Super Value Conclusion
Value is a comparison of performance to price, so let’s begin with a quick look at how each configuration compares to the others. We used the $650 system’s base settings as our frame of reference.
With a mere 82% performance advantage and nearly four times the cost, we already know how badly the $2,500 PC will fair in a “bang-for-the-buck” analysis. Simple division allows us to quantify that disadvantage.
As expected, the $650 machine’s superb value is far more significant than the $2,500 build’s winning performance. Those who expect excellence in both value and performance won’t be disappointed by the $1,250 system.
But what made the $2,500 PC drop off the value scale so abruptly? Waste, in the form of two super-expensive SSD drives that added little or nothing to game, encoding, and productivity performance. We don’t use synthetic benchmarks to prove value, and PCMark Vantage was the only benchmark to gain significantly from those components. Those who really love SSD drives could point to the liquid cooling system, at three times the cost of a big heatsink, as another potential value pariah, but spending an extra $90 on cooling to gain only a few megahertz has little effect with a budget this large.
The money saved by using a single SSD could have make room for a fourth graphics card in the $2,500 build, but game installations often require so much space that a single 80GB drive wouldn’t hold the dozens of games required for an “ultimate gaming” designation. And leaving out both hard drives while retaining both SSD drives would have reduced this system to “game only” duty, a restraint we’re not ready to put on a system that costs this much. The only way to boost SSD value in the above graph would have been to add server benchmarks, but doing so would have been dishonest in a comparison where gaming is the primary workload.
One of the nice things about building a $650 gaming system is that there’s no room for excess: one can often accept the loss in drive space and redundancy as a compromise for achieving high-resolution gaming capability on the cheap. Similarly, the $1,250 build had little room for extravagance, its graphics focus pushing aside any components that don’t offer benchmark-ready performance gains. The $650 machine could handle moderately-high gaming resolutions, though it fell somewhat flat in several other applications. By comparison, the $1,250 machine was fast enough for everything, including the highest-resolution, highest-detail game settings.
Yet one place where the $2,500 build truly excelled, super-fast program loading times, wasn’t reflected in real-world benchmark results. As we reconsider the priorities for our highest-priced build, the most important question for big spenders is thus: how impatient are you?