System Builder Marathon, Q1 2013: $1,600 Alternative PC

Power, Heat, And Efficiency

The $1,600 PC’s second GPU does a great job of spinning down as part of AMD's ZeroCore technology suite. We attribute most of the power differences in non-gaming scenarios to the motherboard and our slightly higher CPU voltage.

When it's subjected to load, the second graphics card adds more than 200 W.

Manual fan adjustments keep the overclocked system’s GPU cooler, though the $1,600 PC’s second GPU pushes the temperature of its first GPU up by 9° Celsius.

Non-overclocked CPU temperature differences are far larger, though that’s the fault of a 90°-max fan slope. A low 18° ambient temp produces the big 70° delta.

Our newest build isn't only designed for gaming; it's a solid general-purpose PC that happens to be an excellent gamer, too. Graphics are simply the easiest place for us to get a return on our investment. Today's $1,600 setup is over 40% more powerful in games, both at stock and overclocked settings. CPU and DRAM bottlenecks at lower resolutions mean that our high-end performance chart (on the next page) will be far more important.

The only place we’ve seen the $1,600 PC pay (in performance) for its power increase is during games, and then only at 5760x1080. When we put all benchmarks on a chart of averages, its efficiency looks fairly poor.

The good news for our pricier build is that overclocking yields larger increases in performance than in power. Average efficiency actually goes up for this particular overclocked configuration.