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 V
Intel Core i7-4670K
3.0 GHz, Four Physical Cores
O/C to 4.30 GHz, 1.25 V
Intel Core i7-3930K
3.0 GHz, Six Physical Cores
O/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,  GDDR5-7000
O/C to 1239 MHz GDDR5-7500
3 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 / SB950
Stock 200 MHz BCLK
Gigabyte Z87X-OC:
LGA 1150, Intel Z87 Express
Stock 100 MHz BCLK
ASRock X79 Extreme6:
LGA 2011, Intel X79 Express
Stock 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
Chipset Intel 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
This thread is closed for comments
42 comments
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  • 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.
  • 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.
  • rolli59
    Agree with the value pick and now looking to see what you guys did for $350!
  • 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?
  • Crashman
    900814 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 :)
    421295 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.
  • ingtar33
    384831 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.
  • nerrawg
    384831 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Crashman
    687157 said:
    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.
    1.) You need gaming benchmarks to PROVE that the slowest system can play these games at high setting.
    2.) You need application benchmarks to SHOW performance proportionality.

    You need those things. We don't. We could just discuss the results without showing them, but that discussion wouldn't make sense to you. And, you might be the first one to ask what we're hiding by not showing the charts.
  • Mitche01
    This article raises an interesting point about workstations. I would like to see a Workstation System Builders Marathon, looking at budget, midrange and high end workstation systems.
  • Rob Z
    Guys... another great build off. It does prove that you DONT need to have the most expensives parts on the market to put together a very capable gaming rig. When you look at your trying to set a specific goal of 1080p at 60fps you can really get creative on what parts you can use to accomplish the task. It may be great to say I have an i7 processor with tri- sli 760 cards but fo the $$$ you invested in it unless your trying to reach some off the cart resolution it showed that its not worth the money compared to a single card or even a dual ski setup. would have loved to see a better cooler or sealed water cooler on the fx-6300 and how much more performance you could have tweaked out of it (knowing that it wouldn't catch up to the i5 and definitely not the i7)
  • vertexx
    Paying a premium for performance is nothing new. Take automobiles, for example:

    2013 Ford Taurus SHO
    MSRP: $28,900
    0-60 time: 5.1
    Relative Price: 100%
    Relative Perf: 100%
    "Value": 100%

    2013 Ford Shelby GT500
    MSRP: $59,200
    0-60 time: 3.6
    Relative Price: 205%
    Relative Perf: 142%
    "Value": 69%

    2014 Porsche 911 Turbo S
    MSRP: $97,350
    0-60 time: 2.9
    Relative Price: 337%
    Relative Perf: 176%
    "Value": 52%

    I suppose that means that true "value" is more than just what the numbers say. Price/performance is one thing. "Value" is something much more complex in the mind of the buyer.
  • midnightgun
    This article pretty much sums up the state of gaming right now and computer sales in general. For one monitor gaming by the numbers, there really isn't a reason to spend more then a grand or 1500 on a machine. The 650 machine did most just fine.

    I have a feeling this is mostly due to the consoles pretty much dictating visual progress in most cases. As a result there isn't a need to increase performance of machines much, so Intel improves efficiency for other markets.

    As a result, people don't really get new machines as often cause there isn't much of a need. Hell I'm sitting on a Core i5 750 and only just recently started considering a new machine. I'll build a new one next year... When my machine crosses the 5 year old mark...

    And Tech companies sit and wonder why pc sales have slowed down? :\
  • bemused_fred
    8708 said:
    687157 said:
    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.
    1.) You need gaming benchmarks to PROVE that the slowest system can play these games at high setting. 2.) You need application benchmarks to SHOW performance proportionality. You need those things. We don't. We could just discuss the results without showing them, but that discussion wouldn't make sense to you. And, you might be the first one to ask what we're hiding by not showing the charts.


    Gee, if only there had been extensive benchmarks on all three systems for the last three days. Nah, that's crazy talk.

    Also, I really don't need benchmarks to know about performance proportionality. I've been into computer hardware for more than 15 minutes, so it's not exactly news to me that the entire market is subject to diminishing returns. I can't even remember the last time when a $400 CPU or GPU offered more than double the performance of a $200 one.
  • ojas
    Nice SBM. Next few quarters could get even more interesting. Keep it up! :)


    p.s. Please have newer games next year! 2013 titles should be a min requirement.
  • the1kingbob
    Good article, as always. I have never quite understood why the $650 machine is expected/compared as such high resolutions. Ultra resolutions come from monitors costing quite a bit of money, but I guess you could cheap out on a machine for a fantastic monitor...
  • Cache
    I'd be curious to know the expected lifespan/use of these systems over time. The budget build works well for now, certainly, but there are always more demanding game the following year and I'm not sure budget future-proofs for more than two years if gaming is set as a priority (at higher resolutions).
  • cmi86
    Kind of lame we didn't see the full productivity suite used in this article which would have even further exclaimed the 6300's value vs the i5 in higher threaded workloads where it's not uncommon for the 6300 to out perform the i5. The results are already there you just have to cross reference them from the 2 different articles as opposed to having it all in this article for a final review.
  • cmi86
    Nevermind, it's all there my bad. Nice article.
  • Ilias Baneux
    Quote:
    I'd be curious to know the expected lifespan/use of these systems over time. The budget build works well for now, certainly, but there are always more demanding game the following year and I'm not sure budget future-proofs for more than two years if gaming is set as a priority (at higher resolutions).

    ^^^ THIS
    it would be difficult to test, but it would be a great added benchmark
  • ScrewySqrl
    Quote:
    I'd be curious to know the expected lifespan/use of these systems over time. The budget build works well for now, certainly, but there are always more demanding game the following year and I'm not sure budget future-proofs for more than two years if gaming is set as a priority (at higher resolutions).


    basically, very little difference.

    all three systems will be highly obsolete in 4-6 years.
  • Onus
    It seems to me ultimately unreasonable to judge three very different systems on the same value scale. At some point, fitness for purpose has to enter into the consideration.
    So far, this has been overall the least satisfying SBM cycle I can remember, although I am extremely optimistic that the $350 bonus build may salvage the whole cycle. Others have featured an occasional questionable part, or even a whole build that didn't make much sense, but usually there were some lessons to them; I'm still trying to get the lessons out of this one.
    The $650 build is very similar to what I might do on that budget, if building AMD. I would want a more robust motherboard, and an aftermarket cooler, but otherwise it's pretty solid, and has upgrade potential (e.g. a SSD). Whoever wins this one needs to back off the overclock for the sake of the motherboard, but it should otherwise be decent. If I win it, that's what I would do, then probably give it to my nephew (if my sister agrees) or to a friend.
    The $1300 machine is very much like what I'd build for myself. I would shift a few things though, like getting a more mainstream mobo and sticking with an air cooler (reducing the OC if necessary), and putting the money into a larger SSD and an additional drive for a RAID1 data pair. If I win this one, it might replace my "Phoenix" rig, but swapping the larger SSD and RAID1 pair from that one. One thing the high-end mobo does provide for this one is a little more future-resistance. I'd expect it to remain upgradable with faster graphics cards for years to come.
    I can't think of anyone I've ever known for whom the $2550 machine is anything like what I'd suggest. I'm not sure what I'd do if I won it; maybe I'd part it out, or pull one of the graphics cards to get the power down into a more comfortable range and then sell it.