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System Builder Marathon, August 2012: System Value Compared

Breaking Down The Value Chart

Although my critique of Paul's $500 machine and its performance might have seemed a bit harsh, it’s a realistic assessment of a machine on the wrong side of the somewhat bell-shaped curve I like to call performance-value. In PC enthusiast terms, $500 simply isn’t enough money to get a good performance return on your investment.

Here’s how that looks in a chart that compares all of its results to those of the $1000 and $2000 machine, using the $500 PC as a value baseline:

If nothing else, this chart probably makes Paul long for the days when our budget levels were $650, $1300, and $2600.

My $2000 machine sits on the other side of the performance-value curve, costing far more than the point of diminishing returns. Benchmarks that can’t use all six of its cores conspire against it, and the tests that can use its resources reflect that, at two times the price, it only includes 50% more cores than Don's machine. If we halved our CPU budget and spent twice as much on GPU power, we'd start running into another problem: game settings and resolutions unable to take full advantage of the available muscle.

Our entire test suite is designed to reflect the activities of real-world users, and the average performance results show that most of those tasks don't require $2000 machines. As the most practical build in a competition based on practicality, Don’s $1000 machine achieves the best finish in our value chart.

We began this article by wondering whether Don’s machine would set a higher standard at its price point as the zenith of what we were looking for. With only 2% greater value than the $500 machine, it looks like the perfect value point between Paul's machine and mine. Overclocking pushes Don's value lead to 21%, though.

Our ongoing quest for the best performance value is confounded by the fact that the cheapest unlocked Intel processors are currently the Core i5-2500K and Core i5-3570K at $220 and $230, respectively. Until AMD figures out a way to catch up, it looks like we’re forced to face a market where the sweet spot is somewhere around the $1000 Don was originally allotted.

Afterthoughts

We’ve discussed the constraints of our benchmark suite thoroughly, concluding that any set of tests designed specifically to emphasize the capabilities of a more expensive machine wouldn't represent an adequate number of real-world buyers.

The largest single market we can try to help is the gamers out there looking to play at high resolutions. And so we’ve decided to take another run at the $2000 PC build, shifting focus from CPU to GPU power. In order to overcome the limits of our gaming suite, we're adding the latest high-end 5760x1080 resolution to our tests. You’ll see that alternative, gaming-centric build tomorrow.

  • abitoms
    (double post)
    Reply
  • abitoms
    The statistician (really) in me wonders wat might have happened to the $500 system's value if a quad FX was used in it...

    I mean swapping the G860 for a FX 4100 and a Radeon 7770 *might'* have provided an interesting contrast to the above $500 system.

    Productivity up by 20% and games down by 20% I guess. Can only speculate.

    Btw, thanks crashman for the tip.
    This is just me wondering aloud. So...dunno why the thumbs down
    Reply
  • Crashman
    abitomsdamn,.... thought there was an Edit button somewhere.(sorry)So adding to my prev comment, swapping the G860 for a FX 4100 and a Radeon 7770 *might'* have provided an interesting contrast to the above $500 system.Above your first post there's a link "Read the comments in the forums". In the forums you can quick edit (on the view pane) or full edit (on a new page), and in full edit mode you can even delete your second post. That is, if you add the missing information the the first post.
    Reply
  • mayankleoboy1
    Since the benchmarks give a fair weight to the 'pro' applications, GPGPU benchmarks should be there as well.

    And those gaming benchmarks are ridiculous. Most are getting FPS in the 100+ range. So really, there is no comparison between the systems. all values above 60 are the same. How can 150 FPS be better than 120FPS on a 60HZ monitor?
    Reply
  • Crashman
    mayankleoboy1How can 150 FPS be better than 120FPS on a 60HZ monitor?Hopefully it will go along with a maximum frame time drop from 500ms to 50ms :)
    Reply
  • I know it's probably hard to do, but it would be awesome if Tom's could find out the price where price/performance is optimal instead of searching for the optimal build for a set price.
    Reply
  • frihyland
    Great article, seems like it might be time to switch up the price points for your builds though. $600, $1200, and $1800 seem much more reasonable and would give us better comparisons I think.

    Edit: Ninja'd by chmr
    Reply
  • perishedinflames
    frihylandGreat article, seems like it might be time to switch up the price points for your builds though. $600, $1200, and $1800 seem much more reasonable and would give us better comparisons I think.Edit: Ninja'd by chmr
    current price-tags feel awkward i have to agree.
    to be more specific:
    a. Entry level gaming pc ($500): you try to pick the cheapest parts so that you save for the best GPU the rest of your money can buy
    b. Enthusiast gaming pc ($1000): how most people try to build, save here and there (either by finding good deals or by dropping quality in RAM and Chassis mostly) so that you can get an awesome CPU & GPU (prolly a SSD too)
    c. Hardcore gaming pc ($2000): the tag is too high so you just blindly buy the most expensive parts (like a sheikh on vacation)

    what would show more accurate results might be one of the following two:
    1. two builds; one of $700-$800 and one of around $1500 (+/- $100)
    2. three builds again but with some $150-$200 offset; entry-lvl 650-700, enthusiast 1200-1400, hardcore 1700-1900
    Reply
  • noob2222
    abitomsThe statistician (really) in me wonders wat might have happened to the $500 system's value if a quad FX was used in it...I mean swapping the G860 for a FX 4100 and a Radeon 7770 *might'* have provided an interesting contrast to the above $500 system.Productivity up by 20% and games down by 20% I guess. Can only speculate.Btw, thanks crashman for the tip.This is just me wondering aloud. So...dunno why the thumbs downToms did a bunch of game reviews showing how bad AMD is so they don't have to use them for the SBM articles. 11 of the past 12 SBM have all been Intel, and the one AMD was bugged with a cheap cpu.

    Even though SBM was I thought to test hardware with different components, apparently as long as its only with Intel.

    BF3 as a test needs to be done online, wether its controlled or not, you can at least get a feel of how its going to work. Especially with a dual core cpu.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    noob2222Toms did a bunch of game reviews showing how bad AMD is so they don't have to use them for the SBM articles.Nice conspiracy theory, but I'm not party to it. So, go back to bugging the $500 and $1000 PC builders. They must know something I don't.
    Reply