A Close Competition, Complements Of Tough Decisions
System Builder Marathon, June 2012: The Articles
Here are links to each of the four articles in this quarter’s System Builder Marathon (we’ll update them as each story is published). And remember, these systems are all being given away at the end of the marathon.
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In the PC world, the point of diminishing returns is where you throw increasing amounts of money at hardware for smaller performance increases. This happens for a number of reasons. To begin, top-binned components are some of the most scarce, so supply is limited, making them more expensive. Also, bottlenecks start surfacing more prominently at the bleeding edge, preventing the same great scaling we often see in the mid-range space. Unfortunately, there’s also a floor at which certain parts cannot be manufactured any less expensively while still retaining their core capabilities. When we start comparing prices to performance, we always end up finding a point in the middle that we call the best value.
With a budget the comes closest to that point of diminishing returns, builder Paul Henningsen’s low-cost machines usually end up at or near the top of our performance per dollar charts. At the same time, when we drill into the numbers his machines generate, an argument can be made that they're sometimes inadequate for the most discerning power users, despite their value proposition. Don Woligroski's efforts, on the other hand, involve spending more money, often result in a less impressive finish when we compare performance to cost, but are better able to satisfy more of our audience. That makes the $1000+ machine easier for us to recommend.
This month’s austerity measures undercut Paul’s build completely, forcing him to choose between creating a capable graphics-oriented platform over a better-balanced combination of parts. No doubt, that was a hard choice to make, but given his gaming focus, he clearly did the best he could with a $500 ceiling.
And with that compromise in mind, we're set up for one of the rare occasions where a machine other than the lowest-priced build could end up topping the value charts.
|Q2 2012 $2000 PC Components|
|$500 Gaming PC||$1000 Enthusiast PC||$2000 Performance PC|
|Processor||Intel Celeron G530: 2.4 GHz, LGA 1155, 2 MB Cache||Intel Core i5-2400: 3.1-3.4 GHz, LGA 1155, 6 MB Cache||Intel Core i7-3770K: 3.5-3.9GHz, LGA 1155, 8 MB Cache|
|Graphics||ECS NGT560TI-1GPI-F1 GeForce GTX 560 Ti||Sapphire 11197-01-40G: Radeon HD 7970 (Factory O/C)||Asus GTX680-DC2T-2GD5: GeForce GTX 680 (Factory O/C)|
|Motherboard||Gigabyte GA-H61MA-D3V: LGA 1155, Intel H61 Express||Gigabyte P67X-UD3-B3: LGA 1155, Intel P67 Express||ASRock Z77 Extreme6: LGA 1155, Intel Z77 Express|
|Memory||Pareema MD313C80809L2: DDR3-1333 C9, 2 GB x 2 (4 GB)||Patriot AP38G1608U2K: DDR3-1600 C8, 2 GB x 2 (4 GB)||G.Skill F3-1600C8D-8GAB: DDR3-1600 C8, 4 GB x 2 (8 GB)|
|System Drive||Western Digital WD3200AAKX: 320 GB, 7200 RPM HDD||Seagate Barracuda ST3750525AS: 750 GB, 7200 RPM HDD||Mushkin MKNSSDCR120GB-MX: 120 GB, SATA 6Gb/s SSD|
|Storage Drive||Uses System Drive||Uses System Drive||Seagate Barracuda Green ST2000DL003: 2 TB, 5900 RPM HDD|
|Optical||LG GH22NS90B: 22x DVD±R, 8x DVD±R DL||LG GH22NS90B: 22x DVD±R, 8x DVD±R DL||Lite-On iHAS124-04: 24x DVD±R, 12x DVD±R DL|
|Case||Rosewill R101-P-BK||Logisys Optimus II||Antec Nine Hundred w/USB 3.0|
|Power||Antec VP-450: 450 W, ATX V2.3||Corsair CX600 V2: 600 W, ATX12V V2.3, 80 PLUS-Certified||Seasonic X750 Gold SS-750KM: ATX12V V2.3, 80 PLUS Gold|
|CPU Cooler||Intel Boxed Cooler||Intel Boxed Cooler||Zalman CNPS12X|
But a trio of factors combine to make a compelling case for our high-end build. First, I scored one of Nvidia’s hard-to-find GeForce GTX 680s for just a few dollars more than the Radeon HD 7970 used in Don's $1000 build. Second, the processor I picked accommodates overclocking, which is something the Tom's Hardware audience favors for adding value, in spite of the expensive cooling apparatus often required. And third, I decided to forgo most of the parts that haven’t contributed to the overall performance of previous builds, leaving the savings off of the balance sheet altogether. Could this be our first three-way performance-per-dollar tie?