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System Builder Marathon, Dec. 2011: System Value Compared

Which One Of These Builds Is For You?

Though each build came in at or under budget when all of the parts were ordered, adjusted prices measured a week before the series went live were used to calculate a more recent performance-per-dollar chart.

The cheapest PC remains on top, as usual, since performance never scales in perfect proportion to complexity (and thus, price).

The real surprise is where the $2400 PC mixes things up with the $1200 PC, providing roughly equal value, even in the face of its diminishing returns. The $1200 PC’s performance-per-dollar should fall between that of the two other two builds unless it has a serious flaw.

Even high-end gaming scores that should have highlighted its Radeon HD 6950s in CrossFire are unable to save the $1200 system. The $600 PC simply can't compete at this level, though a 2560x1600 value comparison to the $1200 build could have at least been entertaining.

In the end, we have a $600 PC that vastly outperformed expectations, a $1200 PC that we’ve written off as horribly imbalanced, and a $2400 that costs too much (though it didn't bust past our budget). Most of us would prefer the $2400 PC, but still put that $600 build to good use during this economically wily holiday season.

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.