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System Builder Marathon Q3 2014: System Value Compared

Power, Heat And Efficiency

None of our machines need all the power their PSUs can output. Note also that the chart reflects global (input) limits, and that power supplies are rated in output. Five-hundred watts of input power provides only 425 W at 85% efficiency, so the 750 W unit in my $1600 machine has 325 W to spare. Plenty, then, for the giveaway winner’s eventual CrossFire upgrade.

Running huge coolers that differ primarily in brand name, the $1600 and $1300 machines have nearly identical idle temperatures. The $1600 machine’s higher load temp is due to my use of “silent” fan mode, which assists in its modest 35 dB(A) maximum noise level.

Using the slowest system’s power and performance numbers as a baseline, I calculated how much more or less the other configurations used (energy) and provided (performance) as a percentage. Then, I subtracted the baseline to zero-out our efficiency score.

We can see that the $1300 PC was 78% faster than the $600 machine, yet needed 82% more power. The $1600 PC was over twice as fast as the $600 machine, but needed even more power.

All but one of the results are closely matched in performance-per-watt, and that one standout is the overclocked $1300 machine with its enormous 1.34 V core setting. I only hope that machine lives long enough to make it into the giveaway winner’s hands.

Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • ingtar33
    Agree with your conclusions. My personal experience on intel dual cores back it up. the performance drop off from a true quad core is far too extreme to justify the saved money. While it might give you great bang for your buck, the tradeoffs are just too extreme if you plan to use it for more then just a steambox.
    Reply
  • Onus
    All three machines in this quarter's SBM were well-devised and well-executed IMHO. All three are similar to what I might build for myself at similar budgets.
    The first I think I'd build as an uncle-nephew project, then he and his sisters would have an excellent homework machine that would be capable of some fun too.
    Either the second or third I'd mix and match with some of my own parts, but their platforms would become my new primary machine, just to update what I've got. I'd love to win any of them.
    Reply
  • DouglasThurman
    I think to spice things up their next build-off should make static one item...like the CPU, and then have them all build low, middle and high end systems around that item. And spice it up by going either Intel or AMD. The whole "Don't include items which don't affect performance" should be thrown out the door and include stuff like that. I mean when I build a system I have to take everything into account, not just the juicy bits.
    Reply
  • It's past time to get rid of 1600x900 and make 1920x1080 the base line resolution. Also you guys need to add 2560x1440, it is starting to become the new norm. My high school son and I do not now anybody who uses 1600x900. He says it is old fashion tech for desktops.
    Reply
  • DXRick
    If one were thinking of building a Haswell-E-Based system instead (X99 motherboard, 5820K CPU and DDR4 RAM), what would be the performance and price difference?

    Thanks.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    14256871 said:
    It's past time to get rid of 1600x900 and make 1920x1080 the base line resolution. Also you guys need to add 2560x1440, it is starting to become the new norm. My high school son and I do not now anybody who uses 1600x900. He says it is old fashion tech for desktops.
    The new norm? We all have 2560x1600 displays and were told to quit using them because they were outdated. They don't support 2560x1440 though, and "it's the new norm" is not going to convince everyone to buy new hardware to enable the downgrade from 2560x1600 to 2560x1440. Eventually we'll all upgrade to 4k displays, it's just not needed for everyone yet.

    Conversely, 1600x900 and 1280x720 ARE able to run on 1920x1080 displays.

    Nobody thinks you're using a 1600x900 display. 1600x900 is a backup resolution for people who want to run 1920x1080 with super-high quality, but find that their graphics card is too weak. Options for a slightly-underpowered graphics card are to set 1600x900, which looks good on a 1920x1080 display, or to use lower quality settings. If you're not geek enough to know that, you've no room to complain.

    14258322 said:
    If one were thinking of building a Haswell-E-Based system instead (X99 motherboard, 5820K CPU and DDR4 RAM), what would be the performance and price difference?

    Thanks.
    The motherboard would cost around $120 more, the CPU $50 more, and the DRAM at least $50 more to reach slightly lower overall performance rating (DDR4-2133 CAS 16, for example). The added threads would allow faster encoding and compiling times in roughly 20% of the tests, while lower clock rate would cause slower performance in nearly all the other tests. We'd probably be lucky to break even on this benchmark set, while spending more money.

    Reply
  • Amdlova
    For what I need today... Just a p3 1000mhz will be fine to me. the 600us machine its perfect fine to me. With mantle and direct x 12 i will never spend again 360us on one processor. I will get a pentium g3258 and a 390x. I miss the old days with the e7300 Oc at 5.0ghz
    Reply
  • crashman 1080x720? I think you meant 1280x720 which will display on a 2560x1440 monitor along with 1600x900 and 1920x1080. Who is telling you to get rid of your monitor? I know it is possible to display 1600x900 on a 1920x1080 monitor, if you read my post it only says the resolution and does not specify a monitor. I added the last sentence because I thought it was funny what he thinks is old tech. He is always asking me about the olden days back in the 80's. Anyways most people I know are wanting to, or already have upgraded to a 1440 monitor that's why I said the new norm.
    Thanks for not thinking of me as a geek now go tell that to my ex-wife.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    14259266 said:
    crashman 1080x720? I think you meant 1280x720 which will display on a 2560x1440 monitor along with 1600x900 and 1920x1080. Who is telling you to get rid of your monitor? I know it is possible to display 1600x900 on a 1920x1080 monitor, if you read my post it only says the resolution and does not specify a monitor. I added the last sentence because I thought it was funny what he thinks is old tech. He is always asking me about the olden days back in the 80's. Anyways most people I know are wanting to, or already have upgraded to a 1440 monitor that's why I said the new norm.
    Thanks for not thinking of me as a geek now go tell that to my ex-wife.
    You asked for the drop of the lower resolution (1600x900) because nobody uses it any more. I explained why some people will use it on their 1920x1080 display, to gain a few FPS without lowering details.

    People asked us a long time ago to quit with the 2560x1600 tests because hardly anyone had 2560x1600 monitors. And our 2560x1600 monitors won't do 2560x1440, so we'd have to pay for a new "QHD" monitor in order to drop to 2560x1440 from our long-forgotten 2560x1600.

    3x 1920x1080 is cheap enough for most high-end builders (I got my screen for around $120 each), and gives you the advantage of peripheral vision. Gaming is pretty cool in "Surround", a lot of guys even prefer it.

    Reply
  • ralanahm
    I have noticed that the lowest system never has a hybrid drive like a seagate 1tb desktop drive the price is less than $20 more and would make the pc more snappy about 80% of the time. It is totally worth it for regular work I got one and cloned my work laptop and now my 6 year old laptop is great now for office work.
    Reply