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System Builder Marathon, Q4 2013: $800 Gaming PC

Does Spending More On A PC Mean You Get More Value?

This quarter, padding my budget allowed me to dump extra money straight into a better graphics card and host processor. Somewhere along the line, I'd hit the point of diminishing returns, which is one of those themes we're constantly exploring in the System Builder Marathon. So, based on the benchmarks, does a gaming machine selling for $800 offer more value than a $650 configuration (ignoring the unfortunate price hikes on AMD's hardware)?

I enjoyed a 25% boost in application performance and a 34% jump in frame rates from 23% more money. Indeed, there's a linear (or better) relationship between the two builds.

Sometimes we need to look at this a bit more subjectively, though. A $650 budget can certainly provide more value than a $500 ceiling, especially when we consider the cheaper box's limitations. If we buy a big GPU for gaming at 1920x1080, we're stuck with an underwhelming CPU. The cash isn't there to excel in two areas simultaneously. But declaring a value winner between the two capable systems we tested today is more difficult. If the $650 PC is enough for you, the $800 alternative isn't going to be much better. You have to think about your display configuration, the games you play, and the frame rates you want to see. Both systems manage just fine on FHD screens, after all. 

If your requirements are higher-end, or if you don't want to overclock yourself, the $800 PC might be the baseline for satisfying your demands. Then again, until AMD's Tahiti- and Hawaii-based cards come down in price, you won't be able to duplicate our results for under $900. Gamers are getting burnt by the rush to jump into crypto-currency mining, so you're probably better off repurposing your graphics card budget for a GeForce GTX 770. 

Lastly, for enthusiasts who value efficiency, Intel's Ivy Bridge platform is better than AMD's FX. No matter what, though, a beefy graphics card is always going to suck down power during those gaming marathons.