Readers who know the System Builder Marathon know that the cheapest machine always has the best performance-per-dollar, partly because it’s cheap, but mostly because its builder knows which cheap parts are required to reach a certain performance level. But does it really need to always win? Don and I had other plans.
Assuming you’re re-using your case and operating system, building with $946 of the $1300 machine’s parts still gets you a marginal value loss compared to the $600 PC. Yet, if you look back at how slow that machine was in certain benchmarks, it might be worth your time to spend the extra money (if you can).
If you already have an extra Windows license, you might prefer to build with all of our hardware, and only the hardware. Paul’s $600 build retains its value leadership, but my $1600 PC begins to gain on Don’s $1300 machine.
Adding nothing to a system’s performance, a new operating system hits Paul’s value score hard. My $1600 machine starts out stronger than Don’s, but aggressive overclocking pushes his beast into second place.
In fact, games are the only place where I can really find enough of a performance advantage to offset my machine’s extra price. Paul’s $600 machine can't compete there, and if I were to put zeros in places where Don’s system couldn’t play smoothly at 5760x1080, my lead would be even larger. That sounds like a terribly specific place to find value, but Don invented this parameter for our SBMs after all.
In total, Paul’s machine has the best value in numbers, but a look at some of our benchmarks shows that it’s going to be too slow for many of our readers. Make sure you look carefully before you take a leap at that one.
Readers who expect that I’d always pick my own machine should read the conclusion of our previous SBM. Even though my performance standards are high, I’m always interested in value. And going by the charts, Don’s machine looks like the best compromise of fast-enough performance and almost-cheap-enough value.
On the other hand, a look back at some of Hacksaw Don’s installation woes shows that its parts list needs revision before we can make a broad recommendation. And that leaves me, the quiet guy who types a lot, running a quiet machine that computes a lot. I said yesterday that I’d recommend it to anyone who can afford it, and I still do.