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System Builder Marathon: Performance & Value

Benchmark Results: Synthetics

3DMark Vantage results are exactly what we’d expect from the various graphics hardware, but only because we turned off PhysX on the $500 system. 3DMark’s PhysX score-enhancements have been a bitter point of contention between AMD and Nvidia graphics card users, and two charts below will show why.

With PhysX enabled, 3DMark Vantage GPU scores look proportional to gaming performance, however…

3DMark Vantage CPU performance charts are completely unrealistic. Never before has Futuremark so deceptively favored a single added feature over actual system performance, and this explains why we disabled PhysX for the 3DMark score chart.

PCMark’s overall performance score reflects the difference in clock speeds between the $1,500 and $4,500 systems, but doesn’t penalize the $500 PC nearly as much as one might expect.

PCMark’s Memories score again shows the expected performance difference between the $4,500 PC’s DDR3 memory and the $1,500 system’s DDR2, but with unexpectedly low results for the DDR2-equipped $500 build.

Performance scores spread out even more in PCMark’s Productivity test.

The performance differences between the $500 system’s single hard drive, the $1,500 build’s 2-drive RAID 0 array and the $4,500 system’s four-drive RAID 0 array are easily seen in PCMark’s Hard Drive test.

Sandra’s CPU tests show the $4,500 system performing around three times as well as the $500 system, but it’s still nine-times the price!

Sandra’s memory bandwidth scores look completely realistic given the technologies used, unlike those seen in PCMark.

Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • slomo4sho
    Looking forward to the side by side Intel vs AMD build-offs for the $500 bracket(hopefully you start doing this)

    Also, in future write ups, can you please provide power consumption charts?
  • cangelini
    Slomo4shOLooking forward to the side by side Intel vs AMD build-offs for the $500 bracket(hopefully you start doing this)Also, in future write ups, can you please provide power consumption charts?
    I'll toss the idea around with our authors. Don't see it being a problem--just have to get everyone outfit with the same equipment and methodology. Thanks for the suggestions!
  • dangerous_23
    what about a $750 or $1000 machine - is this not a more realistic price point for most people?
  • zodiacfml
    based on these systems, a person should have an idea to build his 750 or $1000 dollar machines.
    i like most the $500 machine,the best value,simplicity and efficiency,
    only upgrading it to a quad core because i encode HD videos to H264 while surfing the net or watching a video.
    only games crysis and supreme c. required more than 3Ghz so a quad is not a big loss to duals in gaming.
  • dangerous_23
    id very much like to see the benchmarks from a machine costing somewhere between the $500 and $1500 builds
    i bet it would hit the sweet spot!
  • boostercorp
    hi tom's could you tell me where you got the
    2x 20 GB Patriot Viper PC2-6400 CAS 4
    ram ?
    I could use some more then my 8gb i've got now. ;) :p
  • cangelini
    boostercorphi tom's could you tell me where you got the
    You missed it! That was our limited-time $500 super-computer build. ;-)
  • slomo4sho
    And you stuck it in the $1500 machine? I knew you were holding out on that $500 build! :P
  • dirtmountain
    I really enjoy these System Builder Marathons, yeah i'd pick some different components and price brackets, but great stuff anyways. Going with Newegg as a sponsor is a great idea and i sure hope you continue it in the future for other SBM articles. Having a quality retailer like Newegg supply easily available components should really cut down on the logistics of doing these builds and hopefully they can come a bit more often. I'd like to see other SBM brackets e.g. $600 AMD vs. Intel build. Budget quad core builds - AMD 9950 vs. Q6600. Bracket $750 $1,500 $3,000 builds. How about a reader suggested build? Post a bracket, have folks post suggested builds and pick one or a combination of ideas and have your guys put one together. Any way, great job by the staff, good information, brilliant sponsorship by Newegg and a hell of a lot of fun to read, good job.
  • neiroatopelcc
    I'd suggest you upgrade your next $500 build to $650! or lower the $1500 to $1100 or so.
    According to a newsletter I received 4 days ago from one of the leading danish retailers, A basic pc costs $350, a basic gaming pc costs $600, and a 'good' (in their terms) gaming system costs $1000 - they're not selling any base pc with better graphics than an 4850, but it still means that they consider the $1000 to be the mainstream, and $600 to be lowend. Ofcourse the actual component price will be lower, but it's not going to be 25% lower.