Combining applications by type allows us to easily assess the relative performance of each system in a single chart.
As we’d hoped, performance scales directly to dollars spent, but not proportionally. Performance increases are almost linear whereas build-cost increases are exponential. Doubling our $625 PC budget produced a 78% performance gain in the $1,250 PC, but doubling the $1,250 budget gave our $2,500 PC only a measly 13% gain. Overclocking helped the $2,500 PC more than the rest, but the value of high-end systems is always somewhat questionable.
Using our $625 system at stock speed for the basis of comparison, we calculated performance per dollar spent for each configuration.
While our performance chart clearly shows nearly-linear performance boosts as a function of exponential cost increases, everything is turned upside with our value chart, in which the hierarchy is now in reverse order and the cheaper machines dominate. Overclocking improved our $625 PC’s value by 31%. Meanwhile, our $1,250 PC started with only 93% of the $625 system’s value and only reached 113% of that value when overclocked. Worse still, our $2,500 PC had only 54% of the $650 system’s value at stock speed and climbed to a final value score of only 72% when overclocked.
The $625 system is a great choice for true value-seekers on extremely tight budgets. While its gaming performance is barely adequate in many of our tests, we’re certain that choosing lower details will help owners to justify the ratio of performance lost to money saved.
With 94% of the value of the cheapest system, our $1,250 PC appears to be the best solution for performance seekers with medium budgets-–builders who can’t quite afford it could justify waiting a few weeks to save up for the parts, while those with slightly larger budgets can happily put the left-over money into other projects.
We saw huge performance leads in many benchmarks from our $2,500 PC, but none of those gains were large enough to offset its enormous price tag. Still, we’re sure that there are a few gamers who will appreciate the added performance of its 3-way SLI configuration, a system that beat two HD 4870 X2 graphics cards in most games at resolutions up to 1920x1200 pixels.
But what about the 2560x1600 resolution for which our previous $4,500 PC was designed? We've already seen how value further suffers in our comparison of $2,500 and $4,500 builds. An overwhelming number of readers demanded an enthusiast-level system they could actually afford, and we simply didn't have enough time or money to add a fourth PC to this month's comparison. Each month Tom's Hardware reconsiders its budgets based on reader feedback, and our highest-priced system budget is the most flexible. We’d love to do another "elite-enthusiast" build, so don't be afraid to voice your opinion.