With the same CPU and virtually identical overclocks, there’s really nothing to discuss when it comes to processor performance. Suffice it to say that Intel’s Core i5-2500K continues to prove itself more capable than its impressive predecessor, Core i5-750.
The real story here is about graphics, and more specifically how a pair of Radeon HD 6850s in CrossFire perform against a single Radeon HD 6950 2 GB card modified to run a lot like a Radeon HD 6970. As you can see, at 1920x1080 with the highest details enabled (including AA on every game except Crysis), the CrossFire-based solution is far more powerful. The previous system only achieves 80% of the performance of two Radeon HD 6850s in stock form.
What this chart doesn’t show is that, at 2560x1600, the current system and its dual-card setup sometimes has difficulty keeping up with the Radeon HD 6950. This is a result of the half-sized GDDR5 repository on each lower-end card, and and because of this we recommend that folks looking for playable performance at resolutions higher than 1080p consider a pair of Radeon HD 6950 2 GB cards in CrossFire instead of either of the options presented here. Yes, two 2 GB Radeon HD 6950s cost a lot more money, but if you’re investing a significant chunk of change into displays, you don’t want to hamstring them with insufficient graphics muscle.
In any case, the Radeon HD 6950 2 GB proved itself to be a good performer given a price point that falls lower than today's configuration. At the same time, CrossFire'd Radeon HD 6850s are a more powerful solution for gamers playing at 1080p with enough cash to afford them. As always, we look forward to seeing how this build sizes up to the value of the other System Builder Marathon PCs at the end of this week in the final comparison article.