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System Builder Marathon: Performance And Value Compared

Benchmark And Overclock Settings

Test Hardware Configurations
$650 Gaming PC$1300 Enthusiast PC$2550 Performance PC
Processor (Overclock)AMD FX-6300 3.5 GHz, Six Physical Cores O/C to 4.0 GHz, 1.26 VIntel Core i7-4670K 3.0 GHz, Four Physical CoresO/C to 4.30 GHz, 1.25 VIntel Core i7-3930K 3.0 GHz, Six Physical CoresO/C to 4.2 GHz, 1.25 V
Graphics (Overclock)EVGA GTX 760: 980-1033 MHz GPU, GDDR5-6008 O/C to 1254 MHz GDDR5-7204Gigabyte GTX 770: 1037-1089 MHz GPU,  GDDR5-7000O/C to 1239 MHz GDDR5-75003 x EVGA GTX-760: 980-1033 MHz GPU,  GDDR5-6008 O/C to 1130 MHz GDDR5-6680
Memory (Overclock)8 GB  Kingston DDR3-1600 CAS 9-9-9-27, O/C to DDR3-1866 9-10-10-28, 1.65 V8 GB Corsair DDR3-1600 CAS 9-9-9-24, O/C to DDR3-1800 CL 9-11-11-28, 1.535 V16 GB Mushkin DDR3-1600 CAS 9-9-9-24, Not Overclockable
Motherboard (Overclock)MSI 970A-G43: Socket AM3+, AMD 970 / SB950Stock 200 MHz BCLKGigabyte Z87X-OC: LGA 1150, Intel Z87 ExpressStock 100 MHz BCLKASRock X79 Extreme6: LGA 2011, Intel X79 ExpressStock 100 MHz BCLK
OpticalSamsung SH-224: 24x DVD±RSamsung SH-224: 24x DVD±RPioneer BDR-2208: 15x BD-R
CaseNZXT Tempest 210Antec GX 700Lian Li PC-9NA
CPU CoolerAMD Boxed CoolerCorsair H50Noctua NH-D14 SE2011
Hard DriveWD WD10EZEX 1 TB, SATA 6Gb/s HDDSamsung 840 MZ-7TD120BW 120 GB SATA 6Gb/s SSDMushkin Chronos Deluxe DX 240 GB, SATA 6Gb/s SSD
PowerAntec VP-450: 450 W, ATX12V v2.3CORSAIR 650TX: 650 W Modular, ATX12V v2.3, 80 PLUS BronzeCorsair HX850: 850 W Modular, ATX12V v2.3, 80 PLUS Gold
Software
OSMicrosoft Windows 8 Pro x64
GraphicsNvidia GeForce 320.49 WHQLNvidia GeForce 326.80 BetaNvidia GeForce 326.80 Beta
ChipsetIntel INF 9.4.0.1017Intel INF 9.3.0.1026

Formerly adverse to memory tweaking, Don flipped the script in this review by soundly defeating my overclocking efforts. Not only was he able to push his CPU to 4.3 GHz and DRAM to DDR3-1800, but I ran into CPU thermal barriers at 4.2 GHz and wasn’t able to bump up my memory at all.

Paul’s $650 PC pushed an astounding graphics overclock, but so did my $2550 machine before it got hot. It turns out that three-way SLI has a negative effect on graphics cooling. Who would have thought, right?

Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
Battlefield 3Campaign Mode, "Going Hunting" 90-Seconds Fraps Test Set 1: Medium Quality Defaults (No AA, 4x AF) Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Defaults (4x AA, 16x AF)
F1 2012Steam Version, In-Game Test Test Set 1: High Quality Preset, No AA Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Preset, 8x AA
Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimUpdate 1.5.26, Celedon Aethirborn Level 6, 25 Seconds Fraps Test Set 1: DX11, High Details No AA, 8x AF, FXAA enabled Test Set 2: DX11, Ultra Details, 8x AA, 16x AF, FXAA enabled
Far Cry 3V. 1.04, DirectX 11, 50-sec. Fraps "Amanaki Outpost" Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA, Standard ATC., SSAO Test Set 2: Ultra Quality, 4x MSAA, Enhanced ATC, HDAO
Adobe Creative Suite
Adobe After Effects CS6Version 11.0.0.378 x64: Create Video which includes 3 Streams, 210 Frames, Render Multiple Frames Simultaneosly
Adobe Photoshop CS6Version 13 x64: Filter 15.7 MB TIF Image: Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates
Adobe Premeire Pro CS6Version 6.0.0.0, 6.61 GB MXF Project to H.264 to H.264 Blu-ray, Output 1920x1080, Maximum Quality
Audio/Video Encoding
iTunesVersion 11.0.4.4 x64: Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 minutes, default AAC format
Lame MP3Version 3.98.3: Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 min, convert WAV to MP3 audio format, Command: -b 160 --nores (160 Kb/s)
HandBrake CLIVersion: 0.99: Video from Canon Eos 7D (1920x1080, 25 FPS) 1 Minutes 22 Seconds Audio: PCM-S16, 48,000 Hz, Two-Channel, to Video: AVC1 Audio: AAC (High Profile)
TotalCode Studio 2.5Version: 2.5.0.10677: MPEG-2 to H.264, MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG-2), Audio: MPEG-2 (44.1 kHz, Two-Channel, 16-Bit, 224 Kb/s), Codec: H.264 Pro, Mode: PAL 50i (25 FPS), Profile: H.264 BD HDMV
Productivity
ABBYY FineReaderVersion 10.0.102.95: Read PDF save to Doc, Source: Political Economy (J. Broadhurst 1842) 111 Pages
Adobe Acrobat XVersion 11.0.0.379: Print PDF from 115 Page PowerPoint, 128-bit RC4 Encryption
Autodesk 3ds Max 2013Version 15.0 x64: Space Flyby Mentalray, 248 Frames, 1440x1080
BlenderVersion: 2.67b, Cycles Engine, Syntax blender -b thg.blend -f 1, 1920x1080, 8x Anti-Aliasing, Render THG.blend frame 1
Visual Studio 2010Version 10.0, Compile Google Chrome, Scripted
File Compression
WinZipVersion 17.0 Pro: THG-Workload (1.3 GB) to ZIP, command line switches "-a -ez -p -r"
WinRARVersion 4.2: THG-Workload (1.3 GB) to RAR, command line switches "winrar a -r -m3"
7-ZipVersion 9.28: THG-Workload (1.3 GB) to .7z, command line switches "a -t7z -r -m0=LZMA2 -mx=5"
Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
3DMark 11Version: 1.0.3, Benchmark Only
PCMark 8Version: 1.0.0 x64, Full Test
SiSoftware Sandra 2013Version 2013.10.19.50, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / Cryptography, Memory Test = Bandwidth Benchmark
  • ryude
    Value is one thing, but when it comes to gaming you have to build for a minimum acceptable framerate and graphical fidelity. Once you factor those in you see that the $1300 build is indeed the value leader. The $650 build cannot play all games at 1080p60, high settings, and decent AA.
    Reply
  • itzsnypah
    It always seems that to be the best value in SBM you need the cheapest case, psu and motherboard and spend as much as you can on graphics.
    Reply
  • rolli59
    Agree with the value pick and now looking to see what you guys did for $350!
    Reply
  • Martell1977
    So at what price point does diminishing returns really kick in, approximately? Would spending a little more on the GPU for the $650 still be a solid value add?

    Basically, at what point between $650 and $1300 does the price/performance ratio seriously diminish?
    Reply
  • Crashman
    11603306 said:
    It always seems that to be the best value in SBM you need the cheapest case, psu and motherboard and spend as much as you can on graphics.
    That doesn't stop me from setting a minimum quality standard for the high-end build, that comes at a higher price than the minimum performance standard. And, it doesn't stop me from adding a secondary storage drive, because these are things that the owner of this system would expect to have. I go into this knowing that I'm "wasting" money on quality, features and convenience items, and it doesn't bother me at all :)
    11603341 said:
    So at what price point does diminishing returns really kick in, approximately? Would spending a little more on the GPU for the $650 still be a solid value add?

    Basically, at what point between $650 and $1300 does the price/performance ratio seriously diminish?
    One of our SBM's focused on that question. It's currently somewhere around $700.

    Reply
  • ingtar33
    11603258 said:
    Value is one thing, but when it comes to gaming you have to build for a minimum acceptable framerate and graphical fidelity. Once you factor those in you see that the $1300 build is indeed the value leader. The $650 build cannot play all games at 1080p60, high settings, and decent AA.

    you didn't bother reading the benching at all apparently. The 650 build was way over 60fps in all titles on ultra settings at 1080p except for far cry (it was even over 60fps on skyrim, which really hates amd cpus). Far Cry 3 has always been a gpu melter in the category of crysis 3; so it shouldn't be surprising a 760gtx can't max fc3 on ultra at 1080p. It doesn't in any other bench anywhere either. And fc3 was clearly playable on ultra at 1080p (30-40fps). Personally if i built a $650 machine and it killed every game i threw at it at 1080p and 60fps i'd call it a day. there really isn't a reason to spend more on your hardware unless you're going to spend a fortune on better/multiple monitors with bigger resolutions...

    Computer tech has come a long way, that we basically have a mainstream gaming platform at 1080p for $650 is a great thing.
    Reply
  • nerrawg
    11603258 said:
    Value is one thing, but when it comes to gaming you have to build for a minimum acceptable framerate and graphical fidelity. Once you factor those in you see that the $1300 build is indeed the value leader. The $650 build cannot play all games at 1080p60, high settings, and decent AA.

    Actually what you realise is that the CPU on the $650 build is probably good enough for a GTX 780/AMD7970 or 2 GTX 760's in SLI. With that added expenditure of only $150-300 you could play anything you want to at 1080p without the PC breaking a sweat. It goes to show that, while the AMD Piledrivers are far behind intel's quad core K series, they can still represent decent value for a gaming PC. Nice article.
    Reply
  • m32
    ingtar33, I agree with you. In the coming months your $650 is going to get you more with AMD's 7000 series price dropping. More money is great if you got it. Get your Titans if you can! Average folks are going to be sticking to the sub $850 range.
    Reply
  • icerider
    Great SBM guys. Would have preferred to see the $650 machine get this,
    GIGABYTE GV-R795WF3-3GD Radeon HD 7950 3GB for $224 ($199 after rebate)
    and spent the additional money on a ,
    COOLER MASTER Hyper 212 Plus
    which gives plenty of headroom to take a fx-6300 to an easy 4.5 ghz OC with low temps. Just built my first 2 FX-6300s this way with absolutely no problem.
    With an extra Gig of graphics memory, comparable gpu oc ability and framerates and a solid OC on the cpu I think this system would be an easy walk away winner.
    Reply
  • bemused_fred
    OK, OK, OK. Could someone please explain why there are benchmarks in this at all? Does anyone ever expect the $650 PC to come near the $1300 and $2550 ones withs superior hardware? It's a complete waste of time to make those graphs, because a 5-year-old can probably tell you what the results will be: the more expensive stuff gets you better performance.
    Reply