I'm comparing this quarter's $400 bonus build to the $650 mini-ITX-based box presented last week, as well as our most recent $500 gaming PC from the end of last year, which paired a 2.9 GHz Pentium G850 up to a beefier Radeon HD 7850 graphics card.
3DMark 11 scores depict a fairly well-balanced $400 configuration, though I fear that a poor graphics showing signals trouble ahead once I start cranking up the details and resolutions in our gaming tests. The $500 build’s 100 MHz CPU clock rate deficit results in a third-place finish in the Physics suite, while its more powerful Pitcairn-based graphics solution propels it forward in overall 3DMarks.
Sporting a 3.3 GHz Ivy Bridge-based Core i3-3220 processor and big Tahiti-powered Radeon HD 7870 graphics card, the $650 PC tops each test, appearing in an entirely different league.
PCMark7 punishes me across the board for using a dual-core processor, Radeon HD 7750 graphics, and a 5400 RPM laptop hard drive. However, when we factor in the 20-40% cost reduction, the tiniest build’s value proposition doesn't look as bleak.
The Pentium G860’s speed bump allows the $400 PC to earn second place in Sandra's Arithmetic and Cryptography components, though all three CPUs are punished for their arbitrary omission of AES-NI support, a result of bad marketing on Intel's part.
The $650 PC utilized CAS 8 DDR3-1600 memory, while the two Pentium-based systems employ DDR3-1333 at CAS 9 (stock) and CAS 7 (overclocked). Yet, we realize slightly lower memory bandwidth from today's H61-based platform than the previously-tested H77 Express.