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Results: Battlefield 3 And The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

System Builder Marathon, Q2 2013: $650 Gaming PC

For today’s gaming results, I'm also pulling in last quarter's beastly $800 PC, sporting the same graphics hardware paired with a more enthusiast-friendly Core i5-3570K. The complete test config can be found here, but it's most important to note that the CPU was running at 4.4 GHz, while the graphics core and memory clock rate was higher.

In transition, the current rig was tested at no less than six resolutions. We're dropping 1280x720, since the $800 PC wasn’t tested that low. On day four, today's $650 gaming box will go up against the more expensive machines at 1600x900, 1920x1080, and 4800x900.

Battlefield 3

Frame rates in our Battlefield 3 single-player campaign sequence are almost entirely limited by graphics hardware and not modern processors. Because there are more taxing areas encountered within the game than our 90-second Fraps test, I always shoot for an average of about 45 frames per second as a minimum target.

My $650 PC edges out last quarter’s $800 rig at stock settings, likely a small and insignificant boost stemming from updated Catalyst drivers. Overclocked, though, the $800 PC’s graphics solution puts it out in front. While the $600 machine trails, we can hardly say that it loses. Even at 1920x1080, its overclocked Radeon HD 7850 keeps frame rates in excess of 100 at all times (not surprising, since these Medium quality settings were tuned for last year’s $500 builds).

The two machines sporting Tahiti-based Radeon HD 7870s yield similar performance at Ultra details, differentiated a bit by their graphics overclocks. Though it trails again, even the stock $600 PC remains playable through 1920x1080.

At 4800x900, 4x MSAA is a bit too demanding for our overclocked $650 PC. But when we drop to 2x MSAA, our latest configuration averages 44.6 FPS.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Skyrim does little to challenge any of these configurations. The current rig is CPU-bound, and so understandably unable to match the frame rates of last quarter's Core i5-based setup, which also enjoys the benefit of limited overclocking.

However, the $650 PC is easily able to handle the demands of 4800x900 at the Ultra quality preset, averaging almost 58 FPS stock and breaking 60 once we overclock it.

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