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SBM 5: Price/Performance

Conclusions

The high-performance system puts up some impressive numbers, but nearly everyone has learned to accept the fact that best value always favors lower-cost parts. So why bother buying anything better than the cheapest system available?

Sometimes, a low-cost system simply doesn't offer enough performance for a given task. A quick look back to the full benchmark charts shows for example that the lowest "average FPS" in the Oblivion outdoor scene was 40FPS, which is certainly low enough to allow a player to see occasional stutters even if the overall experience is relatively smooth. If you're buying a new 24" widescreen LCD display to go with your system and expect to play the latest games for at least a year at its native resolution, you might be surprised with even worse results.

Games aren't the only place where performance matters. Builders who like to produce animations at home will find the high-performance system renders frames in 3D Studio Max at nearly twice the speed of the low-cost system, which could turn a week's worth of work into just a few days. In DivX, the high-performance system was able to convert DVD video to MPG4 nearly three times as fast, a boon to anyone who's looking to back up his or her entire movie collection to hard drives. Speaking of hard drives, the high-performance system's Level 0 array has 1.5 terabytes of capacity, which is highly desirable for archiving video (though four drives in RAID 0+1 would be safer).

These hand-picked examples certainly aren't typical, and the high-performance system does cost more the three times that of the low-priced configuration. But for a few people who really need the extra performance in a specific task, time savings could make the high-performance system a better bargain.

So the best value can only be based on individual needs.

What about the mid-priced system? It also fell in the middle for performance, putting it in the middle value position. Once again one must weigh his or her actual needs against the price difference to determine if this configuration is "more than enough" whenever the low-cost system isn't up to the task.

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