3ds Max, Blender, FineReader, and Visual Studio all utilize multi-core configurations effectively. As a result, the $1600 machine is the one that appears most out of place. It costs twice as much as Paul's setup, but because it sports the same number of x86 cores, performance is only slightly better thanks to higher clock rates and an updated Haswell architecture.
These benchmarks do no favors for the $2400 PC's value story. Sure, my machine is nearly twice as fast as the $800 configuration. But I needed it to be three times faster to keep up with cost.
I catch a break in Visual Studio; the $2400 machine is a little more than twice as fast as Paul's effort. I’d like to credit a combination of six cores running at high clock rates and plenty of memory bandwidth for the advantage, though extra shared L3 cache is likely playing a role as well.