for its GeForce GTX 770 graphics card.
Frugality in purchasing last quarter’s enclosure increased the machine’s value position when factoring in the cost of its hardware. However, this cheap machine is the one hit hardest by the fixed $100 cost of our Windows operating system
As their names imply, these three budget-oriented boxes were built to play games in Full HD. Even factoring in the cost of the operating system, last quarter’s Pentium G3258 and Radeon R9 270X pairing delivers the best gaming bang for the buck. Of course, true value is a bit more subjective, and those unwilling to drop anti-aliasing or detail settings may find the cheap machine incapable of fulfilling their needs. In giving props to the Pentium’s value, we must throw in a word of caution: the next big gaming title on your radar may not even run on a dual-core processor, meaning a CPU upgrade could be required sooner rather than later.