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Build Or Buy? Five Sub-$500 Store-Bought Systems Compared

Benchmark Results: Integrated Gaming

The Radeon HD 3000 (HP and Compaq) continues to perform at the head of the pack, and you'll get relatively smooth performance in World of Warcraft: Cataclysm as long as you stick with lower resolutions and quality settings. Once you go above 1280x720 using Fair quality, performance becomes close to intolerable.

On the GMA X4500HD, smooth performance means you're playing at the lowest quality setting (Good) at 1024x768.

Meanwhile, the EL1850-01e pairs a GeForce 6150SE with AMD's Athlon II XE 255. Unfortunately, this combination offers poor performance at every resolution and setting we try.

The scores in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Crysis 2 tell a similar (but more pessimistic) story. While these games don't crash, the frame rates are almost like watching paint dry. On any pre-built system under $500, gaming in a first-person shooter is an unrealistic expectation.

Just Cause 2 performance is the worst-case scenario. On every system except the s5704y, the game crashes to the desktop despite having updated graphics drivers. But this still isn't a win for HP. Even when we dial a back to 1024x768 and lower quality settings, we can't seem to get more than 5 FPS.

  • jeff77789
    the first paragraph got me........
    Reply
  • jeff77789
    Also, on another note, the money that you have to pay just to get an operating system like Windows simply takes too much out of your budget if you are going for $500 as your max. i wouldn't suggest building unless your budget is >$550
    Reply
  • JohnnyLucky
    Grandma's idea of gaming is a few rounds of Solitaire. The pre-builts will do for her.
    Reply
  • cknobman
    hmmm what is up with the crappy big vendor choices only? If you ordered these online why not go with a "boutique" vendor.

    I just configured an iBuyPower rig for $489. It has Athlon X2 250, 4gb Ram, 500GB HDD, 500w Power Supply, Liquid cooling, Radeon 6570. For $24 more bucks I could get a 6670.

    I know its not a killer machine but it puts these big box vendors to shame.
    Reply
  • sinfulpotato
    On a real budget I wouldn't get a 6850. Even more so if you are staying below 500 clams. There are power house GPUs that can be had for less then 100 dollars. My 4850 still runs strong and as shown by Tom's very own review a Athlon x4 will compete with the Phenom x4.

    Also if you already have windows OEM you can get it reactivated on a new PC if you get the right Microsoft rep, also lie about motherboard dieing and not replaceable... Some will choke up a code.
    Reply
  • lordravage
    I have a real problem with this article. It isn't comparing a $500 prebuilt system to a $500 home build at all. It compares 5 computers from Best Buy that range from $299 to $409, versus a $500 machine that lacks an OS, mouse and keyboard. Factor everything in and the home build costs almost TWICE as much as the cheapest competitor.

    I know you mentioned the discrepancies in the article, but if you aren't going to try a little harder to make a good comparison you shouldn't even make the article. Shop around online at better retailers than Best Buy, find the very best systems you can that cost about $550, THEN compare those to your own system.

    I still expect the prebuilt systems to fall behind, but the article we have here isn't even a real comparison.
    Reply
  • deadcold94
    constructive criticism but on i think its page 5 your adobe photoshop graph has a 1 instead of an 11. thanks for fixing it; when and if your do.

    sincerely,

    Mackenzie
    Reply
  • JOSHSKORN
    If you're a serious FPS gamer, don't waste your money on a pre-build. Do the research and have a computer built for you or build it yourself. You'll spend the same price most likely and come out with a much better machine. The difference is the cost of the name brand.
    Reply
  • vaughn2k
    I can build a better system for U$450.00
    Reply
  • cmcghee358
    Why wasn't the $500 Homebuilt PC placed on the chart to show comparison?

    All you did was compared the systems performance and then list the Custom-built specs at the end without any benchmark comparison.

    I was going to use this article for ALL of my friends to understand why they should build their own. But, since you guys compared the rainbow of feces available at Best Buy without showing the splendor that is home build, it's useless.

    Come on...
    Reply