Does Paul, Don, Or Thomas Win This Round?
I spent much of this comparison discussing Don’s $1300 machine from the perspective of a $2550 machine builder, but value is the place for Paul's $650 machine to shine. After all, its small budget bought him enough power to cruise through all of our benchmarks except one, and its one failure was in a gaming test set to Ultra quality (even after it already proved its mettle at High quality settings).
When four times the budget buys two times the performance, big spenders have a value problem. A mere doubling of Paul’s $650 budget scored Don’s $1300 machine less than a 50% performance improvement, though Don’s overclocking gains were far greater. The general trend in this System Builder Marathon is that every dollar spent on upgrades yields $.50 worth of performance improvements.
But Paul’s machine didn’t even get tested at our highest gaming resolution, and we saw a few places where it probably wouldn’t have passed. Affluent builders usually put their money towards professional or gaming apps, and gaming is the easier place to blow cash.
Even when we narrow our criteria down to the task on which a third of the $2550 machine’s budget was spent, we see that every extra dollar returns $.50 in improved performance. For the benefit of this chart, perhaps a truly extreme gaming build is in order for our next competition?
On the other hand, nearly a quarter of the $2550 machine’s budget was spent on the Sandy Bridge-E CPU. If your work relies on compute time, you can calculate performance in terms of man hours (rather than the cost of your system), and man hours are typically far more valuable. The $2550 machine isn’t a purpose-built workstation, but some builders might use it that way, and all of them would have chided us if we hadn't use one of Intel's fastest CPUs. And though our productivity suite isn’t optimized for GPU-based computing, we’re sure a few of our readers are itching to discuss its possibilities.
Apart from those special circumstances, Paul’s $650 is the true value leader. The most frugal among us might consider anything costlier an exuberant celebration of waste, while the enthusiasts could very well feel justified spending more for diminishing returns in performance.