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System Builder Marathon, Q1 2013: $600 Gaming PC

Did We Accomplish Our Mission?

Intel's Core i5-3350P processor upgrade indeed propels our $600 gaming PC to an entirely new level of performance in our content creation and productivity benchmarks (particularly all of the threaded tests). A limited capacity for overclocking is better than no scalability at all. So, in the end, our extra $100 more than doubles performance in this critical piece of our quantitative analysis.

Because those applications account for 60% of our overall performance weighting, I'm expecting my $600 effort to hold its own really well when it comes to sizing up bang-for-the-buck at the end of this quarter's Marathon. The Day 4 comparison will show whether or not I achieved my true mission.

I've been asked by a few readers why we judge purpose-built gaming machines with so much of an application performance bias. The short answer is that our System Builder Marathon is about more than just gaming. By seeking out the best possible gaming system at the lowest price point possible, I frequently forfeit any chance that my machine might earn the overall value crown. In reality, $500 isn't enough money to do all things well, particularly when half of the budget goes into supporting hardware like storage, power, and a case. Moving forward, though, I’m going to judge these gaming-oriented systems within my own story based on how well they game overall, at their native resolutions, and how they behave in the application suite.

Even after we devalue its dominance in the applications, today's $600 setup picks up 47% more overall performance for a 20% increase in cost.

However, while I confidently declared last quarter's effort the best $500 gaming box I've ever built for this series, I can't say the same about today's $600 configuration. It offers outstanding performance for what I spent, but I suspect that matching up a lower-end CPU with a Radeon HD 7870 based on Tahiti LE might yield an even better experience at 1920x1080.