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System Builder Marathon, March 2012: $1250 Enthusiast PC

A Surprisingly Robust Gaming System

Before we wrap this up, let’s consider the aggregate performance data. Keep in mind that we removed the Skyrim results from the following chart because the game's patch altered performance too significantly, rendering a comparison completely invalid.

First up is application performance. On average, the Core i5-2400 does quite well against AMD's FX-6100, especially in light of its motherboard, which artificially hamstrung it with a single memory channel and an inability to specify a constant 3.8 GHz. We did see a couple of benchmark situations where the FX-6100 took a first-place finish when it was overclocked to 4.5 GHz, due to its high clock rate, dual-channel memory, hexa-core architecture, or a combination of the three. In general, though, the Core i5-2400 comes out on top.

As far as game performance goes, the new build's Radeon HD 7970 performs admirably up to the charted resolution of 1920x1080. If we were to focus more intently on 2560x1600, though, the benchmarks suggested to us that the two Radeon HD 6950s in CrossFire would have fared much better.

It’s a real shame that ASRock's P67 Pro3 SE isn't equipped with better BIOS overclocking options, and especially unfortunate that it was unable to run our memory kit in dual-channel mode. We’re not sure how much of an impact this had on the final results, but it's possible that we'll try a Core i5-2400 on a different motherboard next time around just to compare the two platforms.

Regardless, looking at the average performance and power consumption of this quarter's build, a Core i5-2400 and Radeon HD 7970 combo are a better bet than an overclocked FX-6100 with two Radeon HD 6950s. Despite its well-documented flaws, the new build is a powerful little system more deserving of our $1250 budget.

We're especially looking forward to Day 4 of our System Builder Marathon, where Thomas will compare the overall value of our three systems. Not to give too much away, but our top-end machine also centers on Radeon HD 7970, so it'll be interesting to see how much platform alacrity impacts gaming performance.