System Builder Marathon, Q4 2012: $2,000 Performance PC

Does This Quarter's Build Beat Our Previous Effort?

A somewhat-disappointing overclock hurt the average performance we were able to coax from this quarter's machine. But is it still a better value than its predecessor? A recent price drop on the parts we ordered (from $1,985 down to $1,900) should certainly help!

Our fourth-quarter build begins with a stellar 28% value lead over the third-quarter system. But it ends up only 2% ahead when both boxes get overclocked. Even though its value leadership tapers off after overclocking, even a small lead is good for the win.

But overclocking limitations are only one part of the overclocked machine’s diminished lead. It was also prone to bottlenecks in our low-resolution gaming tests. We can't get mad about that; it's just a side-effect of pitting one high-end build against a couple of less expensive machines. But a value comparison at 2560x1600 should more convincingly demonstrate the true advantage of this system's beefier graphics array.

Even though the new build had overclocking problems, it retains in excess of 50% gaming superiority versus last quarter's build, overclocked.

Powerful in both productivity and media transcoding applications, the new build shines most brightly in games. Casual gamers could probably have this system serve double duty as a workstation, if only it didn't look like a kid's toy. Our former build took the opposite approach, pairing killer productivity and encoding performance with moderately-high gaming capability.

Built-up today, what could we change about the Q4 configuration to match the strengths of last quarter's setup? Well, thanks to recent price drops on several of the components we ordered, we definitely could have bought a more professional-looking case. But that's not the first place we would have put our extra money. Instead, we’d begin by looking for a huge CPU cooler, ignoring the $50 budget we set for ourselves. Then, we might have picked a motherboard with a stronger voltage regulator. Only after solving our overclocking issues would we have considered a sharper-looking enclosure.

Create a new thread in the UK Article comments forum about this subject
This thread is closed for comments
1 comment
Comment from the forums
    Your comment
  • Steveymoo
    I was getting ready to whine about power consumption with those AMD cards, but it looks like they're not so bad! I'd be interested to know how loud/whiny this system gets, and how it would perform with 2 gtx 680s instead.

    Also, I find it weird that those crossfire GPUs fall flat on their face at 2560 resolution in some games. Is there some kind of crossfire/gpu memory issue going on there?