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System Builder Marathon: Performance & Value

Final Assessment

Averaging the performance differences for each benchmark suite could help us assess the actual value of each System Builder Marathon PC.

With its four graphics processors, the $4,500 PC excels best in games. However, at nine times the price of the $500 system, its overall performance gain of 163% appears marginal. This is where appearances can be deceiving.

A look back at the gaming benchmarks would reveal that only the $4,500 PC is adequate for playing demanding 3D games like Crysis at high-quality settings and medium or higher resolutions. But a few other games such as Unreal Tournament 3 should play quite smoothly even on the $500 PC. Gamers should consider their entire software arsenal before selecting the minimum acceptable level of graphics power.

The $1,500 build provided barely-acceptable performance in a few games, but really stood out in applications where its quad-core processor at least put it in the same league as the $4,500 PC.

Each of today’s systems was designed to do everything well, but mixing and matching components could offer even better value when the system is designed to fulfill a single role. Gamers, for example, might find good value in using the motherboard, power supply, and graphics cards from our $4,500 PC with a lower-cost case, cooling system, and hard drive. Similarly, anyone who uses professional applications exclusively might be satisfied by simply placing the processor from today’s $4,500 system into the $500 system, creating a $1,000 workhorse. Neither of these alternatives would be as flexible as our $1,500 build, but that’s why we recommend that builders consider every need rather than their primary need.

In the end, figuring out how much performance you really need may prove to be more difficult than finding the parts to achieve required performance levels.

Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.