System Builder Marathon, March 2012: $2600 Performance PC

Does The CPU Gamble Pay Off?

Most experienced builders are fully aware of what diminishing returns means for aggressive attempts to push higher performance. At a certain point, cost simply goes up way faster than the gains for which you pay. This is a really rough, totally seat-of-the-pants estimate, but we'd venture to say that enthusiast-oriented PCs start to see the relationship between spending more and getting more start to dip off at around the $700 price point.

Today’s build counters that trend by producing 14% better stock-speed performance than last quarter's effort at a 10% higher price.

The value win for our current build is really an indictment of its predecessor, in that too much money was devoted to graphics. The problem was that most of our games couldn’t take full advantage of all that graphics power, whereas more of our productivity and content creation titles certainly benefit from a faster CPU.

Narrowing our focus to high-resolution gaming helps us to define the unbalance, where only high-end gamers could appreciate its graphics configuration. In this context, the old system has a bigger advantage in high-end-gaming value than our new system has in overall value.

Overall value will be the focus of tomorrow's Day 4 comparison, where budgets are sized up against performance. So, so the first value chart takes precedence as we congratulate ourselves for building a system that truly equals the sum of its parts.

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.