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System Builder Marathon: Price/Performance

Introduction

As we wrap up another system builder marathon, we realize while nothing in life ever seems to work out perfectly; sometimes things work out pretty well.

This marathon was supposed to be published a number of weeks ago – before the new Radeon 4800 series was launched – and therefore we didn’t have the option of selecting ATI’s excellent new cards for our builds. Unfortunately, our intrepid reviewer Thomas Soderstrom had an unlucky break (involving a few bones and some surgery) and was unable to assemble and test one of the systems, forcing us to defer the marathon. It was further delayed when Nvidia and ATI released their new video cards, the reviews of which of course took precedence over our marathon and pushed us back even further.

While the video cards we chose for these systems might not be our first choice if we could do it all over again (considering what’s available), the rebates available on the GeForce 8800 cards are so prevalent that even today a pair of them in SLI would be $100 cheaper than a pair of 4850s, and realistically the prices will likely drop even further. The rest of the builds were spec’d out well enough that these marathon systems are still viable hardware ensembles.

For more information on the components used to build each of the systems we’re comparing, in addition to the overclocked configurations, check out the sub-$1,000 PC, the sub-$2,000 PC, and the sub-$4,000 PC.

Let’s review the benchmarks we’ve used once more, see how everything stacks up, and analyze the price/performance data to see the value each system offers for the dollar.

3D-Games
CrysisVersion: 1.1
Video Quality 1: High Details No Anti-Aliasing
Video Quality 2: Very High Details, 4x Anti-Aliasing
Benchmark: Benchmark_CPU.bat
PreyVersion: 1.3
Video Quality 1: Default (No AA, 8x AF)
Video Quality 2: High Quality, 4x AA
Benchmark: THG-Demo
SupremeVersion: 3.220
CommanderVideo Quality 1: Default
Video Quality 2: High Fidelity, High Shadow, 4x AA
Benchmark: Real 60 Game
UnrealVersion: Retail
Tournament 3Texture Detail: 5
World Detail: 5
Field of View: 100
Benchmark: Botmatch (WAR-Torlan, 12 bots, 1 Minute)
WarhammerVersion: 1.6
Mark of ChaosVideo Quality:Default (Highest Settings)
Demo: THG Timedemo (1 Minute)
Audio
iTunes 7.2Version: 7.1.1.5
Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 min
High Quality (160kb/s)
Lame MP3Version: 3.98 Beta 3 (05-22-2007)
Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 min
wave to MP3
160kb/s
Video
TMPEGEncVersion: 4.2.10.211
4.0 XpressImport File: Terminator 2 SE DVD (5 Minutes)
Resolution: 720x576 (PAL) 16:9
Audio: Dolby Digital, 48 kHz, 6-Channel, English
Advanced Acoustic Engine MP3 Encoder (160 kb/s)
DivX 6.6Version: 6.6.1
Profile: Home Theater Profile (720x576)
1-pass, 780 kb/s
Encoding mode: Insane Quality
Enhanced multithreading
XviD 1.1.2Version: 1.1.2
Target quantizer: 1.00 (maximum quality)
Applications
AdobeVersion: 10.0x20070321
Photoshop CS3Filtering 69 MB TIF Photo
Benchmark: Tom’s Guide-Benchmark V1.0.0.4
AutodeskVersion: 9.0
3D Studio MaxRendering One Video Frame
Quality: HTDV 1920x1080 and 1280x720
Grisoft AVGVersion: 7.5.467
Anti-VirusVirus Base: 269.6.1/776
Benchmark: Scanning 3.82GB Application Folder
MaxonVersion: 10.008
Cinema 4DResolution: 1280x1024
Benchmark: Rose Drop, 8 bits (50 Frames)
Rarlab WinrarVersion 3.70 BETA 8
Compression = Best
Dictionary = 4096 kB
Uncompressed Folder Size: 642 MB
Synthetics
SPECviewperf 9Version: 9.0.3
PCMark05 ProVersion: 1.1.0
System, CPU and Memory Tests
Windows Media Player 11.0.6000.6324
Windows Media Encoder 9.00.00.2980
FuturemarkVersion 1.10
3DMark 2006System Test Only
SiSoftwareVersion 2008.1.12.30
Sandra XIICPU Test = CPU Arithmetic, Multimedia
Memory Test = Bandwidth Benchmark