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System Builder Marathon, Sept. 2011: System Value Compared

Crowning A Value PC Winner

With nearly one-third the performance of its fastest rival, we expect a great value score for the $500 machine. But how will the $1000 PC stand up, given the handicap applied to its hard drive score?

As usual, the $500 overclocked machine takes a significant win in overall value.

Meanwhile, the overclocked $1000 build finishes only slightly behind the $500 machine’s stock configuration. The $2000 build is an awesome performer, but its performance-per-dollar is atrocious. Or is it?

A minimum amount of performance is required to accomplish some tasks or satisfy certain customers, and the easiest place to see that is in 2560x1600 gaming. The $500 machine wasn’t even tested here, though the second-place $1000 build was. Gone are the $1000 machine’s gimped hard drive scores. And yet, we still find one place where the $2000 PC can justify its expense.

Final Word

If there is just one word to focus on throughout this comparison, it might be "adequacy."

While the $2000 machine reigns supreme in performance, its cost is beyond the means of most builders. And while the $500 machine easily takes a value lead, most enthusiasts would find its performance to be completely lacking. The one machine that is adequate in most games and settings, nearly a match for the $2000 build in application performance, and affordable to most enthusiasts is Don Woligroski's $1000 PC. Perhaps that's why Don gets the right to use the word "Enthusiast" in its title. After all, nobody buys something labeled "The $1000 Adequate PC."

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • hmp_goose
    Value, shamlue: Will it run Crysis?

    Oh: Wait …
    Reply
  • revjacob
    Actually what we need now are more affordable 2560x1600 monitors for these enthusiast PCs.
    Reply
  • compton
    I think the next quarter SBM should utilize an SSD at all segments. Its just about time when no one should seriously think of not including a SSD a build. There are great values out there and even the budget system deserves some love. If a small increase in price segments is necessary, so be it. Going from a HDD to a SSD is like going from IGP to discrete class graphics.

    Also, as a result, more emphasis should be placed on the storage sub system. I know these are gaming configurations, but I'd give up my GPU in a nanosecond if it meant I could keep my SSDs. Fortunately, I don't have to choose, but I would if I had too, and I'm not alone out there. Budget systems don't feel so budget-y with even a modest SSD.
    Reply
  • chumly
    Maybe the value of the $1000 PC would go up if you weren't wasting money on unnecessary or poorly chosen parts. You could add another 4 GB of ram, and swap out the twin stuttering 460's for 6870's (and still have enough money to add a better, modular PSU).

    Here:
    http://i.imgur.com/g22Bq.jpg
    Reply
  • jprahman
    comptonI think the next quarter SBM should utilize an SSD at all segments. Its just about time when no one should seriously think of not including a SSD a build.
    Yeah, good luck fitting an SSD into a $500 gaming build.
    Reply
  • Kamab
    jprahmanYeah, good luck fitting an SSD into a $500 gaming build.
    there have been 64GB Vertex Crucial drives on sale for < 79$. Which isn't bad.
    Reply
  • Kamab
    And I meant OCZ Vertex / Crucial M4
    Reply
  • compton
    jprahmanYeah, good luck fitting an SSD into a $500 gaming build.
    That's why I think the $500 system should be closer to $600, maybe like $550. 30GB Agility drives were going for $40 yesterday at the Egg, so its not like you have to spend $300 to get a tangible benefit. That one addition would have contributed a significant performance benefit and the budget category used to be $650 anyway.
    Reply
  • nd22
    I would have stick to 1 gpu in the 1000 S build. Instead of 2 gf 460/radeon 6850 I would have used 1 radeon 6970/ geforce gtx570 - from persoanl experience 1 gpu = less problems!
    Reply
  • mayankleoboy1
    i think quicksync should be included in the final score as video conversion is something that everyone of us do. and if we buy a SB cpu, then we would surely use quicksync.
    maybe also include windows boot time.
    Reply