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System Builder Marathon, March 2012: System Value Compared

Benchmark Results: 3DMark And PCMark

3DMark helps quantify the performance of many different variables, including a system's CPU. The $2600 machine’s hexa-core processor establishes a significant advantage at the benchmark’s Entry preset. The $1300 PC’s big graphics card steps up its game at the Extreme preset. And the $650 machine struggles to keep up using lower-cost parts.

PCMark’s overall score is tremendously drive-dependent, slamming the $650 build for its use of a mechanical disk. The $2600 PC also looks somewhat bad at its default settings, but only because we were still using Intel's RSTe driver in that out-of-the-box configuration.

Reverting to Windows' AHCI storage driver gives the overclocked $2600 PC a second boost, though it never gets close to performing twice as fast as the $1300 machine.

A breakdown of a few PCMark tests helps demonstrate how well an SSD can perform. We also see where Intel's data integrity-oriented enterprise driver hampers performance, and how far mechanical hard drives trail behind. Because these tests approximate the loads we run on a frequent basis, they are also used in the hard drive rating of our average performance chart.

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