System Builder Marathon: Price/Performance


What have we learned from this system builder marathon?

First of all, we’ve seen that a sub-$1,000 system can be assembled with multiple video cards, and run with the big boys – even 1920x1200 gaming is viable on such a system, especially when over clocked. As we’ve seen in the value analysis, the Price/Performance of such a combo is unbeatable.

Our sub-$2,000 system showed that a few hundred dollars more might not get you results you’d see on all application benchmarks, but the real-world benefits were hard to miss: twice the hard drive space in a RAID configuration, twice the RAM to minimize loading times, a water cooling system to supply quiet and effective cooling allowing for higher overclocks if desired, video cards with better dual-slot coolers that vented hot air out of the case, and a quad-core CPU for those rare applications and games that can make use of them. While these factors didn’t show well in the raw performance per dollar analysis, the user experience is definitely affected positively by these attributes. And at stock clocks, the sub-$2,000 system had the best high-resolution gaming performance per dollar.

Our sub-$4,000 system has demonstrated that meaningful performance benefits can definitely be purchased when price is less of a factor. Although performance per dollar is dismal, there is a definite and indisputable advantage to owning a PC that can perform many tasks in half the time of the sub-$1,000 PC. This system is just as viable as a Ferrari; it’s not the most performance you can get for your dollar, but that doesn’t make it undesirable.

At the end of the day, only you know what you want, what you need, and how much you have to spend. We hope we’ve given you a better idea of what your hard earned dollars can get you.

  • L1qu1d
    Really shocked at how much of a benefit the 4000$ computer did when Overclocked:| Especially in Crysis, WOW!
  • zipz0p
    And yet it's still smashed in bang/buck.

    I like the introduction of the high-resolution gaming bang/buck chart - it's a keeper!
  • randomizer
    That extra bang/buck chart was an interesting addition.
  • sublifer
    Great charts. Still though... not a whole lot of value since we've gotten new video cards out. I know its unreasonable to expect the entire thing to be redone with the new components, but at the same time, many people (yes, me too....) would like to see how the outlook might change with the new graphics cards. Is there any way you could substitute appropriately (by that I mean cost) in a few of the systems and compare them with the sbm results?

    Thanks again guys!
  • gwolfman
    What's interesting is that the $2000 build overclocked was able to return slightly above (or slightly below in hi-res gaming) it's value compared to the original build. That means that ever dollar spent is rewarded back with an equal system performance increase. Very interesting.
  • beerzombie
    I think comparing performance/price with overclocked systems when the price of aftermarket cooling solutions are included in the non-overclocked system is a bit misleading. I feel that the reality is that the Sub $4k PC is $256 cheaper when not overclocked, and the sub $2k machine should be $120 cheaper as well as the $1k PC being $26 cheaper. It is just unrealistic to assume someone is watercooling a PC and won't be overclocking it.
  • zipz0p
    Interesting point, BeerZombie. I would like to see the price/performance comparisons again taking that into account!
  • gaiden
    Interesting, according to the Hi-res bang/buck value overclocking a sub$2000 will increase the value by 26% while sub$1000 o.c. will increase by 36% ! This is a very useful stat indeed and i agree with others that it's a keeper for sure. So in conclusion it makes sense that to get the most out of your config vs $ you spend should be anywhere between the $1000-$2000 with o.c. which probably represents majority of the ppl out there. < (pointless, but nice to hear statement) :)
  • Preclude
    The parts are not relevant. What people are missing here is the overall message. They are trying to visually display the aspects of price to performance in the PC market for custom builds. The data will always be relevant no matter what the hardware goes to. There will always be the "best performing budget rig", the "step up medium high end build" and the "Not really worth the money but if you want it you want it" builds. I'm sure some could argue builds between those, but you will always find that builds fall near one of those general areas.

    TL;DR Thanks Toms, anyone who actually builds systems on a regular basis can appreciate this data.
  • Kirth Gersen
    What you can take away from this is that you are very much in the realms of the law of diminishing returns with a $4k system from a gaming perspective. 30FPS is plenty, your eyes can't perceive better, so what is the point of a system which can achieve 80FPS? At least a Ferrari might improve the sex life :).

    A mid range $2k system has always been my price point. For that you can usually build an overclocked system which hits 30FPS on max graphics.