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Are Liquid-Cooled Graphics Cards Worth The Extra Expense?

System Builder Marathon, Dec. 2011: $2400 Performance PC

Our new PC was more expensive and it performed better. But was it worth the increase in price? Using the same performance formula from our efficiency calculations (10% storage, 30% each Games/Encoding/Productivity), we compared the overall performance of each system to its build cost using the former non-overclocked build as our baseline.

Most of the extra money in this month’s budget was spent to promote improved overclocking, and the new system did overclock better. Its performance increase was far smaller than its price increase, however. Furthermore, if you're not an overclocker, then that money would go to waste on unrealized potential.

At the same time, most of that extra money was spent in an effort to boost graphics performance, so perhaps a chart comparing each system’s highest-resolution gaming performance to its price will be the saving grace for our latest build?

And there’s what we wanted to see. The only problem with our new build is that it doesn't achieve similar benefits at lower game settings or in other applications. If you're spending big money on a pair of GeForce GTX 580s, though, we'd recommend using a display (or displays) befitting such a powerful combination.

The reason we put such a large percentage of our budget into graphics is that it accounts for 30% of our overall performance score, and there are few other places where big gains can be achieved. We are after all using the second-best LGA 1155 CPU at a fairly high overclock, and even fewer of our programs could benefit from the hundreds of dollars it would cost to upgrade to a Core i7-3930K. In this instance, the only buyers who can justify the added expensive of liquid-cooled graphics cards are the ones who value gaming supremacy above every other task they plan to throw at their new PC.

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