Dell, HP, and iBuyPower Back-to-School PC Roundup

PCMark & 3DMark Tests

The three systems in our roundup sport similar configurations and are each built around Intel's Sandy Bridge platform, but no two systems use the same graphics card or hard drive. Will these differences be enough to affect performance in a meaningful way? We begin to answer that question by loading up a handful of Futuremark benchmarks.

Futuremark PCMark Vantage
Simulated Application Performance

Dell XPS 8300 jumps ahead of the pack in our first benchmark run, edging out iBuyPower's BTS11 system by a hair. Bringing up the rear is HP's H8 1050 even though it's equipped with the fastest CPU and GPU combination. The slow spinning hard drive is the reason why HP's machine trailed behind the other two.

Futuremark PCMark 7
Simulated Application Performance

Futuremark 3DMark11

Futuremark's PCMark 7 combines more than 25 individual workloads covering storage, computation, image and video manipulation, Web browsing, and gaming. It's specifically designed to cover the full range of PC hardware, from netbooks and tablets, to notebooks and desktops, making it a great testing tool for virtually any system.

The same situation played out in Futuremark's recently launched PCMark 7 suite, and again we suspect HP's decision to utilize a 5400 RPM drive is holding the Pavilion back. Out in front, it was iBuyPower that managed to slide ahead of Dell to take pole position.

Futuremark 3DMark Vantage and 3DMark 11
Simulated Gaming Performance

The latest version of Futuremark's synthetic 3D gaming benchmark, 3DMark11, is specifically bound to Windows Vista and 7-based systems because it uses the advanced visual technologies that are only available with DirectX 11, which isn't available on previous versions of Windows. 3DMark11 isn't simply a port of 3DMark Vantage to DirectX 11, though. With this latest version of the benchmark, Futuremark has incorporated four new graphics tests, a physics tests, and a new combined test. We tested the graphics cards here with 3DMark11's Performance preset option, as well as ran the system through a 3DMark Vantage run, which focuses on DirectX 10.

Here we see HP's Pavilion H8 1050 leapfrog the other two systems by a big margin, and that's because 3DMark 11 focuses its attention on gaming performance above all else. That means much more attention is placed on the GPU, and HP's decision to go with an AMD Radeon HD 6850 proved to be the difference maker.

The disparity in gaming performance was even more pronounced in 3DMark Vantage, with HP's machine jumping several thousand points ahead of the competition. All three appear capable of handling mid-range gaming chores, HP's machine just looks like it's better suited for the task than the other two. Whether or not that's actually the case is something we'll look at in our real-world game tests.

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