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Applied Method of Calculating Marginal Cost of Desktop PC Parts Sourcing

2019-12-16

Introduction

I have decided to build a new computer. I wish to use a lot of the same tools that Alan Kay created for the Smalltalk-like language Squeak. A lot of these tools are able to be run natively in Pharo, which is the default open source Smalltalk development environment.

I cannot remember the specific names of the packages or development environments of which I am speaking, but they concern making virtual 3D environments – I find a lot of them really attractive for making walking simulators, or 3D sandbox games.

ANYWAY - that’s not the purpose of this blog post. This post is my process for constructing a desktop computer that is supposed to meet certain requirements. For instance, several years ago, I constructed a computer around a CPU that was good for processing video files. It was built to a budget, and the computer was still functioning right up until I had to throw it away. That’s a long story.

Anyway this is how I designed this computer, which is essentially for both video game development, and for a desire to have the computer last a good long while.

Step One: Find Good Base Specifications

The game I am designing is a 3D, open world, sandbox game. The one I like the best is Fallout 4, so I decided to look up the developer/publisher recommended specifications for that game, which happened to be:

Recommended: CPU: AMD FX-9590 Video card: R9 290X (4GB RAM)

(when I saw this CPU specification my eyes boggled a little, this is a beast of a chip, the 9590)

Minimum Specifications: CPU: AMD Phenom II X4 945 Video card: Radeon HD 7870 (2GB RAM)

Step Two: Transform These Specifications Into Benchmarks

Using the Passmark website for CPU and video card processing power benchmarks is fairly straight forward. I believe there are also other websites one can use to work out the relative processing power of computer components, but I have used this website for years, so I suppose I am a creative of habit.

Anyway these are the processing power figures extracted from the Passmark website:

CPU Name Benchmark score
AMD FX-9590 10 193
Phenom II X4 945 3 652
Video card name Benchmark score
R9 290X 7152
HD 7870 4384

Step Three: Compare Current Available Components to These Figures

The rough figures we have to work with in order to create a PC capable of processing the graphics needed for a fairly intensive sandbox 3d game are obviously:

CPU -> 4 000 to 10 000 on the Passmark score system

and

Video card -> a score of 4 000 to 7 000

The Components Available to Me

CPUs

CPU Name Passmark score Price (AUD)
A4-5300 2019 40
A6-9500 3030 40
AMD 200GE 4952 80
AMD Athlon 3000G 5410 80
Ryzen 3 2200G 7333 119
Ryzen 3 2300X 8309 145
Ryzen 3 3200G 7901 125
Ryzen 5 2400G 9326 179
Ryzen 5 2600 13511 185

Video cards

Card Name Score Price
R5 230 247 45
R7 240 976 55
Vega 11 2272 CPU internal
RX 550 3428 105
RX 570 6896 185
RX 580 8564 259
Vega 56 12039 258

Step Four: Tabulating The Performance Relationship

Best Video Cards Against Worst CPUs

Here we sacrifice CPU performance against video card performance. We are here using the mathemathical formulat that Passmark uses to combine the scores obtained from video cards and CPUs on their own, to give an overall score of the combination of the two.

In this comparison, I have held constant: (a) the RAM score; and (b) the Hard Disk score.

Overall System Score Vega 56 RX 580 RX 570
A4-5300 APU 2600 2600
A6-9500 APU 2000 2000
Athlon 200GE 2000

Worst Video Cards Against Best CPUs

Ryzen 5 2600 Ryzen 5 3400G Ryzen 5 3600
RX 550 3800 3700 4000
R7 240 2800 2800 2900

Median Video Cards Against Median CPUs

RX 570
Ryzen 3 2200G 3500
Ryzen 3 3200G 3500

Step Five: Tabulating the Optimum Value

Table One

Vega 56 RX 580 RX 570
A4-5300 APU 2600 / 300 = 8.7 2600 / 300 = 8.7
A6-9500 APU 2600 / 300 = 6.7 2600 / 300 = 6.7
Athlon 200GE 2000 / 265 = 7.5

Table Two

Ryzen 5 2600 Ryzen 5 3400G ($215) Ryzen 5 3600 ($305)
RX 550 3800 / 290 = 13.1 3700 / 320 = 11.6 4000 / 410 = 9.8
R7 240 2800 / 240 = 11.7 2800 / 234 = 11.9 2900 / 360 = 8.1

Table Three

RX 570
Ryzen 3 2200G 3500 / 304 = 11.5
Ryzen 3 3200G 3500 / 310 = 11.3

Conclusion

So there you have it! It turns out the combination of Ryzen 5 2600 CPU, and Radeon RX 550 is the most cost effective.

The best CPU combined with the best video card only really yields an overall system score of around 4000, and at a combined price of $443, this turns out to be incredibly cost ineffective (around 0.9 score units per dollar) - and this is to be expected - the best CPU and the best video cards are usually horribly cost effective and inefficient at delivering good performance. They are a horrible rush to the bottom in terms of diminishing marginal returns of unit of computing power per unit of currency.

The Fallout 4 Minimum system requirement Passmark system score: 2600 The recommended specifications score: ~4000