3DMark gets us started with a bang, showing the $1100 PC with 70% more graphics power than the $600 PC. The $1600 system outpaces the $1100 machine by far less, but it makes up the difference in overclocking.
Overclocking doesn’t help as much in PCMark, but the $1600 machine’s SSD handily outpaces the cheaper one used in the $1100 configuration. The $600 PC gets stuck with a mechanical hard drive.
Sandra's Arithmetic module gives the $1600 build more of an advantage than we thought it should, though the extra cache might help its Core i7-4790K just as much as a higher clock rate. The $1100 machine’s Core i5-4690K handily outpaces the $600 machine's halved core count and last-level cache.
Reduced instruction set support (AES and AVX) hurts the $600 PC tremendously in Sandra's Cryptography test, while higher memory settings further boost the performance of the $1600 system.
What happens when you let XMP memory revert to SPD settings? G.Skill now ignores JEDEC’s approval of DDR3-1600 CAS9 SPD configuration, letting its DDR3-2133 CAS 8 revert to the older DDR3-1600 CAS 11 SPD, which is what Don used in his $1100 PC’s baseline.
I, on the other hand, see the XMP “overclock” as a rated value, enable it in my baseline, and get a positive bump from Sandra's Bandwidth benchmark. Overclocking beyond XMP helps a little, too.
Battlefield 4 shows the $1600 PC up against the 200 FPS cap at the game’s Medium quality preset, which also limits the performance side of the value equation.
The $1600 system is nearly three times as powerful as the $600 PC at Battlefield 4’s Ultra settings, which means that it could at least be competitive in the overall performance-value analysis. The $1100 PC rightly falls between these extremes.
Don’s $1100 setup comes too close for comfort to my $1600 build at Grid 2’s high settings, though I’m happy to see Don double the numbers of Paul’s $600 box.
Don’s GeForce GTX 970 beats my 980 at Grid 2’s Ultra quality preset and 5760x1080, but overclocking allows my weak graphics sample to beat his powerful 970.
Don’s $1100 build fares surprisingly poorly in Arma 3 at the game's standard settings, causing me to question whether it may be bottlenecked by DRAM bandwidth. I’ll look for answers in the response thread below!
The $1100 PC loses fewer frames per second than the other builds when Arma 3 is cranked up to Ultra quality. Perhaps Don used the High preset by mistake in the “Standard” test?
I’ve never been able to figure out how Don gets such high frame rates at Far Cry 3’s high-quality settings, as every machine I test appears CPU- or DRAM-restricted at moderate resolutions. I don’t think Don has an answer for this phenomenon, either.
Paul’s $600 build barely passes its 1920x1080 playability goal at Far Cry 3's Ultra preset, and my $1600 build requires overclocking to reach my own 5760x1080 goal. Don’s $1100 machine does well, leaning hard on its powerful GeForce GTX 970.
Lower is better in timed tests, where HandBrake is the only encoding app to show proper price-to-performance scaling between all three machines. Concerning price and value, less is more in the other tests.
The $1100 machine beats its price difference in Adobe Premiere and our CPU-bound Photoshop filters. The $1600 machine is a strong performer, but not by the 50% needed to beat the $1100 PC's value.
Single-threaded Adobe Acrobat again puts value in Paul’s hands, but the rest of our productivity suite balances the higher prices of $1100 and $1600 machine hardware with big performance gains.
Don and I got what we paid for in 7-Zip and CPU-based WinZip file compression. The race tightens up in WinRAR and WinZip OpenCL compression.