System Builder Marathon: Price Vs. Perf.

As we wrap up another system builder marathon, we realize while nothing in life ever seems to work out perfectly; sometimes things work out pretty well.

This marathon was supposed to be published a number of weeks ago – before the new Radeon 4800 series was launched – and therefore we didn’t have the option of selecting ATI’s excellent new cards for our builds. Unfortunately, our intrepid reviewer Thomas Soderstrom had an unlucky break (involving a few bones and some surgery) and was unable to assemble and test one of the systems, forcing us to defer the marathon. It was further delayed when Nvidia and ATI released their new video cards, the reviews of which of course took precedence over our marathon and pushed us back even further.

While the video cards we chose for these systems might not be our first choice if we could do it all over again (considering what’s available), the rebates available on the GeForce 8800 cards are so prevalent that even today a pair of them in SLI would be $100 cheaper than a pair of 4850s, and realistically the prices will likely drop even further. The rest of the builds were spec’d out well enough that these marathon systems are still viable hardware ensembles.

For more information on the components used to build each of the systems we’re comparing, in addition to the overclocked configurations, check out the sub-$1,000 PC, the sub-$2,000 PC, and the sub-$4,000 PC.

Let’s review the benchmarks we’ve used once more, see how everything stacks up, and analyze the price/performance data to see the value each system offers for the dollar.

Benchmarks and Settings
Crysis Version: 1.1
Video Quality 1: High Details No Anti-Aliasing
Video Quality 2: Very High Details, 4x Anti-Aliasing
Benchmark: Benchmark_CPU.bat
Prey Version: 1.3
Video Quality 1: Default (No AA, 8x AF)
Video Quality 2: High Quality, 4x AA
Benchmark: THG-Demo
Supreme Version: 3.220
Commander Video Quality 1: Default
Video Quality 2: High Fidelity, High Shadow, 4x AA
Benchmark: Real 60 Game
Unreal Version: Retail
Tournament 3 Texture Detail: 5
World Detail: 5
Field of View: 100
Benchmark: Botmatch (WAR-Torlan, 12 bots, 1 Minute)
Warhammer Version: 1.6
Mark of Chaos Video Quality:Default (Highest Settings)
Demo: THG Timedemo (1 Minute)
iTunes 7.2 Version:
Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 min
High Quality (160kb/s)
Lame MP3 Version: 3.98 Beta 3 (05-22-2007)
Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 min
wave to MP3
TMPEGEnc Version:
4.0 Xpress Import File: Terminator 2 SE DVD (5 Minutes)
Resolution: 720x576 (PAL) 16:9
Audio: Dolby Digital, 48 kHz, 6-Channel, English
Advanced Acoustic Engine MP3 Encoder (160 kb/s)
DivX 6.6 Version: 6.6.1
Profile: Home Theater Profile (720x576)
1-pass, 780 kb/s
Encoding mode: Insane Quality
Enhanced multithreading
XviD 1.1.2 Version: 1.1.2
Target quantizer: 1.00 (maximum quality)
Adobe Version: 10.0x20070321
Photoshop CS3 Filtering 69 MB TIF Photo
Benchmark: Tom’s Guide-Benchmark V1.0.0.4
Autodesk Version: 9.0
3D Studio Max Rendering One Video Frame
Quality: HTDV 1920x1080 and 1280x720
Grisoft AVG Version: 7.5.467
Anti-Virus Virus Base: 269.6.1/776
Benchmark: Scanning 3.82GB Application Folder
Maxon Version: 10.008
Cinema 4D Resolution: 1280x1024
Benchmark: Rose Drop, 8 bits (50 Frames)
Rarlab Winrar Version 3.70 BETA 8
Compression = Best
Dictionary = 4096 kB
Uncompressed Folder Size: 642 MB
SPECviewperf 9 Version: 9.0.3
PCMark05 Pro Version: 1.1.0
System, CPU and Memory Tests
Windows Media Player 11.0.6000.6324
Windows Media Encoder
Futuremark Version 1.10
3DMark 2006 System Test Only
SiSoftware Version 2008.1.12.30
Sandra XII CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic, Multimedia
Memory Test = Bandwidth Benchmark

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  • Solitaire
    Mmm, so everyone who's going to overclock their PC has a gaming-quality 24" LCD? No? So why didn't you focus on 1680*1050 if you're going to even bother including the sub-$1000 system in the comparison? That's the standard resolution of high-end 17" and most mainstream screens under 22" (even some cheap 22" as well)